January 31, 2021

What should sound weird?

I'm reading "Amanda Gorman showed us how civic ceremonies can have prayer without invoking God" by Kate Cohen (WaPo): 
Hearing a grown-up ask God for something should sound as strange to me as hearing him plead with Santa or Superman. “We seek your faith, your smile, your warm embrace,” should sound weird. But it doesn’t. I was raised in America, where pledging allegiance “under God,” spending money stamped with “In God We Trust” and ending speeches with “God Bless America” are so automatic that “gracious and merciful God” sounds like “blah blah blah.” 
But is “blah blah blah” what we want from our ceremonial language? Leaving aside constitutionality — as, unfortunately, the courts continue to do — unless every American actually believes that we need to ask a supernatural being for help, then appealing to God robs these prayers of their rhetorical power. Either because they sound meaningless or because what they mean, fundamentally, is that He is the agent of change, not we.

Cohen argues that there are ways to elevate and solemnize civic occasions that don't use God. As you can tell from the title of her column, Cohen indulges in the adoration of the young woman who read a poem at the inauguration. I did not read or listen to this poem so I have nothing to say about the poet other than that the people who are overly enthused about her feel patronizing — if not idolatrous — to me. Which is why I didn't watch. I didn't want to be soppy or judge-y.

But Cohen's point is that the poet was able to use words like "The new dawn blooms as we free it" and "there is always light" to create a religion-y vibe. So there is a way, if that's what we want and need. Leaving God out is what Cohen says she needs "to make eternal truths shimmer." 

But verbiage like "new dawn blooms" and "there is always light" would in time sound just as "blah blah blah" as "gracious and merciful God." It's a government ceremony. It doesn't really matter. Find your deep inspiration away from government. That's the real separation of church and state. 

163 comments:

cassandra lite said...

"Find your deep inspiration away from government. That's the real separation of church and state."

Amen.

Jamie said...

"The new dawn blooms as we free it" already sounds like "blah blah blah." It's incoherent, two metaphors scrunched together uselessly, adding nothing to our understanding of either metaphor - to say nothing of the arrogance of the statement.

In my youth I knew a guy who proclaimed, frequently and as belligerently as the company around him seemed to him to warrant, "I am my own god." He was in his early thirties and of normal intelligence (though he thought of himself as "John Doe, Syuper Jeenius!"). He was also morbidly obese, chronically unemployed, and possessed of a full, frizzy, and straggly beard that looked as if some animals used it for shelter while others buried carrion in it for later. And I would think, "Wow, aim high."

That's what you get when you decide you're in control.

I can posit the existence not only of an actual supreme Being or minimally an initiating creative force, but also of a humble atheist - I've encountered signs of both. But neither this poem nor the writer of this piece appears to rest on that side of the scale.

Balfegor said...

Behind a paywall, so I don't see the article, but this:

Hearing a grown-up ask God for something should sound as strange to me as hearing him plead with Santa or Superman. “We seek your faith, your smile, your warm embrace,” should sound weird. But it doesn’t.

Honestly makes no sense to me. And I'm an atheist. People believe in all kinds of things that I don't, whether it's gods or devils, or karma, or whatever. Any adult with reasonably broad experience has surely been exposed to people with different beliefs, so it shouldn't be remotely "strange" to hear them invoke the aid of superhuman powers they actually believe in. Though to be fair, I actually do find the sort of substitute religion verbiage excerpted above grating and childish, so I'm just a hypocrite here. Tradition is what makes this sort of thing palatable to me; if you're just making religion-y stuff up, you might as well just go a elbereth gilthoniel silivren penna miriel . . . But it's not particularly "weird" either way.

Jamie said...

Oh, and as to constitutionality: nothing in "separation of church and state" requires that a speaker must only speak in anodynes, or that a speaker - even at a public, government event - must not speak from his heart about his faith, as I understand it. It only requires that the state not adopt a religion or create rewards our penalties for citizens based on their religion.

But geez, I keep coming back to the message: a prayer of entreaty for the help of something bigger than we are, versus a congratulatory self-back-patting for how awesome we are.

Lurker21 said...

But is “blah blah blah” what we want from our ceremonial language?

Ah, but there are different kinds of “blah blah blah.”

There's the “blah blah blah” you despise and the “blah blah blah” you approve of and think is deep and moving.

And really isn't the “blah blah blah” what makes it ceremonial language?

Is Harvardpoetgirl's recasting of political rhetoric as "poetry" really any improvement over the usual ceremonial language?

Jamie said...

Balfegor, exactly: speaking in adolescent anodynes.

Uh, and some of my best friends are atheists...

(That's actually true. We disagree, but we live in harmony because they're not the flavor that believes that they can move the world with their amazing minds.)

YoungHegelian said...

Hearing a grown-up ask God for something should sound as strange to me as hearing him plead with Santa or Superman. “We seek your faith, your smile, your warm embrace,” should sound weird. But it doesn’t. I was raised in America, where pledging allegiance “under God,” spending money stamped with “In God We Trust” and ending speeches with “God Bless America” are so automatic that “gracious and merciful God” sounds like “blah blah blah.”

Ah, yes, the secular Jewish Left working out its issues with that big bugaboo, Christianity, in the public forum. I often think that the issues with Christianity are just covers for their issues with the ancestral faith, a faith that is a really personally demanding faith to live by.

The problem with the theological impulse is that it seems to be deeply rooted in the human heart. Perhaps because God Himself has placed it there. Or, if one is not a believer, because it gave humans some advantage in the struggle for survival way back when. It just doesn't go away because one refuses to quote any sort of revelation.

The problem with thinking you've moved past revelation is that often one's ideological convictions become the focal point of the theological impulse, and it gets idolized as "Reason", and then shit gets ugly. Remember that the French Revolution turned Notre Dame & Chartres into temples to Reason. August Comte even proposed a religion of humanity.

As nasty as religious struggles have been, the thing about religious struggles is that at some level, even if they desperately want it to be otherwise, they know that revelation is revelation, and isn't reason. Secularism doesn't & millions lie dead because of it.

If God is dead, let every aspect of His concept stay buried with Him.

Joe Smith said...

“We seek your faith, your smile, your warm embrace,”

All we need is the loving arms of Joe Biden embracing the nation.

And I don't ever want to hear another poem again at any public event.

They are 99% lefty screeds.

gspencer said...

"spending money stamped with 'In God We Trust'"

I looked at my credit card. Can't find "In God We Trust" anywhere on it.

Original Mike said...

"unless every American actually believes that we need to ask a supernatural being for help, then appealing to God robs these prayers of their rhetorical power.

Oh, for fuck's sake. Every American? I'm an atheist and I don't have a problem with the tradition. These hangups about invoking God are the real childishness. Just grow up.

Michael K said...

Atheism is just one more religion, complete with heretics.

Owen said...

Setting aside the trainwreck of the inaugural poem, I am willing to defend the idea of invoking God —even in the dilute form of a nameless Supreme Authority Outside Oneself— as important, indeed essential, to a well-ordered society. Because it forces us all to be humble; to reflect upon our weakness and our wrongdoing, on the larger moral structure in which our lives are embedded, or should be. It’s a key part of the standard rites of prayer: to call upon our creator for forgiveness; which requires admitting we have much that requires forgiveness. This precedes the supplication for blessings, relief of pain and suffering, etc.

