Active RNS subscribers and members can view this content at the RNS Archives website.

(RNS) Bruce Sheiman doesn't believe in God, but he does believe in religion. Setting aside the question of whether God exists, it's clear that the benefits of faith far outweigh its costs, he argues in his new book, “An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity is Better Off With Religion than Without It.” “I don't know […]

67 Comments

  1. Quotes:
    “Faith provides meaning and purpose for millions of believers, inspires people to tend to each other and build communities, gives them a sense of union with a transcendent power”

    Creating in-groups and out-groups in the process. Generating exclusivity, and discord among competing faiths.

    Quote:
    “and provides numerous health benefits”

    Apart from the reduction of stress through the bliss of ignorance, it has been Science which provided numerous health benefits.

    Quote:
    “Sheiman says. Moreover, the galvanizing force behind many achievements in Western civilization has been faith, Sheiman argues, while conceding that he limits his analysis, for the most part, to modern Western religion.”

    And well he might limit his analysis it speaks nothing about the fact that some of the most dramatic and revolutionary achievements have not come from religion but from doubt and curiosity, which has been the root of every major scientific undertaking.

    Quote:
    “More than any other institution, religion deserves our appreciation and respect because it has persistently encouraged people to care deeply—for the self, for neighbors, for humanity, and for the natural world—and to strive for the highest ideals humans are able to envision,”

    I’ve never seen religion encourage people to care deeply for the self, only in their particular deities perceived expectations. Religion tends to teach the unworthiness of the self. It does encourage others to care for neighbors it’s true. In a back handed way, I suppose that the church of the LDS and other conservative Christians think they are looking out for their homosexual neighbors by denying them marriage and marginalizing them so as to express their god’s disapproval. These would be the same people who are looking out for humanity by trying to convert everyone to their faith which in turn creates conflict. Speaking as a former Christian I know that there are many Christians who do not see caring for this planet as important. After all, Jesus will be back any day according to them.

    Do you really think that religions encourage people to strive for the highest ideals humans are able to envision? You do realize that kind of thinking is what helped to create the Spanish inquisition and Jewish concentration camps. The problem with relying on your own judgment about what constitutes a “high idea” is that you end up with a mixed bag which is precisely how we’ve ended up with so many denominations for so many different religions.

  2. This is all very nice and fluffy but a lie is a lie.

    Regardless of the ‘good’ that religion may do (and well pointed out in the comment above mine, it’s not all good as it’s projected) this does not justify a god.

    To me that attitude is just degrading ‘Let them live their little fantasies .. they don’t hurt THAT many people ..’

    yea rite

  3. What patronising nonsense.

    So it’s OK for Bruce Sheiman not to believe in a god, because he’s sophisticated enough to cope without a belief, but everyone else is so inadequate and stupid that they have to believe in a god in order to get through their lives.

  4. I agree with both of you. I should just like to add:

    If an adult is stupid enough to believe that Ratzinger (or any other shaman) KNOWS something that it is impossible that they CAN know, i.e. what jwhe (or any other god) wants, that is their problem.

    However: lying to children in order to force their obedience is despicable.

  5. Daniel, this is an excellent article! Bruce Sheiman is correct in his assessments! I am an ex-minister whom is a secular humanist. I have been saying these things for years at my www.exminister.org website. I have recently posted “A progressive new paradigm” that would challenge the naysayers whom disagree here!

    Take it from someone that knows with the perspective of having lived in a society where religion/God was “kicked out” like Latvia was for roughly 50 years. Bruce was correct, I could write a book about this as well!

  6. Brian Worley,

    I have to disagree with you. Just because you lived in one secular area and weren’t impressed with the morals of the people doesn’t give you the right or ability to judge all secular societies.

    Take it from someone that knows with the perspective of having lived in a society where religion exists. I don’t want to badmouth the area, but there is little nice I could say about the character and compassion of their people today!

    The truth of the matter is, neither religion or secularism define the morality of a society, they are merely facets of the society themselves.

  7. [Comment redacted] Note: RNS hosts comments to foster discussion. Insults, profanity and other outbursts will be deleted. Thank you.

  8. gsat,
    Lets stick to the subject! We have a child, obviously parents have a choice to make about how to rear their children. We won’t be teaching our daughter about Jonah, theArk, etc., or a Holy Ghost. I don’t think you understand the secular humanist point of view. I don’t believe in the supernatural. But I have definitely benefitted from religious instruction which is my point. No need to make villians out of people whom think differently. But don’t confuse this as my advocation for the proclamation of religion.

    Gotrootdude,
    I will say this as kindly as I can say this. Your view is philosophical, not one born of experience. I would have probably stated the same as you did here 3 years ago. I have no way of knowing where you live, but chances are that your locality has been touched by religion and that it has some measure of economic stability. When people get closer the bottom line of basic survival they do whatever it takes to keep going like lying, infidelity, cheating, stealing. Life in poor countries are usually considered to be undesireable due to such things as crime, economics and the character of the people living there. You need to answer where do morals come from? Your “neither religion or secularism define the morality of a society” seems to indicate that morality comes “magically” without a teacher. Many employ religion to assist them in teaching morality (I hope you are not denying this?)

    I would think you would have to affirm the last sentence. If indeed you do, then you would have to admit that religion does indeed define and influences morality. The facets of society you speak of are PLACED there by the people of society!

  9. All good points from Mr. Burke to the last comment.
    I arrived here after reading the Bill O’Reilly interview with Richard Dawkins about “The God Delusion”
    Very closed minded of the big O’.

    Has anyone read Robert Wright’s “The Evolution of God”?
    I highly recommend it. His tome gives great insight as to why God’s were designed by men to explain what they couldn’t.

    It gives Separation of Church and State a lot of support without stating so.
    One only needs to accept the fact that Religion belongs only in the heart.
    After all, weren’t the books of the “Religions” written by many many men over thousands of years instead of one fell swoop that can be traced definitively?

  10. @ Brian Worley
    “Lets stick to the subject!” Yes let us do that.

    Secular people are like people wearing jeans, we come in all shapes and sizes. My child has read the Bible and C.S.Lewis and the Koran and A.C.Doyle and Shakespear etc. all sorts of books.
    Small children sometimes confuse fact and fiction, thinking both Aslan and Odin real, Loki and Lucifer, santa klaus and the easter bunny.

    Fantasy is part of one’s life – sci-fi for example – I wouldn’t be without it. But I know that my intrepid space-faring heros are not really real.
    Oh yes and: I reject the type of morality taught by religion.

    I refered to lying – this is the concept of claiming to know something you don’t – saying “I know this to be absolutly true” when you don’t.
    So let me repeat the question, are you of the opinion that adults are justified in lying to their children just to make them obedient?

