De-normalizing dissent

I really hadn’t been planning to comment on the Duck Dynasty brouhaha. But conservative gadfly Mark Steyn (a very funny, witty man even if you disagree with his politics) has described the actual strategy of GLAAD and its allies with a pithy phrase that I think describes wider circulation – “de-normalizing dissent”.

OK, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Judged by his remarks in Esquire, Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson is an ignorant, bigoted cracker who reifies almost every bad redneck stereotype there is. His religion is barely distinguishable from a psychotic delusional system. Nothing I am about to say should be construed as a defense of the content of his beliefs.

On the other hand, Steyn has a point when he detects something creepy and totalitarian about the attempt to hound Robertson out of his job and out of public life. True, nothing GLAAD has done rises to the level of state coercion – there is no First Amendment issue here, no violence or threat of same in play.

But what GLAAD and its allies are trying to accomplish is not mere moral suasion either; they’re trying to make beliefs they disapprove of unspeakable in polite society by making the consequences of expressing them so unpleasant that people will self-censor. In Steyn’s well-chosen phrase, they’re trying to de-normalize dissent.

This is a fun game. Do I get to play? I think anyone who speaks of communism or socialism in less opprobrious terms than they would apply to Nazis should be considered morally equivalent to a National Socialist and shunned by all right-thinking people. Let’s remember the hundreds of millions of genocide victims and de-normalize that advocacy!

What? You don’t think that’s a good idea? You think even odious dissent should remain part of the conversation? Then welcome to the ranks of Phil Robertson’s defenders. Unless you’re a blatant partisan hypocrite.

Steyn likes to say that the right way to react to people who try to de-normalize your dissent is to push back twice as hard. I agree. So I give you my favorite Twitter hashtag of the day, to be applied to GLAAD any time it tries this kind of public bullying: #ButtNazis.

Don’t let the #ButtNazis fuck your free speech up the ass while pretending they’re on a lofty mission of moral uplift. Trying to publicly shame and humiliate Robertson, OK; trying to get him fired and shunned, not OK. The former would have been education; the latter was an ugly power play intended to establish GLAAD as arbiters of what can and cannot be said.

All freedom-loving people should reject such attempts, and I am heartened to see that even many homosexual public figures are doing so. (Camille Paglia’s reported description of GLAAD’s behavior as “Stalinist, fascist” struck me as particularly apt.) GLAAD’s influence is going to greatly diminish after this, which is as it should be.

I hope this fiasco will serve as a warning to other activist organizations that there is a line between persuasion and suppressive bullying which they cross at their own peril. Myself, I promise to continue putting the defense of free expression over any form of partisanship.

341 thoughts on “De-normalizing dissent

  1. The points floating around my more liberal circles are that this is not a 1A issue (true – a TV station is free to boot off shows for any reason) and that speech, even if free from government oppression, is not free of consequences (also true, and definitely including voluntary shunning by potential trade partners).

    I wonder to what extent they’re aware that consequences can flow both ways, even in the same issue. As Robertson faces consequences for expressing his views, so too will GLAAD face consequences for expressing theirs.

  2. wait, isn’t this just the free market at work?

    also, speaking of communism as anything less than unadulterated evil is a public death sentence. i’d mention socialism here but fact is most people don’t think there’s any effing difference anyway.

    also, also, so is there nothing that we shouldn’t be allowed to say without backlash? frankly i’m mostly offended by his assertion that black people were happy as sh*t during jim crow (no, i’m not black)

    also, also, also, didn’t we call for martin bashir’s head (when all he did was suggest that if palin didn’t think slavery was so bad maybe she ought to try it out)

    i’m not defending glaad – but again, do we have no constraints on what we can say publicly without being shunned? can i go on the air tomorrow and advocate for raping small children? (i’m not equating the two – i’m asking for lines to be drawn and the reasoning behind those lines)

  3. Remember the Dixie Chicks? It seems to me that a lot of the people who were angry at their political comments and were glad when Clear Channel decided to stop playing their music are now angry because a cable TV network kicked Phil Robertson off the air.

  4. It seems to me that some people are learning about their consumer demographics the hard way.

  5. @esr: “Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson is an ignorant, bigoted cracker who reifies almost every bad redneck stereotype there is. His religion is barely distinguishable from a psychotic delusional system.”

    I find your words to be ignorant, offensive, and full of hate.

    But I don’t think you should be silenced, shunned or in any way sanctioned for spreading words that are offensive and hurtful to millions of people. I hope you continue to be a very prolific writer.

    Good article.

    Merry Christmas!

  6. >It seems to me that a lot of the people who were angry at [the Dixie Chicks'] political comments and were glad when Clear Channel decided to stop playing their music are now angry because a cable TV network kicked Phil Robertson off the air.

    Well, yeah. The only people consistent about this are libertarians like me.

    That said, the cases aren’t completely equivalent, and the differences cut in Robertson’s favor. I don’t watch Duck Dynasty (I don’t watch TV in general) but there is no report that he drags his politics gratuitously in front of his audience. Honestly answering a question posed by a magazine interviewer is not the deliberate political grandstanding the Dixie Chicks engaged in.

  7. Yet you have already succumbed. Where is the parallel passage:

    OK, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Judged by his remarks (insert GLAAD spokesperson stuff) His belief system is barely distinguishable from a psychotic delusional system. Nothing I am about to say should be construed as a defense of the content of his beliefs.

    So everything that happens on Castro or even Folsom street from marriages to the bath-houses is somehow perfectly normal human behavior in your opinion so needs no similar disclaimer? That Gay Pride (the ones with live sex) and Thanksgiving Day parades both express American Values?

    The former is already de-normalized as you needed a disclaimer, and not merely a “I don’t agree”, but a fairly vitriolic and bigoted statement – you have to give your opinion that Phil appears to you to be a delusional psychotic. Was that necessary? Yes, because it is already de-normalied!

    The latter is already normalized as you failed to even mention WHAT beliefs and behavior GLAAD is advocating – and it is not tolerance and freedom of thought and speech. Whatever has to do sex – things that were literally listed as psychotic or delusional during living memory – is now considered normal. Is that progress?

  8. Eric, you’re focusing on the wrong target for approbrium. GLAAD did exactly what their mission and constituents want that organization to do: advocate for a group of people that share a particular worldview.

    In contrast, A&E management went against their own self-interest as a corporation and that of their stockholders by responding and acquiescing to the perfectly predictable GLAAD message.

    The difference between the Phil Robertson and Dixie Chicks episodes is that Phil’s words resonated harmoniously with his fan base, whereas the Dixie Chicks’ words alienated theirs directly.

    Cracker Barrel management originally followed the GLAAD party line, but figured out quickly what was in their best corporate interest. Good for them!

  9. >can i go on the air tomorrow and advocate for raping small children?

    I won’t try to stop you. On the other hand, if I catch you attempting to rape a child I will shoot to kill.

    This rule generalizes.

  10. I think any communist-like ideology can be easily summed up in one sentence:
    “Anybody who doesn’t agree with us don’t deserve to live.”

    While the forms of enforcing their ideology might have changed from extremely violent coercive, to subtler, non-violent, but equally coercive methods, the base remains the same.

  11. >Whatever has to do sex – things that were literally listed as psychotic or delusional during living memory – is now considered normal. Is that progress?

    Whether it is is or not is a different argument than the one over how to regulate speech.

    If I had tried to de-normalize GLAAD in my article by describing them as disgusting perverts who should be shunned, it would have subverted my real point about free speech. So doing so would have been a bad idea regardless of my actual beliefs about that.

  12. “they’re trying to make beliefs they disapprove of unspeakable in polite society by making the consequences of expressing them so unpleasant that people will self-censor”

    Your phrasing appears to imply that this is somehow new…a process in an early stage, perhaps. On the contrary, it is effectively complete. Robertson just didn’t get the memo.

  13. @tz:

    Yet you have already succumbed. Where is the parallel passage [defending GLAAD].

    The former is already de-normalized as you needed a disclaimer, and not merely a “I don’t agree”, but a fairly vitriolic and bigoted statement – you have to give your opinion that Phil appears to you to be a delusional psychotic. Was that necessary? Yes, because it is already de-normalied!

    No, the disclaimer is required because (as part of their de-normalization tactics) groups like GLAAD will claim that any defenders of the expressed opinion do so because they must hold the same belief themselves. If this message is repeated loudly and often enough, it guarantees that nobody will willingly defend the targets of those same groups.

  14. @Parallel:

    In contrast, A&E management went against their own self-interest as a corporation and that of their stockholders by responding and acquiescing to the perfectly predictable GLAAD message.

    Did they? A&E is in the business of selling advertising. If anything Robertson said might be seen as distasteful by A&E’s customers, it could cast A&E in negative light with their advertisers, which might cause them to pull ads. What’s best of A&E is what’s best for A&E’s customers, just like any other business in a free market economy.

  15. “by making the consequences of expressing them so unpleasant that people will self-censor”

    I have never heard anyone say something more… entitled… than that being a reality TV star is so important that losing that status is some sort of odious punishment. He still has his business, after all, and that’s not likely to change given what its target market is. (Conservatives have had an oddly schizophrenic response to the boycott, as seen by the Cracker Barrel thing – in essence, they’re insisting on putting more money in A&E’s pockets, not just the Robertsons’.)

    When’s the last time you knowingly bought something from a defender of communism, having had another option?

    What are the limits? You mentioned Duck Dynasty, but what about Justine Sacco? Why are you trying to create some kind of moral obligation to give our money to people we don’t agree with?

  16. The Overton Window– what’s considered to be acceptable public discourse– might be a handy concept for this discussion.

    As for the rest, I’m mulling. It’s obvious that a chunk of the left has given the Overton Window a good hard yank in their preferred direction.

    Having an Overton window may be unavoidable if you’re dealing with humans.

    The interesting questions may be how narrow the window is and how it’s enforced.

    Eric, is your boundary that calls for shunning are never appropriate?

  17. Freedom of speech is an absolute. You have it or you don’t.

    If you have it, you have the right to publicly express your opinions, but so does the character whose opinions you loathe and despise. If you don’t, the same things you try to do against the ones you loathe and despise can be done to you.

    Too much of what I’ve seen called for as “Freedom of Speech” parses as “I have the right to say what *I* think.”, with the unspoken corollary “But *you* don’t!”. That’s not freedom.

    I don’t watch Duck Dynasty, and didn’t read the Esquire interview, but everything I’ve heard of Phil Robertson makes him a loon by my standards. The correct response to loons isn’t attempting to censor them: it’s ignoring them, or pointing at them and laughing.

  18. I am a passionate advocate of free speech. But free speech is a government matter, which is to say the only people who should not be allowed to censor speech is the government. I am perfectly at liberty to censor your speech in my house, or around my ears. Phil Roberson is not welcome to say hateful things in my house, and if he says them in my hearing I reserve the option to either leave in disgust (probably with a lot of huffing) or yell back at him and humiliate him for being so hateful.

    Similarly, if I buy duck calls from him, and I hear him say horrible things, I reserve the right to change my duck call vendor to someone who is more one of “my people.”

    I think GLAAD are perfectly within their rights to try to loudly criticize him, to point out to their advertisers that they are associating with a bad person, or to call on A&E to stop giving him a platform for his hatefulness, or to call on their members and supporters to stop watching the dumb show. (Now there would be a REAL loss…)

    Of course, if they are calling for criminal prosecution, or any action by the legal system, they are WAY out of line. If they are calling on the cops to shut him down when he is preaching in the street, they are truly curtailing free speech. The blurring of private censorship and public censorship is a very dangerous and slippery slope.

    However, on the flip side I’d also have to say to these GLAAD type people — really, grow up. Why is one old fart saying dumb stuff SOOOO offensive to you? Really, grow a hide. Life is unfair. People say bad stuff. We are WAY to sensitive about things. The best strategy with something like that is to shake your head and laugh at the stupid ole coot who subscribes to a crazy anachronism. The real truth is that they have given him a MUCH larger platform to spew his hate into the echo chamber that already loves him.

    FWIW, I don’t watch the show, and haven’t followed the controversy, so all of the above is based on second hand knowledge.

  19. I think there is an earlier and more appropriate counter example than the Dixie Chicks—the Hollywood blacklist. I suspect that most of the people who support action against Robertson disapprove, if they are aware of it, of Hollywood studies making a point of not hiring communists.

  20. I’ve no idea what y’all are talking about. Something about some American TV show I gather, but that’s almost totality it. And I don’t really care about those specifics.

    I just wanna chime in with some thoughts.

    First, anyone who calls for the government to shut down freedom of speech is not alright in my book. Even if that speech is abhorrent to me.

    Second, some corporations are huge and powerful, and some (like media organisations) also have a disproportionate effect on society. Therefore, I’ll treat them like the government, don’t call on them (directly — see point the three) to shutdown freedom of speech.

    Third, and this is where a lot of y’all will no doubt disagree with me. I don’t have any problem with individual workers, or groups of workers, deciding off their own bat, to shutdown the communication channels that they control, if they don’t like what’s being put out. So, newspaper workers can refuse to publish stuff if they don’t like it. Broadcasters (and I mean the workers, not the corporations) can refuse to broadcast etc. I don’t have an issue with that.

    —-

    Finally, I was going to say something about communism and definitions (and the distinct lack of), but then I realised that would be a waste of time. I’ll just say I wish people would stop using the word without first defining it first (and defining it more clearly than simply “those countries over there”).

  21. So, putting on my conspiratorial hat, one wonders if this is all just a ploy to boost the merchandising of Duck Dynasty and boost its viewership?

    I think not. I think Robertson is probably a redneck boobie head who isn’t smart enough to think of this, and I think that A&E are the usual corporation who totter on the teeniest blowing wind of bad publicity.

    Nonetheless, I do predict that there will be a lot more camo pants sold this Christmas season.

    Ho, ho, ho.

    Oh, and I finally did get around to reading some of his comments. I didn’t think them particularly outrageous. The big OMG is that he mentions homosexual men in the same breath as bestiality, and calls both a “sin”. However, he also mentions adultery and pre-marital sex in there. So, as an unmarried non virgin, I can say I am apparently a target of his rant too. And honestly, I really don’t care at all. I think he is just a rambling old boob with silly old fashioned ideas, and I don’t care one whit what he thinks of me, the wanton whore that I apparently am. I’m happy to be viewed as a sinner with all my homo friends who (to quote him) prefer an anus to a vagina. (Though I’d also like to give a shout out to his poor wife who has to suffer under the monogamous marital relationship with a guy who thinks sex is only about anuses and vaginas.)

    Now if I have to judicially wear a scarlet letter, then I’ll be pissed.

  22. “In the early days of my free-speech battles in Canada, my friend Ezra Levant used a particular word to me: ‘de-normalize’.”

    I knew this wasn’t the first time I’d heard that word… By the way, let me bring to your attention a website full of successfully denormalized information regarding human sexuality:

    http://www.miriamgrossmanmd.com/

  23. >Eric, is your boundary that calls for shunning are never appropriate?

    No. I think it is proper, even morally required, to shun Nazis and Communists. But this is not the same as making their beliefs unspeakable in public. There are some horrors that it is best we not allow ourselves to forget.

  24. >Why are you trying to create some kind of moral obligation to give our money to people we don’t agree with?

    Don’t be silly. I’m not going to buy Phil Robertson’s duck calls, nor do I suppose you should.

  25. @Morgan Greywolf: it appears we have two working hypotheses: I posit the A&E managers let their political prejudices override good business judgment, and you posit that distancing A&E from Phil Robertson was a good business decision.

    Evidence supporting mine will include another network picking up the show with strong financials for the new network. Your hypothesis predicts that moving the show to another network will be financially fruitless. Guess neither of us has enough data (yet) to claim confirmation or disconfirmation.

  26. >By the way, let me bring to your attention a website full of successfully denormalized information regarding human sexuality:

    A whole lot of glossy nothing there. All those supposedly “suppressed” facts are well known to anyone with two brain cells working; the website is just a cheap ploy to gin up outrage and speaking gigs.

    I’m making a point of this because the site is a perfect illustration of what faux outrage about speech suppression, perpetrated for commercial gain, looks like. While one sees this occasionally on the left, it’s social conservatives like this “Dr. Miriam” who seem to have it down to a fine art.

    So far, it appears that Phil Robertson is above this kind of cheap posturing. That’s a point in his favor.

  27. I don’t see A&E being harmed by this, because most of their market is on the left. They appear to have capitulated for now, but it would not surprise me if this disagreement crops up again, and the Duck show moves to Glenn Beck’s Blaze channel (which has already offered to take them in).

    More to the point, I agree with esr. Every point of view, even the absolute nastiest, should be heard.

    As a teenager I found the story of the Holocaust all the more convincing because I was able to see the deniers’ lame case. If I were in a country that censored them, I might still have doubts.

  28. @Cassandra Ciardi:

    > can i go on the air tomorrow and advocate for raping small children?
    > (i’m not equating the two – i’m asking for lines to be drawn and the
    > reasoning behind those lines)

    Yes, though I would hope and expect for different levels of responses.

    First, the government cannot stop you for such advocacy or expressing such an opinion.

    If you were to do as you described as above, I would hope that people would ignore you and expect that people would be outraged and demand you be taken off the air.
    OTOH, if you were to attempt to engage in a reasonable debate or argumentation that the age of consent should be lowered to 0, I would personally engage you in civilized debate and would hope that people would pay attention and possibly contribute. I would expect that people would be outraged and demand you be taken off the air (mostly because people easily fall into the category of outrage).

    Ultimately, I would hope that all civilized debate (regardless of the topic) would be supported and encouraged, if for no reason than that it encourages actively thinking about our own assumptions.

  29. @esr
    > A whole lot of glossy nothing there.

    I don’t agree. I think it is a website full of very damaging ideas that have the potential to ruin people’s lives, which is ironic since it purports to do exactly the opposite, and doubly ironically by the same mechanism, namely the promulgation of a putatively true education on sexuality.

    Here we have a doctor outraged at the levels of HPV while people from her constituency rail against the use of the most effective vaccine known against that family of viruses. Why? Because lacking the protective effects of the virus will apparently scare their teenage daughters to part with the panties less frequently. And should the succumb apparently the hell with the wanton sinners.

    The basic principle is that fear of the consequences of sex is more important that learning how to use science to protect from those consequences. And the basic reason is to prove themselves right, Prove that their holy book is in fact not flawed. As if doctrine is more important than people.

    What Miriam doesn’t say in her haze of alchemy is the basic scientific facts about sex, namely that teenagers are sex machines. They are designed for sex. There is an evolutionary argument that their PURPOSE is sex and sex supportive activities. And that it took all the most powerful tools of the state and the church to suppress that reality in a time when science was inadequate to help deal with the consequences. Thankfully neither is true anymore, but the anachronists are having a hard time letting go.

    > While one sees this occasionally on the left, it’s social conservatives like this “Dr. Miriam” who seem to have it down to a fine art.

    Really? I don’t agree. The left are the masters of outrage, as Robertson is finding out. You wouldn’t believe how pissed these guys are that my gas guzzler doesn’t plug into the wall socket. Miriam is a piker compared to Gore.

  30. @Jessica Boxer:

    > Similarly, if I buy duck calls from him, and I hear him say horrible things, I
    > reserve the right to change my duck call vendor to someone who is more
    > one of “my people.”

    I must start by recognizing your right to buy duck calls from whomever you like, for whatever reason. However, I would state (in my stodgiest cultural-conservative voice) that doing so simply because of the viewpoints of the owner of the company works to break down civil society. If we are stuck in a case where having any viewpoint makes us susceptible to a boycott of one form or another by at least half of the population at-large, we enter into an environment where we are afraid to say anything at all for fear of our livelihood. Changing your duck call vendor because you fear negative social consequences from being seen with this man’s duck calls is more understandable as it changes the value-proposition offered by the product.

    I am ultimately guided by John Stewart Mill’s writing in On Liberty where he advocates for great tolerance in the opinions of others.

    - Garrett

  31. >The left are the masters of outrage,

    That’s true. But I was talking about something more specific than feigned outrage. I meant specifically feigning that one’s (moral) speech is being suppressed by a hostile overculture. So-cons play this game more than the left does. Pressed, I’ll admit they have more justification for it than the left has since the early 1970s – but the tactic still stinks like a dead fish.

  32. Here, from The Atlantic, is by far and away the most cogent article on the uproar that I have seen yet.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/12/the-genuine-conflict-being-ignored-in-the-i-duck-dynasty-i-debate/282587/

    For those who know nothing of Richardson, he has a Master’s degree from Louisiana Tech and back when he was there he was the first-string quarterback, ahead of Terry Bradshaw who was second-string. He passed up an NFL career because he’d rather spend his time in the swamps hunting ducks than playing football. I empathize, completely.

    He is neither an ignoramus nor a bigot unless you wish (as I know some of you do) to expand that definition to include any Christian who understands and accepts the clear words of the Bible. Richardson condemned no one; he pointed out the scripturally-prescribed outcome for those who die unrepentant. I count myself among them, particularly since I was once the beneficiary of a genuine, “couldn’t happen,” miracle that left me alive, unhurt, and calm instead shredded in the wreckage of my motorcycle alongside the highway.

  33. @Garrett
    > I would state (in my stodgiest cultural-conservative voice) that doing so simply because of the viewpoints of the owner of the company works to break down civil society.

    Well that is rather a grandiose consequence of a simple commercial decision. People choose the things they buy for a variety of reasons. Some things simply on price, somethings on quality and so forth. There are a lot of things that are bought and sold based on a “these are my people” type of deal. Duck calls are surely one of those things, though I will admit to never having used a duck call, never mind shot one of those cute fluffly little birdies.

    I think there is nothing wrong with boycotts and such causing vendors to shut their big mouths about their political views, or at least balancing the pros and cons of doing so (for surely, as I pointed out above, there will be a lot of people buy duck dynasty stuff to support this guy.) Personally, I wish them actors would shut up all their waffling about politics all the time. Really, I think Julia Roberts is a great actress, but when she played that horrible woman Erin Brockovitch I just couldn’t watch her movies anymore.

    > If we are stuck in a case where having any viewpoint makes us susceptible to a boycott of one form or another by at least half of the population at-large,

    Not if we don’t mention them in interviews in GQ magazine. Publicity is a two edged sword. If you don’t want to play the game don’t play. If you want to play it with all the benefits and none of the downsides, you are living in fantasyland. I feel little sympathy for the celebrities who whine about the paparazzi, as they retire to their private jets to fly to their giant mansions in the Caribbean. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

  34. Two points: Robertson did not, AFAIK, advocate violence or even discrimination. (As discrimination used to be defined, at least: these days not approving of same-sex marriage seems to be “discrimination” if not “hate speech.”) He didn’t say gays should be killed or jailed or fired. He did not advocate bringing back slavery or Jim Crow. His views on gays seem to be roughly the same as the Pope’s, who’s gotten a lot of huzzahs from GLAAD etc. in recent weeks. His views on blacks count as ignorant, but he was speaking of his personal experience, and for all I know that was his experience. He seemed to be advocating being kind to everyone, and letting God make the judgments.

    Second, the secular outrage is partly comical, because atheists often mock the Sky Fairy and associated beliefs. So, if a believer in the Flying Spaghetti Monster believes that white males with blue eyes will burn in hell, that includes me, but what do I care? I don’t believe that. The GLAAD position seems to be: “No one is allowed to publicly voice the opinion that their God condemns our behavior.” It’s absurd, and you know that they won’t make a stink about anything any Muslim professes.

  35. No. I think it is proper, even morally required, to shun Nazis and Communists. But this is not the same as making their beliefs unspeakable in public. There are some horrors that it is best we not allow ourselves to forget.

    I can’t quite tell where you’re drawing the line between shunning someone for their beliefs and making those beliefs unspeakable. As near as I can guess, the former is simply refusing to associate with them, while the latter also involves pressuring others to do the same. So I think you consider GLAAD out of line for pressuring A&E to fire Robertson, but would be okay with A&E doing so of its own accord. Do I have that about right?

  36. >He is neither an ignoramus nor a bigot unless you wish (as I know some of you do) to expand that definition to include any Christian who understands and accepts the clear words of the Bible.

    That doesn’t require any “expansion” at all. Biblical literalism is incompatible with anything but ignorant bigotry.

  37. >if I catch you attempting to rape a child I will shoot to kill.

    Yes, well, Eric sweetie. . .I’ll see your primate chest thumping, and raise you the outright industrial commoditization of my sexual flesh:

    Yeah, but actually for-real genitally mutilate a few dozen just down the road, and you’re all, eh, meh, the consequences for violently stopping *that* would be too much hassle, right, kiddo? Huh huh? Right sport? [air elbow poke x 2]

    Yeah, that’s right, you beat your chest around me about how daaaaaangerous you are to people who sexually abuse children, and I will be right up there in your face, eye to eye, asking you, “So? Where were *your* intactivist drops?”

    And of course that goes for all of the rest of you too.

    And of course if any of you respond it will only be to scream that this is IRRELEVANT and OFFENSIVE and TROLLING and just a DISTRACTION THAT SHOULD NOT BE DISCUSSED. . .

    . . .in a thread about pushing back against the use of exaggerated false representation of other people’s words to silence discussion of views expressed about sexuality that make people uncomfortable.

    Go ahead, prove me wrong! I could use a Christmas miracle.

    Oh, and communists are objectively 5X worse than nazis. It’s a fact! Yep, according to the best first metric of approximation for practiced political philosophies that we have — internal genocide body count — commies are at least 5X worse than nazis. The nazis killed about 20 million of “their people” and the communists, at least 100 million, and 100/20=5.

    Commies are 5X worse than nazis.

  38. @esr: “Biblical literalism is incompatible with anything but ignorant bigotry.”

    Really?

    If I were to introduce you to the many people I know who are smart, successful, well educated, well read, well traveled, tolerant, and decidedly not a bigot, would that falsify your assertion?

    Such people are anything but rare.

  39. >So I think you consider GLAAD out of line for pressuring A&E to fire Robertson, but would be okay with A&E doing so of its own accord. Do I have that about right?

    Yes. Where GLAAD crossed the line was in attempting to organize what rose nearly (note that I said “nearly”) to the level of coercion. Uncoordinated decisions by many organizations and people to shun Robertson would not have the same moral weight; indeed, given his remarks about blacks in the pre-Emancipation South, I would consider that a healthy response if it occurred.

    The difference is that in a more spontaneous, distributed boycott, no individual person or otganization is claiming or acquiring the social authority to declare that a person is beyond the pale. There’s no Gleichschaltung.

  40. Insofar as Robertson’s religious beliefs, I’ll not argue the subject of ignorance and bigotry with you related to religious belief. I’m agnostic, but think it’s more nuanced than you usually allow.

    That said, college graduation credentialism that I put no stock in aside, he’s also proven himself to be very competent in a field that requires an extreme degree of situational awareness, memorizing a lot of information, and being able to think quickly in the face of rapidly changing situations. Nevermind the hunting and wilderness survival skills. Is that the same as book intelligence? No – but I would be very careful about flat out calling him stupid as others here have.

    He is also a textbook of “tolerance” – if the current crowd doing a witchunt were interested in true tolerance than hunting down anyone who doesn’t clap enthusiastically enough.

    Insofar as beliefs and the bible – supernatural aspects and “god said so” hold little authority for me – and for Christians, many of the worst excesses of the old testament were rendered moot. What’s more fascinating to me are the observations that parallel many other older texts about human nature and numerous recent studies – many of which make the PC crowd explode. Among them are: brain scans that show men and women really DO think differently with completely different parts of the brain connecting (oversimplified as women’s intuition and emotionalism vs logic and competitiveness). Studies show that testosterone not only makes men more willing to compete and fight, but more willing in higher trust societies to enforce the norms when someone else cheats, and generally be more “fair” per local norms. Interestingly, the women who thought they had received testosterone, whether or not they actually did, were the only ones to act out the worst stereotypes. Studies have also shown – mirroring the old proverb about being better to live on a corner of one’s roof than in a house with a contentious woman – that the determining factor to how happy a marriage is considered isn’t how quickly the GUY settles down, but how quickly the woman can calm down and hear out a reasoned argument.

    Say stuff like that – ESPECIALLY if you couch it from the bible but as Larry Summers proved, even scientific fact and speculation is verboten – despite it often being observable general reality and now scientifically backed up, and heads explode and the PC crowd screeches.

  41. >a DISTRACTION THAT SHOULD NOT BE DISCUSSED. . .

    Oh, I’ll discuss it. I’ll start by judging you to be a shrill, posturing idiot.

    I wouldn’t shoot a doctor performing a circumcision because that’s not morally equivalent to the rape of a child, and only a posturing idiot would even imply such a claim should be taken seriously. I was circumcised myself; I don’t have trauma or flashback dreams or phobic responses or disassociative behaviors or fear or intimacy or any of the usual sequelae of rape. On the evidence available to me I probably collected a medical benefit in terms of reduced odds of contracting various diseases.

    If you want to get upset about genital mutilation, the kind that does real harm is what’s routinely done to women in many Islamic countries. I would shoot anyone I caught doing that, in a heartbeat. Next to that, whining about male circumcision is petty and unworthy. There may be a case against it, but you are for sure not making one.

  42. >Such people are anything but rare.

    I’ve never met a Biblical literalist who was other than an ignorant bigot. I think you’re religiously delusional about this and do not accept your assertions as evidence.

  43. So what if it’s just an example of a techne/technique of PR?
    http://benhebert.com/duck-dynasty/

    Too cynical? Key here is: why would A&E have allowed P.R. (hah!) off the leash with the interviewer for a millisecond without a handler present. I don’t have his contract in front of me, but more than ten years into the “reality tv ” phenomenon, I find it un-credible that they would not have had any detail of interview policy not lashed down tight.

  44. >I’m agnostic, but think it’s more nuanced than you usually allow.

    I used to be more “nuanced”. Then 9/11 happened, and I noticed what my tolerance had been enabling.

    Religious mania must be ended before it ends us all. This means ceasing to give the enablers and the superficially sane but fundamentally insane a pass on the memetic poison they constantly spew into our environment.

  45. > Religious mania must be ended before it ends us all

    Point taken – though I’d argue there are some very significant differences between Christianity of any stripe and islam.

