Old 11-14-2007, 10:29 PM   #16
Kamikaze189
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I'll try to avoid making any boasts about whatever level of intelligence I might (or might not) have, but I do admit to being a language person -- I love words (reading them, writing them, thinking with them), and I work with them for a living. As to the question of proselytizing: A true Christian tries to proselytize in everything he/she does -- as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. That being said, I won't be handing out any tracts, and you probably won't hear much (if any) Scripture from me, because I'm sure it means little, if anything, to any of you. I'm here to discuss and debate on intellectual grounds, using only (please humor me here) the God-given faculties of reason and logic.
Good.

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Up until about six months ago, atheism was at the fringe of my consciousness; I didn't give it much thought. I had heard of Dawkins (even saw his book once at the local Barnes&Noble) but didn't feel much inclined to read it, and I'd never heard of Harris or Dennett. When Hitchens' book came out, though, it caused a much bigger stir than any of its predecessors (must've been the title), and at last I felt a pull to investigate all the hubbub. To make a long story short, I recently finished "god is not Great" and will soon (hopefully) be diving into Dinesh D'Souza's counterpoint volume, "What's So Great About Christianity."
I'd recommend Dawkins or Harris. I think Hitchens may have actually planned his book to be read after those, as the other two really champion the argument part.

I've only read Dawkins and a short segment of Hitchens. Dawkins did a fantastic job, if a bit unorganized in places. Yet I'm not a Hitchens fan so much.

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In addressing the various atheist manifestos, at this point I can speak most fully to what Hitchens has to say, as I haven't read Harris, Dawkins, Dennet, et al. (though I have read several quotes from Dawkins in various interviews). If the writings of those others are similar to Hitchens', however, please let me know, because there wouldn't be much point in reading the same arguments over and over.
Dawkins is most focused on science, from what I recall, but also considers some philosophy. As a whole, if I could recommend one book for anyone, anywhere, to read about religion, it is The God Delusion. It mentions the evils done in the name of religion, but it also covers a large, large, amount of arguments.

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Regarding Hitchens, his book comes across to me as mostly emotional -- specious, sophistical.
Well, I think it would be a waste of time to discuss a book in this regard. We shouldn't sit here and discuss Hitchens when what we're actually here for is to discuss religion/god. Of course, you can draw in some people's arguments, but that would still keep the focus on the big question.


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One could just as easily write a comparable rant on the evil side of money or power, for example, but these devices, along with religion, are just that -- tools, inherently neutral, that flawed humans often misuse. Enron and WorldCom were led by greedy, deceitful people, but that doesn't mean that money can't be put to good use, or that positions of power can't help lead to a peaceful society. Likewise, the manipulation of religion for evil purposes doesn't mean that God is evil, or that He doesn't exist, or that there is no truth beyond the material realm.
If religions aren't true (and you must admit that most of them aren't, if you belong to one and don't wish to contradict yourself) and are harming people, what should we be trying to do with them? That answer is everywhere. We should do our best to remove religion's influence. (Non-violent ways which still leave people their freedoms, of course)

And I don't consider money to be a good comparison to religion, especially since you can get people to do good without religion. There isn't a non-money of money which allows you to do good just as well with money. You can manipulate people to do good with religion, but, again, if it isn't true (and most aren't, even to most theists) then humans should not be so heavily controlled by them. The best control for people is no control, no manipulation. Good people doing good things because that's what they want, with no carrot or stick in sight.
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Old 11-14-2007, 10:40 PM   #17
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May I suggest that you'd be most beneficial to atheism's cause, Mr. Choobus, if you simply didn't say anything.
God's (non- or) existence has nothing to do with what Choobus types on this board.
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Old 11-14-2007, 11:48 PM   #18
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May I suggest that you'd be most beneficial to atheism's cause, Mr. Choobus, if you simply didn't say anything.
Not your best move so far.

Oh, by the way, could you give me a quick synopsis of "atheism's cause"? We're all very excited to finally find out what it is.

