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Atheist Community of Austin
On "Religion causes harm"

Many atheists in this forum claim that religion causes harm. To support this claim, Don has quoted an article by Gregory Paul which seems to point out a positive correlation between religiosity of society and various social ills - homicide rates, teen pregnancies, etc. (http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.pdf)

I pointed out some weaknesses of the article, to which Don sent a link to a second article, by Gary Jensen, studying correlation of *certain aspects* of religion with homicide rates. (http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2006/2006-7.pdf) I find Jensen's data and reasoning compelling. I tend to agree with his conclusions. Jensen, however does *not* conclude that belief in God alone causes increase in homicide rates. I'd like to discuss this issue.

First of all, Jensen confirms my doubts regarding Paul's article: "His conclusions were based on an examination of scatter-plots for a small set of nations with no attempt to consider alternative explanations nor to encompass the research in the larger body of sociological theory and research on the topic."... Pointing out that U.S. has fewer burglaries and other issues than "secular" countries, Jensen says, "In short, Paul's analysis generates the "desired results" by selectively choosing the set of social problems to include to highlight the negative consequences of religion."

Now, Jensen's data shows compelling evidence that homicide rates do have positive correlation, but only to a certain aspect of religion: "...when the moral and religious universe encompassing individuals involves cosmic struggles between benevolent and malevolent forces, moral struggles between "good guys" and "bad-guys," and dichotomous choices between good or evil, then there is little or no inclination to consider any middle ground, negotiation, or flexibility in dealing with lesser conflicts and struggles in everyday life. It may be that a religious cosmology with moral "wars" and "dueling deities" sets the stage for culture wars (Hunter), facilitates interpersonal wars, and encourages people in conflict to think in terms of dueling contenders for righteousness. When moral boundaries are rigid, it may be easier to offend or "dis" others and harder to assume a personal responsibility for generating conflict. When there is only good and evil and there has to be a clear moral winner or immoral loser, then the options for controlling violent outcomes may be greatly restricted. In summary, there are precedents for proposing that different types of religiosity, differentially structured religious belief systems (religious cosmologies), and related dualistic world views can affect the structure of lethal violence among societies."

Jensen's data including 44 countries, in my opinion, strongly confirms his hypothesis. Table 3 is especially compelling. In discussion, Jensen says, "On the other hand, relatively secular nations do not have lower homicide rates than nations where people accept God and Heaven, but do not embrace their malevolent counterparts, the Devil and Hell. Collective beliefs suggesting a relatively benevolent religious cosmos are *negatively* [emphasis added] correlated with homicide when included in a regression analysis with more malevolent, dualist dimensions of the religious cosmos."

So, it's not belief in God in general, it's certain aspects of such belief - just as I expected. It also brings to mind the warning against "creating other gods", but I realize that atheists are cold to this sentiment.

This article makes a lot of sense to me. It, actually, explains why this religious couple burnt their 4-year old daughter alive in the oven: (http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=FgFOAAAAIBAJ&sjid=-YsDAAAAIBAJ&pg=4076%2C4716292). For some time, it bothered me why religion caused such thing. Now it makes sense. Of course, I don't justify them. I just know what to avoid in my beliefs now. The "dualistic cosmology", perhaps, creates a tendency of blaming others, "the bad guys", for our misery. Isn't this mentality at the core of 9/11 and the subsequent "war on terror" which corroded American liberty with PATRIOT act, Guantanamo, and policies on torture? Isn't this mentality at the core of slogans like "Jews sold Russia" leading to widespread pogroms (a Russian name for Jewish massacres which, of course, were not unique to Russia). Isn't this mentality at the core of witch hunting and burning heretics at the stake? Isn't this mentality at the core of Marx's theory of "struggle of classes" which lead to sending millions of Russians to Gulag? Isn't "us vs. them" mentality at the core of brutal soccer fan wars (I posted some video links in the thread on homosexuality)? By the way, the last two examples do not involve religion, but involve the "us vs. them" mentality.

Now, "religion causes harm". Doesn't this statement come from blaming religion and religious people for social ills in this country? Isn't it, again, the same "us vs. them" mentality? I do not deny the harm that some people do because of their religious beliefs. I am just saying that the harm is not due to belief in God and this mentality is not unique to religion.

Evangelists promote the idea to the gullible public that people who do not believe in god are untrustworthy because it helps them multiply their membership. When in fact studies have shown that Christians are as dishonest as any group. I think it should be obvious from the fact that many of these evangelists have been caught lying and cheating. I guess their religion was not successful in scaring or bribing them into behaving themselves.

It's a little sad that there doesn't seem to be many people who want to behave honorably simply because of a sense of honor. Our country is filled with fanaticism and dishonest people who do not tell the truth and do not behave decently toward others. The bible never has and never will produce an ethical society because it is built on a pack of lies. OT Law: Deuteronomy 4:2 "You shall not add to the word that I speak to you, neither shall you take away from it: keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." I can give you many examples beside the Egyptian Book of The Dead (which is where the 10 commandments really came from) we know what is being passed off as the original authentic bible or word of god is expropriations of other civilizations gods, stories and forgeries.

There is no proof that religion makes a difference in the level of crime or any of the things that people in the religion business are blaming on a lack of religion. There have been numerous studies that have proven religion makes no difference in the morality or ethics of any society. Some of the wealthiest and most advanced countries are the least religious, and the most socially equitable. This indicates that education and economics is a much bigger factor in producing a better society. They also found that they tend to care more about their people. The poorest and most violent countries in the world are the most religious. America is one of the most religious countries (it's right up there with Egypt as one of the most religious countries) and America is also one of the most violent countries with very high rates of murder and rape. America is also one of the most indebted countries in the world. The crime rate is rising in certain countries because of disparity between those who took everything and those who have nothing. That's what happens when the bank robbers are working inside the banks. There are assertions by all kinds of people - that belief in god makes people more moral, happier etc., but some studies that were done came up with different findings. Danes and the Swedes are probably the most godless people on Earth- they don't believe in god, heaven or hell. They're nice to one another; their country has famously expansive welfare and health care services. They have a strong commitment to social equality and they murder and rape one another significantly less often than Americans do. This is not what we are lead to believe is true.

And lets not overlook all the scandals that have gone on with the Evangelicals in terms of the tawdry behavior. If there are people who have to be constantly threatened with punishment to stop them from reeking havoc on others or behaving like guttersnipes I feel sorry for them mostly because it doesn't work. In all of the industrialized and more developed countries, with greater wealth and development, religion is in decline and this is always the case. They have a much lower crime rate than we do. We have a higher prison population than many countries that are far less religious. Religious people commit more crimes than educated people who are taught that they are capable of developing their own ethical system and moral compass; they do not need myths. They know that they are one hundred percent responsible for what they do; not the devil or a sky fairy.

People who never face the facts are lost without someone telling them what to think. If religious people tend to be more violent (and they are) there must be a correlation. This so-called Christian Nation has military bases in 200 countries and two wars going on for no reason. Iraq never had weapons of mass destruction (that is a proven fact) and they had nothing to do with the attacks on the Trade Towers. The war in Afghanistan is not about finding the culprits because Bush said he really didn't care about that before he left office. It's not a war on terror either because terrorism is a global network. So, why are we spending all of this money on a quagmire just like Vietnam with little resistance? Because there are people who are brainwashed by religion and patriotism. There is a lesson to learn in 'The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire' all of this will fail just like it did in Rome; the first Christian Nation that waged war in the name of Christianity. People get more religious during times of economic depression and unrest. They seek otherworldly intervention to end their agony instead of making demands, which only prolongs their agony. Religion is a good thing for politician and Wall Street. Religion is not the root of all evil but it sure does help. Japan is one of the most non-religious countries in the world, yet they have one of the lowest crime rates. But religious countries have the highest crime rates. Detroit is a city where the people are afraid to walk down the street at night with over 2,500 murders in a year. Other cities in America are very quickly become just as bad. People who are incapable of developing their own moral compass need religion.

Linda, I share your sentiment regarding religious bigotry. Child molestation by Catholic priests, WBC gay bashing and other crap are quite horrible. I am not a moral relativist and I do not believe that any customs in society can morally justify burning women's faces with acid for whatever reason. While I accept many verses in the Bible as moral guidance, I do not believe that moral rules come from the Bible for a simple reason that even orthodox Jews do not stone adulterers and sabbath breakers. Also, people who do not believe in the Bible should be completely corrupt and immoral, but they aren't. I do not go with the flow on many issues either with liberals or atheists or religious conservatives. E.g. I am against abortions, but I am against banning them also. I am quite disgusted with male anuses, but I support the right of homosexuals to marry based on my unsubstantiated belief in human rights. Despite what you may think, I realize that the story of Creation in 6 days 6000 years ago is a myth, but I appreciate the allegories in the Bible, and the story of Adam and Eve makes sense to me in a far deeper sense than Aesop's fables. I simply chose to believe in God. I think that such belief is beneficial for me.

Religion excites passions. It's fascinating how these mind games work. They are very powerful, you must admit. It's like fire. Dangerous and sometimes deadly, fascinating and sometimes life-saving, but always powerful. Seeing just harm in it isn't right. And seeing all believers as bigots isn't right either.

I share your sentiment "It's a little sad that there doesn't seem to be many people who want to behave honorably simply because of a sense of honor.", but I must point out that a Muslim father who kills his daughter who has been raped has a different "sense of honor" than you do. Also, followers of pastor Phelps are quite sure they stand for decency and family values. I would say, it's sad that some people have perverse sense of honor.

Regarding morality of Christians, I said that I do not follow the crowd on many issues. If I made my views public in a Catholic church, I, probably, would be excommunicated. However, I do not believe that anyone can be labeled moral or immoral just based on religious beliefs or lack thereof. Education and economics are, indeed, much bigger factors in producing a better society. But religion can be a powerful catalyst or a powerful inhibitor.

Some of your statements, however, are not true. The data on world population, religion, government involvement/interference with religion, and basic facts are available here:

http://www.thearda.com/Archive/Files/Downloads/INTL2008_DL2.asp

Linda: "There have been numerous studies that have proven religion makes no difference in the morality or ethics of any society." I don't disagree, but I'd like to read the studies, if you have a reference.

Linda: "Some of the wealthiest and most advanced countries are the least religious, and the most socially equitable."

"The least religious" is the right term. There is no such thing as "secular" country. I studied the data above in a spreadsheet. Country with most agnostics and atheists (71%) is Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Does that count as a secular country? Next in line is Czech Republic (44%). There is no country in the world, except North Korea with majority of non-religious folks. Of 6.9 billion people on Earth, 33% are Christians, 22% Muslims, 14% Hindus, 10% agnostic, 7% Buddhist, and 2% atheist. The rest are negligible.

If we filter out countries with Government intervention with religion index (GVINTF08) greater than 0 (China, Mongolia, etc.), percentages and places of some countries of interest are as follows:

1 Czech Republic 44%

2 Uruguay 34%

3 Sweden 31%

6 Netherlands 27%

7 Germany 24%

10 France 21%

17 United Kingdom 14%

20 Japan 13%

21 United States (General) 13%

26 Denmark 10%

Egypt is 1%, and it is filtered due to GVINTF08 index of 2. So, U.S. is not "up there with Egypt". It's interesting that Japan is far from being secular with only 13% of agnostics and atheists. 50% are Buddhists. Buddhists do not "believe in God" per se, but I would not call them secular. Regarding Japanese crime rates, I would not draw far-reaching conclusions. Japanese culture is quite isolated and different from any other culture in the world. Asian people have quite different mentality than Westerners.

Regarding national debt, Japan holds the record of 220% of GDP. Not sure what to conclude from that.

But where you are on the money is with correlation between GDP and percentage of atheists/agnostics in population. The correlation is very strong. Of all 183 countries, I filtered out those without GDP or population data and those where government messes up with religion based on GVINGF08 index. The numbers are striking: N=118 countries, Pearson correlation between logarithm of agnostics+atheists percentage and logarithm of GDP per capita is 0.71 (wow). This implies a VERY strong power correlation (an order of magnitude in percentage translates in order of magnitude in GDP) GDP with 1% non-religious people $4,800, GDP with 10% non-religious people $19,000 per capita - if we do trend fitting. With 0.71 Pearson coefficient and N=118, significance must be very high.

Interesting data. Something to think about. I'm not sure which variable should be used as independent. It is quite possible that during good times people do not think much about God. The timing data would be interesting in this regard. Are changes in GDP followed by changes in belief demographics or vice versa? After all, agnostics are not atheists, and there are 10% agnostics and 2% atheists in the world. Those agnostics might start thinking of God when things don't go well. There is, probably, also correlation between urbanization, education, economics, and religiosity which I did not explore.

Need to crunch some numbers using data from World Health Organization on diseases and causes of death.

Not sure where to get the crime statistics. Any ideas?

You know, Linda, facts exist. Why be afraid of them? Beliefs exist as well. Why be afraid of them as well? It's more important to understand both than to express attitude.

From: AG (Posted Jul 28, 2012 at 12:28 am)

AG said, "I share your sentiment "It's a little sad that there doesn't seem to be many people who want to behave honorably simply because of a sense of honor.",

How can you share my sentiments when you don't understand what I'm saying? I didn't say nobody had a sense of honor I said it seem that some people need to be beat over the head to have any sense of honor or morals. And we all know who they are!

AG said, "but I must point out that a Muslim father who kills his daughter who has been raped has a different "sense of honor" than you do. Also, followers of pastor Phelps are quite sure they stand for decency and family values. I would say, it's sad that some people have perverse sense of honor.'

Yes, they do but it's really not all that different from many Christians!

AG said, "However, I do not believe that anyone can be labeled moral or immoral just based on religious beliefs or lack thereof. Education and economics are, indeed, much bigger factors in producing a better society. But religion can be a powerful catalyst or a powerful inhibitor."

How do you figure that? Since the better educated any society is the less religious.

AG said, "Linda: "Some of the wealthiest and most advanced countries are the least religious, and the most socially equitable." "The least religious" is the right term. There is no such thing as "secular" country."

It's pretty clear (to most un-indoctrinated people) what's being said, so, why are you trying to skew the issue with additional remarks that I didn't make?

I'll say again and then post the proof. The wealthiest and most advanced countries are the least religious, least violent and the most socially equitable. The poorest and least equitable countries are the most violent and religious.

Canadian Atheist

Tuesday, 17 January 2012 Comparing Least Religious Countries With Most Religious - Do We Need Religion to Thrive as a Society? In a previous article, a few posters suggested that religion was needed in order to maintain a thriving country. I disagree, but statistics should be able to show us whether or not that assertion is true or at least if it's likely to be true.

According to Gallup here is a list of the least and most religious countries. Underneath each country I will use Wiki to list the GDP, literacy rate, homicide rate per 100,000 and life expectancy to show somewhat the financial prosperity, education, violent crime rate and health of its citizens. When available, I will also give the rating of each country in brackets. For example, if the literacy rate says 99% with a (20th) beside it, it means that it ranks 20th overall in the world with a 99% literacy rate.

Let's get started.

11 Least Religious - Listed From Least Religious to Most

Estonia 14% religious - That means that only 14% of the population is religious the majority are not religious!

GDP - 24.65 billion (98th)

Literacy - 99.8% (3rd in the world)

Life expectancy - 71.4 years (104th in the world)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 6.7

Sweden 17% - That means only 17 % of the population is religious the majority are not religious.

GDP - 354.7 billion (33rd)

Literacy -99% (42nd in world)

Life expectancy -80.9 years (20th in world)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 1.2

Denmark 18% - That means only 18 % of the population is religious the majority are not religious.

GDP - $313.8 billion (46th)

Literacy - 99% (28th)

Life expectancy - 78.3 (36th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 1.1

Norway 20%

GDP - $276.5 billion

Literacy - 99% (20th)

Life expectancy - 80.2 (13th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 0.8

Czech Republic 21% - That means only 21 % of the population is religious the majority are not religious.

GDP - 260.6 billion (42nd)

Literacy - 99% (20th)

Life expectancy - 76.5 (44th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 2.2

Azerbaijan 21% - That means only 21 % of the population is religious the majority are not religious.

GDP - $46.38 billion (76th)

Literacy - 99.5% (13th)

Life expectancy - 67.5 (124th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 2.4

Hong Kong 21% - That means only 21 % of the population is religious the majority are not religious.

GDP - $325.8 billion

Literacy - 94.6% (76th)

Life expectancy - 82.2 (2nd)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 0.6

Japan 25% - That means only 25% of the population is religious the majority are not religious.

GDP - $5.4 trillion (3rd)

Literacy - 99% (20th)

Life expectancy - 82.6 (1st)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 0.5

France 25% -That means only 25 % of the population is religious the majority are not religious.

GDP - $2.7 trillion (5th)

Literacy - 99% (20th)

Life expectancy - 76.4 (45th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 1.6

Mongolia 27% -That means only 27% of the population is religious the majority are not religious.

GDP - $9.4 billion (150th)

Literacy - 97.5% (59th)

Life expectancy - 66.8 (128th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 13.1

Belarus 27% - That means only 27 % of the population is religious the majority are not religious.

GDP - $116 billion (60th)

Literacy - 99.7 (7th)

Life expectancy - 69 (117th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 8.3

11 Most Religious - Listed From Most Religious to Least

Egypt 100% religious - That means 100% of the population is religious.

GDP - $500.9 billion (27th)

Literacy - 66.4% (156th)

Life expectancy - 71.3 (106th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 0.7

Bangladesh 99% - That means 99% of the population is religious the rest are not.

GDP - $104.9 billion (45th)

Literacy - 55.9% (163rd)

Life expectancy - 64.1 (142nd)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 2.3

Sri Lanka 99% - That means 99% of the population is religious the rest are not.

GDP - 59 Billion

Literacy - 94.2% (81st)

Life expectancy - 72.4 (91st)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 7.2

Indonesia 98% - That means 98% of the population is religious the rest are not.

GDP - $1.0 trillion (15th)

Literacy - 92% (91st)

Life expectancy - 70.7 (110th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 8.9

Congo 98% - That means 98% of the population is religious the rest are not.

GDP - $4.15 billion

Literacy - 81.1% (127th)

Life expectancy - 55.3 (164th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 18.8

Sierra Leon 98% - That means 98% of the population is religious the rest are not.

GDP - 1.9 billion

Literacy - 40.9% (174th)

Life expectancy - 42.6 (190th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 34

Malawi 98% - That means 98% of the population is religious the rest are not.

GDP - $8.272 billion

Literacy - 73.7% (139th)

Life expectancy - 48.3 (179th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 18

Senegal 98% - That means 98% of the population is religious the rest are not.

GDP - $11.12 billion

Literacy - 49.7% (171st)

Life expectancy - 63.1 (146th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 14.2

Djibouti 98% - That means 98% of the population is religious the rest are not.

GDP - $1.738 billion

Literacy - 70.3% (146th)

Life expectancy - 54.8 (165th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 3.5

Morocco 98% - That means 98% of the population is religious the rest are not.

GDP - $153,257 billion (54th)

Literacy - 56.1% (162nd)

Life expectancy - 71.2 (107th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 0.5

United Arab Emirates 98% - That means 98% of the population is religious the rest are not.

GDP - $201 billion

Literacy - 90% (102nd)

Life expectancy - 78.7 (31st)

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 0.7

And just for kicks and giggles, let's look at the average between the two when it comes to homicide rates for the people who always say you need religion to have morals.

Average homicide Rate in the least religious countries

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 3.5

Average homicide rate in the most religious countries

Homicide rates per 100,000 - 9.89

Now that's out of the way, I think you can clearly see that the less religious countries are doing better than the more religious countries - they're wealthier, have lower homicide rates, better life expectancy and have more robust economies.

P. S. I've already given you other studies (with the names and references) that have the same kind of information:

This post is already dozens of thoughts or sentences longer than the average theist would put into such analysis. We're most religious folks to apply this degree of reasoning to their positions we'd have a lot more atheists.

The bottom line is that the vast majority of "believers" don't think too much about their beliefs as the risk of realizing how ridiculous they are is extremely high. Without that rationale thought many may blindly follow what they think their god wants them to do with the extreme example being those cited here. Most will commit much more subtlety harmful acts whether that is voting against someone else's rights or turning a blind eye to encroachments such as teaching creationism in the classroom or praying to the god-du-jour before a town council meeting.

The book "Under the Banner of Heaven" offers some real world insight into a specific religion and dogma that can lead to murder. And just so happens may be our next president's religion..

AG: "Now, "religion causes harm". Doesn't this statement come from blaming religion and religious people for social ills in this country? Isn't it, again, the same "us vs. them" mentality? I do not deny the harm that some people do because of their religious beliefs. I am just saying that the harm is not due to belief in God and this mentality is not unique to religion."

Boy. This is an amazing bit of apologetics aerobics (http://www.atheist-community.org/atheisteve/?id=34). You completely ignored. I'll repost it here for context. Please respond to all of these.

<!begin copy>

I think you can see religious harm in the aggregate behavior of, say Christians. Of all of the murderers of Jews, for example, how many have been Christians? I would wager that over 90% were (yes, I have no data to prove this). Christians hatred of Jews can be traced to one line in the Bible: Matthew 27:25: All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"

How many "witches" have been killed for Exodus 22:18? What an amazingly sad episode was the "burning times", all religiously based.

How many lives will be shortened by stem cell research bans and delays, based on religious ideals that blobs of cells that would otherwise die are unfit to benefit the living?

How many women have been turned into breeding machines to substitute for the fact that the Christian god is incapable of making new humans who will tithe to the parasite class, known as clergy?

How has Christianity solved the Priest Pedophile problem that it swept under the rug for decades?

How may mentally ill have been "helped" by the religious explanation that they were possessed by the devil?

We can discuss any of these at length and I can think of probably a dozen more. There's plenty of evidence of the claim that religious belief is harmful.