    From what I can tell, the latter doesn’t distinguish between political and religious, or civilian and military targets as a matter of its founding philosophies, while condoning piracy, rape, etc. with very little misdirection or poetic metaphor. Though at times strained to the breaking point, Christianity DOES have that, as well as several points where it’s strongly implied that lawmakers are not above the law.

    Finally – Christianity has centuries of though put into metaphorical understanding and resolution of contradictions, while the Koran appears to avoid that by stating in several places that what is written later supersedes the former – and the latter passages contain the “go kill or subdue” content. Questioning of how to interpret this stuff is apparently one way to get oneself killed.

    In short – there are brakes – no matter how imperfect – built into Christianity. The driving philosophy behind those who knocked down the towers appears to have little or no such mechanism. I think these are major qualitative differences as to how nasty these memes can get.

  46. Dgarsys: Oh, yes. Mainstream Islam is “fundamentalist” in a way that makes Phil Robertson look like a college-town Unitarian.

    The Bible was written by dozens of people living in a handful of different cultures, all “inspired” by God, in various mostly now-obsolete languages. Plus you’ve got the latter half partly superseding the earlier half. There’s plenty of room for interpretation, as all but the most ignorant and deluded know.

    Muslims, though, believe the Koran was dictated by Allah to Muhammad: there’s a copy of the Koran on gold tablets in Heaven, you see. They don’t believe the Koran was in any way edited by humans (though it was). And it’s written in somewhat archaic (but still understandable) Arabic, and almost always read that way. (I’ve heard that translations of the Koran are not considered “real” Korans.)

    So imagine if Jesus was said to have written the Bible himself, in Shakespearean English, and you weren’t considered a Christian unless you believed the entire Bible to be the literal word of God, written in the language God speaks. That would be a “Christian fundamentalism” that would make the rest seem like weak tea.

  47. @esr

    “Where GLAAD crossed the line was in attempting to organize …”

    I’m confused about your attitude here. It sounds as if you’re saying that private individuals and organizations are free to express disagreement with what other private individuals or organizations say or do, but they are not free to organize themselves into a mass sufficient to actually *influence* the behavior with which they disagree. That does not sound to me like the attitude of a freedom-loving person. in fact, it sounds downright incoherent.

  48. @PapayaSF
    > So imagine if Jesus was said to have written the Bible himself, in Shakespearean English, and you weren’t considered a Christian unless you believed the entire Bible to be the literal word of God, written in the language God speaks.

    Eh, I hate to tell you this but there are lots and lots of Christians who believe something not all that far from that. It is not an uncommon believe that the King James Version of the Bible is an inspired translation, and in the USA it was the dominant translation in use in Churches until recently (and it is still VERY widely used.) And many of these people believe that God dictated the bible pretty much as is.

    As to why they are different? Well because they won, right? Christianity is already in charge of the west, or was so until recently. Hard to conquer something you already conquered. And you will hear many a righteous Christian advocate nuking the middle east to solve “our problems” there. Something about turning the desert into glass.

    And on the flip side, most muslims are pretty decent people, just as most Christians are. They don’t take all the crazy guys too seriously because they are too busy paying the bills, raising their children and trying to have a good time.

    In regards to Christian extremists all being deluded fools… the human brain has a remarkable ability to compartmentalize. Someone we can believe that Christian stuff, but turn it off when it gets in the way. Newton was, for example, a pretty serious Christian who made considerable study of the bible (including being committed enough to “its truth” to reject the asinine doctrine of the Trinity), yet despite this compartment of insanity no-one would question the spectacular advances he made in many subjects of intellect. (One might even argue that everything after him was derivative… but that would be too corny.)

  49. There are ignorant people everywhere, but AFAIK no Christian believes that God has a King James Bible on gold tablets in heaven (i.e. that the KJV is “perfect” in the sense the Koran is), or that Jesus wrote the Bible. The most historically ignorant views are also not promulgated by the leaders of the religion. So there is a huge difference in degree between even the most fundamentalist version of Christianity, and what is standard, central, universally-held Islamic doctrine.

  50. So 1-2% of the population can tell everybody in the US and the rest of the world minus the Muslims, et all what to think – next we have NAMBLA and the same people are bitching about polygamy but not 3+ ways or orgies – and the same people want to take the guns away. Great!

  51. >in fact, it sounds downright incoherent.

    Then re-read what I wrote. And while you’re at it, Google for “Gleichschaltung”, and remember that my political philosophy was largely formed by struggling with what I learned about the Nazis’ rise to power.

  52. @RayJ

    I think part of the issue is the paradox of the heap.

    You know – the paradox where at some point removing sand from a heap makes it not a heap – but the vagueness of the terms means there’s a very large fuzzy area where it may be a heap – or not.

    in like manner – there’s a point where free speech in denouncing someone becomes a bullying witch hunt – and I submit that by the time both coordinated group action, “fire him for holding views irrelevant to his competence on the job”, and “anyone defending him must agree with him and is evil/bad (and on into various flavors of kafkatraps) are involved, we’ve long crossed that line.

    Even fellow political travelers are aghast at just how mean and petty they are to a man who is by definition tolerant, but disagrees and thinks they’re wrong (for a reason they think is bullish*t, just to add icing on the cake), and is otherwise willing to live and let live. We have a group hounding someone out of employment (Orson Scott Card, boycotts threatened over the movie, and his writing project on a superman comic being canceled would be another example), because “badthink”, not because he goes around beating up gay people.

  53. >Point taken – though I’d argue there are some very significant differences between Christianity of any stripe and islam.

    To be sure, and some of my commenters nailed them accurately before this reply. But what position does it leave us in if we reject the insanity and religious mania of Islam while not rejecting the equal (if today less violently expressed) insanity and religious mania of Christianity?

    Such a position would be philosophically incoherent. The pathology at the heart of these religions is identical (for discussion see Islamofascism and the Rage of Augustine); only the degree to which it is moderated and opposed by other forces in the surrounding culture is different. Left to themselves to fester, Islam and Christianity will make people crazy in the same ways.

    Philosophical incoherence isn’t the worst problem, either. Only by robustly attacking and rejecting both can we avoid being in a completely irrelevant fight about ethnocentrism and “racism”. Yes, there are far too many idiots who think criticism of Islam is “racist”; this is a distraction we can’t afford. Being just as vehement about Christianity is a kind of flank guard – a demonstration that we really mean it about the insanity and are not seeking cover for some sort of particularism.

  54. @esr:
    > Religious mania must be ended before it ends us all.
    > This means ceasing to give the enablers and the superficially
    > sane but fundamentally insane a pass on the memetic poison
    > they constantly spew into our environment.

    Be careful, here, Eric, or you yourself might be painted with the bigot-therefore-ignore brush. I’d argue instead that what matters most is the culture which surrounds the religion. Consider Judaism. Though not 100% nut free, even the typical Orthodox position is pretty live-and-let-live. Hell, they’ve built a large religious teaching and tradition around getting out of the meaner parts of their scripture.
    God:Jews::DM:Rules Lawyer
    The orthodox take the Sabbath pretty seriously. Which, by crazy extension, means that you shouldn’t press the call-button in your hospital room because it’s akin to doing work or starting a fire or some such thing. So, instead, they put effort into developing systems which allow for care to be given and to very carefully color inside the lines.

    The aspect of Christianity which Dgarsys refers to is more Western Enlightenment than Christianity. Christianity existed before the Enlightenment, however. In part, that’s what makes Orations on the Dignity of Man so moving – it was religiously inspired yet advocated strongly for humanism. Still, that’s only 500 years old.

    The problem is that the Enlightenment hasn’t permeated all of Christianity. Much of Evangelical Christianity hates anything resembling decent epistemology while advocating political activism. The result of this is “have faith in God” while ignoring reality. It isn’t that far from there to “A witch! Burn the witch!”. We see this with obsession over evolution in the classroom.

    Islam gets to be even more complicated. There was some proto-enlightenment thought which came out of Islamic culture in the … 12th century, maybe. Unfortunately, this didn’t hold root with the culture and now we’re left with the weird tribalism crap we have going on.

    I would argue that ultimately it is important to make clear that the concern is people trying to control others, and less about their own personal beliefs. If you think that eating Pop Tarts will destroy your soul, have at. If you want to stop me from (hypothetically) eating them, you’ll have a fight on your hands.

  55. @garrett. Fair enough then to (mis)quote Churchill – now we’re just dickering about the price.

    In my opinion – someone stating that life for blacks was better under Jim Crow is the equivalent of reminiscing fondly over the holocaust.

  56. >The aspect of Christianity which Dgarsys refers to is more Western Enlightenment than Christianity.

    Exactly. Christianity becomes tolerable and housebroken to the exact extent that it ceases to be Christianity. Possibly in another thousand years the same will be complacently said of Islam.

    What 9/11 showed me is that we don’t have the luxury of waiting that thousand years. Technological acceleration potentially gives religious crazies the ability to fuck us all up on a civilizational scale, something that wasn’t true when warfare meant horses and swords. If you think that (for example) the Iranians wouldn’t cheerfully detonate an EMP nuke 250 miles over Kansas and fry every piece of electronics in the continental U.S. … no, I know you’ve been paying too much attention to doubt that.

    We’re almost out of time. The insanity has to be ended before it destroys us. How can we do that if we keep pretending that the frothing loons with their crescents and crosses are actually sane?

  57. @esr – I’ll mull it over but I don’t think I have time to formulate a good reply on how and why I think they’re sufficiently different – because among other things, Islam is proof positive that the same core can be abused (though I will note that can be true of many otherwise good things). In either case – a lot to think over.

    @Garrett –

    Tribal and theocratic.

    A friend of mine – from Turkey – will be the first to tell you that there is a difference between culturally muslim and religiously devout. He’ll also tell you that the barriers between the two are nearly nonexistent ( I believe the son of Hamas’ founder who converted to Christianity made the same point – that it was a rabbit hole – though he used a ladder metaphor – that only went deeper and crazier until you ended up with suicide bombers and beheadings…) and that while the nut jobs are relatively rare, they’re also highly influential because of the lack of aforesaid barriers. When he and I start discussing exactly what’s happened to turkey in the last decade or so its his english wife (more liberal than my wife, who is much so) who gets pissed because when hearing HALF of that from a native-born american, she’d call him an anti-muslim bigot.

    He has no use for the turkish and middle eastern religious fanatics, and considers them dangerous and a waste of peoples lives – mostly others. He considers our fanatics to be cute and harmless, if sometimes annoying and ignorant.

    It’s also worth looking into the background of the fall of the Embassy in Iran back in ’79. The opening chapters of Bowden’s book – Guests of the Ayahtolla iirc – is a good start.

  58. @Garrett: ” I’d argue instead that what matters most is the culture which surrounds the religion.”

    It’s the other way around: the religion surrounds the culture. Culture is the base, and religion is an overlay on top of it. Your theology may state what you believe. The culture in which you are brought up determines how you *express* what you believe (and accounts for a good chunk of the observed differences between different flavors of Christianity.)

    Do you suppose Islam would look anything like it does now if the Prophet had been born a Teuton in Europe instead of an Arab in the Middle East? I don’t. The underlying cultures are completely different. Islam is actually incidental to many things used to knock it – the practices predate it. The burkha, for example, did not originate with Mohammed – it was customary dress in the Arab culture in which he was raised, and he simply incorporated local culture into the religion he was founding. (You have to look at the function the burkha serves to understand the practice.)

  59. @PapayaSF
    > but AFAIK no Christian believes that God has a King James Bible on gold tablets in heaven

    Many believe it is an inspired translation, or various other levels of belief. I suggest you read the Wikipedia article on “King James Only”. Nonetheless, pretty much ALL evangelicals, except on the wings, believe that the original manuscripts were divinely inspired, and should be taken as the literal word of God. It is in the statement of faith of nearly all protestant denominations. And within the evangelical movement there is considerable “scholarship” put in to proving and advocating that position, from the leadership on down. The catholics have a more nuanced view, and I don’t know enough about the eastern church to comment.

    > So there is a huge difference in degree between even the most fundamentalist version of Christianity, and what is standard, central, universally-held Islamic doctrine.

    I don’t agree. What I think is true is that there is a huge difference in violent application on the fringes of each respective religion. And I think it is also true that many Islamic nations are about five hundred years behind western nations. The religious laws and policing in, for example, Saudi Arabia, are not all that much different than late medieval European law and policing.

  60. >Culture is the base, and religion is an overlay on top of it

    You’re being silly.

    When the 9/11 hijackers flew planes into the Twin Towers, was that “culture”?

    If the Iranians were to EMP us while babbling about the return of the Twelfth Imam, would that be “culture”?

    All this talk of “bases” and “overlays” is piffle. Semantically empty. Bears no relation to the thought processes of the crazies. Who will tell you that their motivations are religious, if you can be bothered to listen. You have no warrant to disbelieve them.

  61. @esr: “>Culture is the base, and religion is an overlay on top of it

    You’re being silly.”

    No, I’m not.

    “When the 9/11 hijackers flew planes into the Twin Towers, was that “culture”?”

    Yes, it was.

    “If the Iranians were to EMP us while babbling about the return of the Twelfth Imam, would that be “culture”?”

    Yes. It would be. Do you suppose *any* Muslim might do that, simply *because* they’re Muslims?

    “All this talk of “bases” and “overlays” is piffle. Semantically empty. Bears no relation to the thought processes of the crazies. Who will tell you that their motivations are religious, if you can be bothered to listen. You have no warrant to disbelieve them.”

    For someone who is an ethnologist among other things, you appear to be missing some critical underlying knowledge. Riddle me this: what purpose does the burkha serve?

  62. >Do you suppose *any* Muslim might do that, simply *because* they’re Muslims?

    Yes, in fact I do. Look up the distinction between the Dar al-Islam and the Dar al-Harb. A Muslim is required to make war on unbelievers until they make submission to Allah. A Muslim who shirks this duty is a better human being, but a worse Muslim.

    Have you actually read the Koran? I have. You should repair your ignorance before babbling about burkhas.

  63. @Jessica, normally I agree with you around here, but I think you are straining hard, and failing, at equating Christianity and Islam.

    At the risk of repetition: the KJV-only types are a minority in Christianity. They may believe that that particular translation is “inspired,” but they know it’s a translation, and “inspired” is still different from “literally dictated by God from His copy in Heaven, because God speaks King James’ version of English.” And the KJV-only minority is rather non-violent.

    What I think is true is that there is a huge difference in violent application on the fringes of each respective religion.

    The violence in Islam is not “on the fringes,” but in the core, supported by mainstream Islamic theology and governance. The Islamic core is, itself, extreme: compare the percentages of Muslims who want to live under strict Sharia law (majorities or large minorities in nearly every country), with the percentage of Christians who want to have government enforce an equally strict version of Biblical law (an insignificant fraction).

  64. Sorry I’m late to this topic.

    This controversy is an example of the covert memetic warfare that has been raging under the radar for about a decade now. Extremists on the Left are deathly afraid of triggering a hot war with well-armed Duck Dynasty types; consequently they often resort to a sort of indirect assassination-by-proxy. This technique consists of using media based messaging to instill approved cultural memes, trigger malapropos via ambush journalism, and then exert pressure on third parties to execute the offender. This strategy is both insidious and corrosive, and is ultimately a demonstration of the power of memetic coercion.

    To view this as archaic homophobia or hyper-sensitive interest group politics is missing the underlying cancer that is slowly killing our liberty.

  65. @PapayaSF
    > The violence in Islam is not “on the fringes,” but in the core, supported by mainstream Islamic theology and governance.

    Again, that is more because Islamic countries are 500 years behind the times. The plain fact is that in that same time period western countries wanted to do exactly the same in the west. Look at Oliver Cromwell or Mary the First of England, The Inquisition, malleus maleficarum, and all that stuff. It isn’t difficult to find verses in the Bible to back up all that horrendous nonsense either.

    Most of the difference between Islamic nations and Christian nations is explained by the medieval nature of their societies, not by any intrinsic superiority of their religious doctrines or practices. However, FWIW, I personally, I think Jesus was a better man than Muhammad, after all, Jesus didn’t marry a six year old girl, or make war against peaceful tribes. But Christianity is still toxic.

  66. But, ESR. Isn’t this *exactly* what you do with the gun debate?
    Remove the middle ground. Anyone who thinks contrary to you is a sheep or planning to rape you?
    You want those on the other side to feel miserable and disheartened, scared to air their views? Isn’t this a double standard?

  67. There’s a difference between making a person feel miserable or disheartened by free speech/debate and using co-ercive tactics to ensure that a person who speaks on a contrary view to your creed risks their losing their job and/or social standing.

  68. @Jessica, you said, “But Christianity is still toxic.”

    As a practicing, fundamentalist Christian who came to that view at age 64 after a secular life, I’d like you please to explain to me the nature of the poison I carry, who it is that I poison, and what the effects are.

    It is interesting, not to say amusing, to watch these 2,100-year old, thoroughly predicted discussions play out.

  69. @esr “I’ve never met a Biblical literalist who was other than an ignorant bigot. I think you’re religiously delusional about this and do not accept your assertions as evidence.”

    If you say you’ve never met one, I’ll take your word for it. But that would seem to indicate you need to get out more.

    Would you be swayed by evidence, or is your mind made up?

  70. @esr

    “Then re-read what I wrote…”

    Will do … done. Incoherence still there. I detect a few reasons for this, one of which is that you seem to be conflating governmental and non-governmental actors. This is an error that a great many people make.

  71. @Kent
    > As a practicing, fundamentalist Christian … please to explain to me the nature of the poison I carry

    I didn’t say Kent was poisonous, I don’t know anything about you, but your religion certainly is. It corrupts science, it inculcates guilt into the innocent, it twists the mind of children with ridiculous moralities, it traps people in authoritarian systems that rob the joy out of life, and it provides a moral framework to justify horrible acts.

    At its core it is based on this principle — you are a worthless wretch, you can’t help yourself, your worthlessness comes from the actions of someone who lived a zillion years ago, as well as your own reprehensible behavior. you need someone else to rescue you, and you are due service and worshipful gratitude for eternity for precisely that reason.

    And this justification is based on the morally repugnant idea that a different man should take the punishment due to you. This is what the Apostle Paul in Romans calls God being “just and the justifier”. Anyone with a decent sense of morality does not call this justice. They call it injustice.

    Furthermore it demands you believe and accept the teachings of a book rife with historical and scientific inaccuracies, and stories that strain the belief of even the most devout. I hear Hollywood is about to make a movie about the most ridiculous one of all, Noah. It demands that you worship a God who performs acts that he himself describes in his book, that stretch to the limits our intrinsic sense of right and wrong. Yet we must justify him because God is righteous. And so, consequently, to believe the Bible is to reject science, reject truth, and reject a decent morality.

    Consequently, it is both deeply dishonest, deeply emasculating, and a sleazy way to demand tribute when none is due. I believe in self empowerment, taking charge of your life, living to the best of what you can, being a giver not a taker, independence, empowerment, self actualization, science, real world knowledge are my bywords. Christianity is the opposite of all.

    Maybe your brand of Christianity doesn’t do that, like I say, I don’t know you, but history is replete with examples of Christianity doing precisely that.

    > It is interesting, not to say amusing, to watch these 2,100-year old, thoroughly predicted discussions play out.

    I think not. One of the remarkable facilities of religion is to twist the mind of its followers into believing such nonsense. When one takes something as vague as Old Testament prophecy, you can believe that ANY current event was predicted by Habakkuk or Zephaniah. In that regards it is precisely like astrology. Read your star chart, it is amazingly accurate if you read it through the correct lens.

  72. hari, I’m not so sure, denormalising dissent sounds like a pretty good description of what eric’s doing over the gun debate. Perhaps the exact details differ – but that could be chalked up to tactics and position rather than the name we give the strategy.

  73. Regarding biblical literalism, I 100% echo Penn Jillette’s rant on this. (If you don’t want to listen to Penn talk about Mitt Romney, flip through to 6mins in which has the meat of his stance on biblical literalism)

  74. @JonCB, thanks for the Jillette link. I forgot how cool that dude was.

  75. @Jessica
    Jessica, with all possible courtesy and respect for your views, I must say that your grasp of Christianity is warped to unrecognizability from what I discovered with my awakening three years ago. Our understandings are so far apart that there’s no room here to cover them all meaningfully, but allow me a few observations.

    If one accepts the idea of a creator of the universe at all one must perforce accept that he has powers beyond our ability even to imagine – including the easy stuff recorded in the Bible. On the other hand, if you believe all that is the universe, from rainbows to supergalaxies and things beyond our cognition, “just happened,” ex nihilo, well, then, anything is possible, I suppose. If you deny that the universe has a creator then there’s no point in reading further.

    Assuming for the sake of argument that there is a creator, then he gets to make the rules, from the behavior of subatomics to human behavior. Again, assuming that he exists, to think it is within your ability or authority to impose on him what is your judgment of moral or just and what is not is blind hubris. He has given us freedom of choice in the matter, but all choices come with consequences.

    I like a lot of what science gives me, even allowing for the bad things it leads to, too. The trap that science leads us into, though, is thinking that we know anything much or understand anything at all. We are just kids in the sandbox God has given us to play in. We make our little discoveries with gleeful “Aha’s!” and He just chuckles like any parent watching a child learn his numbers and alphabet. All our science works well enough for the here and now but it does nothing to explain larger things. Let science get behind the Big Bang and perhaps I’ll be impressed.

    If you don’t feel guilty at your human condition, you should. And so should I. And so should Eric and anyone else. None of us lives the virtuous life we should unless your source of virtue is self-defined. And that way lies madness for mankind. You spoke of Christians being guilt-ridden for breaking imposed rules. Do you feel no guilt at breaking self-invented rules or do you avoid that by making only rules for yourself that you can conveniently keep? I will say that rejecting a higher power who makes rules certainly allows more freedom in following one’s own inclinations, wherever they may lead.

    No, I prefer the idea of a Creator who has told us and shown us the virtuous way to live and who has advised us that to willfully fail to follow His simple rules leads us to a place called hell. That in itself is freedom; we go where we choose. And then He tells us the simple way to avoid it, with a tangible (and I use that word, tangible, precisely) release from the guilt we all suffer.

    In my reference to “predictions” I did not mean those from the Old Testament; I know most of the objections and think they overdone in trying to dismiss all the predictions. No, I was referring to Jesus’ statements that there would be people running around throwing bullshit flags on what He had to say, and that we should never mind. And I don’t. You can take what He has to say or leave it and work it out with God when the time comes is my thought.

    As to God preferring the KJV Bible: I laugh at the thought that we think it matters to Him. All the honest translations that draw on original sources (and there are more original sources by far for the Bible than for any other document from antiquity) are to be valued.

  76. Jessica, show us on the doll where the preacher touched you…. ;->

  77. Well, one issue is that if this were flipped and someone was getting suspended for promoting homosexuality then all the people defending A&E’s free speach rights would we litguating against them. We don’t have to look an hypotheticals, as Walter Hudson points out here

    > Indeed, mere days before the Duck Dynasty controversy erupted, a judge in Colorado ordered a Christian baker to serve cake for a gay wedding or face fines. Where’s the ACLU on that one? Naturally, they represented the gay couple and stood against the baker’s freedom of association. “No one should fear being turned away from a public business because of who they are,” they said in a statement.

  78. @Kent
    > On the other hand, if you believe all that is the universe, from rainbows to supergalaxies and things beyond our cognition, “just happened,” ex nihilo,

    This is silly. You use belief as if believing in a creator is the same as deductively reasoning the causality of the universe from observable data within some margin of error. On the contrary, it is belief in a creator that is a belief ex nihlo. Which is to say your are making a grossly false equivalency here.

    > to think it is within your ability or authority to impose on him what is your judgment of moral or just and what is not is blind hubris.

    This is the classic Christian argument of God is righteous by fiat, regardless of what he did. But the Greek gods, for which there is equal evidence were not righteous by fiat, on the contrary some were good, some bad, based on the intrinsic judgement of men. So your deduction here is also false.

    But that is all philosophical blather. I suggest you look in the mirror of your God’s book. My favorite passage is 1Samuel 15, where God instructs the Israelites to destroy the Amalekites, all of them, along with all their cows and sheep — who apparently had also sinned. But of particular offense is that the command SPECIFICALLY calls for killing babies, suckling babies at the breast.

    I wonder if you can honestly say that you are OK with God ordering the genocide of a race, and specifically calling for the massacre of babies. Does your philosophical deductions accommodate such an horrible result? I dare you to tell your church friends that you are OK with God killing babies. Perhaps you could tell the guys campaigning against abortion outside women’s clinics that God has the right to massacre babies.

    To be clear, this is not me making unfounded accusations. God wrote it putatively in his own book.

    > I like a lot of what science gives me, even allowing for the bad things it leads to, too.

    But you want your cake and eat it too. You want the benefits of science while rejecting the very notions of rational deduction from objective evidence leading to brutal conclusions, killing the Buddha. It is nice when you get the benefits of someone else’s dirty work.

    >The trap that science leads us into, though, is thinking that we know anything much or understand anything at all.

    That is nonsense. To say you don’t know everything is not the same as saying you know nothing. I don’t know everything about computer programming, but I can still use what I do know to make useful programs. We don’t know everything about the forces of the universe, but magnets still lock my closet doors, and electricity still powers my computer.

    > He just chuckles like any parent watching a child learn his numbers and alphabet.

    That is a lovely picture, however, it is not at all reflective of what the Bible says. Where does the Bible say that? No, instead it says you are unworthy, unredeemable, unlovely, and that the only value you have to God is through the unjust process of redemption.

    > Let science get behind the Big Bang and perhaps I’ll be impressed.

    You mean you sit in all the abundance of food, and technology, and modern medicine, and the cities and entertainments, and all the pleasures that modern civilization has brought us via science and you aren’t impressed already? Dude, you need to take a look around and appreciate the fact that due to the grace and blessings of science and technology that you live better than King Solomon.

    > If you don’t feel guilty at your human condition, you should.

    That is also silly. Just because I don’t do everything perfectly I should feel like a worthless piece of shit? Are you children perfect? Do you think their flaws should make them worthy of the fires of hell, or whatever horrible eschatology you buy?

    > As to God preferring the KJV Bible: I laugh at the thought that we think it matters to Him.

    Right, but it is no less insubstantial to believe that the KJV was an inspired translation than to believe that Codex Sinacticus or the Bodmer papyrus contains the original Words of God. Why do you laugh at the KJV but not at Nestle-Aland?

  79. @Eugine Nier:

    That’s the silliest comparison that I’ve seen all day.

  80. @PapayaSF:

    > Jessica, show us on the doll where the preacher touched you…. ;->

    I can assure you that no preacher touched me, and that I only refrain from commenting because esr and Jessica are so much more eloquent than I am.

  81. I wonder if you can honestly say that you are OK with God ordering the genocide of a race, and specifically calling for the massacre of babies. Does your philosophical deductions accommodate such an horrible result? I dare you to tell your church friends that you are OK with God killing babies. Perhaps you could tell the guys campaigning against abortion outside women’s clinics that God has the right to massacre babies.

    Of course he’s OK with calling for genocide and infanticide. The Amalekites suffered the righteous judgement of God for their wickedness. You may philosophically object to this but you weren’t there, and you didn’t create the universe in seven days. God did, so his judgement trumps all your philosophical objections.

    That is the fundamentalist stance.

  82. @PatrickMaupin Care to explain what’s so silly about it. Or is this a case of “I can’t think of a good reason to dismis it, so I’ll just call it ‘silly’ “?

  83. Cassandra Ciardi on 2013-12-23 at 09:12:12 said:

    ” . . . also, also, also, didn’t we call for martin bashir’s head (when all he did was suggest that if palin didn’t think slavery was so bad maybe she ought to try it out) ”

    I searched for a video of Martin Bashir’s comment on Sarah Palin and find that he really did imply that someone should defecate in her mouth as an example of the horrors of slavery.

    It may be free speech but I’m glad he resigned.

  84. @Eugene Nier:

    > Or is this a case of “I can’t think of a good reason to dismis it, so I’ll just call it ‘silly’ “?

    Not at all. There are too many wrong things in that article to enumerate. Let’s start with the assumption that the ACLU is dead-set against religious speech that speaks out against homosexuality (which assumption seems to be a linchpin of the article you linked). In that case, please explain this:

    https://www.laaclu.org/press/2012/092112.htm

    (That’s just one example. There are more. Some of those even showing the ACLU defending the crazy muslims, but then you actually expected that.)

    As homework, perhaps you can see if you can figure out what other differences there might be between (a) the case of a public store, where anybody can wander in, refusing to sell to some of those who wander in, and (b) the case of a network with limited programming hours, refusing to buy from some of those who want to sell programming.

    You may not agree that the store should be required to sell to all comers, and think that public accomodation laws interfere with your God-given (or Ayn Rand-given) rights, and there are actually some cogent arguments to be had about that issue.

    But it is silly to conflate this case with the other one, and disingenuous to suggest that the ACLU doesn’t weigh in on similar public accomodation cases that cut the opposite direction.

    The ACLU is not above criticism, but dishonest criticism earns nothing but disdain from me. They were on the right side of the law in the wedding business case, and would probably actually represent the duck guys for free if they had a real case. However, the duck guys don’t actually have a cognizable case, as the ACLU cogently explains to whomever will actually listen.

  85. Speaking of parades (H/T Drudge):

    http://atlanta.cbslocal.com/2013/12/24/alabama-residents-outraged-over-drag-queen-dance-groups-routine-during-christmas-parade/

    Of course all this has been normalized, so no one here would object, or even give a disclaimer to send kids away…

    Tolernance would just let both sides be, and bigotry – if any – would be kept to one’s self. Instead, popular, acceptable, politically correct intolerance (or even the defense of free speech) isn’t brought up.

  86. @tz:

    That reminds me of the story about when my great-great grandmother saw something pretty tame by today’s standards on TV back in the 60′s. According to the legend, she asked “what will the innocent children think?” and my grandmother retorted “if they’re innocent, they won’t think anything of it.”

    If the guys are talented dancers, what’s the harm? Worried your children might decide to take up the craft?

  87. >You want those on the other side to feel miserable and disheartened, scared to air their views?

    No, you idiot. I don’t demand that private citizens be fired from their jobs for opposing gun rights.

