Re: 'Tis The Season

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This all sounds pretty likely to me. What it emphatically is not, however, is Good News.

It doesn't seem to me like this should be very difficult to grasp. If you can be excited by the prospect of a universe that's larger than humanity and not built around our particular foibles, and depressed at the poverty of vision of the opposite sort of universe, of course materialism is Good News. It's just not necessarily Easy News.

"Men despise religion. They hate it and fear it may be true"

I suspect it's common for strong advocates of any sort of view to in some sense secretly fear the other guy may be right. But the Pascal quote sounds much more strongly true of people who despise and fear materialism, not religion.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:26 PM
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From baa's post, on why religion feels like a necessary redress for the injustice in the world:

The need for good news is very great. Somewhere on earth, at this very moment, a just man is being murdered, dying in fear, humiliation and pain. And at this same instant some sin-soaked villain, some absolute monster, is dying peacefully in his sleep.

There's a line from an old case on negligence, "Even a dog knows the difference between being tripped over and being kicked." In a materialist universe, some things just happen -- justice is something we can make for ourselves, but it's not something we can expect as a right. In a universe where an omnipotent God is responsible for everything that happens, the situations baa refers to are His fault.

This isn't a reason to believe or disbelieve in God, but it seems to me to be a fair reason to be happier with a materialist universe than a theist one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:27 PM
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First, new comments are nto showing up in the sidebar.

Second, the hope LB--and it's a hard sort of hope--is that as the just man is killed, God sees his suffering and for a Christian God shares in that suffering. The point is that he's not totally alone. I'm not saying that anyone needs to buy it, but the idea is that even without obvious justice in earthly terms, pain and suffering are redeemed.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:40 PM
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Oh, I'm not saying that there's no countervailing argument for why theism should be comforting. Just that the argument for theism being Bad News seems to me to be one with some force. I'm sad that my friend Chris died last year, choking on the cancer that dissolved his lungs until he couldn't breathe. If I thought that Someone had deliberately given him cancer, I wouldn't be sad, I'd be seriously pissed off.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:45 PM
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If I thought that Someone had deliberately given him cancer, I wouldn't be sad, I'd be seriously pissed off.

I suppose that there are people who could believe that sort of thing, but that would be an awfully petty God.

I hop eyou've been able to do something nice for his widow. The one-year anniversary must be a hard time, and there are fewer people offering assistance then.



Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:49 PM
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I suppose that there are people who could believe that sort of thing, but that would be an awfully petty God.

Hello, theodicy.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:51 PM
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I assume that a materialist would be happy for the same reasons anyone else would. For instance, right now, I'm happy because my CD cases are coming along well and I'm listening to the Valerie Project, and I had a yummy breakfast.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:52 PM
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Soon you'll be dead, Ben. Forever.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:54 PM
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And this makes my breakfast retroactively not have been tasty?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:55 PM
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I really don't think anyone's beliefs per se make them happy or unhappy, but that it's their underlying temperament and whether their relationship to their belief system is conflicted and tense or easy and calm.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:56 PM
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Hey ogged, thanks for picking up the post. I should probably make one clarification -- it's not that I don't see any reason for a materialist to be happy. Hume was happy. When I was a (briefly) some version of a Humean/Quinean I was happy too. The point is rather that materialism (here, take as a synonymous with a universe indifferent to human purpose) seems like an odd doctrine to be the cause for celebration.

To DS, I am not really sure what this line of yours means:
If you can be excited by the prospect of a universe that's larger than humanity and not built around our particular foibles, and depressed at the poverty of vision of the opposite sort of universe

Is what's exciting that the universe is beyond our comprehension, or that we can by our efforts comprehend that which is totally alien? If so, that's an excitement equally available (or not) to both theists and atheists, right? What's depressing to you about the Theist story I don't understand.

To LB, sure, if we grant that the only solution to the problem of evil is a universe with an evil purpose, then purposelessness will look great by comparison. As a matter of sociology, however, this doesn't seem to be the case atheists are making: "Good thing we know that the world has no purpose, because before that it looked like the universe was ruled by Lucifer. Rather most "upbeat atheists" are reacting against some version of the alls well that ends well school of ethical monotheism. They reject the story in which, despite the unjust, fallen world we observe, there's a power that is going to make things right.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:56 PM
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Yes. I think that I should have said something like, I know that there are people who believe that God acts that way, meting out suffering as punishment for our failure to follow his will. It's just that it seems to me that people who think that way demonstrate their poverty of imagination. A God who could act that way would be pretty small-minded, easy to fit into human terms, whereas any God worthy of being divine ought not to play tit for tat.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:57 PM
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Ben's breakfast was not tasty per se, but his relationship to his breakfast was tasty.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:57 PM
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I suppose that there are people who could believe that sort of thing, but that would be an awfully petty God.

Well, no. If you're going to postulate an omnipotent and omniscient God, then anything that happens was a deliberate choice of God's. If such a God exists, He had the knowledge and the capacity for attention to notice the malignancy starting in Chris' lungs, and the power to stop it. And he didn't do anything. That makes it His fault, as far as I'm concerned.

Now, you can go further and believe in a God that not only chooses to perpetrate all sorts of horror and injustice in the parts of the universe we can observe (this bit is common to any belief in an omniscient and omnipotent God) but also makes everything all right in the parts of the universe we can't observe, and then everything's okay.

But if you're just a theist -- you believe in a God that controls the universe in detail, and look around at what the universe is like to see what you think of that God -- the picture is a fairly unpleasant one.

(And yeah, we're having dinner with her and his kids the day after Christmas.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:57 PM
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With God???


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:59 PM
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And her kids???


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 1:59 PM
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this doesn't seem to be the case atheists are making: "Good thing we know that the world has no purpose, because before that it looked like the universe was ruled by Lucifer.

It may not be what most atheists say, but that's exactly what I feel.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:00 PM
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to be the case atheists are making

It is specifically the case made in His Dark Materials, right? I'm not saying it's the only atheist case out there, but it's one of them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:01 PM
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Come to think of it, baa, I think your post has an excluded middle problem. You're wondering why materialism would make anyone happy, when you contrast it with a universe ruled by a just, loving, and forgiving God that will heal all wounds and remedy all injustices, as well as giving us all pie in the sky when we die.

Someone who finds materialism cheerful, though, isn't someone who's weighing it against that restricted class of theisms, but against all possible versions of the supernatural, which largely kind of suck. I mean, I'd be delighted if Christianity turned out to be true and I found out in time to be saved before that whole burning eternally for my sins thing hit -- eternal bliss, doled out with perfect justice and mercy so that the only people who suffer really deserve it, sounds great. The perfect justice and mercy thing doesn't sound all that likely, though -- nothing else works that way.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:09 PM
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11: Is what's exciting that the universe is beyond our comprehension, or that we can by our efforts comprehend that which is totally alien?

No, it's that the universe is not anthropocentric; it shows no particular evidence of being structured around punishing and/or rewarding and/or succoring us. Conceiving of an anthropocentric universe that provides Divine judgment may have some emotive payoffs (a mixed blessing, that concept is as often used for unpleasant purposes as redemptive ones), but it also constricts the horizons of possibility.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:11 PM
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The atheist loses the promise of eternal bliss, but with it loses the need to fit everything into a narrative that says what happens in this life is just a test. That could be incredibly freeing, mostly because theodicies are a lot of work otherwise.