<!end copy>

So by your line of thinking wars are not caused by countries and their beliefs and gold, but by random people who just happen to be on the same sides in those wars. That is, America didn't attack Iraq. It was just a bunch of people who happened to be American. Those 911 hijackers weren't motivated by Islam, they just all happened to want to kill themselves and scream "Allah Akbar" as they did so. They all had the same non-religious belief that they would get to fuck 72 virgins for all eternity. It was just a club, maybe. But it had NOTHING to do with religion!!! Religion is never to blame. Or it's those evil humans and not that saintly (mass murdering) god of the Bible. Whatever spin will distract your audience.

The point is that beliefs drive behavior. Beliefs of the aggregate are amplified. Erroneous beliefs cause harm. Aggregate erroneous beliefs (such as those peddled by religion) cause great harm. We can trace the aggregate harm back to the false beliefs that give rise to them and place the blame where it belongs.

In my opinion, we should be taxing churches for the harm caused by the beliefs they promote. If the churches go under, we should charge the members of those churches and their estates until the debt is paid.

From Don: "Boy. This is an amazing bit of apologetics aerobics (http://www.atheist-community.org/atheisteve/?id=34). You completely ignored. I'll repost it here for context. Please respond to all of these.

<!!begin copy>

I think you can see religious harm in the aggregate behavior of, say Christians. Of all of the murderers of Jews, for example, how many have been Christians? I would wager that over 90% were (yes, I have no data to prove this). Christians hatred of Jews can be traced to one line in the Bible: Matthew 27:25: All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"

Don, I watched your episode #734. I think, between you and Matt, you know already all the answers. Do you believe that the true reason for war in Iraq was to stop Saddam Hussein from using WMD and to bring freedom to Iraqi people or that it had anything to do with 9/11? Do you believe that oil and corporate interests had nothing to do with it? Do you believe that Hitler started the WWII because of his racist ideas and it just happens that this war was in line with the interests of German military industrial capital? I hope not. If so, you may agree that religion was not the root cause for Crusades, genocide of Jews and wars between Catholics and Protestants. Religion was used to justify these things and to stir up passions.

Here is an interesting article discussing religious violence: (http://www.thearda.com/workingpapers/download/War%20and%20Rumors%20of%20War.pdf)

It starts with an interesting opinion: "Religion has the capacity to fuel social action, serving as both the opiate and amphetamine of social change. Marx is best known for the opiate argument: "religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world…It is the opium of the people" (Marx, 1983, p. 115). But religion has not only curbed social change by supporting traditional institutions and morals, it has fostered some of the most dramatic changes in human history. From political revolutions to the transforming of education, religion has been a driving force in social change (McAdam, 1982; Gill, 1998; Stark, 2003). The evidence for religion as a stimulant and suppressant of social change continues unabated."

You cannot say "religion is bad". This is like saying "fire is bad - it destroys property and causes death." It just happens that it exists in human society and is a very powerful factor in social changes. Rather than declare it harmful, it is far better to study how and why it works and use it for our benefit.

The article concludes: " The model we proposed for explaining religious violence (see Figure 1), argues that restrictions on religion have both direct and indirect effects on religiously motivated violence. Not only do these restrictions heighten tensions and increase grievances that potentially feed violence, they stimulate the growth of religious social movements and increase the social and physical isolation of religious groups." This is, actually, supported by numerical data. I didn't get into the details much, though.

Interesting. So, *restrictions* on religion causes religious violence. Well, this is not unique to human society. Action equals reaction - that's from physics. Oppression causes violence. It has to do with power, economic influence, and politics.

You ask, "why did Christians stop killing Jews?" If you think about your question, it implies that nothing changed - the Matthew verse is still in the Bible, Christian doctrine has not changed much, but the killings stopped. Doesn't this imply that Christian teaching was NOT the cause? Because, if anything changed, it wasn't Christianity. What did change is political and economical situation in the world.

Have you noticed that every government needs to maintain a sense of "threat" to society? Hitler and folks before him pointed to Jews. Then West pointed to the communists. After 9/11, everyone thinks Al Qaeda and Muslim religion is threatening us. And when the war in Iraq went sour in 2002, Bush, out of the blue, brought up the issue of homosexual marriages. Now, folks like pastor Phelps champed at the bit, and folks like you are finger-pointing as well. Meanwhile, taxes are collected to fund the war, people are killed for oil, etc. It's pretty obvious how it works. Reducing this shit to Matthew 25:27 is naive.

Your argument has merit, though. It is similar to the question, why don't they stone adulterers and sabbath breakers in western civilizations. Very good question. To me it implies that moral rules do not come from the Bible. I guess, this is the answer you are after. Well, you have it. Where do morals come from? That's an interesting discussion for another thread.

From Don: "How many "witches" have been killed for Exodus 22:18? What an amazingly sad episode was the "burning times", all religiously based."

Yes, fueled by religion, caused by politics and power struggles. See notes regarding stoning adulterers - the same question.

Don: "How many lives will be shortened by stem cell research bans and delays, based on religious ideals that blobs of cells that would otherwise die are unfit to benefit the living?"

OK. I was touching specifically on violence. This is a different topic - restriction of scientific progress. I'm not familiar with religious arguments on this issue. Let me research a bit, and we can discuss.

Don: "How many women have been turned into breeding machines to substitute for the fact that the Christian god is incapable of making new humans who will tithe to the parasite class, known as clergy?"

I'm not sure if I understand this. Do you imply ban on abortions or use of contraceptives? I thought, I told you that I'm against abortions, but I'm against banning them too for the reasons you quoted elsewhere. As for contraceptives, I think, I have "been fruitful and multiplied" enough. I confess the sin of using condoms.

"How has Christianity solved the Priest Pedophile problem that it swept under the rug for decades?"

Catholic requirement of priest celibacy multiplies this problem. Without it, the problem may not have been there at all. I don't see it coming from Christianity itself. Apostle Peter had a wife. I totally abhor this and the bigotry with which the church handles it in many cases.

This brings to mind a question. What do you mean by "religion" and "religiosity"? Simply, belief in God? Belief in afterlife? Belief in the cosmic struggle between good and evil? Participation in church activities? Simply attending church? Organized religion? Any unreasonable belief? There are many aspects of religion. Some are known to be benign. Which ones are causing harm?

"How may mentally ill have been "helped" by the religious explanation that they were possessed by the devil?"

Religion helps with some psychological issues. See numbers on suicide in the article you quoted that prompted this thread. As you may know, science is of little help with mental illnesses as well. We can get into discussions of "what is mental illness?", "what is possessed by the Devil?", but it's not productive.

DB: "We can discuss any of these at length and I can think of probably a dozen more. There's plenty of evidence of the claim that religious belief is harmful."

The evidence you show is, mostly, anecdotal and emotional, stated as rhetoric questions. Isn't it better to set emotions aside and discuss data as I attempted? Or are you uncomfortable that the data may show something that you are not willing to admit? So, is it about what is right or about who is right?

Don: "So by your line of thinking wars are not caused by countries and their beliefs and gold, but by random people who just happen to be on the same sides in those wars. That is, America didn't attack Iraq. It was just a bunch of people who happened to be American. Those 911 hijackers weren't motivated by Islam, they just all happened to want to kill themselves and scream "Allah Akbar" as they did so. They all had the same non-religious belief that they would get to fuck 72 virgins for all eternity. It was just a club, maybe. But it had NOTHING to do with religion!!! Religion is never to blame. Or it's those evil humans and not that saintly (mass murdering) god of the Bible. Whatever spin will distract your audience."

I think, I explained my views on this above. These things are fueled by religion, but blaming religion alone for these things is naive. By the way, "!!!" points out rather strong emotion. Emotions hinder judgment. If we want to find the truth and reach agreement and understanding, we should set emotions aside and discuss data and facts. Why am I explaining this to an atheist? Shall I post a Bible quote on anger? "Proverbs 30:33 For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife." How wrong can this be?

DB: "The point is that beliefs drive behavior. Beliefs of the aggregate are amplified. Erroneous beliefs cause harm. Aggregate erroneous beliefs (such as those peddled by religion) cause great harm. We can trace the aggregate harm back to the false beliefs that give rise to them and place the blame where it belongs."

This is a simplistic theory. First, "erroneous" implies that beliefs must be proven to be wrong. You cannot prove they are wrong, I cannot prove they are true. Burden of proof, blah, blah. There is no proof either way. Let's leave it at that. In some cases, in the absence of evidence one way or the other, we are justified to act as if our belief is true. E.g., that our life is worth living or that we have some unalienable rights or that we will live until Friday. We can get into philosophy of beliefs and discuss Hume, William Clifford, William James, as well as epistemological, moral, and prudential belief justifications. Suggested reading: (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-belief/). I will be surprised if you read this article and agree to anything in it. Atheists are very uncomfortable with a simple fact that some beliefs cannot be justified and need or can be accepted without evidence. It contradicts the Hitchens dogma: "What can be asserted..." I had discussions about it here, and I have seen enough mental acrobatics.

From Don: "Please respond to all of these." -- Sorry, it was a bit long, but you asked :).

AG, I have to say that I'm confused by your answer.

At one point you say, "You cannot say "religion is bad". This is like saying "fire is bad - it destroys property and causes death." It just happens that it exists in human society and is a very powerful factor in social changes. Rather than declare it harmful, it is far better to study how and why it works and use it for our benefit."

If you'd like to go that route, you also have to admit that one can never say religion is "good" and that it has no moral claims to make whatsoever. So if you'd like to go down this path, you have to agree that religious leaders are lying when they say that religion is good or that it has anything to say about "absolute morality". You seem to be saying this when you say, "To me it implies that moral rules do not come from the Bible." I would just say that Biblical morality is broken and those who try to follow it are destined to do harm in the world. But you apparently wouldn't say that has anything to do with religion. Perhaps we can agree that the Bible is a work of fiction.

So many Christians want to count soup kitchens and such as evidence of religion being good, yet they rationalize and spin when religion is clearly at fault for some harm. I see you doing some of that, too. It's a case of "heads I win, tails you lose." It might be convincing to some, but not to me.

You say that, "It [religion] just happens that it exists in human society and is a very powerful factor in social changes." I would agree with that. I see you as admitting that there is no God involved. There is no "holy ghost" that is helping believers to be more moral or more compassionate to their fellow man. You admit that religion is a mechanism to stir up passions then say that when I am emotional, I am unable to reason properly. Can you not see how this proves my point? In no way have you given any real support for religion being a net force for good.

You took the 911 example to say, "Do you believe that the true reason for war in Iraq was to stop Saddam Hussein from using WMD and to bring freedom to Iraqi people or that it had anything to do with 9/11?…" I agree it was a con job. We had Colon Powell trading in his reputation over a bunch of lies the Bush administration wanted to promote. We had Donald Rumsfeld saying, "We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." We had most of the media singing as a choir, rather than taking a skeptical position on it. So all of this strikes me as analogous to religions: outright lies, thinks taken on faith, and little critical thought from those who were capable of it. These are some of the mechanisms by which religion does harm. BTW, I knew Iraq was a con job at the time.

"Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities." (Voltaire). Religion makes you believe absurdities.

You failed to address the point that the 911 attacks couldn't have been carried out without the religious belief of the attackers.

AG: "You ask, "why did Christians stop killing Jews?" If you think about your question, it implies that nothing changed - the Matthew verse is still in the Bible, Christian doctrine has not changed much, but the killings stopped. Doesn't this imply that Christian teaching was NOT the cause? Because, if anything changed, it wasn't Christianity. What did change is political and economical situation in the world."

I'll tell you what changed. After 1400 years of Christians killing Jews, culminating in the Holocaust, the newsreels came out after WWII showing the atrocities. It woke people up. Europe, especially, started seeing religion as the cause of harm and now many of those countries are largely secular. The Vatican never uttered a peep about the killing. It never excommunicated Hitler, but it did make deals with him for special privileges in his country. He was doing their work. After the war, they had to come up with a different strategy for keeping their parasitic mouths fed. Rather than selling hatred of Jews, they would be "pro life" and start controlling everyone's reproduction. This may have been an economic decision on the part of the Vatican. The Bible, of course, never changed. It's still the genocide manual it always has been. Religion pretty consistently has the wrong answer and real advances come when people leave it behind.

I looked at the belief article. I'm in support of Clifford's credo. If you'd like to argue for specific points in the article, feel free. If you believe something without evidence, you are subject to wishful thinking or being manipulated. That's at the core of how religions perpetuate harm. There is lots of evidence against belief in gods, especially the Christian god. The fact that no two people seem to believe the same thing is just one bit of such evidence. Objective reality is not quite so subjective, is it? We don't kill each other over the color of the sky.

You've mentioned a number of times that we all have beliefs without evidence. I explained to you that I don't know I'm not just a brain in a vat. I believe that I am not, but I don't have proof. If you can find some other irrational belief I have, I will strive to remove it. I consider unsupported beliefs as liabilities.

Finally, you call into question the facts of my post because of my passion. Yes, I get riled up about senseless stupid misanthropic harm. I haven't met too many Christians that feel any sense of responsibility for the millennia of persecution, torture, and murders perpetuated by Christianity. I guess those that care are atheists. Some people can see that perpetual orgasm thing is just a con. Sadly, people who believe their perpetual orgasm depends on harming others will happily do so. Yes, people will continue to harm each other when religion is gone, but it won't be quite so organized and sustained.

BTW, for "perpetual orgasm", I'm referring to paragraph 28 of CS Lewis's book chapter here: (http://atheist-community.org/library/articles/read.php?id=754).

Don, I'll break my reply in a few posts. You make many interesting points I want to discuss.

From Don: "AG, I have to say that I'm confused by your answer. At one point you say, "You cannot say "religion is bad"... If you'd like to go that route, you also have to admit that one can never say religion is "good" and that it has no moral claims to make whatsoever."

I can accept this point of view. I like consistency. If we assume that morality comes from God and that the Bible is the word of God that does not change, then we must stone adulterers and sabbath breakers. Since even orthodox Jews don't do that any more, we must agree that some of the premises are incorrect. I mostly agree with Hume's view on morality (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hume-moral): "Hume's position in ethics, which is based on his empiricist theory of the mind, is best known for asserting four theses: (1) Reason alone cannot be a motive to the will, but rather is the "slave of the passions". (2) Moral distinctions are not derived from reason. (3) Moral distinctions are derived from the moral sentiments: feelings of approval (esteem, praise) and disapproval (blame) felt by spectators who contemplate a character trait or action. (4) While some virtues and vices are natural, others, including justice, are artificial." I guess, that makes me an unorthodox Christian. Considering my views on abortion, homosexuality, and priest celibacy, I, probably, should be excommunicated by the Catholic church. Oh, bother. The only consolation is that I might be in a good company.

As for Hume's morality, I agree with (1), (2), and (3), namely that reason alone does not motivate people. Therefore, a) one cannot derive moral rules from science, b) one cannot use reason to argue that a certain moral rule is better than any other. (3) implies that moral approbation or disapproval is based only on emotions and passions. One cannot collect unbiased scientific data on what excites our passions. If a scientist believes otherwise (http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html), he should quit the scientific business and get ordained as a priest. Science must be free from passion to produce true unbiased results. Mix science with human motives (except for the motive to find out the scientific truth), and you can throw the results out. This is why I always question medical research funded by pharmaceutic corporations.

One cannot argue for or against moral values with reason. The only way to validate a moral value is through emotions and feelings. E.g. I ask you whether you have any negative emotions when someone steals from you, and you say that you don't care or even glad that someone liked a thing of yours. In this case, there is no way I could convince you that stealing is immoral, even if I show you ten Bibles.

I don't quite support (4), the distinction between natural and artificial virtues. The very term "natural" is very ambiguous. Besides, I don't see any value in such distinction.

From Don: "So if you'd like to go down this path, you have to agree that religious leaders are lying when they say that religion is good or that it has anything to say about "absolute morality". You seem to be saying this when you say, "To me it implies that moral rules do not come from the Bible.""

One cannot lie on a matter of taste or emotions. To some, religion is good, some view it as evil. Some people are inspired by faith to create a masterpiece, some are inspired to burn their child alive in an oven. Clifford has an absolute moral rule: "It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." "Always, everywhere and for anyone"... One cannot get more absolute than that. Everyone is free to make absolute moral rules. I'm not against absolute moral rules. I only insist that people who make them apply them to themselves and allow other people make their own absolute moral rules for themselves. As I've heard from a pastor in church, "do not put your words in God's mouth. Put God's words in your mouth." It's a difficult job to figure out what God's word is. It's just a figure of speech for finding "what is right". I can say that "moral rules come from God" in a sense that "what is right comes from God". I still have the job of figuring out what is right. If it turns out to be wrong, it wasn't from God. I guess, this is the reasoning you referred to with the "heads/tails" example.

You might say that admitting that everyone makes his own moral rules makes me a spineless moral relativist. I don't think so. We need a frame of reference to make solid judgments. While choosing a frame of reference is arbitrary and many can exist, once we chose one, we should use it consistently. Switching between frames of reference will produce wrong results. I chose Christianity as such frame of reference for moral judgment. Why Christianity, and not Buddhism, for example? Because of cultural affinity. One does not measure distances from Mecca when living in New York.

From Don: "I would just say that Biblical morality is broken and those who try to follow it are destined to do harm in the world. But you apparently wouldn't say that has anything to do with religion. Perhaps we can agree that the Bible is a work of fiction."

I'd say, it's a good map, but an old one. If you follow a road on a map and see it washed off by a slide, but continue to follow it, because it's on the map, you will harm yourself. If you make others follow this road, you will harm others, especially if they don't travel in your direction. But, in many cases, the map can still be used with proper adjustments.

From Don: "So many Christians want to count soup kitchens and such as evidence of religion being good, yet they rationalize and spin when religion is clearly at fault for some harm. I see you doing some of that, too. It's a case of "heads I win, tails you lose." It might be convincing to some, but not to me."

Religious and moral positions are accepted emotionally. You have different emotions towards Christianity than I do. That's all. I believe, it's a beautiful teaching philosophically, ethically, etc. You think otherwise. Rational arguments on ethical issues are useless.

I don't think, religion is good or bad. I think, it's powerful. And the power is real, you might agree. Controlling passions of a crowd is great power. "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." -- Lord Acton. This is hardly a surprise. If I don't seek power to control other people, but use religion to understand and control myself, I don't think I will cause any harm to anyone.

From Don: "You say that, "It [religion] just happens that it exists in human society and is a very powerful factor in social changes." I would agree with that. I see you as admitting that there is no God involved. There is no "holy ghost" that is helping believers to be more moral or more compassionate to their fellow man. You admit that religion is a mechanism to stir up passions then say that when I am emotional, I am unable to reason properly. Can you not see how this proves my point? In no way have you given any real support for religion being a net force for good."

I see your point. First of all, "God helped me" is a humble way to say "I was successful". It's a figure of speech reflecting the way of thinking, rejecting credit for success. Second, yes, many people use religion to stir up passions. When people do that (e.g. instigating anti-homosexual protests or abortion clinic bombings or Jewish massacres), it's harmful. However, much of religion is directed towards curbing passions, not exciting them (taming anger - multiple, multiple quotes; forgiveness; taming cravings and coveting of all sorts). I see those moral teachings as very useful. Again, if one uses religion to control himself, and not others, there is no harm. There is only benefit for everyone.

You rightfully point out circularity in my reasoning. Humans cannot speak about themselves without circularity. These discussions are self-refuting by nature. Everything I say about morality can be used to prove the opposite point. If I tell you that judging others is a bad idea, I imply that you judge others and, thereby, I judge you myself. Sure, it's bigotry all around. I totally admit :). Much of Christianity is self-refuting. Logical minds reject it, but I admire it for this very reason. Wisdom is self-refuting. Take Socrates's "I know I know nothing". Or Shakespeare's "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." Now, saying these things, and saying that they are wise makes me a fool. Wisdom is silent. Most of Christianity is self-refuting: if Christ is God, his death was a sacrifice to himself. Isn't that selfish? "Life through death", "power through submission" are self-refuting. Saying "I'm God and what emanates from my mouth is an absolute moral truth" makes me corrupt... I only have a moral right to say it if I'm willing to be crucified for my words and that is only post-factum. Marc asked, why Jesus did not stay in this world. He wouldn't be God then. He would be just another corrupt cult leader.

There are some thoughts on Iraq and Clifford. I hope I'll get to them later. And I do want to read the Lewis quote that you cited when I have time.

It's interesting that Don said he was "confused by your answer," which you chose to ignore.You also chose to ignore Linda's post with plenty to think about--- backed up with facts.

You are right, "plenty to think about". Sorry, there is too much to reply to, but I'm going to reply both to the rest of Don's post and to Linda. I guess, Don was confused, because he does not expect a believer say that Bible is not an absolute word in morality and morals do not come from God. I can understand how this statement can confuse someone with strong stereotypes about believers. It's like seeing a dog meow:).

If you find anything in what I said inconsistent or wrong, I would be interested to know.

I think, I still believe that morals come from God, but not in the form of stone tablets, but in form of our emotions and feelings and internal understanding of good and evil. I find this belief consistent with Hume's view that morality does not follow from rational reasoning or scientific experiments. One might say, "morals come from God" is a figure of speech. We can use the Bible as a guide. Despite of all criticism, many people find lots of wisdom tested by generations in the Bible. However, we still need to apply our own judgment and critical thinking lest we start stoning adulterers and exterminate whole cities. Is there a problem with such view?

>I think, I still believe that morals come from God, but not in the form of stone tablets, but in form of our emotions and feelings and internal understanding of good and evil.

These are traits of social species. Even rats exhibit this behavior--tendencies toward empathetic/compassionate behavior. Animal behavioral psychologists look for empathy, fairness, and/or compassion as signs of morality in a species. Many species have this--including rats, dogs, chimps, whales, and others. Not surprisingly, the Siberian Fox, as an asocial, highly aggressive animal, does not exhibit this. But after you breed a few dozen generations selected for "passivity," you get a very social animal that no longer even resembles the original ancestor species, the "Silver Fox." These animals exhibit social tendencies such as much higher recognition of "others," a desire to interact, low levels of aggression, more friendly and cooperative attitudes. In essence, they become more empathetic toward others--more like dogs--more *moral*.

