October 9, 2012

Protestants are no longer the majority in America... and sectlessness doubles.

It's the other Pew survey that just came out — the religion one.

Do you accept the word "sectlessness"? It's pretty much my coinage, but I'm going to promote it as a good, short headline word to refer to the absence of a religious affiliation. I originally had "atheism," but it's the wrong word, because many of the people who say they belong to no religious group also say they believe in God and even that they pray and have what the Washington Post refers to as "regular spiritual routines." I'm trying to picture those routines, and I don't know, I'm just seeing a blank. Hmm. Seeing blankness — that could be a spiritual routine. What do you think? Seems zen, doesn't it? Yeah, that's the ticket. I'm spiritual. Seriously, what do you think these regular-spiritual-routines folk are doing? Anything fancy with bread and wine or just gazing at nature and feeling aglow?

I'm reminded of my father, who when asked (by me) why he didn't go to church, said you can commune with God anywhere, for example, on the golf course. He liked to golf. Sorry, am I being too puritanical? Either participate in some official group ritual or lay off the claims of worship? No, I don't really think that. I'm just skeptical. Hell, I'm skeptical about whether the people who go to church (or other place of worship) really believe what the ritual is supposed to demonstrate. I think many people are there to honor the tradition they feel part of or to keep in touch with a social circle or to facilitate the efforts at community organizing. Maybe the sectless souls with spiritual routines are more sincerely religious.

Ah, well. It's American etiquette to accept whatever people say about their religion and move on to more easily debatable topics. Within that scheme, I'm being rude.

Back to the Pew survey: 79% of Americans named "an established faith group" that they belong to. The 21% — atheists, agnostics, and "nothing in particular" — skew strongly toward the Democratic Party.
This group is the Democrats' "largest... faith constituency" — at 24%. Or so the WaPo says, but that's only if you split Protestants into groups like "black Protestants" (16%) and "white mainline Protestants" (14%), which, added together, is 30%. Note that "white evangelicals" — also Protestants — are viewed as a separate "faith constituency," and these folks skew Republican. 34% of Republicans are white evangelicals.
The study presents a stark map of how political and religious polarization have merged in recent decades. Congregations used to be a blend of political affiliations, but that’s generally not the case anymore. Sociologists have shown that Americans are more likely to pick their place of worship by their politics, not vice versa.
How awful! What are you supposed to do when your family's traditional religious group is one that channels politics you don't like? Can you stand to attend services and sit through lectures (sermons) about politics blended with religion? You're supposed to change your religion to accord with your political ideology? That should lead many sincerely religious persons to stay away... and insincere politicos to gravitate toward the like-minded crowd.

***

I did mean to allude above to our President's religion. For context, let me repeat my own summary of  Chapter 14 of Obama's "Dreams from My Father":
While working as a community organizer, Obama was told that it would "help [his] mission if [he] had a church home" and that Jeremiah Wright "might be worth talking to" because "his message seemed to appeal to young people like [him]." Obama wrote that "not all of what these people [who went to Trinity] sought was strictly religious... it wasn't just Jesus they were coming home to." He was told that "if you joined the church you could help us start a community program," and he didn't want to "confess that [he] could no longer distinguish between faith and mere folly." He was, he writes, "a reluctant skeptic." Thereafter, he attends a church service and hears Wright give a sermon titled "The Audacity of Hope" (which would, of course, be the title of Obama's second book). He describes how moved he was by the service, but what moves him is the others around him as they respond to a sermon about black culture and history. He never says he felt the presence of God or accepted Jesus as his savior or anything that suggests he let go of his skepticism. Obama's own book makes him look like an agnostic (or an atheist). He respects religion because he responds to the people who believe, and he seems oriented toward leveraging the religious beliefs of the people for worldly, political ends.

182 comments:

ndspinelli said...

There are no Protestants on the Supreme Court, it was not long ago all Protestants.

n said...

This cracks me up. I walked El Camino de Santiago de Compostela this summer. Everyone made a big, specific deal about doing the pilgrimage for NOT RELIGIOUS reasons, rather for SPIRITUAL ones. The spiritual talk to me was a lot of goobledy gook, consisting of mostly "I" statements. When it came time to apply for the Compostela, everyone ticks off the "religious" box, so that they can get the authentic, historical Latin compostela, rather than the one in Spanish, added recently for people doing it for reasons other than religious.

Rusty said...

Rituals can be comforting.

Fore myself I find preparing for duck season particularly comforting.
I am, at the same time communing with the maker of the universe and shooting tasty ducks.

It's a winwin from a spiritual point of view.

gerry said...

When you'll believe anything, you end up with nothing.

Erika said...

Sociologists have shown that Americans are more likely to pick their place of worship by their politics, not vice versa.

Liberal Protestants, maybe. I know a lot of them who like the general, glowy idea of a loving God but are not willing to examine their postmodern liberal American ideas about hot-button social issues. So they wind up in places like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, my old denomination, which is all rah-rah about gay politics, abortion rights, "social justice," the environment: the usual progressive laundry list.

clint said...

Re: "regular spiritual routines"

A few traditional classics, just from a Christian perspective (I'd assume most faiths have similar rituals that don't require the gathering of a congregation):

- "Saying your prayers" at bedtime -- asking God to look out for the important people in your life, thinking of the people you know with special needs, asking for any help you might need in the next few days or weeks. Viewing this from the outside, I'd imagine that letting go of your worries (letting God handle them for a few hours) probably makes it easier to fall asleep.

- Saying grace at family meal time. Always a good opportunity to be grateful for our many blessings.

- Bible study -- setting aside a time daily to read the Bible.

Those are just off the top of my head.

Icepick said...

duck season

RABBIT season!

Freeman Hunt said...

I'm glad I go to a church that doesn't talk politics except to pray for political leaders and "Thy will be done" on elections.

Years ago we belonged to a church that talked more politics than religion; at home we referred to the pastor as Reverend Mao. On Easter he preached that the resurrection didn't matter. We never went back. I think he became a pastor as a vehicle for his politics.

When I visited my father's church a few years ago, the pastor took a moment to denounce Glenn Beck. While he was denouncing Beck, a new associate pastor started clapping. It was weird.

bearing said...

"I'm trying to picture those routines, and I don't know, I'm just seeing a blank."

Maybe they're saying grace before meals. I get the impression that's pretty common, especially if they live with someone who is religious.

"How awful! What are you supposed to do when your family's traditional religious group is one that channels politics you don't like? Can you stand to attend services and sit through lectures (sermons) about politics blended with religion?"

Speaking as a Catholic, it's my weary observation that if you live in a sufficiently well-populated area, you can find a parish that will preach whatever politics you want. It's a matter of emphasis.

Erika said...

(P.S. George Tiller was a member in good standing at an ELCA church. Not that I advocate throwing people out of churches or anything--I certainly do not--but it says something about a denomination's atmosphere when an apparently unrepentant late-term abortionist feels comfortable there.)

John said...

Looking around we can see dazzling complexity manifest in life. Yet, people presume the deepest mysteries in life can be grasped as a mental concept. In some respects one who professes to be an atheist may be further along in understanding life and consciousness merely by the simple fact that the layers of simplistic interpretation offered by religionists have been discarded. It is difficult to see the reality of life when viewed thru the bias of cloudy spectacles offered up by another. Hubris knows no bounds and cults-of-personality surround us. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Curious George said...

Obama believes in God like Harold Hill believed in marching bands.

Erik Robert Nelson said...

" I think many people are there to honor the tradition they feel part of or to keep in touch with a social circle or to facilitate the efforts at community organizing. "

I think this is true of many. It's not that they don't believe, though, or aren't sincere--but they are equally committed to the social aspects as the spiritual. Ask many Methodists about Arminianism, and you'll see my point--they're committed Christians, but not necessarily tuned into the specific theological aspects of their sects. Others aren't committed much at all beyond the social. It's very much a mix, and it's not always easy to see from outside the community who is who in any given church.

I think the social aspects are more pronounced in liberal denominations, including Episcopal and Presbyterian denominations, where politicization has become the norm. It's not unheard of in Evangelical circles, but far less prevalent--probably because many people who attend those churches do so by conscious choice (ie., conversion) rather than it being passed on generation to generation.

Liberal protestant denominations have long been the home of progressives who want their politics baptized by something that gives them moral authority. You don't see that in Evangelical churches, whose politics are usually more organic and (strangely enough) more diverse than you'd see in liberal denominations.

AJ Lynch said...

The PEW is run by bigtime libruls so we should read all of their polls with some skepticism.

traditionalguy said...

Protestants call themselves "Reformed" because they once went toe to toe with the Pope and his Kings, Jesuit armies and the aristocracies that ruled using a state church in Europe. It became a fight to the death for over 100 years.

Many blamed the printing press for the power of scriptures illegally translated out of Latin.I blame the fighting doctrines of a French lawyer name Calvin and the power of the name of Jesus spoken in faith.

That experience tended to create awareness about faith issues. Many of the ones driven out by the Kings and aristocrat's ruled Churches settled these 13 colonies. Here they found a better way to end those religious fights was by establishing a new tradition of tolerance of all faiths... except maybe fundamentalist Mormons.

A Sect is a religious group which still wants to fight over a faith issue. It is the opposite of a tradition of tolerance that brings peace.

My own faith is the PCUSA group attitude that honors scriptures but also says the rule of love is to live and let live.

Erika said...

(And yes, there was a great deal of preaching on political issues, including a direct insult toward Rick Perry's day of prayer in that stadium a year or two back, from the ELCA presiding bishop, of all people. All part of the constellation of reasons why we left. The liberal Protestant denominations thought they'd attract hip new progressive followers who were just dying to come hear the Gospel by tacking leftward, and they have failed to materialize while those who have traditional views on scriptural/other issues have left in droves. It's a large part of the explanation of how mainline Protestant churches are in a death spiral while nondenominational evangelical/neo-Calvinist churches are exploding.)

Pogo said...

Try "areligious", but not "irreligious."

Peter said...

I'm surprised there's no link to buy Ross Douthout's book, "Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics."

Shouting Thomas said...

I visited a Catholic Church yesterday for the dual purposes of attending a funeral and checking it out as a possible employer. I'm looking for a church organist/choir director job.

Beautiful church with a great pipe organ. Can't wait to get my hands on that.

The priest celebrating mass astounded me by warning the attendees that they should not take communion unless they had recently gone to confession and received absolution.

Priests don't do this much any more for fear of alienating the congregation. I found this priest's approach refreshingly honest, but I wonder what effect that honesty has on attendance.

Jane said...

The "ritual" of fellowship demonstrates a love for God by attempting to obey the fourth commandment: "Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy."

"If you love me, keep my commandments." -Jesus

The church body and the fellowship are considered critical in both Testaments both to show love for God and for mutual encouragement.

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another."

chickelit said...

Some people are clueless about what others do, even within their own family. Rebecca Watson (Skeptichick) for example, purports to know a fair amount about science yet according to her, her dad worked for Dupont, made chemicals and helped destroy the planet: link.

Hippy Dippy

Erika said...

