Social Question

Blackberry's avatar

Our extensive criticism of religion is justified, correct?

Asked by Blackberry (31069points) June 16th, 2010

I make a lot of sarcastic and witty comments about religion online and offline, and sometimes I feel bad because the ‘normal’ religious people are caught in the crossfire.

I know many great people that are religious, but of course we aren’t criticising these people.

So sometimes I wonder if I should chill out on the criticism, and then I remember: Spokespeople for secularism are doing this for a reason. We can’t ignore the obvious oppresion and flagrant offenses to civil rights and the separation of church and state that are so real and have an effect on people that use reason and logic.

Yes the blatant insults do not help, but overall, should we continue to try to influence the use of critical thinking in more people or simply ‘live and let live’?

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154 Answers

Seek's avatar

I think of it in the same vein as advertising.

Everyone knows about Coke and Pepsi. Coke and Pepsi spend loads of time and money on letting everyone know about how awesome they are. More people drink Coke and Pepsi than drink RC Cola. I’m willing to bet a lot of people that have never even considered trying RC Cola already think their favorite soda is Coke or Pepsi.

I, personally, like RC Cola. I want everyone to know how awesome RC Cola is, so I want to make my little voice do as much for RC Cola as I can – because if no one talks about RC Cola, it might just lose entirely and go away. RC Cola is less expensive, it tastes just as good if not better, and you don’t have to put up with the constant “Cola War”. Some people are so touchy about their favorite soda. And forget it if you get into a High Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Aspartame argument between Coke lovers.

Wow… I’m having WAY too much fun with this metaphor.

CMaz's avatar

“and sometimes I feel bad because…”
You fear the wrath of god.

Live and let live is great. After some good debate. ;-)

It’s always good to have options.

syz's avatar

I don’t tend to discuss my disgust with organized religion until someone else brings it up. Of course, I also don’t knock on people’s doors at 9am on a Saturday to tell them they’re going to hell if they don’t believe what I believe.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Blackberry not a problem with me when people are critical of the religion as opposed to the person.

Fyrius's avatar

Well, it’s definitely justified.
Religion is a memetic relic from primitive times that’s being taken way too seriously. It holds the minds of whole nations hostage in rigid and irrational patterns of thinking, and is the only kind of superstition that can entirely determine world politics. It’s a serious and important issue with serious and important consequences.

With that said, if your justification is a matter of real world consequences, you should also be pragmatic about what you do. Is it helping?

Criticising religion can be constructive in a political sense. Speaking your mind lets people know atheists exist, and that they also pay taxes and have a vote. Politically speaking I think it would be an improvement if it were commonly acknowledged that atheists exist as citizens who deserve to be represented by the politicians.

Closer to home, if you can encourage religious people to reconsider their beliefs, you definitely should. Even if they still won’t question the whole thing, just getting people to realise aspects of their religion can be wrong, and they are free to decide to believe it differently if that makes more sense to them, that would already be an improvement.

If you find yourself talking to the sort of people who are determined never to change their minds, it’s better for everyone involved if you don’t waste too much breath on them. Believers gonna believe. It’s unfortunate, but there’s nothing you can do for them. Look for more reasonable people and talk to them.

Fyrius's avatar

Incidentally, my own primary reason to oppose the religions is because they make people believe things that all but inevitably aren’t actually true.

This is fortunate, because it allows me to be a lazy bastard without being a hypocrite.

Qingu's avatar

It is absolutely justified to criticize the content of the Bible, the Quran, and other religious scriptures. The content of the Bible (for example) clearly supports slavery, genocide, misogyny, and a blatantly false and superstitious outlook on the natural world. As far as I’m concerned, these texts have no place whatsoever in informing our moral system; they are not “special,” and they should be treated the same as we treat the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Code of Hammurabi—historically important works of literature and law written by pre-scientific savages.

Now, many modern religious people simply ignore most of what’s in these texts. So this criticism only applies proportionally to how much your “religion” is actually based on what your religious texts say.

However, I think there are other criticisms to make of modern religious people who cling to these texts without actually believing much of what they say—I think they’re being inconsistent and in some cases intellectually dishonest in their interpretations of the texts.

cookieman's avatar

I say do it. So long as you are polite and exercise some tact, what’s to feel bad about?

I tend not to bother with people who are devoutly faithful. Nothing I say will change their mind or even make them question their belief.

I like to debate folks who are on the fence. They grew up with a certain religion and believe it because that’s what they’ve always believed. They are often too busy, too lazy or too afraid to question what they were taught.

I also like to speak to young people about religion. They are just forming they’re ideas about religion/god/etc. and are rarely shown any options by their parents. I like to introduce them to the options. Although this has gotten me into trouble with the parents occasionally.

As @syz said, I wouldn’t worry unless you start showing up on their doorstep unannounced.

Zaku's avatar

As others have said, it’s justified… but how effective is it, and what might be a more effective way to be about it? Could you tell off the bozo extremists while being peaceful towards the sane religious people? Could you even say things that get the bozo extremists to slip off their bozo platforms for a bit, rather than just fueling their righteous passion?

Seek's avatar


I’m with you, except I would say ”...otherwise sane religious people”.

Nullo's avatar

I’d say that it’s not. A lot of people dislike religion for their own reasons, and are trying to make a policy out of it.

Qingu's avatar

@Nullo, you are correct. I dislike religion for my own reasons—namely that I am against slavery, genocide, treating women like property, and killing homosexuals, among other personal views of mine—and I don’t want such things to be legal as the Bible says they should be.

Different strokes for different folks I guess.

Rarebear's avatar

Well, I get criticized for the same thing, and my comments that are percieved to be more inflammatory are usually modded, so I don’t really worry about it.

Pandora's avatar

I personally don’t care if someone offers an intelligent arguement against oppression or some of the things mentioned above. However when it just goes into name calling than you are no longer offering a debate. Its just becomes juvenile. Calling people stupid for their beliefs or simply saying someones beliefs are stupid because science says so only serves to back people into a corner and fight with all they got. Respect and regard go a long way to being heard.
When I worked in a bank I learned the power of speaking softly. When I would get a irrate customer and they came in screaming, my initial response was to yell back. Then I remember what I did with my children. I would speak so soft that they can hardly hear me. This forced them to quiet down and really listen. It works for adults too. They would calm down and start to listen. The same can be done with any controversial subject. Written or spoken. A persons words on a written page can be aggressive and confrontational, or they can be quiet and subtle. A person can still get your point across and to a larger audience without looking like a raving idiot.
I believe in God but that is my right. I have seen some people make excellent points but the moment I encounter a raving lunatic, I tune them out or join in their outburst. Usually I will have outburst of my own the moment I feel I, personally am being attacked. If anything it usually has the opposite desired effect. It convinces me more that atheist are no more to be trusted than religious fanatics. I know not all atheist are but I throw the really obnoxious ones in with the religious fanatics. Both are hearing impaired and neither really care about man kind except wanting to prove that they are right. In my mind. Might does not make right.

Qingu's avatar

@Pandora, I think that’s a pretty silly false equivalency, frankly.

Obnoxious atheists and obnoxious religious fanatics are only “the same” in that they’re both obnoxious.

In most other important ways, they are completely different. For example, the content of their beliefs tends to be completely different. Also, obnoxious atheists don’t typically blow themselves up to become martyrs, or go on crusades, or engage in violence for ideological reasons in the first place.

As an atheist who can be obnoxious, I don’t appreciate being called “the same” as other obnoxious people who are otherwise completely different from me.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Somehow I can’t imagine an atheist couple going door-to-door ringing doorbells and discussing the merits of their belief system to anyone who opens the door. I’d bet they’d be arrested for disturbing the peace.
It is fine to push back against “fundies” a little. The world needs balance.

Fyrius's avatar

Side note:
“simply saying someones beliefs are stupid because science says so”
You make it sound like being disproved by science doesn’t mean anything as to whether you’re wrong.

Unsurprisingly, I beg to differ. If it’s scientifically proven that what you say is not true, then given that you know this, believing it anyway is quite stupid. Science may be wrong occasionally, but it’s a heckload less likely to be wrong than you as a layperson.
If you believe it without knowing, it’s probably an honest mistake, and calling you stupid for it is uncalled for. But in this case, pointing out the belief is wrong means doing you a favour.

Pandora's avatar

@Qingu Not saying your beliefs are the same. But your tactics are the same as in that you both like to brow beat the other side.
As for the knocking on your door. I don’t get anyone knocking on my door any more except for kids selling stuff or the police department or fire station trying to raise money. Maybe your confusing them. My rule of thumb is ignore all knocking on my door when its too early to be up unless its the post man. Who doesn’t come till after 9 am.

Seek's avatar


There is one major, inherent difference. One is brow-beating with ”BELIEVE IN OUR IMAGINARY FRIEND!

The other is brow-beating with ”IT’S FUCKING IMAGINARY! WHY HASN’T THIS GONE AWAY YET?

I’ve heard it said best by @Snarp.

”“Militant Muslims kill hundreds or thousands of people in suicide attacks. Militant Christians murder abortion providers. Militant atheists write blogs.”

JLeslie's avatar

You know, recently I was on a thread about someone taking someone elses child to church without the parents permission, and Nullo launched into how he thought it was not only ok, but by the very fact that the parent was upset by it is more reason to take the child to church. I was disgusted, dissappinted, and I find it scary. I do my best to not assume people are so fanatic in their religion that they would be deceptive to others. That if they want to prostheletize it would be done openly and straight forward. It does fall under freedom of speech for me. But, as I said on that thread, a line is crossed when people try to influence other peoples young children religiously, blatently disrespecting the parents wishes. I have always been a big time defender of the separation of church and state and secular public schools, and after that thread I spoke of, I am more determined, I would say now less open to opposing opinions on the topics. It literally scared me.

When I talk about the Christian right or Evangelicals, I am never talking about the average Christian who does show respect for the beliefs of others. I try to and think I am being clear by using right or evangelicals, but I am aware that Christians sometimes feel under attack. They shouldn’t. I wonder if when they talk about a particular group of Jews or Muslims they are generalizing it to the whole group, and that is why they think we are generalizing?

Draconess25's avatar

@JLeslie Do you think this applies to someone’s girlfriend forcing his teenage daughter to go to church?

Blackberry's avatar

@Draconess25 How would it not apply? A person is still being forced.

JLeslie's avatar

@Draconess25 Let me see if I understand your question correctly. A man is forcing his girlfriend’s teenage daughter to go to church against the mother’s wishes? How is that even happening? Is it behind the mothers back?