A demonstration that we can breed a social species from an asocial one, and infuse that later species with social and moral tendencies exhibited by other social animals, should demonstrate to anyone that human morality is a product of natural selection, not a divine bit of magic.

When you assert morality does not follow from scientific experiments, I'm not sure *exactly* what you mean, but it is certainly demonstrated in scientific experiments on a number of species outside of humans:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/5373379/Animals-can-tell-right-from-wrong.html

Tracie,

I know that a dog can save another dog from being hit by a car, I've seen a film on TV about whales and dolphins showing that they are empathetic and self-aware. I've read the article you quote. Thanks. I believe that behavior which humans consider moral starts when a creature can feel pain and project pain from another creature onto itself.

Science can show that animals can show empathy, compassion, forgiveness, loyalty, etc. However, science does not tell us that these traits are moral. These experiments and observations are conducted with presumption that, say, empathy is moral, but we know it from our own emotional experience and feelings, not from science.

Also, in some of these observations, humans may tend to see more than there is, just because we ourselves are moral creatures and tend to consider many things to be "evil" or "good" - animal behavior or even forces of nature. E.g., the article you quote mentions "Some studies have shown that animals experience hormonal changes that lead them to "crave" social interaction." If behavior is caused by hormones or instincts, and not by any understanding of "good" and "evil", can we consider such behavior moral? Bees and ants, perhaps, are capable of helping each other or sacrificing their life for their social group. Wouldn't humans also consider such behavior moral and commendable? But is it, really?

None of this, in my opinion, contradicts the view that "morals come from God."

AG, This part of the "Religion Causes Harm" thread is proceeding without a common foundation, a common understanding.

I have the idea from earlier messages from you that you believe that God is wisdom, and that God is a force for good. - - - Is that it ? - - - Can you be more specific, more concrete ? Tell me more, if you can.

Is your God supernatural ? Did he exist before humans existed ?

I ask this because the God that I believe in could not have existed before humans existed, because humans created him using their imaginations. Before that, no God.

When you say that morals come from God, do you mean that God is the exclusive source, or are there other sources of morality besides God ?

Also, please give me a good definition of morality. Take your time, this might be difficult.

I say this because I have a wide perspective when I define morality. I see the animal breeding experiments cited by Tracie as involving morality on two different levels. Level one is research in an attempt to help define morality and to help explore the characteristics of morality. Level two is the expectation that the outcome of such research will help humans to attain a higher level of morality because of their increased understanding. I see the sciences of psychology and sociology being involved in a major way in defining and exploring the characteristics of morality. It seems that these scientific disciplines rarely use the word morality, because science has not bothered to give morality a systematic definition. This word is already in use by politics, law, and religion.

Science uses other words, avoiding the word morality in part because using this word would be seen a an affront and challenge to religion. Darwin's "Origin Of Species" was seen from the outset as being a contradiction of Christian teachings. This challenge from the church people today has led to the printing of school science textbooks which remove the modern proven science of evolution, and replace it with the ancient, obsolete, debunked science from the Bible, the Genesis creation story.

Using morality as a scientific term would be seen by church people as trying to work their side of the street. The church has made a very good living over the centuries by being the arbiters of morality.

AG, here's a dirty little secret: you believe that science offers no wisdom concerning morality because you have been told that it offers none. You don't bother to look for yourself.

When a person dedicates their life in a career of medical research or clinical practice, this is mere science and no morality is involved. It's just a good paying job. Medical professionals involve themselves with questions of medical ethics on a regular basis. But ethics and morality have no similarity. They are poles apart.

When a Bible-inspired crusader guns down and murders an abortion clinic doctor, that gunman is asserting the morality of Christian fundamentalism. That gunman is asserting morality of the highest order. The doctor had no morals at all. He was just a scientist, obeying godless logic and the almighty dollar. It's easy to prove that these things are true. All you have to do is say that they're true.

In ages past, it was necessary to burn a witch to assure that her evil was destroyed. It was necessary to gas Jews to make room for the ascendancy of the golden and glorious Master Race. And today, we can all rest assured that no branch of science can ever shed any light on questions of morality. We must turn (as did George W. Bush) to God to give us the certainty that we need, the confidence that we are representing the absolute and pure morality of God.

http://tinyurl.com/8mce4k9

Chuck, thanks for your questions.

Chuck said: "AG, This part of the "Religion Causes Harm" thread is proceeding without a common foundation, a common understanding."

Great point. In any discussion we must seek a point of agreement and build on it. If such point is not found, discussion is pointless.

Chuck said: "I have the idea from earlier messages from you that you believe that God is wisdom, and that God is a force for good. --- Is that it ?"

That's in a nutshell, but I can elaborate if you ask. It's rare to find an interest in other people's beliefs in an atheist forum. Whoever reads this post, don't take it as me trying to proselytize.

I'd say that I may use the term "God" in many different meanings, as many people. Most meanings are metaphoric. E.g. "God knows" is equivalent to "Nobody knows". "God made it happen" - "It happened with a lucky combination of circumstances." "God willing" - "If we are lucky" or "if circumstances permit". "God tells me" - "I have an intuitive feeling or belief" It's not necessarily without evidence. Often, intuition is based on previous experiences and subconscious memories. Usually, it can be rationalized.

I view God as a force that makes things happen a certain way, governing the chances, so to speak. For instance, we know from quantum mechanics that everything is based on probability and the physical world is fundamentally uncertain. Still, things happen certain way. Why? An atheist might say, it's by chance, for no reason. I might say, "God made it happen this way". It's just a way to think about things. With this in mind, I view "miracles" as highly unlikely, yet natural and not physically impossible events, especially, in realm of human behavior. E.g. mutual forgiveness between two sides of a long-term feud.

I realize that this view is completely subjective. It's just an idea in my head. My way of perceiving the world. I have no right to require others to perceive the world the same way. Although, I may challenge other people's statements when I see inconsistency. "Religion causes only harm" is one such questionable proposition. "All beliefs without evidence are wrong" and "Atheists do not have beliefs without evidence" are other examples.

Big bang and evolution make sense to me. I agree that they are based on observations, have evidence, etc. I'm not delusional to dispute facts. I disagree, however, that these theories "prove" that my way of viewing the world is wrong. These theories do not contradict my view. E.g. Vilenkin shows that the universe "may have appeared from nothing". Awesome. First of all, Vilenkin's work is theoretical. His papers do not have experimental section. It simply points out a theoretical possibility. Second, if it did appear from nothing, by a mere chance, I can still say "God made it happen". For all practical purposes, it does not matter. Same with evolution and those "random genetic mutations". I do not see any contradiction or "proof" that my view is wrong. Whatever Linda says is based on her deep faith to the contrary. And I'm OK with that.

Chuck, I'll mark your questions with ">>" for simplicity.

>> Is your God supernatural?

No. He is immaterial - cannot be detected with physical means. Whoever makes a claim that he has a physical proof of God must be in error. But nevertheless, he exists as an idea or a concept that impacts human behavior.

>> Did he exist before humans existed? I ask this because the God that I believe in could not have existed before humans existed, because humans created him using their imaginations. Before that, no God.

Chuck, do you believe natural laws existed before humans were able to describe them with language and math? There are conflicting answers to this question, but all come down to semantics of the word "laws". If the meaning is "concepts or ideas used to describe reality", the answer is no. No humans - no concepts or ideas. If the meaning is "regularities and patterns in development of material world" - the answer is "yes". You might know that words, concepts, and ideas and the real objects or phenomena they describe are not the same, although many people confuse between them.

>> When you say that morals come from God, do you mean that God is the exclusive source, or are there other sources of morality besides God?

Depends on point of view. If I take the point that "everything good proceeds from God", then there can be no other sources of anything good by definition. Since God is just an idea in my mind, I'm free to define him as I see fit. It does not mean that everyone else has to view it the same way. If you believe that morality is a product of evolution - go for it. It does not matter to me as I view evolution as coming from God as well. Arguing about this is arguing about word definitions. It's useless.

I agree with Hume that sense of morality, justice, etc. comes from our experience. It's not scientific experience, but emotional experience. Certain things cause pain, certain things cause pleasure. We learn to associate these things with physical and emotional pain and pleasure. This is how we judge what is moral. Cultural customs are a part of our experience. These customs can create experiences that shape our sense of morality. Emotions may be explained in terms of neurons and evolution. I can also use my metaphor and say that "God makes us feel a certain way" and the rest of the theory remains unchanged. I do not feel any contradiction or cognitive dissonance thinking or speaking this way as long as I understand what I mean.

>> Also, please give me a good definition of morality. Take your time, this might be difficult.

For definitions, I look into dictionaries. Why invent a wheel? "Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior" seems like a good definition. It's one of those seemingly clear definitions that break down when you try to understand the practical meaning.

>> I say this because I have a wide perspective when I define morality. I see the animal breeding experiments cited by Tracie as involving morality on two different levels. Level one is research in an attempt to help define morality and to help explore the characteristics of morality.

Stop... Let's get it straight. In these experiments, morality is already defined. It is presumed by the researchers that empathy and compassion are moral behaviors. The source of this presumption is unclear. These experiments only show whether animals can have behaviors that humans consider moral. It is important to understand that.

>> Level two is the expectation that the outcome of such research will help humans to attain a higher level of morality because of their increased understanding.

It always helps to understand another creature. The ultimate goal, however, is to understand ourselves. Morality comes from understanding what causes pain or joy to ourselves. Without such understanding, the Golden rule is useless. This understanding can be achieved through studying another creature or a human being and projecting its/his/her perceived suffering or joy onto ourselves. But it can also be achieved through meditation (a.k.a. prayer) or studying psychology or religious practices such as "confessing sins".

>> I see the sciences of psychology and sociology being involved in a major way in defining and exploring the characteristics of morality. It seems that these scientific disciplines rarely use the word morality, because science has not bothered to give morality a systematic definition.

And rightfully so. Science has no business in defining morality. You better keep them separated. Or we will end up with another Auschwitz. According to Hume, science is and should be concerned with describing "what is", not "what ought". "What ought" is subjective and, therefore, is unscientific. This is exactly why the above experiments start out with morality predefined. And that's the way it should be.

Watch Sam Harris' video http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html.

Pay attention how he "knows" that honor killing of a daughter who has been raped is a horrible thing. He "knows" it by reflecting on this act, perhaps, projecting it onto his own parental feelings, and shedding a tear. That's the only way to "know" what is moral - through emotional experience.

>> This word is already in use by politics, law, and religion.

Again, rightfully so. These are the branches of human life concerned with "what ought".

>> Science uses other words, avoiding the word morality in part because using this word would be seen a an affront and challenge to religion.

In part, but not primarily. The primary reason is "what is" vs. "what ought" consideration. It's a mistake to employ science to define "what ought", just as it is a mistake to employ religion to define "what is". It's clear and simple to me. Yet, a lot of people have trouble understanding it, just as they have trouble decoupling words from the objects these words describe.

>> Darwin's "Origin Of Species" was seen from the outset as being a contradiction of Christian teachings.

As I wrote above, there is a way to reconcile Christian beliefs with big bang theory and evolution. After all, the big bang theory was discovered by a Catholic priest. He did not view his research as "satanic". And Vatican has publicly accepted that the Earth is round and that Galileo was right. The same will happen with evolution. It is untrue that religion does not change. If it were true, we would be stoning adulterers and sabbath breakers. Women speak in church these days. Accepting that homosexuality as "not immoral" seems to be next. Religion adapts to experience and new knowledge as everything else.

>> This challenge from the church people today has led to the printing of school science textbooks which remove the modern proven science of evolution, and replace it with the ancient, obsolete, debunked science from the Bible, the Genesis creation story.

Just as science has no business in defining "what ought", religion has no business in defining "what is". Oddly, I see the lack of faith as the source of the problem. Speaking metaphorically, all that we observe is "God's creation". If those believers had faith, they would accept the view that God is greater than our understanding or our beliefs, greater than the Bible. The Bible is not God. Worshiping the Bible is idolatry. If I worship the letter of the Bible, I should stone adulterers and sabbath breakers, and also should cut off my hands, pluck out my eyes, and make myself "eunuch for the kingdom of God" according to Matthew 19:12. If I don't do all these things, I must admit that most of the Bible is a metaphor and seek the meaning of the text that makes sense, not distort facts and change "God's creation", but rather change my understanding of it. Denying truth and refusal to admit error "to save face" is wrong. I view knowledge and wisdom as a gift from God. We must accept them as-is. Rejecting what is given to us is an insult to Him - be it our life, a child, a lesson in humility, or scientific knowledge. It's one of the ways He communicates with us. I'm using metaphorical language here in much the same sense as when you say that "ACA is a manifestation of God". All I say here is just my perception with no basis in reality. I'm aware of it.

>> AG, here's a dirty little secret: you believe that science offers no wisdom concerning morality because you have been told that it offers none. You don't bother to look for yourself.

No. I grew up in the Soviet Union, an atheist country, in an atheist family. I have not been told such things. I did not go to church as a child and did not hold a Bible in my hands until the age of 20. I was baptized at age 27 only because my wife wanted a wedding. If I was brainwashed as a child, it was with ideas of Marxism-Leninism. I came to what I believe through thinking, analyzing, and reading philosophers like Hume, William Clifford, William James, reading debates on Sam Harris video, and reading discussions in this forum on homosexuality and this thread. In a sense, coming to religion was my response against brainwashing. I can tell belief without evidence from belief with evidence. I believe, both are appropriate, acceptable, and, sometimes, necessary under proper circumstances. I hope, I can correctly identify these circumstances, but it can get confusing. And it is not mindless by any means. It requires A LOT of thinking and analysis to tell what is what.

>> When a Bible-inspired crusader guns down and murders an abortion clinic doctor, that gunman is asserting the morality of Christian fundamentalism. That gunman is asserting morality of the highest order.

That's not how I view it. If I speak in religious terms, that gunman is taking on himself the role of God which is pride. He executes judgment without right to do so. He made an idol from his religion violating the second commandment. He murders violating the sixth commandment. He violates "love thy neighbor" commandment, which is, according to NT, the second most important thing after "love thy God" which are two parts of the same thing.

>> The doctor had no morals at all. He was just a scientist, obeying godless logic and the almighty dollar. It's easy to prove that these things are true. All you have to do is say that they're true.

They're true. But that's the issue. Don't you have a problem with doctors without morals who "serve the mammon"? Should we do anything for money? How much does our morality cost? Should we seek scientific evidence at all cost, even at the cost of life of children? In any profession, we need to exercise moral judgment daily, especially in professions that deal with life and death. "He was just a scientist doing his job for money" is not a justification. It's an accusation.

What and how we research comes from our moral beliefs, not the other way around. Otherwise, instead of seeking cure for cancer, we will start building better gas chambers.

>> In ages past, it was necessary to burn a witch to assure that her evil was destroyed. It was necessary to gas Jews to make room for the ascendancy of the golden and glorious Master Race. And today, we can all rest assured that no branch of science can ever shed any light on questions of morality. We must turn (as did George W. Bush) to God to give us the certainty that we need, the confidence that we are representing the absolute and pure morality of God.

http://tinyurl.com/8mce4k9

I watched the full hour video. Good show. It is my hope that scientists will not attempt to justify their morals with scientific research. As for certainty provided by religion, it's an illusion. Whoever thinks he knows the mind of God will be "weighed and found lacking". I only hope that God will provide me with wisdom to make the right decisions when needed (as a way of thinking about things, not as a reality of any sort). In a sense, I still rely on my own judgment and inner sense of right and wrong, but I consciously deny that such decisions come from myself.

When I read the book of Joshua, I had a big problem. Not with the sun standing still. The whole book is about genocide and extermination of whole nations. In Church, the book is taught as an example of how God can help relatively small and insignificant people defeat a larger and a stronger enemy in ways that may appear strange (like marching with trumpets around the walls). That's fine. But HOW DID THEY KNOW that this was the will of God to exterminate these nations? Of course, according to the book, they saw waters of Jordan stopping to flow as they crossed the river, the sun standing still, and the walls falling. That was, perhaps, a good reason to believe. But such things don't happen outside the Bible! What signs did Bush see when he decided to invade Iraq? I don't think, such decisions are justified without such signs, and such miracles do not occur, except in the Bible, which makes such decisions unacceptable. I know, using "miracles" and visions to justify genocide is a BS justification. That's the point. Any justification for genocide is BS. Bush could use non-existing reports of WMD or any other imaginary "sign" to start the war.

I don't want to argue whether my interpretation of the Bible is "true" or "correct". There is no "correct" interpretation of the Bible, just as there is no "true" Christianity. It makes sense to me. It does not have to make sense to anyone else. Don't take this post as an attempt to proselytize. Since you asked, I thought, I could explain how I reconcile Christianity with science, evolution, modern views of morality, etc. I agree with Don that people use Bible to justify their morals. They do not get morals from the Bible. Same goes with scientists. They use science to justify their morality, they do not get morality from science. I consider my views in line with Christianity (or my understanding of it). I don't have to align these views with "official" mainstream doctrines.

Ag, Your emotional reaction to the relationship between science and morality took me by surprise. I didn't suspect that you had this problem.

Whether you want it to be so or not, science and scientists have played a huge role in shaping human morality.

When humans first took fire from nature to use it for themselves, there were big risks involved, and big benefits to be enjoyed. Science and technology have worked together to maximize the benefits and to minimize the risks of using fire. This is morality in action. The harms that people do to each other and the benefits that people confer upon each other is the subject matter of morality.

So here are definitions of morality and of science. These are my own definitions, so in order for you to understand them, pretend that they are true. Then, go ahead and imagine what some of the consequences might be if large numbers of people would believe that they are true, and what might happen if they then put that belief into action.

Morality is choosing to get the things that you want out of life by helping other people get what they want out of life. This means communicating and cooperating well, and coordinating your efforts. It also means learning how to minimize risk and harm to yourself and to others. This applies to people close to you, of course, but occasionally give a thought to people on the other side of the world. They are people, too.

Science is the exploration of the world around us (including the universe itself) using the tools of curiosity, competence, and truthfulness.

This definition of science allows us to apply a sliding scale of scientificness. The amounts of curiosity, competence, and truthfulness present in any human enterprise can be used to show that a particular enterprise may be very scientific, or not-so-scientific.

When done right, a courtroom trial, or the framing of new legislation are substantially scientific. All sorts of things that people do (especially children) have a scientific component.

Chuck,

I'm not sure where you read emotion in my post. I just unemotionally stated that morality or immorality originate in our emotions or passions.

Yes, scientists discover and create stuff that brings both benefits or harm to humanity. However, science is not used to determine whether these discoveries are harmful or beneficial. This is determined without science, by other means. Even before the research starts, we already have an idea whether the anticipated results are going to be beneficial. The ideas of harm and benefit drive scientific research. This is why scientists search for cure for cancer rather than create better gas chambers.

Your definition of morality has problems. You say: "Morality is choosing to get the things that you want out of life by helping other people get what they want out of life." What if others want to kill me? That's in extreme. In less extreme, "what if others want something that I want not?" Why would I cooperate, communicate, and coordinate efforts for what I perceive as harming me?

This is why it is important to agree on what we want. Morality does not come from God or religion, but religion helps to align these "wants" by getting people all aligned in rows every Sunday and repeating "...give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses..." It serves your purpose of getting "large numbers of people to believe that they are true."

In other words, religion helps to get the things that you want out of life by making you want what others want and making others want what you want. And yes, it is a risky enterprise. Often it achieves just the opposite :).

Ag Said: "I just unemotionally stated that morality or immorality originate in our emotions or passions."

Morality and immorality are defined by human interactions. If humans didn't exist, or only one human existed, morality (as we know it) wouldn't exist.

When human morality is guided almost entirely by emotions, that morality is corrupt, harmful, and out of control. That is immorality in most cases. Sometimes we get lucky, and emotion-driven actions are appropriate and successful, but this is a shot in the dark. Better not rely on it.

For the purpose of clarity in this explanation, let's define "reason" as a combination of: memory, experience, education, honest communication, respect for others, ethics, and whatever else you can think of which might help to distinguish "reason" and "logic" from "raw emotion". Reason is thinking carefully, and making use of many aspects of your brainpower. Reason is also being articulate so that you can find the words to explain your own thoughts to yourself and to others.

When human morality is guided mostly by reason, the highest quality of morality is achieved. Emotionality cannot be eliminated, but it must be reduced to a low level to make good moral decisions. Trying to eliminate emotions would be counterproductive.

AG Said: Your definition of morality has problems. You say: "Morality is choosing to get the things that you want out of life by helping other people get what they want out of life."

I have been around long enough to know that any good definition of morality needs to have "problems" in order to really be a good definition of morality.

Religious fanatics and political despots have definitions of morality which are sleek, streamlined, and go down real easy for the gullible. Icons, flags, idols, displays of military might, all grease the wheels of authoritarian rule. In such regimes, "problems" vanish in the glare of righteousness and glory. Thing are wonderful, at first, similar to when people get hooked on addictive drugs.

My definition of morality intentionally has problems. Using reason and logic to negotiate our way through these problems is one of the highest responsibilities of every human being. Being a moral human is worth the effort.

The alternative is to use obedience, habit, tradition, and faith in your leaders. Then only the elite few exercise real morality. The common people obey. That is their moral duty. The tradition of obedience continues to lose ground. The system of participatory government and participatory morality continues to gain ground. The old ways just aren't good enough anymore.

Who says so? - - - I hold these truths to be self-evident.

AG Says: Why would I cooperate, communicate, and coordinate efforts for what I perceive as harming me?

You do this every day. Whenever you purchase something, you lose money in the deal. You like money. I like money. You are intentionally harming yourself every time that you buy something. You become poorer.

Your purchase involves communicating, cooperating, and coordinating efforts. That is how the free market system works. Occasionally, you get the creeps laying out so much money to make a purchase, but not usually. Most often, you go away happy that you bought what you wanted. Children learn this early in life, as they experience the emotional impact and the financial impact of participating in the free market system.