I wonder what effect that honesty has on attendance.

As has been noted elsewhere, most places have lots of Catholic churches from which to choose. A lot of people are tired of mush and want meat. Strict parishes have their own fans too.

Shouting Thomas said...

When it comes to priests talking politics, Althouse, the only ones I know who do that are the lefty Jesuits.

The traditional priests don't concern themselves with that at all. I attend three different parishes depending on whether I am in the city or in Woodstock or whether I have music duties to perform.

Only the priest in Woodstock, who is really an old hippie, delves into politics. I like Father George. He tries to soft peddle it, but he can't help himself.

AllenS said...

I want everyone to grab their local phone book, go to the yellow pages and check out the listings under Churches.

Sorun said...

My Lutheran pastor told me when I was a teen that the peace symbol on my jacket was an inverted, broken cross. It was anti-Jesus. Because of bullshit like that, and some of the slimy people who attended our church, I realized that church existed for people, not God.

ndspinelli said...

Can a pedophile priest give absolution?

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

It's hard to create sexless neologisms. Would an editor suggest 'unaffiliated' over 'sectless'? I read that the Nazi party favored response on the question of religion on their form was 'god believing' whatever that translates from in German. The current Pope got out of an infantry track by announcing he was going to be a priest. As it turned out having that vocation led to a much higher survival rate in his class.

Shouting Thomas said...

To answer your question about why people would go to church, Althouse... I can only answer for myself.

My participation in the Catholic Church is a practice. Intellectuals seem to have no problem understanding this when they talk about Buddhism, but they seem brain locked and unable to consider the same about Catholicism. Confession is a penetrating method for building one's consciousness.

I was recruited to be a Church musician when I was very young (probably younger than 10... I can't remember). Latin was the first foreign language I learned. Priests were my first intellectual tutors. They were always willing to answer my most penetration questions.

After a long hiatus, I am returning to work as a church musician. The Church sponsored my work for years when I was a young man.

As I have stated repeatedly, the source of American popular music is church hymns and gospel. Sometimes, Althouse, I think that the narrowness of your musical vision can be explained by your lack of connection to this.

This is one area where you don't seem to listen to Dylan. He is a believer, and he's well aware of the tradition and reach of church hymns and gospel.

John Lynch said...

Fewer believers in superstitious rubbish means that things are going to get better.

Right?

rhhardin said...

We had been sectlessnessless.

TMink said...

"Either participate in some official group ritual or lay off the claims of worship?"

That does seem to assume that everyone who does go to church is their to worship. A kind assumption, but likely kinder than reality.

I go to church because it is good for me, I enjoy it. I can worship God in a tunnel, but worshiping with borthers and sisters is different and better for me.

Trey

rhhardin said...

A sectless is a female sectl.

carrie said...

I think atheism is the correct word. I have kids who are 19 and 22. My kids went to a Catholic grade/middle school, so they are very interested in religious beliefs of their peers when they started attending a public high school. It is my observation that the parents of my kids' friends who didn't go to Catholic schools believe in God and consider themselves to be religious but that they didn't want to get up on Sunday to go to church so their kids never went to church and now these parents are surprised to learn that they have raised atheists--my brother is one of these people. I think that in 10 years the percentage of atheists will be 40% just because more and more kids who weren't raised in the church (and I mean any church) will be adults and counted in the surveys. Unfortunately, I think that the increase in the number of atheists is an inadvertant trend resulting from laziness and not from the informed rejection of religious values. I think that many of my kids' friends would like to be religious and that that may come back to haunt us.

TMink said...

Freeman wrote: "On Easter he preached that the resurrection didn't matter."

Ouch. I do not envy his meeting with the resurrected Christ! Same thing happened to me and my family, we found a church that loved Jesus too.

Trey

Inga said...
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Scott said...

As an Episcopalian, I believe in safe sects.

But as ecumenicalists, we don't necessarily believe there is any virtue in same sect marriage.

hygate said...

Of course church exists for people, God doesn't need our worship, we need to worship him. That doesn't mean we shouldn't attend. If there are people who you don't agree with or consider "slimey" perhaps you should find another church more to your liking or work to change the church you are in. Christian doctrine is clear, we are all sinners. Entering a church building isn't going to change that. A huge chunk of Paul's letters deal with problems involving the churches he founded, problems caused by people. Any time you get a group of people together for any purpose, there are going to be problems.

Inga said...

Wasn't it Glenn Beck that denounced " Socia Justce" churches? I recall him saying if you hear the words "social justice" in your church, "run, run away!" so this Morman political TV and radio show host, attempts to dictate to some people what religion is legitamate in his opinion. I remember him saying he didn't know if Obama was a Christian, because he couldn't relate to Obama's type of Christianity.

My parents, Evangelical Fundamentalists believed Catholics were idol worshipers, Lutherans and other Protestants would not be eligable for heaven because they weren't "saved", even though tradionally they and their fellow Germans were Reformed or Lutheran since the time of Luther. They believed Mormonism was a cult. They believed that it was the duty of a "Born Again Christian" to "witness" to anyone, everyone, poor unsuspecting neighbors, teachers, doctors and strangers in the grocery store, which was quite embarrassing for their children. This was the Assemblies of God, Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Bakker's denomination. This was the denomination that Sarah Palin grew up in.

I sometimes am sad or even angry that being brought up in this sect ruined me for any organized religion. I can attribute my liberal outlook on life as a direct consequence of my experiences in this religion. Not everything about my religious upbringing was traumatic though and I do fallback onto some of my childhood prayers now and again in times of personal turmoil. Holidays were one of he few times in that church that felt " normal" and comforting. Sad.

Simon said...

Americans don't like to be told what to do, so it's no surprise that they would gravitate toward ecclesial groups that have minimal or non-existent doctrine and place all the emphasis on a "personal relationship." The idea of a personal, vertical relationship directly with God—in which, at least implicitly, God plays by your ground rules—is a good fit for the individualist tenor of the times. (Alas, the excreable fiction "spiritual but not religious" is an even better fit.)

Americans don't like wasting their time, either, and so it's no surprise that what we used to be able to call "liberal protestantism" (these days one hesitates to use that term for fear that it will be understood in a political sense) is dying on its knees; I read recently that membership of "mainline" protestant churches, most of which are bastions of liberal protestantism, has dropped forty percent in fifty years. And to the extent that the Church was hijacked after Vatican II by a crowd determined to replicate those errors, it's no surprise that she's been seriously hurt and has been slowly recovering only in the last decade or two. People have figured out that if they want to do social justice, you can just do social justice. You don't need religious pretext.

Americans are also particularly mistrusting of institutions right now; the British got there years back, but Americans don't trust institutions right now, and supposedly "institutional" churches are caught up in that. That's why the priest abuse scandal, which one might have thought a distressing but not especially important thing, hit so hard: Folks looking for an excuse to bring their public persona into line with their interior distrust of an institution now had an excuse. Hence the otherwise-laughable line that "the bishops have sacrificed their authority"—it's premium-grade bullshit if you take it at face-value, but if you understand it as pretext, it makes perfect sense.

So all of that can be seen as a negative, but I do see a lot of positives. The neat thing about "community churches," the flipside of their lack of focus on doctrine, is that they become a giant funnel on the front-end of Lewis' "Mere Christianity." You don't need to make a lot of commitments, you just need to show up. They'll nurture your faith and get you to the point where you're showing up with a Bible and you're asking questions. All of this is an unqualified good. It's a great place to start. It's not a bad place to sojourn. And that's where Catholics should be doing creative engagement—getting people to think through the implications of faith. A Christian has to have a theory of authority, even if it's only subconscious, and once someone is secure in their faith, you can start showing them the problems with the protestant theory of authority and start nudging them toward the Church. And at the same time, we are slowly reclaiming the Church from those who tried to destroy her suring the sixties and seventies; there's miles to go, but she's in much better shape than she was thirty years ago. (Consider the appointment of Sal +Cordileone as Archbishop of San Francisco, for example.)

So religion isn't in a great place in America today, but I am optimistic for the future.

Dr Weevil said...

'Sectless'? No, 'asectual'. Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

Shouting Thomas said...

Perhaps, Inga, you might consider that your parents were poor teachers who misrepresented the evangelical theology.

My sister and brother are evangelicals. My sister is a retired professor of nursing. My brother-in-law is a retired OB/GYN.

They don't believe any of the tenets you've suggested. They are extremely charitable and open people. In their retirement they spend most of their time helping others and in missionary work in some of the poorest parts of the world.

Any theology, no matter how enlightened, can be taught badly.

Marshal said...

I originally had "atheism," but it's the wrong word, because many of the people who say they belong to no religious group also say they believe in God and even that they pray and have what the Washington Post refers to as "regular spiritual routines."

Isn't this what post-
Christian means? From a Christian cultural heredity, no longer ascribing to it, without conversion to another mainstream religion.

Inga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Renee said...

Due to demographics, there are parishes (Catholic) that are closing due to lack of attendance. Baby Boomer parishioners demand that the Church must be more like atheists, if they want to fill the pews. If older parishioners do not believe in the Church's teachings or even take them seriously, why as a young individual be Catholic?

I dislike being called a conservative, for merely taking the Church's teachings seriously without dismissing it as out of date.

If the "Piss Christ" was on the ballot and had (D) next to its name, there would be plenty of Catholics that would vote for it over leaving it blank.

They're still Catholic (as in their baptism), but the abuse they take on their own Church is painful. The complain that Vatican II didn't do enough, but when I explain I'm a product of Vatican II they get upset.

hygate said...

Of course church exists for people, God doesn't need our worship, we need to worship him. That doesn't mean we shouldn't attend. If there are people who you don't agree with or consider "slimey" perhaps you should find another church more to your liking or work to change the church you are in. Christian doctrine is clear, we are all sinners. Entering a church building isn't going to change that. A huge chunk of Paul's letters deal with problems involving the churches he founded, problems caused by people. Any time you get a group of people together for any purpose, there are going to be problems.

Robert Cook said...

There's already a word that means "sectless."

Nondenominational.

Inga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Inga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Inga said...

No Shouting Thomas, my father was a church elder and both my father and mother were quite typical of that sect and it's membership, back in those days. The Assemblies of God church has mellowed considerably over the years, but still believes the basic tenets of this sect. Women are now allowed to cut their hair, wear slacks, wear makeup, some movies and popular music is allowed, dancing is still prohibited last I heard. Funny that Bristol Palin danced with the stars.

Simon said...