Draconess25's avatar

@JLeslie No, the man’s girlfriend is forcing her to go to church against his own wishes. This happened years ago, so it’s not a current problem

JLeslie's avatar

So, the man’s daughter is being forced to go by his girlfriend? And, it was behind his back? If it is behind his back then I think it is horrible. Don’t you?

Fyrius's avatar

I wouldn’t even care as much about the father’s wishes as about those of the daughter. Parents only get to choose what religion their children practise because they’re the closest thing to someone who can be trusted with the decision.
Did the daughter want to go? Or was she the one who was forced?

Draconess25's avatar

@JLeslie It wasn’t behind his back. He just didn’t want to jeopardize his realtionship. They got married later.
@Fyrius She didn’t want to go. Her stepmom even gave her “Bible pop quizzes”. But Ellie never had much of a backbone.

Fyrius's avatar

Okay, that’s unacceptable.

Draconess25's avatar

@Fyrius It’s also one of the many reasons why her family doesn’t like me.

JLeslie's avatar

@Draconess25 Doesn’t want to jeopardize his relationship with his girlfriend? Or, I guess the girlfriend is you? Was he going to church also? Was her mother ok with it? Are you both the same religion? Or, it is the introduction of a new religion?

I would NEVER date someone who did not respect my religious beliefs and how I want to raise my daughter. I would be willing to go to church with my SO for holidays and celebrate at home holidays as well, and include my children in the celebrations at home. I would expect my SO to do the same for me, although I would not expect him to go to a religious service with me if it made him uncomfortable, especially not his children.

My neice and nephew are being raised Catholic. I think a lot of Catholicism is ridiculous, but I would never say anything to contradict their religious beliefs while they were young. They have no idea I am an atheist, unless someone else told them, I never would. I would never even discuss atheism with them. When they ask me about Judaism I tell them about Judaism to answer their specific questions, I don’t even say what I believe. I never state it in a way that my religion is right and theirs is wrong. Religion almost never comes up anyway.

My close friend is Christian, and last time I was at her house I read her girls a bedtime story. They chose a Chirstian book. I read them the book, no problem. I don’t agree with it, but it doesn’t matter. They would have no idea what I think, and that is as it should be.

Draconess25's avatar

@JLeslie Ellie’s my girlfriend. Her dad didn’t want to hurt the relationship with his girlfriend. He (Aaron) just went to church for his girlfriend (Rhea). Ellie’s mom thought it was stupid, but no one ever listened to her opinions.

Ellie & I don’t follow a set religion. We just have certain spiritual beliefs. Aaron & Rhea don’t know we’re dating. Rhea thinks I’m a heathen freak.

JLeslie's avatar

I still think I might be confused. Ellie is the daughter, and it sounds like she is not the one going to church against her will in your last post. If her dad is going with his girlfriend, then that is his choice, he is an adult.

Draconess25's avatar

@JLeslie Ellie was being forced to go to church against her will, but she’s 19 now.

JLeslie's avatar

@Draconess25 So Ellie and her dad went to church for his girlfriend. I am not mad at the girlfriend. It is up to her dad to decide whether Ellie goes to church or not when she is young. Although, I think once my kid hit 14 or 15 I don’t think I would drag the along to church, even if I went every weekend, if they did not want to go. By then they are getting old enough to have their own opinions about religion. But, still, it is not behind a parents back, so it is not the same as my original example, and not terrible to me.

Pandora's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Hitler was an athiest and one can hardly say that he wrote blogs.

Draconess25's avatar

@JLeslie She was in her teens.

JLeslie's avatar

@Draconess25 Still, that is her father. There are tons of teens all over the country who don’t want to go to church on Sunday, but have to go with the family. I don’t think this is much different. I am just saying I think as a teen gets older I would allow them not to go, but I think it is ok when families require it as a part of what the family does together.

Pandora's avatar

@Draconess25 Yeah, that wasn’t cool. Religion is something a person should come to on their own. You can force someone to go to church but you can’t force them to believe. And the opposite holds true as well.

Draconess25's avatar

@JLeslie Oh well, she deoesn’t have to listen to those drunks anymore.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pandora How is that any different then parents all over the coutry making their kids go to church? The indoctrination starts young typically. Most people don’t wait until their kid is 18 and can make a decision themselves about what religion to “come to.”

Seek's avatar


I’m certain the “Christian Science Monitor” has no ulterior motive at all in falsifying every “fact” in that article.

“Hitler’s reaction to atheism (From Wikipedia: due to an apostrophe, the link will not work.)
Hitler often associated atheism with Germany’s communist enemy.[51] Hitler stated in a speech to the Stuttgart February 15, 1933: “Today they say that Christianity is in danger, that the Catholic faith is threatened. My reply to them is: for the time being, Christians and not international atheists are now standing at Germany’s fore. I am not merely talking about Christianity; I confess that I will never ally myself with the parties which aim to destroy Christianity. Fourteen years they have gone arm in arm with atheism. At no time was greater damage ever done to Christianity than in those years when the Christian parties ruled side by side with those who denied the very existence of God. Germany’s entire cultural life was shattered and contaminated in this period. It shall be our task to burn out these manifestations of degeneracy in literature, theater, schools, and the press—that is, in our entire culture—and to eliminate the poison which has been permeating every facet of our lives for these past fourteen years.”[52]

And in direct answer to your article:

The Crusades
The Thirty Years’ War
The French wars of Religion
The Taiping Rebellion
Islamist Jihad
Milhemet Mitzvah
The entire Pentateuch.

None of these were caused by atheists.

Hitler – Christian.
Idi Amin – Muslim
Srebrenica massacre – Christians killing Muslims.
Darfur – Arab muslims killing African Muslims.

Besides all THAT – your article plainly states that many actions of “ethnic cleansing” are caused by religious people – so the “Atheists, not Religion, is the force behind mass murder” is a false title, and the entire article is moot.

Pandora's avatar

Not every parent does. I did not. However teaching them when they are young does not always mean they will stay on that path. As children my siblings and I all had the same up bringing. We all had the same questions on faith as well. As we mature we start to question. Out of 5 I believe only myself and one other to really believe in God. I went through stages of faith as they did. Thats why I never believed that being forced was a guaranteed thing. Often it has the opposite affect. My siblings saw it as something that was being forced upon them. I did for a time as well and like all teens rebelled. But then I felt I was missing a larger part of myself. I found for me it wasn’t the belief in God but the contradictions in religion itself. Which is largely influenced by selfish means and people over centuries. The basis of Jesus teaches does not harm. We are just so good at twisting anything good. Thats a human flaw, not a Godly one.
@Seek_Kolinahr Greedy selfish people will always use whatever they can as an excuse to do horrible things. Even if it means using religion as a reason. I mean who would follow them if they simply said, ” Hey I want to be a ruler and I want to squash those weaker than me, so I can be all powerful”. Kind of hard to get behind someone like that. No! So you do like Hitler did. Hey we are all broke and I know whos fault it is. Its the greedy Jews. Your neighbors and friends that are taking food out of your mouth. See how well it worked for him. So whether you seem to be for religion or against, you can twist it anyway you want to step on any group and get someone behind you. KKK, does the same thing. Oh, we can’t find jobs because African Americans have taken our jobs.
My point is that HATE is HATE. Attack the real issues not just blanket a whole group. Again.
I’m certainly not saying all atheist. But I am still saying that militant religious groups and militant atheist still share the same tactics and I don’t believe its because they believe they are right in their beliefs. Rather I believe they simply try to use their stance to better their position in life or simply they hate man kind and their lives and will be happy bringing misery wherever they can.

Pandora's avatar

Oh, here are some quotes from hitler. Although he may have been raised Christian, I do not believe him to be Christian at all. In fact many people go to church every year and proclaim to be Christian but show no proof other wise than words. There actions speak louder than their words.

Seek's avatar


You can’t post an article that claims Atheists (and not religious people) are the cause of all mass murder, and then reneg. If you’re going to debate, at least have a position you can stand on.

The thing is, your own article, written BY Christians that are deliberately trying to paint atheists in a bad light, have to say things like ”The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not, at its core, a religious one. It arises out of a dispute over self-determination and land. Hamas and the extreme orthodox parties in Israel may advance theological claims – “God gave us this land” and so forth – but the conflict would remain essentially the same even without these religious motives.” It’s wonderful – Essentially *sure they’re religious, but they wouldn’t like each other even if they weren’t, so this doesn’t count”. I’m sure there’s a name for this kind of logical fallacy.

And I’m sorry, you don’t get to determine who is and is not a “real Christian”. If one self-identifies as a Christian, they are Christian.

Pandora's avatar

Ok, so if I went to church every day and prayed every day and yet told you I was an atheist than which would you believe. You have nut jobs who start their own religion and then claim God told them to take many wives as young as 10 years old. Does that really mean they are what they claim?
Nope, it is simply a sick pedephile using religion for his own means.

Seek's avatar


If you went to church, prayed to an invisible god, then claimed to be an atheist, I would recommend you seek psychological help – or at least a dictionary.

However, if one goes to church, prays to a god, claims to be Christian, and does a lot of evil things, they are just an evil Christian.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pandora If there are good and bad people in all religions, even atheists, then why do some Christians seem to be suspicious of all atheists? Would never vote for one. Would never vote for a Muslim? Why do they care what religion Hitler was?

I do agree that Israel is about land. Land given to the Jews in a UN decision. Most Jews I know believe it is about the UN decision, not because we had the land 5,000 years ago.

Pandora's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr LOL, yes that would be necessary. However being raised in the Christian faith I was taught to love your neighbor. If I go out and become a douche to everyone I know than I am not following my faith and so therefore should not call myself Christian. It is simply a matter of semantics. I can say I am tall and young but it doesn’t make it reality because I said so. In your senerio it wouldn’t be an evil Christian but an evil person posing as a christian. They are not the same thing. Except in both cases they are simply evil. One person is simply trying to use religion to justify their cruelness. For if they really truly believed in Christ words than they wouldn’t be doing such horrible things. Religion is about belief. If you do not believe in the core of the faith with your whole heart than it will show like and ugly scar.

Pandora's avatar

@JLeslie I can only speak for myself. I’m suspicious of all fanatics. I always suspect there is more to their agenda and fanatics tend to loose morality for the sake of being right or powerful or whatever their motives are.