You are constantly doing harm to yourself to achieve some goal or other. You calculate the harm and the benefit, and you make your choice.

From your written words in the ACA message boards, you are a modern man of substantially intelligent morality. You know your way around.

But here is the curious part: I had to tell you. - - - You didn't know it until I pointed it out to you that your life is already a huge tangle of negotiations, some including the exchange of money, and some not.

Harm and benefit - profit and loss - buy and sell - and you give up some of your time to a friend or to a child and that time is lost to you. What a waste. Until you consider the benefits for all concerned.

Your life is part of a huge machine called the Human race.

You are already doing morality. I am analyzing these aspects of morality so that it might help you and others to do it in a more conscious and reasoned way.

Compare this style of thinking with the words of many of the more "enthusiastic" (for lack of a better word) sects of Christianity. Many of these folks have emotions and intuitions that are looking for wonderful things to happen, and soon. They talk about building the "Body of Christ" and all sorts of exciting things hinted at in the Bible. Are these Christians crazy? - Their beliefs are somewhat crazy. They don't have enough correct information.

They feel as I do, that the old road is rapidly aging, and that the times are changing. They look for supernatural causes, but I see that the causes are natural.

The downside of their beliefs is that their attitude is often divisive, elitist, hateful, self-aggrandizing, paranoid, etc. This is associated with the supernatural content of their belief systems, and associated with obsessive obedience to authority.

So what's now happening to the human race?

Cultural adaptive evolution is proceeding at an astonishing pace. Next year it will be running even faster. Reminiscent of Koyaanisqatsi:

http://tinyurl.com/37yp8n

What should our goal be? - - - To enlist the brainpower of each citizen of planet Earth in guiding this runaway cultural evolution so that the future doesn't just "seem" to be a better place than the here-and-now, but that the promise is fulfilled.

Chuck: "When human morality is guided almost entirely by emotions, that morality is corrupt, harmful, and out of control. That is immorality in most cases. Sometimes we get lucky, and emotion-driven actions are appropriate and successful, but this is a shot in the dark. Better not rely on it."

Chuck, I stand by my position that our moral concepts are solely determined by emotions - negative and positive feelings. The more examples I examine, the more I am convinced in it. Let me clarify my position.

We must clearly understand the basis of our beliefs. The harm comes when we are confused about it. Many beliefs come from reality, facts, logic, experience, etc. Such are scientific beliefs, mathematical statements, etc. But many beliefs (very legitimate beliefs) come from emotions. Such are religious beliefs, beliefs in "self-evident" human rights, beliefs that killing a human fetus or a child is wrong, belief that a fetus is not a person and does not have the right of self-determination as opposed to the mother. Beliefs that homosexuality is immoral comes from nothing other than a feeling of disgust. This forum has convinced me of that. Any reasoning on both sides is faulty. On the issue of abortion, I have not seen a single rational argument on each side that does not collapse under its own weight. (My motto on this issue is "I'm pro-choice of life"). I deliberately refuse to promote ideas of existence of God or any legal opinion on abortion. If you see me arguing on these issues, it is always to show that arguments on either side have no merit. If I express opinions of God, I clearly state that these are my *opinions* or beliefs, and I do not take them as reality.

This clear distinction helps me understand when I act on reason or experience and when I act on emotions. I clearly understand that often we must act contrary to our emotions. E.g. vote against an abortion ban or to allow homosexual marriages. Or when we have to take a toy away from a crying child to teach him a lesson. Or when we have to clean a toilet, or when a doctor needs to examine a prostate of his patient. Reason in these cases restrain my emotions. But it does not change my moral opinion that abortions are wrong or disgust for male anuses. Does it make sense?

Chuck: "For the purpose of clarity in this explanation..." you threw together a bunch of different concepts. Reason is not ethics. Reason is not communication. Reason is not education, memory or experience. Reason is not articulate (often it is subconscious). Etc.

Chuck: "When human morality is guided mostly by reason, the highest quality of morality is achieved." -- strongly disagree. I can argue that killing sick, elderly, and poor is beneficial for society.

Chuck: "Emotionality cannot be eliminated, but it must be reduced to a low level to make good moral decisions." -- partially agree (see above). I'd say "practical decisions". Moral decisions are still made from emotions.

Chuck: "Trying to eliminate emotions would be counterproductive." -- and, perhaps, harmful as we would lose the ability to make moral choices, motivation for any activity, and, as a result, the ability to reason. I've heard of a research that inability to feel emotions result in reasoning impediment.

Chuck: "I have been around long enough to know that any good definition of morality needs to have "problems" in order to really be a good definition of morality."

Definition of morality does not need to have problems: "Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior." What you say refers to second definition: "Behavior as it is affected by the observation of these principles." -- Exactly because moral behavior is not based on reason.

Chuck: "My definition of morality intentionally has problems. Using reason and logic to negotiate our way through these problems is one of the highest responsibilities of every human being. Being a moral human is worth the effort."

I understand what you say, but let me set it straight: "Using reason and logic to restrain emotions and make good practical choices is one of the highest responsibilities." As we learn to control our emotions, our moral judgments also change.

Chuck: "The alternative is to use obedience, habit, tradition, and faith in your leaders." -- All these traits and behaviors have their value and place. Again, the wisdom consists in recognizing when and how to use them.

Chuck: "You are constantly doing harm to yourself to achieve some goal or other. You calculate the harm and the benefit, and you make your choice." Yes. This is how reasoning works.

Let me explain how emotion-based morality works. Classical example: a trolley approaching a railroad switch. 5 people on one branch, 1 person on the other. Will you flip the switch to save 5 people and kill one? Most people say yes based on comparative harm estimate. This is a math problem. Not a problem on morality.

A change in situation: the 5 people are serial killer convicts, the 1 person is a child. Not enough? Your child. Math suddenly changes. Why? Emotions kick in.

Is it morally justified to kill 5 people to save your own life? a) in a life boat situation. b) when 5 thugs are attacking you. See how math, logic, and reasoning are changed with the change in emotional situation?

Chuck: "Harm and benefit - profit and loss - buy and sell - and you give up some of your time to a friend or to a child and that time is lost to you. What a waste. Until you consider the benefits for all concerned."

The benefits are emotional. The choice to spend time with the children is emotional. The choice to buy a new car instead of a bicycle is emotional. The choice to send a probe to Mars is emotional. The choice to seek cure for cancer instead of building a better gas chamber is emotional. All our choices are emotional. The key to happiness is to keep them in harmony with our rational choices. Rational choices often come from necessity. Emotional choices are the ones that need to be adjusted. This is what religion is for.

Chuck: "Compare this style of thinking with the words of many of the more "enthusiastic" (for lack of a better word) sects of Christianity. Many of these folks have emotions and intuitions that are looking for wonderful things to happen, and soon. They talk about building the "Body of Christ" and all sorts of exciting things hinted at in the Bible. Are these Christians crazy? - Their beliefs are somewhat crazy. They don't have enough correct information."

They do have information. They ignore it. They make emotional choices, like all of us. Nothing wrong with that. Are they good choices? That's when they lack the restraint of reason.

Chuck: "The downside of their beliefs is that their attitude is often divisive, elitist, hateful, self-aggrandizing, paranoid, etc. This is associated with the supernatural content of their belief systems, and associated with obsessive obedience to authority."

This has to do with the lack of balance between emotions and reason. Both have "the dark side".

Please, point out an inconsistency in my views. Am I being unreasonable or confuse concepts? I'm open to adjust my understanding if I'm wrong. If I refuse, I will give you a reason or acknowledge that my belief is totally unreasonable. In which case I will not insist on it.

AG, Here is a list of human activities:

Science Engineering Law Politics The Arts Entertainment Business Finance Volunteering Parenting

Please tell me which of these activities is able to have an effect in shaping human morality for individuals or for society as a whole.

Also, please tell me which of these activities is not able to have any effect.

Also, tell me which of these activities must not be allowed to have any effect.

Chuck, I explained above that all our activities are affected by emotions. We don't lift a finger without an emotion moving us. All activities provide experience and feedback to make reasonable choices and adjust our previous feelings affecting morality. That's the general principle, without going into details.

AG, Please find for me in the Bible the passage that says:

"Don't shit where you eat"

Take your time. You may need help from friends who are Bible scholars.

Deuteronomy 23:12-14 is about shitting outside the camp. The reason is not sanitary. The reason is that the Lord would not step into the excrement, get disgusted, and leave Israel. The cattle dung, for some reason, is legit :-).

There are passages where people eat their own piss and dung as a result of disobedience to the Lord. Very typical human behavior. I don't see anything strange :-).

Ag Said: Deuteronomy 23:12-14 is about shitting outside the camp. The reason is not sanitary. The reason is that the Lord would not step into the excrement, get disgusted, and leave Israel. The cattle dung, for some reason, is legit :-).

AG, Very Good. - - - Thank you for the reference. It is about sanitation.

Here is a dialog exchange from the movie Moonstruck:

Rose: My mother has a saying. Do you want to hear it? Perry: Sure. Rose: Don't shit where you eat!

This dialog is not about sanitation. - - - It is a figure of speech. Rose was just propositioned by a much younger man (Perry). Rose is not willing to cause problems for herself, or for her family by having an affair with Perry. She then quotes her mother's "Don't shit where you eat" advice.

AG, Now, please find the Bible passage that says "Don't shit where you eat" but the figure-of-speech version as quoted in the movie.

Also, here is a link:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093565/quotes

to the Internet Movie Data Base page which is full of quotations from Moonstruck. If you have never seen the movie, you should.

AG, The passage that I had in mind is Proverbs 11:29

"He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind."

If a dog saved a dolphin there would be no doubt morality was involved.

How do you come to this conclusion? By scientific data or just "feeling" that way? I may agree with you, because I also "feel" that saving another creature is moral. But I cannot prove it by any scientific data. It's just a belief based on emotion.

If you read my post carefully, I did not ignore Don's confusion. He said, if I say that religion is not bad, I have to admit that religion is not good either. And I admitted it. Religion simply "is". It is a huge power which can be used for both great good and great evil. I don't see a contradiction in this point. I just oppose a unilateral position that "religion causes harm, period".

From Don: " I agree it [invading Iraq] was a con job... We had most of the media singing as a choir, rather than taking a skeptical position on it. So all of this strikes me as analogous to religions: outright lies, thinks taken on faith, and little critical thought from those who were capable of it. These are some of the mechanisms by which religion does harm. BTW, I knew Iraq was a con job at the time."

Great. We have a common point. Invading Iraq was NOT about *freedom*. Yet, how many people in this country are lead to believe that it WAS about freedom? Is freedom a bad thing to believe in? Yet, look at Abu Ghraib pictures: (http://www.antiwar.com/news/?articleid=2444). One can say, this is all caused by those "believers in freedom".

What is "freedom"? Does it exist? Ask 100 people, and they will give you 100 different answers. By your logic, it is a good evidence that it does not exist and people should not believe in it. What is meant by freedom? Freedom of religion? Freedom from religion? Freedom from sin? Freedom to sin? Are people truly free when they have a $1,000,000? Are people truly free when they can vote, but pay credit card interest through the nose and cannot afford basic necessities? Freedom is as much a figment of the imagination as God. Yet, many people die for the idea.

"Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities." (Voltaire). Religion makes you believe absurdities."

I don't think that ALL of the religious ideas are absurd. It's like Dali pictures. Some are rather absurd and gross, but all are thought-provoking, as Mark admitted.

Don: "You failed to address the point that the 911 attacks couldn't have been carried out without the religious belief of the attackers."

Attack of Iraq and Abu Ghraib couldn't have been carried out without the belief in "freedom" - that it exists and would be beneficial to Iraqi people. Sometimes, best beliefs and intentions cause people to commit horrible things. I'm trying to understand why myself.

Don: "I'll tell you what changed. After 1400 years of Christians killing Jews, culminating in the Holocaust, the newsreels came out after WWII showing the atrocities. It woke people up. Europe, especially, started seeing religion as the cause of harm and now many of those countries are largely secular."

I'm sure, people were aware of atrocities before the WWII. It's not the awareness that changed. When millions are killed, people don't need the newsreels to know about it. Something else changed. Many people do not associate Nazism or, especially, Stalinism with religion. Also, Poland, where Jews suffered, perhaps, more than in many other countries, remains 96% Catholic, with only 4% agnostics and atheists. [http://www.thearda.com]. So, awareness of holocaust, even suffering from it, did not "wake up" Polish people and turn Poland into a secular country. Yet, they don't kill Jews there as well. I would not reduce the causes of genocide to religious beliefs. They play a role, but are not the root cause, I think.

On Clifford's credo an passionate bitterness later.

Don: "I looked at the belief article. I'm in support of Clifford's credo. If you'd like to argue for specific points in the article, feel free."

Now, let's get to Clifford's credo. In his essay "The Ethics of Belief", he famously states: "...it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." [http://ajburger.homestead.com/files/book.htm]

It is a moral rule as it concerns "right" and "wrong". As we know from Hume (see above), there can be no experimental evidence or rational reasoning supporting moral rules. Therefore, the statement itself is a belief without evidence, based on passionate emotions. That makes it self-refuting. This is not my main concern since some self-refuting statements are considered to be wise ("I know I know nothing"), but not all and not always. I will not criticize the issue of infinite regress since, in most practical situations, we know how much evidence is sufficient to believe (or we believe we know).

It is interesting, however, how Clifford makes an absolute moral rule ("it is wrong *always, everywhere, and for anyone*...) and immediately makes 2 exceptions to it in sections II and III of his essay: "We may believe what goes beyond our experience, only when it is inferred from that experience by the assumption that what we do not know is like what we know." (principle of uniformity) and "We may believe the statement of another person, when there is reasonable ground for supposing that he knows the matter of which he speaks, and that he is speaking the truth so far as he knows it."

The validity of "assumption that what we do not know is like what we know" as well as the other person's expertise and character are left for an arbitrary consideration. That's a nice and consistent absolute moral rule, I'd say (with sarcasm, of course).

There is a much bigger problem with Clifford's credo. If you read studies of cognitive dissonance and implicit memory, you will find out that our brains are "hardwired" to believe without evidence under certain circumstances. People can subconsciously create beliefs to resolve cognitive dissonance which resulted from conflicting messages or motives. E.g., my little son has allergy to gluten and dairy and we tell him that he cannot have ice cream. However, he perceives ice cream as desirable food based on his observation of peers in preschool. To resolve the cognitive dissonance, he convinced himself that ice cream makes people sick, that's why eating it is not in his interest. We did not state it that way. That's his belief without evidence. It was created subconsciously. I see no harm that could follow from it. Do you? Many adults go through the same process. Of course, this can be harmful when a person rationalizes why he smokes in spite of the evidence that cigarettes cause lung cancer (a classical example of cognitive dissonance). But we cannot state that such beliefs are always harmful.

Studies show that people resolve cognitive dissonance in 3 ways: 1) adjust the existing belief; 2) create a new belief; 3) downplay the significance of the conflicting information. You can observe all 3 ways in religious apologetics, but same basic process is used in science to deal with new discoveries and all other people in many life situations. There is nothing morally wrong in cognitive dissonance - all people experience it. And there is no "right" way to resolve it. All 3 ways work and are applicable in different situations.

Read about "illusion-of-truth effect". It states that a person is more likely to believe a familiar statement than unfamiliar one. There were studies where people were exposed to certain statements and even where told about some of these statements that they are false. Yet, when they were asked to evaluate these statements some time later, many familiar statements were considered to be true, even though the person was told they are false.

This is not because the person was stupid or gullible. This is because of implicit memory - the subconscious memory allowing us to remember basic things like finding the way home or riding a bicycle. The Wikipedia article on implicit memory cites 18 research papers. Implicit memory was found to be completely independent from explicit memory as amnesic patients do not experience decline in implicit memory.

So, saying "it is wrong to believe without evidence" is like saying "it is wrong to go to the bathroom" or "it is wrong to make mistakes", because in some situations people have equally no control over these actions. Of course, there are situations and places where these things would be wrong if we can help it, but making absolute statements about these things is wrong in itself. Again, analogy with attitude to homosexuality comes to mind.

Don: "If you believe something without evidence, you are subject to wishful thinking or being manipulated."

Sometimes such beliefs are necessary or beneficial. E.g., if a cancer patient wants a chance to survive, he must believe in his survival even despite the adverse evidence. If I want to start a successful business, I must believe that it will succeed. Belief in freedom or human rights are two other examples of beliefs without evidence which are considered to be beneficial. Belief that our life is worth living is also necessary for our survival.

It appears to me that belief in afterlife is just a human way to resolve the cognitive dissonance between the notion of total vanity of our life and the desire to live by creating a new belief. Linking of this belief to killing of Jews requires a few steps which do not have to be made. Belief in God or afterlife in itself can be quite harmless and beneficial.

Don: "There is lots of evidence against belief in gods, especially the Christian god. The fact that no two people seem to believe the same thing is just one bit of such evidence."

See my notes on belief in freedom above.

Don: "Objective reality is not quite so subjective, is it? We don't kill each other over the color of the sky."

It would be nice if Sam Harris was right and science could discover moral rules so that we could accept them as laws of nature, but moral rules are subjective and based on emotions (see references to Hume above). We cannot design an experiment to determine how much pain is tolerable to a patient to justify euthanasia in any particular case. Besides, can science determine that peaceful death is a state of better "well-being" than life in pain?

Don: "You've mentioned a number of times that we all have beliefs without evidence. I explained to you that I don't know I'm not just a brain in a vat. I believe that I am not, but I don't have proof. If you can find some other irrational belief I have, I will strive to remove it. I consider unsupported beliefs as liabilities."

See examples above and notes on illusion-of-truth effect. Take the beliefs that your life is worth living or beliefs in existence of freedom and human rights. I relieve you from your promise to remove these beliefs, because I don't think you can and I don't think you should. You may argue that these beliefs are based on some sort of experience, but I will consider it an attempt to resolve a cognitive dissonance. You might as well change your beliefs rather than create new ones or downplay the conflicting information as irrelevant. However, all 3 ways are totally acceptable.

Let me read CS Lewis to reply to your notes on perpetual orgasm.

Don: "Finally, you call into question the facts of my post because of my passion. Yes, I get riled up about senseless stupid misanthropic harm. I haven't met too many Christians that feel any sense of responsibility for the millennia of persecution, torture, and murders perpetuated by Christianity. I guess those that care are atheists."

I do not question the facts of your post. I admit that Christians killed Jews, burnt witches, and hindered scientific progress for centuries. I admit that Catholic priests molest children and that the church often tends to cover up these crimes. I believe, all of this is true. I only doubt that all this behavior is a direct consequence of religious beliefs. Exact same things were done before Christianity and by people who were not as much associated with Christianity (Robespierre) or even officially proclaimed to be atheists (Stalin). I do not want to discuss Stalin's religious beliefs. It is, however, well known that he persecuted clergy and believers as ideological adversaries of communism and suppressed genetics on Lysenko's claims that it does not fit proletarian ideology. This is a factual statement. I hope, Linda will spare me from posting pages of "facts" trying to prove that Stalin was a Christian. Arguably, French and Russian revolutions were caused, primarily, by economic and political situations in these countries and fit well Marx's theory of class struggle. You mention true facts, but your passion leads you to questionable conclusions which you accept as absolutely true.

I also believe that getting angry, frustrated and annoyed at people is destructive. These are the exact same emotions which caused these atrocities. I consider biblical advice against anger in multiple places to be most practical and wise. Anger and bitterness have the ability to poison our lives.

The beauty of Christianity is in its circular self-refuting references. I don't know if you have ever been to any Catholic Easter services. Every year, during Easter service in all Catholic churches, the priest reads from Matthew 27 impersonating Pilate, and having people impersonate the crowd and say "Let him be crucified!" and "Let his blood be on us and our children" making all people feel that they themselves crucified Jesus. Perhaps, someone can interpret this passage as "they" [the Jews] crucified Jesus and use it to promote antisemitism. But I view such interpretation as a gross perversion. "We" [humans, not Jews] crucified Jesus and keep doing it every day - this is how I understand this passage. "We" [humans, not Christians] were killing Jews for 1400 years. I feel shame for human race, not anger towards Jews or Christians. It makes me check if any of my own emotions and reactions could lead to similar things. And I find plenty. Every time I get annoyed at someone or think that someone is arrogant, I commit the same crime. And I already mentioned that I cannot write this without giving you the right to accuse me of the same.

As soon as we separate ourselves from the crowd and start thinking "they" [Jews] crucified Jesus we end up with antisemitism. I can see how thinking that "they" [Christians] killed Jews may lead to similar consequences. We are all humans. It is useless to argue whether Hitler was a Christian or that 71% population of North Korea who claim to be atheists are "no true atheist".

Atheists love to point out "no true Scotsman" argument in Christian reasoning. "No True Scotsman is a logical fallacy by which an individual attempts to avoid being associated with an unpleasant act by asserting that no true member of the group they belong to would do such a thing. Instead of acknowledging that some members of a group have undesirable characteristics, the fallacy tries to redefine the group to exclude them." - [rationalwiki.org/wiki/No_True_Scotsman]

And Christians love to quote the Bible. "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:5). I don't mean to say that atheists are hypocrites and Christians are not. I mean to say "we are all hypocrites". If people stopped focusing on what they hate in other people and focus on what they like in other people, this world would be a much better place, don't you think?

Don: "Some people can see that perpetual orgasm thing is just a con. Sadly, people who believe their perpetual orgasm depends on harming others will happily do so."

Believing in utopias is not just a religious thing. Marx's classless communist society is a very similar belief. It's just an attempt to resolve the cognitive dissonance between our desire to live and the utter vanity and endless suffering of our existence. I think, such beliefs are inevitable result of our psychology.

Don: "Yes, people will continue to harm each other when religion is gone, but it won't be quite so organized and sustained."

The history of the Soviet Union seems to disprove this hypothesis.

If you put "Growing Up a Sullen Baptist" and "Slouching Toward Zion" and More Lies By Robert Flynn"in Google Search these will come up.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Reading Messages www.atheist-community.org/boards/read_message.php?b=1&t... 16 posts - 5 authors - Aug 25, 2009 Robert Flynn author of "Growing Up a Sullen Baptist" and "Slouching Toward Zion."