Inga said...
"Wasn't it Glenn Beck that denounced 'Socia Justice' churches? I recall him saying if you hear the words 'social justice' in your church, 'run, run away!' so this Morman political TV and radio show host, attempts to dictate to some people what religion is legitamate in his opinion. "

Yes it was, and what treasure he is storing up for himself at the last judgment (Mt 25:31-33, 41-46). There's a book-length treatment on this in the works, so I won't say too much for today, but two points should be made. First, social justice is not the mission of the church; cf. my post here or the remarks of the new CDF prefect here. Second, we are called to do "social justice." Get over it. The Church's social doctrine isn't really much more than an attempt to fit the corporal works of mercy with a new set of tires appropriate to the season of industrialized economies; the problem is that the left has hijacked it. For entirely commendable reasons, the left responded to Rerum novarum—or rather, what they thought it said—with particular enthusiasm, and unsurprisingly, the solutions that they proposed were consistent with their general views on government and economics. In essence, social doctrine became another justification for the same raft of policies that they would otherwise have pushed. The challenge today is to explain that the particular policy responses advanced by particular parties—social doctrine calls them "technical solutions"—are not coterminous with social doctrine itself, and that the responses that have been advanced by twentieth-century progressives are no good. It's no good because of a symmetry, and it's no good because of an asymmetry. The symmetry is that all the problems with the progressive approach are just as true whether that approach is motivated by secular concerns or religious. And the asymmetry is that the problems with the progressive approach are even more acute from a social justice perspective, because by hastening the heat death of the economy, they actually hurt and expand the ranks of the poor, seen over the long term. Social justice cannot mean serving today's poor from the plates of their children and grandchildren.

Mr Beck, I'm afraid, has bought into the progressive propaganda hook, line, and sinker. They want you to think that social justice means the particular policy responses that they have proposed as a means to implement social justice. They are wrong. And so is Mr. Beck.

ricpic said...

Regular spiritual routines
Are so much better than organized religion;
Like everything can hang out, man,
No boundaries, no restriction.

Kit said...

Thank you for your honesty. My own daily practice involves just simple prayer and meditation. In general, it’s “Please” in the morning (“make me an instrument of Thy peace), and “Thank you” with reflection, at night. I am a member of a congregation and only attend semi-regularly. My choice of where to join was strongly influenced in reaction to my confusing religious experience as a child (it was never very well explained as to why we were going, as it did seem that we were going for social reasons, which didn’t sit well with me).

My primary purpose for attending now, again, is for the prayer and meditation. Next in importance, for me being a member is the community service, and lastly, is the social aspect. All-in-all, it quiets my mind, restores my sanity and helps me with my days. Why others do what they do, in this arena – or not, I try not to judge. In whatever they’re doing, I hope they find comfort.

hygate said...

Apparently Sarah Palin decided she did not agree with the doctrines of the church she grew up in, so she found another denomination to join. By the way I find the idea of a doctrine no dancing or music to be extremely unbiblical. Hello, Saul (the old testament one) meets a group of prophets and joins them and plays a harp. David dances in front of the Ark of the Covenant when it is brought into Jerusalem. Numerous Psalms mention making joyful noises, music. And of course many Psalms were composed to be performed with musical accompaniment.

Robert Cook said...

I am an atheist, but I can certainly see the value for people in having a religious faith, as it may sometimes be the only available solace in trying times.

Even in non-trying times, those who have religious faith can benefit from attending church, as it provides a basis for those of like mind to associate together and form bonds. This, after all, is a fundamental drive of human beings, who are, after all, pack animals. Before television and then computers provided us with endless diversion at home, it was common for people to join together in various types of associational groups: churches, political clubs, bridge clubs, sewing circles, book clubs, hobbyist groups of all types, fraternal organizations such as the Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, Moose Lodges, (and equivalent women's groups), and so on.

Although the internet gives virtual community, it furthers our loss of physical connections with our immediate communities.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

NDSpinelli:
The validity of the Sacrament is not contingent upon the sanctity of the celebrant.

Thank God.

Shouting Thomas said...

As I re-read my own words, I am stunned by the realization that I received remarkably effective parenting and religious indoctrination when I was a child.

At one time in my life, I only focused on what I thought were the shortcomings in my parenting and religious training.

My parents (and particularly my father) did a great job. My religious teachers also performed splendidly.

I am grateful for these gifts. I'll try to keep in mind that everybody is not so fortunate.

Inga said...

Hygate, music was allowed, but only hymns and religious music. Later when the sect modernized, some Christian rock music was introduced to church services, with the advent of the Jesus Freaks, who were born again ex drug addicts. I guess it was a positive thing to trade An addiction for drugs, for an addiction to God.

Bryan C said...

Atheism is a positive assertion that no God exists, a religious belief system which does not include a deity (there are others). Agnosticism indicates ambivalence, uncertainty, or disinterest. There are two different concepts here, and two perfectly good words to express them. There's no need to mix them together.

hygate said...

Kit, what was it about the social aspect of church that disturbed you? Obviously, that shouldn't be the only reason you attend church, but the Bible encourages believers to come together in social settings to encourage each other.

My theory about why some people prefer solitary to communal religious practice is that they are mystics who are trying to achieve a direct experience of God and don't find the church they attend is facilitating that experience.

YoungHegelian said...

@ndspinelli,

Can a pedophile priest give absolution?

Yes, much like a cop on the take can give you a legally binding speeding ticket.

The RCC believes that, as long as the recipient of the sacrament acts in good conscience, the personal failings of the priest do not affect the efficacy of the sacrament. The priest acts not through his own grace, but ex officio through the Church. It is summed up in the phraseEcclesia supplet "the Church supplies".

For am explanation of how the RCC developed this theology, read the article on Donatism from wikipedia.

hygate said...

Inga, thanks for the info. I am a former atheist who converted to Christianity as an adult so am not very familiar with all of the Christian denominations. Of course the flip side of that is that as a former atheist I am way more familiar with what is in the Bible than a scarily large number of my fellow Christians.

Simon said...

Renee said...
They're still Catholic (as in their baptism), but the abuse they take on their own Church is painful. The complain that Vatican II didn't do enough, but when I explain I'm a product of Vatican II they get upset.

The problem is that they don't know anything about Vatican II, and in many cases they don't know much about Catholicism either. On the former, take a gander at this: "I thought of Vatican II not as a finished product, but as a 'seed' that would grow and flower and flourish, bringing new life with each decade thereafter. Soon, I thought, we would have a married clergy and not long after that, women would be ordained. The laity would truly run parishes in democratic forms and would be consulted widely by bishops. Theologians would be free to publish and speak and dialogue in a church that valued and welcomed new ideas and new insights." These people demonstrably have no clue whatsoever what Vatican II said. None at all. They never read it, and wouldn’t quite understand why they would be asked to (wasn’t it all about the spirit, they’ll say?). If you ask them to name five things that the council did, I can practically guarantee you that the things they’ll name (most of them about the liturgy) have nothing to do with the council.

Simon said...

hygate said...
I find the idea of a doctrine no dancing or music to be extremely unbiblical. Hello, Saul (the old testament one) meets a group of prophets and joins them and plays a harp. David dances in front of the Ark of the Covenant when it is brought into Jerusalem. Numerous Psalms mention making joyful noises, music. And of course many Psalms were composed to be performed with musical accompaniment.

Well, if one’s a supersessionist, I suppose that it makes some sense, because the New Testament says nothing about it. (Whether supersessionist theology makes sense, and whether it is consistently-applied by adherents, are separate questions.) I also assume that you’re not talking about the Mass, where there of course should not be dancing, and where music should be distinctly sober.

Robert Cook said...

"Atheism is a positive assertion that no God exists, a religious belief system which does not include a deity (there are others)."

No.

This reflects the thinking of someone who cannot imagine someone not having a religious belief system of some kind, even if that "religious belief" holds the non-existence of God as its central tenet.

This common assertion is as silly as stating that people who declare they do not believe in ghosts, goblins and elves hold a religious belief that there are no ghosts, goblins or elves.



Simon said...

Robert Cook said...
I am an atheist, but I can certainly see the value for people in having a religious faith, as it may sometimes be the only available solace in trying times.

I am a Roman Catholic, but I can certainly see the value for people in pretending that there is no God, as it’s a terrific excuse to do whatever you want without being troubled by consequences. It’s not hard to see why men—and particularly, if not exclusively, men—invented atheism.

YoungHegelian said...
Can a pedophile priest give absolution? Yes, much like a cop on the take can give you a legally binding speeding ticket.

That is a brilliant metaphor. I shall appropriate that, if I may.

The RCC believes that, as long as the recipient of the sacrament acts in good conscience, the personal failings of the priest do not affect the efficacy of the sacrament. The priest acts not through his own grace, but ex officio through the Church.

You're getting at the right thing, but that's the wrong latin term of art. In sacramental matters, the priest (in the generic sense that includes both bishops and presbyters) acts in persona Christi; it is ultimately an act of Christ himself, working through the priest. Ontologically-speaking, It is not Father Smith who confects the Eucharist, but Christ acting through Fr. Smith; it is not Fr. Jones who forgives sins in the confessional, but Christ acting through Fr. Jones. And so the sacrament is efficacious (the technical term goes) ex opere operato: By virtue of what the priest does, not by any merit of the priest himself. So long as the human instrument of the sacrament supplies the correct matter, form, and intent, the sacrament is validly-given (whether it is validly-received is a whole other question).

jimbino said...

Brian C is of course wrong when he asserts that "atheism is a positive assertion that no god exists."

No, that would be "anti-theism."

Amoral is not immoral.
Aseptic is not antiseptic.

A person who does not believe in god need not believe in something else in order to be an atheist; indeed, a scientist does not believe in belief to start with, but relies on evidence. Belief per se is anathema to the skeptical and agnostic scientist, and for that reason the vast majority of scientists and mathematicians are atheists.

The largest group of atheists are children, who are born with no belief in god and most of whom only end up as believers after years of gummint-supported brainwashing by superstitious believers.

The Pew survey stats cited cover only adults, presumably excluding Amerikans under 18 years of age, including all those infant atheists with mutilated peckers. It is thus a serious error for Ann to state that:

"Back to the Pew survey: 79% of Americans named 'an established faith group' that they belong to. The 21% — atheists, agnostics, and 'nothing in particular' — skew strongly toward the Democratic Party."

hygate said...

Simon, I had to look up supersessionism. Even if you did hold that belief, I don't see why it would lead to the belief that music and dancing are bad (at least outside of church.) My understanding of the reasoning behind the "no dancing or secular music allowed" doctrine of some churches is that it can lead to sinful thoughts and deeds. Well so can a lot of things. I joined a Lutheran church in the south for a lot of reasons, one of which was that I was not going to join a church that tries to sell you on the prospect that Jesus changed water into grape juice. Belief in God is supposed to make you joyful, not dour. Believers who are habitually dour should, I think, consider just what it is they belief about God.

As a Lutheran, we don't call it mass. But yes communion is conducted with requisite solemnity.

Paddy O said...

"I think many people are there to honor the tradition they feel part of or to keep in touch with a social circle or to facilitate the efforts at community organizing."

That's definitely true of your generation and older. Increasingly not as true, which is why these sorts of polls really don't indicate a change in actual levels of belief (for the most part) but actual coherence of belief and practice.

That's why a lot of mainline denominations are losing members, the cultural attendees are getting older and younger generations don't feel a need to belong to a religious organization.

Christendom is ending, if not already dead.

Indeed, even younger folks on the Christian Left that I know are genuinely committed to Christ and believe in the resurrection and such. It's not a cultural thing for the sake of pursuing social causes, it's a Jesus think that insists on pursuing social causes. They're not, though, involved in mainline or Evangelical churches, for the most part.

