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Child Abuse

If this wasn't a religious family would the state step in and remove the children?

"God is your enemy." "You will eat your babies." "God hates fags." These are just a few of the extremist views held by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. Louis Theroux spent three weeks in their company, locking horns with its leaders and talking to the younger members of the family to find out if there's any chance of them escaping the influence of their elders.
Source: BBC2 (tip to onegoodmove reader Jon H.)




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It's the complete neglect of Jesus' techings I don't get. What happened to compassion and a lack of prejudice? People like this just absolutely baffle me.

It's such a shame. My friend just bought a house in Manhattan, KS right across the street from a cemetery. The week before she was to move in the Phelps were protesting a funeral so she missed the opportunity to have fun at their expense. :(

It's the complete neglect of Jesus' techings I don't get. What happened to compassion and a lack of prejudice? People like this just absolutely baffle me.

Exactly! Jesus never spoke badly about gays. He was always to busy hanging around with 12 men!

"Who would want to marry us?"

I sure wouldn't want to marry delusional bigoted women. But you waste your life doing nothing but spreading cruelty, hatred, contempt, bigotry (you're full of the stuff), and being a waste to society and the world. Your family apparently excels at it.

"If this wasn't a religious family would the state step in and remove the children?"

I'm going to go ahead and say no. The children may be "brainwashed" into believing the "teachings" of gramps. And I'm sure Child Protective Services is gunning to find a way to take the children away, but there is no sign of child abuse here besides that which Richard Dawkins believes is being shown. The kids are well taken care of and are provided an education. Therefore CPS cannot interfere. Man are the some of the girls hot though, such a waste :p.

If this wasn't a religious family would the state step in and remove the children?

No, they still wouldn't, as is evidenced by their leaving alone racists, anti-semites, anti-government wackos, and just about any other group that holds & advocates views which most find repulsive.

This is a tough problem, as I think we'd all be happier if certain people just weren't allowed to be parents. But the courts have no justification for removing a child from parents solely because those parents hold beliefs which are repugnant. And the downside of free speech and a free society is that people get to pass along these kinds of beliefs to their kids.

The best we as a society can probably do is make it so clear how repugnant (and in the minority) these views are, that we can shrink their numbers in the long run. Though I'd love to hear a better idea...

If this wasn't a religious family would the state step in and remove the children?

No, Norm, I don't think they would - I think Renato and Kevin are right about this. A much more dramatic example of the point you are trying to make (I think) is that of Catholic Church officials (e.g., bishops) who have never been prosecuted for their roles as accessories to child-molesting priests. If the manager(s) of a nonreligious chain of day-care centers transferred a child-molesting employee from one day-care center to one in another state after the employee's pedophilic behavior had been the subject of a customer complaint, the government would seek to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law (and the prosecuter would likely seek publicity for doing so.) Do you know of any bishops who have been charged as accessories in a priest/molester case?

Kevin:

My suggestion: mandatory surgical sterilization for all persons with an IQ under 140.

Problem #1: who, or what, would be used to enforce this scheme?

Problem #2: similar experiments done to Jews, Blacks and other groups have proven that the human spirit cannot be contained, no matter what horrific means we might use to achieve the new utopia.

I fucking LOVE that bit where Phelps' daughter tried to get her son to give the "right" answers to her questions:

Q: What are fag troops? A: There's this nation of fags, uh... Q: If you're not a practicing homosexual, but you, you support fags, what are you then? A: You're a dyke?

Waahahahahahaaha! That was comedy GOLD! I guess fag-enabler was to much for the poor little guy to remember.

What Phelps' daughter said here, when asked if they were a cult -- she was actually right... They are the ones who are adhering to the tenants of the Bible, not the mainstream religions. If the Bible is true, then telling a little girl that her father is in hell is the right thing to do. Because -- as she said -- it might help her lead the "right" life and go to heaven. Life on earth is immaterial, compared to the eternal afterlife. If the Bible is true.

Also -- don't talk about "complete neglect of Jesus' teachings," as if the New Testament suddenly made that religion all logical and compassionate. Yes, Jesus is quoted as saying things about compassion and lack of prejudice, but he is also quoted as saying a bunch of things that completely contradicts it. He gives implicit endorsement of slavery, misogyny, violence, hatred -- and what have you. He once walked up to a tree, wanting to eat some fruit -- but the tree had none, so he got angry and magically killed it. He tells you to hate your family, and only love God. The New Testament is just slightly less absurd, nasty and self-contradictory than the old one.

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zaphod2016: IQ of 140?! No other qualifications?

Do you believe that logical smarts is all that's important for a perfect society? What about arts? And why would you shun the large portion of normal people who range from an IQ of 90 and up? Are you really so pesemistic to believe that the majority of people out there are genuinely crazy or malicious like the Phelps?

This whole BBC2 program is on YouTube in seven parts. The first part is here and the the other six parts are linked from there.

"My suggestion: mandatory surgical sterilization for all persons with an IQ under 140."

By your own criterion, I believe that comment has got you earmarked for sterilisation.

the target IQ is just 100. any more than that is just a gold star. the man who came up with the scale specifically did not want it used the way everyone now uses it.

i'm still deciding if i even want to see this vid... i know what the result will be. ah screw it what else am i doing? might as well be infuriated.

Ok, the state might not rush in and remove the kids. However, let's say the dad is athiest, and the mother was one of these protestors. If they got divorced (who wouldn't!) I wouldn't be surprised if the christians got custody, instead of the athiest... studies prove it.

now having watched the clip: these people are simply disgusting.

this is rape of the freedom of speech. it's unfair to the policemen who have to gaurd them and thier message is far more vulgar than anything else i've ever heard. i'll even defend the neonazi's right to speak their minds but this is by far too much. if you're willing to say something like this you should be required to defend your words rather than hide behind the unfortunate police officers whose time you are wasting. it is an attack on a person's funeral and a verbal assault on the family.

they look at one line in the most back asswards part of the bible and ignore every last one of jesus' teachings, which i believe to be the source of the christ part of the word christianity, although in america i am clearly mistaken.

why do police always try to stop war protestors yet protect people like this?

i'm sorry if this was all over the place and even if you consider the things i said to be ignorant of the meaning of 'freedom of speech,' i just wanted to say something.

I attempted some satire above, failed, and offended some of you. Appologies all around.

For the sake of clarity: I oppose genocide in any form, including forced sterilization.

If they feel so strongly about hating America that they would go to a soldiers funeral to tell his family he's going to hell for fighting for the US, why do they live here?

Also, I hope one of their kids turns out gay, there's like a 1 in 10 chance, and they have at least 10 males. There's bound to be one, so I'm rooting for that kid.

You guys should see the link I posted of Fred Phelps on "The Awful Truth." So friggin' funny!

If they feel so strongly about hating America that they would go to a soldiers funeral to tell his family he's going to hell for fighting for the US, why do they live here?

Because they enjoy the same freedom we all do which includes the right to try and convince others of our views.

Ok, the state might not rush in and remove the kids. However, let's say the dad is athiest, and the mother was one of these protestors. If they got divorced (who wouldn't!) I wouldn't be surprised if the christians got custody, instead of the athiest... studies prove it.

Sorry, gotta cry foul. You had a point in there, but I think you overstated it by quite a bit. Studies may prove that courts are statistically more likely to side with an theist parent than an atheist one (which in itself may be unjust, though there could be some other factors like strong community support which offer some partial justification).

But there is no study that proves courts favor hard core extremists like the phelps over atheists with mainstream views. If you had a family like this, and the mom split and said she didn't believe in all the anti-gay hate these folks are spewing, I'd be willing to bet the court would favor her for custody (even if she also professed to be an atheist).

@Kevin:

Bullshit. http://atheism.about.com/b/a/256589.htm

There is a list of cases and how they were ruled, and why religion was important to why the parent got custody in the text of the ruling.

Just because these xtians are protesting gay in front of funerals doesn't make it any different from xtians who teach it to their children at home.

it's not a stretch in my mind that these people are just xtians "spreading the word" like the good book says to.

I wonder if anyone would be interested in joining me in picketing Red Lobsters with signs that say "God hates shellfish."

Hey I'll go to Red Lobster. I'll picket, but I'm also gonna enjoy the cheese-biscuits.

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jay writes:"I wonder if anyone would be interested in joining me in picketing Red Lobsters with signs that say "God hates shellfish."

this is an EXCELLENT point and i wanted to second the motion even though i know its been made here before. "abomination" is a horrible translation of the word "to'eva" in hebrew, but the mere fact that the same word is used to describe homosexual acts (and a very specific homosexual act, btw, not the entire spectrum of possible homosexual acts) and shellfish should be a clue to any thinking person that its quite a stretch to move from the use of this particular adjective to the notion that god "hates" the subject of the adjective.god obviously (in the context of the bible, of course) CREATED shellfish and, if modern scientific theories are to be given credence, also created homosexuality. the fact that god forbids the use of things he created is an interesting theological point for discussion but does not in any way imply that he hates those things. i think gods statement regarding his "feelings" about creation-"and god saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good"- is much clearer than the meaning or implications of the word to'eva.

these people are simply morons, but i don't think god created them morons, as he might have made them, say, homosexuals or shellfish or homosexual shellfish.:) the point i wanted to make is that they are morons not because of their adherance to gods word (although there are plenty of those too) but rather the opposite.

Luke 19:27 But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.

Yep, real peaceful like though, with love and mercy in your hearts… and clean up the mess when your done!

On a positive note, Phelps' and his lot are opening eyes to the absurdity of the bible with their strict interpretation

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"Who would want to marry us?"

Only with humans.

These people aren't extreme enough. The Bible says kill unbelievers and so forth. Unless they are secretly killing people, then they too are ignoring the Bible's teachings. The only people who truly follow their religious texts are terrorists.

@Willey

Go back and re-read what I wrote and calm down. You come off as bad as those Christians who can't give an inch of ground, even when someone is willing to agree with them most of the way.

I said: "Studies may prove that courts are statistically more likely to side with an theist parent than an atheist one."

and

"But there is no study that proves courts favor hard core extremists like the phelps over atheists with mainstream views."

You've provided a handful of examples (provided by a pro-atheist website, not any kind of objective study) in agreement of my first point, and provided nothing to dispute the second.

So, not bullshit. But poor analysis or deduction on your part.

Didn't anybody watch the Chris Hitchens video? Eugenics? Soviet-style social intervention? I am amazed...

I cried at the end. I felt so bad for that girl. And seeing that young boy just being a young boy while the credits rolled made clear to me that he is a victim of his circumstance, a boy who could be out doing normal boy things if he weren't restricted to this confinement he calls family because of one man's hateful rampage. Instead of living a normal life, making normal friends I'm sure he longs for in his "sinful" little mind, he runs the risk of being pelted by flying objects thrown from moving cars because his family thinks picketing funerals is a great idea to give us a message.

They call themselves God-fearing and say they're the only true followers of his word. They point to the problems we admittedly have in society and call it proof of their righteousness. They celebrate death as a warped acceptance of God's plan and merrily sing their own songs of praise because they believe that the recipients of untimely demise are going to hell for some misdeed that no one, save God, will ever know. They rely on ignorance and arrogance to promote their hate, hate that is never in short supply from their grandfather Fred Phelps.