So, no matter how jejune her poem was, her instincts were sound.

Ken B said...

Original Mike gets it right
“Oh, for fuck's sake. Every American? I'm an atheist and I don't have a problem with the tradition. These hangups about invoking God are the real childishness. Just grow up.”

A vague god reference is just that, vague. Vague is fine. It’s when they get specific I have a problem. But in our traditions, it’s always vague.

Ken B said...

It beats hell out of marching kids pledging allegiance to Barack Obama.

chuck said...

Biden's deification is already underway, just address you prayers appropriately.

Renee said...

But Biden mentioned Saint Augustine, who was a Catholic Bishop. Biden actually misquoted him, btw.

Lurker21 said...

Talk about "new dawns" can be scary.

I'd just as soon the bottled, ceremonial references to God.

And are the references to God really just "blah, blah, blah" or is thinking they are a sign of a lack of imagination?

Eleanor said...

I'm an atheist, and I have felt warmed by the thought someone who believes in a supernatural power cared enough about me to say a prayer for me, and I have never been harmed by it. As long as money is still legal tender and is retaining its value, I couldn't care less what it says on it, or whose picture is on the front. Most poetry written by children is both sweet and vapid as was the poem read at the inauguration. No harm done unless the adulation steers the young lady toward a career where success is likely not in the cards.

MadisonMan said...

Idolizing that young poet is right up there with idolizing the Broadway show Hamilton. It just reeks of I'm supposed to do this to me. Huge turn-off.

Temujin said...

She said, "Leaving aside constitutionality — as, unfortunately, the courts continue to do..." Yes, as does our Congress, our Presidents, the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, and the State Department- among others. It's very weird when only the citizens follow the Constitution and our Government looks at us like we're small children.

The young poet? Good that you missed it. We have a society full of empty phrases that sound nice to some. I mean, Obama had great technique when giving speeches, but the words he used were made of marshmallows and puffs of air. Lightness and nothingness. 'New dawn blooms' falls into this category. I do believe every one of your commenters could write their own airy, puffy, meaningless poems.

And that's where the mention of God comes in. To many, it's not that they need to hear God references from their government. But it is an act of showing a connection to those traditions that this country was founded on. No- not slavery, for those of you who get their news from Vice. Until recently, we have always been a religious people. A government leader today who uses Godly references is tipping his or her hat in acknowledgement that we were founded on ideals that our freedoms are natural and granted by God...or nature. That those who created this idea of government were all very religious men and found their inspiration through their faith. That pleases some of our populace, and pisses off the rest of it. Leaders who stand up today and use religious references do so to connect with a part of America and as a recognition of where we came from.

Now- that said, it's clear that these words just seem foreign, forced, and fake when coming out of most anyone in office these days. But how can a President NOT say 'God Bless America' at the end of a speech? I guess we'll find out when Kamala takes office.

Original Mike said...

"I have never been harmed by it."

Exactly.

Earnest Prole said...

I’ve always thought there’s a world of difference between thanking God for His blessings and asking Him for something specific.

J. Farmer said...

As Oscar Wilde observed, in slightly different verbiage, all bad poetry is sincere.

Even though I am an atheist, I think all ethnic identities need some form of mythology and ritual to ground and perpetuate themselves. The US had some success in substituting a civil religion, but that's since been attacked as white male Christian supremacism. The last refuge of "civic nationalism" is to pin the hopes on the "American creed." I'm skeptical and tend to think that's far too abstract to be effective.

tim maguire said...

Hearing a grown-up ask God for something should sound as strange to me as hearing him plead with Santa or Superman.

Sure, if you’re an atheist. But atheism is only rational if God doesn’t exist. If God does exist, then it’s just another false religion pretending to knowledge it doesn’t have.

Readering said...

I listened to the invocation since I am partial to Jesuits, but skipped the poem because I was afraid of cringe (to borrow from an earlier post).

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

"When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast."

And so, and so forth.

It is excruciatingly bad. I mean, it's so bad even people who don't like poetry can tell it's bad.

The soft bigotry of low expectations has turned into the hard condescension of the prog era. Black lives matter, as an object of white posturing.

tim maguire said...

Eleanor said...I'm an atheist, and I have felt warmed by the thought someone who believes in a supernatural power cared enough about me to say a prayer for me, and I have never been harmed by it.

Penn Gillette, an atheist, tells a very moving story about a man who gave him a bible and he, like you, takes it in the spirit it’s given. He is moved that this man, who has never met him, cares deeply for his salvation.

Sorry, today’s one of those days Blogger won’t accept my embedded links.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6md638smQd8

Oso Negro said...

What an excellent, all-purpose phrase!

Leaving aside constitutionality — as, unfortunately, the courts continue to do — unless every American actually believes that we need to _____________”

e.g. flood the country with illegals, call men women and women men, run crooked elections, kill our economy to save Gaia.

The possible permutations are limitless

Robert Cook said...

"Any adult with reasonably broad experience has surely been exposed to people with different beliefs, so it shouldn't be remotely 'strange' to hear them invoke the aid of superhuman powers they actually believe in."

I think that's his point. It is understandable why people might have believed in supernatural entities when mankind knew so little about the world and the universe around is. We still are ignorant of much, but we know enough to see such beliefs as non-rational. In short, we--the huge mass of educated modern-day people--should find it strange to hear such entreaties to supernatural entities in public functions and ceremonies.

n.n said...

Alt-religion, an ancient conception. Let us bray to the mortal gods and goddesses for secular lucre, social progress, "burden" relief, and climate stasis. In Stork We Trust.

Robert Cook said...

Put it another way: we would find it odd to hear others around us invoke the names of Zeus or Zoroaster in making a plea for success in some endeavor or in offering thanks for good fortune.

Michael said...

Even if "God" is no more than a cultural personification of an abstract idea, one can still believe in the story of God and the work of God in the world. It is an idea in which people have found comfort and inspiration for millennia - when New Age gibberish can say the same, get back to me.

The value of the idea of God is that He is ineffable - "immortal, invisible, Thou only wise" - and must be approached with humility and a consciousness that all have sinned. As opposed to the Progressive certainty that we are the Good People, we can solve the world's problems, and if we haven't done so it is only because we haven't amassed enough sheer power...yet.

Robespierre, Lenin, Hitler, and Mao all found the idea of God inconvenient for this reason, and 21st Century Progressives have set their feet to the same road.

Krumhorn said...

When I was growing up, the Episcopal church used the Book of Common Prayer for the services. The language of the texts had been abraided against the stone vaults of cathedrals for centuries, the echos of which filled the congregant with a sense of beautiful serenity and connectedness. “ We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table....”

The lefties took charge and the book was substantially rewritten to be, essentially, nothing more elevated than buying a Greyhound bus ticket to Paducah. The entire secular impulse is to unmoor us from an awareness of our own faults and a higher moral imperative. The problem with “reason” is that it is highly malleable for the purpose of exercising unrighteousness dominion over others. We see it many times a day.

