November 17, 2010

"People who do not believe in God are actually kinder, gentler people."

Says an atheist minister here in Madison — Jane Esbensen, of the Prairie Unitarian Universalist Society. 
Esbensen has found acceptance among fellow Unitarians, where humanists are a known quantity. But people from other faiths, when they learn she's an atheist, are often "a little puzzled and concerned." Most tragically, when she became a minister she lost her best friend, who felt this was not an appropriate role for a nonbeliever.

"That is so arrogant," clucks Esbensen. "There can be a lot of arrogance attached to people who believe in God."
There are people on both sides of the God line who are arrogant and who are kind and gentle. I think it's best not to stereotype.

As for whether atheists can be good ministers, I'm sure they can. The question is: Should they admit they are atheists? Surely, there must be many, many religious leaders who, in their hearts, are atheists.

267 comments:

1 – 200 of 267   Newer›   Newest»
traditionalguy said...

The basics of Christianity are the facts contained in the Apostles' Creed. Unbelief in any of those facts will make one into an apostate Christian. But some of my best friends are apostate Christians. We are called to overcome evil with good, and leave the hard stuff to God who alone knows what is in men's hearts.

Scott M said...

Surely, there must be many, many religious leaders who, in their hearts, are atheists.

AA, what's your working definition of an atheist? I believe stating that will change the tenor of this discussion.

Diane Wilson said...

Noted that she is a Unitarian Universalist minister. Unitarian Universalist ministers can legitimately and openly be atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, theist, pan-theist, pagan, Jewish, or, ocassionally, Christian. (Islamic seems fairly rare.) Unitarian Universalistism is explicitly not a Christian denomination, so Christian standards should not apply.

Dave said...

While no doubt there are religious who are arrogant and Atheists who are gentle the atheist you describe is undoubtedly arrogant. To take on religious ministry as an atheist is a kind of fraud and presumption. An authentically religious person believes that they are following a greater power, while the atheist believes in their own talent. She may be nice etc but that's only a surface feature.

shoutingthomas said...

Oh, the Unitarians!

They're so cute!

When I was a student at the University of Illinois, I played in the Unitarian coffee house, a joint known as The Red Herring.

You'd be surprised at the great musicians who passed through there before they were "somebody." This includes Dan Fogelburg and Steve Goodman, among many others. I got to play with some real legends in the basement coffee house.

The Unitarians are damned near communists. I looked it up not long ago, the The Red Herring is still in business, teaching the dumb redneck kids fresh in from the farm towns about socialism and vegetarianism.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)



The UU is a “church” for people who like to go to IHOP after Church, but don’t want to be bothered with well, really going to church on Sundays. It’s like the US Air Force, the USAF is for those who want to join something LIKE the military, without all the bother.

Pogo said...

She's not an atheist; her god is an old one, a fallen idol.

Besides, those venerated atheists Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot weren't terribly kind or gentle, having killed 100 million people in the 20th century.

Not too much social justice in them numbers, eh, minister?

AlphaLiberal said...

We have a lot of militant Unitarians here in Madison. They burned a question mark in my front lawn!

Scott M said...

It’s like the US Air Force, the USAF is for those who want to join something LIKE the military, without all the bother.

Hey, now...we just didn't like all the mandatory PT. All the hottest chicks join the AF.

Diane Wilson said...

teaching the dumb redneck kids fresh in from the farm towns about socialism and vegetarianism

There's a saying I've heard among Unitarians that "no one is ever just a vegetarian."

EDH said...

The question is what higher power do they replace God with in their belief system.

Unfortunatley, possessed of a very strong brand loyalty, it's usually an overweening state, even after it becomes obvious that it's "the very thing that takes you into the wrong."

The Crack Emcee said...

I once worked for a rabbi who was an atheist.

The Halocaust will do that.

shoutingthomas said...

It's been my experience, as well, that the Unitarian church on most campuses is a great place to make your connection for primo weed when you're new in town.

I mean... I've heard that that is the case... Not that I would really know for certain.

BJM said...

Of course atheists are/can be good and caring members of a community, but offering spiritual guidance "ministering" to a religious congregation when in their hearts, they are atheists, makes a mockery of their ordination and non-belief.

Ethics matter on both sides of the God line.

traditionalguy said...

Unitarians are usually very nice people. Their "Church" welcomes all, or no, beliefs to come to meetings and hear how glad they are not to be stuck in a Christian Church. Different strokes for different folks.

Pogo said...

"...makes a mockery of their ordination and non-belief."

But that's why she's there, to destroy from within. Just like pedophile priests.

It's a plan laid out in The Screwtape Letters.

Diane Wilson said...

even after it becomes obvious that it's "the very thing that takes you into the wrong."

I've been moving from lapsed Unitarian to recovering Unitarian, even though I have no idea what any of that means.

Actually, that's a lot like being a Unitarian.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)



Apologies to USAF veterans, any way…I’m sure this atheist is very nice and gentle, But I’d like to hear her definition of “arrogant.” Further, whilst she may be admirable, that confuses the individual with the mass, as a MASS Conservatives, Religious Conservatives, give more than non-religious to charity, to include BOTH Parochial and Secular Charities. A hard-core Baptist or Catholic is more likely to give to “God’s Pantry” AND the United Way as is a “Bright”. Now all us Brights can scream and holler all we want, but that’s what at least one statistical survey demonstrates, “Who Really Cares?” is its title. As a group, Conservatives and Religious Conservatives give more than Liberals or Brights, so this UU “Minister” can be as nice as she wants, but on the whole she represents a rather stingy lot…

As to religious leaders being atheists, I don’t think so Ann. Depends on your definition of “atheism” I guess…it’s called “faith” for a reason, it is the belief in something we cannot see feel or touch…the Difference between Angels/Demons and humans is that Angels or Demons KNOW and are in contact with Yhwh constantly; there is no “belief;” there is that connection. Humans don’t have that intimate connection, we have to “believe”…and sometimes belief in something you can’t feel, touch or measure will wear thin. Mother Teresa “doubted” at times, how could she not? She faced indescribable horrors and the Dark Night of the Soul of Millions, you can’t face that and NOT doubt about Yhwh or His Beneficence. That doesn’t make her an “atheist” it makes her a human…

Big Mike said...

I was a Unitarian for a bunch of years as a way stop on my own path to atheism. I think it's a stretch to call Unitarians Christians, since, for one thing they don't believe that Jesus Christ was divine (hence the "uni" -- for one God, vice the Trinity).

Unlike most Christian denominations, where a bishop assigns ministers, each Unitarian congregation selects its own minister. Consequently if the Prairie Unitarian Universalist Society want to pick an atheist to serve in that role, then they have every right to do so.

On the other hand, if the people who make up the Prairie Unitarian Universalist Society are anything like the folks at All Souls, Paint Branch, River Road, and Arlington two to three decades ago then, yes, I can picture them believing that they are "kinder, gentler people."

While actually being arrogant, sanctimonious, hypocritical, judgmental, and everything else that make folks well to the left of center so utterly despicable.

LL said...

"People who do not believe in God are actually kinder, gentler people" said the person who does not believe in God.

Calypso Facto said...

Unitarian = seeking the affirmation of a society that you are a "good person" without actually having to adhere to any standard of "good".