    For the specific case of politicians who swore an oath of office requiring them to protect and defend the Constitution, that demand is justified. Not for anyone else, though.

  88. > As homework, perhaps you can see if you can figure out what other differences there might be between (a) the case of a public store, where anybody can wander in, refusing to sell to some of those who wander in, and (b) the case of a network with limited programming hours, refusing to buy from some of those who want to sell programming.

    The cake in question was from a caterer, there have also been similar cases involving wedding photographers.

  89. @Eugene Nier:

    All that proves is that you, personally, are capable of discerning small, inconsequential differences, and incapable of seeing or reasoning about big ones. To let you think you’ve won this argument I’ll revert to my initial strategy of pointing and laughing. It really is the silliest comparison I’ve seen today, and there’s plenty of competition just starting with all the comments on this post. Merry Christmas.

  90. Religion (of any stripe) is a cultural trait of relatively recent origin vis-a-vis the evolutionary timeline of our species. It is pervasive and longstanding because it “works” in the sense that it contributes to a robustness of the survive and thrive imperative.

    Several thousand years ago, religion evolved as an adaptation for conveying useful information and social norms from generation to generation. The particular elements of any religious belief system are ancillary and secondary to this primal function. At their core, all religions are instruments of group conformity.

    For those who wish to run with the herd, religion is an important security blanket.

  91. I’ve never met a Biblical literalist who was other than an ignorant bigot.

    Ahem.

  92. Muslims, though, believe the Koran was dictated by Allah to Muhammad: there’s a copy of the Koran on gold tablets in Heaven, you see. They don’t believe the Koran was in any way edited by humans (though it was). And it’s written in somewhat archaic (but still understandable) Arabic, and almost always read that way. (I’ve heard that translations of the Koran are not considered “real” Korans.)

    So imagine if Jesus was said to have written the Bible himself, in Shakespearean English, and you weren’t considered a Christian unless you believed the entire Bible to be the literal word of God, written in the language God speaks. That would be a “Christian fundamentalism” that would make the rest seem like weak tea.

    Mutatis mutandis, this is pretty much exactly what Judaism says.

  93. “Where GLAAD crossed the line was in attempting to organize …”

    I’m confused about your attitude here. It sounds as if you’re saying that private individuals and organizations are free to express disagreement with what other private individuals or organizations say or do, but they are not free to organize themselves into a mass sufficient to actually *influence* the behavior with which they disagree. That does not sound to me like the attitude of a freedom-loving person. in fact, it sounds downright incoherent.

    They’re free to do that all they like; it’s when instead of doing that they turn to secondary boycotts that it becomes a problem. Secondary boycotts are at least morally questionable.

  94. Several people have suggested the firing of Roberts was a commercial decision by A&E.

    From what I can tell, this is not true. There was no backlash from the audience, or decline in ratings. There wasn’t time for any such effect. The reaction was entirely a matter of intimidatory pressure from professional activists and their allies in the “chattering class”.

    Another point to address:
    The Dixie Chicks were (are?) public figures. Their work was public performance and the sale of recorded performance. Everyone who attended their concerts or bought their records knew who they were. They made a public display of their political opinions in the course of their performance work.

    Phil Robertson was not a public figure until this ridiculous TV show happened. Hardly anyone who bought his company’s products ever heard of him, I’d guess. He didn’t emblazon the products with his opinions on culture, religion, or politics.

  95. We’re almost out of time. The insanity has to be ended before it destroys us.

    What are your thoughts on how to do this?

  96. @Milhouse

    “Secondary boycotts are at least morally questionable.”

    What is “morally questionable” about them? Before answering, please look up Ambrose Bierce’s definition of “immoral” and reflect on it. Then, while formulating your answer, please bear in mind that there are nearly as many views on what is “moral” as there are sentient beings on this planet, and also that you are addressing your answer to a person who a) harbors some libertarian sentiments, and b) thinks the word “moral”, as many seem to use it, if it is not completely devoid of meaning, is very nearly so.

  97. @Rich Rostrom:

    A decision made for commercial reasons can (and often is) made badly. Shouldn’t you at least allow for the possibility that the A&E people know so little about their customer base that they just assumed the best thing to do was to can the show?

    Obviously Cracker Barrel had second thoughts, then third thoughts…

  98. “A decision made for commercial reasons can (and often is) made badly. Shouldn’t you at least allow for the possibility that the A&E people know so little about their customer base that they just assumed the best thing to do was to can the show?”

    The A&E people weren’t thinking about any customer base. Their base is fragmented; they have many different shows, appealing to different kinds of people. The GLAAD activists were counting on the idea that the A&E people (‘the media elite’) were like them – liberal, young, college-educated (indoctrinated)…and would fall into line. Isolated in their big city offices, they just don’t see the rest of the nation.

  99. I read on a Hollywood-oriented site that A&E was caving to gay employees who were angry.

  100. @PonyAdvocate:

    Secondary boycotts hurt more than the person in question, in an attempt to apply more pressure to the primary target. Similar tactics (such as collective punishment) have been ruled war crimes. It relies on the same logic as spousal abuse (it’s your fault you make me do these things to you). Ultimately, it breaks down civil debate.

    @DMcCunney:
    I’d point out that this pathology isn’t limited to Arabia. The type of poison Eric talks about is visibly associated with Islam in Arabia, in Northern Africa, and in Indonesia, which are three very different cultures.

    @Cassandra Ciardi:
    “when all he did was suggest that if palin didn’t think slavery was so bad maybe she ought to try it out”
    This is a difference. He was debating *her*, not debating her argument. Personalizing the debate is an attempt to shut the debate down.

  101. @PapayaSF:

    I read on a Hollywood-oriented site that A&E was caving to gay employees who were angry.

    That sounds like a recipe for a badly made business decision.

  102. >What are your thoughts on how to do this?

    I don’t think we can even imagine a solution that does not begin with discarding the pretense that toxic, insane belief systems are not toxic and insane.

  103. To be sure. That’s the easy part. What do those who reject the pretense do after that? This is not a polemic but something I am wrestling with.

  104. >What do those who reject the pretense do after that?

    I don’t know yet. First steps have to be first steps.

  105. “What 9/11 showed me is that we don’t have the luxury of waiting that thousand years. Technological acceleration potentially gives religious crazies the ability to fuck us all up on a civilizational scale, something that wasn’t true when warfare meant horses and swords. If you think that (for example) the Iranians wouldn’t cheerfully detonate an EMP nuke 250 miles over Kansas and fry every piece of electronics in the continental U.S. … no, I know you’ve been paying too much attention to doubt that.”

    Please. If Iran detonated an EMP 250 miles over Kansas they’d cease to be a nation in very short order. They know that even if the response was completely “conventional” which it might not be even with the Russians next door.

    This is because of the strong military presence overseas that many Libertarians object to.

    9/11 was a well thought out and executed asymmetric attack that has not been replicated in over a decade despite a great desire to do so on the part of our enemies. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen again. It does mean it’s hard to do even by a motivated opponent. For one thing, no nation state will want this kind of planning and execution to be occurring from inside their country. Again, this is because of the strong military presence overseas and very pointed examples we made of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, they were debacles in many ways…but most of the guys living in palaces in those two countries at the beginning of 2001 sure as hell stopped living in them once we got annoyed.

  106. >Please. If Iran detonated an EMP 250 miles over Kansas they’d cease to be a nation in very short order.

    Maybe. But insane people aren’t necessarily deterred by consequences that would frighten rational actors.

  107. @Garrett

    You seem to me to be confused about some things, and you are thereby confusing the discussion. Most importantly, such conduct as spousal abuse, or an occupying foreign army inflicting collective punishment on a subject population, involve physical violence, or the threat of it. An economic act such as a boycott does not involve physical violence; or, at least, when a boycott leads to physical violence, it ceases to be (just) a boycott. For many who adhere to conventional morality, the use or threat of physical violence is a bright dividing line.

    I am aware of nothing (in the environment of the United States) that forbids any person or organization, as long as it refrains from criminal conduct, from exerting its influence in any way it feels is most effective to achieve its ends. If that involves applying indirect influence via an intermediate party, so be it. Any target of the influence, also being a free agent, can resist the pressure, or yield to it, or resist in part and yield in part, as he, she, or it sees fit.

    It’s not clear to me that an attempt to influence events through economic activity “breaks down civil debate” more than other means of trying to influence the behavior of others; I think, in fact, that economic methods probably do less damage to civil discourse than do other methods, such as Molotov cocktails. At any rate, you are simply asserting this proposition. It would be more persuasive if you supported it with evidence.

  108. PonyAdvocate on 2013-12-26 at 11:29:33 said: I think, in fact, that economic methods probably do less damage to civil discourse than do other methods, such as Molotov cocktails.

    That’s a very low bar to clear. If you signed a nominating petition for a candidate opposed to my political faction, and we have you fired from your job, that’s less damaging than if our goons trash your car or break your leg. It’s still wrong.

    I think a lot of people (including me) have overlooked the point that ESR started with. The key to the “Duck Dynasty” affair is this:

    Phil Robertson said something GLAAD et al disagreed with.

    They did not respond by saying “He’s wrong, because x-y-z facts and reasons.”

    They responded by saying “He’s wrong, and we will punish anyone who enables his speech.”

    Their object is not to refute the other side, but to silence it. That is not civil debate, that is intimidation. It is cloaked in morality – to justify this de facto censorship by de-normalizing the speech that is suppressed.

    Some may say that Robertson is not “censored” – he is still free to say whatever he wants.

    Here I am going to reference recent events in Venezuela. The bloggers at Caracas Chronicles have shown how the chavista government has quietly established “communications hegemony”. The state operates several TV channels. Wealthy cronies of the regime have acquired all the rest. (The last, Globovision, fell earlier this year, after the state telecom agency refused renewal of their broadcast license.) Dozens of independent radio stations lost their broadcast licenses on various excuses; the survivors have learned not to carry any opposition political content, or any news the regime does not want reported. There are still opposition newspapers, but the state controls the supply of newsprint, and opposition and independent newspapers are being squeezed. Some have already shut down. (The state took over the paper mills. You may recall the shortage of toilet paper. Newsprint is rationed…)

    The total effect is that dissenting public discourse is thoroughly muffled.

    That’s the goal here as well. The left in America does not have state power for this… yet. What it does have is overwhelming demographic advantage in the staffs of organs of communication: mass media, the academy. The on-going “culture war” reflects the deep disjunction between the general population and the “chattering class”, which is determined to impose its very different values and beliefs… by “de-nomalizing” the values and beliefs they oppose.

    If the other side is never heard, or is pre-emptively labeled “Bad”, the debate is won by default.

    And that is completely destructive of freedom of thought and civil discourse.

  109. > No, you idiot. I don’t demand that private citizens be fired from their jobs for opposing gun rights

    Right, so I’m an idiot. Not mistaken about your position. Not someone who’s got the wrong end of the stick. No, I’m an idiot.

    You’re not asking for me to be sacked, I get that. You’re just calling me an idiot for expressing what I see. Great, glad we’ve cleared up the massive gulf in the difference between the tactics here.

    I also wonder, if I’d said something like that on prime-time tv, and the media and public were generally behind your position, what exactly would have followed there.

  110. Eric,

    Quite a while back you did something very nice for me. You told me it was a mistake to consider my theophany evidence for my Christian faith. Just to be clear, it didn’t change my mind. But it was the act of an ethical man using his knowledge for the betterment of another. Thanks! (Sorry I didn’t thank you sooner.)

    I am going to go off on a couple of tangents.

    You recently explained how you understood about people hearing voices. Now you say this:
    “His religion is barely distinguishable from a psychotic delusional system.”

    Religion is really, really common. Are psychotic delusional systems merely the normal behavior of normal humans, who are doing something similar to hearing voices?

    If so, maybe it has always been too late, and you may have solved the Fermi paradox. Maybe all intelligent species possess psychotic delusional systems and destroy themselves at a certain point. Or maybe they all experience the Rapture first. ;)

    Yours,
    Tom

  111. “But what position does it leave us in if we reject the insanity and religious mania of Islam while not rejecting the equal (if today less violently expressed) insanity and religious mania of Christianity?”

    I challenge the axiom here with a question: how do you account for the religious mania of atheists?

    That sounds like a paradox, but it’s not. The behavior of the Left in Western countries shows every symptom of the syndrome afflicting Muslims today, and which afflicted Christianity in the early 17th century – except for belief in a God who judges human souls, and in the reality of prophets; indeed, the typical Leftist firmly denies those doctrines and claims intellectual descent from the skeptics of the 19th century. When you see a pattern of fanaticism leading to violence against all who dare to disagree appearing in people who hold the very concept of God in contempt, is it sensible to ascribe obviously similar fanaticism among those who do believe in God to that doctrine?

  112. If anything, Micheal, deadly suppression of dissent is more common and more deadly among atheists than believers of late. This may have more to do with there being an increase in both atheism and deadliness among humans. Indeed, the problem may have nothing to do with religion and everything to do with innate tribalism.

    Yours,
    Tom

  113. Indeed, many of the worst characteristics of religion (self-righteousness, close-mindedness, intolerance, magical thinking, reptile-brain-level Team allegiance) all often appear among the secular and the anti-religious. The activist left seems especially susceptible to this sort of thing.

    And as I said above, I think that the “religious insanity” of Islam is far greater than that of Christianity, and it’s clearly visible in both the ideology itself and in history. The fact that the religion is hundreds of years younger is a feeble excuse: much of the Islamic world was far more tolerant 60 years ago. The “center” of Islam has been headed in the wrong direction for a long time.

  114. >I challenge the axiom here with a question: how do you account for the religious mania of atheists?

    By noticing that there isn’t any. What you’re observing is the religious mania of Marxists – eschatological monotheists who claim to be atheists but have merely substituted the State, the Revolution, or the dialectic of history for the Zoroastrian/Christian/Islamic Nobodaddy-God.

  115. >They responded by saying “He’s wrong, and we will punish anyone who enables his speech.”

    Excellent one-sentence summary of where and how GLAAD crossed the line into Gleichschaltung.

  116. By noticing that there isn’t any. What you’re observing is the religious mania of Marxists – eschatological monotheists who claim to be atheists but have merely substituted the State, the Revolution, or the dialectic of history for the Zoroastrian/Christian/Islamic Nobodaddy-God.

    Well Said.

  117. @Rich Rostrom

    Your reference to Venezuela and Chavez indicates that you are confused about this issue in the same way that a great many persons are confused about speech issues: you are conflating state actors and non-state actors, and the respective means at their disposal to influence the behavior of others, and the respective constraints which govern them.

    Here’s a hypothetical: Suppose that I have a job as a news reader on a local television station, in the United States. Suppose also that I am a vocal member of NAMBLA: at every opportunity, I work in very public ways to advocate that pedophilia laws should be repealed. I march about the streets with a big banner, I organize petition drives, I go door-to-door handing out literature, I set up information booths in public spaces, I buy advertising in local and national media, and generally advocate for NAMBLA’s positions in ways that are ostentatiously public and completely legal. I hope you’re aware that any government entity could easily use the state machinery of legalized physical violence to suppress my NAMBLA-related activities, but that any government entity would be absolutely forbidden from doing so by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. Suppose, for whatever reason, that the TV station that employs me does not wish to fire me for these activities, which are unrelated to my employment (perhaps, for example, my contract with the station would require it to pay me a very large termination fee, which its managers and owners would prefer not to do). Do those in the local TV market who disapprove of pedophilia have a right to try to get me fired from my job by doing any of the following: publicizing locally my activities and my affiliation with the TV station; organizing a local boycott of the TV station; organizing a local boycott of local businesses that advertise on the local TV station; publicizing nationally my activities and my affiliation with the TV station; organizing a national boycott of the national network to which the local TV station belongs; organizing a national boycott of national businesses that advertise on the local TV station or on the national network to which the TV station belongs; calling on national anti-pedophilia organizations for assistance in orchestrating their local or national activities?

    Consider the same questions, but related to businesses that provide me with services (e.g., those that print my pamphlets, or publish the newspapers in which my ads run).

    I’m not sure where you and those who share your confusion about this issue will draw the line, but wherever you draw it: are you not, at that exact point, yourselves then guilty of wanting to suppress the free speech and related activities of private parties — those who want to organize the putative boycotts — simply because you disapprove of those activities?

  118. I’ve noticed some religious mania among atheists who weren’t Marxist. They mainly seem to be humanist believers in the power of science. Richard Dawkins comes forcefully to mind, among others. And I’m pretty sure that the murderous atheist Nazis and other Fascists weren’t Marxist.

  119. >I’ve noticed some religious mania among atheists who weren’t Marxist. [...] Richard Dawkins comes forcefully to mind among others.

    So, has he ever proposed killing anybody for his religion, or have you extended the definition of “mania” into a meaningless blur in order to evade the point at issue? I know which way I’ll bet.

  120. >Are psychotic delusional systems merely the normal behavior of normal humans, who are doing something similar to hearing voices?

    No. The characteristic shared by psychotic delusional systems and (faith-centric) religions is that people suffering from them are unable to adjust their beliefs to conform to evidence.

  121. @esr
    > Maybe. But insane people aren’t necessarily deterred by consequences that would frighten rational actors.

    You know someone asked me about something like this on this blog a while ago. Someone asked me why Christians in China risk capital punishment to practice their faith. I don’t actually think these Christians are insane, simply because I don’t think there is much solid ground to make moral about what people expend their lives on. People risk their lives for things that they consider more important than their lives frequently. They also risk the lives of their loved ones for similar reasons.

    How do you judge when it is right to do so? For sure, if the putative benefit of doing so is unreal, as in the case of Muslims awaiting the virgins, or Christians awaiting the pearly gates, then you’d have to say that it is the very least poor judgement based on extremely faulty data.

    But I’m afraid I don’t know what “insane” means exactly. Honestly, it is like that word “evil”. I think it is often used for the very purposes that Eric is lamenting in his OP. That is to say the label insane, or the label evil shuts down any further discussion about the motives and reason for people’s actions.

    Of course, there are plenty of people who are so far out there that the right thing to do is shut down debate.

  122. @esr
    > that people suffering from them are unable to adjust their beliefs to conform to evidence.

    But nearly everyone I encounter in life suffers from that to a greater or lesser extent. Democrats can’t adjust their beliefs when their theory proves wrong, Republicans can’t adjust their beliefs in the same situation. Advocates of Apple can’t see any good in Windows, and Windows can’t see anything good in Apple. Fans of the Chicago Bears can’t imagine anything good about the Packers regardless of their vastly superior record, and so forth.

    In fact this putative insanity plays out every day in this blog. People who refuse to adjust their believes even when they are utterly eviscerated by one of the many articulate commenters here.

    Once again, I come back to the remarkable ability of people to compartmentalize stuff in their brains. Religious people believe all the nonsense in the Bible because, for the most part, it has no practical impact on their lives how old Methuselah was when he died, or how many gazelles Noah took into the ark.

    To me insanity is when the compartments start to systematically leak all over the place.

  123. Oh, I need to clarify something in my last comment, my social standing depending on it. Perhaps I did say something positive about the Green Bay Packers, but just to be clear they are plainly evil, probably cheaters, and vastly inferior in every important way to the apotheosis of football played at Soldier Field.

    OK, glad I got that off my chest. Go Bears.

  124. >But nearly everyone I encounter in life suffers from that to a greater or lesser extent.

    In sane people it’s more a case of “unwilling” than “unable”. Your typical Democrat or Republican seems (to me at least) to be glued to false beliefs not by an inability to evaluate evidence but by a refusal to seriously consider positions that would take them outside of their boundaries of what “good people” believe.

  125. Not to different than feminists in opensource projects. They try to force people out of their hobbies and/or have their projects taken down.

  126. “I work in very public ways to advocate that pedophilia laws should be repealed.”

    Just convert to islam and move to yemen, or campaign for religious freedom in america. Then you can pursue happiness, fundamental right of a male and female to marry, so on and so forth.

    You might get burned alive like what happened in waco to the heretics against the USA religion however.

  127. I think a fair summary of your position is “I theoretically support your right to free speech, but will fight to the death to utterly destroy you for exercising it”

    Glaad would be powerless and no one would pay the slightest attention to it, if employers did not tremble in fear of anti discrimination suits.

    During the lead up to the financial crisis, any bank that failed to throw money at drunken indios with no job, no income and no assets got a regulatory reprimand accusing them of discrimination, not because there was any observable evidence of discrimination, but because of thought crimes.. If A&E did not fire the Ducks, it is likely to suffer similar treatment.

    The thought crimes that the banks were accused of were never very precisely explained, but my interpretation is that they were suspected of doubting that the freshly imported mexican underclass was going to transition to middle class – that they were not so much charged with failure to throw money at the underclass, but rather with failure to accept the belief system that would lead one to believe that throwing money at the underclass was a good idea.

    Regulatory authorities regularly condemn private businesses, not for any concrete acts, but for vague thought crimes. And that is why private businesses punish people for private beliefs.

  128. If the state and the left is going to smash freedom of association, it has to smash freedom of speech. If you forbid “discrimination” you forbid freedom of association. If you forbid freedom of association, you cannot permit people to say they would rather not associate with certain groups

    Homosexuals etc have extraordinarily high rates of self destructive and self harming behavior, resulting in dramatically shortened life expectancy. This not only raises their own death rate, just as it says in the bible, but, as it implies in the bible, the death rate of everyone around them.

    and no one can be permitted to say this, because “discrimination”

    It is not the bible that is psychotic, hateful, vicious, and deranged, but esr.

    Homosexuals, on average, die twenty years sooner than normals,

    Pre PC Christianity is full of ancient wisdom. The Church preserved what was best in Judaism and in Rome against the dark. It is useful to claim that a man rose from the dead in order to persuade people of normal intelligence to do what the best people do.

    Phil Robertson, a man of well above average intelligence, was restating that ancient wisdom, and attributed it to both Darwin, and to divine authority.

  129. >How do you tell the difference between unwilling and unable?

    You listen to the language they use. The diagnostic sign of both psychotic delusion and religious belief is circularity of reasoning coupled with an inability to notice that the reasoning is circular (“I believe in God because the Bible tells me so. I believe in the Bible because God wrote it.” Lather, rinse, repeat.) There’s a hard block on cognition, like hysterical blindness.

    People who are glued to their beliefs by tribalism or fear of social consequences aren’t quite so stuck. If you poke them the right way you find that they often express adaptive knowledge in their behavior that is contrary to what they express in speech. They see, but cannot admit that they see.

  130. “You listen to the language they use. The diagnostic sign of both psychotic delusion and religious belief is circularity of reasoning coupled with an inability to notice that the reasoning is circular (“I believe in God because the Bible tells me so. I believe in the Bible because God wrote it.” Lather, rinse, repeat.) There’s a hard block on cognition, like hysterical blindness.”

    So how do you know He doesn’t exist? There is no conclusive proof either way. In any case, a lot of Christians I’ve met who are also scientists believe because the intricacies of the universe are so wonderful to them that they believe that the odds of a Creator are high. Given no data to disprove such a hypothesis I don’t call them crazy.

    Your insistence that all Muslims are crazy are also at odds with the moderate Muslims I’ve met. Some even from Iran. While these folks are the ones the left after the fall of the Shah they are no more inherently crazy than Germans who were Nazis (a few of those I met too) just because they were brought up Muslim and keep their religion.

    Your labeling of these folks that you disagree with as dangerous nut jobs is hilariously hypocritical even for you given the topic of this thread.

  131. PonyAdvocate on 2013-12-26 at 21:47:37 said:

    @Rich Rostrom: … you are conflating state actors and non-state actors…

    No. I stated very specifically that “The left in America does not have state power for this…”

    The parallel I drew was in end, not means. The end is the effective silencing of opposition, without formal censorship by force of law. Though as James A. Donald points out, “private” activists can often bring the power of the state against dissenters through lawsuits and discrimination complaints, or licensing and permitting agencies.

  132. >So how do you know He doesn’t exist?

    The same way I know square circles don’t exist. Your “He”, if you are referring to the Judeo/Christian/Islamic God, is impossible. The predicates ascribed to him are mutually contradictory.

    It’s not their disagreement with me that makes these people nutjobs, it’s their faulty cognition. To take one classic example, they swallow omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent all at once. They reach places where they simply stop reasoning – worse, they tell themselves that ceasing to reason is a sign of virtue.

  133. @esr: “Your “He”, if you are referring to the Judeo/Christian/… God, is impossible. The predicates ascribed to him are mutually contradictory.”

    To assert this is not the same as to prove it. But surely you know that.

    “…it’s their faulty cognition. To take one classic example, they swallow omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent all at once. They reach places where they simply stop reasoning – worse, they tell themselves that ceasing to reason is a sign of virtue.”

    Wrong. You proceed from a false premise: that there is nothing the human mind can’t comprehend. Care to support this positive assertion?

    To use some judgement as to how we spend our finite think-time is considered sensible, but not particularly an issue of virtue or not.

  134. @esr: “You listen to the language they use. The diagnostic sign of both psychotic delusion and religious belief is circularity of reasoning coupled with an inability to notice that the reasoning is circular (“I believe in God because the Bible tells me so. I believe in the Bible because God wrote it.” Lather, rinse, repeat.) There’s a hard block on cognition, like hysterical blindness.”

    And what is your objection to those of us who have examined the *evidence* and concluded that God exists, the Bible is true, and to ignore either is a very dubious life plan?

  135. Michael:

    “…it’s their faulty cognition. To take one classic example, they swallow omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent all at once. They reach places where they simply stop reasoning – worse, they tell themselves that ceasing to reason is a sign of virtue.”

    Wrong. You proceed from a false premise: that there is nothing the human mind can’t comprehend. Care to support this positive assertion?

    I believe– much more strongly than most people– that there are things the human mind can’t comprehend. I think we’re eventually going to find out that the complexity of the universe outruns our ability to chunk information, and this is true of any possible mind or mind + tools.

    However, just because I believe that, it doesn’t follow that any particular contradictory claim made by a human being is more likely to be true.

  136. Wrong. You proceed from a false premise: that there is nothing the human mind can’t comprehend. Care to support this positive assertion?

    I don’t see where Eric ever asserted this. If anything, he’s implying that there exist things which the human mind can comprehend as impossible by definition. (There are no square circles.)

    OTOH, I don’t take the fact that people assert the existence of square circles as proof of an insanity so serious that it will destroy us all. Rather, I believe there are a great many people who simply haven’t been tested far enough. Put a self-identified Christian in a room with a lever, tell him that lever will cause the death of a hundred innocent non-believers, and that God demands he pull that lever. Will the Christian do it?

    I believe there are an enormous number of such Christians who wouldn’t, no matter how persuasive the argument. I said as much in an earlier discussion. John Bell agreed, IIRC. Eric countered; “think Bayesian reasoning”. I took that as implying there nevertheless exist self-identifying Christians who *would* pull that lever. And moreover that it was that belief system that made pulling it possible. It’s worth hard consideration. To assert the existence of a being that can do things such as creating rocks He both can and cannot move is to inculcate a particularly unhelpful rejection of reason. Rephrased: it teaches people to accept “X and !X” as a starting premise in certain real life situations, and that bothers me on a really deep level.

    And yet it does not appear to move many people to pull that lever. I possess no room or lever or convincing argument of eternal damnation with which to satisfactorily test that assertion, but it appears clear from what I hear people say. It also does not appear to be restricted to theist belief systems. (It looks like a fairly good fit if you also throw in Marxists, but that was one of Eric’s points above, too. And unfortunately, it means that the distinction between “rational atheist” and “Marxist atheist” is nowhere near being made clear in common understanding these days.)

  137. @Nigel
    > So how do you know He doesn’t exist? There is no conclusive proof either way.

    If the religious want people to genuflect to their god then it is THEIR responsibility to demonstrate he exists, not mine to prove that he doesn’t. It is generally speaking almost impossible to prove that something doesn’t exist, the best you can do is prove that it doesn’t matter, or demonstrate that the arguments in favor are bogus.

    There is no conclusive proof either way that Thor and Odin exist either. but a reasonable person would use the lack of evidence in their favor to dismiss the belief.

    FWIW, I think there is more reason to believe in the Olympian gods than the Christian one. The practical experience of divine intervention in most christians lives seems much more in line with the capriciousness of those particular fluffy heads than a supposedly deeply involved, loving father.

    > In any case, a lot of Christians I’ve met who are also scientists believe because the intricacies of the universe are so wonderful to them that they believe that the odds of a Creator are high.

    But they are just cherry picking the data. There are a lot of things in the universe that are beautiful and intricately detailed. But there are also lots of things that are really messed up. Perhaps one of the classic Christian examples is the human eye. But the plain fact is that the human eye has lots of pretty serious engineering faults that a decent designer would not have made. Of course it is easy to criticize a design post facto, but I think that it is fair to examine the work of a supposedly omnipotent, omniscient god, and expect a fairly low bug count.

    For example, the placement of the optical nerve causes a serious blindspot in the mammalian eye. Which is a curious mistake for a designer to make since the other types of eye he made don’t have that flaw.

    That is the sort of thing you would expect to see from a random process of evolution that sometimes gets stuck in local minimum, it is not what you would expect to see from an intelligent designer.

    > Your insistence that all Muslims are crazy are also at odds with the moderate Muslims

    On this point I agree with you. I count several Muslims among my friends. I do not feel the need to frisk them for dynamite each time they come to my house. They are no more radicalized or crazy than some of my Christian friends. In fact I find some of their culture pretty interesting. One of my Muslim friends is a real estate investor, which is pretty hard if you happen to be a member of a religion that forbids usury. It is a fascinating thing to see how they work within that context, and a revealing insight to see a working system very different that the traditional system of Western finance.

  138. Paul, have another proof about the limits of belief.

    Many (though certainly not all) Christians believe that there are actions which put them at serious risk of going to hell, and yet they repeatedly do those actions.

    On the other hand, imagine a duffle bag full of hundred dollar bills. It’s on the other side of a busy expressway. Ten lanes of cars going by, fast— zip zip zip. People don’t go charging into the expressway because they actually believe the cars exist.

  139. Jessica Boxer on 2013-12-27 at 00:40:26 said: Fans of the Chicago Bears can’t imagine anything good about the Packers regardless of their vastly superior record…

    This calls for a triple takedown.