  11. gswat, I did answer your question you just didn’t understand it. Your answer tells me that you don’t know the meaning of a secular humanist position which is to be distinguished from the secular “jeans” that you describe. When you grasp that, this would answer your lying question as well. I have a secular links page that has the Humanist Manifesto III and a link to the Counsel of Secular Humanism that would describe the position. However the best is an article upon the main page by Fred Edwords entitled “What is Humanism.” I don’t seek to convert you to that way of thinking, but if anyone presses me for my viewpoint these are the clearest explanations.

    I would agree with you in that I’m not too pleased with certain aspects of Biblical morality. But this isn’t an us verses them type of thing. Most people seek to do what they consider to be the right thing to do. They usually have a reason for doing so. This is why I’d rather proclaim reason rather than try to convert another to certain points.

  12. I hope this is relevant to the discussion above.

    It is possible to derive one’s ethics from one’s religion. It is also possible to derive one’s religion from one’s ethics. I would have thought it’s generally preferable to derive religion from ethics rather than the other way round.

  13. gswat:

    I don’t think he was evading your question nor do I think he is saying “NO”.

    What I think is that you’ve already decided what he believes because you like simple answers and loaded questions while disregarding the complexity of other people’s views.

  14. @Ali
    Actually, yes I do like simple answers. A “loaded question” would be: “when did you stop lying to your children”.
    A simple question would be: “Is anyone justified in lying to children to fill the coffers of a sect?”
    There is also a simple answer, although those answering yes may need to make complicated justifications for their conspiricy to fraud.

    Finally, blubbing on about how “the complexity of other peoples views” makes it impossible to answer a simple question with a simple answer is just avoiding the responsibility of a clear answer.

    As to having the last word on the “secular humanist position”, I do not claim to understand EVERYBODY’s views, nor are these relevant to the discussion. Secular humanism is NOT a religion, although it may make claims to an ethical set of values.

  15. Atheists recognize tolerance as a virtue and not a vice because they too are made in God’s image despite their worldview (set of beliefs). Being tolerant is honorable, however knowing truth rather than just “finding a happy medium” should be their end goal. Truth about the origin of life, whether there is life after death, whether we have ultimate purpose, the origin of information, and more. Perhaps the atheist in light of the new evidence is becoming more like the skeptic who does not believe we can know truth afterall. Of course living by the motto ‘we cannot know truth’ being itself a self-defeating statement (as it is making a truth claim) is no way to live.

  16. Frank Barfety,

    We don’t all recognize tolerance as a virtue as a blanket idea. There are always things we should not tolerate. In my view, “Faith” is not a virtue, and should not be given special privileges. By all means, go ahead and tolerate the fact the you can’t make people live by an evidence based world view, but do not tolerate pushing their “Faith” based world view onto others, especially children, without the evidence to back it up. Religions should have to adhere to “Truth in Advertising” laws. No religion should be allowed to make money off claims they cannot prove to be factual, and those claims should never be taught in public schools as so many proponents of Intelligent Design would desire. I see no reason why I should tolerate any of that.

  17. Soulless,
    Thanks for the reply. I love your name by the way – very self-defeating. I suppose you are right about tolerance if by tolerance you mean holding someone or an act unjustifiably in high regard, and not simply open-mindedness or being able to respectfully discuss differing views which is how I was using it. You see it more as, we ought not tolerate selfish intolerant bigots as an example, or we ought not tolerate the murder of innocent children. Or to use your example, we ought not lie to children or believe anything whatsoever without first knowing it scientifically or by the five senses.

    First of all, it is difficult to see where ‘ought tos’ come from. I mean if we are just a complex arrangement of purely physical molecules then who are we to criticize anyone for teaching falsehood to their children or sucking a child’s brain in the birth canal at eight months. We are just another (soulless) bag of atoms over here with no moral grounds to support an argument against that person. The problem is that it is more epistemically reasonable to believe that ‘ought tos’ and other moral laws you seem to believe in don’t just appear out of thin air but instead point to a moral law giver.

    Secondly, I agree with your view that religions should have evidence to back them up. There are many religions I do not believe in precisely because the evidence is just not there. For example it is hard to believe in Hindu reincarnation, or that there are exactly 330 million Devas. In Islam, that men would have 72 wives in heaven, or that Mohammed walks into a cave and comes out with sacred texts without any witnesses. In fact it doesn’t take a scholar to eliminate the phonies.

    Finally, science often makes philosophical claims and bases those claims on philosophical assumptions. It’s difficult to see how science alone can accomplish anything without running into the Problem of the Criterion. I don’t have time to develop here but ID has a lot going for them.

  18. Has anyone out there considered that ‘Gods’ were created by man in order to answer the questions they could not???

  19. Franck Barfety,

    Soulless isn’t self-defeating, it’s honest. There is no such thing as the human soul as defined by most religions. Mind/brain unity is very well established which leaves nothing left for a “soul” to do. Knowing things by our senses is the only way we can know anything and science has proved itself to be the best method of determining what is so. By the way, humans have more than 5 senses. I personally have a great sense of humor and an impeccable sense of style.

    “Ought tos” come from the same location as our morality. All morality comes from our intention for ourselves, our culture, or our society. Things that are contrary to our intentions will automatically be deemed “wrong” or “immoral”. Our “ought tos” will come from intention as well. Our intentions come from our desires which are created from our experience and our experience very often leads us to feel emotions and one of those emotions is empathy. Empathy is our ability to place ourselves in the shoes of others. That is all it takes to begin to design our own moral standards. No moral law giver needed.

    All religions are just as absurd as the ones you exampled. All of them. All proposed gods are absurd. All of them.

    As to the Problem of the Criterion, I’m a very practical person almost to the point of utilitarianism. I’m not the least bit interested in such philosophical issues.

  20. As Kant showed many years ago, the idea of a ‘moral law giver’ is no help in explaining where moral imperatives come from. Do we obey God’s laws because they are good laws? (In which case the fact that they are God’s laws is irrelevant to our obedience.) Or do we obey God’s laws because they are God’s laws? (In which case they may not be good laws – can it be our moral duty to obey a bad law just because it is God’s law?) Are God’s laws good by definition? (Then goodness and morality fall away as irrelevant. But how do we know what God’s laws are? What version do we take as gospel?)

    It may be the idea of a ‘moral law giver’ isn’t as coherent as it appears.

    Thanks, Chris Lawrence.

  21. David Baird, thanks for your question: “Has anyone out there considered that ‘Gods’ were created by man in order to answer the questions they could not???”
    Unfortunately, I think this is akin to saying “Has anyone out there considered that Indians were created by man in order to answer the questions they could not about arrowheads they discovered in Kansas???”
    I have now considered it but that way of thinking does not take me very far. Archaeologists and Detectives constantly make use of deductive reasoning. As would SETI scientists were they to discover an information bearing signal coming from the cosmos.

    When one studies the DNA and the RNA world one has to ask himself where does the information come from? It is more logical (again more epistemically reasonable) to believe that information comes from a top-down intelligent mind than from a bottom-up naturalistic unguided process.