The lefties are nasty little shits.

- Krumhorn

tim maguire said...

Robert Cook said... It is understandable why people might have believed in supernatural entities when mankind knew so little about the world and the universe around is. We still are ignorant of much, but we know enough to see such beliefs as non-rational.

We have barely a conception of the world and universe around us. We are in no position to say that it’s irrational to believe there is something far older, more intelligent and more powerful than us and that it controls our environment. After, how many liberals think we control our environment, when we have really just scratched the surface of understanding it? People are biologically designed to embrace religion, and everyone does regardless of whether they embrace a god.

n.n said...

Faith (i.e. logical domain), religion (i.e. moral philosophy, ethics its relativistic cousin, law its secular handmaiden), ideology (i.e. practical roadmap), and traditions are separable. The people who function strictly in a limited frame of reference (i.e. scientific) are few and far between.

Joe Smith said...

"We still are ignorant of much, but we know enough to see such beliefs as non-rational. In short, we--the huge mass of educated modern-day people--should find it strange to hear such entreaties to supernatural entities in public functions and ceremonies."

That's how I feel when I hear public officials and celebrities preaching about global warming or whatever it's called these days.

It's nothing but a secular religion.

I treat it with the same seriousness I treat Scientology.

Stephen Taylor said...

I see by the papers that she'll be reading some poetry at the Super Bowl. It's as though the NFL wakes up every morning thinking of new ways to piss off their fans/customers.

gilbar said...

It beats hell out of marching kids pledging allegiance to Barack Obama.

The German's in WWII would pledge allegiance to der Führer
The Soviet's would pledge allegiance to THE PARTY
Our Troops swear to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic

Thank you, GOD for allowing US to keep it that way; instead of pledging people or parties
And (as long as we keep it so), may GOD Bless America!

chuck said...

we would find it odd to hear others around us invoke the names of Zeus or Zoroaster

Almost like Trotsky quoting Marx in chapter headings throughout My Life. Poor guy was a religious nutter of the first order.

Robert Cook said...

"Robespierre, Lenin, Hitler, and Mao all found the idea of God inconvenient for this reason, and 21st Century Progressives have set their feet to the same road."

Hitler did refer to God in his speeches, with the same degree of sincerity as is probably true of many present day politicians who do so. Which is to say, little or none. (I think of Trump's weird stance when he silently held up an awkwardly-gripped Bible, as if he were trying to display a box of laundry detergent for a commercial endorsement.)

Joe Smith said...

"we would find it odd to hear others around us invoke the names of Zeus or Zoroaster"

My Iranian friend from college was Zoroastrian...

Robert Cook said...

"People are biologically designed to embrace religion, and everyone does regardless of whether they embrace a god."

We are biologically evolved to see pattern, to seek answers to our questions about the phenomena in the world around us, the better to survive in dangerous environments. In the absence of knowledge, we substitute supposition, or fancy.

Bilwick said...

Praise the Sacred State, from whom all blessings come, selah!

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

“then appealing to God robs these prayers of their rhetorical power.”

Not appealing to God robs them of any point, whatsoever. Why observe the form if you reject the substance?

I have no beef with anyone’s atheism and have never tried to push my faith on anyone. Not even my own kids. But if New Age-y flatulence is all you have, why bother with a “prayer” at all? Shit, I’d prefer the kids marching for Obama. Or whatever Brownshirt bullshit the Donks are pushing this week. At least everybody understands what that’s about.

YoungHegelian said...

@Bilwick,

Praise the Sacred State, from whom all blessings come, selah!

What's this "selah" stuff? A phallo-centric holdover from the bad old days? Get with the program!

Praise the Sacred State, from whom all blessings come, awomen!

There, FIFY!

Owen said...

Krumhorn @ 3:47. “... The problem with ‘reason’ is that it is highly malleable for the purpose of exercising unrighteousness dominion over others...”. Word.

Even the coldest utilitarian should be able to appreciate that morality grounded on faith —authority beyond human reason, on a profound ground for judgment —can do more good than one that rests on a tautology like “I’m OK, you’re OK.”

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

At the very least, references to God by politicians suggests that these clowns might think, however insincerely, that they might be accountable to someone. ‘Cause, God knows, they don’t think they’re accountable to us.

Owen said...

Robert Cook @ 4:07: “... In the absence of knowledge, we substitute supposition, or fancy.”. So if nothing else “God” is a compression algorithm for a great deal of moral and intellectual structure that protects us in knowledge-deficient situations.

Leland said...

+1 to Cassandra lite

Ambrose said...

But grown-ups expecting the federal government to solve all their problems, that doesn't sound weird at all.

Rusty said...

Just remember your atheism, if what you profess is indeed that, is just as much an act of faith as believing in an infinite god.
Which reminds me of a joke.
A funeral is taking place. The man was obviously well liked because the place is packed with weeping mourners.
And a the rabbi drones on about what a great and pious man the deceased was from the back comes a piping old voice,"Gibemsonchickensoup!" The priest gamely carries on. He tells the mourners what a fine family man he was. "Gibemsomchickensoup!" He next says what a generous man he was.""Gibemsomchickensoup!" The priest looks over the congregation and sees in the back this bent little old lady."Gibemsomchickensoup!"
Finally the priest says,"Madam. This man is dead. Chicken soup can't help him now."
To which she replies, "It couldn't hoit!"
It couldn't hurt.

rhhardin said...

Ceremonial invocations of God work only when you're an atheist. Otherwise you're ordering pizza.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Lost my comment. Stupid of me.

I have said for years that the solution to everything is for people to read more CS Lewis. This is a top-tier example of why that advice is still true, even though I am an old guy wandering around with cheap wine shouting at the sky.* She needs to start somewhere, anywhere, in the Lewis (or GK Chesterton) corpus and just listen for a while. There is nothing intellectually or culturally complicated here. The complications are all social and emotional, because she fears being thrown into the internet abyss and ceasing to exist.

*I know the trails in southern NH and have extra walking-sticks if any of you want to come by. I even know places you can shout at the sky. Glad to have you, really.

Lucien said...

@ Michael K.: The general quality of your comments is far better than the "Atheism is a religion" BS. But if you would like to try to articulate a non-trivial definition of what a religion is, and then try to show how atheism could fit within that definition -- have at you.
As for heresy, while it would seem strange for an atheist to do tarot card readings, or be afraid to walk under a ladder, etc. there are no rules about this stuff that I've ever heard of, and there are probably lots of atheist sports fans who think they have lucky shirts. There is no special or distinct set of beliefs required for atheism, which is sorta why it's hard to seriously call it a religion (IMHO), and nobody gets burned at the stake for heterodox atheism. Marxism, Maoism -- heck, maybe even Wokeism -- may all seek to apply such punishments figuratively or literally, and some of those may claim allegiance to atheism, but simply believing that there is no deity requires no such orthodoxy.

rhhardin said...

Prayer only works when you're not sure you're addressing anybody, and you don't know how things work. As in a civil society in general, which depends on mostly unwritten things and things not understood by anybody. That's the narrative role of God, standing for that impediment to expertise.

Those things are being torn down today just so as to destroy what's there, so as to allow free rein to feelings.

rhhardin said...