RE: USAF...snicker. I didn't always get along well with the Forward Air Controllers I worked with, but I did like the 500 lb bombs they delivered.

ScottM: What's with the new VROD avatar? Did you take the plunge?

Ankur said...

Almost every religion teaches tolerance and kindness and love.

However, religious leaders, while often paying lip service to the above notions, often act in exactly the opposite manner.

People in institutional leadership positions are often very similar - ambitious, convinced that they are infallible, etc. That can lead to arrogance, and eventually, that arrogance subjugates their spiritual side (if there was any to begin with), and then they start using that religion to further their personal aims and prejudices.

Sometimes, therefore, a lack of leader-defined spiritual structure might work better for spiritually uplifting someone (if they are into that sort of thing).

The Crack Emcee said...

Scott M,

What's your working definition of an atheist?

Mine is anyone who abandons the concept of faith:

I think about things, imagine others, but I refuse to believe in anything.

Sorry but, like that rabbi I mentioned, I've seen the rest of you being too cruel to change that. I also don't think anything will change until believers accept that the invocation to be like them is cruel itself. I will not.

I have to die one day myself, y'know?

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)



Mother Teresa faced at least the “Dark Tea Time of the Soul.”

I’d imagine that on a per capita basis the number of Prius’ is rather large in an UU parking lot and that the cloud of “smug” is rather dense during the times of “worship.”

rhhardin said...

Belief in God isn't required by Judaism. See Levinas "A Religion for Adults" in Difficult Freedom.

Ankur said...

Kindness is such a wonderful concept.

If only we were all able to be kind to those we vehemently disagreed with.

Hagar said...

Crack, I think that would make you an agnostic rather than an atheist.
As far as I can see, atheists tend to be very strong evangelical believers.

Scott M said...

Mine is anyone who abandons the concept of faith:

Abandons what sort of faith? Purely religious faith or all faith in everything you cannot empirically prove for yourself? Wouldn't the latter remove you from the set of people that believe matter is composed of atoms?

(assumes you've never worked at a supercollider or a facility with an electron microscope and too much free time)

AJ Lynch said...

So it's the unreligion of religions?

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)



Atheists and Believers are all “Theistically Certain.” They are, if you’ll pardon me, like Nazi’s and Communists, supposedly bitter enemies, but both groups are still Totalitarians. Both groups “Believe” something, it may be the diametrically opposite thing, Yhwh does/does NOT exist, but they both “believe” and act upon that belief, even though they have no empirical evidence to support their beliefs or actions.

There was a study that showed the Theistically Certain believed in larger families than Agnostics, and that Theistically Certain families approached their “optimal” size more closely than did Agnostic families. “Believers” believe in larger families and have larger families than their “doubting cousins.” Kind of funny in one sense…

roesch-voltaire said...

Frankly I do not think it show much compassion to make distinction like this. I've worked with gentle, giving people who ranged from secular humanist, to ex-nuns. I've taught in Lutheran, and Unitarian Sunday schools a long time ago. The often pejorative description of religions other than one's own, seen on this thread and other places, is one reason why I left organized dogma behind.

shoutingthomas said...

So it's the unreligion of religions?

No, it's where you go to learn how to be a hippie when you go to college.

It's all about smoking dope, getting laid in a very sensitive, artistic fashion, and worrying about the environment and the fate of the world.

The artsy-fartsy humanities types need a place to go that not quite as stressful as a bar for their pickups and intoxication.

The want to get stoned and laid in a meaningful and devout way.

Andrew T. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trooper York said...

You Jesus had a lot of doubts. He kept asking his Dad is someone else could take over the gig.

So if Jesus doubted himself does that make him an atheist?

Trooper York said...

I mean he didn't believe in himself.

Trooper York said...

I wonder about stuff like that.

prairie wind said...

Most tragically, when she became a minister she lost her best friend, who felt this was not an appropriate role for a nonbeliever.

"That is so arrogant," clucks Esbensen. "There can be a lot of arrogance attached to people who believe in God."


It's a punchline. And a good one, too!

Maguro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chip Ahoy said...

So my brother is saying grace and he's going on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and

pauses while he thinks up more stuff to go on about

and on and on and on and on.

And my whole family is sitting there while the dinner I made is going cold. And he's on and on and on and on and on and on.

And I'm thinking, "Jesus Christ, this is a long grace innit."

and on and on and on, and finally he goes, "Does anybody want to add something?" I clamped down hard on my tongue, real hard, because I fighting the impulse to say, "Yes! Lord, please help James say shorter graces."

shoutingthomas said...

Or to put it another way:

Suppose you're a Freshman girl from the burbs and you dream of writing the Great American Novel and, in your spare time, eradicating injustice from the world.

You wouldn't want to go down to the local meat market bar to get loaded on beer and shots, and fuck some redneck cowboy in the back seat of his pickup truck, right? That would be beneath your dignity.

So, places like The Red Herring. Our girl can drink camomile tea and eat clean vegetarian food, listen to some heartbreaking folk music about injustice, score some weed and have a meaningful experience with some young dude who likewise is worried about the state or the world.

This is what it's about.

You guys are Philistines.

Maguro said...

Just read the article and sheesh, what a sanctimonious bore. Her response to the dying communion wafer woman was stupid and gratuitously cruel.

She's everything I imagined a Madison Unitarian Atheist Minister would be.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

I mean he didn't believe in himself.

That’s just Low Self-Esteem, a couple of good therapy sessions might’ve helped.

AlphaLiberal said...

There is really a problem that so many high profile so-called Christians do so much damage to the public image of the faith.

The most visible so-called Christian political agenda in America features support for greedy money grabs by the rich, rejects stewardship of our natural gifts and is fronted by a mean-spiritedness against those who do not share the narrow-minded views of the religious right.

The religious right is doing great damage to the image of Christianity with their contortions to the faith and driving people away in droves.

Drew said...

There's a saying I've heard among Unitarians that "no one is ever just a vegetarian."

One could probably say, also, that no one is ever just an atheist.

Class factotum said...

A high school friend of mine is an atheist UU minister. She was called to do the ministry part of church without the God part. She is fairly liberal and I am not. She is about my only liberal friend with whom I can have a calm, reasoned conversation about our differences. With the others, I just avoid politics.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)

The religious right is doing great damage to the image of Christianity with their contortions to the faith and driving people away in droves.

Tell me about it Brother, there latest was that attempted Times Square car bombing, and that Baptist nutjob shooting up Fort Hood, and then the Catholic with bomb in his underwear, and that Lutheran with the exploding shoe, or how about that Australian Pentecostal Minister who said womyn deserved to be raped when they dressed immodestly, they were simply uncovered meat…hold it I may have gotten some of that wrong.

LL said...

Maguro said...Just read the article and sheesh, what a sanctimonious bore. Her response to the dying communion wafer woman was stupid and gratuitously cruel.


You nailed it, this gal sounds like a real douchebag.

jerryofva said...

Those Unitarians are so kind. I am sure they would tell you that they oppose sexism, racism and homophobia and support all the good stuff that the welfare stes gives you.

If you asked them what they thought of Sarah Palin would they say:

(A) Oh, she is such a nice family oriented woman who we don't agree with political

or

(B) Ridicule her, insult her intelligence and spew hatred for her family.

You make the call...

AJ Lynch said...

Sanctimonious bore? What else could she be when she is an atheist who feels the need to belong to an un-church?