Seek's avatar

I’m not really in the mood to get into it with you (as you’ve already obviously decided you have the right to rubber-stamp everyone that claims your own religion), but I’ve read the Bible, quite thoroughly, and genocide isn’t exactly something that the Judeo-Christian god is opposed to.

Pandora's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I don’t know where you read, I thought genocide was a good thing?? I would appreciate if you don’t put words into my mouth or try to twist anything I said.

Pandora's avatar

Never mind
I’m tired and misread what you wrote
And christians go with the new testament, not the old.

Seek's avatar

Right. Because you can pick and choose whatever you like, right? Because God isn’t “the same yesterday, today and forever”. Or something.

The only thing worse than a fanatic Christian is a fanatic Christian with a white-out Bible. If you’re going to blindly follow a book, at least know what’s in it.

((By the way, Jesus followed the Old Testament. Just sayin’.))

Pandora's avatar

Christiananity developed from the Jewish faith. The old testament was just that. Christ was sent to teach us how God wanted us to live. He was the ultimate messenger from God. Sorry you don’t agree but when I went to Church we were only taught the New Testament. The New Testament was created after Jesus arrived. The only thing from the old testament we were taught was Genesis, sorry you don’t agree but then I’m not asking you too.

Seek's avatar

I’m just going to see what @JLeslie has before I continue. I’m just way too tempted…

Pandora's avatar

Well I’ve said all I want to say and I’m getting bored so so offense but I’ll just move on. After all I’m not fanatical about this one way or another. Its been interesting but I’m done for now.

JLeslie's avatar

@Pandora I am suspicious of all fanatics too, so there we agree. But, many many Christians seem to want to preach their word, and so I guess they are not fanatics, but they are annoying, and offensive, and it is disrespectful. On fluther you might find atheists who speak freely and criticize religious beliefs, but there is a discussion probably going on about religion. How often do you get an athiest who says things like, “I am sorry to hear your relative is sick, I hope you don’t waste your time praying to God.” But, Christians see nothing wrong in asking me to pray. Or telling me I need to pray. Or, telling me my difficulties can be solved with prayer. I don’t see too many atheists walking around trying to convert people to atheism. We just want to be left alone and not prejudged. The Jews feel the same way.

Seek's avatar


And the worst of all is when they get pissed off at you for one reason or another, and give you the sarcastic “I’ll pray for you.” It’s like, save your breath. There’s enough hot air on the planet, and I don’t want to contribute to global warming.

Draconess25's avatar

@Pandora So pretty much….God changed his mind? He decided one day that the whole genocide thing wasn’t such a great idea? Isn’t it the same God in the Old Testament & the New? I though God was perfect. If so, then why did he have to change his mind?

Pandora's avatar

@Draconess25 Don’t know. Perhaps you should ask him. After all. I’m not all knowing.
Here I found this link and it may answer your question or not. But it is getting late and I have to go to bed. link

BoBo1946's avatar

Peace on Earth and goodwill to ALL men!” Being a Christian, to me, means showing tolerance and love for everyone. that ain’t easy, but i try! The whole Christian thing is based around one act…God’s only Son dying on the Cross for everyone (that would be atheists, Hindus, Mormons, TV evangelists, murders in prison, Christians, Agnostics, straight people, gay people, or whomever)!

God, in my humble opinion, evolved into a different God from the Old Testament to the New Testament! So thankful for that! I’m a sinner saved by His Grace…without Him, I’m nothing! No person can work their way into Heaven…you enter by accepting Jesus as your personal Savior and repending of your sins. This is done by Faith (like the Faith of a small child)!

Always hesitate to answer these questions for obvious reasons. NEVER want to be viewed as a person pushing my beliefs on anyone. Everyone has to make their own decision. Also, respect all people’s views and attitudes about religion. The unknown is difficult to comprehend. Over the years, in my life, have seen where God has been there for me. He is always there…a good friend that listens everyday! He answers every prayer, the problem is, i don’t always listen. loll Imagine that, a man not listening!

Bottomline, I’m a Christian, and certainly no All-American Christian, but, I’m a good waterboy on the team!

@Blackberry thank you for the question and really appreciate you always being respectful to me…..certainly respect you!! ..again, thank you my friend!

Fyrius's avatar

Are we ready to get back on-topic? :)

I disagree with your disapproval of cherry picking, actually. I think picking and choosing the nicest bits of the bible and believing those, and dismissing the nasty parts with some rationalisation about metaphors and obsolescence, is already a lot closer to a free mind than someone who follows the bible to the letter. Arguably, cherry pickers already live a largely secular life style, just not in name.
The bible fanboys and girls may be more consistent and less hypocritical, but other than that, they tend to have a lot more of what’s bad about religion and a lot less of what can be good about it, presumably as a direct result of giving most credence to the primitive barbarisms themselves and disapproving of the modern Christian culture that adapts to social developments.

Since you and I believe what’s in the bible isn’t true anyway, why would we insist the Christians believe these “canonical” falsehoods rather than other, more sensible falsehoods? “God approves of sexism” is no less false than “god disapproves of sexism”, if there is no god to begin with.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I am happy for people to voice their opinion for or against whatever they like providing that their arguement is intelligent and well thought out. Whether someone’s opinion of something is the same as or differs to mine, I want them to make me think. As soon as someone uses sarcasm or insults to try and get their point across, I usually switch off. It’s all about constructive criticism as far as I am concerned.

Qingu's avatar

@Fyrius, I think cherry-picking the scant few morally acceptable parts of the Bible is preferable to believing all the horrible things in the Bible.

However, cherry-picking is still intellectually dishonest.

Qingu's avatar

@Pandora, I’d be interested to hear why you believe genocide is a bad thing in and of itself. As Deuteronomy 13:12, 20:16, and the entirety of the book of Joshua make clear, your god is very much okay with the practice.

Is your problem with Hitler that he committed genocide without the alleged consent of your deity?

Perhaps you should familiarize yourself with the whole content of your religion before deciding to believe in it?

Seek's avatar


I think because if one cherry-picks and ignores the parts they don’t like, they tend to feel inclined to continue ignoring all the negative points of their religion. It’d be very easy to feel morally OK with being a Neo-Nazi if you ignore the fact that the Holocaust happened.

I used to be a member of a crazy fanatical Christian cult, and we always made jokes that “No one backslides harder than an Apostolic”. We were Bible literalists. After over ten years of studying the Bible thoroughly, and trying my damnedest to make every excuse in the world why it was okay that my God was a horrible, Chaotic-Evil, jealous douchebag, I gave up. And the joke lived on for one more generation.

BoBo1946's avatar

excuse my poor proofreading…evolved into a different God from the Old Testament…involved…loll hate to do stuff like that…!

Seek's avatar

@BoBo1946 Oh, you don’t believe in Evolution, do you. ::winks, smile::

BoBo1946's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr loll…wish my poor spelling would “evolute!”

Qingu's avatar

@BoBo1946, I don’t understand why you think the OT god evolved into a kinder, gentler NT god. Have you read the book of Revelation?

Or how about Jesus’ sermon on the mount, when he says that anyone who follows all of the OT commandments will be called “greatest” in the kingdom of heaven? Or Romans 7:12, where Paul says the law is “holy, just, and good”?

BoBo1946's avatar

@Qingu same God, but He can change His mind…....No doubt He did when He sent Jesus down here to save our souls.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr what am i thinking…evolved was correct…loll.

Qingu's avatar

Okay. Why do you think he changed his mind? As far as I can tell there’s nothing in the Bible that supports this position. He still kills almost everyone in Revelation, and he still wants you to follow all the laws he gave Moses, including the ones where you’re supposed to stone nonvirgin brides to death and the ones allowing you to purchase slaves from foreigners.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Qingu don’t know…understood about His position not being supported by the Bible, but He did send Jesus down here to die for our sins. Think He can change his mind just like we do…that is strictly an opinion.

Qingu's avatar

What is your opinion based on?

BoBo1946's avatar

@Qingu my reading and commonsense…i don’t have much left..loll! It is clear to me, in my small mind, that God saw the weakness of man.. He loved us enough to send Jesus! It was His gift to us. His Son! That is why we give gift to loved one at Christmas! We show our love with a gift. Really believe that…just an interpertation. Could definitely be wrong. Just an old man’s opinion!

Seek's avatar

He loved us enough to send himself/his son to commit suicide/die to save us from the hell he condemned us to after someone was convinced by a talking snake he created to eat from a tree that he put in the middle of the garden on the earth he created because he was bored on a Tuesday.

Makes perfect sense.

Qingu's avatar

How does Revelation fit into your idea of a loving god? He tortures and kills almost everyone on Earth.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr loll..hey, it’s just what i believe! Everyone has their opinion on the subject and i certainly respect that. Believe me, don’t have all the answers! I just accept it by Faith! It is a part of me…cannot and will not ever believe any different!

BoBo1946's avatar

@Qingu God put us here…as free moral agents to believe as we chose! Revelations is the end of the World. We will be judged by Him. Now, believe me, I’m not Saint. I just believe it. Not naive about this. Certainly understand the difficult task by many to believe it. If I’m wrong my friend, have not lost anything. In my heart of hearts, from my experiences in my life, He is real.

Seek's avatar

Pascal’s Wager again. It always comes back to that.

But what if the god you picked is the wrong one? or what if your god changed his mind (or evolved?) again, and the book you were supposed to read was nixed at the Council of Nicea? What if the loving Jesus everyone worships actually was the guy that killed a 6 year old child, as told in the Apocrypha?

BoBo1946's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr cannot answer that…and not familiar with this! There a lot of questions unanswered. But, having said that, good things and bad things happen to people that believe and to those that don’t believe. There are several passages in the Bible about that. “Rain on the just and unjust,” etc… There has to be a lot of Faith here. And, my Faith has been tested many times, as bad things have certainly happened in my life, but i’ve never questioned my Faith and belief in Him!

Seek's avatar

Why not?

Qingu's avatar

It’s Revelation, not Revelations

That didn’t really answer my question. Why do you believe your god is loving if he’s going to torture and kill most people on Earth, as Revelation says?

It seems like you’re using “faith” as an excuse not to confront the unsavory aspects of your religion.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr it is a part of who I’m and my beliefs! We all have to “walk our own walk!” Have many friends that don’t believe. Played golf with a preacher’s son for many years…about the nicest guy I’ve ever known. Very calm person, never cursed, did not drink, and a great family man. One day, we were discussing this…and we were talking about Jonah being swallowed by the whale…He looked at me and said, “you really believe that?” I was really taken back…and him being a preacher’s son saying that. My response was, “yes i do!” Then, i said, “why don’t you believe it?” He said, “i’m a product of overkill or rebellion!” We talked about it for a longtime that day…

@Qingu oh, thank you for pointing that to me! And, no is my answer. It is my Faith..that is all. Seems to me, the conversation has now changed with that comment!