  22. Franck Barfety,

    You say:
    “When one studies the DNA and the RNA world one has to ask himself where does the information come from? It is more logical (again more epistemically reasonable) to believe that information comes from a top-down intelligent mind than from a bottom-up naturalistic unguided process.”

    Look up images of “harlequin type ichthyosis” and ask yourself:
    “Is it more reasonable that this disorder comes from an intelligent mind or from a unguided naturalistic process?”

    I suspect that this question may not get you very far as well but that could be because you won’t like the conclusion since neither answer bodes well for theology.

  23. Soulless, Respectfully, confusing mind/brain unity with mind/brain correlations is common nonsense. Saying for example “damage to the physical brain can produce corresponding deficits in mental capacity” only establishes correlation, much like saying that everytime I start a fire I see smoke or every time my battery dies my car stops. It doesn’t mean smoke is fire or that I or my battery are the car.

    Using Soulless as your identity as a human being is self-defeating (unless you are referring to a rock) because you use your mind which is a function of the soul to spatially arrange letters to correctly spell s-o-u-l-l-e-s-s and convey the intended meaning. I happen to be French in origin and I can type “sans-âme” which would mean the same thing as “soulless” the meaning of which is itself immaterial, that is it isn’t spatially located nearest your left ear or measure 2 inches in length. While the meaning remains unchanged, neither set of letters are the same. Meaningful information necessitates an information giver with a mind which is part of a greater set – a soul. Consciousness is better explained by a larger consciousness at the origin of the universe than by a rearrangement of matter from the bottom-up.

    As for “ought tos” I am not sure how Nazis in World War II Europe responded to empathy as you describe it as “our ability to place ourselves in the shoes of others.” The fact is there is a law above the law that could careless about societal boundaries. That law says that ‘eradicating a race because one deems it inferior’ is wrong. Not because I think it’s wrong, or as you say it is “contrary to our intentions.” It is morally wrong because absolute moral truths, much like mathematical truths or physical laws we discover could careless what we think about them. They just happen to be there and can only be explained by a free moral agent who placed them there.

    When you say “all religions are just [...] absurd… All of them. All proposed gods are absurd. All of them.” I would kindly suggest reading Jesus. If you believe he is just a fictional character or that the original texts are corrupted then I would kindly suggest to search and read what the historical scholars have to say. In short, the original manuscripts are available and Jesus claimed to be God. I don’t know about you but I would think one would want to read what he had to say from a strictly neutral perspective. But you may have already done so, then I would invite you to list the absurd things Jesus said or did. I happen to think he is the smartest man who ever lived.

  24. Chris Lawrence, I would first say, if there is no God then who cares about “moral duty”? I mean if we are here today and gone tomorrow, then why would that even matter what we think God’s laws are. Seeking to know truth would be pointless and low on my radar screen.

    Now, if one is truly deeply interested in knowing moral truths I would start by pondering something that is possibly universally true. Anything, for example: Is murdering innocent little girls at a slumber party wrong? Now and in the past? In 1940 Germany and 2009 Kansas? For me and for you? Is that truth absolute whether I or others exist to ponder it? What makes it true? Is a combinatorial view of the universe (atoms in space joining together) capable of explaining why cowardice is a vice or knowing truth is a virtue? I would again say the most reasonable explanation for the presence of a moral law is a moral law giver. Kant can disagree but does truth really care what Kant thinks?

  25. Soulless, (you brain particles offer very interesting questions :-)

    My first thought (as am sure was yours or anyone else) after looking at those pictures [of harlequin type ichthyosis] is, How horrible! The problem with this natural reaction is that it is based on the belief that things are not the way they ought to be. If things aren’t the way they ought to be, there is a right way that they ought to be. Again, in a naturalistic bottom-up world, things just are and we shouldn’t be surprised by them, horrified or joyful.

    I think you have not found a satisfying answer to “Why is there evil in the world?” So asking “Is it more reasonable that this disorder [harlequin type ichthyosis] comes from an intelligent mind or from a unguided naturalistic process?” is the wrong question. In an unguided naturalistic bottom-up worldview, the bbs assemble themselves from the bottom-up and who are we to say what that process should look like.

    Surprise is not an option.

    With a worldview that has an intelligent mind operating freely as a moral agent and creator of the observable world at the center, we can look at these pictures and say something went horribly wrong. Only then. Are you saying that humans ought not to look like that? Are you claiming that beauty is in the eye of the beholder or that it ought to have certain characteristics? Based on what exactly?

  26. Do you know nothing about the brain, it’s functions, or precisely how much we do know about the brain? If not, go to college or at the very least talk to a neurosurgeon. Generating the mind is a large part of what the brain does. Attempting to side-step that fact by calling it “mind/brain correlations” only exposes your ignorance on the matter.

    The best argument I’ve ever read for mind/brain unity can be found here:

    www.ebonmusings.org/atheism/ghost.html

    The case studies it cites are fascinating. It’s not just about damage to the brain producing deficits in mental capacity. We’ve gone beyond that rudimentary understanding of the brain.

    I am the sum of my memories and my thoughts and feelings about my memories. My brain stores my memories, electro-chemically and pharmacologically generates physiological sensations and emotions, all of which in turn create personality. Without those things I am no one in particular and my personhood would only be a product of my DNA, just as newborns are. A virtual blank slate. Consciousness is an emergent property of brain function. Note that when the brain fully dies consciousness cannot be retrieved, and for someone whose brain is mostly dead consciousness cannot be retrieved even when the body lives through medical assistance such as the case of Terri Schiavo. Her brain was mostly dead but just enough survived to allow life of the body by medical means, yet she was not conscious in any usual sense of the word.

    You say:

    “eradicating a race because one deems it inferior’ is wrong.”

    We have culturally evolved to accept that as an axiomatic response but it has been taught to us by various natural means and there is no reason to believe it came from anywhere other than our own determinations of morality just as all morality has done throughout the past. Your statement above is true to us, but it isn’t objectively true. All morality is relative, and while there are many commonalities of moral behavior and ideology that in no way translates into objective morality. Much of our morality is evolutionary. It has been an advantage for us to cooperate, albeit somewhat selectively a problem which still exists to this day, with one another so as to increase our chances of survival and pass on our genes. This is natural selection in action.

    As a former Christian, I have read Jesus and he remains an absurdity. He was said to be fully human and fully divine. This little bit of Christian apologetics is nothing more than ideological slight of hand. If he existed at all, which is in doubt from a historical perspective, then he was a human and if he was a human he doesn’t get to be a god because being human precludes godhood and asserting that Jesus could indeed be both with only the hearsay evidence of the Bible is insufficient. The original Biblical manuscripts are not available to us they are lost to time. The only thing we have today are copies of copies of copies…etc, written mostly in Hebrew and Aramaic.

    One single absurdity is all it takes to discredit Jesus.