A liberal would defend her claim she is highly nuanced and we just can't understand it.

Scott M said...

There's a saying I've heard among Unitarians that "no one is ever just a vegetarian.

Drew said..."One could probably say, also, that no one is ever just an atheist."

One can certainly wonder at the people that claim to be spiritual, who believe there's something called a soul and will answer in the affirmative when asked if death is when that something leaves the body, but be complete flummoxed when asked when that something enters the body. The most common sentence I encounter after that little episode is, "Well, I never really thought about it".

Diamondhead said...

Where's the lightweight religion tag?

traditionalguy said...

We attend a Presbyterian Church (PCUSA)that accepts all points of view in class discussions, but remains traditional in doctrines. We see large numbers of Baptists fleeing from legalistic Churches who show an allergic reaction to "Faith" that believes in anything much just because the Scriptures say so. So we see that `people once burned by legalistic approaches can go overboard into quasi-atheism to avoid that kind of trap again.

Lem said...

"I'm very social-justice-oriented,"

Yikes.. I followed her until that line..

... Your whole head is injured,
your whole heart afflicted.

6 From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness— only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil
.

Isaiah 1:5 & 6

Psy375 said...

Hi! We are students at Smith College in Massachusetts taking a Research Seminar. We invite you to take a survey assessing gender attitudes and behavior. The survey should take between 30-45 minutes to complete and is completely anonymous. To thank you for your participation, you will be entered into a raffle for a $50 gift card on Amazon.com. Thank you in advance for your participation!

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NVG3CBG

shoutingthomas said...

Hi! We are students at Smith College in Massachusetts taking a Research Seminar. We invite you to take a survey assessing gender attitudes and behavior.

Nothing much has changed at Smith College in the past 50 years, has it?

The same old shit. But, at least you can guarantee that their teacher is smiling on their efforts.

How many of these students are Unitarians?

Penny said...

""That is so arrogant," clucks Esbensen."

A clucking minister, per the journalist?

Too plucking funny! ha ha

The Crack Emcee said...

Hagar,

Crack, I think that would make you an agnostic rather than an atheist.

No, an agnostic leaves the question open, I do not.

As far as I can see, atheists tend to be very strong evangelical believers.

No, atheists are not believers - we accept there's no God, so there's nothing to believe in. See, you're doing the cruel thing again:

You know God has never shown up - ever - yet you still insist I have to believe there's no god, rather than merely accepting there's no god. There's a difference. If you don't understand the difference, fine. But if you do, then you're just being cruel.

JAY said...

The most visible so-called Christian political agenda in America features support for greedy money grabs by the rich

Your comments are always unserious and good for a laugh.

DaveW said...

I'm stuck on the concept of someone being a "minister" and being an atheist. How can someone minister to someone else if they aren't a believer in God?

Are they like a therapist or something, a counselor?

Scott M said...

yet you still insist I have to believe there's no god, rather than merely accepting there's no god. There's a difference.

Crack, it seems to me that if you "accept" something as true, but have no way of proving it as such, it requires belief.

I accept some apples are red. I can prove it (at least within the human visible spectrum), but I also accept that apples are made of atoms and molecules. I cannot prove that it's so, but I believe it to be true.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)



No Garage you only BELIEVE there is no G*d. If you can produce any scientific evidence which either PROVES or DISPROVES the existence of Yhwh I’ll eat my hat. Being able to explain the Universe without reference to Yhwh does NOT disprove His existence…one can explain fire without reference to oxygen or explain an apple falling without reference to gravity, that does NOT mean however, that oxygen doesn’t exist or that gravity isn’t a force in the Universe.

The Pope BELIEVES in G*d, you BELIEVE there is no G*d, they are both beliefs, unsupportable by Reason or Empiricism. That’s why both you and The Poppa are both Theistically Certain.

Larry J said...

Crack, I think that would make you an agnostic rather than an atheist.

No, an agnostic leaves the question open, I do not.

As far as I can see, atheists tend to be very strong evangelical believers.

No, atheists are not believers - we accept there's no God, so there's nothing to believe in.


As a long-time agnostic, I summarize agnosticism with the words "I don't know."

Is there a God? I don't know.
Is there an everlasting soul? I don't know.
Is there a heaven or hell? I don't know.

Atheists are the flip side to the fundamentalist Bible thumpers. Both are certain that what they believe is the absolute truth. Both can be just as annoying and arrogant about forcing their views on others.

As for me, I don't know. Every now and then, just for fun, I describe myself to liberals as a fundamentalist agnostic just to watch their heads explode.

Penny said...

"There can be a lot of arrogance attached to people who believe in God."

And also arrogance attached to those who don't believe in God.

Universality through arrogance!

ricpic said...

Her response to the dying communion wafer woman was stupid and gratuitously cruel.

The dying communion wafer woman had faith that the wafer was the body of Christ. So her concern about the authenticity of a quarter of a wafer communion was genuine and legitimate. How could Eberson, with her dismissal of communion as mere superstition, get her mind around the woman's torment? She couldn't. To the shallow all of the rituals with which the world's great religions attempt to leap the gap between our profane time bound existence and the sacred-eternal are just so much rigamarole

Bob From Ohio said...

"Belief in God isn't required by Judaism."

That is of course not true.

"The closest that anyone has ever come to creating a widely-accepted list of Jewish beliefs is Rambam's thirteen principles of faith. Rambam's thirteen principles of faith, which he thought were the minimum requirements of Jewish belief, are:

1. G-d exists
2. G-d is one and unique
3. G-d is incorporeal
4. G-d is eternal
5. Prayer is to be directed to G-d alone and to no other
6. The words of the prophets are true
7. Moses' prophecies are true, and Moses was the greatest of the prophets
8. The Written Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) and Oral Torah (teachings now contained in the Talmud and other writings) were given to Moses
9. There will be no other Torah
10. G-d knows the thoughts and deeds of men
11. G-d will reward the good and punish the wicked
12. The Messiah will come
13. The dead will be resurrected."

(Rambam is the nickname for Maimonides, a medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages.)

Revenant said...

While no doubt there are religious who are arrogant

I'll say. There are several dozen examples in the comments to this post alone. You, for example, with your insistence that it is impossible for atheists to be religious.

Ah Pooh said...

Unitarians are people who can't get out of the habit of going to church.

dbp said...

Basically she is saying, "People just like me are actually kinder, gentler people"

Really, most people think they are good and at the same time think that a substantial fraction of other people are assholes.

TosaGuy said...

Everyone who is like you always tends to be kinder and gentler than those not like you. I suppose this woman thinks she is brilliant and insightful.

Dave said...

She's teaching salvation through works - which is a heresy among Christians. Christians teach salvation through grace, meaning it is unmerited. Of course Unitarianism is effectively universalism (everybody goes to Heaven) or indifferentism (all religions are the same) and these are both heresies under Christian doctrine. This feels/sounds good pablum is an empty consolation when the inevitable (suffering and death) comes. Her deathbed manner highlighted the fact.

madAsHell said...

Yeah.... people that think like me are kinder, and gentler people.

Go figure!

This could explain why I hang out here, and read the comments....or is that an over-simplification.

lemondog said...

"That is so arrogant," clucks Esbensen. "There can be a lot of arrogance attached to people who believe in God."