"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one."
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Old 11-15-2007, 12:00 AM   #19
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May I suggest that you'd be most beneficial to atheism's cause, Mr. Choobus, if you simply didn't say anything.
no you may not dumbass, and not only because atheism has no cause.

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Old 11-15-2007, 12:20 AM   #20
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Professor Chaos,

I'm perusing atheist sites because the recent wave of atheist tomes, capped by Hitchens' volume, drew my attention. I had never realized that atheism had the following it does.

whoneedscience,

I don't see the correlation between unicorns and God. Besides that, who's to say that the unicorn, or something akin to it, isn't one amongst the thousands of now-extinct species that used to populate the Earth?

But that is all secondary to this: It's great to see that some of those who accuse theists of "behaving like fucking sheep" show the intelligence of our alleged cave-dwelling ancestors. To say that "an 'intellectual case' regarding belief in God is laughable" -- without any supporting material, no less -- is the very epitome of narrow-mindedness, not to mention an insult to the very notion of an intellectual discussion, such as what some of us here are trying to have.

Concerning your comments about the Church, some of them are specifically directed at the Catholic Church, of which I've never been a part. I myself have many disagreements with the Catholic Church, and dislike having its beliefs assumed to be mine.

Regarding your comment that "religions are extremely good at giving people an easy out": Your summation of Christianity is just plain wrong. It's not as though we Christians we can do whatever we want and "get away with it" simply because we "believe in Jesus." We are accountable for our actions, both in the spiritual realm and here in the "real world." Furthermore, what could be an easier "out" than saying, "There's no God, so I can make up whatever 'morality' I want and live my life however I please with no real accountability" -- and with no supporting intellectual material, no less.

I make no excuses for whatever evil things have been done in the name of religion, but blaming religion (or any other thing) for the evil acts we do out of inherent fallibility is the wrong approach. My guess is that you believe that morality comes from evolution, which would lead you to conclude, most likely, that our morality is inherent and that we thus don't need any "commandments" to tell us what is right and wrong. I've heard other atheists make this same basic point. But are the Ten Commandments obvious? There seems to be a lot of people today who lie, covet, commit adultery and dishonor their parents without batting a lash; and -- to address Hitchens' most scathing criticism of the Decalogue --the pre-Hebrew inhabitants of Canaan routinely practiced child sacrifice. I guess their pre-Decalogue, innate evolutionary morality failed to notify them that murder was off-limits.
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Old 11-15-2007, 01:47 AM   #21
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Hi, everyone. I'm new here. My name is Jason, age 31, raging theist of the Christian variety. You can forgo the protective helmets, however, because I don't hit people over the head with my Bible. I'm here to converse with atheists, learn more about where they're coming from, share (with anyone who's interested) where I'm coming from. I guess we could take Hitchens' book as a starting point; I just finished it and have plenty of thoughts on it. Take care.
Welcome. Appearances to the contrary, we DO enjoy a good substantive discussion with rational people. It is just that the opportunities are so sparse...

What piqued your interest within "God is not Great"?

"Those who most loudly proclaim their honesty are least likely to possess it."
"Atheism: rejecting all absurdity." S.H.
"Reality, the God alternative"
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Old 11-15-2007, 02:17 AM   #22
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Well, thanks to everyone who responded; I was glad to hear from so many.

To give just a bit of background in order to answer a few of your inquiries: I found this site while browsing another atheist site (one of those clearinghouse-type places). I had joined a discussion on one other atheist site (American Atheists, at atheists.org) but got few responses. But people here seem to be more willing to engage, which I like.

I'll try to avoid making any boasts about whatever level of intelligence I might (or might not) have, but I do admit to being a language person -- I love words (reading them, writing them, thinking with them), and I work with them for a living. As to the question of proselytizing: A true Christian tries to proselytize in everything he/she does -- as the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. That being said, I won't be handing out any tracts, and you probably won't hear much (if any) Scripture from me, because I'm sure it means little, if anything, to any of you. I'm here to discuss and debate on intellectual grounds, using only (please humor me here) the God-given faculties of reason and logic.