    Jesus in many places in the New Testament lets us know through his actions that illness is caused by demon possession. One would think that Jesus supposedly being god would have known about germs. The Bible is clearly a product of the human understandings of the age in which it was written.

  27. Franck Barfety,

    I submit that your attempt to de-emotionalize human beings should we live in a naturalistic world is a fundamentally flawed either/or comparison which is not valid. You’re basically saying, and cutting away all the extraneous pieces, since we have emotions it must be due to some external intelligent mind at work otherwise we would be unemotional little biological machines. I hope that I am translating that correctly; if not please feel free to correct me. This is flawed because you are presuming the “intelligent mind” without bring forth any evidence for it, and since assertions made with no evidence can be dismissed without evidence, I will dismiss it.

  28. Thanks for responding Frank.

    On if there is no God then who cares about “moral duty”?: If your question implies that you think that moral duty can only exist if God exists (or that it is irrational to care about moral duty if God does not exist) then there is probably little I could say that would convince you otherwise. I happen to think moral duty does exist, in the sense that there is a difference between right and wrong, and that this difference is fundamentally important. I think it is likely that there is not a God, but I do not know there is no God. I do not think the existence of moral sensibility or moral values proves the existence of God, unless of course this is taken to be true by definition – ie that God and goodness are literally identical. But in that case we cannot say God is the source of moral values.

    I’m not sure the question of the explanation of moral value has to boil down to either ‘atoms in space’ or ‘God as moral law giver’ with no other alternative. The reason I mentioned Kant is because he did come up with an intriguing alternative – and he did this because although by all accounts he thought that God did exist, he also thought the idea that God ordained the moral law was incoherent.

    Another alternative to ‘either atoms in space or God’ is that there just is no ‘explanation’ of that kind – ie a causal explanation – & that morality follows from the possibility of conscious choice; and that morality itself is a choice. Once you’ve made that choice, ie in the direction of empathy and compassion rather than absolute selfishness and indifference, then countless other choices follow (path x is better than path y but is it the best in the current circumstances… etc). Your example of murdering innocent girls at a slumber party as being ‘absolutely wrong for all time’ is surely because it would be practically impossible for anyone who has made that initial choice (ie to be moral rather than sociopathic) to imagine any circumstances in which it would be justifiable.

    Whereas a lot of moral choices are not so clear cut, and depend on context and individual values. An example of the latter: we would both agree that ‘cowardice is a vice’ but I’m not sure I would agree that ‘knowing truth is a virtue’.

    My own view, for what it’s worth, is that the Golden Rule (as in the teachings of Jesus & in virtually every other major religion and ethical system), is when applied in its own spirit (ie applying the Golden Rule in the spirit of the Golden Rule) is as near as damn it to a (or indeed the) foundational ethical principle. But it doesn’t make much sense to me to say the Golden Rule ‘comes from God’, because it is a simple string of words which would have the same moral value whether God exists or not.

  29. Franck Barfety,

    You say:
    “I think you have not found a satisfying answer to “Why is there evil in the world?”

    I have no conflicts with the notion that there is perceived “evil” in the world. What we call “evil” is a relative judgment and so is calling things “good” or “just”. In spite of our commonalities about those things that constitute “evil, “good”, “just” there will be shades of grey where the lines are not so clear. This is the evidence for moral relativism which exists in the face of the denials of many religious persons.

  30. Thoughts on “Moral Duty”

    Since all morality comes from our intention for ourselves, our culture, or our society, Moral Duty is an ideology of bolstering resolve to ensure that some preferred intentions prevail.

  31. Chris Lawrence,

    The Golden Rule is flawed. Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you leaves a gaping loophole to treat others poorly. For example, there are many Christians who would probably say that if they were homosexual they would want to be treated as they currently treat homosexuals so that homosexuals would know that they are doing wrong in the eyes of the Christian god.

    It would be a considerable improvement to treat others as they wish to be treated.

  32. Thanks Soulless,

    I think the ‘flaw’ disappears if the Golden Rule is applied in the spirit of the Golden Rule – and it is intrinsic to the Golden Rule to be applied in the spirit of the Golden Rule. Would you like people to treat you as you would like to be treated, not just as they would like to be treated? Then treat others as they would like to be treated, not just as you would like to be treated.

    I agree the formula ‘to treat others as they wish to be treated’ (the Platinum Rule) is an improvement on a narrow interpretation of the Golden Rule. But to apply the Golden Rule in that narrow way is not to live it, but to get round it: Precious metal rules OK?

  33. Soulless,

    (Maybe Senseless would be more appropriate.)

    Your “treat others as they wish to be treated” would mean we should allow child molesters and all convicts out of jail because that is how they wish to be treated. We should allow rape because after all that is the way the rapist wants to be treated. Countless absurd examples can be provided.

    As for the presence of immaterial consciousness, emergence is a name for the problem, not a solution. It simply begs the question. Sui Generis consciousness cannot physically emerge from matter, otherwise by what strictly physical process? Accepting emergence is clearly deviating from Naturalism and embracing some sort of “magic” to happen whenever certain physical collections eventualize. Further, a strictly physical collection of atomic particles would have great difficulty accounting for free will or rationality with the innate volitional ability to cause other physical particles to move (me lifting my arm to vote yes or no). You also have the problem of a unified visual field. (I have mentioned this at UD as absolutist)

    In the link you provided, the author makes a pathetic question begging attempt to explain away free will materialistically. He is never successful. Saying Evolution did it is sheer speculative atheist non-sense at best and Naturalism worshipping at worse.

    I read that Jesus performed miracles on demon-possessed people, not what you are reading into the text.

    Tell your brain particles good night for me.

  34. Hi Franck,

    I think the point about the Golden Rule/Platinum Rule is that it’s against its spirit to apply it as a hollow formula. It is the principle of applied empathy/practical compassion, and it’s far from easy to apply.

    Your example of allowing child molesters and rapists only ‘passes’ the treat others as they wish to be treated principle when it is treated as a hollow one-to-one formula, not the principle of general practical compassion which is what it is. Very rarely does one person’s behaviour to a second person not impact third parties. If we free rapists and child molesters we are ignoring the interests of their past and potential victims. The Golden/Platinum rule does not allow us to ignore them.

    Moral decisions are rarely simple, formulaic affairs. But arguably, applying the Golden/Platinum rule to the treatment of dangerous criminals is not a bad approach. We must consider the interests of potential innocent victims, so we must convict and imprison. But it is would be hard to justify punishment-as-vengeance on the basis of the Golden/Platinum rule – ie on the basis of the principle of practical compassion.