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I can see where @BoBo1946 is coming from because, whilst I am not overly religious I can’t help but believe in a Higher Power of some sort. I am interested in science and open minded about the fact that the “God” I believe in may not exist but, even when I try to think in, what you may consider to be, a logical way, I still find myself believing. I just can’t help it. I question my beliefs all the time and I completely understand why many people don’t share them, it doesn’t make sense and yet, I believe. Does that make any sense to you? it made sense in my head but I’m not sure if I explained it well with words!

Seek's avatar

The real answer to that is “People can’t live in a fish. Fish live under water, and people require oxygen to breathe.” (since Jonah was swallowed by a “great fish”, not a “whale”)

Snakes and donkeys don’t talk. Ever. The burning bush thing was likely the product of heavy hallucinogens that were popular at the time. God created the Earth while the Sumerians (who were a thriving civilisation at the time) looked on in confusion. There isn’t enough water on the earth to flood it entirely, and the sky isn’t a solid dome holding up an ocean.

Sometimes you just have to say “I’m an intelligent, rational human being. Why do I believe these fairy tales?”

BoBo1946's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr’cha…everyone has their cross to bear! I’ll take the snakes and fairy tales and believe them until i do depart from here!

Would have really enjoyed you being in my class when i was teaching school. Always enjoyed discussing this with my students.

Seek's avatar

What did you teach?

Because I had a science teacher once that taught the chapters on evolution with a “Well, we know what really happened…::wink::” attitude, and I wanted to throw my book at her. And I was still Christian at that time.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr taught Ancient History, American History, and one year, taught a science class.

Understood…it is about being open-minded to different beliefs. To be a good teacher, you have to be open-minded and be acceptable to having the students challenge what you teach. Never had a problem with that as long as they were respectful.

Enjoyed your comments..take care! Got to run!

Qingu's avatar

Are you open-minded about astrology? Snake oil medicine? Magic crystals from Atlantis?

How about human sacrifice? The Aztecs had faith that kidnapping and murdering human victims would appease their gods. Should we be open-minded to those kind of beliefs?

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Qingu What’s wrong with picking and choosing what we are open minded about? Just because someone is open minded about one thing does that mean they have to be open minded about everything?

Qingu's avatar

Okay. So what is your criteria for choosing which things to be open-minded about?

Why are you open-minded about the apparent nonsense in the Bible, but not the Quran, or the Hindu Vedas? Or the Aztec mythology? Why one and not the others?

OpryLeigh's avatar

When did I say that I wasn’t open minded about other holy books?

What I mean is, I, for example, remain open minded about religion (although there are plenty of things within certain religions that I certainly do not condone) but I am not open minded when it comes to unprovoked animal abuse, for example. Being open minded about one subject doesn’t mean you have to be open minded about all subjects. I am open minded about the “medicines” that certain religions might swear by even if I wouldn’t necessarily be happy to try them myself. I’m not 100% convinced that they work but I think to myself that there must be a reason why other people are convinced.

My “criteria” for what I am open minded about is if it makes sense to me (whether I am 100% convinced or only 10% convinced) then I am open minded about it if it doesn’t make any sense to me then I forget about it until an explanation comes along that opens my mind about it.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Qingu people makes choices! This is mine! Being open-minded is about educating yourself and making a decision. The Bible is not non-sense to me…that was my decision!

BoBo1946's avatar

Having taught Hinduism and all the other “isms,” certainly aware of other religions. Christianity was my choice.

Seek's avatar

In your own words, what makes Christianity more likely to be true or more worthy of your lifelong devotion than any other of the hundreds of world religions?

Hypothetically, if I were to ever choose to follow a religion again (not likely), it would probably be an earth based religion – like Wicca. Because, if you remove all the Supernatural aspects of the religion, you are left with “Don’t cause harm, and treat the earth as sacred.” You can’t argue with that. It’s positive all around.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr it was my choice…over the others! And, very comfortable with it! It works for me.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I have to admit that I find it very difficult to believe in one religion. I often find myself appreciating certain bits of different religions and discarding certain bits. That is exactly why I can’t claim to be religious. I believe in a “higher power” but He/She/It isn’t attached to any particular religion. I know more about Christianity than some of the others but that doesn’t mean I believe in every thing that Christianity teaches. I apprecaite some of the more earth based religions too for the very reason that you mentioned.

Seek's avatar


Forgive me, but I don’t think that is a sufficient answer. I asked “Why did you choose this”, and you answered “I chose it”.


Seek's avatar

This is my final word on this matter.

Blackberry's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr LMAO, that was hilarious. “Winning since 33 A.D.”.

Seek's avatar

I lied. One more.

It’s a 6-minute video, but it’ll answer all the “Why do you care what we believe” questions.


BoBo1946's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr because i’ve had lots of experience in my life with my choice and feel good about it. Don’t know what to say other than that! calf-rope….in other words, i give!

Just clicked on your icon! God is the Creator of Heaven and Earth according my beliefs. He put man here in His own image. He allowed man to make his own choices. Man made some bad choices!

With all the suffering in the World, and understand you have a problems with my God because of the suffering of man, there is hope through Him to have peace and life without so much pain.

Again, i don’t understand everything…no one does, but each person has to decide what is best for them. I chose to believe!

BoBo1946's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr just watched the video! Those are radical Christians! I’m just a normal everyday guy that believes. Personally, do not like most evangelist..they give Christianity a bad name. Also, now that I’m older, rarely go to Chruch. When the children were younger, went to Church every Sunday. I’m not a “holy-roller!” I worship my God in private. The Church that I attend are not the jump up and down stuff…very dignified and we queitly worship.

Fyrius's avatar

Holy hell on a stick, this thread blasts off at Warp 9 whenever I look the other way.

“I think because if one cherry-picks and ignores the parts they don’t like, they tend to feel inclined to continue ignoring all the negative points of their religion.”
But consider this: If every Christian would ignore the fact that, say, the bible disapproves of homosexuality, would this negative point of their religion not practically cease to exist altogether?
Yes, dear Christians, please do ignore this part of eld Christianity. Let that rubbish slip into oblivion, together with the endorsements of slavery and spouse abuse and killing people who work on Sundays.
It may be intellectually dishonest, and that is bad, but in this situation it’s really a lesser evil, and the pay-off is that a whole lot of people will have much easier (and in some cases, longer) lives for it.
And yes, having everyone jettison the whole thing altogether would of course be preferable, but this is a heckload more feasible.

“Sometimes you just have to say “I’m an intelligent, rational human being. Why do I believe these fairy tales?””
(cough) Assuming nontrivially that you are (cough)

Qingu's avatar

@Fyrius, sure, it’s a lesser evil. I’d rather have the Christians we have today than the ones people were stuck with 200 years ago when most Christians were perfectly okay with slavery.

You know what would be an even lesser evil, though? If Christians who ignore most of the Bible stopped clinging to the dumb book entirely. They don’t even have to become atheists; unitarians would do.

Fyrius's avatar

Like I said,
”(...) having everyone jettison the whole thing altogether would of course be preferable, but this is a heckload more feasible.

Also consider that if people keep dismissing more and more of the unpopular bits of the bible, it will become easier and easier to let go of the whole thing. In fact that’s what they’re already doing, one tenet at a time.

Qingu's avatar

Touche, touche

BoBo1946's avatar

By now, should have known better to answer this question.

Christians are not perfect people, far from it! My great great grandfather was a farmer. He worked his own land. It was a family affair. My family never owned slaves. I grew up on the farm, we did our own work.

Seems that many want to sterotype Christians as religious fanantics! The video that @Seek_Kolinahr‘s posted yesterday made that assumption. When i’m sick, i go to the doctor. “I laugh, I love, I hope, I try, I hurt, I need, I fear, I cry. And I know you do the same things too, So we’re really not that different, me and you.” (author unknown)

Religious tolerance is not cool today! We Christians are categorized as naive, uneducated, using religion as a crutch, don’t know the difference between Revelations and Revelation, people who believe in fairy tales, etc. Personally, i don’t make off-color remarks to non-Christians…there is room for everyone in this world! I’m certainly not naive at age 63, do not use religion as a crutch, and will believe in my fairy tales to my dying breath on God’s Green Earth!

Bottomline and closing, if you will respect my views, i’ll certainly respect your views!

Qingu's avatar

I tolerate people who I think believe silly and morally repugnant things. “Tolerance” doesn’t mean “respect.”

I think people deserve respect; I don’t think views automatically deserve respect, though. I also don’t respect the view that the sun revolves around the earth.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Qingu loll..your honor, we rest our case! Have a nice day Q!

Fyrius's avatar

On that subject, one has to wonder what it even means to respect an idea

Robert Heinlein once pointed out that you shouldn’t attribute to deliberate malice what could be explained as plain stupidity. I think that’s a brilliant idea, and I admire him for having come up with it.
But do I respect the idea? The very question seems inapplicable, and rather silly.

BoBo1946's avatar

loll..silly! well, each his own!

BoBo1946's avatar

loll..poor proofreading…stereotype!!!!!!!

OpryLeigh's avatar

@BoBo1946 Even if people don’t respect your beliefs I hope they respect how dignified and polite you have remained throughout this thread and I, for one, respect you for sicking to your beliefs without feeling the need to make fun of, be sarcastic or becoming defensive.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Leanne1986 thank you…’s not easy my friend! Age and temperance goes a long ways in dealing with situations! about the only advantage for getting older!

OpryLeigh's avatar

@BoBo1946—I’ve just seen my typo, obviously I meant to say sticking to your beliefs.

BoBo1946's avatar

@Leanne1986 knew what you meant…i never do that..loll!

mattbrowne's avatar

It is absolutely not justified when the criticism involves generalizations.

Fyrius's avatar

I disagree with that generalisation.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – Point taken. Let me rephrase: in many cases it is not justified when the criticism involves generalizations. Like all Christians are superstitious or all Muslims believe in a violent religion or Jews secretly rule the world.

Fyrius's avatar

I’m glad we agree. Yes, many such generalisations are wrong.

As exceptions, I was thinking of things like: all modern followers of ancient religions have a large number of beliefs that they copied from their environment and that not a single one of them would even have thought of postulating as a serious hypothesis themselves if they had never heard of it and just wanted to find out the truth.
In other words: There would exist no Christians today if there didn’t already exist other Christians before them. Or Muslims, or Judaists, or Buddhists, or Zoroastrians, etc.