Younger generations just don't need to put on a show, so confess a faith generally when it's actually a felt confession. Outside of the South, there's really no social benefit to church attendance.

Well, that's not entirely true. Kids really do change people's attendance habits.

The trend is for religious conversion to peak in the teen years, church attendance to fall off in college, and non-attendance to peak in post college. Having kids is one of the number one factors in bringing people back into the the church. Folks who don't care about the structures for themselves do want to have their kids have religious and spiritual influences.

John Bragg said...

I would suggest the category "non-churchgoers."

I think sectlessness is a poor term, most obviously because it sounds like sexlessness.

Second, it is a poor term because it is too specific. It tries too hard to bind together a category which doesn't have much in common. It ranges from vague deists to hard and soft agnostics, to religion-friendly atheists to "God Is Not Great" atheists and back again to "spiritual-but-not-religious" dabbling dilletantes.

Freeman Hunt said...

Most people, religious or otherwise, have no inkling of the philosophical foundations of Christianity. Most don't even have any idea what the Christian faith entails.

Lot of parents, priests, and pastors really checked out on passing on the deposit of faith.

Ann Althouse said...

"As I have stated repeatedly, the source of American popular music is church hymns and gospel. Sometimes, Althouse, I think that the narrowness of your musical vision can be explained by your lack of connection to this."

What about the narrowness of your view of me? Why are you stating facts about me that you are assuming are true but in fact are not. I don't write music criticism or theory. And I don't write the details of my history of churchgoing. Don't presume things about me. Lack of connection... consider your lack of connection to the details of my life story.

Paddy O said...

"This common assertion is as silly as stating that people who declare they do not believe in ghosts, goblins and elves hold a religious belief that there are no ghosts, goblins or elves."

Except people who do not believe in ghosts, goblins and elves do not spend a lot of time telling people they do not believe in ghosts, goblins and elves. They don't make it a point that everyone around them knows their stance on ghosts, goblins and elves and don't tend to get into intellectual discussions about the non-existence of ghosts, goblins and elves.

Agnostics don't care. They are happy not having to think about it.

Freeman Hunt said...

"I think many people are there to honor the tradition they feel part of or to keep in touch with a social circle or to facilitate the efforts at community organizing."

That's definitely true of your generation and older. Increasingly not as true, which is why these sorts of polls really don't indicate a change in actual levels of belief (for the most part) but actual coherence of belief and practice.


I think Paddy O. has this right.

Robert Cook said...

"I am a Roman Catholic, but I can certainly see the value for people in pretending that there is no God, as it’s a terrific excuse to do whatever you want without being troubled by consequences. It’s not hard to see why men—and particularly, if not exclusively, men—invented atheism."

You misunderstand atheism.

It is not an "invention," but merely the rejection of belief in that which has not and cannot be demonstrated to exist.

(Assuming it were an invention, what information do you have that indicates it was "invented" by men?)

Also, being an atheist is not an excuse to do whatever one wishes without one's conscience being troubled by the consequences.

"Morals," so-called, or "ethics," is largely inborn in us, as even animals, particularly among our closest relatives, the primates--but not exclusive to them--have demonstrated behaviors that we recognize as aspects of ethical behavior systems. These are really aspects of pack animals: the cooperative behaviors that are necessary or tend to improve the survival of the pack--and thus the individual within the pack--and permit the survival of the species through successful and continuous creation of new and succeeding generations.

One does not need to have a belief in God or assume proscriptions against theft or murder or adultery issue from him to recognize that such behaviors destroy the trust between individuals in a community, and thus corrode the cohesion of the community, which puts the life and survival of the community and all those within it at peril.

As animals with a higher level of abstract thinking than other animals on the planet, we elaborate on these inborn behaviors with post-hoc rationales.

Shouting Thomas said...

You might try reading Dostoevsky, Cookie.

He answered your arguments over 100 years ago.

hygate said...

Jimbino, I call shenanigans. Anti-theism is "against the belief in God". Atheism is the assertion that their is no God as can be determined by consulting any English dictionary.

It is thus possible that you could be anti-theist and believe that there is a God. You just don't want other people to believe it as well.

As for the assertion that scientists "do not belief in believe." Nonsense. They belief a great deal of things that are fundamental to their world view that cannot be proven logically but are accepted as axioms. For instance, they belief that the universe will act in a consistent manner and that therefore, experiments conducted today will yield the same results tomorrow. The ones that are atheists believe that their is no supernatural element to the universe. That is, they are materialists. They make assumptions about the nature of the universe that cannot be proven one way or another. You cannot exist in the universe without doing so.

jimbino said...

"Except people who do not believe in ghosts, goblins and elves do not spend a lot of time telling people they do not believe in ghosts, goblins and elves. They don't make it a point that everyone around them knows their stance on ghosts, goblins and elves and don't tend to get into intellectual discussions about the non-existence of ghosts, goblins and elves."

No, Paddy O, we atheists do not spend a lot of time talking about the non-existence of god or any other superstitions. We spend most of our time trying to live full intellectual lives free of the fetters of religion and their pervasive and silly Blue Laws that limit our enjoyment of sex, drugs and rock&roll.

We realize that science simply cannot be taught in Amerikan public schools, because a kid has to have a mind uncontaminated by religion and other superstition to begin to think like a scientist. Of course, a public-school teacher will be censured for pointing out that scientific reason is totally incompatible with theism.

Our remaining hope is in the expectation that science will still come from China, as do all our hand tools and solar arrays.

creeley23 said...

Jesus Freaks, who were born again ex drug addicts. I guess it was a positive thing to trade An addiction for drugs, for an addiction to God.

No. Jesus Freaks mostly came from the hippie subculture. They probably smoked grass, they may have done psychedelics, and some may have been drug addicts, but this is an unfair characterization. Jesus Freaks were the Christian wing of hippie spirituality.

The Jesus Freaks I knew back then were sincere young people with an idiosyncratic vision of Christianity central to their lives. They were usually not attached to churches. They were nice folks who talked about Jesus and God a lot, read the Bible, and tried to be good. It often was a phase.

Then there were the Children of God, members of a bizarre sixties/seventies cult with a Christian belief system but more a cult centered around its leader, David Berg, than anything else.

jimbino said...

"Atheism is the assertion that their is no God as can be determined by consulting any English dictionary."

I am ashamed that I spent so many years in formal study of religion, physics and law when I could have just consulted your dictionary!

edutcher said...

The first thing I thought of when I saw this item was all the dead Catholics who had to put up with "damned Dutchmen" and "No Irish Need Apply" laughing.

Renee said...

Due to demographics, there are parishes (Catholic) that are closing due to lack of attendance. Baby Boomer parishioners demand that the Church must be more like atheists, if they want to fill the pews. If older parishioners do not believe in the Church's teachings or even take them seriously, why as a young individual be Catholic?

Again, don't assume the Boomers are monolithic.

A lot of us remember the Latin Mass and would love to go back to the non-Lefty pre-Vatican II Church.

PS jimbino, as always, assumes the fantasy infants cannot know God.

In their innocence they may know Him better than anyone else.

It's when they're exposed to all the Lefty corruption in the world that they're spoiled.

And, from the way he talks about "full intellectual lives free of the fetters of religion and their pervasive and silly Blue Laws that limit our enjoyment of sex, drugs and rock&roll", it sounds like he knows about it only from watching other people.

hygate said...

"Morals," so-called, or "ethics," is largely inborn in us, as even animals, particularly among our closest relatives, the primates--but not exclusive to them--have demonstrated behaviors that we recognize as aspects of ethical behavior systems. These are really aspects of pack animals: the cooperative behaviors that are necessary or tend to improve the survival of the pack--and thus the individual within the pack--and permit the survival of the species through successful and continuous creation of new and succeeding generations.

One does not need to have a belief in God or assume proscriptions against theft or murder or adultery issue from him to recognize that such behaviors destroy the trust between individuals in a community, and thus corrode the cohesion of the community, which puts the life and survival of the community and all those within it at peril.


If morality is simply instinct that evolved as a way to spread alleles, then why should I follow it? After all, the universe is going to end in a few billion years, why should I care if the alleles I happen to carry are passed on? For that matter I am going to die and my consciousness is going to be extinguished. Seems to me the only rational response to that situation is to take advantage of my fellow humans while avoiding sanctions as much as I feasibly can.

Appeals to posterity and community are hogwash used to fool the week minded into serving the strong as any follower of Nietzsche or Rand could tell you.

Steven said...

Protestants call themselves "Reformed" because they once went toe to toe with the Pope and his Kings, Jesuit armies and the aristocracies that ruled using a state church in Europe. It became a fight to the death for over 100 years.

Ah, yes, all those battles fought against the kings of Denmark and Sweden and Prussia and their state churches.

I mean, seriously, do you actually know anything about the Reformation?

hygate said...

"Atheism is the assertion that their is no God as can be determined by consulting any English dictionary."

I am ashamed that I spent so many years in formal study of religion, physics and law when I could have just consulted your dictionary!


Yep, I agree because it isn't my dictionary, it is every dictionary.

http://www.bing.com/Dictionary/search?q=define+atheism&qpvt=define%3a+atheism&FORM=DTPDIA

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atheism

This is the point where you retreat into silly word games.

Paddy O said...

"we atheists do not spend a lot of time talking about the non-existence of god"

And yet here you are...

creeley23 said...

Wasn't it Glenn Beck that denounced 'Socia Justice' churches? I recall him saying if you hear the words 'social justice' in your church, 'run, run away!' so this Morman political TV and radio show host, attempts to dictate to some people what religion is legitamate in his opinion.

Inga: For those who are conservative and Christian, Beck is giving good advice. Social justice churches are mostly liberal outreach organizations with Christian trappings. The majority of their members do not believe in the resurrected Christ except, perhaps, as a metaphor. Many of them do not even believe in God. They are not creedal Christians.

Conservative Christians will find social justice churches deeply unsatisfactory venues for Christian fellowship and worship, and they will eventually leave SJ churches.

I'm not against SJ churches. I understand they fulfill the needs many liberals have for church. I know many good liberal people who attend SJ churches. That's fine. But these churches are not places for conservative Christians. Beck is spot-on there.

jimbino said...

"we atheists do not spend a lot of time talking about the non-existence of god"

And yet here you are...

notes Paddy O.

I am not here talking about the non-existence of god. For that I would need to present evidence, and for that to occur I would need to see some prima facia evidence for the existence of god, which is not forthcoming and never has been.

I am commenting in this forum to point out the distinction between science and religious belief and to lament the sad consequences of pervasive religion and superstition on the healthy lives and peckers of happy atheists.

creeley23 said...

A social justice church I used to attend got a new gay priest some years back. He used his connections to the drag queen community to stage drag show fundraisers. They raised amazing amounts of money for the church.