Up until about six months ago, atheism was at the fringe of my consciousness; I didn't give it much thought. I had heard of Dawkins (even saw his book once at the local Barnes&Noble) but didn't feel much inclined to read it, and I'd never heard of Harris or Dennett. When Hitchens' book came out, though, it caused a much bigger stir than any of its predecessors (must've been the title), and at last I felt a pull to investigate all the hubbub. To make a long story short, I recently finished "god is not Great" and will soon (hopefully) be diving into Dinesh D'Souza's counterpoint volume, "What's So Great About Christianity."

In addressing the various atheist manifestos, at this point I can speak most fully to what Hitchens has to say, as I haven't read Harris, Dawkins, Dennet, et al. (though I have read several quotes from Dawkins in various interviews). If the writings of those others are similar to Hitchens', however, please let me know, because there wouldn't be much point in reading the same arguments over and over.

Regarding Hitchens, his book comes across to me as mostly emotional -- specious, sophistical. It's basically a laundry list of violent acts committed in the name of religion; the problem with that is that many (if not most or all) of those perpetrators of "religious violence" weren't interested in knowing the truth, only in using the most readily-available means -- religion -- to acquire the power and influence they craved. Now, perhaps that was the point Hitchens was trying to make -- that organized religion is used only for evil -- and perhaps I was under the mistaken impression that his book was going to be an intellectual case against theism. In either case, his book is mostly emotional, and I'm not sure what he hoped to accomplish by writing it, since his fellow athiests, I'm sure, were already in basic agreement with him, and since all sane theists (which includes all those whom I know) are against such violence. That leaves only the insane religionists to speak to, and I doubt they're listening (or reading anything from popular culture).

Hitchens is a polemicist, and that might be precisely his undoing: He is clever, with a sharp mind and a sharper tongue, but even though many of his barbs do cause thinking people to think, it doesn't take long to see the speciousness of his logic. One could just as easily write a comparable rant on the evil side of money or power, for example, but these devices, along with religion, are just that -- tools, inherently neutral, that flawed humans often misuse. Enron and WorldCom were led by greedy, deceitful people, but that doesn't mean that money can't be put to good use, or that positions of power can't help lead to a peaceful society. Likewise, the manipulation of religion for evil purposes doesn't mean that God is evil, or that He doesn't exist, or that there is no truth beyond the material realm.

I look forward to your feedback. Take care.
An interesting, dense and unusually literate post. I am encouraged that a civil dialog will be possible for the enjoyment of all, even if there is no ultimate conclusion.

Hitchens went to some length to distinguish between evil acts performed "in the name of religion (or God)" and those performed because of religion.

His example that most readily comes to my mind is infant genital mutilation, a barbaric act that no loving parent would ever begin to contemplate if it weren't a command written in a holy book.

A paraphrase of one of his points from interviews: You look at a newborn baby and exclaim "here is a beautiful example of the perfection of God's creation." Then you say "But we will make it even more perfect by taking a sharp stone and scraping away at its reproductive organs."

The Inquisition wasn't the aberration of a few rabid fringe lunatics, it was accepted system-wide as being mandated by the Bible.

I don't criticize religion based on what members do, but on what their holy book tells them to do (and what it claims as history and science). I do class Christians as poor representatives of their alleged faith if they fail to give all that they have away to the poor and sell their skivvies in order to buy a sword whose only purpose is to kill people and let their dead relatives bury themselves and insult their mothers....................

"Those who most loudly proclaim their honesty are least likely to possess it."
"Atheism: rejecting all absurdity." S.H.
"Reality, the God alternative"
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Old 11-15-2007, 02:23 AM   #23
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We want to hear reasonable people standing up for what is right, instead of behaving like fucking sheep.
Let us not disparage fucking sheep!

"Those who most loudly proclaim their honesty are least likely to possess it."
"Atheism: rejecting all absurdity." S.H.
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Old 11-15-2007, 02:26 AM   #24
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May I suggest that you'd be most beneficial to atheism's cause, Mr. Choobus, if you simply didn't say anything.
It is a little early in your career here to comment based on your evident assumption that the Great and Powerful Choobus is interested in benefiting any cause.