Or: all religious people believe in their religion’s tenets to an extent that is in no proportion to their plausibility.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – Religions are mainly not about hypotheses in a scientific sense. Can we explain the purpose and meaning of the universe using scientific method? No, we can’t. The explanation would be outside the realm of science. Can we explain the phenomena in our universe? Yes, we can.

I cannot agree that all religious people believe in their religion’s tenets to an extent that is in no proportion to their plausibility. And I’ve said many times that religious beliefs without critical thinking are empty and meaningless. Believers with brains running on autopilot not only dishonor God’s wonderful creation like the universe, planet Earth, life on Earth and especially human beings capable of making some sense of our universe. Humans are not mindless robots blindly following some binary code being carried out in their CPUs.

See my new question how this might be seen in Islam:

I think that questioning our faiths and all of God’s rules by applying critical thinking can also lead to answers why many elements of our faiths and their rules actually make a lot of sense. Human altruism for example does have survival value, if you look at it from an evolutionary perspective. Then look at Zakat, the third pillar of Islam. It makes a lot of sense. Or take daily prayer. It makes a lot of sense. It slows down our minds, especially in a technologically advanced world where everything seems to accelerate. Prayers can give us back our strength and focus.

Jesus said that if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. This metaphor is reflected in various nonviolent resistance strategies that led India into independence and helped Martin Luther King’s dream come true. It even brought down the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Many rules are actually rules invented by humans. Cultural traditions. For example that Catholic priests can’t marry or that Muslims should not eat pork. The latter was invented because there were no refrigerators in the 5th century and extreme heat can render pork inedible. If people eat it they can get very sick. But there’s more it. Food and the preparation of food became a symbol and a set of rituals which are very important for social bonding. Therefore even in 2010 with plenty of refrigerators not eating pork can make sense. Muslims share common rituals. Christians share common rituals. Wikipedia states that the purposes of rituals are varied; with religious obligations or ideals, satisfaction of spiritual or emotional needs of the practitioners, strengthening of social bonds, social and moral education, demonstration of respect or submission, stating one’s affiliation, obtaining social acceptance or approval for some event or just for the pleasure of the ritual itself.

So eating pork in an abstract form isn’t a sin. Same as eating meat on Friday for Christians. It simply means that these believers do not share all rituals common in their religion. God loves people regardless of whether they eat pork or not. God loves people when they care for the poor.

Masturbation is not a sin either. And liberal Muslims would agree. But if believers choose not to masturbate, this is fine. We have to keep in mind that religions do evolve. They cannot be frozen at a particular point in the past. Religions do have to make sense in the context of today’s world. We have a better understanding of sexuality today compared to 1000 years ago.

If educated religious believers are convinced they are doing the right thing because of their critical thinking, then their belief has true value. If you force people to believe in God or even make threats that atheism is punishable by death and the belief in the Prophet is mandatory, such a belief is essentially worthless. Only after Muslims and Christians have dealt with their doubts and questioned their belief can they become true believers.

Seek's avatar

If they questioned their beliefs to completion, they wouldn’t be believers at all, unless they feared their families/communities/society’s wrath. Just saying.

mattbrowne's avatar

Well, I questioned my beliefs and I turned out to be a believer in God. Others questioned their beliefs too and they turned out to be non-believers. Which is perfectly fine. I greatly value critical thinking and I respect the individual conclusions. The problem are people who don’t think much about anything important.

Fyrius's avatar

And the discussion flares up again.

Not all religious ideas may be real-world assertions, but those that are definitely have the function of a hypothesis. Such as the existence of heaven and hell, and the idea that following an arbitrary set of rules will enable you to go to heaven. Existential postulations, complete with predicted consequences for your life, which you can conveniently only test by dying.
And if they hadn’t been passed on since the bronze age, no one in their right mind would even think of it. Except maybe as the plot to a thriller movie.
Damnation II: Judgement Day. Tagline: “We’re all its hostages… and these are its demands.”
If it would include the idea that not following the demands is immoral, it would be widely criticised for missing the whole point of morality.

And it’s nowhere near plausible in its own right, but strongly believed anyway.

The ritual aspect of religion I have no problem with, insofar as it can be separated from the religion’s assertions about how the universe works, and insofar as the rituals really have independent benefits.
I would be fascinated by the life style of an atheo-Christian who consciously believes there exists no god who hears prayers, but prays anyway for the benefits of introspection. I wonder what sort of person that would turn one into – whether one could follow such a life style without being inconsistent.

I agree that effectively questioning one’s beliefs and non-selective critical thinking are important.
Then again, there are also educated religious people who “question their beliefs” more for the sake of paying lip service to critical thinking or chasing away the nagging doubt that they might not be critical enough thinkers, than for the sake of judging whether it’s worth sticking to.

I won’t accuse you of being like this, Matt, but I think you already know why your reasons to believe in god are not going to impress me as a shining example of how it’s done. I’ve detailed before why I think they’re still fundamentally flawed. Something about gaps and answers that don’t really answer the question.

As a footnote on a similar subject: we’ve also talked before about “the purpose and meaning of the universe” being “outside the realm of science”. You know I think “the purpose and meaning of the universe” is a nonsense phrase on par with “the navel and belly button of the year 1984 BCE”. Even implying there could be such a thing requires you to project notions that are more human that you may be aware of onto something that’s not human and not animate, and in fact not even a physical object.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – Some are prescientific, yes, but most are part of myths. Myths are about the human struggle to deal with the great passages of time and life—birth, death, marriage, the transitions from childhood to adulthood to old age. They meet a need in the psychological or spiritual nature of humans that has absolutely nothing to do with science.

And I’d like to quote @Zuma one of our great Flutherites:

“We tend to assume that the people of the past were (more or less) like us, but in fact their spiritual lives were rather different. In particular, they evolved two ways of thinking, speaking, and acquiring knowledge, which scholars have called mythos and logos. Both were essential; they were regarded as complementary ways of arriving at truth, and each had its special area of competence. Myth was regarded as primary; it was concerned with what was thought to be timeless and constant in our existence. Myth looked back to the origins of life, to the foundations of culture, and to the deepest levels of the human mind. Myth was not concerned with practical matters, but with meaning. Unless we find some significance in our lives, we mortal men and women fall very easily into despair. The mythos of a society provided people with a context that made sense of their day-to-day lives; it directed their attention to the eternal and the universal. It was also rooted in what we would call the unconscious mind. The various mythological stories, which were not intended to be taken literally, were an ancient form of psychology. When people told stories about heroes who descended into the underworld, struggled through labyrinths, or fought with monsters, they were bringing to light the obscure regions of the subconscious realm, which is not accessible to purely rational investigation, but which has a profound effect upon our experience and behavior. Because of the dearth of myth in our modern society, we have had to evolve the science of psychoanalysis to help us to deal with our inner world.”

“Jews experience this myth every year in the rituals of the Passover Seder, which brings this strange story into their own lives and helps them to make it their own. One could say that unless an historical event is mythologized in this way, and liberated from the past in an inspiring cult, it cannot be religious. To ask whether the Exodus from Egypt took place exactly as recounted in the Bible or to demand historical and scientific evidence to prove that it is factually true is to mistake the nature and purpose of this story. It is to confuse mythos with logos.”

“Logos is practical. Unlike myth, which looks back to the beginnings and to the foundations, logos forges ahead and tries to find something new: to elaborate on old insights, achieve a greater control over our environment, discover something fresh, and invent something novel.”

“Logos had its limitations too. It could not assuage human pain or sorrow. Rational arguments could make no sense of tragedy. Logos could not answer questions about the ultimate value of human life. A scientist could make things work more efficiently and discover wonderful new facts about the physical universe, but he could not explain the meaning of life. That was the preserve of myth and cult.”

“Reading the Bible as mythos does not mean that it is all metaphor. Rather, it means that its truths are not factual propositions, but resonant psychological truths, in the sense that a poem or a work of fiction rings true. Mythos is about accessing the inner recesses of one’s psyche, such as the natural feeling of sympathy and compassion one feels toward someone who has fallen into a ditch. It is not about dogma or factual correctness, it is about symbolism and meaning and drawing intuitive insights and connections between things.”

“The distinction between mythos and logos is not a dichotomy. They are different but not mutually exclusive modes of knowing, roughly akin to the distinction between literary truths and factual truths.”

“Genesis is mythos, not logos as some kind of Iron Age attempt at cosmology in the modern scientific sense is presentism in the extreme. The purpose of Genesis is not to provide a factual account of the origin the universe, it is to define the relationship between Man and God.”

Fyrius's avatar

So, if I may summarise this hefty plateful of copypasta, the point is that certain peoples of over two thousand years ago were different from us in that they thought in terms of mythos and logos, and some of the ideas that people treat like real-world assertions now may not have been intended that way by the bronze age people who came up with them?

Am I supposed to take this to mean that there were no assertions at all in, say, eld Christianity that the people of yore actually believed to be, as a matter of fact, true? Did they not actually believe the dead went to another world where everything was either blissful or painful depending on how they did here? Did they not actually believe there existed a very powerful being that cared about them? Did they not actually believe praying was going to make a difference?

And if I would assume the questionable idea that for example Genesis 1 is only supposed to define the “relationship between man and god”, how is that supposed to take away the criticism that it introduces implausible factual assertions? Refresh my memory, I forgot: who is this god person again, do we really have a relationship with them, and what is it like? Factual assertion 1, factual assertion 2, factual assertion 3.
But it does seem to be conveniently limited to the few real-world assertions that all Christians still believe. What a favourable coincidence that is. All the in hindsight wrong ideas were never serious anyway, and only the ones you’re still allowed to believe were what it was really about all along. Whew! What a relief. I was getting worried that the truth was going to make the bible look silly.

This is all irrelevant. More importantly, how does this relate to the modern age, the only age relevant to the subject?
@Zuma said himself that mythos/logos thinking was a major difference between the way we think and the ways the people of the bronze age thought. This seems true, our day-to-day practical knowledge and our understanding of large, remote, fundamental things seem much more unified than that. I am at this moment aware that the physical force that keeps my butt in my chair while I’m writing this is the same force that causes nuclear fusion within the sun to make it shine, and the same force that causes the tides and the motions of the planets.
And it also seems to me that most modern Christians do believe allegedly originally mythos ideas like the above – afterlife, god, prayer – to similarly be actually true in the real world, at least to the extent that they are serious about their religion.
And I’m not even talking about the crackpots who believe indecent fashion causes earthquakes and hurricanes are a result of tolerating homosexuality.