  35. Franck Barfety,

    Let’s see, considering most Christians are such hypocrites they don’t even go by the Golden Rule themselves what’s the difference? I’ve never seen a group so determined to not follow their God’s rules than Christians. They don’t follow the golden rule, they don’t turn the other cheek, and they don’t care about judging not lest they be judged. So what’s one more kindly intended idea about how to treat others that Christians can ignore? Treating others as they wish to be treated doesn’t mean they would have to toss pedophiles and murders out of jail. I note how you latched onto that so rapidly. Typical. And speaking of rape as you did in your reply, no where in the Bible does it say Rape is wrong. In fact in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 22:28-29 it says “If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days..” Obviously it must be okay to rape if all you have to do is pay her father for damages and marry her, after all, women are only property in the Bible.

    emergent property: any unique property that “emerges” when component objects are joined together in constraining relations to “construct” a higher-level aggregate object.

    Did you even bother to look it up?

    You say:

    “consciousness cannot physically emerge from matter”

    Yes, it can. Just as “Wet” can emerge from only molecules of water. At what point is something “Wet” and how many molecules does it take to make “Wetness” eventuate? I suppose that’s magic as well.

    You say:

    “Further, a strictly physical collection of atomic particles would have great difficulty accounting for free will or rationality with the innate volitional ability to cause other physical particles to move (me lifting my arm to vote yes or no).”

    You’re mistaken. It seems that all your arguments are really just denials of what is so based on your preferred interpretations. It’s like saying, “No there is no such thing as gravity, the deity I believe in pushes things onto the planet by sheer force of will!” You keep wanting to infer a deity when Occam’s Razor would eliminate the infinitely complex celestial intelligence that it would take to be the creator of the universe for which there is no evidence and simply accept things at face value from a naturalistic point of view. Lightening and diseases are not the actions of a deity as was once believed and neither is consciousness. How about arriving into the 21st Century?

    “Free Will” is an illusion. Who we are, everything we choose, is a result of the conditions of our birth, including genetics, and the results within a very complex tapestry of cause/effect sequences that occur throughout our lives. Even the options for every choice we make are determined by the cause and effect system we live under.

    Jesus supposedly cured people and cast out their demons. Considering that there is no such thing as demons that’s absurd enough.

  36. Soulless (and Chris to a lesser extent),

    Soulless willfully writes “Free will is an illusion” while he could have abstained from writing it, could he not? He really can’t explain free will from a causal materialistic angle (the atoms did it), so he just dismisses it as an illusion, flushing down moral responsibility and justice with it. You can’t claim that someone is responsible for their own action if their actions are determined. At this point I wonder who is writing. Is it Soulless and Chris I am having a conversation with or what did you call it “the results within a very complex tapestry of cause/effect sequences”? That’s the cool-aid nonsense of Naturalism talking.

    It’s captivating how Soulless writes that the Bible is “hearsay evidence”, or that the “original Biblical manuscripts are not available to us they are lost to time. The only thing we have today are copies of copies of copies” but then he quickly turns around and says that “women are only property in the Bible” quoting Biblical passages to support his claim. On one side he discredits the Bible when it doesn’t agree, and on the other he uses it to try and prove his point. Maybe the atoms in Soulless’ brain should reread the passage especially the “and she shall be his wife” part which clearly demonstrate mistreating women is not right, valuing them and not the opposite. But perhaps that isn’t pre-determined. In all seriousness, I would point you to 1 Peter 3:7 and the call to respect women. As far as your statement “there is no such thing as demons,” which empirical evidence do you have exactly to support your claim?

    When you state “no where in the Bible does it say Rape is wrong” you are also proving that your so-called Platinum rule is flawed. That is why God said “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” keeping us accountable (for no one wants to be raped), and not Soulless’ or Chris’ “treat others the way they want to be treated,” For what if they want to rape? Should others just leave them alone? You are simply opening the door to justifying immorality. Soulless’ rule would mean I could decide to do whatever I wish and no one could ever say anything about it. There would be no absolute morals, no justice. I am just trying to show you it’s flawed and not sustainable. Afterall, if as you said “One single absurdity is all it takes to discredit Jesus” using rape to discredit the platinum rule is fair game. That is indeed a hollow formula.

    About consciousness, wetness or liquidity is an ordinary structural property of water and a sensation we experience when we encounter a mass quantity of H2O molecules. Structural properties of water, carbon or light are simply a reconfiguration of parts in a specific pattern. As such, liquidity, solidity, temperature or sound/light waves are not sui generis or unique, and they fit well in the combinatorial Naturalist worldview.

    But consciousness is clearly not an emergent property arising from a rearrangement of physical molecules in the brain. With consciousness we have a totally new, simple, substantially unified mental self, an I, with conscious active power, free will, top-down rationality and the ability to take moral action. The presence of consciousness with no separable parts supports a designer or theism (even biblical theism), and arguing against consciousness as such (using these sui generis faculties while denying them) would be self-defeating. Kinda like saying “I am soulless” or “free will is an illusion.”

    If Naturalism were true, then unguided physical particles would need to combine in order for faculties suitable for moral knowledge and action to arise. That scenario is wishful thinking, just like saying that consciousness is simply emergent on the brain and should be taken as a brute fact, which will be explained later on in the 21st or 24th century perhaps. This is simply not understanding what consciousness is. I think in the meantime that theism or positing a Designer is epistemically more reasonable, so I will side with Copernicus, Kepler, Galilei, Newton, Kelvin and Einstein, not Soulless.

  37. Franck Barfety,

    Are you sure I could have abstained from writing “Free Will is an illusion”? I wrote it, so perhaps I couldn’t have. Moral responsibility and Justice are man-made concepts. You are simply dismissing determinism by cause and effect in an appeal to consequences (argumentum ad consequentiam). This is a logical fallacy. Just because you do not like the consequences of Determinism by Cause and Effect doesn’t make it any less true.

    Free will and “God did it” is the cool-aid nonsense of Theism talking.

    Of course I used the Bible on you. I’m not the one who thinks the Bible is valid YOU Must in order to garner any knowledge of Jesus. It isn’t my fault that what I brought up about it was factual in as far as the Bible does say what I said it did.

    The rapist must marry her because women were nothing more than chattel in the Bible and he took away from her the one thing her father had to barter her away with onto some other man, her virginity. Having to marry her was part of their solution.

    The call to respect women in some parts of the Bible does not in any way detract from the fact that the Biblical god agreed with treating them as Chattel.

    If “treating others as they wish to be treated” is a hollow formula then so is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Or are all those Christians out there loving homosexuals as themselves when they deny them marriage, attempt to instill guilt into them, call what they are “sin”, brainwash them into playing heterosexual, and discriminate against them when they refuse to follow their god’s rules?

    You say:
    “About consciousness, wetness or liquidity is an ordinary structural property of water and a sensation we experience when we encounter a mass quantity of H2O molecules.”

    And consciousness is an ordinary property of a sufficently complex neural network of neurons and synapses etc… I don’t see what you’re not understanding here. And by the way none of the scientists you named were Neuro-scientists, or even alive in the last 50 years which is where most of our knowledge of the brain and mind has been discovered. You’re still living in the distant past.