The Islam god on the other hand tells people to do stuff, like kill infidels.

The narrative function is dogmatized. A reformation puts God back as a narrative device for what makes society work, like phlogiston makes fire work.

J. Farmer said...

@tim maguire:

We are in no position to say that it’s irrational to believe there is something far older, more intelligent and more powerful than us and that it controls our environment.

I agree, but that gets you no further than deism. Religion goes quite a bit further than that. It asserts that not only does such an entity exists but has a will and intention, has communicated this to humanity in the form of supernatural interventions in the past, and that these communications are contained within sacred literature.

While I think folk religions are probably ubiquitous in human history, highly developed religious systems are a relatively recent phenomenon and seem to have risen with the advent of urbanization.

Rusty said...

" There is no special or distinct set of beliefs required for atheism."
The belief in and the acceptance of the infinite.

rhhardin said...

Infinite doesn't mean big. It means without boundaries.

George Putnam said...

Amanda Gorman referred to the U.S. as "a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished" and she made two references to Hamilton: An American Musical. I take these things to mean that she believes in the founding ideals. That's a step in the right direction. It's a step away from the extremists who simply want to burn everything down because (in their view) our country was fatally flawed from the beginning.

BTW many of the founders were Deists. See for example The Jefferson Bible. Perhaps we should take another look at Deism.

rhhardin said...

Religion is the poeticization of ethics. Literalization makes it dogmatic in some form or another.

Take In God We Trust as trusting something making our society work continuing to work.

J. Farmer said...

@Rusty:

Just remember your atheism, if what you profess is indeed that, is just as much an act of faith as believing in an infinite god.

This claim is made a lot about atheists, but I don't think it's fair. Not believing something is not the same thing as asserting something is true. Saying "I don't believe in" or "I don't know" is not an "act of faith."

rhhardin said...

Throwing God into the narrative blocks rule by experts.

The experts don't see this as a purpose and want God removed.

rhhardin said...

Belief isn't a present mental state in any case. It's a token used in accounts. "When I sat on the chair, of course I believed it would carry my weight." I didn't give it a thought, that means.

rhhardin said...

Holding fast to your redemption means holding fast to a belief, a belief that appears only that way, as a token.

Roger This said...

What??? No monologue from Stephen "all blog comments should include a speech about God" Cooper?

Levi Starks said...

How about “in the name of our ever changing, yet constantly fragile climate, may it be the same yesterday today and tomorrow” amen

bonkti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stephen cooper said...

Roger - thanks for remembering!

(btw, your comment leads me to believe you have spent years as a teacher, if only because of the slightly sarcastic but not completely disrespectful tone, a tone I remember well from the high school days when I was one of the few students who was liked by all the teachers ----- I could be wrong , you could be a Bitcoin billionaire or a Silicon Valley prince, but if you are a teacher, I have lots of respect for teachers --- all that civic virtue every day would be too much for me, hanging out with other teachers might be fun but then again might not be ----- but that being said, most teachers work hard, and provide for their families. I HAVE MY FAULTS BUT I DO NOT CRITICIZE PEOPLE WHO PROVIDE FOR THEIR FAMILIES.)

People who do not believe in God are really really good at doing as well as they can in this world, right now. Sure it was different hundreds of years ago, when the phonies almost all claimed to believe in God.

The important thing to remember is that none of us should ever think, when someone is disappointed in what their lives have amounted to, or stymied in their plans to have a better life, that "it serves them right" ----

rather, we should think, as Bilbo thought of Gollum, that there is some good in all of us and that in the future, no matter how little we know about each other now, we will understand how much God loves us all, maybe even with more love for the losers in life (in my opinion, that means the anti-Christians and the blasphemers) than for the winners in life, who have always known that God loves us all.

stephen cooper said...

that cocktail party truism that "no politics or religion" was fine for cocktail parties.

this is not a cocktail party, if it turns into one, I will be long gone.

rhhardin said...

Harold Bloom liked all religions except Jehovah's Witnesses.

h said...

I appreciate the comments from Stephen Cooper. And I read them with respect (though not always with agreement) because I know they come from a well-intentioned religious person (Christian, though that's less important to me than "well intentioned religious person"). I am insulted by those (quoted in or authoring the article) who believe that a person who believes in God is automatically disqualified from public discourse.

rhhardin said...

Thylias Moss (the only great black poet I've run across) had it right in The Warmth of Hot Chocolate.

Explicitly poeticizing God.

MartieD said...

Politics is religion for most leftists, thus the accusations of Trump worship against those who think or vote differently. Their lack of self awareness rendered them blind to their worship of Obama and Hilary. Not sure if MSM tongue baths of Biden and Harris will deify the despicable frauds yet.

J. Farmer said...

@rhhardin:

Harold Bloom liked all religions except Jehovah's Witnesses.

That's interesting. I would've guessed Mormonism. What was his beef with JW's?

p.s. Speaking of black poets, Bloom was a big supporter of the works of Jay Wright.

Rob said...

"Patronizing" is exactly right. As I commented last week, if the poem written and recited by Amanda Gorman had been written and recited, with the precise same hand gestures, by a blonde 22-year old sorority girl Up With People type, it would have been pitilessly ridiculed--and with good reason. It was pap.

Arturo Ui said...

I did not read or listen to this poem so I have nothing to say about the poet other than that the people who are overly enthused about her feel patronizing — if not idolatrous — to me. Which is why I didn't watch. I didn't want to be soppy or judge-y.

*************************

How is it possible to find people "overly enthused" or "patronizing" about a poem you admit you have not yet read or listened to?

alanc709 said...

Atheism is an untenable belief from a logical viewpoint. It's impossible to prove that there can not be a god.

rhhardin said...

That's interesting. I would've guessed Mormonism. What was his beef with JW's?

It's a poeticization of anger and revenge, not ethics.

Original Mike said...

"Just remember your atheism, if what you profess is indeed that, is just as much an act of faith as believing in an infinite god."

No, it's not. I don't see any evidence. It's as simple as that.

Original Mike said...

"It's impossible to prove that there can not be a god."

I'm sure you're right. I have no desire to do so.

J. Farmer said...

@alanc709:

Atheism is an untenable belief from a logical viewpoint. It's impossible to prove that there can not be a god.

Atheism isn't a belief. It's the absence of a belief. Atheism does not claim to "prove that there can not be a god." Why aren't you a Hindu or a Muslim or a Jain? It isn't because you've proven that those religions are false. It's because you reject their precepts.

stephen cooper said...

Alexander Pushkin, the greatest of Russian poets, would have been considered "black" if he were born in the USA in any year this country has existed (his father's grandfather was Ethiopian).

People say that most of his poetry does not work in translation, but I disagree.
The love poems, the poems about winter beauty, the poems about lost dreams and the sadness one feels as the years go by and our friends' lives get further away, all those lyric poems work almost as well in English as in Russian.

And Tolstoy always thought Pushkin had a better way of starting a story (for example, in the Belkin Tales) than anyone else who ever wrote a modern story.



pacwest said...

Doesn't the act of praying involve a higher power? I'm trying to think of something else you could pray to. Hopefully not a human. That would be creepy.

stephen cooper said...