It seemed like a win-win solution: money and social inclusiveness. There was just one fly in the moisturizer. All the families with children left the church.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

@traditionalguy
When i was a sophomore at Jesuit High School, we read the Vulgate, worked at it I guess. Reflecting on your comment, I finally understand why. Sort of by inertia, we were being raised as Jesuits. That was the primary Catholic Bible. Just parenthetically, its production by Jerome strikes me as an Einsteinian level of scholarship.


jimbino said...

"Yep, I agree because it isn't my dictionary, it is every dictionary."

says hygate.

Excuse me, but, being a rational atheist, I've mostly consulted Ambrose Bierce's "Devil's Dictionary," among whose entries are:

Lawyer
(n.) One skilled in circumvention of the law.

Marriage
(n.) A household consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all, two.

Religion
(n.) A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

Robert Cook said...

"If morality is simply instinct that evolved as a way to spread alleles, then why should I follow it? After all, the universe is going to end in a few billion years, why should I care if the alleles I happen to carry are passed on? For that matter I am going to die and my consciousness is going to be extinguished. Seems to me the only rational response to that situation is to take advantage of my fellow humans while avoiding sanctions as much as I feasibly can."

You, as an individual, can choose to behave as selfishly as you please, despite the harm it may bring you or others. Many do this, including many self-described believers.

However, the totality of members within a species will tend, more or less, to follow the evolved, in-born behavior patterns of cooperation and acting for mutual benefit of their fellows. They may do this because of beliefs they've been taught or simply as a matter of doing what comes naturally.

When the majority of members within a species begin consistently behaving in self-serving ways that will tend to harm or imperil the safety and survival of the species as a whole...that species is done and will exterminate itself. No amount of religious dogma will prevent that.

We act. All our literature and philosophy and religious or spiritual writings are merely after the fact descriptions of our actions.

traditionalguy said...

Steven...What is your point about the reformation Wars? The trans mountain nordic countries went with Luther while Spain Portugal, France and Italy stayed Roman Catholic. But the battleground states such as Luxemberg, Czechosovakia, and border regions between Prussia and France were a never ending fight that was the buffer protecting Lutherans.

Ireland was the Pope's base to retake England, but that was foiled by by the Scots-Irish colony we call Northern Ireland.

The net result was a divided Europe where your faith could get you taken away and killed at any moment, most especially in the border areas. That sharpened ones thoughts about the Christian faith. The King of England lost his head over the messy clashes.

Robert Cook said...

"You might try reading Dostoevsky, Cookie.

"He answered your arguments over 100 years ago."


I have read Crime and Punishment, Demons, Notes from Underground and a miscellany of his shorter pieces.

He answered-or at least, discussed--these arguments to his own way of seeing.

jimbino said...

"There was just one fly in the moisturizer. All the families with children left the church."

What we need is for your gay priest to establish a chain of airlines, hotels, grocery stores and department stores so that gays and rational atheists like Feynman could find child-free solace and joy in places besides bars and strip clubs.

Robert Cook said...

"...people who do not believe in ghosts, goblins and elves do not spend a lot of time telling people they do not believe in ghosts, goblins and elves. They don't make it a point that everyone around them knows their stance on ghosts, goblins and elves and don't tend to get into intellectual discussions about the non-existence of ghosts, goblins and elves."

That's because our society (presently) does not presume to establish a point of view that ghosts, goblins, and elves exist.

If we returned to the practice of burning witches at the stake, the necessity of pushing back against such beliefs would become more pressing and pertinent.

Shouting Thomas said...

Cookie,

Doestoevsky wrote with a purpose.

He was trying to warn the commies where they were headed. They were headstrong and arrogant like you, and they ignored him.

Where did that lead?

Rusty said...

ricpic said...
Regular spiritual routines
Are so much better than organized religion;
Like everything can hang out, man,
No boundaries, no restriction.


Like Unitarians?

They should just give up and start selling coffee.

Shouting Thomas said...

You are a classic commie, Cookie.

Talking to you requires pretending that the 20th century did not happen.

How do you do that?

Michael said...

"Sectlessness" sounds too much like "sexlessness" and "secularism" doesn't cover the non-atheist unchurched. How about "non-affiliation."

Paddy O said...

..distinction between science and religious belief and to lament the sad consequences...

Preach it, jimbino!

Paddy O said...

"the necessity of pushing back against such beliefs would become more pressing and pertinent."

If you just didn't care, why would you feel a need to push back? You are taking a stance, which was the point of the original comment. It's not a vague, happy go lucky agnosticism.

That you would equate one form of orienting philosophy as requiring push back while, on the other side, claiming your orienting philosophy is perfectly fine seems weird to me.

A lot more people were/are killed in atheist communist contexts than witches were killed.

The number of elf deaths remains indeterminate.

jimbino said...

Rusty,

I don't know if you realize it, but if Unitarians just started selling coffee they would have to give up the serious tax exemptions extended by Amerika to religions and other superstitions.

They'd also have to start respecting Baptists, Catholics and Muslims on account of Public Accommodations Law.

hygate said...

Jimbino - yep word games. I noticed that you left out the links to actual dictionaries.

When someone tries to redefine a common term, it is an indication that they are losing the debate.

Robert Cook said...

"If you just didn't care, why would you feel a need to push back? You are taking a stance, which was the point of the original comment. It's not a vague, happy go lucky agnosticism."

Um, when certain beliefs have a material affect on my life or the world I live in, it does become somewhat more than just a difference of opinion.

hygate said...

Robert Cook -

You didn't actually answer my question, you simply asserted that some believers act selfishly (true, everyone does to some extent or another) and asserted the majority of people are week minded and will continue to go along with the prevailing sentiment and their instincts and if they don't then then the species (or at least society) will go extinct. Congratulations, you are in agreement with Descartes who would not let his friends discuss atheism in the presence of his servants.

So why are you here seeking to undermine societal foundations that you are dependent on for your continued well being?

Robert Cook said...

Hygate,

You're reading and arguing against statements I didn't write.

Where did I assert the "majority of people" are weak-minded? I only stated the majority of members within a species will act in accordance with their evolved pack behavior. Being "weak-minded" (or "stong-minded") has nothing to do with it. It's just how how we're evolved to behave.

jimbino said...

Yo hygate,

It is evident that, besides needing instruction in reason and science, you need instruction on the virtue of selfishness.

I recommend "The Fountainhead" or "Atlas Shrugged."

If you can't read, at least you should try to catch the film versions "Atlas Shrugged" I and II.

Kirk Parker said...

Inga,

I don't doubt any of the details you recount; they all sound perfectly familiar to me. But when you write that your parents were "Evangelical Fundamentalists" you demonstrate just how confused your thinking is. These are non-overlapping sets; the term "Evangelical" came into use precisely as a way for those who claimed it as a label to distinguish themselves from the Fundamentalists!

Simon said...

hygate said...
Simon, I had to look up supersessionism. Even if you did hold that belief, I don't see why it would lead to the belief that music and dancing are bad (at least outside of church.)

Because if you hold that the new covenant has replaced the old, it seems to me that the rules governing the old one don’t have any force. I don’t buy that, myself, but if one assumes that everything that Christians do must be affirmatively prescribed by scripture, and that the new covenant has entirely displaced the old, there is no warrant for music and dancing.

I joined a Lutheran church in the south for a lot of reasons, one of which was that I was not going to join a church that tries to sell you on the prospect that Jesus changed water into grape juice. Belief in God is supposed to make you joyful, not dour. Believers who are habitually dour should, I think, consider just what it is they belief about God.

You might enjoy a book called Between Heaven & Mirth by Fr. James Martin, SJ; his thesis is not only that Christians ought to be joyful, but that joy is in fact a tool for evangelization.

Robert Cook said...
You misunderstand atheism. It is not an ‘invention,’ but merely the rejection of belief in that which has not and cannot be demonstrated to exist.

Oh, come now, I hope that you know as well as I do that that isn’t true. Ex visceribus verbi, atheism is a theory of reality that posits that there is no God. And of course it was invented; every culture everywhere intuitively and instinctively knows that there is a God, for obvious reasons: He “formed us for [Him]self, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in [Him]” (St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Bk 1 ch 1 (AD398). Those cultures that do not know God have, of course, struggled to interpret this longing, and have interpreted it in different ways, but the fundamental point is that atheism is a complete rejection of every natural instinct of the human person in all ages, and so it is perforce manufactured.

’Morals,’ so-called, or ‘ethics,’ [are] largely inborn in us, as even animals….

Of course they are. The law of God is written into every human heart, see Rom 2:14-15; cf. 2 Cor 3:3. Thus, you are correct that one does not have to believe in God in order for his law to cry out for obedience. Most of us instinctively know right from wrong. It is only with the innovation of modernist systems of thought that deny such universal standards that men have become accustomed to strangling that small, still voice (1 Kings 19:12 (KJV)) that cries out for justice. The reality of God and his providence is independent of your belief in Him, just as the reality of the bus hurtling toward you is independent of your belief in it. Whether you believe in it or not, it’s still real, and the consequences will not depend on your beliefs.

Kirk Parker said...

Pew is just being terribly disingenuous here: "Black Protestants", "white mainline Protestants", and "white evangelicals" all consider themselves Protestants and recognize each other as such.

hygate said...

Jimbino – man that was sad. I have already cited Rand. I am quite familiar with her work. I just don’t agree with it.

So your argument is an appeal to your own authority (formal education don’t you know), redefinition of a common term so that it (somehow) supports your position, claim that scientists are arbiters of truth (while simultaneously claiming that “truth” does not exist), and that I am a big old poopy head.

Ok. What can I do in the face of such an emotionally and intellectually overwhelming argument except abandon my belief in a divine being, join your glorious cause, and spend my time in the no doubt scintillating company of you and your fellow atheists?

Where do I join?

Robert Cook said...

"...every culture everywhere intuitively and instinctively knows that there is a God...."

Sez you.

Rather, every culture everywhere strives to discern meaning behind event, and, in the absence of science, superstition fills the void.

"The law of God is written into every human heart."

Rather, the "law of God" is the after the fact human explanation for that which we cannot understand otherwise, lacking science and the means to otherwise explain material and behavioral phenomena.

We are evolved to find patterns amidst chaos (and, as an extension of this, to find, or acribe, meaning to meaninglessness, at least where true meaning eludes our means to discover and understand). This is advantageous to our survival but it leads also to our seeing--creating--pattern and meaning where there truly is none, and to the reification of our internal imaginings such that they become external "reality."

hygate said...

Simon - thanks for the pointer. I have already ordered the book.

Simon said...

EDutcher said…
A lot of us remember the Latin Mass and would love to go back to the non-Lefty pre-Vatican II Church.