I'm convinced that these people don't fear God as they claim they do. I believe that what they is more tangible and more terrible than any divine presence I'd care to invoke for any reason. I believe they fear Fred Phelps himself. And who wouldn't? If they had to grow up with him looming in the background of their lives and telling them what they can and cannot do, what they can and cannot believe, what they can and cannot even think without any other reason than an old book that be interpreted any way you want to then I can't really blame them. Who wouldn't fear a man like that? Who wouldn't do exactly as he says if he was such a dominating presence in their life?

A child is powerless, and that powerlessness can and will carry on into adulthood if that fear is firmly imbedded into their minds. I couldn't stand watching Fred Phelps' sermon on YouTube. I can't imagine what it would be like to attend one in person. You could see the fear of God in their eyes, alright.

I cried because no child deserves any of this. They do not deserve to be lied to, they do not deserve to be brainwashed, and they do not deserve to be hit by a fucking drink from a fucking car, I don't care what kind of sign they're holding. I would have liked to believe that we as a western and supposedly modern society were better than that. Sadly, I am mistaken. Good luck to us all.

These videos remind me why I shouldn't ever step foot in a church. These Christian bible thumpers are just plain nutty.

Wow fuckin lunatics.

This group of people isn't Christian at all. At least the elders. Their teachings are so absolutely opposite of what the Bible actually teaches.

Have any of you folk ever read the so-called "new testament"? If you think that jeebus was not a racist, you must have missed the incident of the Canaanite woman who came seeking a miracle, and jeebus said "it is not meet to give the bread of the children (of Israel) to dogs". Hmm sounds just a bit racist to me. Never let the truth (even that contained in your own canon) get in the way of a good lie.

You know, when atheists cherrypick verses from the bible to illustrate whatever point they want to make, completely ignoring things like the larger cultural/historical context, it carries about as much weight as when creationists cherrypick a piece of scientific data regarding biology or geology to illustrate whatever point they want to make, completely ignoring things like the larger scientific context.

In both cases, the only people swayed are the people who already agree with their point of view, and it reenforces their opponents view that they are completely ignorant on the topic of which they speak.

I think you'd be hard pressed to make a case that the 'so-called' New Testament paints Jesus as a racist. Apologies if you're an expert in Hebrew culture, ancient Hebrew & Greek, and theology.

@ Kevin Quote:Apologies if you're an expert in Hebrew culture, ancient Hebrew & Greek, and theology.End Quote.

Actually I am fluent in Hebrew (Ivrit both culture & language) Aramaic, & have Smicha (ordination). My Greek studies were limited to the 5th & 6th form studies in public school. It would not be difficult at all to make the case that jeebus was, like almost all of his contemporaries, "racist" by the definitions prevalent today. Todays multicultural illness is merely a passing phase, one that, as is said of so many things, "this too shall pass". All cultures in that era held to an ethic of "ours first, others (maybe) later". This ethic is still quite common in the world outside of the sickened West.

Kevin, what you say may sound fair at first, but you have to consider what kind of claims science and religion, and christianity in particular, make.

Christianity pretends the bible to be a moral guide, hence finding any immoral passages (and there are plenty) is base enough to discard it as such. You can say well, sometimes it is right, the human who wrote that particular passage is right. Not even close to the majority of christians say that. They think the whole bible is somehow sacred.

Science is not a moral doctrine, and it doesn't ever pretend to teach moral truths, only guide us with true knowledge of the world. So if a scientist says or writes something utterly immoral, science is not to blame.

Science speaks of natural truths, and it is self-correcting. When christians or other religious criticize one of the unsolved problems of evolution, they are not ignoring the context, they are doing just worse than that. They are just plain lying and/or being totally ignorant.

But if there is such a discrepancy of some data of science, and this is the beautiful part, and what makes it great, it will be discarded by the very same scientific community. Religious people, just because of their being religious, don't get a say on truths about the universe. They need to justify themselves, just like anyone else, including scientists.

Isn't this harassment, what they're doing? Stalking of some sort? Why aren't they arrested and fined and sued and what else? Why aren't they just beat up, for a change? I'm sorry but if this was any funeral I attended I would probably break one of the ten commandments. And if Dawkins ever needed proof that these puritans abuse their children...

"You know, when atheists cherrypick verses from the bible to illustrate whatever point they want to make, completely ignoring things like the larger cultural/historical context..."
-- Kevin

That's like saying Jeffrey Dahmer was convicted because they cherry-picked certain episodes of his life.

Andyo, to discard any philosophy or school of thought based on a single data point inconsistent with the message as a whole would be ridiculous. We do not abandon science as soon as we find a piece of data that doesn't match the current scientific viewpoint. We reinvestigate, sometimes we discard the data as a fluke, other times we leave it as something to continue pondering, and sometimes (after a lot of additional verification) we adjust our understanding of science as a whole.

I agree that many (most?) Christians are often too quick to assume they understand the bible's position on a particular topic and willing to adjust their beliefs based on those interpretations. I'm a big fan of science, and not an especially big fan of the bible (I do not view it as infallible), so you don't need to educate me on the relative merits of one vs. the other. But if anything the bible (being thousands of years old, written in different languages, by radically different non-western cultures) should be a lot harder to analyze based on a single reading of a single verse.

My point (which I stand by) is that the previous comment regarding that verse in particular sounds exactly like the arguments I hear from creationists. They pick a particular instance of one 'bad' data point, and try to make the case that since that point is bad/wrong, then the entire larger scientific philosophy must also be wrong. They approach with such a bias, that we are not surprised that they are unwilling to consider that the explanation might be more complex than it seems on the surface. But it makes for a nice quick jab (e.g. "The eye is so complex it couldn't have evolved.") that, although easy to refute, takes time, consideration, and an open mind.

Just saying 'Jesus was a racist', is about as well considered as my example above. The author assumed he could speak for Jesus' intention by the statement, and didn't mention, for example, that in the next two verses, Jesus hailed the Canaanite woman and granted her the miracle she asked for. Why leave that out, except to try to make his point stronger, knowing that praising someone and healing their child wouldn't really help the argument that this person was a racist?

That's like saying Jeffrey Dahmer was convicted because they cherry-picked certain episodes of his life.

Next time use Hitler as your example. This type of logical fallacy always works best when you invoke Hitler.

I missed Louis Theroux again? Meh, wanted to watch this.

They all gather together to protest. One or two grenades or a very large truck ought to solve the problem. Sorry, I automatically hate these people with every fiber of my being. They are worse than Chuck Missler proving evolution is false by opening a jar of peanut butter. I'll see you all in Hell. Party at my place.

"You know, when atheists cherrypick verses from the bible to illustrate whatever point they want to make, completely ignoring things like the larger cultural/historical context..."

Do you make the same argument against the priests in their bias? For one moment, do you think that we come even remotely close to equalling the centuries full of biased priests and rabbis who preach only what they see as the "good" parts?

You're going off on a major tangent, but sure.

I was referring only to the two sides arguing today. While there are plenty of examples of people misrepresenting their opponents on both sides, I guess I just expect a certain degree of ignorance from the religious community.

I'm often disappointed that the atheist community (comprised of people who are supposed to be more rational/logical) seems to have no shortage of people making arguments just as lame as their religious opponents.

No one is making the claim that the Bible is completely filled with atrocities, but we have already heard them ad nauseam and I think it is important to focus on the not so good parts in order to find the problems. We do this in any other venue of interest: politics, government, psychology, etc. Imagine that I saw a friend about to drink a poisoned glass of milk, even if the poison represented only a small percentage of the whole. Should I include the nutritious aspects of the milk in my warning? Of course not. And although I might replace my friend's poisoned milk with a glass of pure milk, this cannot be done with the Bible without acting dishonestly or ignorantly to the alleged infallibility of its words. And mind you, the problems do not come from a small percentage of the whole, but the majority.

Again, you appear to be responding to points I never made. My only point was that the comment about Jesus being a racist sounded good for a quick jab against Christianity, but was about as well supported as some of the dumb things creationists say about science.

Would you feel someone was doing a good job of representing evolution if all they did was point out the science that didn't support it, or appeared to contradict it, without ever exploring the possible reasons why the data was inconsistent?

I generally get tired of arguing with creationists who only want to point out this one fossil record over here doesn't support aspect 'x' of evolution, all while ignoring the massive body of evidence that does support it.

Kevin, I don't think you got my point. It was that the bible and science, say, evolution, do not pretend the same thing.

Thus, when the bible pretends to be inerrant, and divine-powered, it just takes a one error or inconsistency to prove otherwise. No scientific theory pretends to be inerrant, and even less so, divine.

You can say that the bible has to be taken in the context of its times, but, again, that is proof of its non-divinity. It is just a book. I don't think anyone would be pointing out inconsistencies in the bible if people just took it as another book. The same works for it being a moral guide. Some passages work, many don't, so it is NOT a guide, it just hits and misses. Science never pretends to dictate morals, only to gain knowledge so we can reasonably come up with a framework on which base our morals. If the framework changes, our moral view may also change.

When someone points out any error in the theory of evolution, or any other scientific theory, regardless of how much context they have or haven't left out, if the error is deemed to be worth studying, it is, and if it modifies, or even kills the theory, it does. And scientists just move on.

So they're not on equal footing because they don't pretend the same things. One pretends perfection, and the other pretends accuracy.

In any case, to say that the bible has to be taken into context, subjectively interpreted, reinterpreted, then you can just find anything defensible, by applying that logic. When one says that science has to be taken into context, that context only ultimately leads to one objective interpretation, the one that facts dictate, not our philosophical biases.

Andyo, thanks for a well-reasoned response. A few things:

  • The bible does not claim to be inerrant. It is (as you say) just a book. People put varying degrees of trust in that book, and look to it for different things (some look for a perfect-to-the-letter historical account, others for a philosophy on how to live, some believe it to be the 'inspired word of God', others believe it to be the writings of flawed humans who had direct contact with the divine).
  • Ignoring the context in which a book is written is to guarantee a certain degree of misunderstanding. One benefit of science is that its language is truly objective. But one can not dismiss another field of study (philosophy, say) just because it is not likewise objective.
  • You mention that errors (or anomalies) in science are examined if they are 'deemed to be worth studying'. Who decides that? Even science does not claim that there will never be questions left unanswered.

I feel that your argument continues to stray into a new argument on why you believe the bible (or any religious book) to be deserving of scrutiny. I would generally agree with you.

However, my original point (which seems to continue to go un-addressed) is that some atheists damage their own credibility by critiquing the bible unfairly, cherry-picking a verse, attributing a single possible justification for that verse (often ignoring highly relevant data regarding the language, culture, and context), and then using that as an argument for dismissing the belief as a whole.

I maintain that this greatly resembles theists who likewise cherry-pick a piece of scientific data, attribute a single possible explanation for that data, and then use that as an argument for dismissing the scientific principle as a whole.

More to my point (and the primary reason I only rarely get involved in these discussions on this board any more) there is another strong similarity between 'intense' atheists and theists: The inability to admit even the smallest error in argument in presentation on the part of one's group as a whole, presumably out of a fear that this would somehow reflect poorly on the principles that group holds.

Personally, I see really bad arguments made by people of faith all the time. And other (smart) people of faith are usually hesitant to acknowledge that those arguments are bad. I likewise see really bad arguments made by atheists all the time. And I am always disappointed to see that other (smart) atheists are usually just as unlikely to acknowledge the poor arguments made by their side.

Rare, it seems, are the people who can truly sit objectively, without bias or emotional investment, and just referee the arguments themselves, calling fouls on both sides equally.