Basically, Turgenev and Tolstoy were to Pushkin what Supertramp and Oasis were to the Beatles.

stephen cooper said...

That was in response to J Farmer's comment about Jay Wright.

Interested Bystander said...

I suspect people like her have never suffered much hardship in their lives. There are so many things in this world that’s the more important than other people’s religious beliefs. If you don’t share their beliefs just tune it out. That’s what liberal tolerance is about.

J. Farmer said...

@rhhardin:

It's a poeticization of anger and revenge, not ethics.

Well, that's a bit vague. Does he discuss this in The American Religion? On religion, I've only read Bloom's Jesus and Yahweh. I have The American Religion and the Book of J but have never read a word of either.

Interested Bystander said...

I wish we could edit our posts. I should have used that are instead of that’s above^^^^

pacwest said...

@Farmer
Atheism isn't a belief.

Militant atheism is the problem. Believing first cause is unprovable is fine. Once your position is that there is no God you've entered the realm of unprovable belief again.

readering said...

PRC is a good example of a place where all kinds of superstition substitutes for organized religion. That's the way people are.

I accept many of the explanations for the reasonableness of a belief in the almighty and have no problem with people believing in God/god/gods/ I did myself for a very long time. Ditto practicing in an organized religion with others. But the fights over my-religion-is-right-and-good, yours-is-wrong-and-bad (and the-atheists/agnostics-are-worse) to me seriously undermine these arguments for belief in a deity and for practicing a religion.

bonkti said...

Apologies for attributing gibberish to Yeats. Correction:


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry."

stephen cooper said...

readering, there are many many Christians, Buddhists and Jews who respect unbelievers, and whose main emotion, with respect to unbelievers, is gratitude that they have seen as much truth as they have seen, and a fervent hope that others will someday see that truth ---- without "judging others"... in fact, one of the main injunctions in the Bible is "judge not, lest you be judged."

Please do not judge Christians as all being the way you described some people as being - as being people who want to undermine your attempts to understand why you were created.

"To love another human being is to understand why God created that person" - Don Colacho. God is your friend, just as much (or more) as God is my friend.

itzik basman said...

What’s with Cohen.

On Twitter, by me:


“Militant atheists scoff at believers. But people visit gravesites to “speak” to the buried. Looked at coldly, literally, it makes no sense. But who would be so insensitively obtuse as to scoff at these people? So why scoff at the faithful? What’s a principled difference?”


The point as it came to me made me stop and think for a second about the need to respect people’s faith and not look down on it, which sometimes I have tended to do though I more recently try not to. But then I see all kinds of destructive excess, the terrible consequences flowing from zealotry and then looking down starts looking up again. My anodyne sense, come to me later than it should have, is though that the extremes oughtn’t define what is markedly less than extreme, faith that generally can coexist with lawfulness and is moderate in respecting the rule of law and the separation of faith and state. And also to be kept in mind are the never to be forgotten depredations over time that “godless regimes” have wrought.

J. Farmer said...

@stephen cooper:

Alexander Pushkin, the greatest of Russian poets, would have been considered "black" if he were born in the USA in any year this country has existed (his father's grandfather was Ethiopian).

Small points, but Pushkin's African ancestry was on his maternal side, and Gannibal was most likely not from Ethiopia. In any event, I disagree that Pushkin would have incontrovertibly been considered "black" in contemporary America. I think probably at best his racial ancestry would be considered ambiguous. Having a single great-grandfather from sub-Saharan African is not much of a claim to being "black." In Bloom's context, "black" is just another way of saying "African-American," which ceased to be the preferred nomenclature at some point.

Richard Aubrey said...

Village idiot

My wife and I hiked around Lincoln a couple of years ago. Locals said the bears were still asleep but we could rent bear spray, just in case

stephen cooper said...

J Farmer - thanks for the correction. Pushkin is one of those rare people who have 4 grandparents, with only 3 different family names. Shakespeare was another (2 Ardens). His nickname at his private school was, roughly translated, "our African".

Pushkin was just as black as Jelly Roll Morton or Halle Berry (there are many others I could name if I felt like doing the research).

stephen cooper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Farmer said...

@pacwest:

Militant atheism is the problem. Believing first cause is unprovable is fine. Once your position is that there is no God you've entered the realm of unprovable belief again.

I think "militant atheism" is more a description of a certain social style than any real philosophical distinction. Again, I don't think asserting a belief is equivalent to rejecting a belief. Saying, "I don't believe in God" is not an "unprovable belief." You can reject Hinduism without having to prove that Brahma isn't real or that dharma doesn't exist. I can't prove that sasquatch or the Loch Ness monster don't exist, but I still don't believe in them.

stephen cooper said...

Pushkin --- Chicherina, Ganniballa were his grandmothers, both grandfathers were Pushkins.

Shakespeare - two Arden grandparents, one Webb, one Shakespeare.

(i am distantly related to Webb ... not that it matters).

stephen cooper said...

Sorry, I mixed up Dorothy Dandridge with Halle Berry, who once, in a movie from another era, played the role of Dorothy Dandridge.

Narr said...

"Faith is an island in the setting sun,
But truth-- truth is the bottom line for everyone."
(Paul Simon)

Narr
Atheism is a religion in precisely the same way that not collecting stamps is a hobby.
(Anon.)

J. Farmer said...

@stephen cooper:

J Farmer - thanks for the correction. Pushkin is one of those rare people who have 4 grandparents, with only 3 different family names. Shakespeare was another (2 Ardens). His nickname at his private school was, roughly translated, "our African".

Pushkin was just as black as Jelly Roll Morton or Halle Berry (there are many others I could name if I felt like doing the research).


Well, Gannibal was a famous figure in Russian history. When you look at portraiture of Pushkin, what phenotypic traits immediately scream out "black" to you?

J. Farmer said...

Sorry, I mixed up Dorothy Dandridge with Halle Berry, who once, in a movie from another era, played the role of Dorothy Dandridge.

They all look alike to you, huh? Fucking racist.

;)

Narr said...

FWIW the fragments of the inauguration ceremony and the little miss's routine that I glimpsed were sad.

Narr
Sad!

stephen cooper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Original Mike said...

"Atheism is a religion in precisely the same way that not collecting stamps is a hobby."

Amen.

stephen cooper said...

I don't know who the comedian was, but Halle Berry was in this movie where the theme was, a racist white guy fell in love with her, thereby redeeming himself from his racist past, and the comedian is like ---

This has got to be the most racist idea ever, that some loser racist white guy should be proud of himself for falling in love with Halle Berry!

Mark said...

Apparently at the church Biden attended this weekend, the priest spoke about the great need for a Moses to appear to lead the people.

For the more dense among you, the priest essentially equated Biden with Moses.

Because, you know, Biden is THE MOST RELIGIOUS person to ever be president. He is a living, walking holy man.

Or so the left keeps telling us. That is, when they are not bashing the whole idea of God and demonizing people of faith.

wildswan said...

This what I and all other Christians was taught about how to pray:

"Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done,
on earth as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil."
Amen.