  38. You want a neurosurgeon still alive who believes in God and the soul, it couldn’t be easier, maybe you could read this:

    http://www.nytimes.com/1993/06/08/science/scientist-work-benjamin-s-carson-for-many-pediatric-neurosurgeon-folk-hero.html?pagewanted=1

    http://www.icr.org/article/benjamin-carson-pediatric-neurosurgeon-with-gifted/

    http://www.amazon.com/Gifted-Hands-Ben-Carson-Story/dp/0310546508/

    Also, a journalist in Toronto asked Dr. Michael Egnor, regarded by New York Magazine as one of America’s best doctors whether neurosurgeons believe that the mind really exists, and is not just the workings of the material brain. Here is his answer:

    “Good question about materialism among neurosurgeons. I’ve done no official polling, but my strong suspicion is that materialism is very definitely a minority view among doctors in general, and neurosurgeons in particular. There’s nothing like exposure to the real world, which doctors get a lot of, to dissuade one from materialism. Many of us have had patients with near-death or out of body experiences (I’m sure you’ve heard of Bob Spetzler’s patient in Phoenix a few years back), and I’ve had many patients show clear awareness of conversations in their ICU rooms (elevated heart rate, etc) when they were in comas with simultaneous documented absence of EEG waves. Experienced ICU nurses know that families have to be careful with what they say in the room of a comatose patient, even when there is no evidence of brain function due to suppression with barbiturates.

    Wilder Penfield certainly wasn’t a materialist, and he is the neurosurgeon who studied the mind-body problem the most intensely in thousands of conscious patients undergoing brain surgery.

    In my own experience, and I suspect the experience of many if not most of my colleagues, I see the brain as less and less the seat of the soul and more and more as an organ, like the heart or the kidney, which has a job to do. The brain’s job is to mediate neurological function. The ‘soul’ isn’t in the brain, just as ‘Hamlet’ isn’t in a book. The soul has an existence distinct from the medium that expresses it. How easily we moderns forget the old truths.”

    I once traveled to France in First class seating next to one and he believed in the soul. I happened to be reading Body&Soul;by JP Moreland on the way there.

    “Moral responsibility and Justice are man-made concepts” is more soulless absurdities. Is this a quote from Jeffrey Dahmer to the court or something?

  39. Apparently there is a contingent of non-materialist neuroscientists who have joined with the proponents of the intelligent design movement. Their claims that materialist neuroscientists are a minority, I have little doubt, is the same as the lying creationist intelligent designers who say that more and more scientists are rejecting evolution and that evolution was disproven long ago for various reasons which have been debunked repeatedly by evolutionary scientists and proponents of evolution alike. These non-materialist neuroscientists are misinterpreting scientific data and using anecdotal evidence which supports religion. Probably in an attempt to win a Templeton Prize in my opinion.

    I note how you dismiss moral responsibility and justice as only man-made concepts but you do not say why.

  40. @soulless:
    “only man-made” I could argue with “only” – the pyramids for example – but instead I’ll argue with “man-made”.
    Developed by human-kind, for the survival of human-kind, over millions of years, and we are not yet there.

    People with a personal, jealous god, are to be pitied. They lack the ability to envisage time and space as it really is, in all its wondrous expansion, without fear.

  41. gswat,

    The word “only” wasn’t intended to belittle the achievement, but to simply remove it from the hands of some perceived deity on the part of the theist. And I entirely agree with your assessment of my use of the word, “man-made” this was indeed inaccurate and I appreciate your calling me on that. Developed is the perfect terminology to described what has occurred. These things evolve over time and are not constructed as a man-made object would be. In that, it is very similar to language which was also developed by humankind and has evolved over time.

    Thank you for taking the time to point that out to me. I stand corrected.

  42. Franck Barfety,

    You say:
    “pity is another curious concept for the materialist. Extra baggage completely unnecessary for survival.”

    Are you suggesting that from a materialist perspective compassion and empathy should be seen as extra baggage that is completely unnecessary for survival ?

    That would be totally ignoring that we are a highly social species.

    So you would be mistaken.

  43. Soulless and Gswat,

    Let me amicably try and explain the fallacy of your logic. When Gswat makes the statement: “[People with a personal, jealous god] lack the ability to envisage time and space as it really is, in all its wondrous expansion, without fear,” how can they be blamed or “pitied” for the way they think, if as Soulless explained, “free will is an illusion” and “who we are, everything we choose, is a result of the conditions of our birth, including genetics, and the results within a very complex tapestry of cause/effect sequences that occur throughout our lives. Even the options for every choice we make are determined by the cause and effect system we live under”? In a purely deterministic world of cause and effect you live in, people are determined to think and behave one way or another, have no choice in the matter, and surely can’t be blamed for it.

    But we know the actual world is different from that. Being made in God’s image, we know that we act as first causes, that is, we can freely act or refrain from acting. That is the reason God holds us responsible for what we do, that is the only way love can be true, and the only fair way justice can be carried out. We are not puppets and while there are things I agree we have no control over (diseases, perhaps a genetic deffect that makes us lean to behave one way or another) we are still responsible for our actions before God.

    Does that seem reasonable?

  44. Franck,

    Free Will may only be an illusion but it is a very strong one. It’s one thing to consciously recognize that our choices are a reflection of cause and effect which provides no actual choice, but it’s quite another to live our everyday lives as if we don’t have any Free Will, which could very well make one go a bit nutty. That could be why the illusion is there to begin with. There is something to be said for living within the illusion for our daily lives while during a rational discussion about such a topic recognizing that cause/effect is how things work here. Often though being mindful of the fact that my “causes” effect others helps me to make better choices.

    You’re sort of correct that people can’t be blamed for the things they do in a purely deterministic world. I would put it this way, people can’t be Solely blamed for the things they do. But, humans have a need for vengeance or retribution. Note I didn’t say “Justice” since all that really is is a polite word for vengeance or retribution which are the uglier and dirtier words that we really do mean. [Not to be confused with "Fairness" such as equal rights. That's a fairness issue not one of justice. One of the biggest problems I have with theism is that it causes its followers to be very big on blame, guilt, and punishment. It appeals to the primitive internal conflict of "good vs. evil" which is so heavily emphasized by religions.]

    What I mean by “solely to blame” is that everything, and everyone, is part of the cause/effect system including the fact that we have a system of laws and punishments which places blame on law breakers and punishes them. We do this again because we have that illusion of “Free Will” and most people, including yourself, apparently either cannot or refuse to, intellectually recognize our own participation either through our actions or inactions in various degrees spreading outward from that individual fading in culpability by the degree of influence in the creation of thieves, rapists, murders, etc.
    It’s simply easier to disassociate our own actions or inactions from this and blame the individual. Yet the only way we can ever overcome this, and eventually we might, is if we through cause/effect begin to accept that “free will” is actually an illusion even while living within it.