I still don't quite understand why exactly the ACLU goes out of its way to defend people like this. Yeah, they have a right to say whatever, but I really don't understand why it is necessary that they be able to picket on the same black that the funeral is taking place. I know what they're trying to do and I believe that the heart is in the right place, but come on. Pick your battles. There are more pressing issues to deal with than the Phelps.

I know that I'm biased because of the content, but I imagine that that's just a place I can't fully support the first amendment. Do they have a right to say it? Sure. Should the ACLU help them say it on the same sidewalk? I'm not sure I can get behind that one.

Kevin, the simple point is that jeebus was, by todays standards, a racist. It is not cherry picking to point out that he likens any person not of Israel to dogs. So the Canaani woman did a super-grovel & he relented, hmm dare I say, mighty white of him?
As for the bible not claiming inerrancy, how about the all of the followers of that book who declaim it to be so, & what of the blood of the many millions killed for not agreeing, in exactitude, with such assertion?

Yehuda, thank you for again proving my point. Despite it being a 2000 year old book, you're 100% sure you understand the motivation (which you've assumed to be the most negative possible), and ignored the fact that not only did he 'relent', he held her up as an example for his audience. Your statement, that he 'likens any person not of Israel to dogs' is similarly misleading, as there are numerous other examples (the majority, in fact) where he refers to gentiles, samaritans, and others in completely neutral or positive terms.

But (again proving my point), you lose any credibility (among those who are objective) with a flippant, ill-considered remark, conveniently ignoring all contradictory evidence, and focus on a single verse so you can drop "Jesus was..." - excuse me - "'Jeebus' was a racist". Your unwillingness to even write the name correctly also implies a fundamental bias against what you're criticizing, so I say again:

You wind up hurting the atheist cause more than helping with poorly constructed comments like the above. You come off sounding as idiotic as wacko creationists who manage to ignore all the evidence that supports an old Earth & old universe while they seize upon (and generally distort) a single anomalous data point and try to make a case that based on that point alone, all science which supports a 4.6 billion year-old Earth is wrong. No one (except the other wacko creationists) takes these people seriously because it rapidly becomes clear that they are not objective, and they are 'cherry-picking' their data to support their agenda. Please be better than that.

As for the followers of the bible who claim it to be inerrant, I'd say many of them are idiots. It's clearly not inerrant from any kind of literal standpoint. Whether it's inerrant from a more philosophical standpoint is debatable, as you'd first have to define its purpose - how 'perfect' a work of literature is depends on a great many things, first and foremost being what the author intended people to take away from reading it.

As for the millions killed for not agreeing, in exactitude, with a particular view of it, I'd call that a heinous crime. But what about the millions who do not kill for the same reason? Wouldn't it be grossly illogical to blame the bible, when the bible clearly does not cause people to go out and kill other people? The fact that the majority of Christians do not engage in such activities should pretty clearly show that there are other factors at play. But by focusing on the bible, you define all who believe/value it as your opponents, instead of focusing on the ones who would kill/oppress those for not agreeing with them.

No one is making the claim that people kill because the Bible is prone to error. The problems of belief do not come from Bibles, Satan, or Jesus but from human gullibility. Yes many Christians act in good ways but they carry and spread the memes of religion to their children. It only takes a few to cause a lot of damage.

Oh and happy Good Friday :)

Well, actually, that seemed to be what yehuda was claiming (or at least implying) above.

I don't think the problems of belief come from gullibility, they come from arrogance (a quality that is by no means limited to religious people).

Arrogance can live separately from dogmatism. I know you are trying to put the atheist and the religious person on equal ground but you're only kidding yourself.

And dogmatism can live separately from religion. You seem to believe that becoming an atheist fundamentally changes human nature.

I believe that troublesome, hate-filled, arrogant humans are trouble, regardless of whether they happen to be religious. You appear to believe that many of those qualities magically disappear if religion goes away.

Who's kidding himself?

Beliefs lead to dogmatism. No beliefs equals no dogmatism. Certainly being atheist doesn't automatically make you a perfect being by some unwritten rule. That's not the issue. The issue is that religion presents us with one of many sources that produces dogmatism and happens to be a large source that cultivates it. Why does religious belief create such monstrous atrocities? Like Walker puts it, religion expresses everything into terms of belief, faith, and absolutes, without need for reason or even understanding. Religion puts reality, morality, love, happiness and desire in a supernatural realm inaccessible to the mind of man. How can humans ever achieve peace when their religious scripts has their god condoning war and violence, while man must accept the superstitious belief that their unknowable god does this for mysterious reasons, forever beyond the comprehension of man? How can you understand the physics of the universe if you believe that an unfathomable supernatural agent created everything just a few thousand years ago? How can you live a full happy life if your religion denies the nature of sex, desire, and mind? How can you have workable government if you believe laws derive from an incomprehensible super-being? How can you have the future of the planet or your grand children if you believe that supernatural predestination will end the world? Children get taught at a very young age to believe in abstract concepts such as Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and eventually, religious concepts. There simply exists no control or understanding of the dangers. Thus we prepare our society to not only accept beliefs, but to honor and fight for them. This commonly results in conflicts between free expression and censorship. For a believer, expression of ideas in-and-of-themselves represent beliefs. Thus violent television, movies and fictions present opportunities for the unaware to believe in them. If, instead, we taught our children about beliefs and how they infect the mind and the dangers they can produce, society would have little need for censoring ideas. For without believers, there would live no one to believe them and the violence and fantasy portrayed by their fictions could only represent just that--fictions.

Yes, beliefs can (but do not automatically) lead to dogmatism. But (and you're free to disagree with me here), I do not believe a normal human being can claim he has no beliefs.

I think atheists often get caught up with the idea that 'beliefs are bad', but I've never met an atheist who struck me as having no beliefs in their life. A human being without any capacity for any belief would something more than a machine and something less than human, unable to form a postulate beyond date which had already been empirically proven. What atheists tend to mean when they say they don't hold beliefs (religious beliefs in particular) is that they choose to withhold belief in the existence of specific things postulated, yet unproven scientifically. But most scientists do (and the best ones must) routinely hold beliefs in things not seen and unproven in order to further science itself.

Belief only becomes a problem (to steal from your quote) when it comes without a 'need for reason or even understanding'. And again, atheists often make a huge logical fallacy here, because the belief in God does not require faith without reason or understanding (people often experience it that way, but it is by no means a requirement of 'faith'). An objective individual can hold the exact same degree of belief in 'God' and in a tachyon: circumstantial evidence only, one (or many) theories which postulate their existence, and zero quantifiable evidence in either case. But (most) atheists have less problem with the tachyon because the circumstantial evidence happens to come from a branch of study they respect.

Every question you pose (regarding God condoning war and violence, denying the nature of sex/desire/mind, a thousands-year old earth, supernatural predestination, etc) makes strong assumptions about specific, negative aspects of organized religion. None of them are endemic the simple belief in God. If you consider your atheism to be founded in science, you should recognize the fundamental problem in extending your argument past what the data supports.

Would you knock out one nexus of negativity in human beings if you could eliminate the notion of belief from human beings? Sure. You'd eliminate an even bigger one if you could eliminate emotion while you're at it. But good luck on doing either. The biggest thing lacking from organized religion as a whole (and much of the extreme atheist movement as well) is a lack of respect - an understanding that each of us gets to live our life in our own mind and no one else's. And (most importantly) that every one of us is an idiot some percentage of the time. I'm constantly amazed that Christians (whose beliefs center around the idea that human beings are imperfect) are some of the most arrogant people on the planet.

By the way, your comments above indicate a clear social belief as well. Beyond the belief that you can actually eliminate belief from human beings, you believe that if children were taught about the dangers of beliefs, the world would be a better place - despite a lack of verifiable evidence to the contrary. There has never been a large-scale experiment such as what you're suggesting. So how do you know what the result would be?

You seem to be creating a belief-of-its-own that everyone believes in something.

Just because most people own beliefs does not follow that all people require the concept of belief. You need to understand that beliefs are a conscious acceptance. To use the main topic of this post, look at the Phelps’. They admit their beliefs willingly.

Moreover, ridding oneself of beliefs does not automatically remove emotion as you see it. Humans invented the game of soccer, but no one needs to believe in the game, or to attach some kind of "truth" to it. People can enjoy soccer, simply for the game itself. You’re presenting a false dichotomy in that you are either a zombie or a believer. Beliefs and emotion aren’t inseparable.

(Here are some examples that do not require belief: knowledge, recognition, action, speculation, imagination, agreement, information, dreams, and, yes, emotions!)

You pointed out that scientists need beliefs. A scientist (like Francis Collins) can own beliefs, but science itself does not require it.

As for inspiration to create new ideas for science and technology? Imagination (like I listed above) does not necessitate beliefs AT ALL! As humans, we have the amazing capability to make things up. Science fiction stories, for example, have inspired scientists to construct hypotheses that lead to verifiable experiments and the inventions of useful machines. Even fantasy by itself provides an enjoyable way of expressing thoughts. But if an individual begins to believe in his own fantasy, or worse, has faith in it, then usually only disappointment or tragedies result (e.g. American Idol).

I think you’re confusion is that since a functioning human brain produces thought along with a feeling of 'truth,' then all humans who have functioning brains must experience beliefs, no? Well…yes! BUT we have something that other animals don't have: retrospection and the capacity to see our own abstractions! So although you can’t really get rid of the feeling of belief you can very well eliminate the ownership of them. I can have the experience of belief when reading a convincing novel or watching a movie, but I know these represent fictions.

As for my so-called beliefs, I may have a point of view (as do you) but this is because limited knowledge about the world forces us to observe the universe with restrictions. In other words, we’re not omnipotent <wink>. A point of view, however, does not demand a predisposition to belief; it can simply represent a direction of thought (e.g. siding with liberal views). As long as a point of view produces a rational justification, uses only relevant info. to make predictions and leaves open the door for the possibility of change in favor of new and better evidence, then it serves as a useful and productive tool. To elaborate on another item from the list I provided, "knowledge" does not mean that it comes absolute to us. A fact or theory may change in the future and we may have to modify our knowledge to accommodate the changing evidence. Science would not be ever-changing if it were not for this method if you think about it. Since when has religion matched this? If there is change within religions it has been, as Sam Harris points out, because of the push of modernity. This conversation is steering out of topic.

The conversation steered out of topic long ago, but you're right in that I believe everyone believes in something. However, I never claimed that ridding oneself of belief would remove emotion. I just equated the two as fundamental parts of the human condition (both of which can be negative) which you're not going to get rid of.

Imagination does not require belief (I never said it does), but the willingness to pursue that which is imagined does. Deliberate scientific discovery is almost always the result of a belief (in a new species, particle, bacterium, etc...) on the part of someone. You can (as can I) imagine that a world without belief will be a better world. But it is your belief that this is true that makes you pursue the goal.

Now you can choose to call that a 'point of view' instead of a belief, but frankly that's a semantic cop-out. You can restrict the word 'belief' to be only 'irrational' beliefs, and those which have rational justifications are 'points of view'. Then we spiral down into who gets to decide which argument is more rational (yet still unproven) than the next. People who claim the label atheist (as opposed to agnostic, for example) frequently seem to focus on religion (as opposed to the countless other common unprovable beliefs people hold) because they just really don't like that one. But to give their argument more objectivity, they claim their philosophy extends to ALL beliefs. If you mean all irrational beliefs (as defined by you) then that's easy. If you mean ALL beliefs, then I think you're kidding yourself if you think you don't have any.