The "absent god" Clarke corollary - Reading Messages www.atheist-community.org/boards/read_message.php?b=1&t... 35 posts - 4 authors - May 26, 2011 As an atheist I'm occasionally questioned by Christians, mostly, as to how I can not believe in Jesus and I've come ...... Read "Mein Kampf" or Robert Flynn author of "Growing Up a Sullen Baptist" and "Slouching Toward Zion.

This "Read "Mein Kampf" or Robert Flynn author of "Growing Up a Sullen Baptist" and "Slouching Toward Zion" was the post under Linda there was one paragraph used from that topic that pertained to this topic but not the whole thing. And as you can see the Robert Flynn author of "Growing Up a Sullen Baptist" and "Slouching Toward Zion." was at the bottom which was cut off. If you read The "absent god" Clarke corollary thread you will see AG telling Linda that she probably dosent' have a high school education while he misspells words. He also appologized for his cut and paste errors.

AG, I don't know if everyone is a hypocrite or not but you seem to be one. Linda called you a blow hard you said she was uneducated.

One of the books being discussed "Growing Up a Sullen Baptist" is a collection of twenty-three short stories that reiterate the Biblical stories and parables that give details that are not the Bible. "Ten Mistakes God Made," which bluntly discusses religious politics, elitism, and the unexplained nature of what makes us believe; "The Trouble with Eve" and "Redemption," which are stories of how one avoids, questions, and "Chicken Soup for the Damned," a biography retelling of the Savior's story.

How anyone thinks this wood have made the Christian religion look good if it wasn't left out is a mystery?

Don Baker said, "I think you can see religious harm in the aggregate behavior of, say Christians. Of all of the murderers of Jews, for example, how many have been Christians? I would wager that over 90% were (yes, I have no data to prove this). Christians hatred of Jews can be traced to one line in the Bible: Matthew 27:25: All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"

This is some of the data: Organized anti-Semitism as an official state ideology and legal policy never existed in world history until the fourth century AD, when the Christian Church became the official religion of the Roman Empire. At this time a reign of totalitarian terror was unleashed against all other competing religions that had little precedent in world history. Bishop Ambrose, the patron of St. Augustine and the dominant force in the late Roman Imperial Church in his day, who even openly endorsed the burning down of synagogues. Pope Innocent III, not Hitler, originated the concept of forcing Jews to identify themselves by wearing the Star of David. The horrors in the Holy Land were followed by a tidal wave of atrocities and mass murders all across Europe culminating in the expulsion of all Jews from England and France and most Jews from Germany. The reason Poland ended up with so many Jews is that it was the only European country that had the sanity and the courage to serve as a refuge for the Jews fleeing other parts of Europe. It is important to note that the demand for the persecution of Jews and other religions came from the church - not the Roman Empire. ''

The Romanovs (before WWII or Stalin) unlike Hitler, never planned to kill all the Jews. However, they did not hesitate to commit or encourage the most diabolical crimes, and the Russian secret police created one of the greatest hoaxes in history, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which became one the key justifications for Hitler's war on the Jews. Had there not been a Russian revolution the Russia might not have opposed Hitler.

The most famous Christian of the 20th century was Adolf Hitler. Hitler's morality: He did not smoke or drink and he abhorred pornography and homosexuality. Hitler's call for his nation to repent. "Providence withdrew its protection and our people fell… And in this hour we sink to our knees and beseech our almighty God that He may bless us, that He may give us the strength to carry on the struggle for the freedom, the future, the honor, and the peace of our people. So help us God" - March 1936. It is very important to see the deep roots of anti-Semitism in Christian history. There probably were an undisclosed/unknown amount of atheists killed also. Regarding atheism, Hitler specifically opposed it.

Hitler said, "We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out." Adolf Hitler, in a speech delivered in Berlin, October 24, 1933.

Atheists were among the first to protest Hitler's policies while the majority of Christians were following Hitler. When Hitler gained power, he had free-thought organizations banned and launched campaigns to stamp out 'godlessness'. It was the freethinkers, secular Jews, intellectuals and scientist that fled Germany first. America got a lot of these great talents in the 30's and is why we surged ahead of the rest of the world in many areas.

The hatred toward the Jews does have some basis in Christian doctrine and tradition. Hitler did seem to be under the delusion that god wanted him to do what he was doing. And there seems to have been many Christians who thought that his position of authority, and what he was telling them about what god was giving him the power and instructions to do, was entirely reasonable. Having religious belief does not make people better, more moral or kinder than those of us without them. Some people are hypocrites no matter what.

The Big Lie is a propaganda technique. "The great masses of the people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one." Adolf Hitler

Even though AG's history lesson was corrected on Atheist Community of Austin (topic) The "absent god" Clarke corollary (where I explained to AG that Marxism never materialized) in Russia. AG said, "Isn't this mentality at the core of Marx's theory of "struggle of classes" which lead to sending millions of Russians to Gulag? Isn't "us vs. them" mentality at the core of brutal soccer fan wars (I posted some video links in the thread on homosexuality)? By the way, the last two examples do not involve religion, but involve the "us vs. them" mentality." Marx was not responsible for any of that it was Stalin.

You have gone way out on a limb trying to make an us vs. them contest out of anything that someone disagrees with you on. I think you've been watching too much Fox News.

In 1848, Karl Marx published The Communist Manifesto, which was Marx's political theory of a stateless, classless, worker's utopia, considered by him to be not an ideal, but an inevitable, scientific progression. One century later there were millions murdered, deliberate famines and oppressive regimes all over Eastern Europe, nearly all of which being centralized via Moscow. This was very different from Marx's vision the only resemblance between the two was the name Communism. The reason things went so wrong was a deliberate take over by Joseph Stalin. The failure of Marx's ideology can be attributed to Josef Stalin and cronies. Here's what happened to Marx's ideology:

The "Communist Manifesto" stated that all men were born free but that society had got to such a state that the majority were in chains. Those who supported Marx said that his beliefs gave the working class hope of a better life. They said that an intellectual who was on their side fighting their cause would inspire the workers. In 1898, the Russian Social Democratic Party was formed to expand Marx's beliefs in Russia. Marx support was with industrial workers and the people in Russia had to organize them. They tried to organize trade unions but the police easily infiltrated them. It needed Lenin to make the industrial workers a more dynamic group capable of pushing through a revolution. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Died, January 21 1924 at age 53 from a brain hemorrhage, but before Vladimir Lenin died, he picked the high-ranking member of the Supreme Soviet as his successor, Josef Stalin. Then Stalin reformed Soviet communism, to warrant the repression of political dissenters, the "theory of the aggravation of class struggle", Stalin jailed or murdered millions of Russians of all social classes. This was the beginning of the "show trials" first they accuse a dissenter of a crime then they have a very public trial for an example.

Propaganda is not history and you've garbled the issues. If anything ever promoted an "us vs them" mentality it's definitely Christianity. America "the Christian nation" has been involved in many wars for decades following WW II trying to police the world, that mentality has bankrupted the USA, and allowed other more peaceful nations to leave us in the dust.

Actually, Karl Marx said a lot about religion, but from what AG wrote it must of zoomed right over his head.

Karl Marx's Introduction to Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, from which came the quote "religion is the "opium of the people". Here is the complete quote:

"For Germany, the criticism of religion has been essentially completed, and the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism.

The profane existence of error is compromised as soon as its heavenly oratio pro aris et focis ["speech for the altars and hearths"] has been refuted. Man, who has found only the reflection of himself in the fantastic reality of heaven, where he sought a superman, will no longer feel disposed to find the mere appearance of himself, the non-man ["Unmensch"], where he seeks and must seek his true reality.

The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man.

"Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man--state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion. Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo."

Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower. The criticism of religion disillusions man, so that he will think, act, and fashion his reality like a man who has discarded his illusions and regained his senses, so that he will move around himself as his own true Sun. Religion is only the illusory Sun which revolves around man as long as he does not revolve around himself.

It is, therefore, the task of history, once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world. It is the immediate task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, to unmask self-estrangement in its unholy forms once the holy form of human self-estrangement has been unmasked.

Thus, the criticism of Heaven turns into the criticism of Earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics" -Karl Marx

There is no doubt in my mind that Marx is saying that primitive man invented religion in order to explain things (where everything came from) etc. and to explain suffering. It was also the way to get relief from primitive man's misery (there will be another life in heaven) this isn't the only life. Eventually there was no need for religion or (imaginary fathers) to explain anything but man couldn't let go of (religion) or his pacifier. Therefore, those in power found a way to use religion to control the miserable masses and make out like bandits. Their is a coalition between the divine ruler and the priest (the priest supports the divine right of Kings to rule) and being divine helps to prevent a revolution. The Divine Right of Kings is a political and religious doctrine of royal one-man rule. It asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, his right to rule comes directly from the will of God. Proverbs 8.15-16: By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.

America started out a Secular nation -a people's Republic (with no divine rule) instead there was a Constitution. America is a People Republic with Democratically elected Representatives. The American Revolution was a rebellion against the Scriptures and the King.

"What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people… A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not." -James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, 1785.

"He had no faith, in the Christian sense of the term- he had faith in laws, principles, causes and effects." -Supreme Court Justice David Davis, on Abraham Lincoln

Also, Marx wanted a revolution but Divine Right of Kings was still given credence as the official justification for the Tsar's power. God had given those of royal birth a "divine right" to rule, without consent of the people. Which in simpler terms means if your father was the king and his son would be the next king. King George V, Tsar Nicholas, and Kaiser Wilhelm were cousins.

Marx did understand that religion enabled those in power to deny their responsibility for failures and it protected them from inquiry by the public. Whatever was happening was God's will (as a matter of fact at that time a lot of people were starving to death). Marx is obviously saying to discard the illusions or delusions of religion because all you have to lose are your chains.

I doubt that you will answer this because it does have the data that proves you are wrong. If you do it will just be about something else (like us vs. them) and not about just how true is anything that you believe?

From Linda: "This is some of the data: Organized anti-Semitism as an official state ideology..."

Usually, when someone presents "data", it would be nice to specify the source of it. Your text appears to be verbatim from the site [www.worldfuturefund.org/wffmaster/Reading/Total/anti-semitsm.htm]. As I browse the web site, here is the kind of "data" collected on it:

"CHRISTIAN TOTALITARIANISM AND ANTISEMTISM ANCIENT AND MEDIEVAL WORLD

Christian Persecution of Pagans in Ancient Rome

Christian Persecution of Jews in Ancient Rome

Medieval Christian Totalitarianism and Antisemitism

The Evil of Antisemitism: A Reading List

Medieval Inquisition

Crusades

St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre"

I can agree with Sagan when he said that bias does not matter "so long as they [claims] are scrupulously honest and other people with different proclivities check their results". But Sagan has a few other alarm lights in his "baloney detection kit" - observational selection (counting the hits and forgetting the misses). And the advice to "Spin more than one hypothesis. If there's something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained." Both alarms are shining brightly in this article.

From Linda quoting the above site: "Organized anti-Semitism as an official state ideology and legal policy never existed in world history until the fourth century AD, when the Christian Church became the official religion of the Roman Empire."

From Carl Sagan: "Post hoc, ergo propter hoc - Latin for 'it happened after, so it was caused by' (e.g., Jamie Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila: 7 know of... a 26-year-old who looks 60 because she takes [contraceptive] pills.' Or: before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons)."

Linda quoting the above web site: "The reason Poland ended up with so many Jews is that it was the only European country that had the sanity and the courage to serve as a refuge for the Jews fleeing other parts of Europe." Interestingly enough, Poland was and remains overwhelmingly Catholic (96%) [www.thearda.com]. With that said, the site has a separate article titled "ANTISEMITISM IN INTERWAR POLAND 1919-1939" Go figure...

The whole "worldfuturefund.org" web site seems to be a collection of doom and gloom and finger-pointing at various screaming global issues. Just out of curiosity, I opened another section. It showed a single pie chart with the title:

"A HOLOCAUST AT SEA

90 % OF THE LARGE FISH IN THE WORLD'S OCEANS

HAVE BEEN EXTERMINATED BY HUMAN BEINGS"

The pie chart has 90% of the circle black with large label: "90% KILLED".

Shocking data. What can I say?

The quote about Hitler seems to come from Robert Flynn's essay: [www.somareview.com/mostfamouschristian.cfm]. You have missed the quotes at the bottom of the article:

"Hitler definitely brought out the worst in Christians. Those who admired the Fuhrer were either mindless sheep or, like him, wolves in sheep's clothing, hiding their decidedly un-Christian personas behind the hypocritical mask of organized religion."

"Fortunately there were enough true Christians around to keep the essence of Christ's message alive. Many died resisting the evils of Hitler's regime, and millions more sacrificed their lives to defeat his armies. Nevertheless, the once vibrant churches of Europe are now largely deserted, at least in part because of Hitler's excesses in the name of Jesus. And it's not just ancient history: as we speak, the Christian Right is busy demolishing our civil and religious liberties in the name of America and Christ. A word to the wise, and to those who should be wiser: it can happen here."

I only object to the phrase "true Christians". Those who believe in Christ are Christians. Period. The meaning of the passage would not change if we omit "true" from "true Christians".

And, finally, at the very bottom of the article: "If you'd like to comment on this article, click here. [Note: If you believe this piece argues that Hitler was a Christian (i.e., that he walked the walk, exemplified the teachings of Jesus) then either you did not read the piece, or you did not understand it. Please, save your breath.]"

That's not my words - that's either from the author or from the publisher.

You quoted (without citation) [suite101.com/article/stalin-the-murderer-of-marx-a243314]: "In 1848, Karl Marx published The Communist Manifesto. Contained within its pages was his idea of a stateless, classless, worker's utopia, considered by him to be not an ideal, but an inevitable, scientific progression."

So, Marx had this great vision of society where "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them." (That's not Marx, that's Isaiah, but the message is familiar).

Marx's ideology was based on atheism, scientific approach to society, etc. It was a great and progressive idea in all respects (no sarcasm meant. I was taught this at school). I know, Marx has denounced religion. There is no need to quote Marx to prove he was an atheist. Then something terrible happened. "People look back now and say that Communism failed. However, what people don't realise is that Stalin's Soviet Union was not Communist, and that all the namesake regimes that followed could all be traced back to the will of the Man of Steel himself. Communism never failed because true Communism was never given a chance to work." -- Same site, slightly further.

Why do all these great ideas lead to these great atrocities? That is my question. It's not belief in God. You can argue that Stalinism was not "true" communism or it was not built on "true atheism", I can argue that Hitler and members of WBC are not "true" Christians. Isn't that the same "no true Scotsman" argument? [rationalwiki.org/wiki/No_True_Scotsman]

I have, actually, attempted to quote an unbiased study which, I think, sheds some light (with numerical data) on commonality between these ideologies. You may deny that Marxism is not "us vs. them" ideology, but here is "Communist Manifesto", part I, sentence 1: "The history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles." with the elaboration of "oppressors vs. oppressed" idea following. There was a joke in Soviet Russia: "Do you know the difference between capitalism and communism? In capitalist society man exploits man, and in communist society it's the other way around."

IMHO, "how do great ideas lead to great evil?" is a fair question and the answer may be much more enlightening than finger-pointing and name-calling. It appears to me that this is the exact mechanism how this happens.

From: New World Encyclopedia - "Anti-Semitism has a long history, extending back to the Greco-Roman world and culminating in the Nazi Holocaust. before the nineteenth century, most anti-Semitism was religiously motivated, based on oft-repeated Christian allegations that the Jews had killed Jesus, and that their refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah made them reprobates who deserved second-class status. Judaism was the only large religious minority after Christianity became the official religion of Europe and so suffered from discriminatory legislation, persecution and violence. Religious anti-Semitism (sometimes called anti-Judaism) usually did not affect those of Jewish ancestry who had converted to another religion - the Spanish Inquisition being the notable exception."

The writings of Ambrose of Milan can be found and read and then copied by any author or by other third- and fourth-century writers; and its obvious that there is nothing but pronounced anti-Semitism. St. Ambrose was one of the most important figures in the formation of Western Christianity. He was a leader of early Christianity and helped to overthrow Arianism. Ambrose was a vicious anti-Semite. He condoned the destruction of synagogues by a Christian mob. He made it no secret that he wished all synagogues could be destroyed. (No such places of blasphemy be further allowed to exist.)

This was a message that Christians could get away with doing almost anything against the Jews, which lead to an epidemic of synagogues being destroyed across the Roman Empire.

It's not like writing about something that can only be found in apologetic - it's proven historical facts. Like the Earth revolves around the Sun (not the other way around) as in the Bible. Nothing I have written about (the history of WWII - Poland - religion) couldn't be found in many History books or Encyclopedias or other types of literature (including) biographies etc. Most people know Poland had so many Jews because the other countries didn't want them. No historian would dispute these facts and they all can't have an ax to grind - I guess? Well known facts can be found in literature. I will put a web site (with some facts) at the bottom of this page. Everyone knows the complicity of religion (which never has -and never will -be anything but a pack of lies) in many holocausts (the Crusades the Inquisitions etc.) when they forced or spread all of that phony love and goodness all over the world.

HERE ARE SOME FACTS - HISTORICAL RESEARCH: Where's yours?

315-337 Constantine I the Great refers to Jews as the "impure beings", members of "unclean and pernicious sect".

325 First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea - the Christian Church separates Easter from Passover: "We desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews".

388 Christian mobs incited by the local bishop plunders and burns down a synagogue in Callinicum.

399 The Western Roman Emperor Flavius Augustus Honorius calls Judaism superstitio indigna and confiscates gold and silver collected by the synagogues for Jerusalem.

415 Jews are accused of ritual murder during Purim. The Church confiscates or burns synagogues in Antioch, Magona, Alexandria. Bishop St. Cyril of Alexandria forces his way into the synagogue expels the Jews and gives their property to the mob.

418 The first record of Jews being forced to convert or face expulsion.

419 The monk Barsauma (subsequently the Bishop of Nisibis) gathers a group of followers and for the next three years destroys synagogues throughout the Eretz Israel.

429 The East Roman Emperor Theodosius II orders all funds raised by Jews to support schools be turned over to his treasury.

439 Jan 31. Code of Theodosius: the first imperial compilation of anti-Jewish laws after Constantine. Jews are prohibited from holding important positions involving money, including judicial and executive offices. The ban against building new synagogues is reinstated. The anti-Jewish statutes apply to the Samaritans.

Western Roman Emperor, Valentinian III, also accepts the Code.

451 Sassanid ruler Yazdegerd II of Persia's decree abolishes the Sabbath and orders executions of Jewish leaders, including the Exilarch Mar Nuna.

465 Council of Vannes, Gaul prohibited the Christian clergy from participating in Jewish feasts. These facts indicate that Christians and anti-Semitism were always pretty chummy.

Hitler and the Nazis promoted a Christian nationalism, anti-communism, anti-Semitism, and return to traditional values, which most Christians appreciated. Nazi ideology supported Christianity, and Nazi anti-Semitism was firmly grounded in Christian anti-Semitism. Hitler was most popular with the conservative Christians, who were seeking a restoration of traditional values. Hitler promised to restore traditional morality. Hitler expressly appealed to Christianity on a regular basis.

A number of U.S. Baptists wrote sympathetically of Hitler's Germany. "John Sampey, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary cautioned against hasty judgment of a leader (Hitler) who had stopped German women from smoking cigarettes and wearing red lipstick in public. "The Watchman-Examiner (a national Baptist newspaper) carried a letter by Boston pastor John Bradbury. Of the congress he wrote, "It was a great relief to be in a country where salacious sex literature cannot be sold; where putrid motion pictures and gangster films cannot be shown." "Southern Baptist Convention President M.E. Dodd of Louisiana defended Hitler's persecution of the Jews, who he declared were guilty of "self-aggrandizement to the injury of the German people. Besides, Dodd continued, most of the 200,000 Jewish refugees who went to Germany from Eastern Europe 'were communist agitators against the government.'" And you didn't have to go all the way to Berlin to find Nazi Christian Americans congregating. German Bunds in America offered adult training, youth camps and propaganda distribution activities, taking orders directly from the Fatherland.

There were the Hitler-inspired Silver Shirts, organized by William Dudley Pelley in North Carolina in the 1930s, and the Defenders of the Christian Faith, an organization founded by Reverend Gerald B. Winrod, a virulent anti-Semite who in the best KKK tradition organized the Knights of the White Camellia. The American Christian Nazi included the Black Legion; the Sentinels of the Republic; the American Vigilante Intelligence Federation; Father Charles E. Coughlin's infamous Christian Front; and the America First Committee, dedicated to the Democratic principles of isolationism, pacifism and anti-Semitism. (After the war, it was revealed that "America's Firsters" had accepted financial support from Germany.) Nevertheless, the churches of Europe are now largely deserted, at least in part because of Hitler's excesses in the name of Jesus. And it's not just ancient history: as we speak, the Christian Right is busy demolishing our civil and religious liberties in the name of America and Christ. A word to the wise: it can happen here.

Poland's Jewish population, which in the interwar period was over 10 percent of Poland's total and over 30 percent of Warsaw's, was reduced by about 3 million in the Holocaust. Postwar resettlement and adjustment of borders sent about 2 million Germans from Polish territory westward and awarded the Polish territory inhabited by 500,000 Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Lithuanians to the Soviet Union. This multi-ethnic (fleeing) population was replaced by an estimated 3 million ethnic Poles repatriated from the Soviet Union and by thousands of others who returned from emigration or combat in the West. Before World War II the Polish population had been ethnically and religiously quite diverse. The deaths, emigration, and geopolitical adjustments resulting from World War II reduced the 1939 population of about 35 million to about 24 million by 1946. Massive relocation of ethnic populations resulting from boundary changes (the non-Polish Slavic population through the westward shift of the borders of the Ukrainian and Belorussian republics of the Soviet Union) and the destruction of most of the Polish Jewish population in the Holocaust meant that a country previously two-thirds ethnically Polish and Roman Catholic entered the postwar era with a population over 90 percent Catholic and over 98 percent ethnically Polish because of the loss of much of.