There are people on both sides of the God line who are arrogant and who are kind and gentle. I think it's best not to stereotype.

Agree. And the words of the 'clucking' Esbensen betrays her own arrogance.

Dave said...

FTA: Of course, according to some religionists, you can burn in hell for that.

The author of the article tips his hand with "religionists". Very condescending IMO

Revenant said...

As far as I can see, atheists tend to be very strong evangelical believers.

Since atheists are widely hated in our society, the only atheists who speak up about our beliefs (or lack thereof) tend to be those of us who are looking for an argument with believers.

A person in mixed company can say "I'm a Baptist" or "I'm Catholic" or "I'm Jewish" and nobody blinks an eye. But say "I'm an atheist" and you usually get one or more of the following:

(1): Uncomfortable silence.
(2): Lots of personal questions about your views on life, death, and morality.
(3): Insults and/or personal attacks.

So we usually keep our mouths shut unless we know you well enough to be comfortable sharing that part of ourselves with you. Even then, I've gotten responses like this from people I've known for years:

"You're an atheist? I'm surprised, you always seemed so thoughtful."

"So you don't believe in right and wrong?"

"How can you not believe in God? Did something happen to make you not believe?"

Etc, etc. So I try not to mention it, even to long-time acquaintances, if only to avoid giving them the opportunity to be asinine. :)

Famous Original Mike said...

Anti-religious zealots are just as bad, and in many cases worse than, religious zealots.

tim maguire said...

I know Colbert has fallen in the pantheon lately (deservedly), but this is from his brilliant days.

Michael said...

Revenant: When I am informed by someone that they are atheists I always reply, "How nice for you."

Revenant said...

Just read the article and sheesh, what a sanctimonious bore. Her response to the dying communion wafer woman was stupid and gratuitously cruel.

What would a Christian minister say to me, if I asked on my deathbed if he thought my good deeds in life were enough to get me into Heaven?

Would he say "no"? Or would he lie and say "yes"? Or perhaps hedge, and say "that's in God's hands"?

DADvocate said...

There are people on both sides of the God line who are arrogant and who are kind and gentle. I think it's best not to stereotype.

Unitarian Universalist family I know, the woman says she just "hates" Christians because they don't believe others can go to Heaven. Asked her if she knew Catholicism teaches everybody can go to Heaven? Nope, didn't know that.

Her son, a self-professed atheist, lied to get into Boy Scouts. When he told another boy he was an atheist, the boy told others. After verifying that he was indeed he was an atheist, he was expelled from the troop. Despite his lying to get into the troop, the Boy Scouts were the evil ones.

I must say that most Unitarians I know are physically gentler, but that seems to be because they generally seem to be less athletic/physical and more cerebral.

Revenant said...

Revenant: When I am informed by someone that they are atheists I always reply, "How nice for you."

That's a bit snide, isn't it? Several of my coworkers are Jehovah's Witnesses. If I replied "how nice for you" when they mentioned this to me they would probably think I was being an asshole.

openid said...

I always wonder about people who argue that atheists have just as much blind faith as theists.

No one has ever complained to me that I am judgmental and fixed in my ways for not believing in Little Blue Bathroom Pixies. To make a special case for Magical Sky Man shows a bias in his favor.

Revenant said...

Despite his lying to get into the troop, the Boy Scouts were the evil ones.

The Boy Scouts are ignorant bigots for having the policy in the first place. That being said, the correct response is to refuse to support them -- not to lie to get in.

Joe said...

(The Crypto Jew)
The Boy Scouts are ignorant bigots for having the policy in the first place.

Very tolerant of you Revenant, the Boy Scouts are "ignorant bigots" eh?

DaveW said...

Several of my coworkers are Jehovah's Witnesses. If I replied "how nice for you" when they mentioned this to me they would probably think I was being an asshole.

Try telling them you're Catholic and watch what happens.

Shanna said...

My childhood baptist (somewhat charismatic baptist at that) church morphed into a Unitarian church over the last 10-15 years. They finally got kicked out of the Baptist church organization (they switched over on the sly for years) but they got to keep the land they were given by another Baptist church in the area for starting the offshoot church (this was some 30 years ago). They have also steadily lost most of their members but there are a dedicated few who just stuck around.

Instead of making new signs, though, they just removed the letters for “Baptist” out of X X bapist church, but you can still see it on the wall and the signs. It cracks me up when I see it.

Why would you become a minister if you don’t believe in god? Even a Unitarian minister should believe in some sort of god, right?

Drew said...

Since atheists are widely hated in our society, . . .

You know, I always hear this claim from atheists on the internet, but never from the atheists I actually know in real life.

Is this really widespread? Or are there merely a few loud voices on the internet playing the victim game?

The only atheist I hate is Dawkins, and that's just kind and gentle reciprocation on my part.

sunsong said...

Ankur,

Kindness is such a wonderful concept.

If only we were all able to be kind to those we vehemently disagreed with.


What a kind comment :-) I so agree - we could use more kindness in this world, in our country, in our relationships.

"My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness." -
Dalai Lama

Scott M said...

What would a Christian minister say to me, if I asked on my deathbed if he thought my good deeds in life were enough to get me into Heaven?

Depends on the stripe o' Christian sitting there next to you. If it was a Lutheran pastor, probably that last option.

DADvocate said...

The Boy Scouts are ignorant bigots for having the policy in the first place.

The Boy Scouts consider themselves a religious based organization. I suppose Catholics are ignorant bigots for not letting non-Catholics participate in certain rituals. The same for Jews, Muslims (they won't even let non-Muslims into the city of Mecca!!!!1), Mormoms, etc.

It's obvious who is the ignorant one here. (I knew from the start bringing up the Boy Scouts would get a rise out of some people.)

Shanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mbabbitt said...

Pogo, you are right on the mark: Tell that to the victims of Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot - and their followers - such kind people with such big hearts. Who exactly have run the great charity efforts in history? Atheists? I don't think so. Who worked to end slavery? Who gives the most to charity? Not even close. Case closed.

Just because there are plenty of flawed human beings in religious movements, it is an absurdity to assert that atheists are the more kind or gentle people.

Scott M said...

"My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness." -
Dalai Lama


That Lama...he's a light tipper.

Original Mike said...

What Rev said @3:03.

Dave said...

"Since atheists are widely hated in our society, the only atheists who speak up about our beliefs (or lack thereof) tend to be those of us who are looking for an argument with believers."

Not true in my circle. I'm a Scientist by profession and a believing Catholic. It was far far easier when I was an atheist.

@Crack

"You know God has never shown up - ever"

He showed up in my life in an undeniable albeit subjective way. I had what is called "a consolation" On the day my first son was born I held him in my arms and felt the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I felt in my heart as a vast fluid outpouring of love which I could not see or hear or smell but flowed out from above and it washed over me in a vast overabundance. Now I can't prove it in any Scientific sense and you might think my testimony makes me certifiable, but in my view that moment was more real than any I lived since.

sunsong said...

Edwin Markham, a Unitarian, authored a wonderful poem:

"He drew a circle that shut me out-
Heretic , rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In !


From the poem " Outwitted"
— Edwin Markham

Oligonicella said...

Drew --

"Is this really widespread? Or are there merely a few loud voices on the internet playing the victim game?"

Not in my experience out in real life. Most people (aside from the deeply religious) don't seem to care much.