They say that C.S. Lewis believed that God never gave anyone more than he could stand. And then his wife developed bone cancer. And then he never said that any more.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:17 PM
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The atheist loses the promise of eternal bliss, but with it loses the need to fit everything into a narrative that says what happens in this life is just a test.

That's a very Christian framework, though.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:20 PM
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His Dark Materials, ha. Try Hume. Any more down this road and I end up handing you a syllabus.

I think I'm going to reject the premises baa offers, because the atheist could say "Look, if your Good News turned out to be true, it would be really Good News, because it's reasonable that if the part about eternal life is true, all the other details probably have been worked out. But your Good News isn't true, as far as I can tell, so it's no more than a comforting myth. The myth might beat reality, but reality has the advantage of being real."


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:25 PM
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22: Well, sure. But given the world around us, the theist options are "this life is just a test" or "God's really kind of a bastard, isn't he?"


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:27 PM
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22: How so? I mean, the framework has to be there in order to be rejected, but not having to deal with that framework can be a bonus.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:27 PM
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I'm sorry, Baa, but this question is just ridiculously silly and blind. Why would one not celebrate the fact that one is alive? You die, your consciousness snuffs out, your body is reduced to its elements and those go on to become part of some other living thing. But for the time being, you have consciousness, which is a fabulous thing.

The "god will make everything fair after we're dead" theory seems far more depressing. If god can make everything fair after we're dead, why doesn't the bastard fix things now, while we can enjoy it?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:29 PM
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I've frequently said that if there is a God, he, she, or it ought to be fired.

The problem with the concept of the God who is making all things right in the next world, is that a great many proponents of this view also advance the view that the key to getting to the good place, and not the bad place, doesn't have anything actually to do with justice. Whether it's blowing up infidels, or 'accepting JC as your personal savior' it seems that God is interested in a lot of things that don't really move the ball downfield. Why would a just God care about faith? Why wouldn't works be the point?

I'm curious, though, to find out if the one true revelation was that given to the Aztecs. I'd like to think that my work involves a metaphoric ripping of the heart from the enemy, but if God meant it literally, a bunch of us are going to be spending a lot of time by a lake of fire.


Posted by: Napi | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:30 PM
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the theist options are "this life is just a test" or "God's really kind of a bastard, isn't he?"

Which are the same thing in the end. Who the fuck likes being put through stupid tests?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:31 PM
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"But for the time being, you have consciousness, which is a fabulous thing."

This would seem to be a point open to debate, actually.


Posted by: Cleo | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:32 PM
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Non serviam -- not just a great song by Mediterranean death metalists Rotting Christ, but also a reasonable response to a God that's kind of a bastard.


Posted by: ed bowlinger | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:33 PM
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Consciousness, individualism, a sense of oneself, whatever you want to call it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:33 PM
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24: I know you're being flip intentionally, but not really. Or at least no more than materialism means "yay no God let's kill each other and take their shiny objects." A philosopher once wrote, getting fed up with the problem of evil discussions, that the theist should answer the "God's a bastard" question on theist grounds rather than trying to disprove it on materialist grounds, and the picture gets really complicated once the theist has access to things like God's acknowledgment of suffering, an eternal life, salvation, grace, all of that. In some sense the theist and the atheist aren't even talking about the same things.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:34 PM
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that would be an awfully petty God.

If you're going to believe in the Bible, you're going to have to come to grips with the existence of a petty God.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:36 PM
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I'm pretty much with B, here.

Why are we privileging hopes for the distant future over the experience of the moment?

Why are we privileging the experience of death over the experience of life?

Why are we privileging the desperate, childish desire to be the center of everything over the breathtaking realization of how big "everything" really is?

I have desires for my life, the lives of my children, the lives of those I care for and those they care for in turn and those that will be cared for by the descendants of the descendants of my descendants, and I live in awe of the universe that includes us and this is somehow limiting? This is bad news, somehow?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:36 PM
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[Consciousness, fabulous therof] would seem to be a point open to debate, actually.

And what inorganic matter will be representing the "con" side in that debate?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:39 PM
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I guess I should have known that this would turn into another "religion is stupid" thread. Think about Dave Denniston saying that the year he broke his back and became paralyzed was the best of his life, and think about the fact that according to many of the theistic explanations, what happens during "this" life is just part of a much longer story.

Preview says I am pwned by Cala. Very well, I am pwned by Cala.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:40 PM
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36: There are points to be made for religion, but with all due respect to Baa, that post doesn't make them.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:41 PM
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according to many of the theistic explanations, what happens during "this" life is just part of a much longer story

An athiestic worldview hardly precludes the story being long; you just don't get to be the star the whole time.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:42 PM
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Sure, no god beats bad god. If a theism means the random assignment of good people to hellfire, then I can see the atheist appeal. (although I have a soft spot for dualism)

But no god does not beat good god. And the atheists I see are saying "wow, isn't it great that Christianity is false, that there's no ultimate judge up there." That's what people are explicitly saying, and that's what I find weird. Maybe, as DS suggests, it's because they believe a universe which has an ultimately purpose congenial to humanity is in some way a limited universe. Although I don't see why that follows -- or at least, what exciting possibilities are opened up.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:43 PM
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How so? I mean, the framework has to be there in order to be rejected, but not having to deal with that framework can be a bonus.

I was just thinking that neither of those statements (eternal bliss or "This is just a test") apply to Judaism, for example. Or any religion that de-emphasizes an afterlife.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:45 PM
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32: Well, I'm oversimplifying the "this life is just a test." A theist could believe that this life was something more complex than a test -- an education, or whatever. But given the obvious horror and injustice in the world, if a theist is going to believe in the goodness and justice of God, they do have to believe that our actions, faith, whatever in this life receive some appropriate response in another world, because they clearly don't in this one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:45 PM
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I'm missing the nature of baa's question: if it's just whether one agrees that "Men despise religion. They hate it and fear it may be true," the answer's no.

The question is further complicated by the fact that I don't register very many materialists as upbeat or cheerful; nor do I register them as disheartened. (The Good News! Bad News! motif is rather childish.) Rather, a full-fledged materialism simply means that we must roll up our sleeves and get to work making the reality we wish for. That's neither good nor bad, but simply is.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:45 PM
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Much of it seems rather childish to me. Tell me I'm important! Tell me I'm loved no matter what! Tell me I won't ever have to give anything up, or if I do, it'll be for a really good reason!

But, y'know, probably being harsher than I really feel.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:47 PM
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35: Heh, some people find consciousness, especially excruciating self-consciousness, kinda a burden. Hence the great pleasure some take in intoxication, for instance.

I don't think "consciousness" and "inorganic matter" exhaust all possibilities here, though.


Posted by: Cleo | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:50 PM
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39: There's other tradeoffs. At bottom, the atheist believes the Good God story is false. It could be a Good God story on a hotdog! and that wouldn't make it any more appealing. And ridding oneself of a false belief about Eternal Judgment, particularly in regards to earthly morality, particularly given that most religions have some bizarre requirements, makes it a lot easier to try to improve this life, because it's the only one you have.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:50 PM
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I wish the religion threads on my posts were more like this one.