    1) The Bears are 8-7, the Packers are 7-7-1. So the Packers’ record is not vastly superior, it’s inferior.

    2) Competitive sports is the human activity which is most intensely scrutinized by objective criteria. Every White Sox fan, however partisan, knows that Tigers thirdbaseman Miguel Cabrera is a better hitter than anyone the Sox have. The abilities of players such as Lionel Messi or Sachin Tendulkar or Serena Williams are rigorously proven. Fan loyalty is no protection for the player who misses free throws or strikes out in the clutch.

    3) Team affiliation is a conscious exercise in irrational tribalism. It’s meaningless and therefore harmless (unless it is a proxy for violent communal hostility, as with Rangers and Celtics).

  140. Eric,

    (First I apologize if I missed anything in the very interesting slew of comments between your reply to me and this. TL;DR, but I will read them!)

    We would bet the same on the facts (not advocating murder) but not on the interpretation. If you look up thread PapayaSF included these characteristics of people who are prone to religious mania “(self-righteousness, close-mindedness, intolerance, magical thinking, reptile-brain-level Team allegiance)”. Religious mania usually stops well short of mass or even single murder. We have moral panics, like the one that resulted in the Comics Code and voluntary rating systems of all sorts on the pretty darn but not actually benign end. (I miss the unwritten comics we might have had before indies abandoned the Code.)

    What moral panics does Dawkins engage in? He broadens the fear of Islamic terrorism (which happens frequently) to all religion, when religions other than Islam don’t do much terrorism. Instead, as in Sri Lanka / Sub-Saharan Africa, it strongly tends to be political / tribal. The cry might be, “Religion is terrorizing everyone. That’s wrong! We must control religion.” The second is that religions are intolerant, which brings us back to the subject of the post. The cry might be, “Religion is intolerant. That’s wrong! We must control religion.”

    There are other popular moral panics among atheists. “Climate change! It’s science! You can’t ignore the science! It’s wrong to destroy the planet. We must control CO2.” “Income inequality! It’s not fair. We must take from the rich!” Most of the ones I think of are on the left, but since I am on the right, I’m not good at listing our moral panics, although I think the control religion one is popular on the right, as long as Islam is the religion being controlled. :(

    I notice you elided the atheist Nazis and Fascists. I suspect mass murder isn’t really a function of religion, it is a function of totalitarianism combined with *any* system of belief. But then we would only be able to yell at totalitarianism, not just random systems of belief we disagree with. Not nearly as fun. People love to yell at people they disagree with. It’s the whole religious persecution thing, which ranges from insults to auto-de-fes. Again circling back to the post.

    It all ties together. BTW, when it comes to duck hunting, Phil Robertson is a hacker.

    Yours,
    Tom

  141. @Paul Brinkley “I don’t see where Eric ever asserted this.”

    Perhaps, but he labels them “nutjobs” with “faulty cognition”, evidently because they do not pursue a question that appears quite obviously beyond our ability. So I presume the reverse must apply, that if they’d only think about it they could comprehend it all.

    “If anything, he’s implying that there exist things which the human mind can comprehend as impossible by definition. (There are no square circles.)”

    Which mostly leads one to the unfortunate place of keeping an eye on who writes the definitions. For example, I reject Eric’s seeming definition that delusional==believes in God.

    “… and that God demands he pull that lever. Will the Christian do it?”

    These kinds of mental exercises seem to be standard fare for atheists. But I’m not sure how they help, other than to prove Christians are as fallible as anyone else. That is already well covered in doctrine. And we have plenty of tools to evaluate the validity of such claimed commands from God, if we’d only use them.

    If I reconstruct the exercise as an atheist who has been told these people are standing in the way of the glorious humanist secular utopia we dream of, does it lend more insight? Like those faulty Christians, we know *some* would pull the lever. Have we learned anything?

    “To assert the existence of a being that can do things such as creating rocks He both can and cannot move is to inculcate a particularly unhelpful rejection of reason.”

    Again, I don’t think this teaches us anything. Is rock moving a proper test of godhood? A better one – and an actual real one is where the Bible states in plain Greek and English that “God cannot lie”. Does this make Him a tiny sliver slightly less than fully omnipotent? Only to those who are looking for any reason to claim disbelief. To the rest of us it is entirely consistent with what we know of Him and does not change the fact of omnipotence in any way that matters. It is, in fact, really great news.

  142. @Rich Rostrom
    > This calls for a triple takedown.

    I will risk social alienation to correct your factual errors:

    > 1) The Bears are 8-7, the Packers are 7-7-1.

    This season perhaps, but the Packers have won 4 super bowls, and the Bears 1. It is the big show that really counts.

    > 2) Competitive sports is the human activity which is most intensely scrutinized by

    Yes indeed, but that just makes my point all he more. Given the readiness of objective data team trash talking in spite of that data is even more ridiculous.

    3) Team affiliation is a conscious exercise in irrational tribalism.

    For you perhaps, but there are LOTS of people who actually believe the hype.

    > It’s meaningless and therefore harmless (unless it is a proxy for violent communal hostility, as with Rangers and Celtics).

    Again, that was a point I made — Christians can subscribe to the ridiculous views they are taught in the bible insofar as they don’t actually impact their lives. It is when they do, when they have to make choices that the crisis of faith comes out.

  143. “Religion is terrorizing everyone. That’s wrong! We must control religion.”

    Yes, a small minority of religious fanatics can do a lot of harm, using their faith to carry out their power fantasies. OTOH, a small minority of deluded people use guns to carry out their power fantasies. They can do a lot of harm. That’s wrong! We must control guns!

  144. Perhaps, but he labels them “nutjobs” with “faulty cognition”, evidently because they do not pursue a question that appears quite obviously beyond our ability. So I presume the reverse must apply, that if they’d only think about it they could comprehend it all.

    Eric no doubt considers belief in God to constitute faulty cognition, but I don’t precisely know why you seem to think that because a question is obviously beyond our ability to answer, that the correct conclusion is to not only to answer it anyway, but to also choose the answer that isn’t representative of the null hypothesis and then proceed to make real-life decisions based on that answer. That’s not a rational heuristic, even if it doesn’t immediately lead to ruinous consequences, because the null hypothesis also doesn’t immediately lead to ruin, and also resists ruin further down the road.

    Which mostly leads one to the unfortunate place of keeping an eye on who writes the definitions. For example, I reject Eric’s seeming definition that delusional==believes in God.

    That’s not a definition, and now I have to keep an eye on how you define “definition”. That statement is a conclusion from earlier premises.

    These kinds of mental exercises seem to be standard fare for atheists. But I’m not sure how they help, other than to prove Christians are as fallible as anyone else. That is already well covered in doctrine. And we have plenty of tools to evaluate the validity of such claimed commands from God, if we’d only use them.

    We agree that Christians are fallible, but we disagree that everyone is equally fallible, and that is where the difference lies. The point Eric is making – even though, if I understand him right, is one I don’t think is quite that simple – is that if you’re Christian, then you’ve convinced yourself that there are certain statements that are both true and false; in other words, you’ve constructed an artificial hindrance which the atheist* has chosen not to construct.

    *Note that we’re not even really talking about atheists here. I’ll bet the price of a good steak dinner that Eric doesn’t favor atheism because it’s atheism, but rather because it follows from reason. If reason proved existence of an omnipotent being, he’d be all about omnipotentarianism, and he’d meanwhile reject belief in no god if its only basis were that someone said so. But reason won’t prove the existence of a being that can create a rock it can and cannot move, any more than it will prove the existence of a square circle.

  145. That appeal to reason may not lend you insight into the following, but it does for me:

    If I reconstruct the exercise as an atheist who has been told these people are standing in the way of the glorious humanist secular utopia we dream of, does it lend more insight? Like those faulty Christians, we know *some* would pull the lever. Have we learned anything?

    An atheist who would pull that lever is not rational – or I have not constructed the experiment well enough. A Christian who wouldn’t pull that lever isn’t the Christian Eric is most worried about, I think. (He’d still be worried, but in a different and still important way). A Christian who wouldn’t pull that lever is the type of Christian I typically see (and I think Jessica too) – they simply haven’t thought about it that far, and haven’t needed to, and might even break out if they did need to.

    But back to the main point:

    Again, I don’t think this teaches us anything. Is rock moving a proper test of godhood? A better one – and an actual real one is where the Bible states in plain Greek and English that “God cannot lie”. Does this make Him a tiny sliver slightly less than fully omnipotent? Only to those who are looking for any reason to claim disbelief. To the rest of us it is entirely consistent with what we know of Him and does not change the fact of omnipotence in any way that matters. It is, in fact, really great news.

    I think you misunderstand one of the goals of reason. Rationalists aren’t running around trying to disprove God so that they don’t have to set aside Sunday mornings or otherwise do whatever the hell their impulse demands. They’re trying to conclude new facts from what they observe, since new facts seem to lead to some pretty good things all around. It allows people to see things they had not seen before, and to be sure that they are not seeing illusions.

    To put it another way, the God that “good news”-type Christians seem to believe in gave us not only the organic eyes in our faces, but also our mind’s eye to divine the true existence of even more. The notion that this God permits us to discard reason – a necessary consequence of assertion that He flouts it Himself – sticks out like a mote in that eye.

  146. @Paul Brinkley “… but I don’t precisely know why you seem to think that because a question is obviously beyond our ability to answer, that the correct conclusion is to not only to answer it anyway, but to also choose the answer that isn’t representative of the null hypothesis”

    We’re talking about two different things. I know of no-one who adopted belief in God because they thought the question unanswerable. What I was responding to was the idea that we don’t take the idea of “swallow omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent all at once” and don’t pursue the solution in every detail. It would be really simplistic reasoning to think the solution to existence or not lie in solving that made-up contradiction. Stated another way, that could make someone a “nutjob” with “faulty cognition” only if there really is a contradiction there, and one that required solving.

    “That’s not a definition, and now I have to keep an eye on how you define “definition”. That statement is a conclusion from earlier premises.”

    It is not a conclusion. It is a severe case of seemingly malicious stereotyping because he allows for the existence of no exceptions. Therefore it becomes definitional, in the “working definition” sense. “They believe in God, therefore they’re delusional.”

    “We agree that Christians are fallible, but we disagree that everyone is equally fallible, and that is where the difference lies.”

    Do you really want to imply that Christians would be more likely to pull the lever than atheists, given equivalent motivation? FWIW, I’ve known and conversed with *lots* of Christians of various subtypes, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never met one who would pull the lever. But some atheists certainly would. And it could be argued they would be aided by no responsibility to any binding moral code.

    Fallibility is no respecter of persons.

    ” is that if you’re Christian, then you’ve convinced yourself that there are certain statements that are both true and false; in other words, you’ve constructed an artificial hindrance which the atheist* has chosen not to construct.”

    Have you actually found any Christians who “convinced yourself that there are certain statements that are both true and false”. I can’t think of any. I’ve seen none pointed-out here. Examples please.

    Atheists believe all sorts of wrong-headed things; see: ‘The Irrational Atheist’ by Vox Day.

  147. Eric,

    I think I have observed more religious people more closely than you have. Do you enjoy people watching?

    “People who are glued to their beliefs by tribalism or fear of social consequences aren’t quite so stuck. If you poke them the right way you find that they often express adaptive knowledge in their behavior that is contrary to what they express in speech. They see, but cannot admit that they see.”

    According to my observations it follows that most religious people are “glued to their beliefs by tribalism or fear of social consequences”, since “they often express adaptive knowledge in their behavior that is contrary to what they express in speech”. Which would also explain why most people believe what their parents believe.

    You seem to be observing different things than I do. Tribalism as tribalism is rampant among Christians.

    Odd. Now we agree on how to interpret, but we disagree on the facts.

    Yours,
    Tom

  148. @Paul Brinkley “That appeal to reason may not lend you insight into the following, but it does for me”

    Paul, this sort of condescending talk accomplishes nothing. Please refrain.

    It was not an appeal to reason, it is a very contrived strawman. And your follow-up comments indicate you really haven’t thought about it much.

    “An atheist who would pull that lever is not rational”

    Same for the Christian.

    You seem to have a really stellar view of what atheists are like. And what they so often do once they have their hands on the levers of power. Do you really think this is supported by the facts. I do not. In fact I’m sure it’s not.

    “A Christian who wouldn’t pull that lever … simply haven’t thought about it that far, and haven’t needed to, and might even break out if they did need to.”

    I hope I’m reading this sentence wrong. Are you suggesting that any Christian who thought about it far enough *would* pull the lever? If so, you’re being ridiculous. If not, please parse the sentence for me.

    “I think you misunderstand one of the goals of reason.”

    You inadvertently stated it correctly: “/one/ of the goals”. But we’re not talking about reason or rationalists, we’re talking about atheists.

    “Rationalists aren’t running around trying to disprove God so that they don’t have to set aside Sunday mornings or otherwise do whatever the hell their impulse demands.”

    Yes, in fact, a lot of them really seem to be.

    “They’re trying to conclude new facts from what they observe, since new facts seem to lead to some pretty good things all around. It allows people to see things they had not seen before, and to be sure that they are not seeing illusions.”

    Sign me up!

    “The notion that this God permits us to discard reason”

    Unsupported assertion.

    ” – a necessary consequence of assertion that He flouts it Himself – sticks out like a mote in that eye.”

    The biological eye was never designed to see God. Category error. Or, less pretentiously, wrong tool for the job. Use science for the things that are subject to science. God isn’t.

    But I imagine I know what you’re getting at: faith.

    Yes, faith is the currency of Heaven. With reason a close second, but never to have the preeminence. God designed it that way. If you’re interested, I can explain some of what we know about why he did so.

  149. > FWIW, I’ve known and conversed with *lots* of Christians of various subtypes,
    > and I’m pretty sure I’ve never met one who would pull the lever.

    How can they be sure that God has not, in fact, ordered that they pull the lever? What would it take for a Christian to be convinced that God actually does want them to pull it? How would another from these lots of Christians respond to the lever-puller’s claim of holy command post-pull?

    These are half-hypothetical questions, and tie back in to above comments by Jessica and others that many truly believe and/or rationalize only up to the point that it actually has any real effect on their lives.

  150. @Paul Brinkley
    > *Note that we’re not even really talking about atheists here. I’ll bet … favor atheism because it’s atheism,

    I think this is a good point Paul, and it is the reason I don’t like the word “atheist.” I don’t want to be defined by what I don’t believe, in a sense that is giving up the parameters of the debate to the theists. I don’t know the best label though. Humanist has too much baggage associated with it, and rationalist tends to be misinterpreted: Christians will tell me they are rationalists too.

    On balance, I prefer rationalist, but I am not particularly happy with the term.

    BTW, on the whole “agnostic” thing, I always laugh. “How can you be 100% sure” they ask me. Which is such a fallacious argument, which would lead me to claim that the believers are agnostics too since they can’t be 100% sure. But of course we send people to the death chamber for less than 100% certainty: beyond a reasonable doubt is a far stricter level of evidence than is needed for most things in life.

  151. @Michael Hipp
    > Have you actually found any Christians who “convinced yourself that there are certain statements that are both true and false”.

    I gave an example above Michael.

    Statement 1: “Killing babies is wrong”,
    Statement 2: “God was right to demand the killing of babies in 1 Samuel 15.”

    I have discussed this with many Christians, and those that don’t try to change the subject will often say that both contradictory statements are true at the same time, essentially meaning that the statement “killing innocent babies is always immoral” is both true and false at the same time.

    Here is another, one that goes to the very heart of redemptive doctrine. Should someone be punished for something what he did not do? Surely that is true. But the redemption of mankind is based on PRECISELY this claim, namely that Jesus was punished for your sins. AND the wretchedness of mankind is also based on that being false, namely that the failures of Adam should fall on his progeny.

    Which is to say this true and false at the same time is not an empty intellectual exercise, but cuts into the very core of the doctrine of the Christian religion.

  152. @jsk “How can they be sure that God has not, in fact, ordered that they pull the lever?”

    *sigh*
    Because he (rather specifically) told them not to. And AFAICT there is no leeway for such a command to come into existence.

    “What would it take for a Christian to be convinced that God actually does want them to pull it?”

    Nothing. There’s nothing that *should* convince them of it. What any particular fallible individual might do, I have no idea.

    “How would another from these lots of Christians respond to the lever-puller’s claim of holy command post-pull?”

    Call the sheriff? Hold the puller at gunpoint in case he might decide to cold-blooded murder someone else?

    ” by Jessica and others that many truly believe and/or rationalize only up to the point that it actually has any real effect on their lives.”

    This is a common experience amongst all humans of whatever persuasion. I don’t comprehend why this is deemed to be some deep, insightful point.

    I know many (and very possibly most) Christians who have made real changes in their lives based on Biblical teachings. This looks like another set of unsupported assertions or patrol-strength strawmen.

  153. >Do you really want to imply that Christians would be more likely to pull the lever than atheists, given equivalent motivation? [...] But some atheists certainly would. And it could be argued they would be aided by no responsibility to any binding moral code.

    Experiments much like the one Paul Brinkley proposed have actually be conducted (but not with that christians vs atheists approach) : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment
    They test obedience to authority, or tendency to defer responsibility for one’s actions to a higher authority.

    So then the question becomes : is there anything about christianity that would make christians more susceptible to this than, say, atheists.

  154. @Jessica Boxer
    Statement 1: “Killing babies is wrong”,
    Statement 2: “God was right to demand the killing of babies in 1 Samuel 15.”

    In what way is this contradictory? The first is a general command; it applies to all people everywhere and does not expire. The second is a command given to a specific person at a specific place and time and for a specific purpose and no license has been given to extend it beyond that narrow case. The first is a command of what *man* is not to do, the second is an explanation of what *God* is going to do (to be enacted, oddly, via specific human agents).

    ““killing innocent babies is always immoral” is both true and false at the same time.”

    Is this something Christians say? They are obviously speaking of the general case, not of events that have long passed into antiquity.

    “Should someone be punished for something what he did not do? Surely that is true. But the redemption of mankind is based on PRECISELY this claim, namely that Jesus was punished for your sins. AND the wretchedness of mankind is also based on that being false, namely that the failures of Adam should fall on his progeny.”

    I fear the underlying misunderstanding is an attempt to equivalence man with God.

    The punishment must fit the crime. No crime, no punishment. This is the command to men.

    That God’s Son should willingly accept an undeserved punishment for the sins of others is the ultimate sign of compassion and generosity. Have you truly never heard of someone taking something on themselves for the love of another person??? Really???

    The illegitimate child of David and Bathsheba went to Heaven having never reached an age of decision. So he could not have been punished for the sins of Adam. We will each be called to account for our own crimes.

    This topic you’ve broached is obviously something that theologians love to debate, the whole “original sin” thing. But it quickly falls into the “vain babblings” category, because of this: “Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.” The meat and milk is more profitable.

    “… is not an empty intellectual exercise…”

    I think that would depend on whether the participants really want to learn or just seek an avenue to tear down.

  155. >I’ll bet the price of a good steak dinner that Eric doesn’t favor atheism because it’s atheism, but rather because it follows from reason. If reason proved existence of an omnipotent being, he’d be all about omnipotentarianism, and he’d meanwhile reject belief in no god if its only basis were that someone said so.

    That is correct.

  156. >If anything, he’s implying that there exist things which the human mind can comprehend as impossible by definition. (There are no square circles.)

    That is correct.

  157. > >I challenge the axiom here with a question: how do you account for the religious mania of atheists?

    > By noticing that there isn’t any. What you’re observing is the religious mania of Marxists – eschatological monotheists who claim to be atheists but have merely substituted the State, the Revolution, or the dialectic of history for the Zoroastrian/Christian/Islamic Nobodaddy-God.

    Heh. The “No True Scotsman” fallacy. For some reason, I’m not going to accept this as a valid argument.

    The fact is, there are atheists who exist, who demand that everyone who doesn’t abandon their belief must be converted, and that anyone who isn’t converted is insane, or a brainwashed robot, or some other such nonsense. Indeed, Eric, you are one such person, and the only reason why I don’t fear you, is because he adheres strongly to the Non-Aggression Principle; if you were the type to seek power over others, however, I’d shudder to think of what horrors you might afflict on society, if given the reigns of government!

    It is difficult to refute the claims made against religion in the comments of this blog post, in large part because they are, to some small degree, true, but also because my views of God are influenced strongly by my religion–and my own personal religion departs from that, because everyone absorbs what they can from the world around them, and makes their own conclusions. Thus, I would be setting up my own strawmen, so that I could defend against what ultimately turn out to be Christian strawmen! These doctrines and counterdoctrines are nuanced, and require a bit of explanation, yet they are bandied about as if they are perfect summaries of belief or nonbelief.

    As an example: Jessica criticised the Christian doctrine that people are “wretched”, and of no worth…but to the degree that I am atheist, I cannot help but observe that I’m not even one small little speck of dust compared to the universe, and the universe doesn’t care one whit about my existence. When contemplating this, I can take some comfort in the hope that some probably nonexistant God loves me–it’s a small comfort, but if I’m feeling particularly despondant, I’ll take what I can get–yet Jessica also criticises the absurdity of an all-powerful Savior who is sacrificed for our sins, because he loves us. Yes, perhaps it is absurd. But it’s an understandable absurdity.

    What annoys me most about the anti-Christianity expressed here, is the implication that it’s impossible to have liberty while so many people believe those icky Christian beliefs…yet with so many atheists who are tied to Leftism, it’s highly questionable that mass atheism would really lead to Libertarianism. This is particularly frustrating when the case can be readily made that the Bible favors Libertarianism, up to and including anarcho-capitalism!

    On the other hand, I find it amusing that an atheist witch who has concluded that mythology actually has something important to say about the human condition (and who, by the way, has helped me understand that there might just be something to that mysticism after all), and who has found something valuable in Buddhism as well, cannot fathom the possibility that others might do the same with their Christian myths…or that others have studied scripture, and concluded on their own that on balance, it was probably true, even with the flaws.

  158. > >So how do you know He doesn’t exist?

    > The same way I know square circles don’t exist.

    I’m sorry, Eric, but I can’t let this go: given two points (X_0, Y_0) and (X_1, Y_1), define a distance function D to be the sum of the absolute value of the two coordinates (ie, D = |X_1 – X_0| + |Y_1 – Y_0|). Assuming that I didn’t make a mistake in remembering this particular distance function, you will find that the circle with radius 1 centered at (0, 0) will be a diamond.

    There’s also another metric for which the circle will be a square with the corners (+-1, +-1).

    ;-)

  159. @kn “They test obedience to authority, or tendency to defer responsibility for one’s actions to a higher authority. … So then the question becomes : is there anything about christianity that would make christians more susceptible to this than, say, atheists.”

    A good question.

    For a Christian, it *should* make them less susceptible as their once-and-only allegiance is to the Kingdom of Heaven, not to earthly men. We ought to know better.

    Two problems tho:
    1) these Christians are mere humans and for such the imposing authority figures are not easily ignored.
    2) that command to “obey civil authorities” (which has, ahem, always stuck in my craw) can easily be taken beyond its narrow application.

  160. >You proceed from a false premise: that there is nothing the human mind can’t comprehend.

    See, this is why I can’t take you seriously. When challenged about religion you get all stupid. (This is common.)

    If you weren’t being stupidified by your belief system, you would already have grasped that nothing I said has anything to do with incomprehensibility. The concept of a square circle is easy to comprehend: it would be anything that satisfied two sets of constraints. Joint satisfaction is impossible but that doesn’t make it incomprehensible.

  161. Re Christianity and liberty: I think it’s more than a coincidence that, historically, liberty has flourished best and most widely in what used to be called Christendom. Yes, there is some conflict between the two, but it’s not hard to see the link between the “God-given” rights described by the Founders and basic, secular, libertarian principles of today.

    One might expect that (say) Buddhism might be as much or more compatible with individual rights, but AFAIK Buddhist societies didn’t have much liberty until after contact with (if not colonization by) oppressive old Christianity.

    So I think even secular libertarians ought to acknowledge that, and cut Christians some slack. Don’t forget what your ancestors, however flawed, have bequeathed you.

  162. @Michael Hipp
    > Is this something Christians say? They are obviously speaking of the general case, not of events that have long passed into antiquity.

    So your view is that something that God has commanded immoral for men can be moral for him? Under what circumstances do you favor the massacre of innocent babies? The events have not passed into antiquity. God has recorded them in his book for us all to learn from. And this is not some simple matter of misunderstanding. The failure of Saul to follow this command was the immediate cause of his removal from being King over God’s people. So, essentially, God was so pissed that Saul didn’t kill the babies that Saul got fired.

    It seems to me that it is a perfect illustration of the arationality that accompanies religiosity. I say arational rather than unrational because rationality doesn’t matter. I really don’t understand how decent people — and most Christians are decent people — can feel comfortable accepting this “God massacred babies” thing. To me their emotional protests outside abortion clinics ring rather hollow in light of this passage.

    And again, the only reason people do this is because an event in ancient antiquity doesn’t have any impact on them bar the talking. Better to enjoy the pleasures of the community of the church and the false hope of resurrection than face the dreadful red blot on the character of their God.

    > I fear the underlying misunderstanding is an attempt to equivalence man with God.

    I fear the misunderstanding of the Christian is that God should AT LEAST be held to the same standards of decency and morality as he holds his people to. Failure to do so is hypocrisy. To say, as some do, that God is righteous by fiat is an empty argument.

    You are of course welcome to say that God is beyond rational discussion and analysis. But you can’t do that and reject the accusation of arationality on your part.

    But it is also an argument of deep importance too. If God does not follow the same standards of decency and morality that you or I would expect of another decent person, how can you POSSIBLY trust him with important things? Really, if he can kill your babies and you have no right of protest, why exactly would you trust him with anything?

    > That God’s Son should willingly accept an undeserved punishment for the sins of others is the ultimate sign of compassion and generosity.

    It might be, I am sure you are familiar with the story of Boaz and the redemption of Ruth. However, it is not a question of whether the debt was paid — though that is far from obvious — it is a question of whether that payment is JUST, which it plainly is not. Should Boaz pay Ruth’s debt? Perhaps, it might satisfy the creditors, but there is no justice in him doing so.

    Let’s say I have a son who murders someone. I am innocent of the crime but I offer myself for the hanging that justice demands. Is the price of blood paid? Perhaps. Is the outcome just? Certainly not. On the contrary, my hanging makes the whole thing much more unjust. Perhaps the red ink is canceled, but the court of equity is not satisfied.

    > the whole “original sin” thing. But it quickly falls into the “vain babblings” category,

    So your theologians can agree on the VERY CORE of Christian doctrine. Doesn’t that bother you? How can you be sure of anything in the Bible since it can’t resolve this core issue, and if can’t even give you a reliable sense of what God will do, given that you apparently can’t understand his morality?

    Again, if all these things are a matter of faith. If God is too inscrutable for our examination and assessment, then do that. But if you reject rational analysis don’t claim rationality. You cannot both be arational and rational about the same thing at the same time. Pick one.

  163. @esr: “If you weren’t being stupidified by your belief system, you would already have grasped that nothing I said has anything to do with incomprehensibility. The concept of a square circle is easy to commprehend: it would be anything that satisfied two sets of constraints. Joint satisfaction is impossible but that doesn’t make it incomprehensible.”

    You missed the point. Here’s what I was responding to:

    “… To take one classic example, they swallow omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent all at once. They reach places where they simply stop reasoning – worse, they tell themselves that ceasing to reason is a sign of virtue.”

    You seem to be asserting that those three things are like the square circle thing. They’re not.

    You want us to continue reasoning about “omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent” because you believe they are contradictory. I say there is little profit in reasoning about them – beyond a certain point – because there is no contradiction and the profit in additional reasoning is dubious. And we know we will never understand it all anyway; so you have to stop someplace.

    In order to handle your objection (i.e. not continuing to reason) we would have to have comprehensibility about things which we do not.

    I am not stupid. Nor am I an ignorant bigot.

  164. It’s not that hard to get people to pull the lever, but you need to frame it as nationalism, not as a command from God.

    And it’s possible to get people to accept murderous behavior as being commanded by their religion, but it takes building up a social context. It’s not a matter of suddenly being taken into a room and being told “God told me to tell you to do this”.

  165. >According to my observations it follows that most religious people are “glued to their beliefs by tribalism or fear of social consequences”, since “they often express adaptive knowledge in their behavior that is contrary to what they express in speech”

    Yes. All this shows is that your concept of “religious people” is broader than my concept of “religious believer”. I use the term “believer” carefully, for one whose investment in the religion is one of actual belief.

    Those are the dangerous ones – the active crazies already willing to murder their infidel neighbors, or the latent ones who can be flipped into active mania by any charismatic sufficiently skilled to push their buttons. One reason that possibility scares me so much is that I think even I am skilled enough to do this – the buttons are really obvious.

  166. > For a Christian, it *should* make them less susceptible

    Strange; I’d expect the opposite.
    Thinking of God as “the authority”, there seems to be a lot in christianity about doing what you’re told (by the bible, by the church, by God…) , supported by imagery of God as the father (and humans the children, or the shepherd and the sheep, … and if God asks you to do something, who are you as a mere human to refuse (eg Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac).

  167. “If reason proved existence of an omnipotent being, he’d be all about omnipotentarianism,”

    This raises an interesting question. While I think it is possible for a set of facts to exist whereby reason can prove the existence of an omnipotent being, I am less sure whether there is a possible set of facts whereby it can prove any being, omnipotent or otherwise, has absolute moral authority to order people around.

  168. “What you’re observing is the religious mania of Marxists – eschatological monotheists who claim to be atheists but have merely substituted the State, the Revolution, or the dialectic of history for the Zoroastrian/Christian/Islamic Nobodaddy-God.”

    I read your earlier essay on this subject, which blames the syndrome of fanatical violence on Augustine’s soteriology – the doctrines of original sin, salvation by grace alone, and the need to submit to divine authority. Trouble is, the Marxists, both the conscious acolytes and the more numerous “vulgar Marxist” type who use the tropes without knowing their origin, reject Augustine’s soteriology even more strongly than his theism. Adhering to the Pelagian heresy is practically the mark of the Western Left, and has been so from its beginning. So you still haven’t plausibly accounted for the religious mania of Marxists.