"Those who most loudly proclaim their honesty are least likely to possess it."
"Atheism: rejecting all absurdity." S.H.
"Reality, the God alternative"
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Old 11-15-2007, 03:04 AM   #25
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Heh, he's godalsmitey on his side. He can say anything- 'course it could get ugly, quick.


Mr JasonDrexler, have you lurked here for awhile before signing on?

Welcome.
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Old 11-15-2007, 03:06 AM   #26
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Choobus doesn't seem to be aiming for victory. He's going for distance and offensiveness.

And he's a smart guy who's very good at what he does. I would suggest you quietly sidle away now...
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Old 11-15-2007, 04:41 AM   #27
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Professor Chaos,

I'm perusing atheist sites because the recent wave of atheist tomes, capped by Hitchens' volume, drew my attention. I had never realized that atheism had the following it does.
Thanks for your answer, Jason, but it's not an answer. Why are YOU perusing atheist sites? What do you hope to gain from it?

"Atheist books were written" and "There are many atheists" doesn't really answer the question.

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Old 11-15-2007, 07:02 AM   #28
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I don't see the correlation between unicorns and God. Besides that, who's to say that the unicorn, or something akin to it, isn't one amongst the thousands of now-extinct species that used to populate the Earth?
Burden of proof.

Imagine you're sitting peacefully in your home, perhaps as you are now. You hear a knock. You go to the door. You open your door, and see a man wearing tinfoil on his head. He tells you a long-winded and extraordinary story about unicorns which are trying to kill him. He says the only way he's going to survive is if you let him -- obviously somewhat of a whacko -- into your home.

Now, you might pause and say, "Well, I'm not sure your story is true. I can't even believe there are such things as unicorns because you haven't given any evidence." You may have to pause and stare for a moment. "Got any evidence?"

At this point the deranged man turns, taking off his little tinfoil hat, and leaves, as he really has no evidence, and there really were no killer unicorns.

A door to door Jesus salesman works essentially the same way as the door to door unicorn crazy guy.

[quote]But that is all secondary to this: It's great to see that some of those who accuse theists of "behaving like fucking sheep" show the intelligence of our alleged cave-dwelling ancestors. To say that "an 'intellectual case' regarding belief in God is laughable" -- without any supporting material, no less -- is the very epitome of narrow-mindedness, not to mention an insult to the very notion of an intellectual discussion, such as what some of us here are trying to have.[quote]

An intellectual case regarding belief in god would be surprising. Look at the other theists on our board for a moment: Lily, Lurker, PollyP, the other couple spammers. Lily says she has evidence for god -- absolutely refuses to post it. PollyP just tells us to accept Jesus into our hearts (as if that means something). And the other theist spammers seem to be barely literate spammers who probably don't care about engaging anyone at all. Now you know where we're coming from, and this statement -- at least here, on this board -- is pretty well supported.

You're more than welcome to make an intellectual case for god, and change everyone's mind. But I'd say the chances of you doing this are slim to none if the future is anything like the past.

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Concerning your comments about the Church, some of them are specifically directed at the Catholic Church, of which I've never been a part. I myself have many disagreements with the Catholic Church, and dislike having its beliefs assumed to be mine.
Out of curiosity, then, where do you fall on the belief spectrum more specifically?

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Regarding your comment that "religions are extremely good at giving people an easy out": Your summation of Christianity is just plain wrong. It's not as though we Christians we can do whatever we want and "get away with it" simply because we "believe in Jesus." We are accountable for our actions, both in the spiritual realm and here in the "real world." Furthermore, what could be an easier "out" than saying, "There's no God, so I can make up whatever 'morality' I want and live my life however I please with no real accountability" -- and with no supporting intellectual material, no less.
If your sins are already accounted for by Jesus' sacrifice, you do have an out. It doesn't particularly matter, as long as someone with religious authority is saying something to the effect of "god wills it," and so do most of the people in the audience to which he's speaking.