But then, that's face to face, isn't it? Just scan this blog's comments not even very far back to find spurious and gratuitous slurs about atheists. On other blogs (like SlashDot), it's common to find the opposite.

Fen said...

That's a bit snide, isn't it? Several of my coworkers are Jehovah's Witnesses. If I replied "how nice for you" when they mentioned this to me they would probably think I was being an asshole

I find it interesting that one can still insult an athiest's "religion"

bagoh20 said...

Hugh Hefner considers himself a feminist, so yea, she can be a minister, so could Hugh Hefner for that matter. Now that guy knows how to flock.

Revenant said...

Why would you become a minister if you don’t believe in god?

Because you want to help other people reach a state of spiritual and moral enlightenment and fulfillment.

c3 said...

Professor:

Surely, there must be many, many religious leaders who, in their hearts, are atheists.

Are you being facetious?

AL;
The most visible so-called Christian political agenda in America features support for greedy money grabs by the rich, rejects stewardship of our natural gifts and is fronted by a mean-spiritedness against those who do not share the narrow-minded views of the religious right.

The religious right is doing great damage to the image of Christianity with their contortions to the faith and driving people away in droves.


I suggest you spend less time watching TV and reading blogs and spend actual time with "day to day" Christians. Do more listening and less talking. And after you've done that on at least a weekly basis for several months, then come back here and talk about "so called Christians".

MochaLite said...

traditionalguy said... Unitarians are usually very nice people. Their "Church" welcomes all, or no, beliefs to come to meetings and hear how glad they are not to be stuck in a Christian Church.
--------------

Exactly! All the trappings of church without all those inconvenient calls of God on your life.

Freeman Hunt said...

"I'm very social-justice-oriented," she explains.

Ah, one of those.

"Forget God; give me some of that State Power!"

Of course ministers should admit they are atheists. Most Unitarian Universalists I've known have been humanist atheists, so it's not an issue for their "church."

I was, at one time, a Unitarian Universalist. It is not the same as Unitarian. Or the same as plain Universalist for that matter.

Drew said...

But then, that's face to face, isn't it? Just scan this blog's comments not even very far back to find spurious and gratuitous slurs about atheists. On other blogs (like SlashDot), it's common to find the opposite.

But that's the internet where everything is magnified. When people learn that I am a Christian, no one in meat-space ever says "Oh, you have an imaginary sky friend," but if I had a dollar for every time I heard that comment on the internet, I could take care of our national debt.

So I really doubt that atheists are the next big thing in victimized identity groups. I suspect they want to be, though.

mariner said...

An atheist "minister" is flying a false flag.

Having decided there really is no God, the ethical minister should resign.

Freeman Hunt said...

A person in mixed company can say "I'm a Baptist" or "I'm Catholic" or "I'm Jewish" and nobody blinks an eye. But say "I'm an atheist" and you usually get one or more of the following:

(1): Uncomfortable silence.
(2): Lots of personal questions about your views on life, death, and morality.
(3): Insults and/or personal attacks.


That's just silly. Try saying, "I'm a Catholic," in mixed company in the Bible Belt or "I'm a Baptist," in mixed company in New England. Or either one in the company of atheists.

Everybody can get crap for their beliefs, whatever they are, depending on the audience.

Pogo said...

"Because you want to help other people reach a state of spiritual and moral enlightenment and fulfillment."
What is 'the spirit', in atheism?


"Would he say "no"? Or would he lie and say "yes"? Or perhaps hedge, and say "that's in God's hands"?"
Why would that be a lie? Or hedging?

bgates said...

A high school friend of mine is an atheist UU minister. She was called

By what?

Shanna said...

Why would you become a minister if you don’t believe in god?

Because you want to help other people reach a state of spiritual and moral enlightenment and fulfillment.

What spiritual enlightenment if you don’t believe in the spiritual? Why don’t you just start a charity or become a therapist or something. It’s odd.

Revenant said...

Is this really widespread? Or are there merely a few loud voices on the internet playing the victim game?

I'm not "playing the victim game", I'm just explaining why atheists stay quiet. You can consult polls on American attitudes towards atheists if you want confirmation.

For example, the Pew 2003 poll of religious attitudes found that atheists had a net favorability of -18 overall, -26 among those with "very" favorable/unfavorable views. That makes us about as popular as Nancy Pelosi is now, or George Bush was at the low point of his Presidency.

Pogo said...

"...atheists had a net favorability of -18 overall, -26 among those with "very" favorable/unfavorable views.

People like Jane Esbensen suggest why.

Revenant said...

The Boy Scouts consider themselves a religious based organization.

First of all, the Boy Scouts deny being a religious organization when it suits them, e.g. when they're looking for a government hand-out.

Secondly, are you honestly arguing that holding a belief for religious reasons exempts that belief from being considered ignorant and/or bigoted? Seriously?

The Boy Scouts teach that atheists and homosexuals are incapable of the level of morality expected from a member of the Scouts. Anyone who believes that atheists and homosexuals can't be every bit as morally upstanding as anyone else is an ignorant bigot -- regardless of whether they think God told them that or whether it is just some dipshit world-view they cooked up on their own.

bagoh20 said...

I have no problem with the atheist or the believer positions. Only with individuals within each, and even that isn't worth getting pissed about in a modern free country. We just need to preserve that, and everyone can do their thing, except the likes of Fred Phelps, who needs an ass kicking. I think we can all agree on that.

Maguro said...

What would a Christian minister say to me, if I asked on my deathbed if he thought my good deeds in life were enough to get me into Heaven?

Look...the woman asked for a communion wafer on her deathbed. It was obviously not the appropriate time for a "teachable moment" on the non-existence and/or irrelevance of god.

What's really bad about saying something like "If there's a God, he has seen what a good and kind and loving person you are" to a dying stranger is that there's a good chance that that that's exactly what they're worried about! That is, many people aren't good and kind and loving. Let's face it, a lot of people are absolute bastards. But they're still human beings and they need and deserve comfort at the end of their lives, not smarmy, condescending little lectures from Unitarian Universalist Atheist Ministers.


There's a time and a place for everything and that wasn't it.

As for what a Christian minister would say to you, it would probably be something along the lines of "No, good deeds alone aren't enough, but if you accept Jesus as your savior right now you can still get in, no problem". Maybe some of the theologians can help me out with that one.

bagoh20 said...

"whether they think God told them that or whether it is just some dipshit world-view they cooked up on their own."

Well, I think we all fit in those two groups. Personally I think we're all in the second, even if there is a god.

Synova said...

By grace you are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift from God.

The answer to the person who is asking on her deathbed is that God loves you, the Bible says so, you know it's true. Jesus died for you to forgive all of your sins because all have sinned and all fall short. So Jesus died to take all of our sin on Himself and rose again. He loves us and we need do nothing at all but accept His free gift.

It's really basic John 3:16 stuff, basic Gospel verses.

It would be rude to push the Gospel on someone who didn't want to hear it, but when someone clearly asks for that reassurance, I can't imagine refusing it. How horrible.

Skyler said...

Isn't being an atheist minister an oxymoron?

DADvocate said...

...a state of spiritual and moral enlightenment and fulfillment.

Is the belief in this any more real than the belief in God? You're simply pursuing a mythical state of being that no one can fully proves exists.