Hey, Sifu, what's up with the poor man?


Posted by: djw | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:52 PM
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And the atheists I see are saying "wow, isn't it great that Christianity is false, that there's no ultimate judge up there." That's what people are explicitly saying, and that's what I find weird.

I think the person in this thread you're specifically interested in talking to is Napi in 27, and you're misunderstanding his (as a stand-in for all of the atheists who confuse you) position, which he states as follows:

The problem with the concept of the God who is making all things right in the next world, is that a great many proponents of this view also advance the view that the key to getting to the good place, and not the bad place, doesn't have anything actually to do with justice. Whether it's blowing up infidels, or 'accepting JC as your personal savior' it seems that God is interested in a lot of things that don't really move the ball downfield. Why would a just God care about faith? Why wouldn't works be the point?

The problem is that if we take Christianity at an outsider's face value, God may be an ultimate judge, but he's got some awfully peculiar standards. Evil may be an overstatement, but if Christians are presenting the things the Christian God cares about accurately, the ultimate judging he's handing out doesn't look terribly just.

If that's the alternative, then materialism looks cheerful.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:53 PM
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On the topic of baa's post, the reasons Cala is giving are why I said I don't think I agree: fallenness from god does seem crappier than belief, but if you start from the materialist perspective and see religion as mumbo-jumbo, it doesn't have any real comfort for you, and you might advocate against it as you would advocate against any false succor. Of course, some of the more public atheists just don't understand religion and are making a buck, but that's neither here nor there.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:54 PM
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At bottom, the atheist believes the Good God story is false pointless, and likely to end in tears as you try and puzzle out the specific chain of causality such that your personal fiction has informed the events of your life.

Or it can be a pleasant personal fiction that provides you succor in time of loss, but as such, is it really any different than the other little lies we tell ourselves? Why dress it up.

Sifu: objectively feeling punchy about this today.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:54 PM
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Tell me I'm important!

This is it for me; a caring theism elevates the importance of humans wildly beyond anything that makes even a speck of sense. An all-powerful god that gives the least damn about your individual eyeblink of an existence on this one tiny dust mote is a god that badly, badly needs a hobby.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:54 PM
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40: Good point. Generally, though, problem of evil type-reasons like LB was giving here is a peculiarly Christian problem: omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent god + (some bits about salvation, etc) + evil = headaches. Give up any of those and it's not a problem. Get rid of the afterlife and it just got a whole lot harder to solve.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:55 PM
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46: Dunno. I plan to ask The Editors about it when I see him.

49 appears to have been pwned by 48, karmically.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:55 PM
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I beat you to using "succor," Sifu. I think you know what this means.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:56 PM
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48: Actual conversation with relatively well-known Philosopher of Religion: "Well, it's not your fault Dawkins creates a convenient strawman, but shouldn't you clean up the argument for him anyway?"


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:57 PM
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Jinx! You succor a coke!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:57 PM
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An all-powerful god that gives the least damn about your individual eyeblink of an existence on this one tiny dust mote is a god that badly, badly needs a hobby.

That argument I never understood, really. If God's supposed to be infinite, why wouldn't its capacity for attention be the same? An omniscient God would be totally aware of everything, all the time.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:58 PM
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Cala's comments about the problem of evil (is the philosopher you have in mind Adams, Cala?)are exactly right. And I agree with her point that the truth or falsity of the theism is the trumping questiib. You don't want to believe things just because they are cheery. I don't imagine myself to be making a case for the truth of any particular system of belief or unbelief.

Bphd, sorry cross-posted with your mulitple comments. I don't think you're getting the point. I'm not trying to claim that religoin is True, or that you can't enjoy cocoa without it. The point is that, all things being equal, it would be better if there were a just God than not,* and so there's something odds going on (or at least, something I don't understand) when people appear to deny this.

*As far as I can tell here, the only person denying this hear is DS, and s/he's confusing, in my view, theism with anthropocentrism. Man isn't the center of the Christian universe, God is.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 2:58 PM
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Okay, now I'm going to switch sides and say I don't understand some of the anti-religion arguments here, either. Why does being an athiest (that is, not believing in Santa in the sky, more or less) have to mean thinking that the god concept is unappealing mumbo jumbo? Why can't the god concept be simply a powerful myth about morality and mortality and human history and the things that we, people, collectively think are good? Which seem important to me, even absent Santa in the sky. Why is it so bad to think that, *to human beings*, what human beings do matters a great deal?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:01 PM
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All things being equal I could eat bacon 20 hours a day with no ill effect, but being that things aren't that way, what's the point -- besides a vaguely cheerful imaginative exercise -- in believing it?

I mean, it's possible to believe all sorts of things; shouldn't one just believe that everything is at it's most awesome at all times and be done with it?

(You bet! say the Buddhists, which is a whole differnet story)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:02 PM
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it would be better if there were a just God than not

Better a just god than an unjust god, I suppose, but I'm with DS that no god wins out over either in the desirability sweepstakes.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:03 PM
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Buddhists are also much more careful with their apostrophes, of course.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:03 PM
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it would be better if there were a just God than not

Again, the people you are confused by generally don't see the God being described by prominent Christians as necessarily just. They're contrasting a materialist universe with, say, one with a God that's planning to set them on fire for engaging in premarital sex.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:03 PM
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all things being equal, it would be better if there were a just God than not,* and so there's something odds going on (or at least, something I don't understand) when people appear to deny this.

See, I don't see at all why that would be better than no god. Truly. Better why?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:04 PM
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The reason I find the concept of "no god" more appealing is because it has so much more explanatory power than "god", and I love finding out what's really going on with things. This handwavey mythological explication is all fine and good, but I want to see what's under the hood.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:05 PM
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Maybe the horror and injustice are just apparent. Maybe this is the best of all possible worlds.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:05 PM
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Better why?

Um, I like bliss? If some entity were handing out eternal bliss on a reasonably just basis, I'd be lining up for it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:06 PM
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The reason I find the concept of "no god" more appealing

For me, it's that I'm the one in charge of my own life.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:07 PM
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57: Yeah. Her book kicks all kinds of ass, theist and non.

baa, walk me through this. The atheist discovers that there is no God (let's elevate belief to knowledge and kick the epistemology problems into the vat with the bodiless brains) and you're saying, the atheist should find this disappointing, because a world qualitatively just like ours with a Good God judging everything properly and sorting everything out would be objectively* preferable than one qualitatively just like ours with no god at all.

This you find puzzling. World 1 is like a cookie and a donut. World 2 is just a cookie. Who wouldn't also want the donut? Am I following? You're surprised that the reaction upon discovering This is It is joy rather than a moment of silence and "bummer"?

*schmobjectively.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:08 PM
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67: I think most theists would view that as a sad illusion.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:09 PM
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For me, the no god is more appealing because it forces one to adopt a more humble perspective about myself individually, and us as a species.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:09 PM
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66: I can put you in touch with some E dealers if you'd like.

Seriously I don't even know what it means to think things will come out all right. Come out all right for who? Me? Everybody? Is our universe so simplistic that there's a correct answer? Does that further mean there's a correct answer to a life? To my life? Am I doin' it wrong? So reductive.