Again, beliefs are a conscious acceptance. Point of view is a bias. Bias represents a focus, direction, or preference towards a point of view without examining or ignoring existing evidence. One cannot avoid a point of view. Regardless of how one might try to prevent bias, there will most always occur something left out of the description. Regardless of how one may reject beliefs, a point of view occurs if only because we represent a unique and limited spatial entity within the universe.

Ideas, by their very nature, represent limitations of thought. As we learn and understand our limitations, that a point of view represents an understood direction, we have the possibility to transcend it into an even more productive point of view.

Only a believer can pretend to know absolutes. As limited humans, we do not possess absolute knowledge, however.

...as opposed to the countless other common unprovable beliefs people hold...

This is why I personally don't like the term "atheist" because it limits me to reject theism only. I prefer non-descriptive terms like nonbeliever because it encompases many other things for which I don't believe in (UFO's, Loch Ness monster, horoscopes, tarrot reading, paraedolia, etc.).

Don't believe anything. Regard things on a scale of probabilities. The things that seem most absurd, put under 'Low Probability', and the things that seem most plausible, you put under 'High Probability'. Never believe anything. Once you believe anything, you stop thinking about it. The more things you believe, the less mental activity. If you believe something, and have an opinion on every subject, then your brain activity stops entirely, which is clinically considered a sign of death, nowadays in medical practice. So put things on a scale or probability, and never believe or disbelieve anything entirely.

--Robert A. Wilson (freethinker, author)

As for the willingness to pursue imagination, no, it is not belief. The feeling of wonder about things in the world and the mysteries of the universe fills us with imagination and speculation.

Some have speculated that religion itself may have played an important role in getting large groups of prehistoric humans to socially cohere. If this is true, we can say that religion has served an important purpose. This does not suggest, however, that it serves an important purpose now.

--Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation

Natural tendencies, in this respect, do not provide an excuse for belief. Sorry.

This is getting stale.

You're right, it is getting stale, as you're avoiding all of the basic issues/questions and choosing to focus on more complicated scenarios which can't be answered without a long debate.

  • Believers do not have to know absolutes. You seem to keep confusing belief with zealotry. I believe in God. I am not absolute in that belief.
  • We did not go to the moon because we wondered if we could, but because we believed we could. Objective imagination is indifferent. I can imagine many things. I pursue the ones I believe to more than mere whimsy.
  • Your Sam Harris comment is in reference to religion, not belief itself.

Bringing religion (which is more complicated than a simple belief in God) into the conversation serves only to muddle things. So here are simple questions:

  1. Is 'belief', in and of itself, bad? If yes, why? If not..
  2. Is belief in God, in and of itself, bad? If yes, why? If not...
  3. Are certain beliefs about God, in the form of specific religious dogma, in and of themselves, bad?

You seem to have lots of arguments regarding point 3. But your only arguments against 1 & 2 seems to be that they can lead to problem 3.

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this discussion between keven and erick is one of the more interesting ones i've ever seen here. thanks to both of you, and kudos to norm for his tolerance of "off topic" stuff. say, maybe the whole reason for the existence of people like the phelps's is to stimulate thoughts like these. whether its getting stale or not is of course your call, fellas, but i wanted you to know that at least one of us out here is enjoying the ride.

Given Jonathan Becker’s interest in the off-topic discussion I’ll submit another post. I guess I was too quick to believe (pun intended) we were the only two reading this exchange.

Allow me to use my lame joke of belief to shift the attention toward the issue which I fear is causing much of the confusion: how I’m defining belief. I apologize upfront for not providing a definition of what I meant by the word, as I think you seem to be using it to encompass many other nouns for which I do not.

  • What I mean by ‘belief’:

The way in which I use the word ‘belief’ is the common usage of the word as given in many dictionaries:

belief: n.
The mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in a person or thing; faith. 2. Mental acceptance or conviction in the truth or actuality of something. 3. Something believed or accepted as true; especially, a particular tenet, or a body of tenets, accepted by a group of persons.

As I’ve aforesaid, belief requires conscious acceptance. Thus it would prove meaningless to say that a person has beliefs without them knowing it or for them to deny their own beliefs. The degree of feeling to which one accepts their own beliefs, as valid, can vary from mild acceptance to confident absoluteness.

You are correct to suggest that there exists forms of ‘belief’ without absoluteness. However, what many people fail to realize is that this usage, in its most mellow sense, can be replaced with words like ‘think’.

Example: “I believe Kevin will reply to this comment” can transpose to “I think Kevin will reply to this comment.” From my past experience writing to you, I have observed that you frequently reply to my remarks on this post. This is a form of predicting future events from merely observing past occurrences. The word "think" describes the mental process of predicting instead of relying on the abstraction of belief which reflects a hope which may not happen. If any confidence ensues, it would come from experience of past events rather than from the thoughts themselves.

So in short, not all beliefs involve absolutes; in fact most don't. Many people believe that they can predict stock markets, sport scores, and the weather, etc., but they don't pretend that their beliefs form absolutes. Mostly religious folk invoke absolutist beliefs.

  • You say: “I believe in God. I am not absolute in that belief.”

If you invoke a belief in a god, you have established a belief. However, one can posses a desire for a god without believing in a god. I wish Superman and Aphrodite existed but I certainly don't have any belief in them. Agnostics give a very low probability for the existence of a god and most atheists consider themselves agnostic atheists. I'm also agnostic about Zeus, Thor, and thousands of other gods.

  • You say: “I pursue the ones I believe to more than mere whimsy.”

Yes! That single sentence right there makes the point. Remember the Wilson quote I provided in my last entry—the one about probabilities? You would pursue only those imaginations which you hold most probable. Optimism in this sense is not a belief as long as you don’t set yourself up for false expectations.

Now, I don't think optimistic beliefs necessarily constitute bad beliefs, just unnecessary. Most scientists use "believe" where they really mean "think." Unfortunately some scientists really do believe their theories but this can prove damaging, especially if their theories turn out wrong (I’ll provide an example further down in this reply). Beliefs act like barriers that can prevent further investigation. Speculation, guesses, and desires, however, do not constitute beliefs and form a very important part of scientific hypothesis formation.

  • On the Sam Harris quote:

I intended to use this quote to show that mere naturalistic reasons shouldn’t provide excuses for us to behave in certain ways. How so for beliefs? Like I mentioned before, we have the capability of retrospection and the capacity to see our own abstractions (at least some humans possess this [see video above]).

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I’m glad you decided to succinctly list the issues you were concerned with and spare me figuring out what you want me to answer.

  1. Like I explained earlier, I don’t think all beliefs are bad, some are just unnecessary. For example, Newton's gravitational theory works quite well, but Einstein's gravity theory works even better. Newton began to think about relativity theory long before Albert Einstein. However, his belief in absolute time prevented him from formulating a workable theory. Einstein, however, saw through that and thought in terms of relative time and formulated his famous theory of General relativity. Although thinking without beliefs does not, by any means, guarantee that people will make scientific breakthroughs, it can, at the very least, remove unnecessary mental obstructions. Belief, even at its lowest form of influence can create problematic and unnecessary barriers.
  2. See point #1.
  3. The answer should appear obvious. Norm has done a fine job of posting these dangerous forms of dogma that lead to horrible outcomes. The belief in priestly celibacy, for example, appears rather benign after you factor in the psychological effects these dogmas develop from an adherence to them as well as the actions that will ensue from applying such beliefs to one’s own life. (See: “Priestly celibacy and child sexual abuse” from the Journal of Sexualities, Vol. 6 by Scheper-Hughes, et al. (2003) [scholarly journal] or the book Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes by Thomas P. Doyle, A.W.R. Sipe, Patrick J. Wall). This is just one example of many religious beliefs out there that trigger problems.

I hope I have answered your questions.

-Erick

I also thought we were the only ones listening, and I also thought today that perhaps some clarification of the definition of 'belief' was in order. :)

We seem to (mostly) agree on the definition, although your first definition uses the words 'trust' & 'confidence', which seem important. Random House and Oxford American (the two I have handy) both pointedly do not use those words in their primary (respective) definitions: something believed - an opinion or conviction; an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists. The words 'trust' & 'confidence' strike me as particularly important here as they speak to the degree of conviction with which one holds a belief, which segues nicely to...

I'm not entirely clear on your feelings on the relative merits or degree of acceptance between 'believe' and 'think.' Are you saying that it's OK to hold 'mellow' beliefs (i.e. things you 'think') versus 'hard' beliefs (i.e. things you are 'confident' of)? Atheist arguments often refer to beliefs as the dogmatic, unshakeable kind (those things that people 'know' to be true) which I would agree are almost always bad - but I wouldn't use the word 'belief' to refer only to those types of beliefs.

Regarding my comment: “I believe in God. I am not absolute in that belief.” I am not talking about desire. I am talking about a belief. I am not saying I wish/hope God exists. I am saying I believe (or I think) he does, but I could easily be wrong.

As for your take on scientists who believe in their theories, I only tossed out this example because there are clear examples in history where a particular scientific achievement would not have happened (at least not when it happened) had it not been for the belief of the person(s) pursuing it. Yes, beliefs CAN act as barriers to further investigation, but they do not have to. Your criticism of beliefs in this case again assumes the worst possible outcome. Emotion CAN contribute to all sorts of irrational and dangerous behavior - does that make emotion bad?

=====

Regarding the three questions:

  1. If you do not think all beliefs are bad (and you only believe some are unnecessary), then what is the compelling argument for atheism beyond it's being less-complicated? You repeatedly refer to the bad things that CAN result from belief. But as I mentioned above, how does belief then differ from any other human quality such as emotion or persistence or passion? All can result in negative outcomes. All can result in positive outcomes. Why not call out the dangerous beliefs as such, and respect those beliefs which are positive or neutral?

  2. Just a stepping stone to 3, really.

  3. Well I agree with Norm's (and others) assessment of the horrible outcomes of some religious beliefs. I just don't think it's remotely logical to condemn all religious beliefs based on the horrible outcomes of some. Priestly celibacy is a great example, because while it obviously has contributed to some monstrous acts, it can at the same time be an inspiring act of self-sacrifice, be it by a western priest or an eastern monk. While I wouldn't choose it for myself, I have no problem respecting those who do it properly.

Kevin, I'm not gonna argue about semantics here. I'll just address what you asked before:

However, my original point (which seems to continue to go un-addressed) is that some atheists damage their own credibility by critiquing the bible unfairly, cherry-picking a verse, attributing a single possible justification for that verse (often ignoring highly relevant data regarding the language, culture, and context), and then using that as an argument for dismissing the belief as a whole.

You admitted before that the bible was just a book. Not holy, not inerrant. These arguments are made against people, who are in the majority by the way, that believe it is.

It would be somewhat (not completely, though) similar to theists arguing against a scientific theory if people made these arguments and said therefore the bible doesn't speak any truth at all. I don't think most of the bible speaks truth, but only because there's no evidence for it, most of it violates natural laws, and it has passed through so many (mis)translations and modifications that to think it speaks any natural truths is actually dogmatic. I don't say it's absolutely all lies, but it's a hugely, hugely unlikely set of tales. I don't think the bible is true because of this, not because just some parts are insane.