As for atheism being an out, it could be, I suppose. But this gets right back to good people being good without religion and bad people being bad with religion regardless. If you, unlike most atheists, are going to switch to the ubermensch idea and try to say you are above morality and whatnot, you might just be a jerk. (That sentence was using the "impersonal you" -- not to be taken as an insult ) And you'd still probably be a jerk with religion, and using it as an out. The only difference is, the jerk with religion can influence other non-jerks with religion much easier than a jerk without religion can influence other non-jerks without a religion. It's the whole "god (the all powerful, all knowing, all good being) wants you to do this" thing as opposed to "I want you to do this."
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Old 11-15-2007, 08:21 AM   #29
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I don't see the correlation between unicorns and God. Besides that, who's to say that the unicorn, or something akin to it, isn't one amongst the thousands of now-extinct species that used to populate the Earth?

But that is all secondary to this: It's great to see that some of those who accuse theists of "behaving like fucking sheep" show the intelligence of our alleged cave-dwelling ancestors. To say that "an 'intellectual case' regarding belief in God is laughable" -- without any supporting material, no less -- is the very epitome of narrow-mindedness, not to mention an insult to the very notion of an intellectual discussion, such as what some of us here are trying to have.
Others may be, but I'm not really interested in "intellectual discussion". I'm actually beginning to think it's impossible with regard to God and religion.

If you have something to contribute, though, by all means go ahead. Comparing me to "our alleged cave-dwelling ancestors", though, just makes me think you're an asshat as well as a sheep.

Not to get off topic, but does this mean you don't believe in evolution?

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Concerning your comments about the Church, some of them are specifically directed at the Catholic Church, of which I've never been a part. I myself have many disagreements with the Catholic Church, and dislike having its beliefs assumed to be mine.
I never assumed you were part of it. I was giving examples from what I have experience with. It's nice that you disagree with them.

Now what was I saying about making excuses...

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Regarding your comment that "religions are extremely good at giving people an easy out": Your summation of Christianity is just plain wrong.
Oh yeah. You're offended by being grouped with those dirty Catholics, and then go on to and accuse my "summation of Christianity" to be wrong. Now this might be fair, but you're now grouping all Christians together and defending their beliefs, as if every Christian believes the same thing you do.


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My guess is that you believe that morality comes from evolution...
It does, at least in some sense. This can be clearly demonstrated by looking at basic moral instincts among our non-human animal relatives. Apes, monkeys, and even some fish show basic behaviours akin to the Golden Rule.

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..which would lead you to conclude, most likely, that our morality is inherent and that we thus don't need any "commandments" to tell us what is right and wrong.
Nope. Never said that. Way to make a blatant, emotionally loaded strawman.

What I said was that serious, secular ethics and philosophy are a better place to look for morality. Huge difference.

You're leaping to conclusions, and grouping atheists together under a single banner. You are guilty of the same things you accuse me of.

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I've heard other atheists make this same basic point. But are the Ten Commandments obvious? There seems to be a lot of people today who lie, covet, commit adultery and dishonor their parents without batting a lash
Yes, we could also talk about the parts of the commandments which have nothing to do with morality. You're right, I should have qualified which ten commandments weren't completely full of shit before saying they were obvious.

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to address Hitchens' most scathing criticism of the Decalogue --the pre-Hebrew inhabitants of Canaan routinely practiced child sacrifice. I guess their pre-Decalogue, innate evolutionary morality failed to notify them that murder was off-limits.
And the Hebrews themselves slaughtered the men, older women, and children if the cities they conquered, you're right. Unfortunately, the whole thing is a strawman argument.

I thought you wanted an intellectual discussion, I really did.
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Old 11-15-2007, 09:52 AM   #30
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I thought you wanted an intellectual discussion, I really did.
Dude, he's a fucking theist. No matter how literate he may seem to be, nor how educated he may (or may not) actually be, he is fundamentally incapable of an intellectual discussion because he believes in fairy tales, and because he does not value reason or logic, by definition: no reasonable person can accept an outlandish tale based on an ill defined faith, especially when there are numerous alternative explanations for all religious articles of faith that are far more realistic (not the least of them being that people lie). Trying to have a genuine intellectual discussion (about religion) with a theist is like trying to have a romantic getaway with a sadistic rapist.

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