    As it happens, I can suggest a more plausible candidate: any system of doctrine which entails that the human intellect is incapable of perceiving what is good for us, will inspire and justify violent persecution of those who fail to believe in it. This actually is something mainstream Islam and vulgar Marxism have in common; the Muslim community came to it when they accepted the occasionalism of al-Ghazali against the Aristotelianism of ibn Rushd aka Averroes, while the Marxists reach it by way of scientific materialism and economic determinism. And yes, it’s also a minority strand in Christianity, under the name of “total depravity”.

    But it isn’t entailed by Augustine’s soteriology. Augustine held that the human will is corrupted from birth, but not that the intellect was – that is, that we know what we ought to do, but fail to act as we ought. (It is Augustine, in fact, who first made the distinction between intellect and will. It’s a major theme of the Confessions.) Maintaining that intellect also is corrupt without divine grace would throw the whole system into incoherence.

  169. “What you’re observing is the religious mania of Marxists – eschatological monotheists who claim to be atheists but have merely substituted the State, the Revolution, or the dialectic of history for the Zoroastrian/Christian/Islamic Nobodaddy-God.”

    I read your earlier essay on this subject, which blames the syndrome of fanatical violence on Augustine’s soteriology – the doctrines of original sin, salvation by grace alone, and the need to submit to divine authority. Trouble is, the Marxists, both the conscious acolytes and the more numerous “vulgar Marxist” type who use the tropes without knowing their origin, reject Augustine’s soteriology even more strongly than his theism. Adhering to the Pelagian heresy is practically the mark of the Western Left, and has been so from its beginning. So you still haven’t plausibly accounted for the religious mania of Marxists.

    As it happens, I can suggest a more plausible candidate: any system of doctrine which entails that the human intellect is incapable of perceiving what is good for us, will inspire and justify violent persecution of those who fail to believe in it. This actually is something mainstream Islam and vulgar Marxism have in common; the Muslim community came to it when they accepted the occasionalism of al-Ghazali against the Aristotelianism of ibn Rushd aka Averroes, while the Marxists reach it by way of scientific materialism and economic determinism. And yes, it’s also a minority strand in Christianity, under the name of “total depravity”.

    But it isn’t entailed by Augustine’s soteriology. Augustine held that the human will is corrupted from birth, but not that the intellect was – that is, that we know what we ought to do, but fail to act as we ought. (It is Augustine, in fact, who first made the distinction between intellect and will. It’s a major theme of the Confessions.) Maintaining that intellect also is corrupt without divine grace would throw the whole system into incoherence.

  170. >You seem to be asserting that those three things are like the square circle thing. They’re not.

    Go on, explain how. I expect I’ll find it amusing. Or at least morbidly fascinating in the same way a bad car accident is.

  171. >Strange; I’d expect the opposite.

    History backs you up. When Nietzsche described Christianity as a religion practiced by slaves and encouraged by masters he was having one of his lucid moments.

  172. Jessica,

    We let the government kill/kidnap/imprison people to discourage crime. We do not let individuals do the same. Governments are not human beings, and neither is God. When Michael Hipp says that you cannot judge God by human standards he is not making a strange argument. Do you judge bacteria by human standards? Software? Hammers?

    Nancy,

    In the Milgram experiment, the authority figure was a scientist.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

    Some call for climate dissenters to be jailed, because science!

    Plenty of rationalists are, not surprisingly, very good at rationalization.

    Michael Hipp,

    I’m not stupid, nor am I an ignorant bigot. Except that I am. All humans are stupid, ignorant bigots. I possess less than one eight-trillionth of the current human experience. I know almost nothing. Two eyes and two ears, which we use to pass information one to another, have horrible, lousy bandwidth, even when combined with our other senses. Our memory is notoriously unreliable, based as it is on a destructive read, with a rewrite mechanism which is easily corrupted. Furthermore, our memory indexing and search functions are weird, organic and not programmable for either efficiency or thoroughness. We base our decisions on reptilian brain reactions unique to our personal experiences, which is as bigoted as you can get. Most of our so called rational decisions are actually rationalizations after the fact. Welcome to the human condition. Blast that serpent, and our ancestor Adam, who failed to protect Eve from him. Oi.

    I’m afraid that Eric will have to accuse believers or something other than being human to be convincing.

    Yours,
    Tom

  173. And yet, to connect to my earlier point, it was Christendom that did the most to end slavery, and much of that anti-slavery activity was explicitly Christian.

  174. >It’s not a matter of suddenly being taken into a room and being told “God told me to tell you to do this”.

    No, but the techniques for getting them from passive belief to active mania aren’t complicated or difficult, either. Cult Dynamics 101; I’ve written about it before. I could run that game if I were motivated enough.

  175. If I ran the Milgram experiment today, I’d tell the participants that the people they were shocking were being conditioned out of racism/sexism/homophobia. I’m sure you’d find plenty of enthusiastic button-pushers for that.

  176. Eric,

    Boy do I write slow. I keep falling behind the thread.

    “Yes. All this shows is that your concept of “religious people” is broader than my concept of “religious believer”. I use the term “believer” carefully, for one whose investment in the religion is one of actual belief.”

    To a certain extent you are correct. There are plenty of religious people who do not believe. However I see plenty of actual religious believers who act contrary to their beliefs. The number of bars catty-corner to churches with patrons at both is instructive. This is usually described as hypocrisy, but your description of “express adaptive knowledge in their behavior that is contrary to what they express in speech” works quite well. The scripture is also *full* of complaints by the authors about how difficult it is to consistently follow ones beliefs. Can we agree that the guys who wrote the books are actual believers? So, I am afraid we still do not agree about the facts.

    “Those are the dangerous ones – the active crazies already willing to murder their infidel neighbors, or the latent ones who can be flipped into active mania by any charismatic sufficiently skilled to push their buttons. One reason that possibility scares me so much is that I think even I am skilled enough to do this – the buttons are really obvious.”

    I’ve been re-reading 1984. The two-minute hate is very effective. I two-minute hated myself into a really bad place at work, by repeatedly hating a particular application I need to work on. This was a bad idea, but it was very effective, and now I have had to work on two-minute liking to roll it back. It had nothing to do with my religion. Frustrated, disaffected, lonely people are easy to manipulate by cult leaders, whether the cults are religious, medical (some forms of chiropractic), sales, national, tribal or politically oriented.

    You may dream of getting rid of religion, but you also have to dream of getting rid of nationalism, tribalism and politics to achieve your goal of safety. I think getting rid of or completely taming any of religion, nationalism, tribalism or politics is impossible, requiring a fundamental change in humanity. The new Libertarian man may be an improvement on the new Soviet man, but they are equally impossible, like … a squared circle?

    There is no safety.

    Looking forward to all the comments made while I was writing.

    Yours,
    Tom

  177. Minor point: Bars next to churches aren’t necessarily evidence of hypocrisy. Some branches of Protestantism prohibit alcohol, but not all of them, and neither does Catholicism.

  178. Eric,

    Is GLAAD running Cult Dynamics 101 on the left? Is my buddy Palin doing it on the right? Ron Paul on libertarians? Just wondering, who *is* playing that game, other than Islamicists (formerly Hamas, formerly Tamil Tigers) trolling for suicide bombers. I have no idea.

    Yours,
    Tom

  179. >You may dream of getting rid of religion, but you also have to dream of getting rid of nationalism, tribalism and politics to achieve your goal of safety.

    There are threats, but not all equal threats. If I wanted to turn a group of people into murderous tools, I’d reach for religious manipulation first. It’s the fastest and easiest route I know.

  180. @Jessica Boxer

    Jessica, you are obviously a smart and articulate person. I mean no offense in saying this, but the objections you’re tossing out is 101 stuff. Has no-one around you ever shown you the love and compassion to attempt to explain these basic truths?

    “So your view is that something that God has commanded immoral for men can be moral for him?”

    101: Three things: God, Man, The Moral Code.

    The hierarchy goes like this: God -> MoralCode -> Man. God created the moral code, he is not subject to it. It was created for us, because we’re the ones who needed it.

    So yes, we are commanded not to kill innocent babies. God saw a particular circumstance where he commanded a particular man to kill some babies. There is no contradiction and there is no moral failing. Saul should have done as he was told, as much as I’d prefer that wasn’t true.

    “Under what circumstances do you favor the massacre of innocent babies?”

    Why do you want to take a discussion of concepts and ideas and make it personal?

    *I* don’t ever favor killing the innocent. But I am not God. And frankly some of the OT stories are hard to understand /in the context of our modern society/.

    The thing you don’t seem to grasp is that God had a very specific purpose in mind and was working on the long term view. Saul saw only the short term, that’s why his judgement was wrong.

    Do you want me to explain what that very large, very specific, and long term purpose was? It will take a bit.

    “… can feel comfortable accepting this “God massacred babies” thing. To me their emotional protests outside abortion clinics ring rather hollow in light of this passage.”

    How do I explain that God’s purposes in that *specific* instance have no bearing on what what we are to do today? Saul was under a direct command from God in a specific instance. We are commanded to defend the innocent and to value life as God does. I’m really glad not to have been one of the soldiers that would have had to participate in that, but I am smart enough to grasp that God knows what he is doing.

    ————————————————————————————-
    Sidebar: I understand you object to God. Do you think this has some bearing on his existence or not?
    Is it not true that He either exists or He does not? Do the preferences or opinions of you or me affect the answer to that question in the slightest?
    ————————————————————————————-

    “I fear the misunderstanding of the Christian is that God should AT LEAST be held to the same standards of decency and morality as he holds his people to. Failure to do so is hypocrisy. To say, as some do, that God is righteous by fiat is an empty argument.”

    No, it’s by definition. Here’s a more simplistic and pragmatic way to put it:

    His game, His rules.

    Who, pray tell, is going to hold God to this moral code?

    But still you lack understanding … would you have had God forsake the much longer term benefit for some short term relief?. Something like this:

    God’s Plan:
    The babies are killed and are immediately taken to Heaven to be with Him for eternity.

    Saul’s Plan:
    The babies grow up to be idolatrous Canaanites, die and go to the Lake of Fire for all eternity.

    Those are the two options. Which is more compassionate and moral?

    “You are of course welcome to say that God is beyond rational discussion and analysis. But you can’t do that and reject the accusation of arationality on your part.”

    I’m pretty sure you’re using “arational” as just a pejorative, so I’ll try not to take that bait too far.

    As best I can tell God is open to rational discussion and analysis. He has never forbade it or chastised anyone for it AFAICT. But – and this is a big “but” – you need to understand the limits of your tools. Right tool for the job. If you want to understand God, you will need to start with faith. God gave you some, as repressed as it is. But it will serve you well if you give it a bit of air.

    Now, a serious question for you:

    If today you somehow concluded that God exists, dead babies and all, and you were pretty sure he is as described in the Bible, would you do anything different tomorrow than you would have otherwise? Why or why not?

    The day you accept the fact of God’s existence is the day *everything* changes.

    “Ruth … Boaz … it is a question of whether that payment is JUST, which it plainly is not.”

    Says who?

    “… but I offer myself for the hanging that justice demands. Is the price of blood paid? Perhaps. Is the outcome just? Certainly not.”

    Again, says who?

    If the judge, executioner and sheriff are satisfied. And the family of the deceased is satisfied. And your son is satisfied. And the leftist newspaper editor is satisfied. And *you* are satisfied. Who is left? In what way is this a problem if all involved view that justice has been served. Aren’t *all* such judgements just an imperfect application of “serving justice”. If your son went to the gallows, would it bring back the murdered? Do you want perfection in a fallen world?

    It’s quite simple really: God deemed it a satisfactory payment for a near infinite list of crimes, the innocent one willingly offered Himself for the sacrifice. We all benefit because now there is hope where there was none before. God is pleased because it allows for a way to redeem His creation. The Son has received the glory and Name that are His due. Only Satan is mad, but we take that as a positive.

    “So your theologians can agree on the VERY CORE of Christian doctrine. Doesn’t that bother you?”

    No, the vain babblings of (mostly atheistic) theologians do not much concern me.

    What you are talking about is NOT a core Christian doctrine beyond what I already explained (each for his own crimes).

    “…and if can’t even give you a reliable sense of what God will do, given that you apparently can’t understand his morality?”

    I know what God will do because he has told us, and He cannot lie. I understand his morality about as well as any mortal of finite comprehension can – I see no problems there. At least none that can’t be solved with faith in God’s promises and character.

    Here’s a big hint: God looks at the long term. If you could see the long term in perfect clarity the way He can, how can you be sure you wouldn’t do exactly as He does?

    “Again, if all these things are a matter of faith. If God is too inscrutable for our examination and assessment, then do that. But if you reject rational analysis don’t claim rationality. You cannot both be arational and rational about the same thing at the same time. Pick one.”

    Lots of insults being hurled here. Since you insist on making this personal, I’ll give you my personal take…

    I am a pragmatist. To my marrow. I am the quintessential Engineer (for better or worse). I tend to measure the value of all things by their practical effects. To drive home the sterotype, I’d rather spend most any day writing 8051 ASM code than dealing with the insufferable vagaries and silliness of (ugh!) people.

    What I have found is that it is imminently practical to live my life(as best and imperfectly as I can) for the one true God who created me and gave me that very life. It provides good benefits all the way around. I’ve tried it the other way (roughly from age 18 to 30) and had some rebellious fun. But I’d rather be on the winning team. I have seen God’s provision, protection, and love throughout my life (even when I deserved it not at all). I could go on and on for pages of miracles I’ve witnessed and the times he has been there for me and the wonderful things that have come to me from His service. I testify to the truth of these things which I have seen and heard.

  181. Response to Nancy’s minor point. Sure. It’s most poignant in the Bible belt, where drinking and dancing at those bars are verboten. But even Christians, like me, who think drinking and dancing are fine, do not go for drunkenness or drinking and dancing followed by having sex with someone you are not married to. Which believing Christians somehow keep doing, and bars are often involved. Christians blame succumbing to temptation. Eric might say they are expressing “adaptive knowledge in their behavior” instead.

    Yours,
    Tom

  182. @esr: “>You seem to be asserting that those three things are like the square circle thing. They’re not.

    Go on, explain how.”

    Uh, no. Again, I am responding to this:

    “The same way I know square circles don’t exist. Your “He”, if you are referring to the Judeo/Christian/Islamic God, is impossible. The predicates ascribed to him are mutually contradictory.

    To take one classic example, they swallow omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent all at once. They reach places where they simply stop reasoning – worse, they tell themselves that ceasing to reason is a sign of virtue.”

    You asserted:
    1) Judeo/Christian God is impossible
    2) predicates are mutually contradictory
    3) swallow omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent

    You say the contradictions exist (that preclude the existence of God). I say they do not.

    The positive assertion is yours. Do you want me to attempt to prove a negative?

  183. @Tom DeGisi
    >We let the government kill/kidnap/imprison people to discourage crime. We do not let individuals do the same.

    Right but governments are not immune from examination of their moral code, and insofar as they act in this way they are doing so by proxy for individuals. Killing a heinous criminal is not immoral, we have governments do it not because they are immune to a moral code, but because a process is necessary to make sure the person is worthy of the punishment.

    A comparison with the Icelandic ancient code is appropriate here. The Althing could declare a man rightfully killable, whereupon anyone could kill him. The point being that the “government” (although the Althing was not really a government) determined the justice of the punishment — its morality — then anyone could bring about that justice.

    And needless to say (or perhaps it is needful to say) it is always immoral to massacre innocent babies.

    Isn’t it shocking that I have to actually make an argument that massacring innocent babies is wrong? Especially when the main contenders are supposedly decent and moral people?

  184. Eric,

    “There are threats, but not all equal threats. If I wanted to turn a group of people into murderous tools, I’d reach for religious manipulation first. It’s the fastest and easiest route I know.”

    Someone asked for a first step. If you want a series of steps to get rid of religious belief in the desired time period, I am certain you will go begging. What can be done is to minimize, mitigate and survive the damage. We should all be working on those steps, which means I need to start writing all the political essays rolling around in my head and lobbying the government for simpler, shorter (and often absent) rules, under the theory that more freedom will increase political satisfaction and thereby reduce the political triggers. If someone wrote a good, ecumenical essay on how to keep your loved ones out of a cult, even religious believers would spread it around and learn from it. That’s a first step. I met an engineer who worked on nukes. His job was to keep them from going off accidentally. I like that job.

    I’m going to Google keeping your loved ones out of a cult now….

    Yours,
    Tom

  185. Jessica,

    “Isn’t it shocking that I have to actually make an argument that massacring innocent babies is wrong? Especially when the main contenders are supposedly decent and moral people?”

    No. It’s not shocking. It’s the human condition. I think Truman was right to drop the A-bomb.

    Yours,
    Tom

  186. Eric,

    “I want you to exhibit your invisible pink unicorn.”

    No, you don’t. If you did, you’d sell your desire better. Was this a “shut up, Michael” comment? Something else?

    Yours,
    Tom

  187. @Michael Hipp
    > I’m really glad not to have been one of the soldiers that would have had to
    > participate in [massacring babies], but I am smart enough to grasp that God
    > knows what he is doing.

    You hit the nail on the head and brought all the pieces together. If you were one of the soldiers would you have done it? Would you have pulled the lever? If God is smart enough to know what he is doing, would you have obeyed such a command?

    I’ll get to the rest of your comments later, but this is the core. If you failed to obey this command of God, as I suspect you would unless some charismatic leader whipped you up into a lather, would your failure constitute a moral failure, or would you be a better person for standing up for innocent children?

    Are you willing to suspend rationality, decency and your own innate sense of morality because God told you too, because your faith is greater than these?

  188. >No, you don’t. If you did, you’d sell your desire better.

    I’d try to sell it better if I thought he could actually do it. Since I’m pretty certain he can’t, there’s not a lot of point in the exercise.

    I find the thought processes of people like Michael Hipp morbidly fascinating. So much disconnect and craziness under such a thin veneer of normality. It shows, I guess, how much of what we think of as coherent mindfulness is just having learned a few rationalization strategies. And how willing everyone else is to be fooled by them.

    He’ll find some skeevy, bogus way to evade the point. They always do.

  189. @Tom DeGisi
    > No. It’s not shocking. It’s the human condition. I think Truman was right to drop the A-bomb.

    I think he was too. However, in any war situation one is obliged to minimize collateral damage. Saul was fired from being king because he did not maximize collateral damage.

    My objection is not that babies were killed, it is that God specifically called out in his command that babies be killed, they were a SPECIFIC target, and was really, really pissed when it was not pursued with sufficiently brutal viciousness.

    We killed babies in Japan so that far more babies (both Japanese and American) need not die as would have been inevitable were the allies to have invaded the Japanese homeland. The Battle of Okinawa teaches us what would have happened, and how, for Japan as a whole if not for individual victims, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a blessing and saved millions of innocent Japanese lives.

    The baby Amalekites were of no danger to anyone, the Israelites controlled the battlefield. What happened there was a heinous war crime, commanded by a supposedly righteous god.

    Once again, I have dealt with you in the past Tom and no that you are a decent, moral person. I find it unbelievable that you are defending the massacre of innocent babies.

  190. Jessica,

    Did rational, decent men with their own innate sense of morality pilot the Enola Gay?

    Governments implement policies for both long and short term strategies which *require* the deaths of innocent babies all the time. They usually are trying to minimize some other harm. God is more powerful, knowledgeable and good than our governments. If you cannot imagine a being more powerful, knowledgeable and good than our governments being forced to kill innocent babies for the greater good, you haven’t been reading enough science fiction. ;)

    Yours,
    Tom

  191. You want us to continue reasoning about “omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent” because you believe they are contradictory. I say there is little profit in reasoning about them – beyond a certain point – because there is no contradiction and the profit in additional reasoning is dubious.

    You don’t think there’s a contradiction in a being of infinite compassion, infinite power and infinite knowledge creating a world where his creations feel suffering?

  192. @Tom DeGisi
    > Governments implement policies for both long and short term strategies which *require* the deaths of innocent babies all the time.

    Nonsense, unless you are talking about African tyrannies or Communist thugoracies. It is true that sometimes their policies collaterally cause the death of babies (atomic bombs and Obamacare for example) but they never TARGET babies as God did.

    > God is more powerful, knowledgeable and good than our governments.

    I object to the word good. No definition of good includes someone who demands the wholesale slaughter of innocent children. And the argument that God is beyond the judgement of men is fine if you are willing to accept that your faith and religion are arational or perhaps even irrational.

  193. Jessica,

    The math all changes when you add an infinite heaven. Micheal gave you an argument which utterly destroys your argument and you ignored it. Not my fault that you are ignoring what people are saying.

    True, “they never TARGET babies as God did”, but God has all knowledge. Therefore, anything God does which requires the death of any innocent baby also requires that he knows which baby, unlike human governments. Not only is God not a human, he is not a government.

    You know, you are acting like your arguments are elementary – and they are, in, for example, The Atheist Debater’s Handbook. But the arguments against them (which I am making) are equally elementary, and Christians have been making them and writing them down since Augustine and earlier. You know, Augustine and Aquinas were really brilliant, and they, like you had centuries of really smart thinkers, like Plato and Aristotle on whose shoulders they could stand.

    The biggest problem most atheists have is that they think they can tear everything down, start from scratch, ignore traditional wisdom and knowledge and then .. that they actually make sense. Talk about a really big leap of faith.

    Eric,

    “Since I’m pretty certain he can’t, there’s not a lot of point in the exercise.”

    He can’t do it. You refuse to name any of your contradictions. Pink and invisible are obvious contradictions, except they aren’t. All you need is an invisibility cloak over a pink object. Duh. The things you were complaining about are not obviously contradictory, either. Most philosophers require quite a bit of text to explain why they think the combination of omnipotence, omniscience and omnibenevolence is a contradiction. Not even close to contradictory like pink and invisible.

    In complicated questions, obvious contradictions are RATHER FEW AND FAR BETWEEN. I think that’s obvious.

    JonCB,

    “You don’t think there’s a contradiction in a being of infinite compassion, infinite power and infinite knowledge creating a world where his creations feel suffering?”

    No. I believe in free will, the classic solution to that problem for centuries.

    The above was my “skeevy, bogus way to evade the point”.

    Yours,
    Tom

  194. @JonCB “You don’t think there’s a contradiction in a being of infinite compassion, infinite power and infinite knowledge creating a world where his creations feel suffering?”

    I should have corrected this earlier, but was remiss.

    The correct theological terms are omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. I’m not aware of any authoritative claim that God is “omnibenevolent”, whatever that would mean.

    He created a world where we had the free choice to do with it much as we please. Pretty much everything after that is the doing of us or our ancestors.

  195. @esr: “I want you to exhibit your invisible pink unicorn”

    I’ve made no such claim or anything remotely resembling it. I can exhibit no such thing. And we both knew that. So what is your point?

    You continue to evade supporting the assertion you made.

    Instead you throw insults and a never-ending stream of condescending language. Please show us you’re better than that.

  196. Also, A&E has walked it back:

    http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2013/12/27/ae-reinstates-phil-robertson-duck-dynasty-returns-2014

    And something I forgot, to JonCB. Is suffering bad? It’s how we grow. It makes our stories meaningful. Good novelists put their characters through really horrible stuff. The things Bujold has done to the Vorkosigans… Anyway, an Author, as opposed to an author, might know much more about suffering than we do.

    Thanks for putting up with my ignorant, bigoted self.

    Yours,
    Tom

  197. @Jessica Boxer “You hit the nail on the head and brought all the pieces together. If you were one of the soldiers would you have done it? Would you have pulled the lever?”

    Yet another false equivalence. Obeying a legitimate command given by God’s proven prophet is not the same as “pulling the lever” in the contrived scenario someone posted above.

    But since you always make it personal and no other level of conversation seems possible, I suppose I should play along…

    Answer: I don’t know what I *would* do, as I’ve never been in any circumstance even remotely resembling such. I’m unproven. I can only tell you what I *should* do.

    “If you failed to obey this command of God, as I suspect you would unless some charismatic leader whipped you up into a lather, would your failure constitute a moral failure, or would you be a better person for standing up for innocent children?

    Are you willing to suspend rationality, decency and your own innate sense of morality because God told you too, because your faith is greater than these?”

    I think this is all the same question, so I will deal with the brief final version of it, using your terms:

    rationality: the rational thing is *always* to obey God
    decency: the decent thing is *always* to obey God
    my innate sense of morality: couldn’t be any more irrelevant in the shadow of Almighty God

    Note that none of this has anything to do with “pulling the lever”.

    And if you think that a contradiction, then we have yet more work to do in 101.

  198. Micheal,

    Omnibenevolent = all good. So. all knowledge, all power, all places and all goodness, if we combine the sets of three. I think all places is often assumed as part of all knowledge and all power.

    And yes, Eric has not listed his so-called obvious contradictions, the most important of which (the ones against theism in general, not Christianity) I bet will not be obvious.

    Yours,
    Tom

  199. @Tom DeGisi
    > The math all changes when you add an infinite heaven.

    Sure, if you add something unmeasurable, unprovable, and arational. But then we are no longer having a rational debate. We are just arguing about your unsubstatiated claims. You are free to believe what you want, just don’t claim it is rational or reasonable. It is just made up stories with no evidentiary basis. And don’t get mad if I steal your car because the Goddess Aphrodite said that girls should be allowed to take boys’ stuff.

    > Micheal gave you an argument which utterly destroys your argument and you ignored it.

    I didn’t ignore it, I just didn’t get around to it because I want to focus on one very telling sentence in his response. But let me get around to it now: if the argument is that the babies are better off because they are with Jesus then, living within the arational structure of this discussion one must point out that:

    1. Killing babies is always good, lest they make bad choices in life and end in the fires of hell, so why are Christians demanding the end of abortions? Why are they not rather breaking into nurseries to send a few more up to Jesus?
    2. The eternal salvation of unbaptized babies is an extremely disputed topic within the Christian church. Killing them might be a kind of big gamble…
    3. Stepping outside of your little arational world for a second — you must be freaking crazy — killing babies is ok because they go to be with God? You do know people have used that justification in court to get off on an insanity defense when they murdered their own children, right?

    > But the arguments against them (which I am making) are equally elementary, and Christians have been making them and writing them down since Augustine and earlier.

    I’m confused what you mean. Are you saying you and I are too lowly on the intellectual scale to have this argument that Augustine and Aquinas expended many years on? I think most philosophy is disconnected from reality navel gazing, which is why I am trying to connect the discussion with reality — dead babies — rather than concepts and ideas, something that someone else complained about. The point is that it isn’t meaningless blather, is is consequential, often seriously so.

    I assure you, it is damaging to a man’s soul to try to argue in favor of the wanton, deliberate massacre of babies.

    > The biggest problem most atheists have is that they think they can tear everything down, start from scratch, ignore traditional wisdom and knowledge

    If all those millions of hours of thinking are so effective, then my tiny arguments should be demolished in an overwhelming flood. The fact that they aren’t should tell you something about there value. If the best you’ve got is “Aquinas is smarter than you” then your argument is just an vacuous appeal to authority. Don’t mistake effort for results.

    Once again, feel free to say “I have faith, I don’t judge God’s actions, he is righteous by fiat” Fabulous. Say that. just don’t say in the next breath “I am a rational individual.” The two statements are incompatible.

  200. @Michael
    > I can only tell you what I *should* do.
    > rationality: the rational thing is *always* to obey God
    > decency: the decent thing is *always* to obey God
    > my innate sense of morality: couldn’t be any more irrelevant in the shadow of Almighty God

    Which is to say, what you should do is kill the babies. If you are sufficiently convinced that God wants you to do that, you, if you had the courage, would put the innocents to the sword. I really don’t think anything else needs to be said, except that it is the Milligram experiment repeated right here on Armed and Dangerous.

  201. Jessica,

    You said, “If all those millions of hours of thinking are so effective, then my tiny arguments should be demolished in an overwhelming flood. The fact that they aren’t should tell you something about there value.”

    … and…

    ‘If the best you’ve got is “Aquinas is smarter than you” then your argument is just an vacuous appeal to authority.”

    Oh no. I’m claiming that there are plenty of theists and plenty of atheists, all smarter than both of us and all standing on the shoulders of giants and yet we are still arguing. If you really think you can make a persuasive argument on either one side or the other in the space of Eric’s blog you are not being a good engineer.

    “I think most philosophy is disconnected from reality navel gazing, which is why I am trying to connect the discussion with reality — dead babies — rather than concepts and ideas, something that someone else complained about. The point is that it isn’t meaningless blather, is is consequential, often seriously so.”

    Philosophers repeatedly connect their ideas with concrete things like dead babies. It’s why they care enough to make the arguments. And, yet, they end up in the weeds. Why? Well, we seem to be arguing about things that effect billions of beings over billions of years when we have a lifespan of tens of years and the personal knowledge of only one being. It really is not surprising that we get lost. But you, Jessica, and I, Tom are stuck making the same arguments with the same results. Michael and I have personal experience that leads us to believe in God. You don’t. We all agree it’s important. And so you start from your concrete things and duplicate arguments philosophers made long ago. Good thinking, that! I haven’t tossed out your arguments as arational. Do us the same courtesy, please. You have to leave the infinite heaven in, since it is part of our God hypothesis you are arguing against.

    Yours,
    Tom

  202. @Jessica Boxer

    Jessica, you are more-and-more putting words into my mouth. Please stop.

    “If you are sufficiently convinced that God wants you to do that”

    Nice reframe. No, there is no “sufficiently convinced”. If God gave an unmistakeable order through a proven and designated source for such things then I would be bound to obey. Would you really have me disobey God? On whose authority? Yours?

    Note that such cannot and will not happen today. Because no such authority exists nor can it, whereas such things were day-to-day common in Samuel’s time (and you’re nudging me into writing yet another 101 tutorial).

    If you want to disbelieve in God that’s your choice. If you want to believe but object, that’s also your choice. Some of us, after much thought, think there is a wiser course.

  203. “It is not a conclusion. It is a severe case of seemingly malicious stereotyping because he allows for the existence of no exceptions. Therefore it becomes definitional, in the “working definition” sense. “They believe in God, therefore they’re delusional.””