About morality and Jesus being or not a racist and such. You have to take into account that if you are gonna take the bible as a holy book in any way, then it should transcend time and culture. Morals don't change with time. Our perception of it changes, but it was always wrong to own slaves, and slay people, and rape women, etc. And in the future we might find out other things that are plain wrong that we kind of take for granted now, when the data (which greatly comes from science) is analyzed. Science does not dictate morality, but it provides a reliable framework for our reasonable building on morality based on the best knowledge about the universe we can achieve.

Now, you admit the bible is not holy in any way, yet you seem to give it undue importance, by implying that in some sense it is on similar footing as scientific theories. I would say it is not, by a very, very long shot. I would say Verne's novels and countless other works of fiction (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comes to mind) are less far from reality than the bible. Could you explain why you give the bible such importance?

Also, I wonder... You said that religion and dogma don't always come together, so I would like to ask you to describe clearly your religion and your god, which I assume is this kind of religion that doesn't require dogmatic beliefs.

Thanks.

You admitted before that the bible was just a book. Not holy, not inerrant. These arguments are made against people, who are in the majority by the way, that believe it is.

I admitted that the bible is a book, and that it's clearly not inerrant in a literal sense. Whether it is significantly more than that from a philosophical or spiritual sense is conjecture on everyone's part. But atheism doesn't call out only those religious people who believe that the bible is holy and inerrant - it lumps anyone with a belief in God in the same boat, which is why I frequently have a problem with atheist arguments.

I don't think most of the bible speaks truth, but only because there's no evidence for it, most of it violates natural laws, and it has passed through so many (mis)translations and modifications that to think it speaks any natural truths is actually dogmatic.

You can not measure science and religion with the same yardstick. They have entirely different qualities. That a literal reading of the bible indicates violation of natural laws is only a problem if you try to measure it on the scientifically objective scale. It's like decrying science as being inferior to art because of it's lack insight into the human condition. People find qualities like 'truth' in art, philosophy, music, and fiction. People who are unable to apply different standards of measurement to different fields of study always find fault with 'alien' schools of thought. It's the same reason that religious fundamentalists often have little respect for science - because it has no 'soul' or 'conscience'.

You have to take into account that if you are gonna take the bible as a holy book in any way, then it should transcend time and culture.

Why? Because you say it should? You seem to think the only way an omnipotent God can express himself is in a utopian fashion. As a parent, I frequently interact with my child at her level. Am I being dishonest or improper because I'm not treating her like an adult?

Now, you admit the bible is not holy in any way...could you explain why you give the bible such importance?

I did not admit the bible wasn't holy. I honestly don't know if it is or not. I only know that the conditions you've decided a 'holy' book must have are arbitrary and overly-simplistic.

Also, I wonder... You said that religion and dogma don't always come together, so I would like to ask you to describe clearly your religion and your god, which I assume is this kind of religion that doesn't require dogmatic beliefs.

I believe there is a God. I also think it's entirely possible that there isn't. I don't claim any more religion than that, and although I could go on at length about my own personal philosophies, they're tangential to the point, which is: 'What is wrong with my belief?'

I'm not entirely clear on your feelings on the relative merits or degree of acceptance between 'believe' and 'think.' Are you saying that it's OK to hold 'mellow' beliefs (i.e. things you 'think') versus 'hard' beliefs (i.e. things you are 'confident' of)?

Yes, like I said this is basically a semantic issue. In this "mellow" sense, as I coined it, the word 'belief' is no different than how we use the word 'think'. If I say "I believe it will rain tonight" versus "I think it will rain tonight", this is a statement of forecasting future events based on observance on past events (speculation). These aren’t the beliefs I rant about when I use the word "belief." These can be replaced with other forms of "thinking."

Your criticism of beliefs in this case again assumes the worst possible outcome.

Not really. Like I said in my last post, I don’t hold ALL beliefs to be dangerous, some I find just unnecessary.

Now, you can disagree with me all you want on this, but you really shouldn’t lose too much sleep over this.

These, seemingly, innocent beliefs act through our language system and can give us a false sense of "knowing."

To give an example, we usually think of color as "out there." We observe green foliage, blue skies, red apples, etc. Yet color, demonstrably, does not occur "out there," but rather, totally inside our heads. Matter contains no color. Color has no bases from the physics of light. Color, rather, describes a sensation. Color exists in the brain and not "out there."

As I wrote before, knowledge does not come absolute to us because we do not experience the world directly. We use ancient "essence" words like "is" and "be" that put mystical properties to events which occur only in our heads (e.g. the grass "IS" green). To help eliminate these "essence" verbs, we can simply replace them with descriptive verbs. Hence the invention of E Prime. I do not normally employ E Prime in my writing if for no other reason than because I’m lazy. I would recommend any reader, however, to understand the logic behind it.

You don't need to take drugs to hallucinate; improper language can fill your world with phantoms and spooks of many kinds.

-Robert A. Wilson
…how does belief then differ from any other human quality such as emotion or persistence or passion? All can result in negative outcomes. All can result in positive outcomes. Why not call out the dangerous beliefs as such, and respect those beliefs which are positive or neutral?

Emotions, feelings, desires, and sensations in general do not constitute beliefs because they don't need language or even reason for their existence. They come from natural selection and instinct. All mammals have emotions and feelings but only humans have beliefs (as far as we know).

I think it bears importance to call out all beliefs because any belief has the potential to deceive. Even neutral beliefs can later turn into intransigent beliefs. Moreover, the language doesn't distinguish between levels of beliefs. Removing all beliefs, results in a more concise method of expression. Those who use the word "believe" in its lowest sense, can simply replace it with the word "think," which provides a more accurate word for communication.

On your take of priestly celibacy: Look, if religious practices change through the passage of time, rest assured it was not due to religious believers’ keenness to evaluate their intransigent convictions based on a willingness to engage in rational thought. You’re argument about, "I have no problem respecting those who do it properly" represents one of the most common faulty arguments of theists: 'oh, if only they practiced it correctly!' or 'if only they were acting out as true Christians.'

The result of these children being prayed upon isn’t the result of religious practices having been executed erroneously. Sexual repression results from celibacy. That’s what celibacy is in a sense. There are many other ways of self-sacrifice that do not generate these problems. The catholic Church, instead of reevaluating their beliefs and placing a critical eye on the issue (protecting the church's image above all else perhaps?), have only placed blame on everything and everyone else, it seems (e.g. homosexuality, loss in "family values", etc.). For a more extensive copout list, Google Catholic websites and read their excuses. It’s not like these are concealed in a way. The change occurring in these religions happen from the push of modernity that makes it embarrassingly necessary that certain beliefs need to be discarded.

Self-inspiring acts of meditation, purification, or benevolence to their community can be done in lieu of the religious baggage that is often attached to such things. The constant insistence to drag these beliefs along is rather absurd. Placing beliefs above all else, even the welfare of children in the sense, is something I find detestable.

Rather than pick over the carcass of Christianity (or any other traditional faith) looking for a few, uncontaminated morsels of wisdom, why not take a proper seat at the banquet of human understanding in the present? There are already many very refined courses on offer. For those interested in the origins of the universe, there is the real science of cosmology. For those who want to know about the evolution of life on this planet, biology, chemistry and their subspecialties offer real nourishment. (Knowledge in most scientific domains is now doubling about every five years. How fast is it growing in religion?) And if ethics and spirituality are what concern you, there are now scientists making serious efforts to understand these features of our experience-both by studying the brain function of advanced contemplatives and by practicing meditation and other (non-faith-based) spiritual disciplines themselves. Even when it comes to compassion and self-transcendence, there is new wine (slowly) being poured. Why not catch it with a clean glass?

--Sam Harris(Source)



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Clearly there are others on here desiring to engage in debate with you so I will stand aside and allow them space.

Thanks for hanging on this long in the discussion.

FIN

I did not admit the bible wasn't holy. I honestly don't know if it is or not. I only know that the conditions you've decided a 'holy' book must have are arbitrary and overly-simplistic.

I don't think they are, but fair enough. What are your conditions? the burden of proof is on the ones who claim holiness (or probable holiness). It's not up to me to prove which books are not holy out of a bunch of maybe-or-maybe-not-holy books. No book meets my criteria for sacredness to date, and I think any book that is indeed holy would make it very clear.

OK, so you don't know if the bible is holy or not. Is then there any reason to think any other book is or isn't? Is there any more reason to think the bible may be holy than that the koran may be holy?

I believe there is a God. I also think it's entirely possible that there isn't. I don't claim any more religion than that, and although I could go on at length about my own personal philosophies, they're tangential to the point, which is: 'What is wrong with my belief?'

Then, you're more of a deist and don't subscribe to any dogmatic religion. So why even considering the bible over other books? You have to realize that the people who started declaring them holy many centuries ago were pretty much deranged and very uneducated by today's standards.

But atheism doesn't call out only those religious people who believe that the bible is holy and inerrant - it lumps anyone with a belief in God in the same boat, which is why I frequently have a problem with atheist arguments.

The argument that the bible is not perfect is made to those who do believe that. That argument alone does not apply to people who don't think the bible is holy, like you say. We agree on that. But there are other arguments that can be applied to other believers, which I am not concerned with in this thread.

It is when people start to think that their god interacts with the world by answering prayers and performing miracles that they run into problems trying to explain it, and they will say that god acts in mysterious ways and we are too simplistic and don't "understand". Not one of those people have ever remotely proven that even they understand. In fact, not understanding for them is key to the "mystery".

You can not measure science and religion with the same yardstick. They have entirely different qualities.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and prayer effect, miracles and such are very extraordinary things that directly and unequivocally contradict science, so they should be measured by science's standards. They pretend to break science, even if only for a moment. The same for every other claim, religious or otherwise, that goes into natural claims. If we don't scrutinize those to logical and rational standards, then we can just say anything, and declare that I think something that for most could be ludicrous but it's OK because it's my religion. In fact, that is exactly what's happening today, and what is making most of us atheists worried. I personally don't worry in the least about deism and such.

Erick, thanks for the conversation. I agree the horse is pretty much dead by now.

A few parting reactions to your final comments:

  1. I understand and generally agree with your take on the spectrum of belief (from mellow 'thinking' to absolute 'believing'). But I'd caution you to make your distinction clear, as although you may be able to draw a clear mental line between the acceptable beliefs and the irrational ones, that line is ultimately subjective and it took me some time to realize that you were not lumping all beliefs on that spectrum in the same camp.

  2. I'm not sure why the fact that emotions, feelings, desires, and sensations aren't beliefs changes anything. They are aspects of being human which have potentially positive and negative consequences. One could recommend trying to eliminate or minimize any one of them as a good thing on the basis that it would eliminate or reduce the potential negative consequences that it brings.

  3. On priestly celibacy: Here we fundamentally disagree, as you apparently can not envision a scenario where a vow of celibacy for religious reasons could ever be positive. I believe that this enforced rule in the Catholic religion particularly is a bad thing. But I personally know people who have chosen celibacy vows because they wanted to make a personal sacrifice. I respect and support their decisions as a positive thing (for them). Nowhere in that process do I believe that they (or I) have placed a belief above the welfare of children.

I'm outta here (after a quick response to andyo).

Peace.

What are your conditions? the burden of proof is on the ones who claim holiness (or probable holiness).

You're still looking for a scientific proof of holiness. Many people believe the bible to be (in one form or another) divinely inspired. The reasons they think this are incredibly varied, from the unthinking acceptance of a lifetime surrounded by people of this opinion, to the person who upon reading came to the conclusion (or revelation) on their own. Are they right or wrong? I have no idea. It is not a scientifically testable hypothesis, and therefore proposing that the book should pass some kind of definitive holiness litmus test is an exercise in futility. You could likewise demand proof that Michelangelo's 'David' is beautiful, which would be likewise impossible.