And eternal bliss, eh, I like the variety. Eternal bliss sounds... I dunno, a little trite.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:09 PM
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64: But that's not an answer about which is more appealing, it's about which you think is true -- you find the explanation appealing only for its truth. If God exists, that is what's under the hood.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:09 PM
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Part of the weirdness here is that atheists/materialists feel free to judge god's judgment in human terms, which doesn't make any sense in religious terms.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:10 PM
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The point is that, all things being equal, it would be better if there were a just God than not

This is a hell of a question, and nearly incoherent in what it elides.

Trying to take it at face value: sure, of course it would be better if there were a just God who took care of things for us. Then we could spend more time dancing and singing. We really wouldn't know what to do with ourselves.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:10 PM
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Am I doin' it wrong?

Yes.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:11 PM
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65: Christian Science: even more stupid than its name.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:11 PM
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69: Then we're equal.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:11 PM
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we must roll up our sleeves and get to work making the reality we wish for
then what? you'll die anyway and there is no afterlife for you materialists :)
i believe for example in reincarnations
i don't want to think that the conciousness i experience ends with me lasting only one life-time
i want to believe that there is a long chain of lives before and after me of present, that there is my continuation in the past and in the future
may be the next greatest scientific breakthrough would be the way to identify one's soultrace :), much like DNA for the biological-physical world
reincarnations that depend not on god, but just one's destiny, path or whatever and deeds
with ultimate goal of reaching nirvana of course and never be reborn again


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:12 PM
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So to recap, the atheist says "if there were a just God, Brock wouldn't be at work right now." And the theist says "no silly, there is a just God and the people who have caused Brock to be at work right now will burn in hell forever."


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:13 PM
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73: look if you're willing to back "god's judgment" back up into some fuzzy, vaguely spiritual notion of the wholeness of the universe as a comforting reality, however far out of our grasp, I'll happily meet you there, but at that point are we even actually talking about anything?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:14 PM
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The one thing that makes athiesm a bit sad for me is acknowledging to PK that yes, when we die, that's it; that he is mortal and will cease to be. I'm less sad about that as fact than I am about whether or not it makes *him* sad, though. And it doesn't really seem to--the idea that we die and our bodies become part of the earth and blah blah plants and then blah blah the animals that eat those plants, etc., actually seems to be one he's pretty philosophical (ha) about.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:14 PM
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81: And yet you allow him to believe in Santa Claus.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:16 PM
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73: Sure, but nonetheless, from (say) the point of view of *me*, my death by torture sucks, and you know, great, I might believe fervently that from God's point of view it doesn't and isn't cruel. But negating one's own point of view about one's suffering is pretty fucking evil, even within the religious framework.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:16 PM
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82 to 79.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:17 PM
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Part of the weirdness here is that atheists/materialists feel free to judge god's judgment in human terms, which doesn't make any sense in religious terms.

Well, sure, but objecting to that is making a circular argument.

Atheist: God seems like kind of a jerk if he exists. I'm glad he doesn't.

Theist: You can't judge God in human terms. If you had faith, you would know that while God's actions may look like those of a jerk, they are actually always good.

Atheist: But why should I have that sort of faith in him? He seems like kind of a jerk.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:17 PM
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Speaking of a just god: just, god.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:18 PM
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back "god's judgment" back up into some fuzzy, vaguely spiritual notion

I, personally, think of believing in god as the equivalent of extending the principle of charitable reading to life: assume that something happened for a reason and you can figure it out and make sense of it along with everything else you believe. I think you can get a much deeper appreciation for life if you think that way than if you're inclined to say "so it goes." (Not that "so it goes" exhausts the atheistic possibilities.) That said, I don't have faith and usually say "so it goes."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:20 PM
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85: seriously the way it's being described it's like religion is just permission to be an optimist. "Can I can I?" "Sure, my son, believe in justice."

Once you stop thinking religion is a necessary precondition for such concepts as "good" and "fair" to have any objective meaning, how does it maintain much importance?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:20 PM
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82: I'm starting to worry, actually, that when he finds out he'll be incredibly angry. But it's too late now; *obviously* if I tell him he'll be destroyed. Mr. B. is all insistent that we no longer try to make the illusion convincing, but then he was raised to think of Santa as a "lie" by his weird-ass German parents.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:20 PM
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But negating one's own point of view about one's suffering is pretty fucking evil, even within the religious framework.

What? Within what religious framework? Did you miss all the sainted martyrs?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:21 PM
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68: Baa hasn't responded, but that's the argument I understand him to be making. I think it falls down on the universal appealingness or not of donuts.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:21 PM
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Well, sure, but objecting to that is making a circular argument.

I wouldn't say it's circular, it just means people are talking past each other. If you start with faith, the materialist doubts don't make any sense; if you start with materialism, the theistic view doesn't make any sense.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:22 PM
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87: Ick. No, we create meaning because we are meaning-creators, not because (as Tweety says) there's some "right answer" out there that we have to find out. You can hang onto the principle of charitable reasoning quite easily--more easily, in fact, imho--by gettting rid of Santa god and applying it, you know, to like, actual people.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:23 PM
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87: I think that everything that happens is a reflection of the fact that things happen, and if they didn't I wouldn't have happened, and yay, me, so: yay!

Which is not to say that I value everything that happens equally. Those things most directly related to my having happened are clearly better, and those things most directly related to my unhappening are clearly worse.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:23 PM
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90: Actually, many of the martyrs (including Jesus himself) feared their martyrdom and prayed that they could avoid it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:24 PM
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If you start with faith

If you start by assuming the answer, what's the point of asking the question?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:24 PM
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95 is non-responsive, B. But I'm outta here for a while, so y'all can continue to kill god all afternoon.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:25 PM
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I, personally, think of believing in god as the equivalent of extending the principle of charitable reading to life: assume that something happened for a reason and you can figure it out and make sense of it along with everything else you believe. I think you can get a much deeper appreciation for life if you think that way than if you're inclined to say "so it goes." (Not that "so it goes" exhausts the atheistic possibilities.)

Comity. And, right, none of this is incompatible with any number of forms of so-called atheism.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:25 PM
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97: I fail to see how. My point is that no one wants to die horribly. Yes, some people see their horrible deaths as "for god," but even so they don't want them, and it's pretty horrible to say that god somehow requires them. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, the argument *isn't* that god requires them--it's that evil people who have rejected god do.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:28 PM
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I'm in the midst of making Athene's shield for my kid, so I haven't read all this, but I just need to say:

Men despise religion. They hate it and fear it may be true

is the weariest trope I can imagine. It's "you disagree with me because you know, secretly, that I'm right." Has the human mind ever devised a more smug framework? It's the opposite of discussion.

Needless to say, if anyone of you say that I'm wrong, you're just saying it because, deep down, you know I'm right.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:30 PM
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It is true that the "athiests shouldn't be happy" part and the "Men despise religion. They hate it and fear it may be true" part of baa's post were not well-connected, and in fact are two very different ideas. Some of the misunderstanding in this thread seems to be conflating the two.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:34 PM
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99: Eh. It's sort of a mixed bag. God doesn't want people to be martyrs, but God also can use a martyrdom as an opportunity to transform someone's life for the better. But I think you're generally right: evil is evil. It might be transformed, it might be mitigated, it might serve a larger purpose, but it's still evil.