    Which is why I said it was hilariously hypocritical in a thread lamenting denormalizing dissent.

  204. This is really about the Bible, but for people that believe Genesis, it is relevant in relation to omniscience. Genesis 6:5-7 in my marked-up version of the King James Version…

    5 And God saw [just found out] that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

    6 And it repented the Lord [he was very sorry that he had made such a bad mistake] that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

    7 And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me [I am so sorry] that I have made them [what a mistake that turned out to be].

    Talk about bad engineering.

  205. @Tom DeGisi
    > a persuasive argument on either one side or the other in the space of Eric’s blog you are not being a good engineer.

    To be clear, I am a big fan of Tom DeGisi, but that is a weird statement. If that is the case then why are you making a theistic argument? My view is that the arguments in favor of god are mostly empty puffery, and so I think they can plainly be dealt with in a blog like this, so I am doing so. If you think your case can’t be argued, then why are you arguing it?

    What you are essentially saying is “There are MUCH better arguments for my case, but I can’t make them here, and other smart people would totally eviscerate your argument.” That might be true, though I have been around the block on this a few times so I doubt it, but it is just an empty statement, and certainly not a support of any kind to your case.

    > Good thinking, that! I haven’t tossed out your arguments as arational.

    But Tom, it is entirely a false equivalency. I am entirely arguing from a rational point of view. I am not throwing in random uprovable beliefs in heaven and the unquestionable righteousness of god.

    I am not particularly calling your argument irational, just arational. It is not coming from a rational point of view, in the sense that it cannot be questioned or examined. In fact that is the whole point you are making. God is so far above us that we can’t judge him or question him. That is fine. Make that argument if you want. Just acknowledge that there is no answer to it, it is not subject to rational examination. Absolutely anything I claim can be questioned, probed or disputed. The same isn’t true for you. So just call it what it is, and don’t claim they are the same thing with equal rational substance.

  206. @Michael
    > Nice reframe. No, there is no “sufficiently convinced”.

    It is the same thing for all important purposes. Apparently you are sufficiently convinced to dedicate your life to god. Perhaps you need a higher level of confidence to kill babies. Somehow you have this idea that Samuel is magical. He had to convince Saul of his authenticity too. Many people claim today to be prophets from God, and many, many people believe them. How can you say for sure they are all wrong? After all, Romans 12 does list prophets as one of the ministries God has given the church, so apparently there should be some prophets around.

    So if one of those prophets claimed it was, for example, the will of god to move everyone to a compound in Guyana, and when there, to give poison to everyone including the children, how can you know for sure that that prophet was not speaking the will of God? After all, God gave a very similar command in the past? Don’t say “God would never condone the killing of innocent children” because God does and did.

    And please don’t give a “A real Scotsman would never do that” answer. That isn’t a serious answer to a very serious question.

  207. Omnipotence…
    Does this mean transcending physical laws because he made those laws? If not, he is subject to the laws as we are. If so, you get contradictions like:
    – creating a force he cannot withstand
    – putting a 5-foot ball inside a 1-foot ball

    Omniscience…
    If we have free will, does he know what we will do? Did he at least realize that some people would be evil? OK, I am leading with my chin on this last one, but why would he do that? So he would have some people to put in hell?

    Omnipotence with Omniscience…
    If he can see what will happen, can he change what will happen?

  208. @Jessica Boxer “Apparently you are sufficiently convinced to dedicate your life to god.”

    I am sufficiently convinced of the existence of God and the truth of God’s word. Thankfully for me, in this age, the subject of killing babies does not come up. (That is, unless we’re talking about abortion, or “ethical” infantcide, or the actions of certain government military and police organizaitons.)

    “Perhaps you need a higher level of confidence to kill babies.”

    Jessica, your every sentence comes out of some form of “you’ve decided to kill babies!”. No I haven’t and neither did Samuel or Saul. God made that choice.

    “Somehow you have this idea that Samuel is magical.”

    No, I think God is thorough. Can you cite chapter and verse where the legitimacy of Samuel was successfully challenged? If Samuel were fake, we’re be reading about his getting the sword.

    “Many people claim today to be prophets from God, and many, many people believe them. How can you say for sure they are all wrong?”

    May people think Barack Obama is a great president. We are surrounded by idiots and charlatans. So what?

    101: The prophets were a necessary feature of life in the time up to the completion of the scripture. They are no longer needed and none exist. We live in a blessed age where spotting liars should be easier than ever.

    Guyana strawman: “After all, God gave a very similar command in the past? Don’t say “God would never condone the killing of innocent children” because God does and did.”

    No He didn’t. There is no resemblance.

    “And please don’t give a “A real Scotsman would never do that” answer.”

    “Scotsmen” both real and fake do evil things all the time. Thankfully God doesn’t.

  209. @BRM aka Brian R. Marshall

    Brian, thank you for at least attempting to do what esr is evidently unwilling or unable to do.

    “Omnipotence…
    Does this mean transcending physical laws because he made those laws? If not, he is subject to the laws as we are.”

    Just like the Moral Code, God created the physical laws and is not in any way subject to them, except by choice. Which is why the rock-moving objection is so ridiculous.

    “Omniscience…
    If we have free will, does he know what we will do? Did he at least realize that some people would be evil? OK, I am leading with my chin on this last one, but why would he do that? So he would have some people to put in hell?”

    Yes, he knows what we will do … when he chooses to look, which appears he frequently does not.

    When you get into the “why” of what God did, most of the time we are reduced to much speculation. He is not required to reveal His motivations to us. And no-one knows the mind of God.

    That said, here’s my attempt, consistent with what we know: God desired the company of creatures he could love and care for, and who would love and serve Him. For that to be possible those creatures had to have free choice. The love of a robot would likely be uninspiring. Yes, that means creating angels and humans that have the capacity to do evil, and some will.

    “Omnipotence with Omniscience…
    If he can see what will happen, can he change what will happen?”

    Yes. But the vast majority of the time he chooses not to. He likes to watch His creation going about their business and being themselves. One iron-clad feature of God’s character appears to be that he *never* tramples on the will of man (i.e. he won’t force you to do anything). It appears he set the universe running and mostly lets it alone. We were created for His pleasure. (Note that the period of intense intervention that Jessica is so bent out of shape over is the exception, not the rule, and it was for a very special purpose.)

    The intense intervention today takes place in men’s hearts, hidden from view of those with no faith

  210. @Michael
    >Jessica, your every sentence comes out of some form of “you’ve decided to kill babies!”.

    I don’t believe I said that. What YOU said though is that if God commanded it you would, were you courageous enough, go ahead and kill babies. The fact that it makes you squirm a little should tell you that you really do feel uncomfortable with this heinously evil command that God gave.

    > Can you cite chapter and verse where the legitimacy of Samuel was successfully challenged?

    History is written by the winners.

    > 101: The prophets were a necessary feature of life in the time up to the completion of the scripture. They are no longer needed and none exist.

    You say this is 101, but that is entirely disingenuous. There are many, many, many Christian organizations that believe in prophets existing today. The idea that the putative completion of scripture closed out the age of prophets is far from universally held, in fact, I’d say it isn’t even commonly held, but it’d be too much work to do the data analysis to make that claim. For sure, about 25% of Christians are Pentacostals, and they certainly believe in modern day prophets. Of course, I might add that there is no serious support for the “no prophets” claim in the Bible, on the contrary, Acts 2:17-18 indicates that prophets are a feature of these “last days”.

    My point is not to get into an exegetical argument, my point that your implication that I am some dumb broad who doesn’t even know Christianity 101 is entirely incorrect.

    > Guyana strawman

    Apparently you missed my point. Let me explain again: how does one discern whether a prophet is true or not? Does what he does line up with the Bible? Jim Jones ordered the death of hundreds of children based on a putative command from God. Yup, there is an example of that in the Bible, so we can’t say he is wrong on that evidence alone. We cannot say “God would never command the slaughter of innocent children” because we know for a fact that he did.

    Normal people would conclude on the basis of “killing innocent children” alone that he was a bad, evil man. Bible believers can’t. From my memory, Pastor Jones told the parents that they would be sending the precious children into the hands of God. Kind of like the argument you made regarding those precious Amalakite babies.

    Like I say, doesn’t that make you squirm a little?

  211. @ Michael

    You don’t seem to realize that the:
    – rock/force proposition,
    – violating 3-D spatial geometry, and the
    – see the future / change the future business
    are logical contradictions – it is irrational to accept them.

    You could, perhaps, say that God transcends logic.

    But, regardless, I imagine that you have faith. That, above all, is what is not acceptable by rational atheists – it is at the heart of why people are atheists.

  212. No. I believe in free will, the classic solution to that problem for centuries.

    And sure that explains suffering that comes from people causing suffering in others and from people causing suffering in themselves. But what about those poor bastards who were born in Japan throughout the ages who suffered because of one of the many natural disasters that hit?

    And something I forgot, to JonCB. Is suffering bad? It’s how we grow. It makes our stories meaningful. Good novelists put their characters through really horrible stuff.

    I don’t believe we do need suffering to grow and i believe that it makes our stories meaningful because our lives contain so much suffering. Circular reasoning at best.

    But even were this true, it just leads to a deeper question. Why, in all his infinite knowledge and power, did he create us to need suffering to grow?

  213. @BRM aka Brian R. Marshall on 2013-12-27 at 21:24:40 said:

    “You don’t seem to realize that the:
    – rock/force proposition,
    – violating 3-D spatial geometry, and the
    – see the future / change the future business
    are logical contradictions – it is irrational to accept them.”

    *sigh* You’re right, I don’t realize these as contradictions. And you’ve made no case for such.

    How exactly is God subject to physical laws about moving rocks? Okay, okay, I’ll play along. Let’s say that after God creates this immovable rock, then then goes to move it. And it collapses into the utter nothingness from whence it came. So it was not moveable, but yet it is no longer in its former place. It moved without moving. Happy? I’m sure I can contrive additional ridiculous answers to the ridiculous contrived question.

    “violating 3-D spatial geometry” no idea what you’re talking about here.

    There is *no* contradiction in “see the future / change the future business” or else you need to explain. Did you read nothing I wrote?

    “You could, perhaps, say that God transcends logic.”

    I’d have to think about that. I doubt God is much impressed by man’s attempts to use logic on Him.

    “But, regardless, I imagine that you have faith. That, above all, is what is not acceptable by rational atheists”

    So these alleged rational atheists have one tool in their bag and believe everything is a nail.

    ” it is at the heart of why people are atheists.”

    Probably not, but Vox Day is the authority on that subject, not me. I do better if I remember that I can’t read men’s hearts.

  214. Jessica,

    “What you are essentially saying is “There are MUCH better arguments for my case, but I can’t make them here, and other smart people would totally eviscerate your argument.””

    No, I am not saying that. Where I work, we give a Level of Effort estimate (LOE) before we start coding on a project. You and I are disagreeing about the LOE. I took entire semesters examining only parts of these questions in various philosophy classes. Maybe you are right about the LOE, but I do have some personal experience with this.

    “Just acknowledge that there is no answer to it, it is not subject to rational examination.”

    There are rather a lot of rational examinations of our God hypothesis, so I claim extensive existence proofs against your comment.

    ” Absolutely anything I claim can be questioned, probed or disputed. The same isn’t true for you. So just call it what it is, and don’t claim they are the same thing with equal rational substance.”

    No, it is true for me. I do it for myself, I’ve done it all my life and I am quite happy for you to do so as well. Are you doing it? Do you dismiss as arational the physicists who contend we have infinite undetectable universes over infinite time? Gee. I only postulated one infinite heaven, not infinite universes. And then there are all the undetectable strings, hidden states and virtual particles…. I think that is rational behavior, not arational. But it might be arational to call what I am doing (usually called Metaphysics) arational and not call the physicists arational.

    Now back to babies. I am very glad you are concerned about my soul, and possible damage to it. I disagree with your conclusion. I use the same thought processes for thinking about matters of law, policy and theology. When I consider actual law and actual policy in this world, I often end up advocating for laws and policies where I know innocents, including babies will be killed. I wish it weren’t true. But it seems to be the best I can do. I believe I should see clearly, know the babies will be killed, acknowledge it and own it. In some weird cases, we can even end up advocating for a policy and we know the specific innocent being who will die. Usually though, because that is very hard on people, we arrange for one person to pick the policy and another to implement it, although I am not at all sure that isn’t just a cop out by the person picking the policy.

    Isn’t it nice to program computers instead?

    I would rather we pick policies which don’t kill innocents. I would rather we pick policies which don’t kill anybody. However, we lack knowledge and time. Not an excuse, a reality. The answer? Keep working on making the policy better!

    I have the same standards and the same problems whether I believe in God or not. These things did not change when I was a Catholic and then an atheist and then a Protestant and then an atheist and then a Protestant again. Always the problem of evil. Always the desire to seek Truth, Beauty and the Good (Aristotle). I know why you don’t like philosophers. They end up in the weeds. My practical dislike of hanging in the weeds makes me agree. However, I know that philosophy gave us math and science. It created logic, including formal logic, direct ancestors of Boolean logic. It developed standards of evidence and proof. I was a ‘B’ student of philosophy. The world has no use for that. I was usually an ‘A’ student of computer science, except when depressed or working. The world has lots of use for that.

    Philosophers are like poets. I think they are useful and necessary, but they are often maddening and incomprehensible.

    Now, you can solve the problem of evil by denying a Creator. It’s a common solution, but it has flaws. Michael mentioned one. Lots of scientists believe in a Creator because it looks like the universe was optimized for life. Right now, the math does not work for evolution. We seem to have more evolution than time to complete it. That may change if we come up with better math, like that amazing new shape which simplifies of all Feynman’s crazy formulas. One solution anti-theists invoke is the infinite number of undetectable universes theory. OK, fine. Could you please prove an infinite number of pink unicorns? You have noted some of the problems with the Creator and we have given you some solutions. I am enjoying this discussion. I do not expect to persuade anyone. I hope we can continue, but we may tire of it. In any case, you and Eric and Michael and Nigel and others are a blessing to me.

    Nigel,

    I don’t think Eric is being a hypocrite. He is trying to uphold standards which are difficult to uphold. There are traps everywhere. I fall into them myself. I don’t count it hypocrisy on my own part when I am mistaken. I do when I am falling prey to temptation. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. He *does* try to kill the Buddha on occasion.

    Yours,
    Tom

  215. People,

    Your obvious contradictions are obvious to you because someone spent time spelling it out. They aren’t going to be obvious to us.

    JonCB,

    “But what about those poor bastards who were born in Japan throughout the ages who suffered because of one of the many natural disasters that hit?”

    The first standard answer is that the fall of Man as described in the Bible was a state change. All of creation changed, and evil was set lose in the world. This is standard Biblical exegesis. The second standard answer is covered below. God sets up challenges for us to overcome. Also standard Biblical exegesis. Both are also ideas that philosophers came up with who did not know the Bible.

    “Why, in all his infinite knowledge and power, did he create us to need suffering to grow?”

    The usual answer is that growth is proportional to effort. Sometimes we call effort suffering. Sometimes we celebrate the challenge.

    “He needed pets and he apparently likes to see them suffer.”

    I want my children to grow. That’s takes work. You should hear them complain. It’s like they are … suffering.

    Yours,
    Tom

  216. @BRM aka Brian R. Marshall
    Okay… know the future / change the future

    What is your comment here? I already spoke of this.

    “Faith isn’t everything atheists have to talk about but it is suficient.”

    That’s not what I said, or meant to say. Atheists apparently have rationality as the only tool in their bag and thus it follows that everything is a nail.

  217. @Jessica Boxer on 2013-12-27 at 21:24:29 said:

    “What YOU said though is that if God commanded it you would, were you courageous enough, go ahead and kill babies.”

    No. Until you actually deal with the whole of what I wrote, there’s no point in continuing. God won’t command me to do that, so I have no reason to waste time rehashing it. Specific circumstances, etc.

    “The fact that it makes you squirm a little should tell you that you really do feel uncomfortable with this heinously evil command that God gave.”

    No. But until you understand that YOUR definition of evil is neither the correct one nor the only one, it’s hard to take you seriously.

    “History is written by the winners.”

    I take it you’re unfamiliar with Saul’s sons.

    “You say this is 101, but that is entirely disingenuous. There are many, many, many Christian organizations that believe in prophets existing today. The idea that the putative completion of scripture closed out the age of prophets is far from universally held, in fact, I’d say it isn’t even commonly held, but it’d be too much work to do the data analysis to make that claim. For sure, about 25% of Christians are Pentacostals, and they certainly believe in modern day prophets. Of course, I might add that there is no serious support for the “no prophets” claim in the Bible, on the contrary, Acts 2:17-18 indicates that prophets are a feature of these “last days”.”

    The fact of disagreements and misunderstandings is unfortunate. But that does not nullify the truth of God’s word.

    There is a difference between the act of giving prophecy (future prediction) vs the office of prophet. And we are not, at this time, in “these last days”.

    “My point is not to get into an exegetical argument, my point that your implication that I am some dumb broad who doesn’t even know Christianity 101 is entirely incorrect.”

    You’re putting words in my mouth. You obviously have learned enough things to spout the same tired objections that have been answered countless times. You have knowledge but not understanding. Intelligence but not wisdom. Ideas but no discernment.

    “how does one discern whether a prophet is true or not? Does what he does line up with the Bible?”

    Here’s a quick list that will suffice for your question: John has already penned the book of Revelation, we’re no longer in OT times, we’re not yet in “these last days”.

    The OT of course talks about *all* their predictions must come true, but I doubt we’ll ever need to invoke that test.

    “Jim Jones ordered the death of hundreds of children based on a putative command from God. Yup, there is an example of that in the Bible, so we can’t say he is wrong on that evidence alone.”

    Yes we can. Jim Jones is neither God nor a prophet and never was.

    “We cannot say “God would never command the slaughter of innocent children” because we know for a fact that he did.”

    Correct. (It is perhaps useful to reflect here that the innocence of the children is tarnished by knowing they will grow up to be idolatrous Canaanites.)

    “Normal people would conclude on the basis of “killing innocent children” alone that he was a bad, evil man.”

    Really? Who are these “normal people” of whom you speak? Do you count most every human government that has ever existed among them? How about the patrons of the abortion clinics? How about the Harvard Ethicist who advocates permission to kill anyone up to 2 years old? Define normal.

    “From my memory, Pastor Jones told the parents that they would be sending the precious children into the hands of God. Kind of like the argument you made regarding those precious Amalakite babies.”

    Why on earth would I care what Jones said? He’s not God. Apparently, he wasn’t even a good facsimile of a human being.

    “Like I say, doesn’t that make you squirm a little?”

    Which? Jones? Or God? Jones and those like him make me want to puke and go clean the guns. God gives me peace even if I frequently don’t grasp what he does.

  218. It is pretty easy to tell the difference between con men like Jim Jones and the prophets of the Bible, so I think Michael will have no trouble.

    Here is a good description of how it worked for Jim Jones. A very good list. Recommended for atheists and theists alike.

    http://freedomofmind.com/Info/articles/conMan.php

    Jones’s con job got him money, lots of followers and lots of sex. And it seems he was an atheist and a Marxist. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Jones

    By contrast, biblical prophets tended to have no money, few followers, no sex, lots of persecution and plenty of suffering, usually directly from God. They aren’t very similar. Biblical kings, OTOH, often made out like crazy. That hasn’t changed.

    I will grant you that those who cry in the wilderness do seem to get something out of it. It is satisfyingly dramatic, if rather austere. I am sure that there are false prophets who cry in the wilderness for its own sake. James Hansen seems to like that role. Al Gore seems to be going for the money, followers and sex though. And I suspect there are false prophets who actually believe their own false prophecy. It seems at least one human will manage to do everything it is possible for a human to do.

    Now here’s the problem. Take away all the theistic false prophets. You are left with a very large number of tribal, nationalistic, and political false prophets who can be awfully murderous. Then there are all the sales, personal fulfillment, financial, scientific and medical false prophets. Oi.

    Not thinking this is a problem with religion. Thinking it is a problem with human nature. OTOH, my religion covers that human nature problem with the whole fall of man bit.

    Yours,
    Tom

  219. This blog thread has been hijacked into a hyper-detailed debate over various religious themes, and a lot of emotion is coloring the argument. Back to basics.

    Religion is a cultural trait. It is here because it has helped our species to survive and thrive by virtue of aiding the propagation of helpful memes. As long as this core function is working, it doesn’t matter what “explanation” is popular with any particular group. And yes, not every meme propagated by religion is helpful, but remember that evolution is messy and imperfect.

    Eric’s argument about religious epistemological irrationality is valid, but ultimately insignificant. Until we evolve to the point of being able to effectively manage our evolution, we are but temporary specimens floating in a huge river of evolutionary change.

    This is not to say that working to improve the world we live in is unhelpful, but rather to suggest that asinine debate is intellectual entropy.

  220. A few thoughts:
    * I can grasp the idea that something is comprehensible while not being able to comprehend it myself (eg. LaPlace transforms).
    * That something is comprehensible doesn’t make it right.
    * That something is incomprehensible doesn’t make it profound.

    @Michael:
    “God won’t command me to do that”
    I’d like to point out that in order to make that statement you have to assume that God is comprehensible. Otherwise, the best you can claim is that “God hasn’t commanded me to do that yet”.

    @PonyAdvocate:
    Re: NAMBLA example.
    It seems to me that you are making the common error of confusing what is a right with what is polite. Yes, I believe that all of the actors listed have a right to terminate you/not do business with you. However, for you to function in the world you must then set yourself up a completely parallel economic structure in which to work. (Hence the success of Fox News). This is Civil Society breaking down.

    @esr:
    “The concept of a square circle is easy to comprehend: it would be anything that satisfied two sets of constraints. Joint satisfaction is impossible but that doesn’t make it incomprehensible.”

    * That is quite possibly the best line(s) I’ve read all week. Thank you, sir.
    * I’ll pull a trick out of the mathematician’s handbook and point out that a 3-dimensional cylinder under 2 different 2-dimentional projections qualifies.

    @Everybody:
    As for the lever experiment, I’d either:
    1) Not touch it because I don’t know what it does/is.
    2) Operate the lever repeatedly because it is clearly a experiment and it’s more fun to screw with the experimenters.
    3) Move the lever to the half-way position because it will undoubtedly screw with somebody’s database schema.
    Ultimately, not sure on the exact one I’d go with. It would depend upon the exact circumstances.

  221. There’s more than one kind of Christianity– C.S. Lewis thought that God’s goodness was more important than God’s power, while Michael makes the power primary. I bet Michael and Lewis each represent major schools of theology.

    Now that I think about it, I don’t know where the idea that God organizes the world to be ultimately good for everyone in it comes from. It may be deduced from the bible, but I don’t think it’s explicit there. Anyone know? (This is aside from the question of whether the idea makes any sense.)

    Now that there are Buddhists persecuting Muslims in Burma, I’ve decided that I can’t deduced much of anything from people’s stated religion.

  222. >Brian, thank you for at least attempting to do what esr is evidently unwilling or unable to do.

    I gave up. I remembered that the insane cannot be swayed by argument and that it is a waste of my effort to try.

  223. @Garrett

    “It seems to me that you are making the common error of confusing what is a right with what is polite.”

    No, I understand the difference. I think that in a conflict such as this, politeness is irrelevant. It’s certainly never been an important consideration for the gay-bashers. As a famous fictional detective said, “If you’re going to get into a fight, you do what it takes to win. If you don’t want to do what is takes to win, you shouldn’t have gotten into the fight in the first place.” (This is from memory, and may not be an exactly correct quote, but that’s the gist of it.)

    “… you must then set yourself up a completely parallel economic structure …”

    Not eternally, only for the duration of the conflict. After that, things almost always go back to the status quo ante, more or less. And if they don’t, then what results is the new normal.

  224. Well, “Duck Dynasty” will be back on the air intact, and Western civilization is safe again. Gays, who for *centuries* were an oppressed and pursued fringe group, subject to imprisonment, torture, and gruesome death, and who just recently have been able to put a few in the “Win” column, now need to move one from the “Win” column to the “Loss” column.

    Sensible persons will see here the routine functioning of the marketplaces of ideas, capital, entertainment, and public relations. And those of you who saw the gays as exercising their awesome malevolent power in an attempt to hound the Duck folk into a furtive, cowering existence that would lead ultimately to their extinction, who saw, even, signs of incipient Naziism: don’t you think you were being a little alarmist? Don’t you feel, even, the teensiest, weensiest, tinyest little bit silly?

  225. A report on why people leave authoritarian groups: http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/cracks-in-wall-part-ii-listening-to.html

    No time to find it right now, but I read a piece about erosion away from the Quiverful movement (a high fertility Christian movement)– the boys are taught to debate in the hopes of converting outsiders. Exposure to argument leads some of them to realize their own ideas are bad.

    The older girls in families are expected to raise a large number of siblings with little in the way of resources. They learn self-reliance, which can also be a way out.

  226. >Don’t you feel, even, the teensiest, weensiest, tinyest little bit silly?

    No. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Bullying of the kind GLAAD tried needs to be short-stopped early lest it become accepted, institutionalized, and then hardened into actual coercion by decree of the state. By the time everyone understands that the game is Gleichschaltung, opposing it is much riskier and less likely to succeed.

    As a self-described libertarian, you have a particular responsibility here. Don’t shirk it.

  227. >Exposure to argument leads some of them to realize their own ideas are bad.

    Of course; that can happen when the believer is only socially glued to the religion, rather than having internalized a faith-centric worldview to the point where they’re effectively psychotic. You get the most dramatic cases of this from within groups like the Amish or Hutterites who control the memetic environment around their people closely.

    I know a relatively prominent hacker who was raised as a Seventh Day Adventist and believed. Until he noticed that biological systems simply don’t look like they were designed by a benevolent creator, and faced up to the inconsistency rather than rationalizing it away.

    That was sanity in action – he went where the evidence took him despite the shock to his beliefs. I’m not actually certain I’m as brave as he is; I’d like to think I am, but I don’t think I’ve ever faced a single rupture as severe as he had to deal with. The closest to it was probably when I grokked the implications of the Nazi revolution and had to abandon comfortable constitutional-democratic beliefs for skeptical radical anarchy, but I didn’t face anywhere near the the degree of social and personal penalty for that that he did.

  228. @Michael
    > God won’t command me to [kill babies]

    Why do you assert this with such confidence, after all, we know for a fact that God did at one time command someone to target and kill babies, why are you so sure you won’t be a do-over?

    > No. But until you understand that YOUR definition of evil is neither the correct one

    Dude, I assure you, if you took a survey of a very large number of people, of all different languages, cultures and histories, nearly all of them, would tell you that deliberately targeting babies for death by the sword would be considered evil. It isn’t my definition, it is a memetically derived moral code that is about as close to universal as you can get.

    > But that does not nullify the truth of God’s word.

    Really? Apparently you disagree with many of the greats of Christendom about this interpretation. After all there are prophets all over the new testament, and there is no verse that says “No more prophets”. But still you can confidently assert what that word of god says. I actually find that terrifying.

    > Yes we can. Jim Jones is neither God nor a prophet and never was.

    And your basis for that 100% confident assessment is what? That he instructed that children be massacred, and God would never instruct a prophet to make that happen?

    > Correct. (It is perhaps useful to reflect here that the innocence of the children is tarnished by knowing they will grow up to be idolatrous Canaanites.)

    OK, I call TOTAL bullshit on that Michael. The text specifically says they were nursing babies, still sucking at the breast, (the Hebrew word is yoneq, which literally means one who sucks.) How fucking evil could they be? That is utterly outrageous, in fact it is delusional.

  229. OK, here are my closing remarks on this subject. The point here is to talk about the danger of blind obedience to God. If one were to construct a ridiculous extreme argument, then perhaps high up the list would be “Imagine God asked you to kill babies.”

    But this attempt at Reductio ad absurdum is stymied by the fact that the Bible actually, proudly records that God did just that! Really, you can’t make this stuff up.

    I have debated a few guys who seem to me to be really decent, moral people, Tom I have bantered with before and found him both intelligent and insightful, and well as an all round decent human being.

    But they cannot come to bring themselves to condemn the most heinous of actions — a deliberate, conscious targeting of innocent babies on the battlefield, some thing that a war crimes tribunal would hand the commander and all the soldiers from the rafters for. Michael even says that were he so commanded by God, he would hope to have the courage to carry out the command.

    All I can say is I am glad they compartmentalize, because such a dreadful obedience is quite simply terrifying. It is why religion is so darned toxic. The acceptance of “the word of God” whether from the book or the prophet as “God is way smarter than me so I should do it even if I doubt it” leads to horrible consequences. In our moderate society it is limited to things like trying to stop homosexuals having the same basic treatment under the law as heterosexuals, or force feeding utter nonsense down children’s throats in school science class. But other places and in other times it is much worse. The smell of the pyres from the European witch burnings should never be forgotten.

    I have been accused of being personal rather than dealing with concepts and ideas. But really that is the whole problem. Reducing it to an intellectual debate means hiding the real consequences of the obedience, including the dead babies. It seems when my interlocutors think of that day in 1Samuel, they think in terms of concepts, ideas, obedience, the office of prophetic utterances. Me? I think if little arms and legs littering the ground, blood and guts, swords embedded in babies heads and brains and blood oozing out. I think of innocent babies screaming in pain and terror, and mothers begging for mercy, only to watch their baby’s body mutilated in from of her eyes, after which she begs for death.

    And I think of the sword of God held high in victory, as the blood and brains of innocent children run down the blade and onto the sleeve and arm of the righteous executor of God’s judgement.

    It reminds me of a poem by Wilfred Owen, a poem that talks about a gas attack in WWI, and which contrasts the high words that used to call men to “serve their country” in contrast to the bloody, brutal reality of it:

    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori.

    http://www.warpoetry.co.uk/owen1.html

  230. Jessica, you have a brilliant mind and it is being wasted in a futile attempt to reason with true believers. In addition, you could well be the most compassionate and hopeful person I have ever encountered (and thereby embody the true essence of Christian goodness), so it is ironic that you serve as a metaphorical example of that which your detractor aspire.

    Being both rational and good is a great win. Take it and move on.

  231. >That is utterly outrageous, in fact it is delusional.