Then, you're more of a deist and don't subscribe to any dogmatic religion. So why even considering the bible over other books? You have to realize that the people who started declaring them holy many centuries ago were pretty much deranged and very uneducated by today's standards.

I'm more a deist than anything else, but I don't automatically assume that the Bible (or the Koran) has nothing to offer. And yes, I know about all the bad religious people throughout history. But again, the existence of those people says nothing about whether or not there is a God.

The argument that the bible is not perfect is made to those who do believe that. That argument alone does not apply to people who don't think the bible is holy, like you say. We agree on that. But there are other arguments that can be applied to other believers, which I am not concerned with in this thread.

Well, we've been discussing whether there's a fundamental problem with belief, not the problem with a given specific belief. Atheism is a general ideology that talks about the lack of belief in God as a whole, not in a lack of belief in every specific religion for different reasons.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and prayer effect, miracles and such are very extraordinary things that directly and unequivocally contradict science, so they should be measured by science's standards. They pretend to break science, even if only for a moment. The same for every other claim, religious or otherwise, that goes into natural claims. If we don't scrutinize those to logical and rational standards, then we can just say anything, and declare that I think something that for most could be ludicrous but it's OK because it's my religion. In fact, that is exactly what's happening today, and what is making most of us atheists worried. I personally don't worry in the least about deism and such.

Then I repeat the suggestion I made earlier in the thread. Do not speak as though every person with a belief in God is of the 'dogmatic theist who refuses to scrutinize beliefs which contradict natural science' camp. I'll be the first in line to help you (metaphorically) rip those people to shreds. I mean, those people annoy the crap out of me.

But if you claim to be an atheist, and (more to the point) claim that any belief in God is automatically bad or should be fought against, then you've called me out as your opposition, despite the fact that I would have gladly tried to help you with the people above.

Kevin said "You could likewise demand proof that Michelangelo's 'David' is beautiful, which would be likewise impossible."

I disagree that this would be impossible. There are distinct measures of beauty for judging art. For example, artists use certain proportions to depict the human body.

For Michelangelo's David, it is his use of those proportions, the way that David is standing, and the excellent depiction of features such as skin and veins.

For paintings, there is the use of such concepts as composition, proportional representation, color harmony and repetition of form.

I think Picaso paintings are ugly.

I agree Syngas. There are a lot of paintings that I think people like just because a famous name is attached to it.

Jo Ann, I think you just proved my point. You agree that Michelangelo's David is beautiful, but Picasso paintings are ugly? Unless you're going to provide the precise scientific proof for the beauty of Michelangelo's David, and the proof of Picasso painting's ugliness, I'll stand by my statement.

Are there particular qualities (proportion, stance, skin depiction, etc..) that works considered beautiful often share? Yes.

But is there a scientific formula that can be applied to 'prove' the beauty of a piece of art? No.

It seems to me to be a silly discussion. God exists because you can't prove 'art' is good or bad. Of course esthetic judgments vary from person to person. The point is that if there is a 'personal God' there are all kinds of evidence that would be subject to scientific analysis. If you are just discussing some undefined first cause then you're right there is nothing to discuss.

Kevin,

There are not scientific formulas, but there are most definitely principles of art. Are you not aware of them? I mentioned a few such as repetition of form, color harmony and skilled use of proportion and perspective.

Picasso doesn't incorporate proportion in his paintings. (At least not his later paintings. Some of his earlier works did). He distorts the human figure. His use of color is garrish.

I am an artist and I have worked hard, and continue to work had, to refine my skills. And, yes, I do use scientific principles in my landscapes in order to render more beautiful a cloud or the atmosphere. There are also principles such as using warmer colors for closer objects.

There are concepts such as using compementary colors to make a particular area stand out.

Good art is not just a matter of splashing paint on a canvas, although, I know that for a lot of people just about anything can be called art. I have higher standards though.

If there were no principles of what qualifies for quality art, then any scribbling of some child with a crayon would be equivalent to some masterpiece by Rembrandt or Vermeer.

This is a touchy subject with me. People who know just a little bit about art seem to think that they are suddenly experts.

Have you ever attemped to paint a landscape or a portrait or a nude? Do you have any idea how difficult it is and how much study and skill is required to render a beautiful painting?

Kevin, Here are a few websites which anaylse what good art is. It's too difficult to explain with just a few paragraphs.

This is an excellent site http://artrenewal.org/articles/2001/ASOPA/badartgood_art1.asp

http://www.goodart.org/faq.htm#GOODBAD

Art can be subtle, complex, hard to understand, or difficult to explain, but there's nothing literally magical about it and nothing about it which inherently defies analysis. I think the reason some people believe this is that art (good art anyway) often excites the emotions, and people think (or feel) that emotions are incomprehensible, magical, or beyond explaining, and because of this error and the relationship between art and emotion, they conclude that art is therefore similarly incomprehensible, magical, etc. Both the logic of this linkage and the premise of emotions being magical or incomprehensible are erroneous. If art is beyond comprehension then how can anyone know that this is so? Not only is that a logical impossibility, but this sounds like the assertion of the existence of some kind of mystical mystery qualities that only the truly enlightened can see. Such assertions have been a standard trick of charlatans for thousands of years. They leave the victim of the charlatan in a position of intellectual dependence, and ready to have his pockets picked. They also have the "convenient" property of being impermeable to question and criticism or even of explanation. It's a "magical" justification for imposing intellectual dependency upon the victim of bad ideas, and a license to lie for the "experts" who can just make up any idea they wish and it is magically "true" somehow.

Sometimes I can't believe how ridiculous these comments get:

Norm: I never remotely came close to saying anything as inane as 'God exists because you can't prove art is good or bad.' I pointed out that we test scientific claims against scientific scrutiny, and testing the bible (or any supposedly 'holy' book) against scientific scrutiny is about as useful as subjecting art to scientific scrutiny (except in regards to people who claim the bible should be taken literally and open specific parts of it to scientific evaluation).

Jo Ann: I have a bit of an art background, and I fully recognize how difficult it is, and how much study and skill is required to render a beautiful painting. But though there are principles and conventions and schools of thought, you can not argue that art is not ultimately subjective. There is not (and there never will be) a scientific formula that proves the relative beauty of a painting, sculpture, or poem.

My original point was that unless such a proof exists, then you can not evaluate art on the same scale as you do a scientific theory. When people suggest that the bible or Koran should be dismissed because if fails a scientific test, that's overreaching. I do not dismiss a Van Gogh because it is not photorealistic and does not accurately reflect the physical world. Likewise, it is ignorant to dismiss any book for (only) that same reason. As I said above, the only reason to dismiss something like the bible on scientific grounds, would be in response to someone claiming the bible represents scientific truth (as opposed to symbolism, metaphor, and philosophical/spiritual 'truth').

Sheesh.

Kevin said But though there are principles and conventions and schools of thought, you can not argue that art is not ultimately subjective

Yes, I sure the hell can argue that art is not subjective. You have responded to me without even reading in full what was written in the two links that I provided, unless you have some incredible skills of speed reading.

You having "a bit of an art background" eh? Well, as Alexander Pope said:

A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring.

Great. I anxiously await the objective formula that will allow me to judge the relative beauty of any piece of art versus another.

By the way, I did read the one link you provided that actually worked. It struck me as pretty comical, especially as the author likes to talk about logical fallacies a lot.

Perhaps you (or the author of the aforementioned site) could provide some kind of ranking table that assigns number scores to the top 100 most beautiful works of art. If you can not provide me with a repeatable, testable universal formula that allows for such a table (or for a precise comparison between any two works of art), then the beauty of art is subjective, not objective.

Explain your way out of that, and then get back to me.

Kevin,

Instead of reading what I provided and showing an interest in an intellectual discussion concerning art, you've gone ballistic on me. Too bad.

I read exactly what you provided, and haven't gone ballistic, but I suppose it's easier to label me as such (and to dismiss my 'bit of an art background') than to try to answer the question. Too bad, indeed.

You claimed art is not subjective. I inferred from that you believe it to be objective.

I'm asking you to provide an objective way of measuring the beauty of art. I'm not looking for commentary on qualities that improve or detract from the value of art, or an evaluation of the learned skills that are used to produce art, or how an understanding of scientific principles can add to art.

If the beauty of art is objective, then I am asking for the specific, measurable criteria that is used to determine it's beauty.

I (most unballistically) submit that if you can not provide such criteria, then the beauty of art is not subjective (though there may be many objective measurements that can be taken regarding the various elements that make it up).

By the way, every dictionary definition I've seen of the word 'beauty' uses the word 'pleasing' as part of it's definition. Beauty is (by definition) subjective, so how you could even begin to claim that the beauty of art is not, eludes me.

Talk about a tangent.

Kevin, you said "I'm asking you to provide an objective way of measuring the beauty of art". .. and then you said " I read exactly what you provided"

Really? First of all, there is no way that you could have read and digested all of the information in the links that I provided, and have then responded so quickly to it all. Furthermore, the websites that i linked to fully explain the objective way of measuring the beauty of art, and you did not respond to any of it which indicates even more that you did not read much. There's no way that any person could have read fully the depth of thought and the length of the explanation of what art is in the websites that I posted in the length of time that transpired between my post and your response, and there's no way that you could digest such information in the time that it has taken you to respond to what I linked to. Did you read a sentence or two, if that?

I remain disappointed.

Art has elements that can be measured objectively as well as some that are certainly subjective. Either or . . .

Norm said "Art has elements that can be measured objectively as well as some that are certainly subjective. Either or "

If you like a particular painting or a particular "song" or compostion, why is that? Is it due to divine intervention? Some spiritual influence? Of course not. There are concrete reasons why any work of art appeals to people.

So one person depicts a scene utilizing vanishing points, one-point and two-point perspective, compositional rules of symmetry, repetition of form, etc., but it is subjective whether or not said artist's work is superior to that which some elephant might randomly produce with his/her trunk?

Sounds like the difference between belief and knowledge.

I pointed out that we test scientific claims against scientific scrutiny, and testing the bible (or any supposedly 'holy' book) against scientific scrutiny is about as useful as subjecting art to scientific scrutiny (except in regards to people who claim the bible should be taken literally and open specific parts of it to scientific evaluation).

There are very few who subscribe to any religion who don't take at least some basic tenets literally. For example the idea that someone can rise from the dead. If you are talking about religion that has no supernatural elements then we get to ask what is it that sets it apart from other philosophies, humanism for example.

Really? First of all, there is no way that you could have read and digested all of the information in the links that I provided, and have then responded so quickly to it all.

Are you reading anything I write? First of all, you only provided one link that actually worked. That I read (I'll admit to skimming portions, but I'm pretty comfortable I got the basics of the author's point).

So one person depicts a scene utilizing vanishing points, one-point and two-point perspective, compositional rules of symmetry, repetition of form, etc., but it is subjective whether or not said artist's work is superior to that which some elephant might randomly produce with his/her trunk?

Ah, so it's the "I know it when I see it" argument. But you're trying reframe the argument by giving the absurd artist vs. elephant example.

Beauty is subjective. That 99.9% of the population might agree that a pretty face (be it expertly painted or naturally sitting on someone's shoulders) is more beautiful than say, elephant dung is not surprising. But that doesn't make it an objective measurement.