91: I think it falls down on the universal unavailability of donuts. There are universalist versions of theism. But I think the great advantage, pace ogged, is that World 1 will be comprehensible. Thinking that this world is something that isn't controlled by a maybe just, but definitely mysterious all-powerful person, but something that people like us can root around in and learn things and improve life about could induce optimism. Plus, the donuts come with the Nasty Sprinkles of Weird Moral Rules.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:35 PM
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Plus, the donuts come with the Nasty Sprinkles of Weird Moral Rules.

Grated by hand, I hear.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:39 PM
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But I think the great advantage, pace ogged, is that World 1 will be comprehensible. Thinking that this world is something that isn't controlled by a maybe just, but definitely mysterious all-powerful person, but something that people like us can root around in and learn things and improve life about could induce optimism

Why does there have to be a sky fair for the world to be comprehensible? What's wrong with, y'know, science? Why can't we be optimistic that we can learn more about ourselves and the universe just by, like, learning about them?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:39 PM
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Russell argued, in this line, that atheism was not a depressing proposition because (I paraphrase) none of the great achievements of human beings- art, music, justice, philosophy, literature, &c - would be diminished by no afterlife. And they might even take on more importance: think of what we could create if we weren't distracted!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:42 PM
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104: I meant World 2. No donut world.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:43 PM
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Who the fuck likes being put through stupid tests?

if only God was an elementary school teacher, He might get some respect for his stupid little fucking rules and nasty authoritarian personality.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:44 PM
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104: I think you've got her backwards -- she's agreeing with you that a materialist universe is comprehensible by our reason.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:45 PM
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The reason atheism and materialism make me happy, personally, is by activating the Moneyball part of my brain. On-base percentage is to "intangibles"/"leadership ability" as evolution is to "God created it." Yay science and a world where you can understand how stuff works!
(Banned.)


Posted by: Dr. Zeuss | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:45 PM
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(which I suppose, in a theological sense, He is).

There was an old man with a beard
Who said "I demand to be feared!"
"Address me as God
And love me, you sod!"
and man did just that, which is weird.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:45 PM
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106, 108: no! Fight! Fight!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:47 PM
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Shit, I thought I discovered I din't have that much choice as to what I believe, although the philosophers & theologians keep telling me otherwise. I really admire you smart people carefully weighing the arguments and evidence and comin out Mormons or existentialists or Shintoists or whatever. We will arrive at the definitive conclusion to all these questions on June 27 2249.

Meanwhile, If Elect I will not serve! Still working on "nominalist". If nominalist, I will not complain?

God exists, and I don't like her much. Happiness is way overrated. The answers to many troubling meta-ethical questions are "Why not? "What me worry?, "birth, copulation, death" and "Sam Jaffe".


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:48 PM
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the urge for the world to be comprehensible is, as John Gray cogently notes, first cousin to the urge to make the world fit some pre-assigned order. So in other words, you God-bothers and you Enlightenment types are both of you basically Nazis, just like the liberals.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:56 PM
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Dsquared you beautiful nihilist bastard, you.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 3:58 PM
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OK, I finally read the linked post. I'm confused. Baa seems to be positioning "religous" and "materialist" as two discrete options. I don't really have a good idea of what a materialist is, although I'm getting a sense from this thread. But first of all, in the world that most of us live in it's not a choice between "Faith" or "No faith," it's a choice among "Faith, Flavor A," "Faith, Flavor A6b," "Faith Flavor 3RR," etc., plus of course a range of options including agnosticism and outright athiesm.

So when somebody says, "Gee, why don't people just believe?" part of me thinks Believe what? Which flavor, exactly? (Bearing in mind that for adherents of Faith A6b, that is the One True Faith, and not meaning any disrespect to them.)

The history of man has been a horrifying litany of torture, rapine, and cruelty, injustice rewarded and virtue desolated; and I dare say the future holds much of the same.

Also, I want to note that I think this is a generally miserable view of the world, and I don't agree with it.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:03 PM
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92:

I wouldn't say it's circular, it just means people are talking past each other. If you start with faith, the materialist doubts don't make any sense; if you start with materialism, the theistic view doesn't make any sense.

This is sort of interesting, reminiscent of the suggestion that moral argument can't get off the ground because, dude, it's not objective. Yet that's not the way moral reasoning works in the first place: a false model.

There is a common ground in talk of theism and atheism, and Ogged picked it out in 48 in a bizarre way:

fallenness from god does seem crappier than belief

Belief often incorporates a notion of fallenness from god. It defines itself in relation to god, whether as fallen from him or, say, born again.

Back up a second. Theistic views -- even those so stripped down as to be barely recognizable as such -- frequently subscribe to a conception of our state as one of always already fallenness, or alienation, a position calling for redemption, or at least perpetual striving. To understand, if nothing else. To construct some understanding, find some footing.

This is so stripped down that it's almost impossible to conceive of a stance that does *not* include something like it. Like it or not, (most) materialists and believers alike seekritly subscribe to some such notion of the fallen, both defining themselves over against some absent relationship to the godhead. Fallenness from god is really not to be distinguished from belief.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:05 PM
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Idiotic long argument from suspect authority coming! Brian Leiter now has a good Nietzsche blog, and in October quoted a nice paragraph:

"Far more satisfying (at least for the reader interested in Nietzsche) is the essay on "Thucydides, Nietzsche, and Williams," in which, among other things, Geuss gives an excellent account of the "optimism" of philosophers (since Socrates) that Nietzsche rejects:

First of all, traditional philosophers assumed that the world could be made cognitively accessible to us without remainder....Second, they assumed that when the world was correctly understood, it would make moral sense to us. Third, the kind of "moral sense" which the world made tous would be one that woudl show it to have some orientation toward the satisfaction of some basic, rational human desires or interests, that is, the world was not sheerly indifferent to or perversely frustrating of human happiness. Fourth, the world is set up so that for us to accumulate knowledge and use our reason as vigorously as possible will be good for us, and will contribute to making us happy. Finally, it was assumed that there was a natural fit between the excericse of reason, the conditions of healthy individual human development, the demands of individuals for satisfaction of their needs, interests, and basic desires, and human sociability. Nature, reason, and all human goods, including human virtues, formed a potentially harmonious whole. (p. 223)

Geuss suggests that "the basic structure of a philosophy centered around the claim of a harmonious fit between what is rational, what is good for us, and what is good for our society has been very widely retained" in philosophy (p. 224), and that Nietzsche's rejection of this structure figures in why he prefers Thucydides to Plato. This account strikes me as both right and illuminating. (I touched on these themes as well in my Nietzsche on Morality (pp. 47-53" ...Leiter

Ok, so the materialist position is(?) 1) The world is incomprehensible, 2) makes no moral sense, 3) the world is no help at all, 4) reason does not help, either, 5) it is all a maelstrom of a mess, without purpose. Might as well get drunk or become Emperor.

Oh yeah, new article at Stanford about Hume, free will, and compatibilism. I didn't understand it.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:05 PM
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pwned by dsquare, which is some hurting pwnin


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:06 PM
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112: If crafted, I will not pun!


Posted by: Merganser | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:09 PM
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the urge for the world to be comprehensible is, as John Gray cogently notes, first cousin to the urge to make the world fit some pre-assigned order.