    Yes. Yes, it is. But delusional is what you should expect here. I call these people “insane” for good reasons, one of which you are now bumping into. The monstrous lack of any sense of moral proportion masquerading as moralism is one of the commoner symptoms. When people are bent out of shape by all-consuming belief systems, empathy is one of the first things to go. (This is why I think Tom deGisi is not crazy, or at least much less crazy. He exhibits some symptoms of cognitive blocking and circularity, but he has retained a capacity for empathy that at least moderates them.)

    Your error – and it’s one I make too when I’m not careful – is that you mistake the semblance of rational thought for reality, the thin skin of rationalization for sound flesh beneath. You don’t understand in your gut that “insanity” is not hyperbole or theatrical exaggeration, true-believer types like Michael Hipp really have something fundamentally damaged and sick going on inside them. They’re not reachable by rationality – the machinery that would support that is broken. That’s what “insanity” means!

    When deciding whether to argue with a religious person, the first thing you need to evaluate is whether you’re dealing with someone who is merely ignorant and socially stuck or actually insane. If your evaluation is “insane” (and utterances like the one you’re responding to are pretty good clues) then accept that that you’re not going to argue that person around. The only point in continuing is to sway bystanders who aren’t insane.

    These were hard lessons for me to learn, and I still haven’t completely. I have a tendency to tilt at this sort of windmill even though I know at some level that it’s futile. You can’t fix these people; the best you can do is keep your hand on a weapon when near them in case they flip from superficial rationalization into active mania.

  232. Eric,

    Have to disagree with this sentence as it applies to this forum: “I have a tendency to tilt at this sort of windmill even though I know at some level that it’s futile.”

    It’s not futile. Your words will be read by people who aren’t true believers. They will be read by people who are “merely ignorant and socially stuck”, and by people who need to talk to those people. Lurkers matter.

    I learned this from Kim and Connie du Toit, atheists who carefully do not throw out the wisdom with the theology.

    The same applies to a theist arguing with an atheist true believer, of course.

    Yours,
    Tom

  233. @Tom DeGisi
    > It’s not futile. Your words will be read by people who aren’t true believers.

    You are a complex and interesting person Tom. And you are entirely right. That is precisely why I take the trouble to discuss these matters, along with the fact that it is enjoyable to vent a little, and the fact that I have known many religious people who perhaps don’t change their mind now, but at one of those crisis points we all have when we re-examine our beliefs, latent ideas might give birth to a change in direction.

    Nonetheless, I wish you, of all people, well with your kind heart and rationality. I hope you keep that religion thing in its box though…. :-)

  234. >The same applies to a theist arguing with an atheist true believer, of course.

    Can you point at an “atheist true believer”? I concede the theoretical possibility that such a thing could exist, though I’ve never met one and it is hard for me to imagine circumstances that would reliably produce them.

    (Don’t bother with Marxists; as I noted previously, they’re just another version of eschatological monotheism.)

  235. >The only point in continuing is to sway bystanders who aren’t insane.

    That is the best one, for sure but there are couple other that I can think of:

    1.) Honing: I’ve watched JB “go around the block” on this issue several times over the years on this blog and she gets sharper with each iteration.

    2.) Entertainment: I for one, love reading JB channeling Hitchens and Harris. She’s right up there with the best of them (and you’re not too shabby yourself). After being stuck in this type of debate a few times myself and not faring as well, it’s nice to sit back and watch people with better debating skills than I currently possess make short work of their opponents.
    Jessica, if you write elsewhere, a link would be most appreciated.

  236. Eric and Jessica (and Michael, please, if you are still reading),

    Google as usual, pays off. Read this: “Dr. Zimbardo’s work has studied the psychological foundations of negative forms of social influence (such as conformity, obedience, and the bystander effect) and is now refocused on understanding the nature of everyday heroism and they psychology of personal and social growth.”

    Link: http://heroicimagination.org/welcome/about-us/

    You, Jessica, have been trying to get Michael and I to question God in a matter of obedience. Good news, and I wish I had remembered this sooner. My bad, since I know this and it is important. My God, in my religion, likes people to question him and picks people who will do so. The prophets do it all the time. (Jim Jones, and most con-men, want unquestioning obedience.)

    Genesis 18:23 to 25: 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare[c] the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

    Abraham talks him down to ten.

    Note, if you look before this verse God considers WHETHER OR NOT TO CONFIDE IN ABRAHAM. God wanted to discuss this!

    Another (reverse) example is that of Jonah. God is going to destroy Nineveh, and sends Jonah to save it with his preaching. Jonah does not want to go because he is afraid God will be too compassionate. Then we have the whole whale miracle and Jonah does his job. It works. God decides not to destroy Nineveh. Jonah is really unhappy. God replies, in Jonah 4:10-11

    10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?”

    Jews usually remember this principle better than Christians, because they are proud that their people question God.

    If you still want to discuss, there is plenty more.

    Eric,

    My personal model of human behavior is that some human will do everything it is possible to do eventually. News stories give me lots of anecdotal evidence. So I suspect that if I could Google hard enough I would find one. OTOH, Richard Dawkins seems to be a true believer to me. How would we tell? Your method, lack of empathy, may produce a lot of false positives in your target audience. Technical geeks and nerds are reputed to lack empathy.

    Yours,
    Tom

  237. In the discussion of religious mania, has no one recognized the religious parallels between leftism/liberalism and Christianity (or any other religion, for that matter)?

    There is dogma which can not be argued with, i.e Global Warming with it’s “settled science”. the Democrats are anti-war as long as a republican sits in office, but War Powers Act be damned when a Democrat sits there. In addition, there is forbidden speech (ACORN? Benghazi? Fast and Furious? IRS spying? “Never heard of them”)

    There is persecution of apostates and infidels. God could not help Lieberman after he stepped off the pinko plantation in supporting war in Iraq. How many liberals have made public statements advocating the shooting of conservatives over the last year, again?

    There are the accepted forms of worship and it’s associated rites; the ubiquitous gas guzzling SUV with it’s “Think Green” bumper sticker. The approved dress code of the hipster douchebag is as much a habit as any nun ever wore.

    There is an organization of life based on the religion. Ever see a Hollywood movie without some leftist propaganda?

    They even have their Messiah, Oblahblah, and their lesser saints (Madcow, etc) as objects of veneration and supernatural power

    So as long as we’re discussing religious nutbags, Christian, muslim, or otherwise, let’s not forget the most influential and nutty religion in our country.

  238. Not all true believers are inevitably dangerous. That they exist and persist is evidence of their innate evolutionary nature; which must, in some instances, be advantageous to our species continued survival. Here is one possibility.

    When nations go to war, there is a great need for human resources that be motivated to behave in an “insane” fashion. Think of 19th Century warfare in which men lined up in neat rows and marched forward into hellish gun and cannon fire.

    It took a very long time for this “true believer” proclivity to establish itself in our psychology, and we are now judging it solely by modern social conventions and worst-case manifestations.

    We are not going to “convert” an innate evolutionary trait. The best we can hope for is to eliminate the messiahs that would co-opt this trait for destructive purposes.

  239. >In the discussion of religious mania, has no one recognized the religious parallels between leftism/liberalism and Christianity (or any other religion, for that matter)?

    That’s not late-breaking news on this blog.

  240. >OTOH, Richard Dawkins seems to be a true believer to me. How would we tell?

    Glassed-over empathy is only one diagnostic, and it’s a consequence rather than a cause. Hysterical blindness reinforcing circular reasoning is more fundamental. Dawkins doesn’t exhibit those, or never has when I was watching anyway.

    I would be astonished if he did, because the man’s a scientist, a real one. “Real” in the sense that he has internalized the skeptical philosophy of science rather than merely going through its motions in the lab. You can’t have that and “true believer” in anything in the same brain; skeptical philosophy of science even drives out scientism.

    Dawkins only sounds like a true believer because he’s angry about religion. But here’s a consequential test: has he ever advocated the coercion of religious believers?

  241. Another pattern of true believers is that they tend to interact by exchanging “tribal recognition statements” rather engage in reasoned discourse. If they encounter a stranger, they attempt to establish friend or foe by offering a comment of fealty to the tribal belief system. They then await a response.

    If the response is a confirmation of the belief system, then you are judged as friend and mutual praising of the belief system will follow.

    If the response is anything else, then you are judged as foe and a covert hostility will arise. At this point, the stranger is at risk of being harmed either overtly or by proxy.

  242. >Another pattern of true believers is that they tend to interact by exchanging “tribal recognition statements” rather engage in reasoned discourse.

    Not diagnostic. The merely socially stuck do that too.

  243. Eric, you’ve been talking about imposing some social costs for being religious.

    Anti-homosexual prejudice is sometimes deadly, and the vast majority of it is coming from Christianity.

    Do you think social costs are appropriate for Phil Robertson? If so, what?

    Do you think it’s reasonable to fire an employee who’s behaved well at work, but who’s shown significant public prejudice so that fellow employees who are objects of that prejudice have a hard time trusting their good will? Reasonable to not hire someone who’s shown significant public prejudice?

  244. >Do you think social costs are appropriate for Phil Robertson? If so, what?

    I think it is appropriate for people to tell him that they consider his beliefs shameful and barbaric. I think it appropriate for people and organizations to choose not to do business because they consider his beliefs shameful and barbaric.

    My hackles rise seriously when political organizations begin threatening secondary boycotts against those who decline to shun him. At that point we are into the territory of bullying and Gleichschaltung.

  245. Eric,

    OK, I think we need better terms, for my sake, because “true believer” confuses me at a gut level. And since I like to use my intuition, when my gut is confused and my brain isn’t careful, I make elementary mistakes. To me, the natural meaning of true believer is someone who is not faking belief. Neither Dawkins nor I are faking, so we would be true believers. But in this discussion a true believer is someone who believes and cannot be convinced otherwise. I’m pretty sure about Dawkins being convince-able, since he up front about things that would change his mind. I’m almost completely sure about me, because I have changed my mind. OTOH, it is reputed that people’s thinking gets less flexible as they age, so maybe I am not longer convince-able. On the gripping hand, if inflexibility of thinking is a characteristic of things like old age, maybe we should be concentrating on combating things like old age rather than religion. Old age looks much more tractable.

    I know that “true believer” comes from the book of the same name by Eric Hoffer, so it has a good pedigree. However, much bad philosophy, like much bad programming, comes from misleading naming. Philosophers like to define their terms, which is good, but if their terms have a common meaning different from their definition the common meaning tends to sneak in. Dawkins commendably created the term “meme” rather than overloading an existing term (like idea) with his new specific meaning. Hoffer did not mean “someone who believes and cannot be convinced otherwise”. He meant someone who is a fanatic. Given that plenty of fanatics can and are convinced otherwise, often to a different fanaticism, I don’t find “true believer” helpful. Therefore, just to keep myself straight, I am going to use the phrase “rigid believer” for someone who can’t be convinced otherwise, fanatic instead of “true believer”, and “honest believer” for someone who isn’t faking it.

    Dawkins is an honest believer who is quite emphatic about it. It’s also easy to confuse notable emphasis with fanaticism.

    This atheist says he’s seen atheists advocating “the coercion of religious believers”.

    http://thebeautifulvirus.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/something-that-bothers-me/

    Of course that does not mean he is correct in all cases. They could be mobys. And they could be leftists / Marxists. I know you don’t want to include those, Eric, but you are entirely unpersuasive so far. The idea of the inevitability of history is so attractive that you, yourself have predicted the fall of current democracies into what sounds a lot like your favored anarcho-capitalist system. On a much more mundane level, various Democrats and Republicans both seem unavoidably attracted to the idea of a coming permanent majority. However, I am satisfied that atheists fall prey to the all too human joy of wishing death and destruction on their enemies. I mean, really, Eric. This is Human 101. Do you really want to defend the idea that atheists are a new kind of human, immune to the temptations (incentives, if you prefer) to which all other humans succumb?

    I’ve been meaning to read Hoffer’s “True Believer”. May have to in order to have the slightest idea what I am talking about.

    Yours,
    Tom

  246. wow! the joys of the holiday season, enough free time to waste reading the most obnoxious anti-rational rants since my last philosophy course at university!

    Don’t take offence, though, I am not laughing, actually, I am scared blue (if you can say this in english).

    After reading posts like MIchael’s I always have a (temporary) change of attitude and become very grateful that my country is ruled by a catholic church thoroughly (and quite efficiently) dedicated to extinguishing any free thought about the bible & environs ..

  247. ” But here’s a consequential test: has he ever advocated the coercion of religious believers?”

    No, but he has said something to the effect that raising children in a religion is child abuse. I think that kind of rhetoric comes awfully close. In the West we define “child abuse” in moral AND legal terms – something that requires state action to redress.

  248. JB,

    True, Dawkins did make that rhetorical mistake, which is suspicious. However, he has specifically said he does not want to coerce theists, which is why I count it as injudicious speech. Much less judicious, in my opinion, than anything Robertson said, since Robertson *did not* offer *any* hint of state coercion. But I am biased in Robertson’s favor, and against Dawkins.

    On the gripping hand, I’m calling Dawkins out. That was a truly despicable, utterly creepy thing to say. He should be ashamed, retract it and restate it.

    All,

    Great article about coming out of authoritarian churches (which the author mistakenly labels fundamentalist):

    http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/cracks-in-wall-part-ii-listening-to.html

    The author misses one easy reason that people get mixed up in an authoritarian church – they move to a new city and the authoritarian church is conveniently located and is in the same denomination as their non-authoritarian church in the old city. OTOH, those folks usually have relatively little trouble recognizing the problem and getting out. My wife recognized the problem early on after she moved, called out a church leader and got him to admit she was right, which satisfied her for a long time, particularly after we married and I agreed with her. Eventually though, we had to leave. We are church shoppers though. We’ve attended at least five regularly through the years, with rather different theologies along with additional ones during shopping sessions. Protestants tend to church shop a lot. It’s one of the benefits of a really strong commitment to religious freedom. I suspect church shopping really increases religious tolerance – including towards people outside your tradition, including atheists. Theological travel is also broadening.

    BTW, really big churches, like the Catholic church, allow for shopping within the church. As kids, we went to what could best be described as a hippy, Jesus freak Catholic church for a long time. And later, I was part of a charismatic (aka Pentacostal) group in our regular Catholic parish. I never spoke in tongues, but some did – including one guy who became a monk. The group also featured a Protestant level of enthusiasm for group Bible study. My dad says the Catholicism in his family was mostly pro-forma and he came to faith as a young man. OTOH, he was also into Ayn Rand as a young man. He got over Ayn, but I think it was the Democratic Party which converted him, and not the church.

    Yours,
    Tom

  249. I think Eric is right that much “atheism” today is really Marxism, and here’s the dilemma: destroying religion (or neutralizing it as a social and political force) could easily create a vacuum which would allow the Marxists – and many of them are reductive materialists, way beyond the esrs and Dawkinses (who are at least sympathetic to Buddhism, e.g.) – to achieve the kind of cultural dominance which would seriously suppress any kind of expression of spirituality whatsoever.

    I read these people on lesser blogs all the time. They are what I call Low Information Atheists, and they are a mass movement which cannot be allowed to achieve its aims. Any subtlety contained in the positions of famous atheists is genuinely lost on these people, and they are a cult waiting for a charismatic leader.

    Eric may be largely right in his arguments, but respectfully, I think he is naive about the political priorities. Allowing these types of people to achieve hegemony would be a costly mistake. Whatever problems are posed by Islamism can surely be addressed with a less radical approach.

  250. If people would work harder not to be insulting creeps they would induce less anger and less defensive responses. I suspect I pissed off Eric a bit by insulting Dawkins a bit for example. Can people tone it down?

    Yours,
    Tom

  251. “True, Dawkins did make that rhetorical mistake, which is suspicious. However, he has specifically said he does not want to coerce theists, which is why I count it as injudicious speech.”

    I want to be fair and speculate that he really is naive about the weight “child abuse” carries in this kind of debate. Because if he isn’t, he would have to be (1) genuinely diabolical and be playing a very cunning, shrewd game here or (2) merely have let his true feelings about what he’d like to do to believers accidently slip.

    If I would allow my suspicions full reign, I’d peg him a crypto-statist who is battering religion for means other than the ostensible ones.

    That’s the thing here: where you stand determines whom you give the benefit of the doubt to. I don’t want to conclude that Dawkins is a mere Marxist manipulator anymore than I want to dismiss a comment such as that as inconsequential.

  252. JB,

    BTW, your comment did not trigger my comment which followed it. I am not going to be specific about insulting creepiness, if for no other reason that there have no doubt been insults and creepiness I haven’t noticed.

    Dawkins seems to be a loose cannon iconoclast. He’s advocated for a elected President to replace the monarchy, for example, which is one of those reasonable ideas with about as much political traction as steel wheels on a frozen pond. In other words, not useful so not actually reasonable at all. I have some sympathy. I generate useless ideas all the time. He also has the typical problem that because he is really, really competent at one thing he must be competent at everything. Unfortunately, our politicians, who are really, really competent at getting elected …. Think I’ll just recall Churchill and democratic republics being the worst political systems except for all the others.

    To the main topic, it occurs to be that almost all the adults I know have explored the religious / theist / atheist space and the political space a fair bit. Everyone’s got a story and everyone’s changed their mind. This will make getting rid of religion difficult unless you get very, very repressive. The questions religions work on get asked and people will look for answers.

    Here are some very good links related to the above:

    Stephen Den Beste (atheist), the smartest writer I know of, gives this very well written proof that you can’t prove there is no God:

    http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2003/05/Beliefinatheism.shtml

    He explains (well, again) why he believes there is no God here:

    http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2003/05/TheTheistresponds.shtml

    Here he explains (still well) why he does not believe you can prove there is no Christian God in particular:

    http://denbeste.nu/cd_log_entries/2003/05/Inductivelogic.shtml

    Another pair of atheists respond in an interesting way:

    http://aeglos.blogspot.com/2003_05_04_aeglos_archive.html#93979623

    http://lzydata.tripod.com/arc0305-1.htm#030510-2205

    Most of the linked responses I tried have vanished, and I did not find the sole theist response which I successfully clicked on interesting.

    Yours,
    Tom

  253. First, anyone who calls for the government to shut down freedom of speech is not alright in my book. Even if that speech is abhorrent to me.

    Since WWII, Nazi- or Nazi-like views have been illegal to express publicly in Germany.

    What’s interesting is that in seventy years, Western and later unified Germany has not re-nazified, nor has it turned into the sort of unpleasant place we usually associate with lack of freedom of speech: where criticizing the regime in power can land you in the prison camps on trumped-up charges. Quite the contrary, it often outscores the USA on international freedom-of-the-press metrics.

    Makes you stop and think, doesn’t it? That maybe free speech is not an eternal absolute right? That maybe society can decide to forbid propagation of memes that it judges to not be just offensive and abhorrent, but toxic and corrosive, and still function as a free civilized society? That maybe government stepping in and saying, “no, you CANNOT poison the well like that” is the right and necessary thing to do in some cases? (Post-WWII, the risk that Germany would re-nazify and reach another marching point was quite high; the rest of the world needed some assurance that that wouldn’t happen.)

    The world is not the USA. Just because something is a founding principle of your country doesn’t mean it holds true for all time everywhere. Especially when your country turns out to be a failed state, as the USA is rapidly proving itself to be.

  254. I can’t prove that there is no God.

    But Christians have a saying that the greatest trick of the devil is to convince you he doesn’t exist. To which I concur, except the maxim is attributed to the wrong person. If God exists, he has sure done a great job of hiding himself from day-to-day existence. I’ve observed no miracles, prayed for a lot of things I didn’t get, and millions of people who love him suffer the most horrible conditions with no end in sight.

    I’m forced to conclude that we live in either a godless world or a remarkable facsimile of one. We look and behave exactly like machines of meat existing in a billions-of-years-old universe that only ever evolves according to a set of unchangiing physical laws. Until God comes forth and violates those laws in an observable, measurable, verifiable way; or until a disembodied soul can be repeatably observed, measured, and perhaps interviewed — I will happily go on believing that there is no God and that I am a soulless, elaborate carbon-based heat exchanger, and fear no consequences of holding to this belief.

  255. @ Tom DeGisi – “true believer” confuses me

    I think Eric defines True Believer as someone who exhibits the psychological condition of epistemological insanity. In most respects, this insanity is benign and only impacts the believer in any significant fashion; but in the extremis, this insanity may lead to great harm for others.

  256. Jeff,

    No, what happens is the same odious beliefs carefully repackage themselves to avoid the law. Take Greece, with the same sort of laws and where the clearly Fascist Golden Dawn is doing very well and has turned out very hard to outlaw. Not to mention Italy itself, where Beppe Grillo’s new Fascist party, the Five Star Movement, elected the second biggest slate in the Senate in 2013. The things Grillo says about Jews, which he says he learned from his Iranian father-in-law, are as conspiratorial, paranoid and disgusting as you might expect.

    It was an interesting point, I grant you, but Fascism is still more predicted over here and (alarmingly) noticeable over there.

    This article says it wasn’t the German laws that did the trick, it was the Allies systematic purge.

    “Italy did not undergo a systematic purge of Fascists similar to the de-Nazification campaign that the allies imposed on Germany after World War II.

    Although laws were passed in the 1950s to outlaw open support for Fascism, a neo-Fascist party known as the Italian Social Movement, or MSI, was formed shortly after the war and rose to become the country’s fourth largest party through the 1970s and 1980s.”

    http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/italy/130208/fascism-mounts-comeback-italy

    Systematic purges, hmmm? I don’t want to be systematically purged, myself. OTOH, maybe the world would have been better off if Putin had been systematically purged after the Wall fell. Is that our next Russian Reset?

    God has done wonderful things for me, Jeff, and usually I didn’t even ask. But then I allow for providence, not just miracles.

    Yours,
    Tom

  257. > in the extremis, this insanity may lead to great harm for others.

    The specific failure mode that worries me is this: the kind of epistemologically insane person produced by Zoroastrian-descended monotheisms has a great big handle sticking out of his psyche labeled USE ME TO COMMIT ATROCITIES that any charismatic wandering by can grab. Even I could do it – I can see how to quite clearly – and I’m at best a low-to-middling-grade charismatic, not in the same league with a Charles Manson or Jim Jones.

  258. > Not to mention Italy itself, where Beppe Grillo’s new Fascist party, the Five Star > Movement, elected the second biggest slate in the Senate in 2013. The things Grillo says > about Jews, which he says he learned from his Iranian father-in-law, are as > conspiratorial, paranoid and disgusting as you might expect.

    this is arrant nonsense. Grillo’s party is not fascist by any stretch of the imagination and he has never ever said anything which may be interpreted as anti-semitic.

  259. @ ESR – “a great big handle sticking out of his psyche”

    Sometimes herd behavior is protective of the group, such as when larger bison force the young into the center and then take up blocking positions on the perimeter.

    Sometimes this autopilot behavior can do great harm, such as when the Nazis herded Jews and Gypsies into the gas chambers.

    This autopilot proclivity is in our DNA and isn’t going to disappear anytime soon.

    Be on guard against the dangerous messiahs who would exploit this trait and use it, in an act of self preservation, to eliminate the dissenters. Last, tyranny grows best in the fertile ground of social distress and desperate threat.

  260. The whole atheist/theist debate reminded me of the scene in Star Wars Episode IV between Han Solo, Obiwan, and Luke. Han doesn’t believe in the Force, because in the sum total of his training and experiences he hadn’t found any evidence of it. Obiwan and Luke believe in and can use the Force because of the sum total of their training and experiences.

    The prophet says “I’ve seen God!”, to which the atheist says “I haven’t, and God doesn’t exist.” Each then calls the other delusional, because the sum total of their experiences, experiments, and training confirms their respective beliefs and rejects the other’s.

  261. Federico,

    I’m on firm ground. http://www.timesofisrael.com/italy-kingmakers-anti-jewish-views-under-scrutiny/

    He is anti-Jew and anti-Israel.

    “He is an ecologist with a largely left-wing platform based on attacking privilege, redistributing wealth, increasing public control of schools and healthcare, and cutting spending on defence.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/07/beppe-grillo-5-star-movement_n_2826213.html

    Left wing + anti-Jew = Fascist

    Yours,
    Tom

  262. Brian,

    I like that equation. I should point out that 5 Star is notably nationalistic, mainly in reaction to the EU and Germany. Of course, since the EU and Germany are screwing over Italy right now in terms of sovereignty and fiances, this is only natural. However it’s being badly distorted by the refusal of other parties to discuss the issue. This leads to a repressed nationalism dynamic that makes me worry.

    Eric,

    You are correctly worried about the “USE ME TO COMMIT ATROCITIES HANDLE” on us. In this country that handle is yanked most on gang members, and to a much lesser extent on prison guards and cops. You can avoid it by staying out of certain neighborhoods, prisons and the criminal justice system, which is relatively easy to do. Christians are numerous and unavoidable. In addition, most of the situations where gang members, prison guards and cops get that lever yanked are well known, and we have operating institutional safeguards against it. That means if we are getting that handle pulled it’s going to be pretty random and therefore hard to avoid.

    I don’t find it surprising that you, as a charismatic, know how to pull a our handles. Given that you are surrounded by us, and that even the atheistic traditions around here grew out of ours, I would expect that any decent charismatic would be able to pull those handles. Charismatics rapidly learn to pull the handles of whatever people they are surrounded with.

    Therefore, even if we all converted to atheism, I don’t think it’s much help, since atheists still have the handle. You would rapidly learn how to pull it, although sometimes it might be easier to pull the “REVERT TO CULTURAL RELIGION” or “REVERT TO PREVIOUS RELIGION” handle first. The difference would be if atheists had handles which were harder to pull. Did any of the famous studies on obedience break things out by religion?

    I’m also not sure that “epistemological insanity” really ups the ante on that handle that much. If I cast my eye over the scope of human behavior it seems to me that handle is labeled “for use by someone higher in the hierarchy”. We seem to like being organized in hierarchies with rules and one of the rules is always, obey the ones higher up. In addition, we are lazy and like to enjoy division of labor. In this case, obeying your boss / sergeant / preacher is easier than thinking. Right now Animists, Christians and Muslims are getting that handle pulled quite frequently in Africa, Buddhists in Burma are having that handle pulled against (Muslim) Rohingya and (Animist/Buddhist/Christian) Karen, and tribe members in Central and South America, Asia, Africa and New Guinea are having it pulled against other tribes.

    When you consider history/pre-history, tribes everywhere seem to commit genocide against other tribes. Ugh.

    The common denominator seems to be war, including civilian terrors (war of the government against an unarmed populace). The biological/anthropological mechanism seems to be hierarchical organization of tribes. When people carry guns we like them to be skilled in the Shoot/No Shoot drill. We need people skilled in the Obey/Question Order and Obey/Question Order and Refuse drill plus the Enforce Order/Consider Order and Enforce Order/Consider Order and Change Order drill.

    I wonder if the Army has such drills. They would be better than teaching the recruit what an illegal order is and then letting him just lazily obey, for example. I need to ask my friend the Colonel when I see him.

    Vasili Arkhipov, the Russian submarine officer who talked his fellow officers out of launching on the U.S. is a particular hero of mine. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasili_Arkhipov

    As it happens, Christianity commands such drills, as Michael Hipp was alluding to above. We are even commanded to speak of these things to you with gentleness and respect. (Have you felt the gentleness and respect? Ha! I’ve failed at least once, sorry.) If you are arguing with one of us, haul out the verses below, the ones I mentioned about Abraham and Jonah above and any others you can manage whenever possible. Quote catechisms and Christian saints. The more often Christians are reminded to be careful about questioning God/prophecies/spirits/contortions of scripture, the more likely we are to do the right thing.

    Ecclesiastes 7:25 says, “25 So I turned my mind to understand,
    to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things
    and to understand the stupidity of wickedness
    and the madness of folly.”

    Acts 17:11 says, “11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

    Acts 20:25-31 says, “25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[a] which he bought with his own blood.[b] 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”

    Romans 12:2 says, “2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

    Galatians 1:6-8 says, “6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”

    Philippians 4:8 says, “8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

    1 Thess 5:20-22 says, “20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.”

    1 Peter 3:15 says, “15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”

    1 John 4:1 says “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

    The third from the last verse in the Bible says, “18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.”

    Happy teaching!

    Yours,
    Tom

  263. Hayek is talking about economics, and Curry about climate science, but I think this applies here:

    http://judithcurry.com/2013/12/25/pretense-of-knowledge/

    “He will therefore have to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants. There is danger in the exuberant feeling of ever growing power which the advance of the physical sciences has engendered and which tempts man to try to subject not only our natural but also our human environment to the control of a human will.”

    Yours,
    Tom

  264. In the discussion of religious mania, has no one recognized the religious parallels between leftism/liberalism and Christianity (or any other religion, for that matter)?

    Yes, the parallel is that you dislike both. I’m sure that a left (such as they are in this country) would make the same observation between the right and religion except that they are largely the same demographic anyway.

    The bottom line is that folks will draw these “parallels” between groups they hate when the truth is that all “believers” behave largely the same. That includes “Libertarians” and their dogmas and holy truths.

  265. Tom DeGisi,

    Too bad the economic arguments are being won by Keynesians, the climate arguments by AGW supporters.

  266. Jeff,

    Ha!

    I find I win *nearly all* the arguments I have, unless there is a neutral judge or another family member involved, because I am *so* persuasive to myself. I have won *every single* argument in this thread, and *all* arguments I have ever had against Keynesians and AGW supporters!

    :)

    I bet you have had a similar experience, big debate winner that you are.

    Yours,
    Tom

  267. I’m honestly pissed off that this has been getting people’s knickers in a twist. Meanwhile, we have degenerates in Jamaica, Uganda and Russia calling for actual state power to be used to suppress advocacy for gay men and women or worse, under deceptive “protect the children” rhetoric. At least GLAAD’s representatives are honest enough their intentions.

  268. > I’m on firm ground. http://www.timesofisrael.com/italy-kingmakers-anti-jewish-views-under-scrutiny/

    very firm ground indeed.