I know it’s pervasive, but the term “Latin Mass” is ambiguous. I attend a Latin Mass several times a week, if “latin” is construed to mean “latin rite.” I attend or at least hear a Latin Mass every now and again, if “latin” is construed to mean “said partially or completely in latin.” I attend a Latin Mass every month or so, if “latin” is construed to mean “Tridentine,” which is what’s usually meant. But we have to understand that what is now designated the “Ordinary Form” (see Summorum Pontificum, 99 AAS 777 (Benedict XVI, 2007)) is a Latin-rite Mass, and it may be and often is celebrated partially, mostly, or wholly in latin (seeLiturgiam authenticam, no. 13, 93 AAS 685, 690 (CDW per John Paul II, 2001)). For example, and this has been true for several years now, if you watch a Papal Mass, the homily excepted, every word that Benedict says is in latin. So that is, in two senses, a Latin Mass. The “old Mass” to which you refer is still celebrated in a growing number of parishes under terms such as the Tridentine Mass, the extraordinary form, or the usus antiquior. But here’s the thing to realize: Vatican II didn’t change the Church. The left hijacked it and said that it did, but it didn’t. We’re dealing with those people; not as fast as I’d like, but it’s being fixed. The worst excesses of liturgical adventurism have already been trimmed, and the ordinary form is typically celebrated in a much better manner than it seems that it was for years. (I watched a video from the 1970s and retched; one can barely begin to imagine the pain of Catholics in those days.)

Paddy O said...

"These are non-overlapping sets; the term "Evangelical" came into use precisely as a way for those who claimed it as a label to distinguish themselves from the Fundamentalists!"

Very true, Kirk. There are certainly distinctions involved, especially in the mid-20th century.

To be more precise, the classical Pentecostal denominations like the AGs don't fit the standard categories either. Assemblies of God are like the Baptists of Pentecostals, often Reformed in their thinking, focused very much on Fundamentalist like obsession with narrow, and divisive, doctrinal positions, with their Pentecostal side focused more on evangelism than on the happy dancy side of things.

Different regions also have different expressions of a denomination. An AG church in the midwest will take on a very different flavor than an AG church in Southern California.

Indeed, here in California, a denomination hardly means anything. The congregation is very much distinct and maybe be vastly different than another church in the same denomination.

I also very much understand Inga's experiences. That probably as much as anything pushed me into deeper study, to figure out if it was all bunk or if just some folks were missing the point and causing problems where there shouldn't be.

jimbino said...

Kirk Parker, responding to Inga, asserts:

When you write that your parents were "Evangelical Fundamentalists" you demonstrate just how confused your thinking is.

No Kirk: my religion studies and my own personal experience support the Wikipedia entry that maintains that:

The broader term "evangelical" includes fundamentalists as well as people with similar or identical religious beliefs who do not engage the outside challenge to the Bible....

I say that what distinguishes non-Fundamentalist Evangelicals from their Fundamentalist brethren is mainly their degree of focus on Millennialism (i.e., "Dispensationalism") and of belief in "verbal inspiration" as opposed to "literal interpretation" of the Bible.

As Wikipedia points out, they agree on the Christian doctrines of the:

Divinity of Jesus Christ, his Virgin Birth, of the historicity of Biblical narratives, Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and of Biblical inerrancy against the prevalent higher-critical theories of the day, to the falsity of theological systems such as Christian Science, "Millennial Dawnism", Mormonism, [and the errors of "Romanism."

Renee said...

Simon,

What? You don't care for Clown Masses?



Kirk Parker said...

"a scientist does not believe in belief to start with"

Oh dear.

"I am ashamed that I spent so many years in formal study of religion, physics and law..."

Actually, what you should be ashamed of is that so little rubbed off.

Inga said...

Kirk, I am correct in my terminology, one of the MAIN things stressed was evangelicalism, in Sunday School for the children we were taught to "spread the good word", taught how to " witness" to complete strangers, children our own age! We were encouraged to invite them to come to church with us. They were directed to "save" people, to get them to "give their hearts to Jesus". I still remember the lingo.

The Fundamentalist portion was very evident, priding themselves that they were the only religion to be able to enter heaven because they adhered to the Bible's teaching.

They referred to themselves as a "Bible teaching church", they considered it "sinful" to go against the "fundamentals" they read in the Bible. Kirk, you don't know what you are talking about, you obviously did not experience an Assemblies of God Church.

jimbino said...

Hygate disingenuously asks:

"What can I do in the face of such an emotionally and intellectually overwhelming argument except abandon my belief in a divine being, join your glorious cause, and spend my time in the no doubt scintillating company of you and your fellow atheists?

Where do I join?"

My suggestion to him would be to take a few classes in physics or biology and, if failing to qualify, at least one in the philosophy of science, or, in extremis, try to read some Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, Thomas Paine, or Darwin, Dennett, Kuhn, Dawkins or even Dyson, who accepted the Templeton Prize, to the dismay and disdain of Steven Weinberg and Dawkins.

hygate said...

Robert Cook - I would point out that there is a difference between meaning and event. Science may be able to provide a cause, it can never provide a meaning.

In fact, your philosophy posits that there is no meaning. We all exist by accident and it isn't that the universe does not care if we suffer and die, the universe is not even aware of us or anything else. There is no good or evil, just what is.

What I don't understand is that holding such a philosophy, why you care what other people think concerning religion or any other topic? You claim that other peoples religious believe somehow constrains you. How? This is 2012 not 1952. What carnal pleasure can you not obtain because of other peoples religious belief? Drugs? Lots of non-religious people believe that drugs should be regulated/outlawed because they fear they have adverse effects on society. Sex? If you can't get sex it isn't because blue noses are keeping you from it.

From my perspective, you are the one not acting rationally in that your actions do not logically follow from your beliefs. If there is no God, no good, no evil, then the rational thing to do is to attempt to extract the maximum amount of pleasure while avoiding as most pain possible while you live. Not spend it arguing with week minded sheep trying to wake them up from their silly superstitions. If you do that, you make them competitors. You should want them to be your prey.

hombre said...

... or, in extremis, try to read some Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, Thomas Paine, or Darwin, Dennett, Kuhn, Dawkins or even Dyson ....

By all means. Let's drop into the world of philosophical materialism and call it "science."

hombre said...

As Wikipedia points out, they agree on the Christian doctrines of the: Divinity of Jesus Christ .... (12:39)

Ah, Wikipedia, the last word on Christian theology - for atheists. LOL

hygate said...

Jimbino - once again this is just sad.

I have a Master's in Information Assurance (that's computer security), my undergraduate education included classes in biology, set theory, symbolic logic, history, philosophy, and yes, physics.

As for the authors you cite, I have read everyone of them. Some, such as Twain, I started reading in grade school and I am not talking about Tom Sawyer. In addition to those, I was an avid science fiction reader who consumed the works of Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Niven, Pournelle, etc. So I am familiar with the libertarian, godless universe world view.

But regardless of any intellectual qualifications I may or may not possess, your attempt to dismiss me by stating that I am stupid and uneducated is an indication that you are losing this debate.

If I am so hapless, you should demolish my arguments, not attack my qualifications.

hygate said...

By all means. Let's drop into the world of philosophical materialism and call it "science."

Ouch! That is going to leave a mark.

jimbino said...

Hygate says to Robert Cook:

"In fact, your philosophy posits that there is no meaning."

Quite right: "meaning" is a conceit of the religious. The universe has no meaning.

We scientists understand this. So do the bonobos: they have full lives of good food and good homo-, hetero-, paedo- and incestuous sex numerous times in various positions all day long, something that we humans are imprisoned, stoned and put on "sex-abuser" lists for enjoying.

I'd love for the gummint to leave me alone to enloy a life of freedom like the bonobos have. More than that, I'd like to be able everywhere to buy tequila in a Walmart, like we can in CA; wine in a Walmart like we can in TX; booze in a liquor store on Sunday like we can in CO; to gamble, marry, divorce and fornicate like we can in NV; to go topless and nekkid like we can in Spain, France and Germany.

In Amerika, a major factor that deprives us of the pleasures of life are the religions, whether Muslim, RC or fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity. When is the last time we heard Darwin or any other scientist recommend imprisoning folks for having sex in the wrong position?

hygate said...

Thank you Jimbino for explaining your world view. You want to have the pedophile sex and not be put on a sex abuser list.

Because no where in the United States today does homo, hetero, or for that matter incestuous sex acts get prosecuted as a crime. Hell, openly gay people can now server in the military.

hygate said...

Also, by we scientists Jimbino actually means pagan priest.

hygate said...

and Jimbino, Bonobos are unable to buy liquor anywhere, so really, how full can their lives be?

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Renee,

And don't get Simon started on "Liturgical Dance."

jimbino said...

Hygate,

You are so wrong on so many counts:

First of all, I would never be a pedophile because I don't find feet particularly attractive.

Second, I have trained a dog, and presumably could train a bonobo if I had one, to pick up a six-pack for me at the local convenience store.

In the "good-old days" now long-gone, at least in civilized places like Chicago and Brazil, we sent kids to pick up a six-pack. Now, because of the religious nuts in Amerika, you have to be 21 to have any kind of life in Amerika, but there is as yet (don't tell the Fundies) no restriction on selling beer to a 10-yr-old dog who shows up with a backpack.

Robert Cook said...

"What I don't understand is that holding such a philosophy, why you care what other people think concerning religion or any other topic? You claim that other peoples religious believe somehow constrains you. How? This is 2012 not 1952."

And yet, we are still fighting against permitting gays to marry because...why?

Essentially, all arguments against gay marriage come down to religious arguments. "God says it is an abomination," etc.

School textbooks in certain states are edited--censored--according to Christian religious precepts, and science teachers are pressured to teach regligious dogma as science, ("creationism").

A member of Congress, a doctor and member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, asserted just this week the earth is only 9,000 years old.

The religious mode of thought impedes in both specific and general ways the advancement of knowledge and the promulgation of superstition, some of which may be harmful to society.

I have no problem with people believing what they want to believe. However, if they try to assert or impose their beliefs on me or on society at large such that it may be or is harmful, I think it is only reasonable to protest. If someone wants to believe the stars influence their fate and shaped their personality, fine for them. If that belief becomes so pervasive and exerts a powerful enough hold on the public consciousness that laws are passed in accordance with such astrological hokum, there are society-wide ramifications of that.

Carl Sagan's last book, The Demon Haunted World, is an excellent discussion of this very topic. In the book, Sagan chooses to be diplomatic toward adherents of the world's religions, but one can certainly infer from his critique that he does not exempt the religious from his admonitions.

Simon said...

Renee said...
Simon, What? You don't care for Clown Masses?

Ick. I don’t care for clown masses, “liturgical dance,” “crowd participation homilies,” guitars, clappy Glorias, “liturgical music” written after 1962, clapping, priests facing the people… Any of that stuff. Here’s my thesis: The novus ordo Mass should be celebrated in full conformity to the traditional ars celebrandi of the Roman Rite, save to the extent that the ars celebrandi must necessarily be modified to accommodate the novus ordo and other legitimate, approved postconciliar liturgical changes. In practice, the celebration of the ritus modernus should look almost exactly like the usus antiquior, with only a few minor exceptions. Everything else is an illegitimate imposition by so-called “liturgists,” a job that exists purely to interpose a human being into a function that used to be discharged by tradition.

I will say, however, that things are much better today than they once were. I have seen videos from the 70s, 80s, and, yes, 90s that send cold shivers down your spine. I feel desperately for the plight of Catholics. I feel even worse for the Anglicans who during that time realized that they had to swim the Tiber, who had to abandon the beauty of the High Church Anglican liturgy for the minefield of banality and sacrilege that seems to have plagued the Mass in those first few decades after the council. I count myself as very privileged that I didn’t have to suffer through the worst of it.