Furthermore, even if @Zuma were saying today’s weird myths are okay because it’s just mythos even to us, and even if I’d take his word for it for the sake of argument, there still sticks a lot of memetic baggage to the religions that’s not as benign as these charming old stories. This includes not only beliefs about the world that are false or unwarranted, but also a lot of Divinely Inspired™ morality that is in fact not remotely acceptable in the third millennium. I know you and I are on the same page about Muslim misogyny, for example.
Thirdly, and more insidiously, a religion is a memetic system that is optimised through natural selection for the goal of protecting itself, if necessary at the expense of the host’s ability for self-honesty and rational evaluation. Built into any successful religion is a plethora of dirty tricks to manipulate the host into keeping the beliefs at all costs.
This is a reason why I doubt religions can evolve into something completely benign, that not only doesn’t make people kill each other, and not only doesn’t directly feed them objectively implausible yet rocksolid beliefs, but is also completely decontaminated of any such devices to bias people towards rationalising their own inconsistencies in ways they would never rationalise other people’s.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – I was aware that you were involved in our mythos-logos discussion. I like reusing good stuff and this thread is about about extensive criticism of religion. It is not justified when people think Adam and Eve were historical persons or Noah actually put thousands of animals on a ship. Why this is so people need to understand the concept of myths and the reasons for myths. The belief in God is not an issue of myth.

I’m optimistic that religions can evolve into something completely benign. A good approach is shown by Hans Kueng and his “Global Ethic Foundation for Intercultural and Interreligious Research, Education and Encounter”. See my post below.

None of my beliefs are objectively implausible.

mattbrowne's avatar

Here’s a declaration that shows exactly how religions can evolve into something completely benign:

Here’s an excerpt of the most important parts:

The world is in agony. The agony is so pervasive and urgent that we are compelled to name its manifestations so that the depth of this pain may be made clear. Peace eludes us – the planet is being destroyed – neighbors live in fear – women and men are estranged from each other – children die! This is abhorrent. We condemn the abuses of Earth’s ecosystems. We condemn the poverty that stifles life’s potential; the hunger that weakens the human body, the economic disparities that threaten so many families with ruin. We condemn the social disarray of the nations; the disregard for justice which pushes citizens to the margin; the anarchy overtaking our communities; and the insane death of children from violence. In particular we condemn aggression and hatred in the name of religion.

But this agony need not be. It need not be because the basis for an ethic already exists. This ethic offers the possibility of a better individual and global order, and leads individuals away from despair and societies away from chaos. We are women and men who have embraced the precepts and practices of the world’s religions. We affirm that a common set of core values is found in the teachings of the religions, and that these form the basis of a global ethic. We affirm that this truth is already known, but yet to be lived in heart and action. We affirm that there is an irrevocable, unconditional norm for all areas of life, for families and communities, for races, nations, and religions. There already exist ancient guidelines for human behavior which are found in the teachings of the religions of the world and which are the condition for a sustainable world order. We Declare: We are interdependent. Each of us depends on the well-being of the whole, and so we have respect for the community of living beings, for people, animals, and plants, and for the preservation of Earth, the air, water and soil. We take individual responsibility for all we do. All our decisions, actions, and failures to act have consequences.

We must treat others as we wish others to treat us. We make a commitment to respect life and dignity, individuality and diversity, so that every person is treated humanely, without exception. We must have patience and acceptance. We must be able to forgive, learning from the past but never allowing ourselves to be enslaved by memories of hate. Opening our hearts to one another, we must sink our narrow differences for the cause of the world community, practicing a culture of solidarity and relatedness.

We consider humankind our family. We must strive to be kind and generous. We must not live for ourselves alone, but should also serve others, never forgetting the children, the aged, the poor, the suffering, the disabled, the refugees, and the lonely. No person should ever be considered or treated as a second-class citizen, or be exploited in any way whatsoever. There should be equal partnership between men and women. We must not commit any kind of sexual immorality. We must put behind us all forms of domination or abuse. We commit ourselves to a culture of non-violence, respect, justice, and peace. We shall not oppress, injure, torture, or kill other human beings, forsaking violence as a means of settling differences. We must strive for a just social and economic order, in which everyone has an equal chance to reach full potential as a human being. We must speak and act truthfully and with compassion, dealing fairly with all, and avoiding prejudice and hatred. We must not steal. We must move beyond the dominance of greed for power, prestige, money, and consumption to make a just and peaceful world.

Earth cannot be changed for the better unless the consciousness of individuals is changed first. We pledge to increase our awareness by disciplining our minds, by meditation, by prayer, or by positive thinking. Without risk and a readiness to sacrifice there can be no fundamental change in our situation. Therefore we commit ourselves to this global ethic, to understanding one another, and to socially beneficial, peace-fostering, and nature-friendly ways of life. We invite all people, whether religious or not, to do the same.

The Principles of a Global Ethic: Our world is experiencing a fundamental crisis, a crisis in global economy, global ecology, and global politics. The lack of a grand vision, the tangle of unresolved problems, political paralysis, mediocre political leadership with little insight or foresight, and in general too little sense for the commonweal are seen everywhere: Too many old answers to new challenges. Hundreds of millions of human beings on our planet increasingly suffer from unemployment, poverty, hunger, and the destruction of their families. Hope for a lasting peace among nations slips away from us. There are tensions between the sexes and generations. Children die, kill, and are killed. More and more countries are shaken by corruption in politics and business. It is increasingly difficult to live together peacefully in our cities because of social, racial, and ethnic conflicts, the abuse of drugs, organized crime, and even anarchy. Even neighbors often live in fear of one another. Our planet continues to be ruthlessly plundered. A collapse of the ecosystem threatens us.

Commitment to a culture of non-violence and respect for life: Numberless women and men of all regions and religions strive to lead lives not determined by egoism but by commitment to their fellow humans and to the world around them. Nevertheless, all over the world we find endless hatred, envy, jealousy, and violence, not only between individuals but also between social and ethnic groups, between classes, races, nations, and religions. The use of violence, drug trafficking and organized crime, often equipped with new technical possibilities, has reached global proportions. Many places still are ruled by terror “from above;” dictators oppress their own people, and institutional violence is widespread. Even in some countries where laws exist to protect individual freedoms, prisoners are tortured, men and women are mutilated, hostages are killed.

In the great ancient religious and ethical traditions of humankind we find the directive: You shall not kill! Or in positive terms: Have respect for life! Let us reflect anew on the consequences of this ancient directive: All people have a right to life, safety, and the free development of personality insofar as they do not injure the rights of others. No one has the right physically or psychically to torture, injure, much less kill, any other human being. And no people, no state, no race, no religion has the right to hate, to discriminate against, to “cleanse,” to exile, much less to liquidate a “foreign” minority which is different in behavior or holds different beliefs.

Of course, wherever there are humans there will be conflicts. Such conflicts, however, should be resolved without violence within a framework of justice. This is true for states as well as for individuals. Persons who hold political power must work within the framework of a just order and commit themselves to the most non-violent, peaceful solutions possible. And they should work for this within an international order of peace which itself has need of protection and defense against perpetrators of violence. Armament is a mistaken path; disarmament is the commandment of the times. Let no one be deceived: There is no survival for humanity without global peace!

Young people must learn at home and in school that violence may not be a means of settling differences with others. Only thus can a culture of non-violence be created. A human person is infinitely precious and must be unconditionally protected. But likewise the lives of animals and plants which inhabit this planet with us deserve protection, preservation, and care. Limitless exploitation of the natural foundations of life, ruthless destruction of the biosphere, and militarization of the cosmos are all outrages. As human beings we have a special responsibility – especially with a view to future generations – for Earth and the cosmos, for the air, water, and soil. We are all intertwined together in this cosmos and we are all dependent on each other. Each one of us depends on the welfare of all. Therefore the dominance of humanity over nature and the cosmos must not be encouraged. Instead we must cultivate living in harmony with nature and the cosmos. To be authentically human in the spirit of our great religious and ethical traditions means that in public as well as in private life we must be concerned for others and ready to help. We must never be ruthless and brutal. Every people, every race, every religion must show tolerance and respect – indeed high appreciation – for every other. Minorities need protection and support, whether they be racial, ethnic, or religious.

To be authentically human in the spirit of our great religious and ethical traditions means the following: We need mutual respect, partnership, and understanding, instead of patriarchal domination and degradation, which are expressions of violence and engender counter-violence. We need mutual concern, tolerance, readiness for reconciliation, and love, instead of any form of possessive lust or sexual misuse. Only what has already been experienced in personal and familial relationships can be practiced on the level of nations and religions. Historical experience demonstrates the following: Earth cannot be changed for the better unless we achieve a transformation in the consciousness of individuals and in public life. The possibilities for transformation have already been glimpsed in areas such as war and peace, economy, and ecology, where in recent decades fundamental changes have taken place. This transformation must also be achieved in the area of ethics and values! Every individual has intrinsic dignity and inalienable rights, and each also has an inescapable responsibility for what she or he does and does not do. All our decisions and deeds, even our omissions and failures, have consequences.

Keeping this sense of responsibility alive, deepening it and passing it on to future generations, is the special task of religions. We are realistic about what we have achieved in this consensus, and so we urge that the following be observed:

1. A universal consensus on many disputed ethical questions (from bio- and sexual ethics through mass media and scientific ethics to economic and political ethics) will be difficult to attain. Nevertheless, even for many controversial questions, suitable solutions should be attainable in the spirit of the fundamental principles we have jointly developed here.

2. In many areas of life a new consciousness of ethical responsibility has already arisen. Therefore we would be pleased if as many professions as possible, such as those of physicians, scientists, business people, journalists, and politicians, would develop up-to-date codes of ethics which would provide specific guidelines for the vexing questions of these particular professions.

3. Above all, we urge the various communities of faith to formulate their very specific ethics: What does each faith tradition have to say for example, about the meaning of life and death, the enduring of suffering and the forgiveness of gult, about selfless sacrifice and the necessity of renunciation, about compassion and joy? These will deepen, and make more specific, the already discernible global ethic.