1. Praise the Creator; pray for the earth to be more like God's Kingdom
2. Ask for your needs and forgive your enemies if you expect to be forgiven
3. Pray that your nature doesn't lead you into error and pray that you don't find yourself facing overwhelming evil.

I don't see that as asking Santa for a ten-speed; I see that as a realistic appreciation of what an adult faces and what our relationship with our Creator is.

YoungHegelian said...

"Atheism is a religion in precisely the same way that not collecting stamps is a hobby.

No. We're not talking competing religions here. What we are discussing is whether the proposition "God does not exist" is every bit as much of a metaphysical proposition as "God Exists". Basically, it is, and whatever "systematics" one builds from the non-existence of God are every bit as dubious as the contrary.

Shit, even hard-ass Logical Positivist A.J. Ayer had the sense of it: Of course, if God is conceived of as an enormously powerful being in human form, as depicted in religious paintings, the matter would be different, but a religious sophisticate will say that that is a mere image of a truth which cannot be expressed in sensory terms. At that point Ayer said that he was not an atheist, since “God does not exist” is as meaningless as “God exists.” Later he relaxed this somewhat and was prepared to call himself an atheist on the grounds that no meaning can be given to the proposition that God exists that makes it remotely likely to be true.

rhhardin said...

You can distinguish true religious experiences from drug induced experiences by the absence of a hangover, according to philosophy professor Paul Schmidt.

Mark said...

What is interesting are those who will argue with equal viciousness that there is no God, and that there is no Hell.

Mark said...

Does existence exist?

Mark said...

The thing is --

"God exists" is redundant.

Original Mike said...

"and whatever "systematics" one builds from the non-existence of God are every bit as dubious as the contrary".

I'm not aware of any systematics I'm building.

pacwest said...

@Farmer
"I don't believe in God" is not an "unprovable belief."

Agreed. Not what I said though. My point was that "There is no God." is as unprovable as "There is a God." The infinite regression of First Cause makes it unprovable either way. My definition of militant is when someone says "There is" vs "I believe". Believers can be just as militant as non-believers.

bonkti said...

Mark @ 7:32

The first reading at Catholic churches nationwide this morning was Deuteronomy 18: 15-20. Moses arguably is anticipating Jesus. Whoever suggested that Moses anticipated Biden did it on zir own authority, not the Church's.

YoungHegelian said...

@Original Mike,

I'm not aware of any systematics I'm building.

And we're supposed to take your lack of awareness as some sort of proof you aren't doing it?

Talk about yer "dubious propositions"...

Original Mike said...

I have no propositions, YH. I'm not trying to convince you of anything.

boatbuilder said...

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”

--Abraham Lincoln

It is about humility. Anyone who has ever held a position of responsibility for the lives of other human beings who doesn't recognize this is dangerously delusional.

As history has shown over and over again.

Joe Smith said...

"It is about humility. Anyone who has ever held a position of responsibility for the lives of other human beings who doesn't recognize this is dangerously delusional."

This is correct.

It is about believing that you alone are not the most important person on earth.

And that as a human being, you are certainly flawed, but can be redeemed.

William said...

Maybe on the Day of Reckoning, God will visit the earth in the guise of a black swan.....Contra Einstein, dice play God with the universe. My takeaway is that if Einstein could be wrong about quantum mechanics, what are the odds that the current generation of physicists will at some point in time (if it may be said that time has a point), be supplanted by a new generation of physicists who will posit a different view of how the universe operates. If we had a complete understanding of the nature of the universe, then we would be God. Since we don't, then other scenarios are possible. God, as the Primer Mover, is as good an explanation as any and offers some emotional sustenance. If God exists, He will not be the most irrational being in the universe. That distinction belongs to the platypus.

NCMoss said...

People don't believe merely from tradition but of something more profound experienced in structure and content and time; like music. Just because you can't see past infrared or ultraviolet light doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Narr said...

Logical-positivist eh? Ayer's (I've read some of his work) systematizing does me no more good than any other professional philosopher's does, or ever will.

I like the rough-and-ready double definition of atheism used in some 19th C state constitutions: denial of a personal god, and denial of a future state of rewards and punishments--in order to exclude known atheists from public office (as they excluded clergymen).

Narr
Systematics would be a good name for a band

Mark said...

Yes, bonkti -

Biden goes to a far left parish in Georgetown.

Rusty said...

rhhardin said...
"Infinite doesn't mean big. It means without boundaries."
Yes, it does.

William said...

As others here have noted, man has a predisposition to believe in a higher power. Here, west of Mecca, God has been safely corralled and hedged and can safely be invoked without raising the hackles of any but the most devout atheists. The God of western societies really is a benign, if distant, presence. Contrast our God with dialectical materialism or Malthusian economics or whatever force you think might control the happenings here on earth.

Rusty said...

J. Farmer said...
"@Rusty:

Just remember your atheism, if what you profess is indeed that, is just as much an act of faith as believing in an infinite god.

This claim is made a lot about atheists, but I don't think it's fair. Not believing something is not the same thing as asserting something is true. Saying "I don't believe in" or "I don't know" is not an "act of faith.""
Then you haven't examined atheism. To simply assert something doesn't exist is not the same as accepting non existence. The futility of life and the yawning abyss at the end is not the same as not believing. It takes profound self examination to be an atheist. It takes profound self examination to believe in an infinite god.

Original Mike said...

"It takes profound self examination to be an atheist."

No it doesn't. All it takes is considering whether you believe a story someone else asserts. Concluding the evidence is skimpy is not the same thing as concluding the story is false.

J. Farmer said...

@Rusty:

Then you haven't examined atheism. To simply assert something doesn't exist is not the same as accepting non existence. The futility of life and the yawning abyss at the end is not the same as not believing. It takes profound self examination to be an atheist. It takes profound self examination to believe in an infinite god.

I don't know what it means to have "examined atheism." What is the difference in qualia between "simply assert something doesn't exist" and "accepting non existence"? Even if one accepted the existence of an infinite god, without a theological underpinning, its nature would remain unknown. There could be an infinite god who was indifferent or malevolent or a tinkerer. It isn't merely the existence of god that separates atheism from theism but the notion that this god has a will and has intention and that these have been communicated to humans in the form of sacred literature.

J. Farmer said...

@pacwest:

Agreed. Not what I said though. My point was that "There is no God." is as unprovable as "There is a God." The infinite regression of First Cause makes it unprovable either way. My definition of militant is when someone says "There is" vs "I believe". Believers can be just as militant as non-believers.

I take your point but that veers quite a bit towards semantics. I don't see much functional difference between "I don't believe there is" and "there is no." I think the term "militant" has less to do with the degree of skepticism and more to do with a certain petulant, condescending attitude towards believers.

The Godfather said...

Religious faith is just that: Faith. If you believe in Santa Claus, you can charter a plane and fly over the North Pole and see if there's a toy factory there. You can't fly off in your space ship to look for God, because God is beyond the space-time universe. What you can do is look at the world around you and ask whether the existence or non-existence of God makes more sense.

For example (and this is a very small example): How did the universe come to be the way it is? Theory 1: God created it that way (not necessarily in 7 days: that's a metaphor). Theory 2: Stephen Hawking's theory that universes just keep popping up willy-nilly and most of them vanished, but our particular universe just happens to be be relatively stable and to have room for human life. Pick one.