    This is the blog post in which he demands an apology from Riccardo Pacifici, the spokeperson of the Roman Jewish Community (and a controversial figure himself), who had compared Grillo’s militants to Fascists. In the post, he points out all the initiatives proposed by his party’s elected officials to celebrate the Day of Memory (which is not widely known in Italy). He also quotes the case of long-time jewish militants, like the actor Moni Ovadia.

    http://www.beppegrillo.it/2013/03/basta_insulti_e_falsita_contro_il_m5s.html

    here’s one of the many articles that report on Pacifici’s retraction: in rather typical style, he accuses Haaretz of having made up whole paragraphs of their interview with him, including the comparison with fascism:

    http://www.corriere.it/politica/13_marzo_22/grillo-pacifici-ebrei_60945b78-931f-11e2-b43d-9018d8e76499.shtml

    > “He is an ecologist with a largely left-wing platform based on attacking privilege, redistributing wealth, increasing public control of schools and healthcare, and cutting spending on defence.”

    and abolishing the trade unions, liberalizing the legal profession, abolishing all professional orders (accountants, pharmacists etc), imposing severe cultural tests on those applying for citizenship, denying automatic citizenship to the children of foreigners born in Italy, etc. etc.

  269. Apologies for leaving the discussion … some cold/flu thing hit me like a hammer Friday night and I’m still not functional.

    @Nancy Lebovitz “… C.S. Lewis thought that God’s goodness was more important than God’s power, while Michael makes the power primary.”

    It’s unfortunate I gave that impression. My training has always been that God has everything in perfect balance. Note that such offers no guarantee we will understand it or that anyone will approve, but I believe such to be the most consistent position.

    @Jessica Boxer
    I’ll offer one last thing that definitively states my position and beliefs and is more than sufficient to dictate what I may and may not do; it was my stupidity not to use this earlier as it is a far better answer than most of what I wrote:

    “2Cor 10:3-4 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, …”

    @Federico “After reading posts like MIchael’s I always have a (temporary) change of attitude and become very grateful that my country is ruled by a catholic church thoroughly…”

    See above. I gave a bad and very misleading impression. I apologize.

    @esr “I gave up. I remembered that the insane cannot be swayed by argument and that it is a waste of my effort to try.”

    This is a cop-out and you know it. You asserted no less than that you can DISPROVE THE EXISTENCE OF THE JUDEO/CHRISTIAN GOD. To my knowledge, no-one else anywhere has ever credibly attempted to claim such.

    I’m sure everyone would like to have that proof in their tool bag for later use. Please don’t withhold something so profound and powerful from all the non-insane here.

    Show the proof or admit you don’t have it.

    @esr “The specific failure mode that worries me is this: the kind of epistemologically insane person produced by Zoroastrian-descended monotheisms has a great big handle sticking out of his psyche labeled USE ME TO COMMIT ATROCITIES that any charismatic wandering by can grab.”

    The history books make it obvious much of humanity indeed has this. What you’ve not shown is that it’s a bigger problem in religious people than atheists. The body count of the 20th century atheists would seem to indicate the opposite. Or in the very least they are more capable/unrestrained in its use and are therefore more dangerous.

  270. “…some cold/flu thing hit me like a hammer Friday night and I’m still not functional…”

    @Michael Hipp: I want you to lay your hands on that switcher/WAP…yes, lay your hands on that switcher/WAP…heal!!…heal!!…heal!!!

    I spent six wonderful weeks of the summer of 1966 working as an engineer for WNJR, Soul Radio, in Union, New Jersey. The experience has finally come in handy.

  271. @LS “I spent six wonderful weeks of the summer of 1966 working as an engineer for WNJR…”

    Dude, you’re old! In 1966 I was playing with Tonka trucks and B-B guns.

  272. Too bad the economic arguments are being won by Keynesians

    HAHAHA! You so funny.

    Happy New Year to all.

  273. “Dude, you’re old! In 1966 I was playing with Tonka trucks and B-B guns.”

    Yeah…I’m 67. How’d you swing the B-B gun? Wasn’t your mom afraid that you’d shoot someone’s eye out?

  274. >You asserted no less than that you can DISPROVE THE EXISTENCE OF THE JUDEO/CHRISTIAN GOD. To my knowledge, no-one else anywhere has ever credibly attempted to claim such.

    Can you point to that claim with a link?

    I’m fairly certain that Eric never made that claim and has specifically referred to the existence of God as an unfalsifiable claim. What I remember him saying, is that the probability is sufficiently low enough to make it unworthy of consideration.

  275. @bsouther “Can you point to that claim with a link?”

    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=5180&cpage=1#comment-419881

    “The same way I know square circles don’t exist. Your “He”, if you are referring to the Judeo/Christian/Islamic God, is impossible. The predicates ascribed to him are mutually contradictory.”

    Please tell me if I’m reading that wrong. Eric claims to have a list of contradictory predicates that make God impossible. If he had such, would that not falsify God and disprove his existence?

    If I’m reading it wrong I will retract.

  276. @Michael:

    @esr “I gave up. I remembered that the insane cannot be swayed by argument and that it is a waste of my effort to try.”

    This is a cop-out and you know it. You asserted no less than that you can DISPROVE THE EXISTENCE OF THE JUDEO/CHRISTIAN GOD. To my knowledge, no-one else anywhere has ever credibly attempted to claim such.

    I’m sure everyone would like to have that proof in their tool bag for later use. Please don’t withhold something so profound and powerful from all the non-insane here.

    Show the proof or admit you don’t have it.

    He did (you may have missed it), back in 2010, in the comments to this: “Three kinds of teleology”, starting about here, with supporting material from “Predictability, Computability, and Free Will”. It’s an argument worth looking at.

    tl;dr – If there is an “activist” God (that is, one that can and does perform “miracles” in the current world), then causality, model-ability and predictability go right out the window. Since those tools are not useless in this real world, an activist God does not exist (or is not activist, which amounts to the same thing.)

    HTH.

  277. Michael,

    Hope you feel better soon. The CDC says flu is hitting pretty hard right now.

    I also took Eric’s claim as one of deductive proof, not probabilities.

    “The body count of the 20th century atheists would seem to indicate the opposite. Or in the very least they are more capable/unrestrained in its use and are therefore more dangerous.”

    It’s capability, I think. Efficient high capacity transport plus better killing technology, like the first weapon of mass destruction, the machine gun, plus many more people to kill equals a high body count.

    In addition, we are ignorant of history. Are you familiar with the Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864)? Twenty million died (best estimate), with 100 million on the high end. “It was a millenarian movement led by Hong Xiuquan, who announced that he had received visions in which he learned that he was the younger brother of Jesus.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiping_Rebellion

    Lots of pretty hefty death tolls throughout history. Can’t find my copy of “How to Stop A War”, which has a two-hundred year list of wars, but here is an educational list. Note the Mongols killing 30 million. In fact, it seems the best way to get a high death toll is to hold a war in China. Note the five to twenty-two million the Belgians killed in the Congo.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_and_disasters_by_death_toll

    Yours,
    Tom

  278. @Tom DeGisi “Hope you feel better soon. The CDC says flu is hitting pretty hard right now.”

    Thanks. Not sure what I have is really the flu, but it has faked me out twice now into thinking I was getting better only to come roaring back, so I’m getting a bit gun shy.

    “I also took Eric’s claim as one of deductive proof, not probabilities.”

    Not sure I’m understanding. My only real beef is that I perceive Eric to be implying this “handle of atrocities” to be unique to to the religious, when it seems obvious to me it is a horizontal problem across all humanity, and the pullers are equally varied.

    “It’s capability, I think. Efficient high capacity transport plus better killing technology, like the first weapon of mass destruction, the machine gun, plus many more people to kill equals a high body count.”

    Yes. Tho a fair number just made use of timeless tools like targeted starvation and appear to be plenty lethal.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiping_Rebellion
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_and_disasters_by_death_toll

    Thanks … uh, for the very depressing reading material :-)

  279. @John D. Bell
    “He did (you may have missed it), back in 2010, in the comments to this: “Three kinds of teleology”, starting about here, with supporting material from “Predictability, Computability, and Free Will”. It’s an argument worth looking at.”

    I didn’t remember that, and thanks for the reading material.

    “tl;dr – If there is an “activist” God (that is, one that can and does perform “miracles” in the current world), then causality, model-ability and predictability go right out the window. Since those tools are not useless in this real world, an activist God does not exist (or is not activist, which amounts to the same thing.)”

    An interesting perspective.

    I’d like to hold off commenting and hope Eric indicates this is indeed his argument or not.

    Thanks, John.

  280. Mr. Read:

    The Keynesians have their hands on the levers of power. This does not mean they are “winning” any more than me punching you in the throat would mean I won an argument with you.

    The AGW types are currently stuck in ice that isn’t supposed to exist, and are tools of the Keynesians.

  281. Brian Marshall,

    You are right. Keynes specified that when the economy is good, the government is supposed to pay down the debt. However, that seems to be politically impossible, since the politicians almost never think the economy is good enough. Therefore, the statement given is Keynesian as found in the wild. :)

    Michael,

    > “I also took Eric’s claim as one of deductive proof, not probabilities.”
    >
    > Not sure I’m understanding.

    I was agreeing with your response to this: “I’m fairly certain that Eric never made that claim and has specifically referred to the existence of God as an unfalsifiable claim. What I remember him saying, is that the probability is sufficiently low enough to make it unworthy of consideration.”

    > My only real beef is that I perceive Eric to be implying this “handle
    > of atrocities” to be unique to to the religious, when it seems obvious to me it is a horizontal
    > problem across all humanity, and the pullers are equally varied.

    We both have been objecting to this. Eric’s claim has decreased to only those Zoroastrian-descended monotheists who are epistemologically insane, thus: “The specific failure mode that worries me is this: the kind of epistemologically insane person produced by Zoroastrian-descended monotheisms has a great big handle sticking out of his psyche labeled USE ME TO COMMIT ATROCITIES”.

    Apparently he thinks Marxism is a form of Zoroastrian-descended monotheism, or at least it also produces epistemologically insane people with those handles. I would not be surprised if he also believed Nazism produces the same sort of people, just from my own pattern matching and his comments above about the Nazis. The pattern I suspect is this:

    1. A good group – Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Marxists, and Nazis
    2. A bad group – Everyone influenced by Angra Mainyu, or by Satan, ditto, ditto, capitalists, Jews
    3. A force which inevitably brings about heaven/utopia in the end times – Ahura Mazda, God, ditto, Allah, the dialectic, evolution.
    4. But our efforts can bring it about sooner – this is not always true for all variations of each.
    5. The “epistemological insanity” means that arguments against the belief are rejected even when they are correct.
    6. The handle is that it is easier to convince such people that an atrocity will help bring about the end times, or merely that it will assist the ultimate good.

    OTOH, I have no idea, and I could be completely wrong about what he thinks. On the gripping hand, this is really interesting/useful anyway.

    Frankly, finding a definition of “epistemologically insane” is difficult. Apparently Derrida first used the phrase. I’m going to try to construct a definition from its usage. It seems to mean that a person has chosen “to live in a fantasy world in which all arguments are irrelevant” per http://www.joshbarkey.com/2010_03_01_archive.html. It might mean belief “without evidence or even the possibility that evidence will be found” per http://www.talkrational.org/showthread.php?t=41338&page=3. Apparently epistemological insanity is caused by fear of reality per http://www.atoday.org/issue_pdf.php?pdf=2003-02.pdf?.

    This guy is both a Christian and vehemently against both epistemological insanity and Plato: http://bit.ly/1cmFUWH I do not understand his entire argument, but I do understand parts of it and think it both correct and Biblical.

    Also, what do you think about arguing with God? I’d like to hope I would follow Abraham’s example, but he has more demonstrated courage than I do.

  282. @Tom DeGisi “I was agreeing with your response to this:”

    Ah, thanks. Went right over my head.

    “Apparently he thinks Marxism is a form of Zoroastrian-descended monotheism,”

    On that point I agree, based on observation of the religious fervor of the leftists. What he fails to consider is that whichever of the following sorts of assignments one chooses to make…
    my_god = God;
    my_god = government;
    my_god = rationality;
    my_god = science;
    my_god = me;
    // …

    There are some individuals who segfault, and some who become vulnerable to buffer overflows and other attack vectors. But most run with uptimes measured in decades.

    “Also, what do you think about arguing with God? I’d like to hope I would follow Abraham’s example, but he has more demonstrated courage than I do.”

    Ah, a favorite topic area! I think it tells us more about God than Abraham. The father-son metaphor always seems to work. What father doesn’t enjoy a bit of back-and-forth with a beloved son; but with understood limits and careful regards to due reverence to the elder. Overall it shows God to be more of a real *person* than we dared hope.

  283. Tom DeGisi,

    You are right. The “epistemologically insane” are (or include) folks that believe on the basis of faith. In certain contexts, they “live in a fantasy world in which all arguments are irrelevant” and [believe] “without evidence or even the possibility that evidence will be found”. However, “epistemologically insane” people wouldn’t like these quotes (or, at least not the first one). Therefore, “faith” is “epistemologically insanity” as found in the wild.

  284. @ Michael

    Overall it shows God to be more of a real *person* than we dared hope.

    That’s because man created God in his own image.

  285. Brian,

    I don’t know anybody who believes without evidence. The testimony of ones parents and other believers is evidence. The written testimony in the Bible is evidence. Perhaps not conclusive evidence, but usually our brains are too small for truly conclusive evidence.

    Sometimes the pattern match is done on data that is rather scant. Normally, if the match is actually incorrect we call that “jumping to conclusions”, not insanity. It would be better if people would stop stretching the term insanity so very far past the breaking point. People are allowed to think about things, including drawing conclusions when they don’t know very much. Good thing, because all of us know nearly nothing.

    Yours,
    Tom

  286. @ Michael

    To get back to a point you mentioned up-thread and touched on in your last comment, to have a rational discussion (which I am not suggesting; I am just trying to be funny), we do have to do it on the basis of rationality.

  287. Brian,

    I should also point out that nearly everything everyone actually learns we learn because someone tells us. It’s pretty rare that we derive a truth. If people are “epistemologically insane” because they believe things that other people say or have written then I suspect you and I are both “epistemologically insane”.

    Yours,
    Tom

  288. @ Tom DeGisi

    Believing the Bible because it is the word of God is circular reasoning.

    When I was a kid, I was, to the extent of my understanding, a Christian. I remember, when I was about ten, asking a Sunday School teacher “But why do you believe this?”. She said something about faith and that I would understand when I was older. When I was about eleven, I strongly suspected that faith was ridiculous, but I just couldn’t understand why so many people were religious. Then, one evening, as I was waiting for a friend, I suddenly realized that almost everybody that was religious and had faith were simply following their parents. Five seconds later, I was an atheist.

    It is true that almost all we know, we learned from others. But I try to understand why people believe things and I try to judge that. I don’t believe anything on the basis of “faith” (in the sense of religious faith). I haven’t personally measured the speed of light or the density of gold, but plenty of people have.

  289. @Brian Marshall “To get back to a point you mentioned up-thread and touched on in your last comment, to have a rational discussion (which I am not suggesting; I am just trying to be funny), we do have to do it on the basis of rationality.”

    Sure. Unfortunately that’s made more difficult by the varied definitions of what constitutes rationality.

  290. @Brian Marshall ““But why do you believe this?”. She said something about faith and that I would understand when I was older.”

    She did you a disservice by not giving you a more reasoned answer. Unfortunately this is true of lots of nominal Christians is they often can’t articulate it much, and many don’t really know. Note that this doesn’t make them wrong, just ineffective.

    “When I was about eleven, I strongly suspected that faith was ridiculous, but I just couldn’t understand why so many people were religious. Then, one evening, as I was waiting for a friend, I suddenly realized that almost everybody that was religious and had faith were simply following their parents. Five seconds later, I was an atheist.”

    Just curious … at age 11, did you have enough real wisdom to make such a life-altering decision?

    “I don’t believe anything on the basis of “faith” (in the sense of religious faith).”

    I do, at least in a few things. But I’m too much of a pragmatist to be very good at it. (I envy those who seem to be able to switch off the constant questioning for those times when it is a hindrance rather than a help.) My brain craves evidence, and I found plenty.

  291. @ Tom Degisi – “I should also point out that nearly everything everyone actually learns we learn because someone tells us.”

    You have five senses and firsthand experience in life. This process begins at birth, long before word-based communication is functional. Indeed, most of life’s experiences are firsthand, and part of maturing is the realization that much of secondhand learning is inaccurate, contradictory, and unhelpful. You need a reasoning, rational mind in order to make distinctions. Autopilot mind function is actually lazy, not divine.

  292. Sure, TomA. And yet the anthropologists say we took a great leap in collective knowledge when we learned to talk, and an even greater one when we learned to write. In your favor, Stephen Den Beste, whom I referenced above as the best writer I know, wrote an article describing how CDMA works. I could understand while I was reading but I couldn’t retain the memory, and there are plenty of things I read and I don’t understand. So reading doesn’t work as well as first hand experience. Problem is, all that first hand experience leads some people to theism and some people to atheism. We don’t know much, and there is no telling which patterns will match. Apparently if Michael matches his patterns one way, and it’s very convincing to him, other folks will say he matches the espistemologically insane pattern. I say he matches the sane human pattern. I think I’m doing a better job of pattern matching, and I think I’m defending my pattern match better, but hey, I have no neutral judges or relatives here. :)

    Yours,
    Tom

  293. Just a comment in passing to note a use for religion that nobody here has mentioned – religion as recreation and a social outlet. (I guess you all were bored as sh*t when mom dragged you off to church on Sunday. I felt the same way at the synagogue.)

    I mentioned working at WNJR in a previous comment. Part of it was engineering remote broadcasts from Washington Temple in Bedford-Stuyvesant and the Newark Evangelical Deliverance Center. Both churches were large institutions, (converted movie theaters) with the services led by trained and talented musicians. The gospel music was glorious – it made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. (It usually takes something by Bach to do that to me.) Everyone there was clearly having a great time; I sure did.

  294. @ESR I just don’t fully understand why did you decide to use this example to demonstrate the general phenomenon – for example wasn’t the Lawrence Summers speech and resignation story a better example, because the man and his views are a whole lot more defensible?

  295. >wasn’t the Lawrence Summers speech and resignation story a better example, because the man and his views are a whole lot more defensible?

    You have it backwards. It’s precisely the odiousness of Phil Robertson that sets up the central point about speech and bullying and Gleichshaltung. Champions of liberty do not always have the luxury of liking those they defend.

  296. @TomA “Autopilot mind function is actually lazy, not divine.”

    I assume you’re saying that faith==autopilot mind function.

    Faith is not lazy nor is it any kind of autopilot if for no other reason than it frequently takes more effort, energy, and courage than asking for evidence. Faith puts the burden on me. The demand for evidence puts the burden on the other.

    Thomas took the easy way.

  297. The proclivity for herd behavior is an evolutionary trait. It is irrelevant to judge it as either good or bad. It is simply a part of our species psychological composition.

    Consequently, it is futile and useless to attempt to talk someone out of their actualization of this trait, (a bit like trying to talk someone into renouncing bipedalism in favor of being a quadruped again).

    No one here is advocating that Michael or Tom DiGesi renounce their faith or switch to atheism. We would prefer that they not fall prey to the manipulation of a destructive messianic tyrant and join the green shirts herding the rest of us into labor camps.

  298. @TomA “No one here is advocating that Michael or Tom DiGesi renounce their faith or switch to atheism.”

    One can’t help but wonder then what is the purpose of calling such people “irrational”, “insane”, “bigoted”, “ignorant”, “stupid” if not an attempt to coerce some alternate behavior.

    “We would prefer that they not fall prey to the manipulation of a destructive messianic tyrant and join the green shirts herding the rest of us into labor camps.”

    Indeed. The tougher problem I think is in recognizing that messiahs come packaged in many different forms.

    I have my orders: “Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.”

  299. >Gerlernter says, among other things, that de-normalizing dissent is corrupting science.

    I both admire David Gelernter and like him personally (it was very gratifying to learn that he’s a fan of my work). But I think that essay is somewhere between a third and a half wrong. He has conflated a social phenomenon (mostly negative) with a philosophical one (mostly positive). I am seriously considering writing a response.

  300. >In the 2nd Amendment arena it also got Dick Metcalf unfairly fired.

    No, that firing was fair. Metcalf misconstrued the meaning of the phrase “well-regulated” and uttered nonsense as a result. This is a common error; most people don’t realize that the adjective “regulated” has changed meaning since 1781 and in context meant not “government controlled” but “well-drilled” or “well-trained”

  301. Eric,

    R.E. Your response to Gelernter: I look forward to it.

    R.E. Firing: No, he should not have been fired over an internet outcry for the very same reason as Phil Robertson should not have been. We cannot afford to de-normalize dissent in the second amendment community either, for the same reasons. Internet mobs must not rule.

    R.E. Metcalf and well-regulated – based on his responses, I think he knows that. So how does one create a well-regulated government body, like the militia? The unavoidable answer is government regulation in the modern sense. But in any case, on the merits he is completely correct. None of our rights is considered to be absolute. There is a very good reason for that. Our rights are in tension with one another. If one right becomes absolute, all others are trampled.

    Yours,
    Tom

  302. >So how does one create a well-regulated government body, like the militia? The unavoidable answer is government regulation in the modern sense.

    This is wrong on so many levels.

    The whole constitutional point of the militia – organized or unorganized – is that it is not a “government body”. It is the people in arms, separate from any organ of government as a constitutional check on government – in exactly the same sense that the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government are supposed to be separate from each other as a check on each other.

    You have a reasonable excuse for ignorance in this matter. Dick Metcalf did not. That is why it was just to fire him; not for his opinions, but because he failed to grasp even the basics of Constitutional history and exegesis.

  303. @esr
    > The whole constitutional point of the militia – organized or unorganized – is that it is not a “government body”.

    In a sense this should be obvious from the text. After all, the point of the first part is to explain the second, namely that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. Were the militia a government body, or the national guard, no one would question for a second whether those government bodies had a right to have arms.

    It is BECAUSE it is NOT a government body that the statement needs to be made to assure them the right to keep and bear arms. It is almost tautological otherwise.

    There is no amendment saying “The Navy shall have the right to have military ships.” Such an amendment would be unnecessary.

  304. Eric,

    I know what well-regulated is reputed to mean – like a clock.

    I’ve been reading up on this. http://constitutionalmilitia.org/ AFAIK, there was no unorganized militia in Founding times. That is a new concept. Dick Metcalf is a gun writer not a lawyer. He should not have been fired because a mob went bonkers.

    “The people” is distinct from “the militia” which is distinct from “the armed mob”. The militia is a government body, composed of the whole people, and armed, just as the legislature is a government body. A proper militia is under government control, like the military, and it is called out by government officials. You are correct that it is a check on the power of the other government bodies.

    So far, you are not convincing me that I am wrong on any level, much less so many. We might just be in violent agreement on the nature of a militia. You are aware that that Congress regulated the militia at the time through a law which required individuals to purchase arms and ammunition, that they be registered with the local authorities, that they muster for training, etc. etc. That law is what I meant by the modern meaning of regulation. At the same time, militias were also under legal discipline, similar to regular army soldiers. All these things require rules/laws/regulations.

    Yours,
    Tom

  305. http://constitutionalmilitia.org/how-are-militias-created

    Militias were created by charters from the King: “If you were to look at the charters given by the King (English Monarch) to his friends – because he sent his friends over (to what is now the U.S.) and gave them Charters to take over this or that colony and create their own colony. All these charters have some provision given to their “proprietors” (the king’s friends who were creating the colonies) the power to set up a military organization and to bring all of the inhabitants into this organization. And that was somewhat different than the English pattern, because the English pattern was based on nobility and non-nobility as they had a highly hierarchal society. But in the United States from the very beginning these structures were extraordinarily democratic in the sense that they brought everyone into them. Why?

    Answer: They didn’t have enough people. They couldn’t afford to make distinctions between the “better class” and the “lesser class” because they were faced with hostile Indians, or the Spanish, and in particular the French or Pirates in the Carolinas. So they had to bring everyone in from the very beginning and that process followed on.”

  306. http://constitutionalmilitia.org/well-regulated-what-did-the-framers-mean

    What did the Framers mean by “well regulated”?

    It was a militia structure that was organized according to this statutory pattern. And if you go look at those statutes, very often the title is, “An Act to Regulate the Militia of such and such”, “An Act to Amend an Act to Regulate the Militia of such and such”. That term “regulation” was constantly used to refer to these statutory structures. Regulation was shown by what appeared in the statute. And that’s why the structure today would depend upon having within each state, a statutory organization of that state’s militia. These are state institutions, they have to be well regulated, the pattern of regulation comes from a statutory structure, and that’s the responsibility, initially, of each state legislature.

  307. It the context of the militia discussion, it is helpful to look at the basics first.

    Upon sufficient growth and time passage, many governments evolve into a pattern of behavior that mimics a living organism. In this sense, it eventually places its own survival as its preeminent purpose, which may then supersede all other considerations, including the basic welfare of its constituent citizens.

    The last line of defense against unbridled growth of government is an armed citizenry. Even if the Constitution did not address this issue, there is an essential need for this check and balance function.

    If a tyrannical government arose, confiscated personal weapons, and oppressed its citizenry (even if conducted within the law); would it not be moral and proper for the citizenry to rise up and fight back? Think 1776.

    If so, would you rather arrive at the revolution with a firearm or just your dick in your hand?

  308. > The whole constitutional point of the militia – organized or unorganized – is that it is not a “government body”.

    Except that the government can call the militia, or portions of it, into government service. At which point they’re close enough to government bodies for government work.

    I’d say that the important distinguishing feature of a militia is that it is limited to weapons commonly & legally available to ordinary private persons. And I’d say that the constitutional point is that groups of armed government agents are relatively safe if they still qualify as part of the militia (armed only with freely available civilian weapons) but are dangerous if better armed than that. Especially if used for security or law enforcement, rather than outright war-fighting.

    So the point of the Second Amendment and its militia clause is that armed government agents need to be well-armed enough to do their jobs, but not so well armed as to qualify as “troops” or “standing armies,” rather than “militia employed in government service,” and the RKBA clause is there to make sure both of those conditions are met.

  309. @ Deep Lurker “I’d say that the important distinguishing feature of a militia is that it is limited to weapons commonly & legally available to ordinary private persons.”

    During the 1700 and 1800′s, private persons could buy *any* weapon available to the government.
    There were no infringements like there are today.

  310. @ Deep Lurker – “Except that the government can call the militia, or portions of it, into government service.”

    Yes, the Soviet Government did that to aid in the creation and implementation of the Gulag oppression.

    And the Nazi Government did that as well to aid in the creation and implementation of the extermination camps.

    And the Communist Chinese government also conscripted peasants into herding the educated class into camps during the Cultural Revolution.

    Even Pol Pot co-opted some of his victims into helping kill their compatriots in the Killing Fields.

    It is myopic to assume that all governments will be benevolent all the time, and that tyranny can not happen here.

  311. “It is myopic to assume that all governments will be benevolent all the time, and that tyranny can not happen here.”

    It did happen here, during Wilson’s and FDR’s administrations, not to mention Jim Crow, which was all tyranny all the time. Disarming the black militias was a key precursor to Jim Crow.

    Yours,
    Tom

  312. @TomA: Those government paramilitary forces weren’t militias, no matter what they might have been called. They were exempted from the various anti-weapon laws imposed on the general population and in particular on their victims.

    Calling those paramilitary forces “militias” is a blatant untruth, on the same order as calling North Korea a “Democratic People’s Republic.”

  313. Basically — I think this is quite recent — there’s been a successful push to make anti-gay opinions almost as socially unacceptable as explicit anti-black opinions. It’s shifted from being “an opinion I disagree with” to “bigotry.”

    I’m genuinely uncertain whether this is a good or bad thing. I would like the world to grow more humane over time. And yet –

    I’ve tried to imagine how I could define “bigotry” to a 19th-century Englishman, capturing all the nuance in how the word is used today, but only using language he would be familiar with — and I can’t figure out how to do it. I could talk about “hatred” or “unjustified prejudice” and so on, but I can’t express the special kind of dirtiness that modern people associate with treating a marginalized group badly, why it’s considered much worse than just treating random people badly. I run into internal contradictions. I’m not sure these notions end up being coherent.

    I’m starting to think that, on some level of philosophical consistency, the idea of “bigotry,” the idea of “marginalized/oppressed” groups, the idea that you can’t make the simplifying abstraction of people as colorless, genderless rational agents — is incompatible with things like science and discourse and Adam Smith-style capitalism. Which is a scary thought. What if you can’t actually have nice things (like the civilization that built the computer I’m writing on) without hurting people?

    I have a feeling I’m going to wind up taking the position “I don’t care if some people are hurt.” Because I’m bad at lying to myself in the long term. And if it comes down to it, I want a civilization where people can talk to each other in consistent language, so we can have nice things. But…I’ve also seen what happens to people who go too far into callousness, out of some fiery sense of philosophical consistency. They’re mean too many times, and their friends get tired of putting up with them, and they are alone. It’s a conundrum.

  314. You are the worst sort of coward to couch yourself in the middle at some distance from the fray on the “obviously more sane plateau” from where you can make pronouncements on those less erudite than yourself with such statements as

    “OK, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Judged by his remarks in Esquire, Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson is an ignorant, bigoted cracker who reifies almost every bad redneck stereotype there is. His religion is barely distinguishable from a psychotic delusional system. Nothing I am about to say should be construed as a defense of the content of his beliefs.”

    Really….fuck you and your defense of free speech. We don’t need defenders like you. So stick you stupid hashtag thing up your ass….

  315. There’s one (rather serious) problem with your `religion-as-psychosis’ hypothesis, Eric: many people become fundamentalist Christians, after a long life of `non-psychotic’ belief, when they become older. But modern neurology states that psychosis occurs during young adulthood, and it is extremely, extremely rare for it to occur in 60s+ (dementias do not count).

  316. >But modern neurology states that psychosis occurs during young adulthood

    True. But note that I didn’t say Phil Robertson’s religion is nearly indistinguishable from “psychosis”, I said it is nearly indistinguishable from a “psychotic delusional system“. I meant by that the kind of elaborate ideation utterly disconnected from reality that one sees in paranoid schizophrenics or whatever the DSM calls them this week. That kind of pathology of belief formation can have multiple causes.

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