Gabriel Hanna said...

To me, this image sums up religious faith:

http://www.visionsofjesuschrist.com/weeping286.htm

I think that religious people are seeing patterns that aren't there, because the human mind has a built-in bias to see patterns.

The universe has an order and a structure to it, but to say that order and structure necessarily implies a powerful intelligence that cares about us doesn't make any sense to me--it's like seeing a snowflake and insisting that it was painstakingly crafted by elves. It seems like people seeing patterns that aren't there. There are people who go into ecstacies when they see the face of Jesus on a cheese sandwich. There are plenty of religious people who consider themselves more sophisticated than that, but they make the same error on a more abstract level, in my opinion.

I'm sure everyone agrees that the water from the sprinklers put that image of the side of the building. Some religious people go further and claim it is a miracle. Do I know for a fact that the Virgin Mary had nothing to do with it, that she used to the sprinklers and the building to send a message? No, but I have literally spent zero time considering the possibility that she might have, and I don't understand why anyone would take so seriously as some of these people have.

And that's why I say I'm an atheist and not an agnostic. Maybe some day there will be some evidence that shows that the patterns religious people claim they see in the universe are real, but until then I'll be going about my business. The world as it is, is hard enough to understand; and the intentions and actions of the intelligences I've actually met are already hard enough to figure out.

Synova said...

"Oh, the Unitarians!

They're so cute!
"

Heh.

This is what bugs me the most in RL situations where, for some reason or other, the issue of Faith comes up. It's not the people who think you're a superstitious idiot for considering the possibility of God that are the most insulting. Yes, of course, if you're being insulted (sky fairy, etc) then it's insulting, but the worst is the person who is overtly condescending, who has found a way to make religion into something acceptable and "cute" and who explains her generosity of spirit in a way that seems to expect a pat on the back for being such a tolerant and accepting person.

Salamandyr said...

There is a contingent of atheists (Phillip Pullman is one) who, if one scratches the surface, you find it's not so much that they actually disbelieve in God; the do, they're just mad at him.

However, that does no describe all atheists. For the record, lack of evidence for the existence of something is evidence for the non-existence of something. Otherwise, we could draw no conclusions about anything; we'd be saying simply because we can find no evidence for the existence of Pooka, fairies, or compassion in a tax collector would be no reason to conclude those things don't exist. But that's not how science works.

Belief based on subjective experience I have immense respect for. However, requesting I believe based on experiences I have no way of ascertaining the veracity of is really too much to ask. If God exists there should be some way to prove that empirically.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Maguro:

As for what a Christian minister would say to you, it would probably be something along the lines of "No, good deeds alone aren't enough, but if you accept Jesus as your savior right now you can still get in, no problem".

You know that people can still be Christian and not be Protestant, right?

Lem said...

I agree with Synova @4:38..

From the WH website..

George H W Bush brought to the White House a dedication to traditional American values and a determination to direct them toward making the United States "a kinder and gentler nation." ..

and he lasted one term ;)

(not that there is anything wrong with that)

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Synova:

if you're being insulted (sky fairy, etc) then it's insulting, but the worst is the person who is overtly condescending, who has found a way to make religion into something acceptable and "cute" and who explains her generosity of spirit in a way that seems to expect a pat on the back for being such a tolerant and accepting person.

I, like you, have a hard time with people like that. If you want to be religious, be that, and if you don't be something else. "Spiritual" people bug the crap out of me. It's like playing tennis without a net or keeping score. To me it seems like a perpetual guarantee of self-approval without any sort of effort.

The Crack Emcee said...

Scott M,

Crack, it seems to me that if you "accept" something as true, but have no way of proving it as such, it requires belief.

I don't have to prove there's no god - you have to prove there is. He's never shown up - that's all I have to know. Not believe - know.

Larry J,

Atheists are the flip side to the fundamentalist Bible thumpers.

Oh good lord, are you people stupid?

Dave,

He showed up in my life in an undeniable albeit subjective way. I had what is called "a consolation" On the day my first son was born I held him in my arms and felt the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

That's a feeling, dumbshit. (I'm sorry but you guys get to be too fucking silly with this shit.)

There's never been a god or gods. It's just a bunch of silly stories made up long ago by desert people with no education.

You here, in 2010, ought to be ashamed of yourselves for pretending otherwise.

The Macho Response.

Pogo said...

"the human mind has a built-in bias to see patterns."


Makes perfect sense for hunting or finding a mate or seeing threats or predicting rain.

But why are we built to see a larger pattern?
Weird, ain't it?

Seems a waste of energy, from an evolutionary perspective.

Lonetown said...

Can one be an atheist minister?

I guess in the sense of an administrator.

Pogo said...

Or a charlatan; like reading palms for the money.

Fen said...

It's just a bunch of silly stories made up long ago by desert people with no education.

Check your history on that. Those people weren't ignorant.

Salamandyr said...

I react to people telling me they are Unitarians much the way I do with people who inform me of their belief in astrology or Wicca.

It makes me someone embarrassed, as if the person were confessing some of their kinkier bedroom activities.

Fen said...

Meh. I'm not tossing science out the window just because of the CRU hoaxters. Same for religion.

Lem said...

Let me see if I can make de tripas corazon.. or spin.

You dont have to believe in God to be loved by him?

We have all sinned and have fallen short...

Somebody please help me out with that statement in bold.. My hermenutics is not not all that..

Synovas is pretty good.

cboygan said...

She lost me when she noted that she used to be a municipal judge, explaining "I'm very social-justice-oriented."

Municipal judges in Wisconsin handle parking tickets, speeding tickets, underage drinking and other city ordinance cases. It is not exactly a place to toil for "social justice." What a joke!

Lem said...

Notice the name of the "church" - Prairie Unitarian Universalist Society.

maybe they are not Christians.. but a benign cult ;)

a Prairie Unitarian Universalist sounds like an opening act for God himself.. dont it?

Lem said...

They are Children of a lesser god..

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Pogo:

Seems a waste of energy, from an evolutionary perspective.

Evolution doesn't necessarily weed out "wastes of energy". There's lots of wasteful and stupid things that organisms have and do that natural selection CAN'T weed out, because the costs of doing so are too large and the benefits too small.

That many or most people have a sense of God built into them, if it is true, might have benefits that outweigh its costs--and neither the benefits nor the costs of thinking there is a God could tell you if God is real.

Fen said...

Its also possible that seeing patterns is an overdeveloped survival instinct. Maybe why we're still here where other species failed.

Lem said...

She lost me when she noted that she used to be a municipal judge, explaining "I'm very social-justice-oriented."

See 2:14 pm & 4:00 pm

marklewin said...

# of Religious Leaders who, in their hearts, are atheists are > the # of Atheists who in their hearts, believe in god.

ken in sc said...

Several years ago I was somewhat interested joining the Unitarian Universalist church. However I read an account of a controversy within the church about whether their creed should refer to God as He or She. The controversy was resolved by removing reference to God altogether, and officially declaring that belief in God was not required in the church.

I became a Presbyterian.

dbp said...

"-it's like seeing a snowflake and insisting that it was painstakingly crafted by elves."

It is easy to see how something like a snowflake can be formed by natural processes. How does one explain the near-universal appreciation for its beauty though? That is a little less easy to dismiss.

Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...