I have.

Original Mike said...

"It isn't merely the existence of god that separates atheism from theism but the notion that this god has a will and has intention and that these have been communicated to humans in the form of sacred literature."

And then there's that.

Jamie said...

It isn't merely the existence of god that separates atheism from theism but the notion that this god has a will and has intention and that these have been communicated to humans in the form of sacred literature.

Sez who? "Atheism" is non-theism - non-belief in a deity. You don't have to have a scripture to believe in a deity, and a deity could easily be a Divine Clockmaker and still be a deity.

Which is the correct statement about atheism: "I don't believe in any god" or "I believe there is/are no god(s)"? One is an affirmative statement of disbelief, the other an affirmative statement of belief. Neither can use appeals to evidence. Both are beliefs offered without any more support than religious belief.

Religion offers ready (if often unsatisfactory, to us) explanations for why evil happens, even to good people, and to why junk DNA appears in the human genotype. Atheism pushes the big questions away without any attempt to answer them - which may be intellectually courageous, as when moral atheists decide to be kind to others because they feel it's right to do so rather than because there might be punishment if they don't (a gross oversimplification of religious motivations, of course, but one I've heard atheists deploy), but could also be seen as putting your hands over your ears and saying "lalala" to avoid a difficult problem.

But I can live with that. The atheists I know are moral (and don't especially care that the morals they follow derive from religions) and tolerant, thank goodness, and probably if you pressed them, they'd be more inclined to agnosticism - a statement of lack of knowledge - than atheism - a statement of belief or disbelief. Me, I'm in the middle of a pretty deep crisis of faith, but somehow I believe I'm going to come out of it having gained some gift of high value, because that's how it's gone in my past.

Jamie said...

And back to the poetry - at a Zoom book club meeting this week, my (all white, mostly progressive) book club friends spent a hot minute swooning over this young poet. I had no idea who she was or even that she was a poet. I wish I'd known - I could have asked for examples, then asked what made her poetry uniquely worthy of their praise, and then watched them stumble over themselves.

Then again, I wouldn't have done that, because the first rule of Book Club is you don't challenge anyone's sensibilities at Book Club.

Martin said...

Writes someone whose distant ancestor may have been a priest in Solomon's Temple...

btb, Gorman's "poem" was utter bilge water. Maybe she has talent, and if so, I hope she someday realizes it and is justly praised. But what she produced this year should embarrass a great country on the occasion of certifying a new government.

J. Farmer said...

@Jamie:

Which is the correct statement about atheism: "I don't believe in any god" or "I believe there is/are no god(s)"? One is an affirmative statement of disbelief, the other an affirmative statement of belief. Neither can use appeals to evidence. Both are beliefs offered without any more support than religious belief.

I am very confused by this distinction. An "affirmative statement of disbelief" is a belief?

J. Farmer said...

@The Godfather:

Pick one.

Why? Why not just say it's a mystery?

شركة المثالي سوبر said...

شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالعيص


شركة تعقيم منازل بالخبر

شركة تعقيم مساجد بالخبر
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بنجران

tomaig said...

You didn't miss much ny not reading her :poem". Stretches of florid, sophomoric prose interspersed with occasional rhymes that remind me of lines 3 and 4 of a limerick or rap songs. No meter or rhythm, so I'm not sure what makes it "poetry".

Rusty said...

Even if one accepted the existence of an infinite god, without a theological underpinning, its nature would remain unknown.
And the same holds true for atheism. The nature of god will always be unknown. Hence the faith part. But the nature of both things remain in doubt. And doubt drives both things.
I think the difference is that atheism absolves the believer of a lot of responsibilities while a deity demands responsibilities.
Anyway. Believe whatever you want. I'm not your online moral responsibility guy.
We have SJWs for that.

J. Farmer said...

@Rusty:

The nature of god will always be unknown. Hence the faith part.

I was basically just drawing a distinction between deism and the God of the various world religions.

Anyway. Believe whatever you want. I'm not your online moral responsibility guy.

I never thought that was your intention. Sometimes it's just conversation here, not confrontation ;)

Fernandinande said...

"Amanda Gorman showed us how civic ceremonies can have prayer without invoking God"

Given a choice between the two, I'd prefer to hear politicians invoking imaginary creatures over a child reciting poetry.

Rusty said...

. Farmer said...
"@Rusty:

The nature of god will always be unknown. Hence the faith part.

I was basically just drawing a distinction between deism and the God of the various world religions."
I wasn't.

Krumhorn said...

I think the term "militant" has less to do with the degree of skepticism and more to do with a certain petulant, condescending attitude towards believers

This! It’s the thumb-in-your-eye feature of the militant’s language that is so offensive. Words like supernatural, imaginary, spaghetti monster, superhero, spectral, phantasmagoria, are all mocking snark that is intended to place the believer into the basket of deplorables and who are the bitter clingers.

To assert that there is no God is a statement of belief. How could it be otherwise? There is far more probative evidence, even if circumstantial, that God exists than that God doesn’t exist. We can even assign certain qualities to God for which there is ample evidence. For example, one must credit God with enormous grace for the existence of Mozart, the incalculable unselfish depth of a parent’s love for a child, the extraordinary brilliance of the Feynman lectures, the Duruflé Requiem, Oscar Peterson, Ann Althouse, my wife, Mariano Rivera, dolphins, my dog Schubert, my daughter Millie, the Indian Red Over Thunder Black motorcycle, the A-4M Skyhawk, the Cavaillé-Coll at St Sulpice, the smell of cinnamon, freshly baked bread, and my mother’s pot roast.

Evidence of a certain God-ly malevolence would be the presence on this earth of the lefties. But maybe that’s just His sense of humor.

- Krumhorn

Robert Cook said...

"Words like supernatural, imaginary, spaghetti monster, superhero, spectral, phantasmagoria, are all mocking snark that is intended to place the believer into the basket of deplorables and who are the bitter clingers."

How is the term "supernatural" mocking snark? It is an entirely accurate and objective description of the nature of any entity deemed to be a god.

"There is far more probative evidence, even if circumstantial, that God exists than that God doesn’t exist."

Such as?

"We can even assign certain qualities to God for which there is ample evidence. For example, one must credit God with enormous grace for the existence of Mozart, the incalculable unselfish depth of a parent’s love for a child, the extraordinary brilliance of the Feynman lectures, the Duruflé Requiem, Oscar Peterson, Ann Althouse, my wife, Mariano Rivera, dolphins, my dog Schubert, my daughter Millie, the Indian Red Over Thunder Black motorcycle, the A-4M Skyhawk, the Cavaillé-Coll at St Sulpice, the smell of cinnamon, freshly baked bread, and my mother’s pot roast."

None of the above, even, I'm sorry to say, your mother's pot roast, is evidence of or requires the existence of a god.

Robert Cook said...