Simon said...

Robert Cook said...
"And yet, we are still fighting against permitting gays to marry because...why?"

We're not. Gays can enter marriage. They don't want to because it's of no avail to them—they don't want to be joined to a person of the opposite sex, which is what marriage is—so they are fighting to have the state redefine marriage so that it will be of use to them. Let's start off by being candid and honest about what's really going on here.

Robert Cook said...

"The religious mode of thought impedes in both specific and general ways the advancement of knowledge and the promulgation of superstition, some of which may be harmful to society."

This should read: "...impedes in both specific and general ways the advancement of knowledge and furthers the promulgation of superstition..." etc. etc.

Simon said...

Ruth Anne, I just sent you a video. ;)

Robert Cook said...

Simon,

Your very definition of marriage derives from religious dogma. You've illustrated my point very well.

Simon said...

I'm a very old-fashioned, conservative person. It really shouldn't have surprised anyone that, mutatis mutandis, I made for a very old-fashioned, conservative Catholic. ;)

jimbino said...

Simon,

Robert Cook is quite right:

Consider friendship, companionship, sex, love, cohabitation, breeding, and marriage.

Every one of them exists individually and in every possible combination with every other. Even in the Bible, for God's sake!

Simon said...

Robert Cook said...
"Your very definition of marriage derives from religious dogma. You've illustrated my point very well."

You're right, the definition of marriage derives from religious dogma. Well-spotted. But, as I think we've discussed before, that doesn't get you anywhere, because the institution of marriage predates all (extra-biblical) recorded history. And throughout that time, marriage has involved the union of a man and a woman—periodically with human accretions that have in time been rejected (some of them quite recently: Your arguments for the power of the state to redefine marriage were accepted in a portion of this country for quite some time, only being rejected and exiled into disgrace with Loving v. Virginia). And so if you don't accept the authority of Genesis (and who would; they haven't been the same without Peter Gabriel) you are still stuck with the witness of all of human history, which has always understood marriage to be an instiution into which people may enter, not an activity that two people may do with one another.

hygate said...

In the "good-old days" now long-gone, at least in civilized places like Chicago and Brazil, we sent kids to pick up a six-pack. Now, because of the religious nuts in Amerika, you have to be 21 to have any kind of life in Amerika, but there is as yet (don't tell the Fundies) no restriction on selling beer to a 10-yr-old dog who shows up with a backpack.?

Bullshit. The United States has gotten less, not more religious over the last 50 - 60 years while the paranoia concerning protecting kids has grown. In no way are you less free today than in previous eras due to religion. The fact that you think you are, and that you bring up the inability to have a life in the US until you reach 21 (meaning I suppose you can't legally drink until then which had nothing to do with "fundies" and everything to do with a public safety campaign) makes me suspect that you aren't 21 yet.

Your idealization of Bonobos and their lifes that involve all kinds of sex all day long can only mean that you are a virgin.

Finally, you are the one that included paedo in your list of sex acts that should not be prosecuted. So you aren't so inclined, but think it should be legal?

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Simon,

The horror!!!

hygate said...

Robert Cook - I read "A Demon Haunted World" at the time it I thought it was persuasive, I no longer do. You still haven't answered my question.

If you don't believe in God, then why should you care about society or another's rights. Hell, rights are just bullshit. The fact of the matter is that rights only exist if justice exists - and as Death said in "The Hogfather" show me a molecule of justice.

Gay marriage? So what. You are going to be dead in a few years and your consciousness is going to be exterminated.

I don't think you have actually internalized the implications of your belief system.

jimbino said...

Yo Hygate,

You need to keep up with the times:

In Chicago of the 50s and 60s, we boys had the absolute right to "feel up" a willing 14-yr-old girl in the back seat of a car, even at the advanced age of 18 or 19.

We could drive to Wisconsin to have a beer at age 18. In both Chicago and Brazil, you could send a kid to pick up booze or a six-pack at the local bar. In Germany, you could freely have consensual sex with a girl of 14 (still the rule in Tokyo and Paris), who could also enjoy a glass of wine or ein Halbes with you at the local Gasthaus.

In those days, of course, you could buy scissors but not thread, toothpaste but not toothbrushes (or some such stupidity) at a Walgreen's in Austin, TX.

I lay all that past and present repression as practiced in Amerika on the altar of all you religious nuts who comment on this thread.

Robert Cook said...

Hygate,

I have answered your question; you simply refuse to see it.

I am not gay and don't have a personal stake in gay marriage, in case you think I was speaking to a personal gripe. This simply an example of the ways in which religious dogma still shape our society for good or ill...in this case, for ill.

You keep harping on the fact that I (or we) will be "dead in a few years, so...so what?"

Well, exactly that: as we have only this existence to experience and (hopefully) enjoy, we should not cripple our lives or knowledge according to the dictates of one religion or another.

I do not deny the positive aspects of religion, but religion is largely an internal experience of transformation and self-renewal; it cannot and should not be the paradigm by and under which all humanity is compelled to live.

Susanna King said...

"What are you supposed to do when your family's traditional religious group is one that channels politics you don't like?"

Apparently, you join the ranks of the "unaffiliated." Or at least that's my guess for why that demographic is growing so quickly, especially among the young.

jimbino said...

Furthermore Hygate,

You have a lot to learn from the Bonobos:

While they enjoy friendship, companionship, sex, love, cohabitation, and breeding, they do not suffer from marriage or divorce, or pay child support.

It takes religion to make folks miserable or misery to make folks religious.

I'd say

Robert Cook said...

As for why I should care about another's rights, well, aside from having feelings of empathy for others, there's also just the selfish aspect: if I am not respectful and protective of the rights of others, how can I protect my own rights? Altruism is not just about the "selfless" sacrifice of oneself for others, but about guaranteeing and protecting the rights of all by fighting to assure the rights of the minority.

C'mon Hygate...as smart as you seem to be, you know all this.

Bob said...

I'm not going to read all 143 comments at this point, but will point out that I think this ties into the "civil society" remarks that Paul Ryan had in the "Let's Judge Paul Ryan" thread. I think it's the fact that so many fewer people attend an organized church regularly, and other ties-that-bind community functions, that leads to so much crime and lawlessness. In the pre-TV/radio days, events such as street festivals, barn raisings, harvest, etc., tied communities together more tightly than anything does these latter days.

jimbino said...

Robert Cook,

You appear to have a need to reconsider "altruism."

First of all, there is no such thing. Secondly, if there were, we'd want to get rid of it right away.

Fortunately, all the other animals and plants (maybe excepting bees and ants?) don't suffer from altruism.

hygate said...

You need to keep up with the times:

In Chicago of the 50s and 60s, we boys had the absolute right to "feel up" a willing 14-yr-old girl in the back seat of a car, even at the advanced age of 18 or 19.

We could drive to Wisconsin to have a beer at age 18. In both Chicago and Brazil, you could send a kid to pick up booze or a six-pack at the local bar. In Germany, you could freely have consensual sex with a girl of 14 (still the rule in Tokyo and Paris), who could also enjoy a glass of wine or ein Halbes with you at the local Gasthaus.

In those days, of course, you could buy scissors but not thread, toothpaste but not toothbrushes (or some such stupidity) at a Walgreen's in Austin, TX.

I lay all that past and present repression as practiced in Amerika on the altar of all you religious nuts who comment on this thread.


I will skip over whether criminalizing sex between 18 year old men and 14 year old girls is repression and concede that mores were much looser concerning some things in past eras.

Of course they were much less so in other areas such as racial discrimination and persecution of homosexuality.

What I am saying is that the US is much less religious than it was in the past, but much more uptight concerning some things - such as sex with minors and underage drinking.

That being the case, could it be that religion, the 'fundies', aren't the cause of the tighter mores?

Perhaps the tighter mores arise from some other source?

Proof for this theory is provided by what mores have relaxed since the 50's and 60's which include most of society moving from persecuting gays to TV shows celebrating them and legislation making it illegal to discriminate against them.

If the 'fundies' controlled society in the way that you postulate, then that could never have happened.

You seem to want to blame all the things you consider bad concerning the regulation of mores in the US on religious people. I have news for you, as Heinlein said, people line up politically in one of two ways. Either they want to control people or they don't.

My experience is that you find people on both sides of this divide both in the religious and non-religious camps.

jimbino said...

Right Bob,

In the "civil society" before TV and radio, we joined the Boy Scouts to perfect masturbation and buggery and to learn to hate niggers, queers and atheists.

Simon said...

Robert Cook said...
I am not gay and don't have a personal stake in gay marriage, in case you think I was speaking to a personal gripe.”

Of course you do. You derive a satisfaction from your involvement in the issue, from being on the “right” side of an important issue. All supposedly-altruistic actions (of which Christian charity is not a species, because they respond to an affirmative command) have an economic explanation—in this case, it allows you to “act in accordance with a heroic conception of [your]self.” Posner, Problematics of Moral & Legal theory 31 (1999). The people who are against gay marriage, you think, are perpetuating an injustice by denying a group the same human rights that everyone else enjoys, and that just won’t do. You don’t think that’s fair, and what’s more, you don’t like the people doing the oppressing, you don’t like their worldview, and you generally take a level of satisfaction in change and doing some small part to promote change. You take a level of satisfaction in “protecting the rights of all by fighting to assure the rights of the minority,” or at least to be seen as doing so. Or perhaps, conversely, it causes you pain to imagine that absent such affirmative actions, you might be perceived as one of "them," and so you minimize your disutilities. Your actions are a rational attempt to maximize your satisfactions and minimize your dissatisfactions. So of course you have a personal stake in it; why did you think that you stuck your oar in?

hombre said...

In the "civil society" before TV and radio, we joined the Boy Scouts to perfect masturbation and buggery and to learn to hate niggers, queers and atheists.
(2:42)

Here's jimbino making a quantum leap of scales in his quest to post the dumbest-assed comment of the day.

hygate said...

Robert Cook - I am not trying to be argumentative just for the point of being argumentative, honest.

I understand your answer, but the fact is that your answer posits a moral order to the universe, but according to your philosophy, no such order exists.

I don't think you can have it both ways.

You say I should not let religion limit me, perhaps so, but why should I care if it limits someone else?

And like all atheists, you say we only have this one life, we should enjoy it as best we can. Well you should, but why should you care if someone else does?

Absent a moral order the answer is obvious. Only if it makes us feel good to do so. And if it feels good to do otherwise, well if we can get away with it that is ok too.

This concerns me because so many atheists think that if we can only educate everyone so that they no longer believe in that God nonsense, we will make a better society.

This view has a lot of problems.

First, better presupposes a moral order. Which we have already determined does not exist. So who gets to determine what is better? Because make no mistake, the people who get determine what is considered right and wrong in a society control you, whether they believe in God or not.

Additionally, better for who? All people? Certainly not for religious people who would have to be persecuted in order to bring about this better world order.