In conclusion, we appeal to all the inhabitants of this planet. Earth cannot be changed for the better unless the consciousness of individuals is changed. We pledge to work for such transformation in individual and collective consciousness, for the awakening of our spiritual powers through reflection, meditation, prayer, or positive thinking, for a conversion of the heart. Together we can move mountains! Without a willingness to take risks and a readiness to sacrifice there can be no fundamental change in our situation! Therefore we commit ourselves to a common global ethic, to better mutual understanding, as well as to socially beneficial, peace-fostering, and Earth-friendly ways of life.

Seek's avatar

Okay, there’s no way on earth I’m reading all that, so I’ll just skip to the conclusion.

Earth cannot be changed for the better unless the consciousness of individuals is changed – I’d prefer changing their conscience.

We pledge to work for such transformation in individual and collective consciousness, for the awakening of our spiritual powers through reflection, meditation, prayer, or positive thinking, for a conversion of the heart.
This sentence is meaningless. “Spiritual powers” is an abstract concept based on nothing.

Together we can move mountains! – Sure, with enough TNT and bulldozers, I’m sure this is feasable, if a grand waste of time, money, and effort.

Without a willingness to take risks and a readiness to sacrifice there can be no fundamental change in our situation! Therefore we commit ourselves to a common global ethic, to better mutual understanding, as well as to socially beneficial, peace-fostering, and Earth-friendly ways of life.
I have no problem with this either. I do, however, fail to understand what this has to do with believing in a disembodied omnipotent deity.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr – The term spiritual powers can mean a lot of things and it’s based on “something”. Here two few examples:

1) The faith in a higher power and a consciousness offering a sense of peace, contentment, confidence and hope.

2) No faith in a higher power, but a way of life which nurtures thoughts, words, and actions that are in harmony with the idea that the entire universe is in some way connected and has a deeper meaning and purpose.

Seek's avatar


Uhm, thanks for confirming?

“Can mean a lot of things” = “abstract”.

“Spiritual” = “of or relating to the spirit”. Since the term “spirit” is in itself an abstract term that can only be defined using other abstract terms, the whole concept is, again, meaningless.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr – The word spiritual has multiple meanings and it depends on the context. It is not just about the belief in a deity or not. Spiritual growth can for example mean to find authentic happiness as defined in Martin Seligman’s positive psychology framework. The key idea is that pleasure in itself is not the road to happiness. Pleasure is fleeting, and pursuing it can easily turn into obsession, addiction or futility. Seligman identifies and values a set of nearly universal virtues which he believes lead to deep and lasting gratification. These include wisdom and knowledge, courage, love and humanity, justice, temperance, spirituality and transcendance.

Humans need to find purpose and meaning in their lives. They need ethics and a code of conduct. Spiritual power can also be seen as a quest for ethical living and the creation of an ethical society. The American Ethical Union suggests the following:

An ethical society is a community of individuals dedicated to making our lives and our world more humane, more ethical; Dedicated to the ideal that every human being has worth and dignity, and committed to a reverence for this world and all life. Searching for a better understanding of how the world actually is, what potentials exist, and what yet must be done to build a better life: through analysis and critique of social and personal conditions, through creative inquiry for realistic solutions to heal pain, reduce suffering, and add to hope, and through actively testing our conclusions in the world by our own experience and the experience of others.

Committed in these tasks to the fullest use of our reason and compassion, and willing to accept responsibility to act on our best thoughts and feelings, recognizing that our actions and failures to act affect our lives and those around us;

Knowing that building the good and the true is far more important, interesting and useful than to focus on whether we believe or disbelieve in certain philosophical or metaphysical or religious ideas, instead welcoming our diversity of thought as a strength to further individual and community maturity. For this community, this is our common vision, the faith by which we strive to live.

Makes more sense?

Fyrius's avatar

“None of my beliefs are objectively implausible.”
What a bold thing to say. Of all your beliefs, you’re sure that there’s not a single one that you would realise is actually rather implausible if you could be more objective about it?
How do you know there are no such beliefs in your mind? Did you just run a search of your memory for “things I believe that are implausible” and not get any results? Do you think that if you had objectively implausible beliefs, you’d be aware of their implausibility?

Incidentally, do you still believe the natural laws of the universe are the way they are because an intelligent entity decided they should be so?
Other examples that may apply: Men and women can be equally good at everything. People of all races can be equally good at everything. Humans have free will. Humans and animals are fundamentally different. Humans and inanimate objects are fundamentally different. Time goes in only one direction. Death is inevitable.

As for that other post:
I’ve made my way to the top of the second page (this fills up three pages in Word), and at this point my woo woo sense is tingling, my bullshit meter is pointing to “cool story bro”, and I have the impression that what is described is mostly a pipe dream about how nice it would be to live in an ideal world, rather than a pragmatic and realistic approach to the flaws of religious morality.
And I’d like to see their statistics – if any – that lead them to believe the world is “in crisis” and deteriorating in every single one of the aspects they say, and whether it wasn’t always like this, or whether things weren’t even worse before.

I also doubt that this is going to cover any of the points of criticism I supplied besides the Divinely Inspired™ morality bit.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – I believe that my beliefs are objectively plausible. I’ve mentioned repeatedly that I question everything. Again and again. Right now I’m not aware of any of my beliefs (which I see as beliefs not facts) being implausible. Maybe you remember one that you find implausible. I’m happy to check again. What about you? Are your beliefs objectively plausible?

I said this before: Dreamers think big and start small. Fools think small and start big. Hans Kueng and his Global Ethic Foundation are dreamers. Martin Luther King had a dream too, and he shared it with the rest of the world on August 28, 1963.

Fyrius's avatar

“I believe that my beliefs are objectively plausible.”
Don’t you understand that this is practically a tautology?
Of course you believe your beliefs are objectively plausible. They wouldn’t be your beliefs if you believed them to be objectively implausible.
The biases you know you have aren’t nearly as dangerous as the ones you never realise you have.

I also doubt you really do question literally everything.

“What about you? Are your beliefs objectively plausible?”
I don’t know.
I hope I’ve taken adequate precautions to make sure at least my beliefs that I often think about are. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I have a heckload of cultural notions in my head that I always took for granted but that actually aren’t very sensible at all. Things that I can’t be objective about, or things that it doesn’t occur to me to reconsider, or both.

It’s not difficult to end up believing the implausible if you were told it’s true from the cradle on. Our chances of not picking up any balderdash are bad enough with an environment full of old wives’ tales, urban myths, prejudices, taboos and constantly reinforced cultural values, not to even mention superstition and pseudoscience.
The additional burden of a religious upbringing not only effortlessly sneaks in a heckload more balderdash, but also strategically instates a counterproductive epistemology that makes it more difficult to get rid of all the other baloney too.

It might be conceivable that the religions could evolve into something benign in a few centuries, into religions that do not start and keep up wars, religions that are free of bronze age “morality”, religions that don’t condone chauvinist bigotry, religions that don’t try to give answers about things nobody knows, religions that don’t fill children’s heads with hidden obstacles to rationality, religions that don’t inspire and support magical thinking, religions that don’t tout unfounded faith as a good thing, religions that don’t exempt their followers from personal responsibility…

…but one has to wonder what religion has that makes it worth the damage it will continue to do until then. And whether everyone’s wish to keep it isn’t just the memeplex’ covert protection systems talking.

Seek's avatar


Actually, I think it makes far less sense now.

Where do you get that the word “Spiritual” refers at all to sacrificing your own pleasures in the name of some abstract “code of ethics”? The simple etymology doesn’t exist. One can’t just choose a word, then make up a definition for it. Words have their own meanings.

It particularly doesn’t work when your argument is “Religion is positive”, and then you take the religious words and attempt to give them secular-friendly definitions. You’ve lost the religious aspect, and thus your argument.

Just for fun, I went looking for the definition of “spiritual power”. Here’s a few.

We define Spiritual Power as faith in a higher power, a consciousness, offering a sense of peace, contentment, confidence and hope. When you are connected with this limitless loving energy you feel good, positive and relaxed. link
I’ll take whatever drug this dude is on. If you can remove the higher power side effects.

I’ll throw in the ol’ Biblical standby, as many Christians equate “spiritual power” with the “gifts of the spirit”
8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues. That is of course 1COR 12:8–10
So here we have some literal “superpowers”, like translating languages we don’t know, speaking in tongues, and healing by touch. I didn’t know Jesus did Reiki.

Humans have human power, and spiritual practitioners have spiritual power. This power might be indiscernible to us but it is so infinite that no physical power can compare. You have heard that your five generations will be elevated after you are initiated by me. It is this spiritual power that pulls them all up. Therefore, this power derived from spiritual practice is most precious; it cannot be bought at any price or taken away by even the greatest authority. Link
So, big bad power that we can’t feel but is infinite. These big bad massless, energy-less things are really getting annoying.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – Okay, maybe we need an example: “Jesus walking on water”

- The disciples actually saw Jesus walking on water. Implausible.
– Jesus was able to change the natural laws. Implausible.
– The disciples were dreaming about Jesus walking on water. Implausible.
– One disciple was dreaming and told the others about his dream. Plausible.
– One disciple was a schizophrenic hearing voices telling him about Jesus walking on water. Plausible.
– Oral tradition focused on Jesus abilities to remain calm even with a storm approaching. It turned into a metaphor recorded by the gospels. Storms symbolize the struggles we must face, the storms of physical, mental, and emotional trials. Plausible.

I believe in the sixth interpretation. It seems most plausible to me. Jesus actually walking on water is extremely implausible. Quantum laws would allow it, but the probabilities attached to it would probably require sextillions of universe to make this occur once.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr – In my opinion, seeking Kolinahr intended to purge all remaining vestigial emotions is a spiritual endeavor. It is about self-actualization. It is about wisdom beyond memorizing facts. Live long and prosper can be seen as a spiritual greeting.

Of course the word spirit also has meanings related to superstitions, like a spirit haunting a house when the strange sounds are actually caused by bad plumbing. But that’s not how I understand the world spiritual.

Fyrius's avatar

I do hope you’re not posting this example to prove that you are too smart for believing implausible things.

I’d be forced to point to the obvious fact that you can’t demonstrate the utter absence of any X by pointing to one thing that could have been X but isn’t. If this were valid, my body would be proof that malaria does not exist.
Moreover, this was a very easy example. You’d have to be a lot nuttier than you are to literally believe Jesus could walk on the surface of water without passing through it. But there are also implausible beliefs people as reasonable as you are still able to fall for, and probably some implausible beliefs held by people more rational than you.