[ from http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/pius.html#N_13_]

Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust - By Shira Schoenberg

The deniers of the Catholic Church's complicity in the holocaust are so numerous that there is barely a Roman Catholic in a million, no matter how educated, who is even aware of the atrocities perpetrated in the Roman Catholic country of Croatia in the name and under the leadership of their own Catholic hierarchy, and with the full knowledge and approval of their "Holy See" during World War II.

Eleanor Roosevelt was so right when she told the author of a book revealing this shocking history that the power and influence of the Roman Catholic Church was such that it could prevent the world from hearing what he had uncovered.  Although Avro Manhattan is the leading authority on the atrocities committed in God's name during World War II, and much of what he has written is available online at www.reformation.org/holocaus.html, most Catholics know nothing about either Croatia or these scandals. Although the Church didn't see fit to put Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" on its "Index of Forbidden Books", it made sure that all of Mr. Manhattan's books were on that Index.

Carl Sagan's "The Fine Art of Baloney Detection" is criticizing the idea that whatever has not been proven false must be true. "The Dragon in My Garage" is the same kind of statement about an "invisible dragon" in the garage that cannot be detected by any means.. Like Beebus or Gawd.

The argument is not about the facts of the history of WWII and Christianity, which can be found and written by many people - it's what you can't dispute and don't want to hear. This is about your phony claims concerning a supreme being or beliefs about religion. They have been proven to be just that - phony. Where is a fact based argument that disputes any of these historical facts with DATES is the point? Because whatever apologist it comes from it's never going to be fact based history.- since the apologists claim that atheists and liberals caused the Holocaust.

I got Hitler's quotes from his speeches from - Atheist Community of Austin (topic) Dietrich Bonhoeffer - I copied some of what I wrote under (Linda) on that topic - Here it is it's entirety. I think it is very clear that Hitler was a Catholic and a dedicated Christian.

I had put this on that page - Hitler's quotes from his speeches, which are dated by month and year, or "Mein Kampf." Robert Flynn author of "Growing Up a Sullen Baptist" and "Slouching Toward Zion."

Hitler's quotes from his speeches, which are dated by month and year, or "Mein Kampf." Robert Flynn author of "Growing Up a Sullen Baptist" and "Slouching Toward Zion."

Hitler's stand against secularism: "Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without religious foundation is built on air; consequently all character training and religion must be derived from faith" - April 1933.

Hitler's war on atheism: "We were convinced that the people need and require the Christian faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out" - October 1933.

Hitler's blending of church and state: "National Socialism neither opposes the Church nor is it anti-religious, but on the contrary it stands on the ground of a real Christianity. For their interests cannot fail to coincide with ours; alike in our fight against the symptoms of degeneracy in the world of today, in our fight against a Bolshevist culture, against atheistic movement, against criminality, and in our struggle for a consciousness of a community in our national life. These are Christian principles" - August 1934.

Hitler's faith-based charity: "With a tenth of our budget for religion, we would thus have a Church devoted to the State and of unshakable loyalty" - January 1939.

Hitler's God-given mission to cleanse Germany of evil as personified by the Jews, liberals, homosexuals, labor leaders, homeless people, immigrants from inferior cultures, and the weak and sick. "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." And, "We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press, in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess" March 1936.

Hitler's patriotism and the belief that his nation's weakness was because "the watchword of German foreign policy ceased to be: preservation of the German nation by all methods; but rather: preservation of world peace by all means." Hitler vows to end terrorism: "we must not dodge this struggle, but prepare for it, and for this reason acquire armament which alone offers protection against violence. Terror is not broken by the mind, but by terror."

Hitler's devotion to the Ten Commandments, which he proclaimed the foundation of Nazi Germany: "The Ten Commandments are a code of living to which there's no refutation. These precepts correspond to irrefutable needs of the human soul." Hitler warriorship for the Lord: "I would like to thank Providence and the Almighty for choosing me of all people to be allowed to wage this battle for Germany." "I follow the path assigned to me by Providence, there is a God, and this God again has blessed our efforts during the past 13 years" - February 1940.

Over the years Christians have argued that Hitler was an atheist, a hard claim to defend. Never mind that he repeatedly attacked atheism, he never said anything to indicate he was an atheist. From what those who knew him later in life said, Hitler was a theist, viewing God as a somewhat distant figure, though not wholly removed from human affairs; after all, the S.S., Hitler's elite soldiers and personal bodyguards, wore belt buckles that read, "Gott Mit Uns" or "God Is With Us." Hitler's personal library: More than 130 books, included in a small portion of Hitler's collection stored at the Library of Congress, deal with spiritual topics. Hitler was particularly taken with devotional books and works on Jesus. Titles included "On Prayer," "Sunday Meditations," "A Primer for Religious Questions Large and Small," and "Large Truths About Mankind, the World, and God." He also owned a translation of E. Stanley Jones' 1931 bestseller, "The Christ of the Mount," and a 500-page book on the life and teachings of Jesus called "The Son: The Evangelical Sources and Pronouncements of Jesus of Nazareth in Their Original Form and With the Jewish Influences."

These were books Hitler collected from the 1920s until his final years, and they weren't just for show. Many of them were well read and contain margin notes in Hitler's writing. Ironically, in a book entitled "The Words of Christ," there's a pencil line alongside this passage: ""You should love God, your Lord, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your spirit: this is the foremost and greatest commandment. Another is equally important: Love your neighbor as you would love yourself."

A book on the trinity by Maximilian Reidel also captured Hitler's imagination. He read it carefully and made extensive marginalia in it. He heavily underlined one passage that he later worked into a talk he gave to guests in December of 1941, when he said, "If there is a God, then he gives us not only life but also consciousness and awareness. If I live my life according to my God-given insights, then I cannot go wrong, and even if I do, I know I have acted in good faith."

It looks like you overlooked a few things in this quote. I think I got what he was saying very accurately.

Hitler definitely brought out the worst in Christians. Those who admired the Fuhrer were either mindless sheep or, like him, wolves in sheep's clothing, hiding their decidedly un-Christian personas behind the hypocritical mask of organized religion. Lest anyone doubt that it could have happened here in the United States, the following excerpt, from an article written by Lloyd Allen, professor of church history and spiritual formation at the McAfee School of Theology is a chilling reminder that the basic tenets of Nazism were not the sole property of the Germans. "I came to this conclusion (the Baptists' reluctance to speak out on larger issues of the world's economic, social and political scene) while writing an article on the Baptist World Alliance congress in Berlin in 1934. An immense Nazi flag, hung where the congress met, was a vivid reminder of the bloody purge executed only a few weeks before by anti-Semitic fascists. "Most of the BWA delegates spoke out for soul liberty, the kinship of all humanity and the separation of church and state, but too many Baptist leaders did not. Indeed, a number of U.S. Baptists wrote sympathetically of Hitler's Germany. "John Sampey, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary cautioned against hasty judgment of a leader (Hitler) who had stopped German women from smoking cigarettes and wearing red lipstick in public. "The Watchman-Examiner (a national Baptist newspaper) carried a letter by Boston pastor John Bradbury. Of the congress he wrote, "It was a great relief to be in a country where salacious sex literature cannot be sold; where putrid motion pictures and gangster films cannot be shown." "Southern Baptist Convention President M.E. Dodd of Louisiana defended Hitler's persecution of the Jews, who he declared were guilty of "self-aggrandizement to the injury of the German people. Besides, Dodd continued, most of the 200,000 Jewish refugees who went to Germany from Eastern Europe 'were communist agitators against the government.'" And you didn't have to go all the way to Berlin to find Nazi Christian Americans congregating. German Bunds in America offered adult training, youth camps and propaganda distribution activities, taking orders directly from the Fatherland. There were the Hitler-inspired Silver Shirts, organized by William Dudley Pelley in North Carolina in the 1930s, and the Defenders of the Christian Faith, an organization founded by Reverend Gerald B. Winrod, a virulent anti-Semite who in the best KKK tradition organized the Knights of the White Camellia. It was standing room only on The American Christian Nazi bandwagon, whose overflow of passengers included the Black Legion; the Sentinels of the Republic; the American Vigilante Intelligence Federation; Father Charles E. Coughlin's infamous Christian Front; and the America First Committee, dedicated to the Democratic principles of isolationism, pacifism and anti-Semitism. (After the war, it was revealed that "America's Firsters" had accepted financial support from Germany.) Nevertheless, the once vibrant churches of Europe are now largely deserted, at least in part because of Hitler's excesses in the name of Jesus. And it's not just ancient history: as we speak, the Christian Right is busy demolishing our civil and religious liberties in the name of America and Christ. A word to the wise: it can happen here.

Hitler's quotes from his speeches, which are dated by month and year, or "Mein Kampf." Robert Flynn author of "Growing Up a Sullen Baptist" and "Slouching Toward Zion."

Atheist Community of Austin (Topic) The "absent god" Clarke corollary - I put in some information on Stalin, Hitler and Marx because: AG was telling Don Baker that atheists kill just like Christians. Here are some of the "relevant" comments.

One of Linda's Answer Then: READ "MEIN KAMPF" OR ROBERT FLYNN AUTHOR OF "GROWING UP A SULLEN BAPTIST" AND "SLOUCHING TOWARD ZION." By reading the true world history it can be found what lead to the crisis in 1933. The reality is that organized anti-Semitism as an official state ideology and legal policy never existed in world history until the fourth century AD, when the Christian Church became the official religion of the Roman Empire. That is the second time I put that into a post - with the title of his book. So (I guess I wasn't trying to keep it a secret) I just copied (part) of what I had said. But anyone could find it there - and I guess they did.

AG said, "Everyone kills everyone by the million. Nero killed Christians by the million, Christians killed Jews by the million, Christians killed Christians by the million, non-Christian Hitler killed Jews and Christians by the million. Atheist Stalin killed atheists, Christians, and everyone else by the million"

Linda's Answer Now: AG why wouldn't Christians be better than atheists?

Linda's Answer Then: Hitler and Stalin were raised in the church and both aspired to be priests. Stalin was actually a Russian Orthodox Catholic. There is a National Geographic with interviews that were done with Russian orthodox priests who stated that Stalin was in fact a member of the Russian Orthodoxy.

AG, "Linda: "This is how Stalin (a Catholic)..." Huh? You cannot tell Catholic from Russian Orthodox church. Don't go to Ukraine. I would worry for your safety there."

Linda's Comment Now: It wasn't about what you think the Russian Orthodox Church is about it's Stalin wasn't an atheist. However, the Russian Orthodox Church is the same as the Roman Catholic except they do not recognize the Pope as the head of the Church. The head of the Russian Church was probably the Tzar just like the Queen of England is the head of the Church of England.

Linda's Answer Then: No doubt stupid fanatics are dangerous everywhere!

AG said, "I don't claim I studied Hitler's biography (I did not). But saying that Stalin "aspired" to be priest is a far stretch. It was not his choice. He was never a believer. He grew up in brutal slums and knew nothing but violence in his young life.

Linda's Answer Then: It's obvious you didn't since there is plenty of evidence to support my claim. READ "MEIN KAMPF" OR ROBERT FLYNN AUTHOR OF "GROWING UP A SULLEN BAPTIST" AND "SLOUCHING TOWARD ZION." (There is the reference) Never mind that Hitler repeatedly attacked atheism, he never said anything to indicate he was an atheist. Marxism was anti-religious, but not Adolph Hitler. Hitler Opposed Secularism and Atheism; there are many quotes by Hitler against secularism and atheism. By reading the true world history it can be found what lead to the crisis in 1933. The reality is that organized anti-Semitism as an official state ideology and legal policy never existed in world history until the fourth century AD, when the Christian Church became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

AG you told Don Baker, "Communism is ideology based on atheism." No, it's not -it is a system of government period. Stalin was not an atheist Marx was. You seem very confused about the difference in Communism, Marxism and atheism.

Linda quoting Marx: "The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness."

What's "happiness", may I ask? Is there such thing as "real happiness" as opposed to "unreal happiness" or, perhaps, "imaginary happiness"?

I read a book review in WSJ a few weeks ago: "Psychology and Its Discontents" by Jerome Kagan, emeritus professor of psychology at Harvard. [online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304537904577277760260276148.html]

"In his second essay, "Happiness Ascendant," Mr. Kagan virtually demolishes the popular academic effort to measure "subjective well-being," let alone to measure and compare the level of happiness of entire nations. No psychologist, he observes, would accept as reliable your own answer to the question: "How good is your memory?" Whether your answer is "great" or "terrible," you have no way of knowing whether your memory of your memories is accurate. But psychologists, Mr. Kagan argues, are willing to accept people's answer to how happy they are as if it "is an accurate measure of a psychological state whose definition remains fuzzy."

Compare this to Sam Harris's position in his TED talk: [www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html] where he argues that it may be possible to scientifically measure human well-being and, therefore, scientifically derive moral rules.

Where is the truth? I tend to stick with Kagan and those who criticized Harris quoting Hume "one cannot derive 'ought' from 'is'". Happiness seems to be another imaginary thing, along with freedom and human rights, which most people believe in and long for. Is it wrong or harmful to believe in happiness?

From: AG - "Many atheists in this forum claim that religion causes harm. To support this claim, Don has quoted an article by Gregory Paul which seems to point out a positive correlation between religiosity of society and various social ills - homicide rates, teen pregnancies, etc. (http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.pdf) I pointed out some weaknesses of the article, to which Don sent a link to a second article, by Gary Jensen, studying correlation of *certain aspects* of religion with homicide rates. (http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2006/2006-7.pdf) I find Jensen's data and reasoning compelling. I tend to agree with his conclusions. Jensen, however does *not* conclude that belief in God alone causes increase in homicide rates. I'd like to discuss this issue."

Linda's Answer:

Sects and Violence

Is Faith Good for Us? Phil Zuckerman

Phil Zuckerman is an associate professor of sociology at Pitzer College in California. He is the author of Invitation to the Sociology of Religion (Routledge, 2003) and is currently writing a book on secularization in Scandinavia.

"If this often-touted religious theory were correct-that a turning away from God is at the root of all societal ills-then we would expect to find the least religious nations on earth to be bastions of crime, poverty, and disease and the most religious nations to be models of societal health. A comparison of highly irreligious countries with highly religious countries, however, reveals a very different state of affairs. In reality, the most secular countries-those with the highest proportion of atheists and agnostics-are among the most stable, peaceful, free, wealthy, and healthy societies. And the most religious nations-wherein worship of God is in abundance-are among the most unstable, violent, oppressive, poor, and destitute."

Your argument was nothing more than an apologetic attempt to try to wipe out the fact that the most violent nations are the most religious.

AG said, (that Gary Jensen is) "Pointing out that U.S. has fewer burglaries and other issues than "secular" countries, Jensen says, "In short, Paul's analysis generates the "desired results" by selectively choosing the set of social problems to include to highlight the negative consequences of religion."

Linda's Answer:

I guess you think that was the only study? There have been many and they all say the same thing (religion sucks)!

Apologists say people pick out all the bad things (in the Bible) that GAWD commanded them to do and overlook all of the good things He told them to do. However, the truth of the matter is that very few Christians know how disgusting the Bible is because (all the bad stuff) is left out of the Sunday morning sermons. The Rome Christian Crusades slaughtered those who did not accept Christianity - the new state religion. The Moorish leader of the Muslim crusades was Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi, and his civilization did the same thing.

I'm sure you think fewer burglaries in religious fanatic poor countries could compare to the murders in Chicago that now exceeds the number of people dying in Afganistán.

Studies find much lower concentrations of atheism and secularity among the in poorer, less educated countries. The better educated countries and more affluent are the least religious, least violent and have better economies. They have fewer unwanted pregnancies and STD's because they are educated to protect themselves. I have also read that people who graduate from the top universities are far more likely to be atheists than the general public. 95% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences (the world's top scientists) are atheists according to studies.

I think that the problem is what people write is often in order to appeal to the general public - and other people report what they find.

Linda, I'm open to see and discuss the data. This post seems to have none. No links to research articles, no numbers, no sources quoted. Just statements. Do you have data on murder rates in Chicago and Afghanistan? Which countries do you refer to as "secular"? The highest proportion of atheists and agnostics is in North Korea (71%) [www.thearda.com] followed by Czech republic (44%), China (39%), Mongolia (36%), and Uruguay and Kazakhstan (34%). THEN comes Sweden with 31% atheists and agnostics. The data requires some filtering to arrive at the statements you make unless you want to say that North Korea is an example of civilized society or that Mongolia and China are more socially advanced than Sweden. The statements you make cannot be made without meticulous data analysis.

I must agree with you on one statement: percentage of atheists and agnostics does have a very strong correlation to GDP per capita. I have used data from [www.thearda.com], and I was able to get Pearson correlation coefficient of 0.71 on a sample of 118 countries. This is very high and significant, beyond doubt. I had to manipulate the data in the following way: I excluded countries where government interferes with religion as indicated by GINTF08 index, and I correlated logarithm of GDP per capita to logarithm of percentage of atheists and agnostics. This implies not a linear, but a power correlation. I.e., if we interpolate the correlation, 1% of atheists+agnostics correspond to $4,800 GDP per capita, and 10% correspond to $19,000 GDP per capita.

When countries with less religious freedom are included, the correlation is still there, but Pearson coefficient is 0.58.

I would be interested to compare numerical data on "stable", "peaceful", "free", and "healthy". However, I am not sure how you are going to quantify most of those.

Speaking of Phil Zuckerman. I can't help, but copy his whole article from [www.huffingtonpost.com/phil-zuckerman/mistakes-atheists-make-th_b_822252.html] here. I am desperately trying to make these exact points here. I'm happy there are atheists out there who think this way.

"I've been studying atheists, agnostics, XTC fans, and various other types of secular folk out there for quite some time. I've also read most of the anti-religious books that have been published ever since Sam Harris kicked things off with The End of Faith.

And I must say, I've got a few criticisms for my God-denying brothers and sisters out there.

Or perhaps, more specifically, some pointers.

For if you really think that a secular worldview is superior to -- or at least more rational than -- a religious one, and if you really think that the world would be a better place if people didn't believe in supernatural deities, nasty demons, or chubby cherubs, I would suggest a little self-examination. A lot of you out there are making some serious mistakes.

Here they are:

1. Insisting that science can, or will, answer everything. When Bill O'Reilly or your Baptist in-laws ask you pointed questions like: "How did the universe get here?" or "What caused the Big Bang?" or "Why is there something instead of nothing?" don't insist that science has the answer. It may not -- ever. It is far better to simply say that we don't know everything, and may in fact never know everything. There will always be some mysteries out there. Just say: "Yeah -- it is quite a profound puzzle. No one knows the answer. But just because we don't know the answers to everything, doesn't mean we then automatically accept some made-up possibility."

2. Condemning all religion, rather then just the bad aspects thereof. Religion is man-made. It is socially constructed. It grows out of human culture. As such, religion inevitably contains, reflects, and reveals all that is within the realm of humanity: the good and the bad. It is like any other facet of human civilization: some of it is noble and inspirational, much of it is nonsensical and even dangerous. But to condemn it all as poisonous is to be in serious denial.

3. Condemning the Bible as a wretched, silly book, rather than seeing it as a work full of good and insightful things as well. The Bible was written by humans. It has no other source. The evidence is clear on that front. And similar to point two above, given that it is a human creation means that it isn't all good or all bad -- but contains both. Its contents can be downright absurd, flagrantly unscientific, embarrassingly racist and sexist -- not to mention painfully boring. But it also contains brilliant insights into the human condition, fun stories to entertain kids, and heady poetry. It even has solemn stretches of unbridled skepticism and existential angst. Check out Ecclesiastes.

4. Failing to understand and appreciate "cultural religion." There are tens of millions of people out there who are part of a religious tradition, but don't actually believe in the theological teachings thereof. They go to church, they get bar-mitzvahed, they identify with a religious tradition, and yet they are basically atheists, agnostics, or skeptics at heart. Why do they stay religious? They like it. They enjoy the traditions, the songs, the rituals, the community. These people should be seen as allies, not enemies. And every time we condemn their religion as idiocy or wickedness, we simply turn them off. Religion is not a black or white thing. Neither is secularity. There is a lot of gray out there. Deal with it. Appreciate it.

5. Critiquing God as nasty, wicked, and immoral. There is no point in critiquing a deity that doesn't exist. There is no need to catalogue the horrors, hypocrisies, or genocidal tendencies of a god that is imaginary. The reason we don't believe in God is simple: lack of evidence. That's it. Stay focused people.

6. Focusing on arguments against the existence of God, rather than working to make the world a better, more just place. People who believe in irrational things will rarely change their minds by listening to rational arguments. And yet atheists expel so much sweat constructing philosophical, scientific, or logical arguments against the existence of God. Think this will change people's minds? Perhaps. But only rarely. What really lowers levels of religiosity, the world-over, is living in a society where life is decent and secure. When people have enough to eat, shelter, healthcare, elder-care, child-care, employment, peacefulness, democracy -- that's when religion really starts to lose its grip.

7. Arguing about morality in the abstract. Don't get sucked into arguments about "Can we be good without God?" Don't try to convince theists that secular morality is actually more rational and, well, more moral. Rather, just insist that morality is ultimately revealed and shown through human action and deed. And we can plainly see that the least religious countries and states are generally the most moral, peaceful, and humane, while the most religious countries and states are the most crime-ridden, corrupt, and socially troubled. End of discussion.

8. Not having more kids. The sociological evidence is clear: religious parents tend to have religious kids and secular parents tend to have secular kids. The demographic data is unambiguous: religious people have far more kids than secular people, with religious fundamentalists having the most kids of all. And the highly religious societies on earth tend to have the highest birthrates, and the most secular nations have among the lowest. So if you really want a godless world, better get busy.