John Gray sb Douglas sb Durkheim.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:14 PM
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Why does the no god thing have to be explained by Science! Why can't we just accept that we can't comprehend life, the universe and everything because the entire point is that we are just a small part of it?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:14 PM
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Explaining things is fun! And useful! We don't "have" to, but hey, neat!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:15 PM
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Well yeah, sure, but there's no way we're going to ever explain *everything*. Which you know, is fine.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:19 PM
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God to Jesus: What the Fuck did you do?

Jesus to God: Hey, I didn't do nuthin, man. You created them. Shouldn't you have made them *smarter*?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:23 PM
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Why does the no god thing have to be explained by Science!

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but the absence of gods isn't explained by science. It's that science explains the things that were formerly explained as "because God said so" which, let's face it, isn't a very helpful explanation of much of anything.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:24 PM
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Why can't we just accept that we can't comprehend life, the universe and everything because the entire point is that we are just a small part of it?

We are all the bitchin' commas at the end of Sickness. Even baa wants materialism to make some kinda moral sense.

Does bein a bitchin comma mean I believe? Fuck no. I believe I'm a bitchin comma.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:26 PM
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68 is basically correct. Although I am skeptical of the quality of the cookie.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:49 PM
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baa, I think that this painting contains the answer to your question.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:53 PM
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Conversely, that's one nasty looking donut.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:53 PM
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"Where I seem to differ from my friends is in attaching little importance to physical size. I don't feel in the least humble before the vastness of the heavens. The starts may be large, but they cannot think or love; and these are qualities which impress me far more than size does. I take no credit for weighing nearly seventeen stone. My picture of the world is drawn in perspective, and not like a model to scale. The foreground is occupied by human beings and the stars are as small as threepenny bits ... I apply my perspective not merely to space but also to time. In time the world will cool and everything will die; but that is a long time off still, and its present value at compound discount is almost nothing. Nor is the present less valuable because the future will be blank. Humanity, which fills the foreground of my picture, I find interesting and on the whole admirable. I find, just now at least, the world a pleasant and exciting place. You may find it depressing; I am sorry for you and you despise me. But I have reason and you have none; you would only have reason for despising me if your feeling corresponded to the fact in a way mine didn't. But neither can correspond to the fact. The fact is not in itself good or bad; it is just that it thrills me but depresses you. On the other hand, I pity you with reason, because it is pleasanter to be thrilled than to be depressed, and not merely pleasanter but better for all one's activities."

-- F.P. Ramsey, 1903-1930.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:55 PM
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130 is wonderful. Nice touch that he died at age 27.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:56 PM
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127:As a self-concious bitchin comma, I do agree with baa that the donut is much cheaper in than you/we materialists claim it to be, in fact, totally free!!

But there has to be catch, a trick, it don't make sense to give away donuts to everybody. And I don't need no stinkin donuts anyway, I'm tough and on an intellectual diet. Tofu & science make me stronger, and I need strength, self-respect, & intellectual integrity to remain a bitchin comma.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 4:58 PM
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he could be my predecessor :)


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:00 PM
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130 is wonderful. Nice touch that he died at age 27.

Actually, it took him 27 years to write the paragraph.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:01 PM
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not bitching comma, Ramsey


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:02 PM
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You certainly don't seem like a reincarnation of McManus, read.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:04 PM
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Fuck, man, now I want donuts.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:04 PM
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i like finding traces and clues and codes, thank you 130


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:04 PM
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134: think how long it would've taken if he'd been distracted by religion!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:04 PM
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So where do Twinkies come into the religion analogy, anyhow?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:06 PM
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Bob, in your Weil studies, have you gotten around to Gravity and Grace yet? I recommend it. "Religion in so far as it is a source of consolation is a hindrance to true faith: in this sense atheism is a purification. I have to be atheistic with the part of myself which is not made for God. Among those in whom the supernatural part has not been awakened, the atheists are right and the believers wrong."

110:
There once was a fellow named God
whom everyone thought rather odd.
Except for one lady
named Rosie O'Grady,
who worshipped the ground that he trod.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:07 PM
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i agree to be a comma, just only without bitching
Bob McManus, no offence
are you taking your words back, Sifu Tweety?
if so, peace


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:08 PM
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Me? Never take anything I say seriously, is my advice.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:09 PM
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you say seriously :( -- continued confrontation
or take seriously :) ?


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:14 PM
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I certainly do not say that it's a good thing that there's no just God. I do say that it's a good thing that the ridiculously unjust God, in whose name people have been brutalized time out of mind, does not exist. Not because of the God, but because of the idiots who confuse what they want with what He/She/It wants. Someday, people will realize that these selfpower-serving myths do far more harm than good. Which is nearly the only hope for mankind.

That anyone would fail, in 2007, to see the net negative effect of religion is astounding to me. What kind of God would let this shit go on? If your answer is 'one whose purposes are inscrutable' then OK, fine, so it's obvious enough that He/She/It is operating on standards we neither know nor understand, nor can reasonably comply with: God is therefore irrelevant to our actual lives.

In sum, my problem isn't with God. It's with people who think they've told him to mess other people up. If He/She/It isn't going to put a stop to that, what is worthy or worship?


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:19 PM
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He's told them.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:23 PM
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144: assume I am joking, all the time. Is what I was saying. This weird syntax, which I keep using, in.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:23 PM
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I have taken as the text for the D^2 Digest Christmas sermon, George Black's last words to his son Conrad (after taking a drunken dive three stories down the stairwell of his house, in what was probably but not provably a suicide).

I've lost the will to live. Life is hell, most people are bastards and everything is bullshit

Happy holidays, all.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:35 PM
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130 and 131

Yeah, died at age 27 and was still a stupendous intellectual bad-ass. It's all depressing as fuck, frankly.

Plus, the man's middle name was 'Plumpton'. Which cannot be beaten.

re: 112

I don't know. I've sat in discussions with philosophers where everyone present was pretty much agreed that belief isn't really a 'choosing' sort of a thing. Who are these philosophers who claim otherwise?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:46 PM
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re: 105

Sartre claimed something similar. That atheism was a profoundly positive point of view.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 5:47 PM
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145:

What kind of God would let this shit go on? If your answer is 'one whose purposes are inscrutable' then OK, fine, so it's obvious enough that He/She/It is operating on standards we neither know nor understand, nor can reasonably comply with: God is therefore irrelevant to our actual lives.

Thank you. It does seem that many of us want a divorce. From God.

On the other hand, maybe a whole bunch of people should die, since there are too many people anyway. Maybe God knows.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 6:22 PM
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A million teen goths on LiveJournal tearfully nod in agreement.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 6:25 PM
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Related: Peanut Butter, The Atheist's Nightmare!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 6:26 PM
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153: fuck. I take it all back.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 6:29 PM
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A million teen goths on LiveJournal tearfully nod in agreement.

Sifu -- fuck off. I mean, nevermind.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 6:35 PM
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153: There's a banana one too, previously linked here I think, featuring Kirk Cameron.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 6:37 PM
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156: oh, I know all about the banana.

155: aw; see 147.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 6:39 PM
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157b. In the spirit of comity, okay, this time. Don't joke about the people dying in the rotting squalor, m'kay.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 6:50 PM
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158: I'll stop when they stop.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 6:51 PM
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Sifu is banned.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 6:52 PM
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That's only in parts of the British Commonwealth, dsquared. Here in America, everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 6:55 PM
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if only God was an elementary school teacher, He might get some respect for his stupid little fucking rules and nasty authoritarian personality.