Watch Shouting Thomas' and a few of the others' heads explode when reminded that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were Unitarians.

Lem said...

Protestantism has come a long way.

If they have removed God.. then they should call it for what it is.. a brick and mortar social networking site ;)

Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...

How does one explain the near-universal appreciation for its beauty though?

Evolutionary neurobiology.

hombre said...

Why would you become a minister if you don’t believe in god?

Because you want your personal predilections to be taken as seriously as Christians take the word of God.

Fen said...

I thought you said they were Diests?

Make up your mind.

hombre said...

Watch Shouting Thomas' and a few of the others' heads explode when reminded that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were Unitarians.

John Adams was a Christian and Jefferson was a deist. You read too much Dawkins, et al.

Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...

Deism isn't a religion; it's a philosophy of religious belief.

Unitarianism is a religious sect.

One does not preclude or require the other.

Eric said...

What does an atheist minister, um, minister?

hombre said...

Correction: Jefferson was widely believed to be a deist.

Salamandyr said...

So does this lady have any empirical evidence nonbelievers are nicer than believers? Or is this just her opinion?

If it's just her opinion, why do we care?

Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...

John Adams was a Christian and Jefferson was a deist.

What does this have to do with not being a Unitarian?

Provide a cite.

dbp said...

Odd, or possibly not, that someone in love with the concept of evolution would not consider that the Unitarian church may have changed somewhat in the last 200 years.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@dbp:

It is easy to see how something like a snowflake can be formed by natural processes.

No, it's not. You are just used to thinking of them that way, and so it seems "easy" to you.

Can you explain how the atoms at the tip of one spur of the snowflake know how to do the exact same things as the atoms at the tip at the opposite edge, when they have roughly 10^20 atoms intervening which are all doing different things? As far as one atom in a snowflake concerned, the snowflake is vast enough to be a universe.

It speaks eloquently to the craftsmanship of the elves.

Anyway, you think this such a trivial issue-it isn't. It is very hard to explain snowflakes and it takes a lot of chemistry and math and generations of scientists lived and died putting together the science that explains it.

And you just wave you hand at it--it's obvious.

Maybe, if you were born a hundred years hence, the order of the universe would be as obviously "natural" to you as the order in a snowflake.

But the magnitude and nature of the task is the same.

Salamandyr said...

Nixon was a Quaker.

Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...

the Unitarian church may have changed somewhat in the last 200 years.

So did less eccentric branches of Christianity. Belief in the divinity of Jesus itself as a core tenet was debateable early on.

But I highly doubt that Unitarianism was less flexible then or currently than other sects are now.

bagoh20 said...

"lack of evidence for the existence of something is evidence for the non-existence of something."

Lack of evidence no more disproves a thing than it proves it. All discoveries in human history started out with no evidence at some point. This is why the earth was flat, there were no Americas, and Obama was the light worker. We lack evidence only until it's discovered.

The question of God may be unanswerable, or it may just be the last discovery. That's why I'm agnostic and not an atheist. I would prefer a God, but that's not enough, and neither is being limited by discovery's slog enough to reject him. I don't feel compelled to take a side, simply because others have.

hombre said...

Watch Shouting Thomas' and a few of the others' heads explode when reminded that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were Unitarians.

What does this have to do with not being Christian (in that era)?

Provide a cite.

Fen said...

The question of God may be unanswerable, or it may just be the last discovery.

What do you think would happen to our world if mankind had total and complete proof that there is a God?

Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...

What does this have to do with not being Christian (in that era)?

Provide a cite.


Oh, I see. Lawyer games.

Ask him instead what being a unitarian has to do with communism, vegetarianism, or other aspersions he casts (at 12:53 PM) on the religious sect of more than a few founding fathers.

Christy said...

Faith is for the congregation. R.A. Heinlein

Lem said...

"That is so arrogant," clucks Esbensen. "There can be a lot of arrogance attached to people who believe in God."

Esbensen story about the old lady that she could give communion to is fraught with chain of command issues.. and submissive Christians are "arrogant" ?

Give me a break.

Drew said...

Municipal judges in Wisconsin handle parking tickets, speeding tickets, underage drinking and other city ordinance cases. It is not exactly a place to toil for "social justice." What a joke!

You misunderestimate the ability of activist judges to turn anything into a social justice issue.

traditionalguy said...

Just to add two cents worth to the discussion here, faith is a response to hearing the preached, or reading the written, word of God.For that faith to become effective it must be accompanied by at least a moment of repentance of one's will to God's will. Then God can begin to share his secrets with you, and until then He doesn't reveal Himself to his enemies beyond the sign of the crucified dead body of Jesus The key belief is that Jesus was resurrected from the dead after three days buried, and no faith in that fact turns anyone attending or ministering in a Christian church into a deluded fool, as Crack says. So without faith a relationship with God is impossible, except for the eternally continuing covenant blessings on God's chosen people we call Jews.

bagoh20 said...

"How does one explain the near-universal appreciation for its beauty though?

Evolutionary neurobiology."


So what is the selective mechanism of appreciation of natural beauty that is so advantageous that it would be universal in a species? Even appreciation of something as important as sex is not as universal. Why beauty?

edutcher said...

Fascinating how the Lefties hate the Christians, but love Stalin and Mao.

bagoh20 said...

"What do you think would happen to our world if mankind had total and complete proof that there is a God?"

Some serious ass kissing, I suspect, but I also bet some evil S.O.B.s still would,'t give a shit.

Then again it would mostly depend on the nature of that God. Depending on that, many of us might not change a thing. That's my faith.

Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian Hancock said...

"Nihilists! Fu** me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos." -Walter Sobchak (Big Lebowski)

Nora said...

I don't have opinion on whether unbelievers can be leaders of religious community. It's up to community to decide. However, for people, who are prejudiced against religious people as Esbensen is, to be leaders of religious community is on the werge of mental sickness.

Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...

"Beauty" is in the eye of the beholder. But finding patterns in nature is a function of the human (and I suppose, most animals') mind(s). If it weren't, learning would not take place.

Most studies on physical "attractiveness" boil down to symmetry, which is a form of a pattern.

And of course, religion is an attempt to find a pattern in life from which we can learn about morals and the stories that define who we are.

Penny said...

Life as "template"...until we get it right?

A.W. said...

First, belief in your religion is a bfoq for ministers.

Second, someone this intolerant of the religious shouldn't be a minister.

Penny said...

Now if all of us would only select MY beautiful template...well, we could make short order of all this craziness!

Penny said...

Sarcasm doesn't help, Penny! Knock that off!

Mary Beth said...

She says to a dying woman to whom religion is important, "if there's a God".

Doesn't sound very nice to me.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@bagoh20:

So what is the selective mechanism of appreciation of natural beauty that is so advantageous

It might not have one in itself, but be a byproduct of something else that is advantageous; there are lots of features in organisms that don't necessarily have an advantage. A peacock's tail doesn't help a peacock fly, or get food, or escape predators, it's the opposite of advantageous--except that peahens, through some fluke, find it irresistible. Since natural selection doesn't plan and doesn't judge, we get useless things as side effects of useful things, and some times we get things that make little sense.

that it would be universal in a species? Even appreciation of something as important as sex is not as universal.

Are you sure that the appreciation of beauty is as widespread as the appreciation of sex?