    We do not act as first causes, but as a link in a chain. This is why pedophiles for example tend to have been victims of pedophilia themselves. Yet all Cause/Effect sequences are very integrated and overlap and because of this the effect of different people’s choices influence our choices just as the effect from our previous choices will influence our own choices. My father was a victim of my great uncle’s pedophilia but due to his later experiences through the cause/effect system, the influences from the effects of other people’s choices allowed him to break the cycle and my sisters and I were spared, but unfortunately that doesn’t always occur in other people’s homes.

    What you suggest does not seem reasonable to me. It has many problems in the details if there is a god then they must know the future and if the future is known then it is set and therefore there is a god who knows who will go to heaven and who goes to Hell (in this Christian scenario) and if this god accepts that so many people will go to hell but does nothing about it then there is a deity who made many people specifically to burn and we would all be puppets anyway.

    In my view there is no god, so there is no puppet master. Things just are as they are. With Cause/Effect there is a beautiful simplicity to our experience here but the expression of it is more complex than anything I can imagine and makes far more sense to me. Occasionally after I’ve made a choice I will ask myself why I made that choice and most of the time the cause is readily apparent. Sometimes when we do things and make choices unconsciously it’s more difficult to tell, but sometimes it’s just a matter of being honest with myself about what the cause was.

  45. @Franck Barfety: “Being made in God’s image, we know that …”

    It’s a terminology problem. When an atheist uses the verb ‘to know’, we mean something completely different to ‘taught to believe’. Even at school: if the physics teacher cannot reproduce the same effect every time she initiates a cause, it just ain’t true, and history is what the winner wrote/had written.

    Since your mind set is that of a religious person, you see these things differently. I expect that is why we (atheists) are always being accused of religious behaviour (i.e. worshipping the devil, fundamentalism, evangelising etc.) rather than just accepting that most of us actually find the idea of a deity totally irrelevant to our lives, except when its shamans are irritatingly authoritative or just plain violent.

  46. gswat,

    You say:
    “most of us actually find the idea of a deity totally irrelevant to our lives”

    Yes, that is how I see it. After I began to see through the teachings of the religion that I was taught as a child. The notion of a deity became increasingly irrelevant. It’s one thing to be told you have a god with that has various purposes in your life with no real evidence and accept it unquestioningly, but it’s quite another to continue to accept that what you’ve been taught is factual after you realize the purposes do not stand scrutiny. Inevitably if you are honest with yourself theism drifts away from you and you find yourself no longer believing. Today, I understand why theists are theists but I can’t imagine why any one actually needs a god. It’s an impediment to living rather than an enhancement of it. Obviously that must only be noticeable when standing outside the bubble.

  47. gswat,

    I really don’t need a physics or bible teacher to know many things. For example, I know that I have first-person awareness of my self, my thoughts, sensations, desires, beliefs or volitional acts (like the free act to decide which particular belief I should entertain right now). I know which body in a room is mine and do not need someone to reproduce that in order for me to know it. I believe I can actually simply know something to be true without sensory observation.

    There are lots of things we know that way without being taught: our basic awareness of ourselves I mentioned; the fact that even though my body experiences part replacements or physical changes through time, I remain unchanged; that my soul is a substance made of inseparable parts, unlike a puddle of water; I know that I shouldn’t pour acid in a lake because I sense I am accountable to an objective moral order and that I would feel true shame and guilt far above what I owe anyone.

    There has to a moral law giver for this (right and wrong) knowledge to make sense. Saying that the particles is all there is or that justice and free will are illusions as Soulless suggests does not explain (and is a flimsy view of) reality.

  48. Soulless (aka Will-less),

    The Postmodernist view that free will is an illusion with varying degrees of strength is simply not a robust view. Saying free will is an illusion is a bit like saying consciousness is an illusion. But having an illusion is itself a state of consciousness and you must first be conscious to have an illusion. I have personally had illusions (i.e., the illusion that what I am saying to you is getting through). I am quite able to take action (to freely write down these words) or refrain from it and there is nothing illusory about it. Saying free will is an illusion and in the same breath saying “others help me make better choices” is contradictory and a dead end. You trying to persuade me to change my mind while at the same time saying I have no choice in the matter or that my choice is subject to the arbitrary flux of the group is contradictory. In fact it is a direct violation of the law of non-contradiction and logic altogether. I am not sure what Postmodernists like yourself are trying to accomplish exactly when they (falsely) choose to grow as persons. Clearly theistic realism, where one is able to direct his thoughts and life is much more constructive, meaningful and comprehensive. You can choose to disbelieve me if you want.

    Breaking the cycle as you describe is a perfect example of a free moral agent in action. Countless persons have experienced abuse from free moral agents acting as first causes, and as the case was with your father, he was able to make the right moral choice independent of his past.

    About justice and vengeance, these are very different concepts. While vengeance is a harmful action in response to some real or perceived wrongdoing, justice is administered according to the rule of law, whether God-ordained or established by men. Justice also conforms to truth, facts and reason while vengeance may not.

    In response to your statement that the “[theistic realism I adhere to] has many problems in the details,” God willed people into existence with the ability to make free choices because he does not wish for people to be forced to love. God does not hold a 457 Magnum to my temple like a pedophile and orders “Love me!” For freedom and true love to exist, human souls have the ability to refrain from acting and loving. Those who do not wish to believe are free to do so. God makes himself known to all and people can decide whether it is more reasonable to believe or not. God knowing all future events does nothing to prevent people from making free (good or bad) choices.

    It also strikes me as odd that all human beings are of equal worth even though some are clearly dumber than others, some taller, some short, some with a big brain, some not, some with the deformities and different sexual orientations you alluded to. Seems very odd indeed in a purely naturalistic view of the world, but yet right at home in a theistic one.

  49. You don’t understand Determinism at all. Your view is too narrow because you are too heavily influenced by theism. Theism is black and white when most of life is only shades of gray. By the way, I never said “others help me make better choices”. If that is what you thought I was saying then it tells me you do not understand at all. I’m not trying to get you to change your mind. Your mind will either change or it will not and I would expect which ever to happen of it’s own accord.

    You say:
    “Breaking the cycle as you describe is a perfect example of a free moral agent in action. Countless persons have experienced abuse from free moral agents acting as first causes, and as the case was with your father, he was able to make the right moral choice independent of his past.”

    There was a Cause that had the Effect of my father making the choice he did. Breaking the cycle isn’t as it sounds. Causal chains are broken all the time because they are “effected” to do so by other Causal chains. It’s part of the system. Like I said, your view is too narrow, it’s also too Black and White. It’s like you make choices all the time with no thought to WHY you are making your choices. These “Why’s” are the Cause. The Effect is the result which is often a “Cause” within itself. We are not free moral agents, we are all connected through cause and effect. You are effected by other people’s causes and they are effected by your causes. You are also effected by your own previous experience of this system and your genetics. That’s the simplest way of putting it.

    Justice, being a human concept, is relative. One person’s justice is another person’s injustice. It’s quite arbitrary and based on individual perspective. You say your god doesn’t hold a gun to your head and say, “Love me”, but the threat of Hell is just as coercive, and perhaps even more so given that Hell is said to be eternal. See how easily you over look that?