You know, actually it doesn't work out that way. Sister Mary Roberts got plenty of fear, sure, but not so much respect.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 7:04 PM
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153: Part of my resistance to baa's argument is that I have a really hard time believing that the Peanut Butter Theist is all that happy - and if he is, I find myself contemptuous, not envious, of his happiness.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 7:23 PM
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I've sat in discussions with philosophers where everyone present was pretty much agreed that belief isn't really a 'choosing' sort of a thing.

It totally isn't. Even Pascal recognized that; his Wager might decide your will, but your actual belief in God comes about through basically imitating believers until you believe.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 7:35 PM
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The line about "people hate religion because they fear it may be true" really is annoying -- but, in all fairness to baa, relatively unrelated to what he says in the rest of the post.

Reading this whole thread has made me realize that my views on these issues are so idiosyncratic that I almost despair of making myself understood outside the very small circle of people who basically already understand "what I'm getting at." My basic impulse, though, is that we need to tear out all these categories and start new -- though I know we can't.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 7:38 PM
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165: I dunno, I feel the same way about my views, so I sort of elide them in discussions like this.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 7:41 PM
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I admit to finding baa's post and a lot of the ensuing discussion a little baffling. So let me return the favor. :)

It seems to me that there are some facts of life that any effort at a comprehensive worldview will have to take into account: both the sentient and the nonsentient parts of the world include really wonderful great things and really awful nightmares; we can make things better; things don't spontaneously get better unless we choose to try; no matter how good we do this time, some innocents will suffer and some villains will escape their just desserts; and so on. Basically, life has enormous potential, but fulfilling it requires effort. But none of this points exclusively in one direction. It lets us rule out the bozo-flavored claims of various sorts, but that's all negative filtering.

In my experience, neither the direction one takes with regard to the universe's big picture nor one's tilt toward optimism or pessimism actually have much to do with these sorts of generalities. Personal experiences, the insights of the individuals we are most inclined to trust, and other very specific things - plus tendencies that seem to go really deep into our early childhoods and for that matter back to our primate ancestors and Gondwonaland - shape judgments that we then justify in other terms.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 7:41 PM
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The line "people hate religion because they fear it may be true" really is annoying

Hey blame Pascal! But seriously, I can see how it could be. As I mention in the original post, and up thread, the materialist world-view makes enormous sense. Within that context, a claim like "people hate religion because they think it is false/think is has been responsible for evil in the world/think it is culturally associated with bad actors" also makes enormous sense. This is what I always assumed was (essentially) the totality of anti-religious motivation.

When I came across the quote in Pascal, however, it struck me as an acute observation: one that seemed frequently accurate, and which I hadn't thought much about before. There are people who don't want the monotheism story to be true. I don't *at all* mean this as as an argument against atheism or for monotheism, just as a statement of sociology. Adam, don't you agree that's it is true of some atheists?


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:05 PM
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There are people who don't want the monotheism story to be true.

Is that really the case? I personally find it a bit offensive in it's attempt to assign spiritual significance to hierarchical obedience, but, like, do I not want it to be true? It's not, so what are you asking me? Do I want the sun to be green? Uh, I don't know?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:13 PM
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This is like the reverse of Keynes' remark about Henry Sidgwick: "He never did anything but wonder whether Christianity was true and prove that it wasn't and hope that it was."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:14 PM
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This is what I always assumed was (essentially) the totality of anti-religious motivation.

I think your mistake is that you are assuming that most atheists and materialists have a motivation to and investment in their beliefs, if that's what you mean by "anti-religious". Obviously, some do (Madlyn Murray O'Hare, Richard Dawkins, my dad). But in my highly anecdotal and personal experience (me, my mom, pretty much every other atheist I've ever spoken to who wasn't raised in a highly religious and semi-abusive family), most don't. In my teens, I actively tried to cultivate a sense of faith, partly influenced by my aunt, who is very religious and also like a second mother to me, and an all around awesome person whose sense of purpose and emotional strength I genuinely admire: I could not do it. It's not a matter of "not wanting to believe the monotheism story to be true" for me, I just can't. Even trying to convince myself I sorta-kinda believed it at a very abstracted, philosophical, "cafeteria Catholic" took enormous emotional effort, and I never even came close to actually feeling it.

I have noticed that in many, many religions, the position on faith seems to be basically "fake it till you make it": faith only takes effort until whatever stipulated theistic construct magically transmutes it into something that does not take effort to believe. It seems like a massive category error to characterize the vast majority of materialist/atheist "belief" this way, especially in ages and cultures where an overwhelming secularism is the style of the day, even amongst the putatively religious.

Now, if you're using "anti-religious" in the inane "culture wars" sense, I think you're just flat out wrong.


Posted by: Lunar Rockette | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:24 PM
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I'm sure there's some atheist out there who fits your description, but it doesn't strike me as a helpful generalization. If anything, the contemporary version of Pascal's statement would have to substitute materialism for religion -- in fact, I wonder if that statement only really applies to people who are fighting the "hegemonic" view of their time.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:29 PM
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I suspect Pascal in any case would have been talking about anti-clericalism, not atheism per se... wouldn't he?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:33 PM
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Pascal is making notes in a notebook, and it's not quite clear who his target is. Personally, I think he was just having fun seeing how far this cool new probability mathematics could go... could it provide a reason to believe in God?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:34 PM
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do I not want it to be true?

On a gut level, I suspect it isn't true, but mostly I just don't care whether it's true or not. It doesn't seem to affect me much one way or the other.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:40 PM
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It doesn't seem to affect me much one way or the other.

You'll be singing a different tune from the LAKE OF FIRE.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:41 PM
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You'll be singing a different tune from the LAKE OF FIRE.

Life guards? humiliation?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:44 PM
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Great. Now I'll never get Cash's damn mariachi horns out of my head.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:45 PM
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You'll be singing a different tune from the LAKE OF FIRE.

Oh, I love that musical.

"Laaake of fire, where the wind comes bringin' endless pain
And the scathing heat sure smells like meat
When the wind comes tearing through my brain.
Laaake of fire, Ev'ry night the tending fiend and I
Sit alone and talk and watch a hawk
eat the liver of this guy."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:47 PM
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Hey Cala, what's your preferred secondary literature on Pascal? (the theology, not the probability and decision theory)


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:47 PM
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I am here to help, JM.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:48 PM
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horns out of my head.

Wait, I thought it was the Jews that had horns. Have I been lied to?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:48 PM
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Now I have horns and Oklahoma in my head.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:52 PM
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Wait, I thought it was the Jews that had horns. Have I been lied to?

Jews = Horns.
Prods = Tails.
Catholics = Guilt.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:53 PM
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that is basically the normal state of my head. Horns and Oklahoma, if not one, the other. What else is there to life except things that can broadly be classified as "Horns" and things that can broadly be classified as "Oklahoma"?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:54 PM
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Then there's Bob Seger's Fire Lake, worth mentioning just for Apo.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:55 PM
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While puzzled by 185, I'm still going to hazard, uh, hm. Buh... beer? Beer is different than Oklahoma or horns.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:56 PM
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nah, it's horns. Definitely horns.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:57 PM
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Horns as in Longhorns, usually evoked around here in the phrase "Hook 'em Horns!".