9. Always making top ten lists. It is so "Old Testament." Let's start going with top nine lists instead. Nine is divisible by 3. And 3, they say, is a magic number. " [end of quote]

Sorry, I answer in chunks. Your posts are long (which is not necessarily bad) and it's hard to digest them in one sitting.

Linda, did you try to check Zuckerman's data from independent sources? His data comes directly from

"Acknowledgment

My article is indebted to Gregory S. Paul's important research correlating rates of belief/nonbelief with various measures of societal health."

I don't think, he took time to check it. Visit [www.thearda.com]. It shows no country in the world (out of 221), except North Korea, with over 50% agnostics and atheists. Japan has 13% of them, same as the U.S., with ~56% Buddhists. How do you classify Buddhists? They don't believe in God. Zuckerman seems to regurgitate Paul's article. The high percentages of atheists in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway are very questionable. Notice the estimate ranges: 48%-80% for Denmark. Not a single significance level mentioned.

Linda's Answer: "I guess you think that was the only study? There have been many and they all say the same thing (religion sucks)!"

Linda, I do not think that was the only study. My comment was on the ones I know of. I cannot comment on the ones I have never seen. And I doubt very much that they all say the same thing. How about you show me another one (except Zuckerman's) and we discuss it?

From Linda: "I'm sure you think fewer burglaries in religious fanatic poor countries could compare to the murders in Chicago that now exceeds the number of people dying in Afganistán."

Linda, this is a very confusing statement. Do you imply that there are more religious fanatics in Chicago than in Afghanistan? If not, do you imply that Afghanistan is less violent than Chicago, despite religious fanaticism in Afghanistan? Wouldn't that be contrary to what you are trying to say? The media recently compared Chicago homicide rates to casualties in Afghanistan to make exactly this point - Chicago is more violent than Afghanistan, making no link to religion or, even, implying "despite" religion. You seem to say something different. I hope, you understand that such comparison is pure rhetoric as the two numbers can hardly be meaningfully compared.

"Studies find much lower concentrations of atheism and secularity among the in poorer, less educated countries."

Which studies? Anything with numbers, significance levels, and peer review, like Don quoted? Sorry, Linda, I'm on your turf and try to play by your rules. "Studies find" without a citation is not good enough.

From Linda: "I guess you think...", "I'm sure you think..." How are you so sure what other people think?

From Linda: "I think that the problem is what people write is often in order to appeal to the general public - and other people report what they find."

Very true observation. This is why I prefer studies with peer review, Pearson correlations, and significance levels to media articles.

I am so tired.....TIRED....of religious people claiming to be the owner of what is moral and what isn't. If I were to follow the old testament I don't think I'd find as much morality as professed.

I completely agree - 'morality' in the Bible bears no resemblance to modern day morality (unless you pick and choose which bits you agree with). This is exactly the point: society develops it's own morality, and Christians pick and choose the bits of the Bible that back this up. We would otherwise have had a static morality that would not have changed for 2000 years, which is patently not the case. I've just been watching a Youtube Atheist experience video in which a caller keeps asking how we objectively know that slavery is immoral, using the Bible as their objective indicator. Have they read the Bible?

This discussion seems to be lost in a flood of "facts". I still did not see a good reply to what I said here. To recap,

Don said that religion causes harm, because it is based on false beliefs. Examples include killing of Jews for hundreds of years or burning a 4-year old girl in an oven, or 9/11. I agree. Men have done a lot of evil based on their religious beliefs. Based on this statement, Don seems to suggest that all of religious beliefs and practices must be abandoned by humanity as soon as possible.

This is what I disagree with. I have several arguments to support my opinion:

a) People cannot live without beliefs that have no evidence whatsoever. E.g., belief that my life is worth living cannot be supported by any evidence. Yet, without such belief, I don't have a reason to live. The concept of happiness is completely subjective. Yet, people dedicate their lives to achieve it. People die for freedom without having a good definition of what it is or whether it exists. Furthermore, our brains are hardwired to have beliefs without evidence. Read psychological studies about cognitive dissonance or implicit memory. Any idea that attempts to explain our relation with the universe, explain why we exist and what is the purpose of our existence has to do with religion. There is a cognitive dissonance between the utter objective vanity of our existence and our desire to live. Humans resolve it by creating religious ideas. So, belief that people can get rid of all unsubstantiated beliefs is 1) self-refuting, 2) contradicts evidence.

b) Atrocities are not caused by belief in God per se. Christians killed Jews for centuries quoting Bible - true. Hitler used same Christian ideas to take it to the extreme - true. Whether Hitler was a Christian is a moot point. Good points against Christianity. What about Judaism? Jews did not kill Christians by the million, even though Torah commands "an eye for an eye". What can Linda say against Judaism? What about Buddhism? Does Buddhism lead to atrocities as well? Marxism was based on atheism, yet it led to genocide as well. (Again, whether Stalin was a Christian is a moot point. Marxism is an atheistic teaching, and Stalinism was based on Marxism, not on the New Testament, by any stretch of imagination). It is something else, not belief in God that causes atrocities - that's my point.

c) Religion does inspire people for great good as well. Go to Europe and see the wealth of art and architecture inspired by religion. I don't claim that Christians have monopoly on charity, but Christianity does create a reason for altruistic behavior, even if it's a made-up reason. It is not true that religion always inhibits science. In ancient times, priests where the ones who observed stars, created calendars, and kept historic and scientific records. Genetics was founded by a monk, the Big Bang idea was created by a Catholic priest. On the other hand, genetics was suppressed in the Soviet Union as "pseudo-science" contradicting Marxism.

So, if we cannot get rid of religious ideas, wouldn't it make sense to understand how and why they work, why they cause evil in some cases, and how to use them for good? Or shall we repeat the history:

From Linda "325 First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea - the Christian Church separates Easter from Passover: "We desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews". Don't you, guys, see the pattern here?

Don,

I am still not convinced that "religion causes harm" in general. I'll try to be as methodical as I can to explain why I believe so. David Hume lays out 8 rules of how to determine that two phenomena are linked with cause-effect relationship. Let's go one rule by one and see, for example, if religion is the cause of mass murders. We can do the same for other definitions of "harm". Some criteria for cause-effect relationship are, obviously, not met by your statement.

Hume, "A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE", Book I, Part III, Sec. XV, "RULES BY WHICH TO JUDGE OF CAUSES AND EFFECTS.":

"Since therefore it is possible for all objects to become causes or effects to each other, it may be proper to fix some general rules, by which we may know when they really are so." [quotes from Hume are numbered below:

(1) The cause and effect must be contiguous in space and time.

(2) The cause must be prior to the effect.

(3) There must be a constant union betwixt the cause and effect. It is chiefly this quality, that constitutes the relation.

AG: This is the first rule that does not work. It means that religion must ALWAYS lead to mass murders and homicides. Obviously, it is not so, because not all religious people are homicidal.

(4) The same cause always produces the same effect, and the same effect never arises but from the same cause. This principle we derive from experience, and is the source of most of our philosophical reasonings. For when by any clear experiment we have discovered the causes or effects of any phaenomenon, we immediately extend our observation to every phenomenon of the same kind, without waiting for that constant repetition, from which the first idea of this relation is derived.

AG: This is the second rule that does not work, because not all mass murders and homicides are committed by religious people.

(5) There is another principle, which hangs upon this, viz. that where several different objects produce the same effect, it must be by means of some quality, which we discover to be common amongst them. For as like effects imply like causes, we must always ascribe the causation to the circumstance, wherein we discover the resemblance.

AG: When we study mass murders and homicides committed by religious people in the name of religion, we must study mass murders and homicides NOT committed by religious people and NOT in the name of religion. We will see some commonality between the causes which will be the true cause. And it will not be "belief without evidence", because "belief without evidence" does not meet requirements (3) and (4) either.

(6) The following principle is founded on the same reason. The difference in the effects of two resembling objects must proceed from that particular, in which they differ. For as like causes always produce like effects, when in any instance we find our expectation to be disappointed, we must conclude that this irregularity proceeds from some difference in the causes.

AG: Apparently, not all religious beliefs are alike. It might be more useful to identify exactly the elements of religion which may lead to harm. But blaming religion as a whole for evils in society contradicts evidence. It's an emotional belief by itself.

(7) When any object encreases or diminishes with the encrease or diminution of its cause, it is to be regarded as a compounded effect, derived from the union of the several different effects, which arise from the several different parts of the cause. The absence or presence of one part of the cause is here supposed to be always attended with the absence or presence of a proportionable part of the effect. This constant conjunction sufficiently proves, that the one part is the cause of the other. We must, however, beware not to draw such a conclusion from a few experiments. A certain degree of heat gives pleasure; if you diminish that heat, the pleasure diminishes; but it does not follow, that if you augment it beyond a certain degree, the pleasure will likewise augment; for we find that it degenerates into pain.

AG: This stresses importance of measurable statistics and correlations in establishing cause-effect relationships. The article you quoted which I used in my OP attempts to do that.

(8) The eighth and last rule I shall take notice of is, that an object, which exists for any time in its full perfection without any effect, is not the sole cause of that effect, but requires to be assisted by some other principle, which may forward its influence and operation. For as like effects necessarily follow from like causes, and in a contiguous time and place, their separation for a moment shews, that these causes are not compleat ones.

AG: This points to "compound" causes. It appears that whatever component of religion leads to mass murders and homicides (e.g. your suspect is "unreasonable belief without evidence"), it may need to be assisted by some other factor to produce the effect.

I think this is a more reasonable approach to the problem that you point out. Don't you agree? I'd like to understand this problem, because your claim is not without merit, but I cannot accept it as a general statement.

AG, You are right that I cast too wide a net.

In other posts (not in this thread), I identified belief in a god that one can trade with as the likely culprit for the worst religious harm. Such believers are more likely to try to appease their god at the expense of their fellow human beings.

Far from being a moral guide, the Bible is a Rorschach test for the morally challenged. It allows one to draw pretty much whatever moral conclusion you'd like. If you'd like to have a Biblical justification for eating children, combine Matthew 26:26 and Matthew 18:15.

For centuries, killing Jews was the fad. For a couple of hundred years, it was witch burnings. Now, it's persecuting gays and making women bear children they do not want or cannot support. The Bible verses and manifestations of thuggery may change over the years, but there does seem to be a consistent justification of thuggery in the name of the Biblical god.

As I've said before, if religions were taxed for the harm they perpetrate, they would immediately get new revelations from their gods that would allow their religious leaders to keep their power and wealth.

Don,

I'm sure, depraved people would use Bible, God, marxism, or evolution theory to justify their depravity. This does not mean that any of these ideas or theories *cause* depravity. Much evil has been done in the name of most noble ideas. Take French or Russian revolutions. I don't see any pattern incriminating religion any more than, say, "liberty", "justice" or "equality".

You keep saying "religions perpetrate harm". It's not religion per se. Perhaps, ignorance. You have seen even in this forum that anti-gay sentiments exist even among atheists. Evolution theory can be utilized to justify intolerance to homosexuality just as well as the Bible. Religious beliefs are not the source of ignorance.

I'm not sure what you mean by "trading with a god". The closest meaning I can find is "trading with one's consciousness". Well, people who do that, religious or not, are immoral by definition.

I can support many of your causes - equal rights for homosexuals, opposition to ban on abortions (which is different from accepting abortions as moral), or addressing power abuse by religious leaders. I just think that atheists make a mistake tying these causes to religion and attacking religious beliefs instead of attacking particular behaviors. To me, it feels more like using dynamite to catch a few fish of particular species than "casting a net too wide". This tactic alienates a lot of potential supporters. Don't you think?

I agree that people can use a variety of bogus rationalizations to justify their horrific actions. The antidote is critical thinking, skepticism, demanding evidence, and making everyone take responsibility for their actions.

Consider that a central tenet of Christianity is "faith", effectively, "We don't have a damn bit of evidence for our god claims, but you should believe them anyway. Just because. God will get you if you ask questions. Oh, and God talks directly through us and tells us what you should do, so if you want your perpetual orgasm, do as we say, and we're not responsible for any of that." Notice how "faith" sabotages exactly those mechanisms that would mitigate the harm.

Let's take an example of religious harm. Faith-heads believe the Christian god wrote their Bible. The Bible lists a DIRECT COMMAND from this god: "Exodus 22:18: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." Pope Innocent VIII declares that if there are witches around, they will prevent the drooling believers from getting their trip to heaven and their perpetual orgasm. The drooling believers want to please their god for hedonistic reasons so they happily TRADE the lives of suspected witches (real people) to try to make their god happy (fantasy). Tens of thousands of people, mostly women, are brutally tortured and killed. Harm. Religious believe caused harm in this case. Reason, skepticism, empathy, and responsibility were all sabotaged by religion.

Along the way, somebody could have asked if there was such a thing as witches. There aren't and there never have been. The author of the Bible had no clue. Nobody in the religion had a clue. It was a free pass to kill people and nobody thought to question it or take responsibility for their actions. Then comes the enlightenment and people wake up from this nightmare and pretend it never happened. I think all Christians should be made to fully understand the harm their religion has caused. Most Christians would prefer to rationalize it and forget it. The only thing that matters is their perpetual orgasm (fantasy).

You accuse me of casting too wide a net, but please understand that little has changed since the 1500s. Christianity still has "faith" (defined above) as a foundation, only the non-believers are asking for evidence, believers still care more about their afterlife fantasies than real people, Popes and religious leaders are still browbeating the gullible, there is precious little responsibility. I can (and have) listed dozens of examples where religious harm is going on today.

Aren't Christianity's consistent moral failures a cause for concern for you? How is it that the followers of God so consistently get the wrong answer? You (all) claim that God is the Author of morality. You (all) claim that God is smart, powerful, and that He created all humans. You (all) claim that God can talk to you and even direct your actions through the "holy spirit". Where exactly is the problem?

I would rather cast too wide a net and prevent millions of senseless murders. I know that many Christians feel "persecuted" when the threat of responsibility is raised. Tough.

Don Said: You accuse me of casting too wide a net, but please understand that little has changed since the 1500s.

Don, There have been enormous changes since the 1500s. The transition is in progress now. What we are witnessing is götterdämmerung.

http://tinyurl.com/9e7rnnz

Wondering how Christians can be fined or sued for their incorrect beliefs and their incorrect behavior is a waste of your intellectual and emotional energies. There are many powerful and persuasive words and actions that science will be using to speed the demise of superstition. Many of the good ideas haven't been invented yet. At one time, Charles Darwin's ideas hadn't been invented. - - - And then they were.

As the thoughts, intentions, and actions of the atheist communities of the world continue to become more sophisticated and effective, the decline of superstition will accelerate.

So you feel bogged down and mired in the 1500s? - - - - Get over it. He that gets hurt will be he who has stalled, there's a battle outside and it's raging. It will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls, for the times, they are a changing.

Church Official in Philadelphia Gets Prison in Abuse Case

In a three-minute statement before sentencing, Monsignor Lynn, dressed in a black clerical shirt and white collar, said: "I have been a priest for 36 years, and I have done the best I can. I have always tried to help people."

Turning toward relatives of an abuse victim in the courtroom, he said, "I hope someday that you will accept my apology."

Here we have Monsignor Lynn apologizing for doing the best that he could and always trying to help people.

Monsignor Lynn is a politician who continues to use obfuscation and deceit now that he has been caught and convicted. George Orwell understood this kind of doubletalk. Those same tools of deceit and obfuscation had been used by Lynn to facilitate the ongoing rape of children.

The extreme wonderfulness and perfection of God and the church that represents God pushed the lives, the health, and the safety of many children down to a very low priority.

This kind of distortion of priorities causes harm. The harm caused in cases like this is horrific and has become a public spectacle.

AG,

No amount of proof would satisfy anyone who doesn't want to know that all religion is toxic, but "frankly my dear, I just don't give a damn"! As usual your research and reasoning leaves a lot to be desired. It doesn't even cover the actual point of David Hume's writing. Hume rewrote the same manuscript several times under different titles. He wanted to improve on the writing. The final work was 'An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding'.

David Hume was a Scottish philosopher and skeptics whose, 'An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding' is a classic in skeptical analysis. Hume thought severe skepticism is the only rational view of the world. He is referring to things like an optical illusion causing the belief that the Earth stands still while the Sun moves. Hume's method of skepticism recognizes that our senses can be fooled but we correct them through reason: "A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence."

Hume's criticism of miraculous claims "That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish."

Hume's final version released as the final manuscript of 'An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding' was in 1758. "God exists, provided that it is logically possible for him to exist."

This argument refers to a belief in God and the necessity of a God. If you believe He is necessary, then you must believe He exists, but the fact of the matter is, almost everything that was once believed required a Creator (aka God) has been proven wrong.

If you start from the beginning of Christianity (Medieval times) there has been a great deal of violence associated with religious beliefs. Roman Catholic Church began a series of Inquisitions charged with suppressing heresy. There was also the Episcopal Inquisition (1184) and later the Papal Inquisition (1230s). The reason for these Inquisitions throughout Europe was to stamp out other beliefs labeled heretical by Christians authorities. The priests particularly resented the Cathars who laughed at their ignorance. Catharism and Waldensians in southern France and northern Italy was destroyed. These were the first inquisition movements of many that would follow. These people were massacred; neither do they, nor any of their writings, exist today.

Pope Innocent IV issued a papal bull entitled Ad exstirpanda around 1252, which authorized the use of torture by inquisitors. The organization is still active today under the name of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Prior to becoming Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Ratzinger was the head of the congregation.

When Puritans settled in Massachusetts in the 1600s, they created a religious police state where doctrinal deviation could lead to flogging, pillorying, hanging, cutting off ears, or boring through the tongue with a hot iron. Professing any other belief was a capitol offense.

A part of the Aztec's religion around1300s was the practice of human sacrifice. People were slaughtered to appease the sun god, who needed daily "nourishment" of blood. Hearts of sacrifice victims were cut out, and some bodies were eaten ceremoniously.

The Buddhists in Burma were still practicing human sacrifices in the 1850s. When the capital was moved to Mandalay the British governors stopped this practice

A practice beginning around 1500s for lndia's goddess Kali required a Thuggee sect to strangle people as sacrifices to appease this goddess.

The Mountain Meadows massacre was a mass killing of the Fancher-Baker wagon train at Mountain Meadows in Utah Territory on September 11, 1857, by a group of Mormons and Paiute Indians.

These are just a few examples of what religion can lead to, but it's by no means the whole gamut of atrocities. And there are some modern day stories that would curl your hair. But 'nuff said.

I firmly believe that the reason powerful people dreamed up a God and a religion was to deceive people about "God's orders" when it's just what they needed to do in order to rule, to justify atrocities, and to get people to go along with it. It was/is just what they want to do.

"When good people do bad things that takes religion."

Linda,

No amount of proof would satisfy anyone who doesn't want to change dogmatic beliefs. Your statement "all religion is toxic" is the one that does not seem to stand the evidence. Religion is very multi-faceted. There are dozens of components - dogmatic belief without evidence, fanaticism, cult and repetitive rituals, introspective self-analysis and meditation, self-hypnosis and anger management techniques, moral teachings, cosmology, philosophy, cultural traditions reaching far beyond any particular creed, history, centuries of experience in well-organized propaganda. All of it is toxic? Take repetitive rituals - is automatic, unconscious hand washing before meals a toxic habit? Shall we throw away and forget all of it or leave some parts in our culture?

Isn't it interesting that when you challenge dogmatic beliefs, people never answer questions directly? I have not seen anyone addressing a single point in my post with Hume's 8 rules of causality. I know that Hume rewrote his "Treatise of Human Nature", but I have not seen him changing or refuting these 8 criteria. Do you have better criteria to identify cause-effect relationship between two phenomena than Hume's 8 rules? I'd be happy to consider your rules. Or you might simply agree that I'm right.

If you prefer, let's take your quote of Hume in its context: "A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence. In such conclusions as are founded on an infallible experience, he expects the event with the last degree of assurance, and regards his past experience as a full proof of the future existence of that event. In other cases, he proceeds with more caution: He weighs the opposite experiments: He considers which side is supported by the greater number of experiments: to that side he inclines, with doubt and hesitation; and when at last he fixes his judgement, the evidence exceeds not what we properly call probability. All probability, then, supposes an opposition of experiments and observations, where the one side is found to overbalance the other, and to produce a degree of evidence, proportioned to the superiority. A hundred instances or experiments on one side, and fifty on another, afford a doubtful expectation of any event; though a hundred uniform experiments, with only one that is contradictory, reasonably beget a pretty strong degree of assurance. In all cases, we must balance the opposite experiments, where they are opposite, and deduct the smaller number from the greater, in order to know the exact force of the superior evidence."

I'm surprised I have to say this to people who boast their knowledge of scientific method. I hope, you would not argue with Karl Popper that regardless of how many metals conducting electricity you find, you will not be able to confirm the rule "all metals conduct electricity". But a single metal that does not have this property would destroy this rule. If you wish, here is a direct quote from Popper's "Science: Conjectures and Refutations": "6 Confirming evidence should not count except when it is the result of a genuine test of the theory; and this means that it can be presented as a serious but unsuccessful attempt to falsify the theory." In other words, we must seek for evidence that contradicts our statements. And only when we fail to find such evidence, we can call our beliefs confirmed. Have you sincerely tried to find examples contrary to your statements that "all religion is toxic"?

For all your examples of harm caused by religious people, I can find, at least, one example of good done by religious people based on their "beliefs without evidence". I can start with Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Those two examples are sufficient. But there are thousands of instances when faith and religion caused people to cease drug addiction, restore relationships with loved ones, stop criminal activity and engage in anti-gang work with youth. I don't say "God did this". But there are, undoubtedly, instances when *religion* caused these changes.

Some of your own examples refute your statement. Cathars seemed to be quite good people, by the evidence of Bernard Gui, the inquisitor who persecuted them. They seemed to condemn corruption of the Catholic church, quite like you do here. Also, some catholics showed themselves quite worthy during the massacre of Cathars in Beziers. Forgive me quoting Wikipedia: "In the first significant engagement of the war, the town of Béziers was besieged on 22 July 1209. The Catholic inhabitants of the city were granted the freedom to leave unharmed, but many refused and opted to stay and fight alongside the Cathars." Cathars were Christians, no?