    Worth or Value is a human judgment. Determinism says nothing about value because it is a system of cause and effect, not judgment. Judgment is very much a concept that fits hand and glove with theism. So you say that in theism everyone has equal value. If in theism all people are of equal value then why does the Biblical god set up rules that allow a great number of people to be tortured for all eternity in Hell? Could it be that they are all equally worthless to the Biblical god till they prove themselves of value to him by accepting Jesus so that they will be “saved” from the fires of Hell? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that everyone automatically goes to Hell unless they are “saved”. That’s why it’s called being “saved”. To me that says the Biblical god finds no intrinsic value in humans otherwise the default position would not be “Hell bound”.

    As for justice and vengeance I concede that they can be different things but often they are not. It doesn’t matter if Justice is administered in accordance with the rule of law Punishment is always a kind of vengeance. Being corrected does not have to be caused by punishment. Punishment is however, immanently more satisfying to the psyche especially to those of us who live completely the illusion that we have actual Free Will. Punishment is also popular with theists because of the punitively authoritarian deity they worship. It appeals to the primitive ideas they embrace. They understand it so they stick with it, in spite of how barbaric it often is.

  50. Franck,

    Let me correct myself.

    I said, “There was a Cause that had the Effect of my father making the choice he did.” Actually that isn’t quite true. There was probably multiple causes that had the effect of my father making the choice he did. The complexity of human action is typically not from a single cause but a plethora of various causes some more influential than others but it was definitely through cause and effect and not a simplistic moral decision. Life just isn’t like that.

  51. Soulless,

    I would kindly say that Hell is not a threat but a warning. If a father tells his kids not to venture out on thin ice you might fall in and drown, it’s not a threat, it’s a warning and a good thing.

    Eternal life is not coercive but freely given as a gift.

    Once you free yourself from the lie that justice and free will are illusions you will see that you, as a free agent acting as a first cause have the ability to investigate what God truly has to say and trust God. The benefits far outweight the cost of giving up some destructive lifestyle habits we all have.

    Until then…

  52. Franck,

    You say that Hell is not a threat but a warning? I guess then when the mafia boss says to you that if you don’t pay Vic the protection money he’ll break your legs that’s not a threat either but a warning. The theistic “might makes right” nonsense generating automatic forgiveness of the proposed actions of a deity, even when those same actions taken by anyone else would be considered immoral, baffles me.

    Eternal life would be Hell no matter how good it is at first. Doing anything, including living, for all eternity would be torture. I can only imagine that anyone who wants to live forever must not have thought about what that would mean precisely. I don’t want to live forever. It sounds absolutely horrific to me.

    You say:
    “Once you free yourself from the lie that justice and free will are illusions you will see that you, as a free agent acting as a first cause have the ability to investigate what God truly has to say and trust God. The benefits far outweight the cost of giving up some destructive lifestyle habits we all have.”

    Seeing as I use to be a Christian I know what the Biblical god is. He’s the Godfather with the offer you can’t refuse. “Love me or Burn!” We should be very grateful that the god of the Bible, and all gods for that matter, are fiction. Also I have no use for a god, so I can’t imagine why anyone really needs one.

  53. Soulless,
    The mafia boss example is a threat, not a loving warning.
    I am not truly sure what you mean when you say you were a Christian. Perhaps having that background instead of going back and forth would help. You’re always welcome to continue at barfety@gmail.com. It was great chatting with you here!

  54. Perhaps we need an official body to deal with these runaway version numbers.

    As an atheist AND a computing professional, I’d like to point out that Atheism is, at least, still in beta until it can be shown to deal with magical thinking more readily or, at most, in version 1.0 because there’s nothing the “new” atheists do that the old ones didn’t, apart from being able to speak out more effectively on the Internet.

    As far as I can tell, Atheism 3.0 is just a term used by a few to try and make themselves seem somehow unique and special.

  55. I would have liked to engage in this discussion until I saw the “comment redacted” early in the comment thread. Censorship and limiting anyone’s freedom of speech in a public forum is reprehensible and unforgivable. Hopefully someone from RNS is wise enough to take this thought into consideration in the future, even if this post is removed as well. You aren’t fostering discussion, you’re stifling it.

  56. No need to create a new label (Atheism 3.0) since they have already been given the much more descriptive appellation “faitheists” or “accomodatheists”. And they have little respect amongst other atheists. Their existance might please the religious, but not anyone who treasures rational thought processes.

  57. @InfuriatedSciTeacher:
    In principle I agree with you. Unfortunately, on sites where many atheists agree that religion is cotton candy/ candy floss and provides no real nourishment, you get a few fanatic religionists who just let loose a stream of extremely offensive language, threats, etc.

    I have seen a few of these ‘comments’ before deletion on other sites. Since this has nothing to do with discussion, there is no need for us to waste time reading it.

  58. InfuriateSciTeacher:

    David Shaw from Religion News Service here. The only comments we delete or redact from our site are either comment spam (and we get a lot of that, sadly), or comments which contain abusive language and personal attacks. As you can see from many threads on this site, we encourage a civil free flow of ideas; we discourage and delete incivility for incivility’s sake, which does nothing to foster discussion. We hope you’ll contribute to this discussion, and others.

  59. “If they privatize faith, they also won’t be able to criticize it,” Dacey said of the New Atheists an interview.

    That’s generally the point. If your religion is a private activity, which does not lead to (for instance) persecuting people or telling lies in the public sphere about medicine and science, then I have no reason to criticize it. Austen Dacey should actually read some “New Atheist” books before he goes making comments about them to the press.

    “New Atheists” discuss actual real world negative effects of theistic beliefs.

    “Atheism 3.0” calls on us to see the good contained in Rick Warren’s preaching; while disassociating it from the hateful (and hate filled) bigotry it fuels against real people around the world.

    Now, I can see how it would be a more peaceful world if my lack of belief in God would run alongside Rick Warren’s belief that the supreme architect of the universe wants the civil authorities to lock up gay people, without the two conflicting. But I see absolutely nothing from the “Atheist 3.0” solution to achieve this (well aside form the usual request that I shut my heathen mouth and stop disagreeing with Pastor Warren in case I upset someone) and nothing to explain why I should ever value such little peace for such a high price.

    Call me when Atheism 3.2 get a release date, hopefully that version will be less buggy.

  60. In other news, here in North Carolina, an atheist got elected to the City Council of Asheville, and a Christian agitator is arguing the Council should not swear him in, because article 8 section 6 of the North Carolina state constitution says “The following persons shall be disqualified for office: First, any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God.”

    But when we atheists oppose these infringements on our freedom of irreligion, somehow it is we who are “strident”, “shrill”, or as this article would have it, “vocally vicious”.

    These godly-coddling faitheists are not our allies in asserting our equal rights.