Hence the comparison w/ Oklahoma.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 8:58 PM
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Okay, let's see: math? Horns. Blogging? Oklahoma. Pubs! No, no, pubs are both. The Guardian? Horns, obviously. Finance, windswept wasteland, ergo Oklahoma. Child abuse? Again, Oklahoma. Well, I'll be damned.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:00 PM
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185: What else is there to life except things that can broadly be classified as "Horns" and things that can broadly be classified as "Oklahoma"?

Things that from a long way off look like flies.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:02 PM
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180: Not enough of an expert to know the secondary literature, I'm afraid.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:03 PM
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Wait, I thought it was the Jews that had horns. Have I been lied to?

No.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:03 PM
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Jamie Lynn Spears' fetus: horns or Oklahoma?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:04 PM
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Moses is often depicted with horns because of a mistranslation.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:04 PM
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Bonus point awarded for 193.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:06 PM
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His Jewish Brass: The Golden Shofar is the triumphant first novel from Philip "Bootsy" Pullman's new series of epic fantasy novels about ordinary man's battle against the terrifying forces of religion.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:07 PM
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195: There's a specific word for biblical mistranslations; Eco collects them (mistranslations, not words, pedants).

Everyone else: I find your lack of faith disturbing.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:09 PM
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And to bring it full circle: horns AND Oklahoma


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:09 PM
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Jamie Lynn Spears' fetus: horns or Oklahoma?

When are we getting the mom's parenting book? Surely that thing was going to give somebody good blogging material.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:09 PM
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198: "Blood Sniglets"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:10 PM
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193: It's for sorting out questions like this that Yahoo Answers exists.

(To be fair - they did delete it.)


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:11 PM
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199 was a religious experience, apo.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:12 PM
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Having derailed the God thread, I retire to bed, and thence, to California. Merry Christmas, heathens.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 9:14 PM
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Having derailed Jackmormon, I will now start in on the rest of you fucks.


Posted by: God | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:01 PM
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I'll cop to hating some religion, not because I fear it may be true, but because if it is true, I'd rather burn in hell than accept the god it promotes.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:08 PM
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people hate religion because they fear it may be true

I know I missed the substantive discussion, but this sounds like a straw-atheist. There may be such an atheist out there, but they sound pitiable to me. After all, they have such an easy way out--just believe!

I hate (some) religion for the reasons Nápi mentions: because of what it makes (some) people do. And I agree with Bitch in 206: the God of Judaism and of Christianity (the God with which I'm most familiar) is a tyrant, and can kiss my atheist ass.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:23 PM
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I know that I live in perpetual terror of Obàtálá arriving to repossess my head.


Posted by: winna | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:32 PM
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I'm with with #206 too: there are things I really don't want to be true, including Calvinism, strong forms of karma (particularly the ones that have it working across incarnations and therefore justifying caste systems), and a few others. I like to think that the right evidence could persuade me of them if they were true, but I'd certainly confess to being a hard sell.

One thing I realized looking over my earlier post is that it may seem I think that the localized justifications I think many people have for their beliefs are innately trivial or just plain likely to be wrong. But no. It makes sense to me that if there are universal truths to be had, they can be seen in that part of the universe we look at most closely, which tends to be our own lives and a few areas of interest. Not always, of course, just as you can't learn a lot about high-energy physics from your own neighborhood unless it's a really odd neighborhood, but for a bunch of claims that may be true about how the world works.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:35 PM
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200 godless comments, and few get the point. It's called "faith" for a reason: you believe something for which little evidence exists. God is a bastard? Fuck you, worship me. God permits pain and suffering? Fuck you, worship me. God is a misogynist? Fuck you, worship me. Once you acquire the ability to base your spiritual life around what basically amounts to speculation, bad behavior on the part of the worshiped isn't going to kill the deal.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:54 PM
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I don't see why the fact that God is a bastard should compel me to worship you, foolishmortal.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:58 PM
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209: Oh, I'm quite satisfied that religions like that *aren't* true. But even if they are, their god sucks, and I'll take my chances with the other guy.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:58 PM
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Couldn't hurt.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 10:59 PM
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Anyway, your description of faith doesn't really sound much like faith at all, more like cowering in fear that God's going to yell "fuck you" again.

And there are unlimited things for which little evidence exists. How do you going about choosing which to have faith in?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 11:01 PM
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cowering in fear that God's going to yell "fuck you" again.
Shorter Old Testament.

I wasn't trying to define "faith", just trying to explain that religious people don't have much choice about what their god does.

How do you going about choosing which to have faith in?
For me it was upbringing. Both of my parents are really religious, and they raised me that way. I doubt I could be atheist if I tried (I did for a while). Theology is kind of a battle of conscience and tradition, with reason a semi-competent referee.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-23-07 11:14 PM
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Except that religious people do wonder about what their god does. The reasons for theodicies weren't invented by atheists as gotcha games.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12-24-07 6:39 AM
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Appologies for not having read the thread, only the linked post. I'm trying to watch my son too.

Whether or not theist would be a welcome suprise if true depends on *how* the problem of evil is resolved. I would be incredibly depressed by baa's "good is rewarded; evil is punished" theodicity, because heaven and hell


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12-24-07 8:10 AM
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Ack. Shorter me: Either there is universal salvation or the world is depressing.

My son is biting his finger and then complaining he has an owie.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12-24-07 8:12 AM
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heaven and hell are not existent, you mean
or existent but in this material world
and because these are co-existent
it's not depressing, just a matter of acceptance
who needs salvation if you can be reset anytime :)


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-24-07 8:25 AM
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218: Da und fort


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 12-24-07 8:29 AM
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210: We've had a conversation before in which I made the apparently hugely controversial claim that "faith" doesn't just mean "believing without evidence." Since no one was convinced, I will just note my objection and let you all get back to what you were doing.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 12-24-07 9:42 AM
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221: I don't find that controversial. One wonders why more religious people don't argue on that basis. Similarly one wonders why somebody nonreligious should?

Former question somewhat rhetorical, latter less so.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-24-07 9:47 AM
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When are we getting the mom's parenting book?

Postponed indefinitely, right when Jamie Lynn's pregnancy was announced. Color me shocked.


Posted by: Magpie | Link to this comment | 12-24-07 1:22 PM
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Read, Americans are afraid of Buddhism because it seems hippieish, and at the same time difficult. I try to get people to read about Buddhism from time to time, but without much luck.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-24-07 1:26 PM
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i am half shamanistic also, so may be even more scary, ah?
are you a buddhist?


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 12-24-07 5:19 PM
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I have read a lot of Buddhist stuff, including in Chinese. I don't practice at all, but often find myself thinking in Buddhist Taoist or Confucian ways when I'm not speaking hatefully in order to ingratiate myself with normal American folk.

I've read a book about the intersection of Buddhism and shamanism among the Gurong in the south Himalayas, and also "Civilized Shamans" by Samuels which discusses similar relationships between Bon and Buddhism in Tibet.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-24-07 9:47 PM
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...laydeez.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-24-07 9:54 PM
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Ignore the polack vulgarian, Read.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 12-24-07 10:08 PM
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