You can reframe the question all day long, but you're ducking the simple truth:

  • You can objectively measure the age, length or weight of a painting (either absolutely or relative to another painting). You can not objectively measure it's beauty. There is no testable proof that will allow such a measurement to be verified (as there are for the other qualities I mentioned).
There are very few who subscribe to any religion who don't take at least some basic tenets literally. For example the idea that someone can rise from the dead. If you are talking about religion that has no supernatural elements then we get to ask what is it that sets it apart from other philosophies, humanism for example.

First of all, 'very few' ≠ none. And deists don't claim to believe in a particular religion (yet still believe in God).

Second, you're straying from the point. I didn't make a claim about how many people do or don't take some basic tenants literally.

I said (and will again), there is no purpose in applying a scientific test to a claim which does not violate a scientific belief.

If someone claims the Earth is 6000 years old, I'd challenge them on that, as I can provide scientific proof that it's not. If someone claims the bible is the inspired word of God, there is no scientific argument which can be used to refute that claim.

For that matter (since you brought it up), the Christian faith does not claim that (under normal circumstances) someone can rise from the dead. It claims that a supernatural and omnipotent God has, on occasion, brought someone who was dead, to life. The starting premise is that there IS a supernatural and omnipotent God. It's pointless to take issue with resurrection if you're going to ignore the premise.

I'm very comfortable with the idea that IF there is a supernatural and omnipotent God, he would likely be capable of bringing someone back from the dead.

I said (and will again), there is no purpose in applying a scientific test to a claim which does not violate a scientific belief. If someone claims the Earth is 6000 years old, I'd challenge them on that, as I can provide scientific proof that it's not. If someone claims the bible is the inspired word of God, there is no scientific argument which can be used to refute that claim.

Then keep religion out of government, quit trying to teach creationism or ID in schools as science and allow scientists to do their work without hindering them by bringing religion into it. Deal?

Since you've use the art argument I wonder why it is that religious people have decided what is obscene and what isn't. Are you advocating to changing the regulation for the FCC on what can be shown on TV since it follows the same logic?

There is no credible evidence that the supernatural exists. It's an empirical question and can be examined by science. If we look for evidence and find none, and until there is evidence available we make the reasonable assumption that it doesn't exist. Nothing is ever 100% proved in science, but the methods of science can be applied. Take your example of somone who says the bible is the inspired word of God. We can examine the God claim scientifically and conclude it is highly unlikely. We can offer other explanations that are more reasonable for the words demonstrating that they are the word of man, and not inspired. Of course if you use your nebulous God is the first cause outside of time and space you are simply removing it from discussion. The problem comes in the everchanging definition of God from your undefined version to one most religious people accept of one that plays a role in their lives. Challenging the idea that the earth is 6000 years old is no different in principle than challenging the idea of supernatural occurences. For those arguing for a 6000 year old earth can claim the evidence presented to refute it was planted by god to fool us. It's as usual pointless to discuss because the definition of god is whatever is convenient for the argument you are trying to make.

Then keep religion out of government, quit trying to teach creationism or ID in schools as science and allow scientists to do their work without hindering them by bringing religion into it. Deal?

Why on earth would you think I wouldn't strongly support every one of those things? I'm just pointing out bad arguments made by some atheists. Are you assuming that because I do so I must be religious?

Since you've use the art argument I wonder why it is that religious people have decided what is obscene and what isn't. Are you advocating to changing the regulation for the FCC on what can be shown on TV since it follows the same logic?

Well, I'm not religious (I'm probably a deist more than anything else) and I have no idea what change to an FCC regulation you're talking about.

There is no credible evidence that the supernatural exists. It's an empirical question and can be examined by science....We can examine the God claim scientifically and conclude it is highly unlikely.

Norm, I notice that you're skipping over everything that's been discussed in this thread, which was until recently talking about specific poor logical arguments made by some atheists, and (apparently with nothing to add on that topic) are now jumping straight to your larger argument of 'Why atheism is good, and a belief in God bad'.

Fine, here we go again (and just two days ago I thought I was going to get out of this thread without an argument with Norm).

IF there is an omnipotent supernatural God, there are two primary possibilities:

  1. God wants his existence known as fact, and works in ways that can be readily observed to be in conflict with nature. There is no need for faith, as God can be proven to exist. The result would be a world radically unlike the one we live in.

  2. God does not want his existence known as fact, and as such does not work in ways that can be readily observed to be in conflict with nature. Faith is something which needs to be struggled with, as God can not be proven to exist. The result would be a world exactly like the one we live in.

So, to sum up, that no credible evidence that the supernatural exists is completely unsurprising, regardless of whether or not there is a God. The inability to prove the existence of an omnipotent supernatural God is expected regardless of whether God exists or not. I have no problem with someone who doesn't believe in God. I laugh at people who are either so uncreative, or so deliberately obtuse, that they believe they can (effectively) prove God doesn't exist with arguments like the one above.

Of course if you use your nebulous God is the first cause outside of time and space you are simply removing it from discussion.

No, actually I'm properly defining the discussion. A God who could create the universe would (by definition) be outside space & time. I'm sorry that the result of that is you can't use science to disprove him.

For those arguing for a 6000 year old earth can claim the evidence presented to refute it was planted by god to fool us. It's as usual pointless to discuss because the definition of god is whatever is convenient for the argument you are trying to make.

Well, you're partially right. If someone wants to put forth the idea that the Earth is 6000 years old, and all the empirical evidence to the contrary is manufactured by a God to fool us, then that can't be scientifically disproven. But it's not (always) pointless to discuss from there as the argument then extends beyond the science ('Why would such a God do things that way?') I'm as much of a science geek as the next Trekkie CS major, but I'm keenly aware that science (by definition) tries to describe the physical & natural world.

You've decided that there is nothing beyond the physical & natural world. Fine - you're entitled to your opinion.

But what's comical is that when someone expresses a belief in something beyond the physical & natural world, you try to make a case that such a belief is foolish using scientific analysis - despite the fact that science (again, by definition) doesn't apply beyond the physical & natural world. That someone who presumably has a strong grasp on logic can't seem to absorb that just amazes me.

So, by all means, use science where it applies. When someone makes a claim (religious or otherwise) that contradicts science, then use science to refute it. When the claim falls outside the boundaries of science, then just acknowledge that and let it go.

IF there is an omnipotent supernatural God, there are two primary possibilities:

God wants his existence known as fact, and works in ways that can be readily observed to be in conflict with nature. There is no need for faith, as God can be proven to exist. The result would be a world radically unlike the one we live in.

God does not want his existence known as fact, and as such does not work in ways that can be readily observed to be in conflict with nature. Faith is something which needs to be struggled with, as God can not be proven to exist. The result would be a world exactly like the one we live in.

Well, you're partially right. If someone wants to put forth the idea that the Earth is 6000 years old, and all the empirical evidence to the contrary is manufactured by a God to fool us, then that can't be scientifically disproven. But it's not (always) pointless to discuss from there as the argument then extends beyond the science ('Why would such a God do things that way?')

To convince us that the Bible is divinely inspired. How many believers in God do you think there would be if the vast majority of believers didn't believe in the efficacy of prayer for example? Do you believe an undetectable, unmeasurable, God plays any part at all in your life, or do you believe God is detectable and if so how?

Kevin saidAh, so it's the "I know it when I see it" argument

No Kevin, I did not say that nor imply that. I have listed again and again and again the methods for distinguishing good art from bad art. I provided two links. One you skimmed over and didn't even bother to read in full and digest. The other one didn't work, but you could have easily gone to the website and have been able to find it and read it. However, you're clearly not interested in learning any new information because you're so convinced that you're an expert in this field. I'll say again.. A little learning is a dangerous thing.

And you make a comment of the artist v elephant as being absurd. Why so? If all art is subjective, then the elephant's random marks are no more superior than a Vermeer masterpiece.

Kevin said When the claim falls outside the boundaries of science, then just acknowledge that and let it go.

Ok, Kevin. I am the daughter of an invisible magical being which is superior to your God. There's no way that you can refute that using scientific formulas. Therefore, just acknowledge it and let it go.

Do you believe an undetectable, unmeasurable, God plays any part at all in your life, or do you believe God is detectable and if so how?

Well, I know that the idea of God plays a part of my life as I've spent a lot of time searching, examining and considering the possibility of a God. But I do not think it's a requirement that someone believe in (or even know about the idea of) God. I don't believe salvation (if it exists) is based on what you know so much as who you are.

And I personally don't believe God is detectable (per my earlier comment). I believe if there is a God, he would easily have the ability to interact as much as he wanted and remain unseen. Again, I think faith is something to be struggled with, not proven. A God (who wished to remain unseen) that could be detected by a cute logical argument wouldn't be a very impressive God.

Why on earth would you think I wouldn't strongly support every one of those things? I'm just pointing out bad arguments made by some atheists. Are you assuming that because I do so I must be religious?

No I'm saying what you're focusing on is pointless IMO. I don't really care if someone wants to believe in things I find juvenile but I do care when they use those juvenile beliefs to control what the rest of society can and can't do/say/see/think. You can argue art vs god all you want but I find it pointless unless you're going to also address the laws(rooted in religion) that decide what is art and what is unacceptable (FCC regulations).

Ah. Well, I think if you want to address laws rooted in religion, or what art is and isn't acceptable, then you should do it by addressing those things directly, instead of arguing about topic A (which you believe is pointless) when you care about topics B & C.

I have listed again and again and again the methods for distinguishing good art from bad art. I provided two links.

No, you haven't. You've provided ramblings about qualities of good art from bad art. You haven't provided an objective way of measuring art's beauty or even how 'good' it is.

And you make a comment of the artist v elephant as being absurd. Why so? If all art is subjective, then the elephant's random marks are no more superior than a Vermeer masterpiece.

Because I know it when I see it. Just like everyone else. The Vermeer is superior because it possesses qualities that humans have arbitrarily decided make it good or beautiful. That virtually all human beings agree on those qualities (in your extreme example) does not make the evaluation subjective.

I've asked you repeatedly for a single thing: A testable, verifiable proof that can be used to measure the beauty of art.

You have not provided a testable, verifiable method for comparing two works of art and determining which is more beautiful. You could settle this in one step if you could just provide that. Not a opinion or diatribe, and not a link to someone else's.

If you can not provide a scientifically testable method that can withstand logical scrutiny, and be independently verified, then you have no business claiming the question can be answered objectively. Any good scientist could tell you that, regardless of how much they knew about art.

Ok, Kevin. I am the daughter of an invisible magical being which is superior to your God. There's no way that you can refute that using scientific formulas. Therefore, just acknowledge it and let it go.

OK. You're right, I can't refute that using science, so I won't try. I'll just say that if you're using the same logic to determine that your mystical father is superior to my God that you are on the whole 'beauty of art' question, I'm not especially concerned.

You have not provided a testable, verifiable method for comparing two works of art and determining which is more beautiful. You could settle this in one step if you could just provide that

Skillful use of the scientific rules of perspective. Skillful use of color harmony. Skillful use of complementary colors. Skillful use of composition including repetition of form and symmetry.

There are many others, Kevin, but because you are not an artist, you don't have a clue. Just because you aren't aware of the methods used doesn't mean there aren't any.

From the article that you claimed that you "skimmed over".