Let's put it this way: religion sometimes (or frequently) does cause harm, in many cases, extreme harm. But it is incorrect to say "all religion is toxic" or "religion always causes harm". This is like saying "fire is bad, because it causes death, injuries, and destroys property". Religion is power. Power corrupts. But power can also bring much good, with safety measures and proper education and training.

AG,

Try again! Linda said, "No amount of proof would satisfy anyone who doesn't want to know that all religion is toxic, but "frankly my dear, I just don't give a damn"!" You're supposed to put quote marks after EVERYTHING you are quoting not just a sentence in the middle of the quote. Otherwise it appears that it was something that you said when it wasn't.

As usual your research and reasoning leaves a lot to be desired. It doesn't even cover the actual point of David Hume's work.

Philosophers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries distinguished moral explanations from natural one's. During this time period people tried to explain natural phenomena as possessing moral attributes. Before there was a scientific method to explain natural phenomena the accepted view was that the gods caused natural phenomena. Hume was finding a way of distinguishing between human and non-human objects and explaining why they do things. Cause and effect. David Hume was attempting to invent a psychological science to replace the moral science or "gods did it". Hume thought that to justify anything, you give reasons. And you justify those reasons by giving still other reasons.

Hume was replacing what had been moral explanations with (what he thought) were psychological laws.

Hume was attempting to discover the laws of human thought. Hume decided that reasoning that concerns facts are based on association of ideas.

This really has nothing to do with your assertion that religion isn't harmful. You're trying to use what Hume was writing in 1748 about why people do things to claim that religion doesn't cause harm. Hume wanted to find a way of distinguishing between human and non-human objects and explaining why they do things. Cause and effect. If you think any of this proves your point; it doesn't!

This is just another off the tract argument that doesn't mean a thing. It is not about explaining why man made up religion. It would be though; if any of it addressed why man made up religion, or the fact that man thought any phenomenon was an act of god.

There was plenty of evidence about the harm caused by religion from everyone. One good reason religion is harmful is because it's really nothing but hokum, but like always you're saying there wasn't any evidence; but those of us who can read, and comprehend what we read, know better. The argument is not about the cause and effect concerning why people do what they do, and I know you will try to make it fit you're claims, and you can keep on trying to prove "something" but you need to prove "something" about "religion" first. That it's based on truth. That there is an all-powerful, all-present and all-good invisible sky fairy that lets all kinds of horrible things happen to his (children) or creation; that we should worship etc. etc.

Linda,

All I'm saying is that you and Don count "hits" (i.e. examples when religious beliefs caused harm) and ignore "misses" (i.e. examples when religious beliefs are beneficial or when religious people caused significant scientific and social advances). Such examples include Isaac Newton, Gregor Mendel, George Lemaitre, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King. Religion (I don't say God) often helps people overcome difficult life situations, recover relationship with loved ones, overcome addiction, etc.

Hume said a lot of things. What is relevant to my argument is that "A hundred instances or experiments on one side, and fifty on another, afford a doubtful expectation of any event". Karl Popper and Carl Sagan seem to concur.

I got your point that "One good reason religion is harmful is because it's really nothing but hokum", but I don't consider this statement particularly scientific.

From Linda "...you can keep on trying to prove "something" but you need to prove "something" about "religion" first. That it's based on truth."

Linda, you seem to confuse the topic of this discussion. The topic is "religion" - a real social phenomenon. It's not about existence of God. I hope, you don't need evidence that religion exists. And, I hope, Newton, Mendel, Lemaitre, Gandhi, and King were real people and might count as factual evidence.

We all know the discussion is about you trying to prove Don Baker wrong when he claimed that religion was harmful. But that doesn't mean that you can redefine religion as not being about belief in the supernatural or worshiping a supernatural being. The Bible babble is supposed to be "The Holy Word of God written by God himself through the Holy Spirit."

Look what you said a few post back:

AG said, "Isn't it interesting that when you challenge dogmatic beliefs, people never answer questions directly? I have not seen anyone addressing a single point in my post with Hume's 8 rules of causality. I know that Hume rewrote his "Treatise of Human Nature", but I have not seen him changing or refuting these 8 criteria. Do you have better criteria to identify cause-effect relationship between two phenomena than Hume's 8 rules? I'd be happy to consider your rules. Or you might simply agree that I'm right."

I told you what Hume was talking about (and you are going to ignore that) and go off on another irrelevant hyperbolic tangent when you are proven wrong, what about that Hume thing?

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy - A Peer Review Academic Resource David Hume (1711-1776)

"He dismissed standard accounts of causality and argued that our conceptions of cause-effect relations are grounded in habits of thinking, rather than in the perception of causal forces in the external world itself. He defended the skeptical position that human reason is inherently contradictory, and it is only through naturally-instilled beliefs that we can navigate our way through common life. In the philosophy of religion, he argued that it is unreasonable to believe testimonies of alleged miraculous events, and he hints, accordingly, that we should reject religions that are founded on miracle testimonies. Against the common belief of the time that God's existence could be proven through a design or causal argument, Hume offered compelling criticisms of standard theistic proofs. He also advanced theories on the origin of popular religious beliefs, grounding such notions in human psychology rather than in rational argument or divine revelation."

Adopting those beliefs without evidence is a philosophy "ought" without the "is" facts.

Bible babble and other Holy writ is of no value to any modern society. These things were made up to explain the world to illiterates. These spiritual leaders wanted to be important and answers questions. But really religion is about questions that can never be answered and answer that can never be questioned.

The answers to our questions about the universe and life have nothing to do with a Creator or anyone's superstitions "religious beliefs" (no matter how hard anyone tries to make it work) it doesn't (it never has or will) explain anything.

Theology has never been about finding the truth or telling the truth. When scientific facts contradict biblical beliefs they prefer to ignore science; religious beliefs are philosophies with the illusion of knowledge where none in reality exists. Religion makes no effort to explain a thing it's all a mystery. It does not explain where life came from you just live it. Religion promotes the idea that we should all be in awe of everything; we shouldn't treat it as a problem that can never be solved by the human mind. And when evangelicals are caught preaching things that can be proven to be wrong scientifically then they claim religion is not science; the purpose of religion is to discourage immorality, when it has been proven that religion has little impact on society problems, it has little to do with morality.

Most of us have an innate moral sense which is genetically coded into us as a direct result of over one hundred thousand years of physical and social evolution. With the exception of some mutant psychopaths who run a muck killing. And religion does nothing for them or the insane.

Religions Cause Harm: there are many wondrous things to be involved in and to learn, which should give any intelligent person plenty of reason to live their life to the fullest. What does worshiping on your knees and listening to lies do for one? I don't notice god doing a thing for us. All of the suffering there is and god who could snap his fingers and stop it, but he doesn't. I've heard all the excuses, let's face facts okay, it sucks and makes no sense. Real knowledge does matters in the long run because authority can be given but ability is earned. If you know the answers yourself you do not have to give power to an authoritative figure. You give yourself the power to be your own authority. To act own your own knowledge not someone else's, to express your own opinions not someone else's opinions. By lowering our sense of self worth we let religion or it's leaders think for us.

What evidence is there for the existence of any god (there is no evidence) all you have is dogma. Atheists are not trying to prove anything about something for which there is no evidence.

Some people have no purpose in life without superstitious beliefs because life is too big for them - that's why they need fairy tales to keep them going.

For other examples of positive impact of religion and religious people, you can read about Christian missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius who created Glagolitic alphabet on which modern Cyrillic alphabet is based used across Eastern Europe today. They propagated literacy and education among Slavonic nations.

Not all religious leaders are corrupt. I grew up in Western Ukraine where people have very high regard for Archbishop Sheptytsky. He "strove for greater understanding and "the movement towards church unity" between the Christian Churches of East and West." [http://www.lvov.us/famous-people/andrey-sheptytsky]. He sponsored foundation of schools, museums, libraries, and nature parks. During the Soviet occupation of Western Ukraine, his family was murdered, and he initially welcomed Nazis, but he quickly realized the real intentions of Nazis and opposed them. In spite of the death penalty for sheltering Jews, he hid 21 Jewish children in his cathedral and hundreds of Jews in monasteries. Unfortunately, most information about him is in Ukrainian.

It is important to remember the killing of Jews, burning witches, and Inquisition. But overlooking positive examples is neglecting evidence. Again, I do not argue for existence of God. I argue that religion plays a huge role in human history, and this role is far from being always negative.

AG,

The claim is that religious movements are backed by an all-knowing god who is the author of morality and that those people are following his directives. When such movements prove to be total failures in so many ways, one can be be reasonably certain the whole idea is a fraud. It only takes one such example to show that those assumptions are false. Of course, the apologists will then go into spin mode and make excuses. They might be convincing to the gullible, but not to me. I call it "apologetics aerobics" as it's something of an endurance activity.

Christianity has tens of thousands of branches with differing doctrine and agendas. Does Christianity get credit if one of those branches does something right? I see it like getting a multiple choice exam and circling all of the answers. Yes, the right answer was selected, but so were the wrong ones. At best, this seems to be guessing. If God were an objective reality, they would arrive at the same answer.

Yes, Christianity's not all bad. If it were, it wouldn't persist. But a strong case can be made that its evils are far worse than its goods. How many bowls of soup (with a religious message attached) make up for the deaths of millions? When you count missionary work, don't forget to count the number of deaths, especially in the Americas, from the diseases brought by the missionaries. Missionary work is just cultural imperialism, by the way. As for ecumenicism, consider that the Holocaust was a joint effort between the Protestants and the Catholics against the Jews. The current Pope was a former Nazi youth who, if he really was selected by God, could have done something noble with his position. His excuse: "everybody was doing it".

You say you don't want to argue for god. I get that: it's an indefensible position. You'll find no argument here that religion plays a huge role in human history. Gullible people are easily manipulated and can do good, but the lasting impact, I think has been the great harm done in the name of religion. It is that harm that dives me and other atheists to work to expose the harm and to try to work against the gullibility ("faith") that sets up that harm.

Silly me!

What conversation about good/evil accounting concerning religion would be complete without including the afterlife. Since atheists don't believe in an afterlife, we don't include it in our calculations, but for the Christians, that's an overriding concern.

So when a Christian does something good that also happens to please his god, he increases his chance of getting an INFINITE reward -- a trip to eternal bliss in heaven -- something I call the perpetual orgasm in honor of C S Lewis. With this in mind, there's little good that Christians do that isn't just hedonism, right.

And if a Christian does something horrible to his fellow man, he just has a magic cracker, says a "beseech Thee", drops a little more money in the collection plate and he too goes to heaven and gets his orgasm.

Meanwhile it doesn't matter at all, really, what the do-gooder atheist does. His actions will never overcome the fact that the Christian god will torture him for all eternity for not believing.

So Christianity's defining characteristic then is the lack of any real moral consequences of one's actions.

So back to the witch hunting, it's something of a moral wash. Those people who did the killing all get their infinite reward. Those that died got their infinite reward or infinite punishment. The moral consequences of the brutal torture and murder simply don't matter in Christian moral accounting.

This goes a long way to explaining why I can't get Christians to see any relevance to the harm that their religion perpetrates or empathy for the victims. They're getting their perpetual orgasm and everyone else has to make their own separate trade with god to get theirs. Nothing on this earth matters.

It is that harm that dives me and other atheists to work to expose the harm and to try to work against the gullibility ("faith") that sets up that harm.

Don, Sometime, you might want to ask Matt Dillahunty to use his imagination and to do a thought experiment.

Suppose as a child, Matt had decided to tell his family that God is a lie, that the eternal soul is a lie, and that salvation through Jesus Christ is a lie. Suppose that Matt had asserted these things, and had refused to back down.

What would have the consequences been to young Matt Dillahunty?

Let's not pull any punches here. - - - Let's dedicate these forums to the truth.

Not sure I understand your point.

It seems that he would have been labeled a recalcitrant kid and probably sent to some sort of military or religious boarding school.

As an adult, and after having gained a more complete understanding of the religion and its claims, he would be put in the category of having come to a different conclusion than his parents, after looking at the evidence.

Chuck Johnson said, "It is that harm that dives me and other atheists to work to expose the harm and to try to work against the gullibility ("faith") that sets up that harm."

Oh! Do you really think it's harmful to be tortured by an overbearing all-present & all-powerful asshole. 'Cause there are lots of your posts that really don't give me that impression.

Chuck Johnson said, "Don, Sometime, you might want to ask Matt Dillahunty to use his imagination and to do a thought experiment. Suppose as a child, Matt had decided to tell his family that God is a lie, that the eternal soul is a lie, and that salvation through Jesus Christ is a lie. Suppose that Matt had asserted these things, and had refused to back down."

This really reminds me of that song by Tom Petty & the Heart breakers "I Won't Back Down" gee what a coincidence. Little Matt's family will probably pray for birth control pills or a vasectomy so there won't be anymore children.

Chuck Johnson said, "What would have the consequences been to young Matt Dillahunty?

Young Matt just needs to listen to Wesley Willis' "I kicked spiderman's ass" listen to it on YouTube. Maybe it would be also helpful to listen to Wesley Willis' song "They Threw Me Out Of Church"

Chuck Johnson said, "Let's not pull any punches here. Let's dedicate these forums to the truth."

Well O.K., I guess you could ask little Matt if he's been smoking pot.

Or you could just break the news to little Matt that there will be no more watching wrestling on TV until he repents.

So Christianity's defining characteristic then is the lack of any real moral consequences of one's actions.

Don, I think that you should always say "Christian Fundamentalism" when you say these things. A great deal of religion in the USA is now made-up religion based loosely on the Bible. More and more of the church people are noticing the absurdities and rejecting the parts of the Bible which are megalomania.

Don't discount the potential of this trend. There is more than one road to truth, logic, and reason. If every one of the Faithful would resolve to lose just absurdity each month, we would soon have a slimmer, trimmer, healthier America.

I intentionally lump all Christianity together.

I do this because of the Christian claim of everyone being able to talk to (and follow orders from) the same all-knowing god. They claim that the Author of morality acts through them via the holy ghost.

While anyone can discount an individual as errant, Christian movements provide fair game to judge the morality and sanity of Christianity. If they are screwing up or getting conflicting answers, the problem is obviously with these core beliefs. Christians love to claim that they know the "absolute morality of God", but don't seem to have much agreement as to what that might be. Bullshit.

There's a mind game that Christians play. They count the "wins" as crediting to Christianity and ignore the losses. It's called a sharpshooter's fallacy. We don't need to play that game, too. Let's credit the whole monstrous thing with the failures, too.

I do see your point that liberal Christianity is far less harmful than their fundamentalist friends. Jeff Dee gave a great critique of liberal Christianity in Atheist Experience episode #484, which is available in our archives. Essentially, liberal Christianity is sometimes the worst of both. It inflates the conservatives claimed numbers, aiding them. At the same time, picking and choosing from the Bible gives liberals no real foundation, allowing the conservatives to claim the high ground as far the depth of their Christianity.

I would prefer to separate the sane Christians from the label of Christianity. I think that helps move America toward being "slimmer, trimmer, and healthier" as you suggest, but it also de-fangs the fundies considerably as they become less of a perceived voting block for shady politicians to pander.

Don't let me discourage you, however. I think a suite of tactics will get the job done better than picking one or another as our only one.

I thought that Will explained this issue rather well.

Atheist Community of Austin (topic) 'Christianity and Conflict'

From: Will (Posted Nov 20, 2009 at 9:16 am)

"There is a dichotomous principle that I have observed among Christians which I term 'peaceful conflict'. Maybe a more accurate term would be passive aggressiveness. I will leave it to the kind readers of this board, whether Atheist or Christian, to suggest other appropriate terms. The gist of it is this: For all their talk of peace and love and understanding and unity, Christians go out of their way to incite conflict. On a personal level, it is confined to individuals and groups; on a larger scale, it is armed conflict and government policy." Etc.

Also, there is a so-called Christian left now. Maybe it's because the "Christians" want to take over the other political party so that this will be a theocracy, but the actual liberals know that religious beliefs do not belong in politics. JFK made a very passionate speech when he was running for office about Separation of Church and State. Nobody has had the guts to do that since. I know (and many people know) there are phonies that infiltrate groups in order to control them. Once everyone knows the group isn't unmingled (or is christian mingled) they leave. Eventually what's left is a fake group. Someone wrote a blog about this (who had this done to their group in California) many years ago.

Then there are the less aggressive Christians who are waiting for the theologians (or someone else) to solve all the problems for them. That's what makes religion so totally worthless in terms of addressing any problem.

If there are any human beings in the world that might have some courage or ethics left they will not be found in politics or in the clergy. Both of these parasitic groups' terms in office hang on the stupidity of their followers. The clergy and politicians blame all the problems on certain groups (and the public's lack of enthusiasm) and the clergy puts the atheists at the top of their blame list. Neither atheists nor any other group have caused the decline in their political or religious influence; these groups' own actions are doing it for them. Along with the fact that many people around the world are discovering the uselessness and the deception involved in religion and government.

There are great hostilities between religious groups all around the world, and they are at odds about their God/s and what He intended people to believe. These differences are exploited for political and economic reason continually, and religious differences furnish the opening to start up another war. Maybe eventually they will have to set aside their imaginary friend and the "sane people" will want to have real problems addressed by real people with genuine solutions. But most religious extremists will not give up their "favored person status" and start dealing with "reality". I think that they will never stop until the Earth is totally polluted and crime & war are rampant -when we reach the no turning back point (if we haven't already) and then they will not be able to wait on an imaginary, omnipresent, omnipotent being that never does anything. Until then they will never admit that browbeating and bribery is required to force people into god-fearing slavery.

I think John Lennon would have been a great influence on this nation to live in peace and work on the things that would have real meaning in their lives and in their children's lives; like saving the planet. It's the only home we have as Carl Sagan noted.

Those people who desperately need to find a purpose in life, need to find one that exists, maybe saving the planet would be a lofty goal?

Don,

I see a few inconsistencies in your opinion, if I may.

You said, " There's a mind game that Christians play. They count the "wins" as crediting to Christianity and ignore the losses. It's called a sharpshooter's fallacy. We don't need to play that game, too. Let's credit the whole monstrous thing with the failures, too."

Don't you do the same on the opposite side - point out only harm and disregard positive things?

You said, "I intentionally lump all Christianity together." and then "I would prefer to separate the sane Christians from the label of Christianity."

First sentence seems to be in direct contradiction with the second. Moreover, you seem to admit that there are "sane Christians" which contradicts the point "all religion is harmful". Finally, when a Christian tries to separate himself from Nazis and anti-gay folks from WBC saying that they are not "true Christians", atheists call it "no true Scotsman" fallacy. Now, you say that fundamentalists are "true Christians" and liberals are not. The root cause of this contradiction, I think, is in the erroneous attempt to condemn all Christians. Aren't you trying to redefine who is a Christian in order to justify your opinion that all Christianity (or religion) is harmful? Isn't it more logical to admit that not all Christians are evil?

As for picking and choosing from the Bible, fundamentalists do that too. After all, they don't stone adulterers, sabbath breakers, and disobedient children. It's impossible to interpret the Bible literally. It's even silly as the Bible is full of parables.

Chuck Johnson said, "So Christianity's defining characteristic then is the lack of any real moral consequences of one's actions."

If you're a Christian you don't have answer for anything you've ever done, Jesus does!

Chuck Johnson said, "Don, I think that you should always say "Christian Fundamentalism" when you say these things. A great deal of religion in the USA is now made-up religion based loosely on the Bible. More and more of the church people are noticing the absurdities and rejecting the parts of the Bible which are megalomania."

So, what's the point? There is nothing new about Christians (or any other religious sect) ignoring things in their Holy Books that are blatantly wrong - or trying to reinterpret the bible babble that is blatantly wrong so that it will seem correct.

Chuck Johnson said, "Don't discount the potential of this trend. There is more than one road to truth, logic, and reason. If every one of the Faithful would resolve to lose just absurdity each month, we would soon have a slimmer, trimmer, healthier America."

I don't think so. In America religion is big business (Churches probably have more money than the government) you will seldom (if ever) hear any other point of view! Besides - when you've got farting rednecks by the balls their hearts and minds will follow.

AG said, "For other examples of positive impact of religion and religious people..."

We were talking about the man made up institution of religion. We were never talking about people who profess a religion.

We don't know how many people in the past would have chucked religion if there hadn't been a social social stigma or a death sentence hanging over their heads if they did. And that goes for today in many countries. There are famous writers and all kinds of people today that wait until they are retired to tell everyone that they are atheists. There have also been many advances in science since Newton and etc. Lot's of people that were only agnostics would have been atheists if they had known about Darwin's theory of evolution.

I know that you et al have a busy schedule, but perhaps you can find the time to take note of the fact that you've lost yet another debate.

I am proof that belief in hell can cause psychological damage. I was in the 4th grade when I was introduced with the notion of hell, the following weeks I couldn't sleep alone in my room because I thought that I would go to hell for talking back or disobeying my parents.My mother being the kind person she is tried to reassure me god wouldn't condemn me for not cleaning my room or playing video games instead of doing my chores. Despite my moms kind and reassuring words I had nightmares of me going to hell for natural sin.I was diagnosed with anxiety and put on medication that same year.I'm sorry I don't have any study to prove this is a real issue, all I have are my experiences. I can honestly say the things you teach impressionable children can have a major impact all through their lives.I'm not saying the belief in god alone is cause of mental damage but select fundamental churches and their teachings can have traumatic results on children. This is something I will have to struggle with most likely my entire life, an irrational fear that just because I was born a vengeful god will smite me for my original sin.

Crystal Said: My mother being the kind person she is tried to reassure me god wouldn't condemn me for not cleaning my room or playing video games instead of doing my chores. Despite my moms kind and reassuring words I had nightmares of me going to hell for natural sin.

Chuck Says: Here you call your mother "kind". - - - Who decided that you needed to be threatened with hell? - - - Was it your father?

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