Finally, this believe that eliminating religion will bring about a "better" more "just" (two things that don't actually exist according to the atheists' philosophy) society is just as much a matter of faith as belief in the Trinity.

No actual evidence for it exists. Not all atheists have believed it. In the instances we have of governments that were comprised of atheists, the record is not good, hundreds of millions dead, suppression of knowledge and learning, and material deprivation has been the uniform result.

Also, orthodox Christian doctrine states that we need to make the most out of this life as we can. And it gives guidance on how to do that. Christians mostly fail to live live up to that guidance, but that is because the bar is set pretty high.

Kirk Parker said...

Just in case anyone else is listening, jimbino is right about the similarities between Fundamentalists and Evangelicals, but just plain (and typically!) flat-out wrong about the two as terms of identification (which was what we were talking about.)

Those who identify themselves as Fundamentalists do not call or think of themselves as Evangelicals, and vice versa.

Kirk Parker said...

Inga,

Stop digging! The stuff you are talking about is "evangalism", not "evangelicalism". They come from the same root, obviously, but they refer to two completely separate things.

I repeat: stop digging.

jimbino said...

Kirk Parker is so right, Inga:

Even the Lutherans of Germany (and the Nordic countries) who never darken a church door, much less evangelize, call themselves "Evangelish."

Robert Cook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
creeley23 said...

Kirk, I am correct in my terminology, one of the MAIN things stressed was evangelicalism....

Inga misses the point.

The words, Evangelical, Fundemantalist, and Pentecostal, have specific meanings in distinguishing movements within Christianity, as well as function as lower-case adjectives describing different, though not incompatible, approaches to Christianity.

Very roughly, Protestantism split from Catholicism, then Evangelicalism split from Protestantism, and later, in America, Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism split from Evangelicalism. Generally speaking, Fundamentalists and Pentecostals are Evangelical, but not all Evangelicals are Fundamentalist or Pentecostal.

Most Americans outside the world of conservative Christianity don't see much difference between these Christians. In truth they share much more than they differ, though at times their differences are quite heated.

Still there are differences and one shouldn't use the terms interchangeably any more than one would call a Ukrainian, Russian, even though they share much in the way of history, genetics, language and script.

For the record, the Assemblies of God, which Inga attended, is a Pentecostal church, which comes under the survey heading of "Evangelical Protestant Churches."

hygate said...

As for why I should care about another's rights, well, aside from having feelings of empathy for others, there's also just the selfish aspect: if I am not respectful and protective of the rights of others, how can I protect my own rights? Altruism is not just about the "selfless" sacrifice of oneself for others, but about guaranteeing and protecting the rights of all by fighting to assure the rights of the minority.

That presupposes that I care about the rights of the minority. What if I only care about the ascendancy of my group? In that case, denying the rights of others becomes a moral imperative. The Nazis thought that killing off Russians so that they could occupy their land was the moral thing to do and were quite altruistic about fighting for the fatherland.

Now of course this will bring up the horrible things done to Native Americans by Christians but those Christians were acting contrary to Christian doctrine. The Nazis were acting in accord with theirs.

So absent a moral order, altruism is insufficient to preserve all peoples rights. Whose rights get protected depend on who gets included in the group. I see no evidence that absent believe in the divine that this group will now and always compromise all people.

Robert Cook said...

Simon,

Your comment goes to my own at 2:32 pm. My concern with protecting the rights of others is personal, yes, but not simply in the very narrow, self-serving manner of some, namely, that I care only about those specific rights that will privilege me. It is personal in that, by supporting the rights of others, even those that don't immediately pertain to me, I support the larger idea of more freedom and less restraint on the rights of all of us. If I were to call for the suppression of speech I don't like, how can I expect others to protect my own rights of free speech? How can I know that with a change in the law or society, my own, previously accepted or tolerated ideas might suddenly become heresy, and therefore forbidden?

Freeman Hunt said...

The difference between Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism explained.

Here and then continued here. Explanation is short.

Robert Cook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Cook said...

"That presupposes that I care about the rights of the minority. What if I only care about the ascendancy of my group?"

Then, when your group is no longer in the ascendancy, your own rights may be restricted. We can only protect our own rights by protecting the rights of all, as we never can know when we will hold the majority view and when we will be in the minority.

This does not require that I personally care in the least about your rights, but only that I have the perspicacity to recognize my own place in a hierarchy is not guaranteed and thus I would be smart to see that everyone, no matter their status or social position or point of view, have equal rights.

Many, of course, do not have this insight and will and do work to suppress the rights and freedoms who are seen as "other." Unknowingly, they work to undermine their own freedoms.

hygate said...

Oh and Robert Cook, I freely admit that at this point we are not arguing whether or not God exists, but the implications of him not existing.

I contend that absent God, the universe is a truly terrifying place and attempts to create a man made moral order cannot succeed because such a thing is self-contradictory.

Also, that all evidence points to a belief in God as being pro-adaptive since at least 90% of all people for as far back as we can discover have believed in God(s) and the human race has thrived throughout that time.

Societies that stop believing in God and have become secular, such as Western Europe, are not reproducing at a rate great enough to sustain themselves while societies that do believe in God are reproducing at a much greater rate.

Inga said...

Stealing Jesus, how Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity

hygate said...

This does not require that I personally care in the least about your rights, but only that I have the perspicacity to recognize my own place in a hierarchy is not guaranteed and thus I would be smart to see that everyone, no matter their status or social position or point of view, have equal rights.

Many, of course, do not have this insight and will and do work to suppress the rights and freedoms who are seen as "other." Unknowingly, they work to undermine their own freedoms.


Well duh? Another Heinlein quote:

"The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed."

Which, by the way is from, "Revolt in 2100" an anthology which includes "If This Goes On," a story concerning a revolt against an American theocracy.

Of course some people, sometimes a great deal of people, are going to act contrary to their interest and be controlled. My contention is that absent a moral order in the universe, worrying about it is ridiculous. The rational thing to do is to be the controller.

Inga said...

The term Fundamentalism in Christianity and Islam

creeley23 said...

Inga: Do you have a point? Throwing naked links over the transom is not much of a contribution.

Robert Cook said...

"My contention is that absent a moral order in the universe, worrying about it is ridiculous. The rational thing to do is to be the controller."

It is irrational to expect that one can be the controller. Therefore, the rational thing to do is to insure insofar as possible that society at large guarantees the rights of all, in order that one's own rights are protected, even if--as is almost sure to be the case for virtually all of us--one is not the controller.

Inga said...

Creely, my links point to the evidence that Pentacostal churches are indeed both Fundamentalist and Evangelical.

Inga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Inga said...

Actually quite self explanatory Creely if you bothered to read the articles and paid attention to the disagreement here in this thread as to whether Pentacostals are both Fundamental and Evangelical.

jimbino said...

Hey Inga,

Jesus Christ himself was born and died a Jew. If he weren't dead and buried, he'd repudiate the Christianity invented and promulgated by St Paul, I'm sure.

As it is, he should be turning in his grave on seeing the perversions of the Gantrys, Falwells and Dobsons among us.

Not to mention Romney and the Mormons, whom he would hardly recognize.

creeley23 said...

Actually quite self explanatory Creely if you bothered to read the articles and paid attention to the disagreement here in this thread as to whether Pentacostals are both Fundamental and Evangelical.

Inga: If you paid attention, you'd know that I had paid attention and responded directly to you already. You'd also realize that you don't know whether I read your links or not.

FYI: Bruce Bawer writes hard-hitting, anti-Islam criticism, which some consider Islamophobia. Bawer is probably endangering your daughter's life.

Inga said...

Creely! Then why ASK what my point was?

Inga said...

Jimbino, you may be right.

hygate said...

Sorry Robert Cook but:

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master— that's all."

hygate said...

Oh and once again, rights presuppose a moral order. If God does not exist rights are bullshit.

You are proposing a mutually beneficial cooperative where people agree to respect each others' liberty and assist each other to resist others attempts to restrict that liberty.

But what restrictions are you going to have on the liberties that the cooperative will agree to protect?

The general answer to that is generally people are free to do anything they want, as long as they aren't harming others. A Libertarian will also add prohibitions against fraud.

But there are problems with this arrangement, just like any human endeavor. The first of which is:

Who gets to decide what constitutes harm? Everyone will not agree what that is so it will be decided either by force or by a democratic method. Either way is an appeal to might makes right.

Think it won't happen? That my right to swing my arm ends at the end of your nose should cover it?

Consider animal rights activists vs meat eaters (or vs pharmaceutical companies.) Or you can be non-religious and think that at some point in a pregnancy the fetus becomes a baby with rights. (In Europe it is usually after the 1st trimester.)

Socialists as well as Libertarians are often non-religious.

The point is that there has to some agreement what liberty is to be permitted and that means drawing a line somewhere.


Who is going to draw that line and what criteria are they going to use?

One thing is for sure, the person drawing that line is the one in charge.

Because Robert, that is the nature of human societies. Somebody is always in charge. The history of freedom is about controlling the people in charge and making them accountable.

So we can assure that our rights are respected. Which don't exist if there is no moral order.

So if you want to make sure your liberties continue, and you don't believe in God, I would suggest that your most rational course of action is to stop making the case for atheism and instead encourage the belief in a moral order where rights are real and are respected.

Because we know what happens when people give up belief in God.

We call that the 20th century.

Robert Cook said...

Hygate,

You go on to little purpose. We do have a moral order, but it does not exist in the universe, or externally to us. We create our own moral order, and it arises from behaviors we have evolved as pack animals. Our laws and mores are legal and social codifications of our evolved social behavior. The specific "moral orders" of human societies differ from age to age and society to society.

If there are other planets where intelligent animals have evolved and created organized societies, (as I believe there are), they have created their own "moral" orders as well, (i.e., they have organized their societies according to their own evolved behaviors).

What we call "rights" George Carlin called "privileges." Carlin is closer to accurate, but, in the end, it's all semantics. Call 'em what you will, they are those freedoms from limits that we expect or demand from our respective governments and within our own societies. Virtually no individual among us can expect to be the "controller," so we have to arrange our societies insofar as is possible that the public, collectively, is the "controller."

Robert Cook said...

Oh, and history is replete with orgies of war and bloodletting, tyrannies and savagery, despite the greater presence of God (or gods) throughout the epochs. The 20th Century is unique only in the development of the technological capacity to kill more people, more quickly, and more easily, than previously. To point to "the death of God" as the underlying catalyst for the mass murders of the 20th Century wars is to ignore that which tends to undermine your argument.

I don't mean to argue you out of your beliefs, but only to point out to you that they are merely your beliefs. Any and every aspect of human behavior, individually or collectively, that you explain through the existence of God can be explained and understood without God.

Robert Cook said...



Although I have not read the book, and its arguments are suppositions and not proven, Julian Jaynes' book THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND provides a possible explanation for widespread belief in gods by early humans, an explanation beyond just, "in the absence of science, our imagination filled in the gaps in our knowledge by creating supernatural entities who were behind all that we see in the material world."