I’ve posted a list above of beliefs many reasonable people hold that I could argue are not plausible. I’ll reiterate.
– Men and women can be equally good at everything.
– People of all races can be equally good at everything.
– Humans have free will. (Human choices are undecided until they’re made.)
– Humans and animals are fundamentally different.
– Humans and inanimate objects are fundamentally different.
– Time goes in only one direction.
– Death is inevitable.

There are probably also examples I believe in, but for obvious reasons I can’t name them. (If I could, I wouldn’t hold them.)

For some examples custom-tailored to your situation, try these:
– The universe has a meaning and purpose.
– The laws of nature are the way they are because an intelligence decided they should be.

I also recall you saying a long time ago that the universe is more suitable for life (“biophilic”) than we should expect if there were no benevolent intelligence tweaking nature for us; even though life as we know it couldn’t survive for ten seconds in the vast majority of the universe, and even here it has to struggle and adapt to survive.
I’m sorry for bringing this up, since you seem to have let go of this idea (and that’s very much to your credit), but it should go to show that at least back then, you believed something implausible and were probably equally sure you didn’t.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – I know that there are people who hold implausible beliefs. I’m just not one of them, or at least my quest in life is to build up solid scientific knowledge and complement it with plausible beliefs. Your quest in life might be different. I respect that.

That the universe has a meaning and purpose is a plausible belief. But it isn’t scientific knowledge. That the universe doesn’t have a meaning and purpose is also plausible belief. But it isn’t scientific knowledge. A divine origin of the natural laws is a plausible belief. But it isn’t scientific knowledge. A self-explaining ultimate meta law as the origin of all other natural laws is a plausible belief. Meta quantum fluctuations perhaps reating quantum fluctuations in physically different universes. But it isn’t scientific knowledge. What explains the meta fluctuations?

Fyrius's avatar

“I know that there are people who hold implausible beliefs. I’m just not one of them”
How can you know?
Answer me that question. Can you tell somehow that you don’t have any implausible beliefs?

If you haven’t inferred, I’m using a more permissive definition of “implausible” than “patently ridiculous”. Would you claim not to have any biases? If not, why not admit they could warp your judgement of your beliefs?

“That the universe has a meaning and purpose is a plausible belief.”
I beg to differ. Elsewhere I’ve carefully explained why I do.
Summary: You’re misusing these words. Only things created by an intelligence have a purpose; there is no reason to postulate this for the universe. See below.
Not plausible. Not even semantically well-formed.

“A divine origin of the natural laws is a plausible belief.”
I beg to differ. Elsewhere I’ve carefully explained why I do.
Summary: This is again an unfounded postulation, and a fake answer that only makes the question even more mysterious. You still don’t understand how a god could create the natural laws, and why they would create them in this particular way. Furthermore intelligence is complex and rare, and more human-specific than you may realise.
Not plausible.

It is a human bias to look for intelligence where there is none. It is a bias of threatened religions to look for excuses to uphold their tenets. A religious human should be doubly suspicious of their tendency to believe such things.

“A self-explaining ultimate meta law as the origin of all other natural laws is a plausible belief. Meta quantum fluctuations perhaps reating quantum fluctuations in physically different universes. But it isn’t scientific knowledge. What explains the meta fluctuations?”
I don’t know, and it’s irrelevant. This is not my belief.
And the absence of a competitor does not render an implausible belief plausible.

Seek's avatar



As much as I like you, I do feel you spurt a lot of drivel when discussing things that should make perfect sense. For hopefully the last time, you can not invent a phrase, make up a definition for it, then use that phrase as the basis for a debate. That’s simply not how language works.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – Plausible doesn’t mean the same as correct. I like Karl Popper’s approach. To logically falsify a universal, one must find a true falsifying singular. If this is the case a belief is neither correct nor plausible.

To me plausible means “apparently reasonable and valid” or “might be true because of argument 1 to m”. Implausible means “having a quality that provokes disbelief” or “probably incorrect because of argument 1 to n”.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr – Which phrase are you referring to?

Fyrius's avatar

I define “plausible” as “having a realistic probability of being true”, and implausible as “likely to be false”. Particularly since we’re talking about objective plausibility here.
Even by your definitions, a hypothetical person (or AI) capable of really being objective wouldn’t consider all your beliefs “apparently reasonable and valid” either. To consider a divine origin credible requires partiality to religious notions; to consider a meaning and purpose to the universe credible requires cosmic anthropomorphisation and misapplication of those words.

With that said, I’m amazed how persistently you avoid admitting even to the possibility that you could have beliefs that are less plausible than you realise. You’re being stubborn, and arrogant.

A minimally reasonable thinker should be able to admit they’re not perfectly rational even without having examples of their irrationality handed to them on a silver platter. Not to accept this on itself is naive. Not to accept it when confronted with examples is just plain denialism.
And I’ve twice provided seven examples that you could accept without exposing core beliefs. And I named one you’ve already tacitly accepted months ago.

Do you pride yourself in questioning everything? Then question your own epistemic adequacy. It should have been the first thing you ever questioned.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr – The Collaborative International Dictionary of English offers the following three definitions of the word “spiritual”:

1) Consisting of spirit; not material; incorporeal; as, a spiritual substance or being
2) Concerned with sacred matters or religion
3) Of or pertaining to the intellectual and higher endowments of the mind (mental, intellectual).

As pointed out repeatedly many of my comments above refer to the third definition. Wikipedia is also very clear about the word spirituality having multiple meanings, not all of them referring to religions or the existence of a deity:

Spirituality can refer to an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his or her being, or the deepest values and meanings by which people live. Personal spiritual growth is sometimes used as a synonym for other terms like personal spiritual development to reach a higher level of awareness or consciousness.

Traditionally, religions have regarded spirituality as an integral aspect of religious experience. Many do still equate spirituality with religion, but declining membership of organized religions and the growth of secularism in the western world has given rise to a broader view of spirituality.

Secular spirituality carries connotations of an individual having a spiritual outlook which is more personalized, less structured, more open to new ideas/influences, and more pluralistic than that of the doctrinal faiths of organized religions. At one end of the spectrum, even some atheists are spiritual. While atheism tends to lean towards skepticism regarding supernatural claims and the existence of an actual “spirit”, some atheists define “spiritual” as nurturing thoughts, emotions, words and actions that are in harmony with a belief that the entire universe is, in some way, connected; even if only by the mysterious flow of cause and effect at every scale.

If spirituality is understood as the search for or the development of inner peace or the foundations of happiness, then spiritual practice of some kind is essential for personal well being. This activity may or may not include belief in supernatural beings. If one has such a belief and feels that relationship to such beings is the foundation of happiness then spiritual practice will be pursued on that basis: if one has no such belief spiritual practice is still essential for the management and understanding of thoughts and emotions which otherwise prevent happiness. Many techniques and practices developed and explored in religious contexts, such as meditation, are immensely valuable in themselves as skills for managing aspects of the inner life.

Of course nobody has to agree with any of this, but I’d like to be very clear here: I didn’t invent any of these meanings nor do I have the arrogance to want to redefine language.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Fyrius – Yes, I could have beliefs that are less plausible than I realize, but so could you. But here’s the difference: in an intellectual debate like this one I don’t call the other participants – willing to spend a lot of time – stubborn and arrogant. When I recognize implausible beliefs I keep an open mind and I do change my beliefs. The ability to change is a core value to me. I criticize religions a lot, including my own. Self-criticism is important. One of the few atheists capable of good self-criticism was @Zuma. His manners didn’t include sneering at believers. It’s a pity he’s not around anymore. He’s an atheist capable of criticizing atheism. He sometimes has doubts. I sometimes have doubts. And I’m suspicious of people who never have doubts. Who seem to fall in love with their own dogmas.

Fyrius's avatar

“Yes, I could have beliefs that are less plausible than I realize, but so could you.”
Yes, I could. I already mentioned (admitted, if you like) that in my second post on this “implausible beliefs” sub-topic.
This is more or less the point of what I’ve been trying to say. You can’t exclude the possibility, especially not for yourself. It’s a black swan issue where only other people can show you your own black swans.

“in an intellectual debate like this one I don’t call the other participants – willing to spend a lot of time – stubborn and arrogant.”
I think you know I don’t fling around accusations lightly either. I call people stubborn and arrogant if and only if I notice they are being stubborn and arrogant.

I’m not saying this to make you feel bad, Matt. I’m calling you out on an important cognitive mistake I think you’re falling prey to. If you take your intention to be open-minded and rational as seriously as you always say you do, then this here is something you need to pay close attention to.

I care about you, as a friend. And I take your intellect seriously. If I didn’t do both of those, I’d have stopped trying to reason with you after the first one or two debates that didn’t end well, as I have done with several other jellies.

“When I recognize implausible beliefs I keep an open mind and I do change my beliefs.”
That may be true, but in my experience, you only seem to recognise implausible beliefs after someone explicitly hands you inescapably compelling evidence against them on a silver platter. Repeatedly. Usually about three times.
It’s easy to change your mind when you already know your old beliefs are flawed. The main problem is to get to that point in the first place.

mattbrowne's avatar

I’m sorry if I upset anyone in this debate. I think there’s a lot of good points here and plenty of food for thought. I need to digest all this, so I think it is time to put this debate to rest. There will be more opportunities for debates of these topics in the future.

gemiwing's avatar

What a great question and wonderful debate. These are tough, personal questions being raised and each person has their own truth…

I think it’s important to think about what our words mean and what good they do. I try to think like that, don’t always get it right though. I feel it’s important to point out things, to learn things- even if it’s about something personal and sensitive in nature. Perhaps even more so.

Debating is one thing, attacking and pigeon-holing is another. I like to think if we keep a good purpose and loving nature in mind, then we can progress a situation rather than intensify it.

As for cherry-picking, we all do it to an extent. We’ve all probably jaywalked and ignored a ‘rule’ because we don’t agree with it, or feel we have a better reasoning of that law in certain situations. I feel I was given free will, and I intend to use it to try and make the world a better place.

I will say sometimes I do feel the hatred and pain directed towards me because I’m a christian. This happens a lot on Fluther. It happens and I try not to take it personally. It just reminds me of how people will say things like ‘oh you’re not like those gay people, you’re different!’. It still stings.

All I can say is that it does hurt and sometimes I let it make me feel small inside. Like I’m somehow less because I chose a religion and am not seen as ‘open-minded’ or a thinker because of it. I don’t cram my beliefs on anyone else; I work really hard to see everyone as equal. So it does hurt to be lumped in with those I feel aren’t being loving toward their fellow man.

Sometimes all I see is hatred around me and it makes me sad. This is just part of it.

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