"Religion offers ready (if often unsatisfactory, to us) explanations for why evil happens, even to good people, and to why junk DNA appears in the human genotype. Atheism pushes the big questions away without any attempt to answer them - which may be intellectually courageous, as when moral atheists decide to be kind to others because they feel it's right to do so rather than because there might be punishment if they don't (a gross oversimplification of religious motivations, of course, but one I've heard atheists deploy), but could also be seen as putting your hands over your ears and saying "lalala" to avoid a difficult problem."

Atheists "decide" to be kind to others because "they feel it's right to do so?" Religious folk are kind because they are afraid of punishment?

Humans are pack animals, and, like non-human pack animals, we have evolved certain behaviors that tend to further the survival of the pack--thereby furthering the survival of the individual members within the pack. Social cohesion and cooperative behaviors among the pack members are behaviors that tend to further survival of the pack. Behaviors that tend to undo social cohesion--such as harming or killing one's pack members, (or deceiving or taking advantage of them to their loss and to one's own advantage)--are seen to be negative--"immoral," if you will--because they destroy trust and put each pack member at odds with every other pack member, and the survival of the pack as a whole is put at risk.

God is not necessary for any of the behavior we consider "good" (or "moral"). They are evolved behaviors that promote survival in a dangerous world.

"The atheists I know are moral (and don't especially care that the morals they follow derive from religions)...."

Rather, religions (and the customs and laws of societies) provide after-the-fact codification and formalization of behaviors evolved to further our chances of survival.

Narr said...

Rusty says that atheists absolve themselves of a lot of responsibilities. I'd like to hear some examples, and would argue that atheists and theists will have different definitions of
responsibility anyway.

FWIW, Mozart and Bach are better evidence of divinity than anything out of Mohammed's piehole.

Can we all--atheist, agnostic, and sanctified--agree on this?

Narr
And build from there

Krumhorn said...

None of the above, even, I'm sorry to say, your mother's pot roast, is evidence of or requires the existence of a god.

It’s almost impossible to ascribe to random chaotic cosmic chance the existence of any of it, including our consciousness of our own existence.

- Krumhorn

Robert Cook said...

"Can we all--atheist, agnostic, and sanctified--agree on this?"

I don't know. I'd have to know every thought and statement attributed to Mohammed. As it is, as with most Americans, I don't any of the thoughts or statements attributed to Mohammed.

Robert Cook said...

"It’s almost impossible to ascribe to random chaotic cosmic chance the existence of any of it, including our consciousness of our own existence."

It's not "almost impossible" at all, as that is what apparently has occurred. Ascribing existence to a creator god fails to explain where this creator god came from, or when, or how, or why. "God" is a placeholder answer in lieu of a real one. As I said above, we are innately curious about the whys and hows of the existence that contains us, and, when lacking knowledge, we often substitute supposition or fancy.

Krumhorn said...

It's not "almost impossible" at all, as that is what apparently has occurred. Ascribing existence to a creator god fails to explain where this creator god came from, or when, or how, or why..

I never have maintained that I can answer any of those questions. I can explain the effects of quantum mechanics, but I can’t tell you a thing about how or why. I’m sorry to report that your explanation that something extraordinary “apparently has occurred” is even less persuasive than the explanation offered by Schroeder’s cat about how it managed to be in two places at once.

- Krumhorn

Narr said...

OK, the views commonly and publicly ascribed to Prophet/Warlord Mohammed, and as believed by billions (or so it is claimed). I didn't think I'd have to spell it out.

The cat belongs to Schroedinger, BTW.

Narr
I studied Islamic history and thought so you don't have to

Robert Cook said...

"I’m sorry to report that your explanation that something extraordinary 'apparently has occurred' is even less persuasive than the explanation offered by Schroeder’s cat about how it managed to be in two places at once."

My comment is not an explanation. It is merely a statement that, your incredulity notwithstanding, "random chaotic cosmic chance" seemingly did create all of existence, "including our consciousness of our own existence."

That is all we can say about the matter until we have more concrete evidence that provides a possible or likely alternative explanation. There is no evidence of any kind that a creator god exists. To assume such a creator god exists and is the author of the universe is an example of substituting fancy for knowledge.

Hercules, not that one though said...

Jamie - "The atheists I know are moral"

They are moral because they grew up in a culture that promoted morality. Atheists go along to get along. It is sufficient. Dawkins, an atheist, spoke of this. No individual has to know God, as long as most know God. The atheist can go along and enjoy the benefits of a civil society.

Where did this insane idea of God-given rights come from, anyway?

Look up your State Constitution. Any of the 50 States. Read the Preamble. It's only a sentence or two. Those are the people who created this thing.

We did not create this thing. We are the inheritors. We are not them.

Because our hostess does not like being imposed upon, I've copied the Preamble to Wisconsin's Constitution when they became a State.

"We, the people of Wisconsin, grateful to Almighty God for
our freedom, in order to secure its blessings, form a more perfect
government, insure domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare, do establish this constitution. "

The other 49 States are similar. Look 'em up. They created this thing. That's 'who we were'.

Krumhorn said...

To assume such a creator god exists and is the author of the universe is an example of substituting fancy for knowledge.

To assume that random collections of mass and energy magically produced our existence, or even the existence of mass and energy itself, is difficult to explain in any rational way, and the word ‘fancy’ doesn’t come close.

- Krumhorn

Robert Cook said...

"To assume that random collections of mass and energy magically produced our existence, or even the existence of mass and energy itself, is difficult to explain in any rational way, and the word ‘fancy’ doesn’t come close."

To the contrary, there is much greater evidence that our existence came about--not magically--but by physical processes involving that energy and those masses over incredible spans of time, while there is zero evidence to even suggest the existence of a creator god (or gods). You choose to dismiss as fancy that which is not, but accept as more plausible that which is pure fancy, simply because you emotionally want that to be true.

Rusty said...

Narr.
Let's take charity, for example. Charity is a religious sacrament in the christian religion.( I don't know how judism approaches it) It is an obligation. Atheism does not obligate you to help anyone. It demands nothing of you. I suppose you could look at abortion the same way. "Tough shit kid."

Nancy Reyes said...

the point of a prayer is to remind people that the government is not the all powerful Oz, but that there is a power above the highest government official, and that the world is a place where he not only has power over (and obligations to) the people, but that he also is under the scrutiny of a higher power.

In China, this is called the Mandate of Heaven, and the emperor knows that if he becomes a tyrant, then Heaven's mandate will be removed from him and given to another.

Something that both Biden and Xi should fear.

Narr said...

"Atheism . . . demands nothing of you." True dat, Rusty. FWIW I have it on good authority that judaism enjoins charity towards others but I'm not an expert myself.

As for Nancy Reyes's "the point of prayer is to remind people that the government is not the all powerful Oz [etc.]" I won't argue the point from a historian's POV. I'll just comment that nowadays some knowledge, common sense, and oh, independence of mind, what used to be called non-conformity, suffice.

Narr
Not saying those are easy, mind you

Hercules, not that one though said...

Can we at least agree on this:

In the Beginning, there was stuff kinda lying around, and the stuff kinda smashed into itself, and I don't know, just created everything. Big Bang! SCIENCE. Can we at least agree on that. I'm with Robert Cook on this. For any doubters...it took millions of years, so...kinda smashed together. BUT...it took millions of years! Follow the Science, H8Rs.