This means that good art (which would include any art whether painting, drawing, sculpture, literature, music, drama or what have you) is any art which is very effective at expressing its idea and accomplishes that expression through the means peculiar to art, but not if it happens some other way, like with a press release or a punch in the stomach. If the expression is weak, vague, unclear, or prone to misinterpretation then it is not an effective means to the goal of expression either.
Scoping down a bit to the particulars of drawing and painting, there are thousands of visual, design, and implementation tools that an artist can bring to the task of expressing himself through drawing and painting, and I can't get into each one in depth since that would require a number of books full of analysis to even describe briefly. To generalize though, a good painting or drawing has a good compositional design that helps direct the attention of the viewer in ways that advance his expressive purpose
The goodness or badness isn't an intrinsic property of the thing itself (as if there's drop of goodness or evil somewhere inside the thing), but rather how the properties of the thing relate to some contextual goal against which it is being judged. It is important to note that this is not in any way the same thing as a relativist view of the good. The fact that something impedes or promotes a goal is a matter of objective fact which can be studied and evaluated and there are right and wrong answers to the question. It's not just a matter of subjective or relativist opinion, it's a matter of objective fact.

There's much more in the article that you supposedly "skimmed over", whatever that means.

Also Kevin, here's a link to the website that I posted earlier, but the link didn't work, but you couldn't be bothered to find with little difficulty. If all you're going to do is skim it, don't bother. If you're honestly interested in learning about objective ways of judging good art, then this should be helpful.

http://tinyurl.com/yshvzl

I know that the idea of God plays a part of my life as I've spent a lot of time searching, examining and considering the possibility of a God.

You spent a lot of time considering an unmeasurable, undetectable God? How you spend your time is of course your decision, but as soon as you start adding things you believe this god does we can measure those scientifically. We can measure for example if he answers prayers statistically with a significant level of confidence unless he chooses to ignore prayers that are measured, a cruel God. that one. Do you want to offer anything that this God does other than serve as an abstraction for your personal philosophy?

Again, a God who was shortsighted enough to get 'caught' answering prayers wouldn't be all that impressive. It's a cute logical trick to conclude that if he doesn't, he must be 'cruel', but not logically sound by any means.

The question of whether a God exists (for me) is largely philosophical in nature: Is there a purpose to life? Does our time here mean anything beyond what we see on the surface? How did the universe truly begin. Are we all really just the outcome of a billion billion random chance events?

I find value in asking in thinking about those types of questions, even if I won't ever be able to conclusively prove the answers to any of them.

Hmm. I responded to this once already, but it appears to have disappeared (or typekey decided to log me out before I hit submit).

You have not provided a testable, verifiable method for comparing two works of art and determining which is more beautiful. You could settle this in one step if you could just provide that

Skillful use of the scientific rules of perspective. Skillful use of color harmony. Skillful use of complementary colors. Skillful use of composition including repetition of form and symmetry.

Those are not 'testable, verifiable methods of evaluating or comparing art'. I could show you two paintings and we could argue all day about which one made more skillful use of color harmony or composition, as well as which of those is more important.

You've provided commentary on those qualities you believe most influence how beautiful or 'good' art is, but none of them can be quantified and independently tested. Therefore, they are not objective.

'Beauty' by definition is subjective. 'Art' by definition refers to the aesthetics or beauty of a created work.

You can try to spin this any way you like, but your argument is fundamentally ridiculous and has no logical basis. It is, in fact, exactly the type of argument that the atheists on this board so frequently rail against. I'd love to know what Norm thinks of your argument.

It's a cute logical trick to conclude that if he doesn't, he must be 'cruel'

There is nothing tricky about it at all. s Say through my ignorance or because I wasn't told someone prayed for me to get well and God would have answered the prayer but for being exposed. I call that cruel. "Conclusively prove," I would argue that you can't even come close, but at least we've moved on from they are not scientific questions. Is the billion billion random chance the anthropic argument used post hoc in disguise. A bit of circular magic. One can more easily say the fact that we are here is all the evidence we need. Unlikely events are not immpossible events. A royal flush is unlikely but not impossible.

Those are not 'testable, verifiable methods of evaluating or comparing art'. I could show you two paintings and we could argue all day about which one made more skillful use of color harmony or composition, as well as which of those is more important.

Oh, yes, they most certainly are testable and verifiable. It's just that you're ignorant of these principles and how they are applied.

But there's no way that I can educate you on this thread on this blog. If you're interested in educating yourself on the principles of art, you can do that, but it's clear that you have no interest in learning more about the subject and that you're perfectly content with the little bit of knowledge on the topic that you currently have.

It's either tricky or naive, as you are ignoring the complexity of the situation, assuming you could presuppose the nature and intent of an omnipotent God and all the other factors at play, and saying if he didn't heal you, that would be cruel. You can call it that, but you assume you have all the facts necessary to make that determination when (assuming such a God existed) you don't. A toddler might well think their parent cruel for not doing what they want, but that does not make it so.

And no, I wasn't proposing the anthropic argument in disguise, because I'm not suggesting that all those random events somehow point to 'there must be a God'. You seem incredibly quick to take my comments in the worst possible light.

I said, Are we all really just the outcome of a billion billion random chance events? That is the entirety of the question. The answer may very well be yes. All I said is, I find it a worthwhile thing to ponder.

Oh, yes, they most certainly are testable and verifiable. It's just that you're ignorant of these principles and how they are applied.

You know, just saying it doesn't make it so. You have offered nothing remotely resembling a scientific formula or proof. You ignore every definition of every term presented. And then you hide behind the claim that I'm ignorant and just don't understand.

You should go into religion. Your arguments would work well there.

Kevin,

I'll give one example. Let's begin with perspective. Are you aware of any of the principles and rules which are used to properly depict perspective in art? If so, what are they?.. please explain.

It is obviously easy to meausure if someone is screwing up on these principles. Art students do it all of the time. My boyfriend is an art instructor and I help out in his classes sometimes. At first, the students don't get it at all. Even after many years, they still haven't mastered it. If it were not possible to measure this, how in the hell would it be possible to teach it?

Jo Ann isn't spinning anything. The problem is she understands and has much more experience with art than a common person. You might not care much about art and just look at a work and think "hmm I like that" or "I don't like that" but someone with an understanding of art will look at it much differently. There are criteria that determine good art vs bad art but unless you have an interest and spent the time to understand the concepts you wont understand.

Since you are a CS major I'll to put it in terms you might understand.

Two pieces of code perform the same task. One is written in 10 lines with advanced algorithms which you would have never thought of, the second is written in 100 lines using elementary algorithms. Which is the better code?

Is there a scientific formula to determine which code is better? Not to someone who isn't a programmer but we would both know.

It's either tricky or naive, as you are ignoring the complexity of the situation.

Ah we're finally down to the you can't understand. A child gets burned it suffers for months and then it dies. It's just an unsolved mystery for the believer it is evidence that a just benevolent God does not exist for me, but it is certainly the conversation ending argument. And hey it took less time to get there this go around. I'm calling that progress. If I get a little energy perhaps I'll jump into the art argument or is that finished?

One could do brain scans viewing different art and if the excitement of pleasure centers of the brain is accepted as evidence of good art you have an objective measure. It may be that such studies have already been done. I'm to lazy to look, but JoAnn is right that such things as perspective and proportion can certainly be measured objectively and that is a reasonable measure of good art.

JoAnn: So, something with more accurate perspective is inherently more beautiful than something without? You can objectively say painting A has better perspective than painting B. I can even use geometry to measure how far the perspective is off. Does that make it more beautiful?

Dar: I could objectively say code A is more efficient, and requires fewer bytes of memory. You might be able to make the argument that it's 'better' if you define programming to include the idea that fewer bytes and more advanced algorithms are always preferable (an objective goal). However, art is (primarily) defined as that which is aesthetically pleasing and beautiful (though JoAnn might like to change that definition). Those are not objective qualities.

Norm: So the only way God can be benevolent is if he keeps you happy all the time? Because by your argument, he's not if he allows suffering he could prevent. Nice job ignoring the part about the larger complexity and inability to presuppose the nature and intent of an omnipotent God.

I think I'm about done now. I'd like to thank you all for taking a relatively enjoyable, rational conversation with Erick and ultimately letting it degenerate into the kind of pointless biased need to be right that illustrates that atheists can make arguments that are just as illogical as religious folk.

One could do brain scans viewing different art and if the excitement of pleasure centers of the brain is accepted as evidence of good art you have an objective measure.

Oh, and that's about the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Unless everyone's scans always agreed, that would prove the result to be subjective. You might as well take a scientific poll of whether people like it and use that to say what's good and what isn't.

Anyone want to go look up the word 'objective'?

Personally, I think Norm just can't stand the idea of agreeing with me.

Bye, all.

You might be able to make the argument that it's 'better' if you define programming to include the idea that fewer bytes and more advanced algorithms are always preferable (an objective goal).

Make the argument?

Sigh, I give up. I know the management of companies don't care how the code is written as long as it gets done but I'm surprised to get the above response from a programmer.

JoAnn: So, something with more accurate perspective is inherently more beautiful than something without?

You can't tell me that you find a disproportionally-drawn human figure or landscape as beautiful as a more skillfully rendered painting. Now, there are artistic principles which play with the notion of perspective. For example, if an artist purposefully exagerates the length of the legs, the person will come across as looking more beautiful.

You can objectively say painting A has better perspective than painting B. I can even use geometry to measure how far the perspective is off. Does that make it more beautiful?

The understanding of perspective does not guarantee beauty, but it does guarantee a better semblance to reality, and a grossly distorted landscape or human figure is grotesque. There are agreed upon concepts of beauty, and the ability to depict these concepts increases the relative perceived beauty of the artwork.

Yes, you can use geometry to measure perspective. See, there is a measurable way of judging good art vs bad art. At least you've finally come around to understanding that there are scientific principles which can be applied to art.

Are you aware that if an artist exagerrates the length of the leg, the person will be percieved as more beautiful? Are you aware that most amateur artists draw the head of a human as too large and the feet as too small? These are also ways of objectively determining good art vs bad art. Some artists know how to play with perspective in order to achieve a particular objective.

Are you aware that there are simple primary colors used by most amateur artists vs more complex mixed colors used by the professionals? This is also easy to detect.

Now, how about composition. Yes, you could argue this. What rules of composition would you personally use to argue that one particular work of art is compositionally better than another?

Dar (by the way, thank you) brought up something that I encounter a lot, which is that people often don't have a clue of what any particular trade or skill consists of, but this does not prevent them from waxing ad nauseam about it. There are jailhouse lawyers and amateurs of the sciences who think that because they've read some Isacc Asimov that they're suddenly experts in the field of physics.

The field of art is the most abused field of study that there is. Any idiot with a paint brush can claim to be an artist.

Dar said "Sigh, I give up. I know the management of companies don't care how the code is written as long as it gets done but I'm surprised to get the above response from a programmer."

Yeah, I give up too. If Kevin's responses are this obtuse in his own area of expertise, how I can expect to have a rational discussion with him in an area that he knows little about?

Oh God please free us from Kevin's black or white world. If I say for for example that objectively speaking more people prefer Coke to Pepsi and back it up with evidence its not an objective evaluation because some like pepsi. Is there a subjective element sure, but that's not the question. There's dumb and then there's dumber.

Oh God please free us from Kevin's black or white world

LOL... thanks for the laugh. :)

And thanks for every rational person out there.

to zaphod: having an IQ higher than 140 doesn't necessarily preclude holding poisonous or insane beliefs.

phelps would still have been allowed to procreate under your forced sterilization scheme; his IQ has been tested at around 150.

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