There are other human universals--war, murder, rape, and until recently slavery. If we are going to down the is = ought route, shouldn't we consider negative human traits as well as positive? Otherwise we aren't seeking knowledge, but confirming prejudices.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@traditionalguy:

Well, that's fine for your flavor of Christianity, but we can find as many statements of the "essentials" of Christianity as we can find denominations of Christianity--which leaves us no wiser than before, since we don't know which is the right one. But we do know that they each say the others have got it wrong.

From the outside, is it not reasonable to conclude that, instead of ONE of them being right, perhaps NONE of them are?

"Everyone is an atheist, some just believe in one fewer God than others."

Big Gov't Trickling Down on You said...

Lol Gabe. Connect the dots. A peacock's tail is to attract mates. One of a gazillion examples. I don't know why Bag decided to go on about sex, which is a drive, but finding "beauty" - however one defines it - certainly seems connected to that. It just depends on whether the object of that "beauty" is a possible mate.

Penny said...

"Connect the dots."

And never forget....

"ALL points of intersection are valid."

Lem said...

Speaking of "people who do not believe in God".. there is a long "interview/piece" in the Guardian with our favorite atheist Christopher Hitchens: 'You have to choose your future regrets'

Lem said...

Doesn't sound very nice to me.

Indeed.

Penny said...

Lem, did you mean to say that you need to choose your future regrets, while the regretting is good?

dbp said...

Gabriel Hanna said...
@dbp:

It is easy to see how something like a snowflake can be formed by natural processes.

No, it's not. You are just used to thinking of them that way, and so it seems "easy" to you.


Well, I do understand crystal formation and so yes, the concepts are very simple (the overall final structure looks complicated, but each added subunit follows a simple rule or two). Certainly, it is obvious that appreciation for beauty is orders of magnitude more complex.

Penny said...

........
........
...........
...

That was Braile for, "We're all going to die".

hombre said...

Serious intellectual stuff from Big Trickle:

What does this have to do with not being a Unitarian?

Provide a cite.


Silly "lawyer games" from Hombre:

What does this have to do with not being Christian (in that era)?

Provide a cite.


Ah, that ol' secular progressive double standard.

Lem said...

No Penny.. that's the title of the piece I linked to..

Hitchens is talking about.. here I'll just quote from the article..

Hitchens genuinely believes radical or jihadist Islam to be an existential threat to civilisation. First because it is a pronounced enemy of free speech and social liberty and has succeeded in intimidating and silencing civilians across "an extraordinary number of countries in Europe" and the rest of the world. And second, he says, "because it has potential access to weapons of mass destruction." In the end, he argues, there are no pain-free options. You have to choose which future regret you're going to have.

Penny said...

Hitchens is writing about his death, but do we all need to read about it?

Yeah, I know he is a compelling writer, and that it's sad he will be leaving us. But his "template"?

Whoa, baby!

Even IMAGINING all the boomers writing about their personal death makes me want to give up reading.

traditionalguy said...

@ Gabriel...You have a good point about all the confusion from various sects and preferred teacher's versions of Christianity. That confusion can act either as a good reason to refuse the knowledge or a challenge to the gain knowledge. We can use the template of the Apostles Creed setting out the links in the chain of doctrine that defines Christianity, that has been possible since a Roman Bishop in Milan Italy writing a few years after Rome accepted Christianity set it down in 370 AD, supposedly as the tenets of the original 12 apostles.

Paddy O said...

Unitarians are a curious lot to me.

They're the ones who don't believe in God but still want the church, when much of society wants God but doesn't want the church.

They're the ones who like the religion part, but not the core theology. I'm basically the entire opposite of that. I dislike the ceremony but wholly believe in the testimony.

It seems to me that Unitarians are much more reflective of previous generations where church was culturally obligatory, so people could really feel a sentimentality about all the forms and robes and fancy buildings and titles.

Are these mostly filled with 45 or older? Do they have young families or youth groups? I'm curious if there's any young movement of Unitarians. Seems like nowadays if you don't believe in God you sleep in on Sundays and don't make a show about not believing God.

I also, by the way, believe there's a lot of ministers who don't really believe in God, though not a lot who would be pure atheists here in America.

Functional atheism is very common in my estimation, both among the clergy and the many denominations.

Paddy O said...

"if I asked on my deathbed if he thought my good deeds in life were enough to get me into Heaven?"

I'm not ordained, but I do have a seminary degree. And I'd say, without hedging, that it's in God's hands. He's the judge, we're just the witnesses, even the ones who have fancy robes. Also, Matthew 25:31ff is a compelling passage that is probably ignored too much. It's not the only passage on the subject, but it's definitely an important one that affects what I would say on someone's deathbed and if I would allow them the benefit of the displayed grace in sharing of communion.

Penny said...

" In the end, he argues,..."

Lem?

That quote up above? Yeah, I know I took it out of context, but I feel certain that Hitchens, himself, would surely agree if he were not at his OWN end...now that he really, really is.

pst314 said...

Ah, those Unitarians: So smug, so sanctimonious, so sure of their moral superiority in an "I'm more non-judgemental than you are" sort of way...and so non-judgemental that they cannot make the moral judgements that really count--even (or especially) when we're locked in an existential war.

pst314 said...

"I must say that most Unitarians I know are physically gentler, but that seems to be because they generally seem to be less athletic/physical and more cerebral."

More emotional, but not more cerebral. Their forte is feeling, not thinking.

Big Mike said...

@pst314, you sound as though you know a lot of Unitarians.

Lem said...

Actually the author claims Hitchens finds talk of his illness "small talk", somewhat boring.. if you can believe that.

To Hitch there are more important things going on, other than his own tumor.

Its a good article... if you like Hitchens I mean.. (at least that's my threshold)

pst314 said...

"@pst314, you sound as though you know a lot of Unitarians."

Yes.

The Crack Emcee said...

In the entire history of mankind there has never been a good except in your heads - and you're still waiting for him to appear?

It's no wonder the religious get scammed more than anyone else.

Fools for Christ, indeed.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some reading up to do on whatever nonsense those billions of fools in India "believe" (which, hilariously, is different from what y'all are so sure of) and how it influences that even-nuttier NewAge,...

Enjoy yourselves, counting how many angels should be able to fit on the head of a pin, you fruitcakes.

You're an embarrassment to the entire concept of being educated.

Lem said...

OT.. Please help..

Wikipedia has put a curse on my computer..

It only happens sometimes - but sometimes when I google something while Goggle is momentarily (a second) giving me its search results (during that second) Either Goggle, Windows or Wikipedia opens up a new tab with/to the Wikipedia home page.

Does this happens to anybody else?

Do I have a virus?

Yes.. I do have a Google toolbar

Revenant said...

"Because you want to help other people reach a state of spiritual and moral enlightenment and fulfillment."

What spiritual enlightenment if you don’t believe in the spiritual?

"Atheist" means "without gods", not "without spirituality". Buddhism, for example, has spirituality and religion without (depending on your terminology and/or the particular kind of Buddhism) gods.

traditionalguy said...

Crack...You are correct that we are still waiting eagerly for the resurrected Jesus to appear to claim His own. The first time he appeared was in fulfillment of the Hebrew prophets as a Messiah to rule the Kingdom of David beginning as a complete eternal sacrifice for all men. When He returns, He is coming in power to rule. Let's see what happens next year.

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