From Politically Correct to Religiously Correct?

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Mark Taylor, a professor of religion and humanities at Williams College, writes in a New York Times op/ed about an interesting phenomenon on college campuses–the alleged rise of religious correctness. Taylor claims:

MORE college students seem to be practicing traditional forms of religion today than at any time in my 30 years of teaching.

At first glance, the flourishing of religion on campuses seems to reverse trends long criticized by conservatives under the rubric of "political correctness." But, in truth, something else is occurring. Once again, right and left have become mirror images of each other; religious correctness is simply the latest version of political correctness. Indeed, it seems the more religious students become, the less willing they are to engage in critical reflection about faith.

The chilling effect of these attitudes was brought home to me two years ago when an administrator at a university where I was then teaching called me into his office. A student had claimed that I had attacked his faith because I had urged him to consider whether Nietzsche's analysis of religion undermines belief in absolutes. The administrator insisted that I apologize to the student. (I refused.)

Shame on the craven administrator! Taylor continues:

In the most egregious cases, defenders of the faith insist that only true believers are qualified to teach their religious tradition.

My question to the religiously correct is: If you already know the Truth, why bother going to college anyway? In college, professors will just try to confuse you.

Assuming Taylor really has identified a worrying trend, he did nevertheless fail to note a big difference between religious correctness and political correctness. Political correctness is generally imposed by uncritical professors and administrators on their dissenting students.

Whole New York Times op/ed here.

Additional PC note: While we're on the subject of campus orthodoxies, Jesse Walker, Reason's managing editor, pointed out earlier this year that the Right has fully embraced political correctness.

NEXT: And the Inaugural "Dennis Prager Award" for Anti-Muslim Asininity Goes to...

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  1. I can’t believe there’s a college professor who’s still teaching Nietzsche instead of Maya Angelou. Maybe political correctness really is waning.

  2. I can easily see how PC could be hijacked for the purpose of “religious correctness.”

    “Hey, man, that’s, like, my opinion on religion, and if you criticize it then you hurt my feelings and that’s an assault on my freedom of belief. So, like, don’t say anything that offends me.”

  3. “Hey, man, that’s, like, my opinion on religion, and if you criticize it then you hurt my feelings and that’s an assault on my freedom of belief. So, like, don’t say anything that offends me.”

    It ain’t just te religious, T. You’d be amazed at the way even atheists will try to shut down serious discussion. Well, maybe you wouldn’t.

  4. My question to the religiously correct is: If you already know the Truth, why bother going to college anyway?
    Because it’s all about the degree and the job you get afterwards. Universities are now the equivalent of vo-tech programs for professionals.

  5. Interesting that no faith is mentioned by name. Yet, there are apparently radicals running around issueing death threats to people who attack the faith. Gee, considering that the op-ed is in the New York Times, I somehow doubt they would have much of a problem naming names if there were Christians or Jews out threatening the lives of apostate professors. I wonder who that could be? Hmm

    Abdul you are right, this guy clearly should have been fired for wasting time teaching Nietzche instead of Maya Angelou or Rigberta Menchu. The clown was probably teaching Kierkegard or Hagel as well. I am surprised the racist pig ever got hired teaching dead white men like that.

  6. A student had claimed that I had attacked his faith because I had urged him to consider whether Nietzsche’s analysis of religion undermines belief in absolutes.

    I absolutley love Nietzsche, but thats the wrong track to take when attacking religion.

    Its science that proves it false. When you try to put philosophical speculation at the same level as science you fall into the theologians trap.

  7. Interesting point, Abdul. Mercifully, my memory has obliterated the time I spent trying to read Nietzsche for my Phil 101 course.

    However, since it appears we are going to have a religious thread just before Christmas, let’s get it going:

    Believe what you want, however you want.

    Just don’t expect me to think your belief that a) God himself spoke to Moses out of a burning bush on top of Mount Sinai; or b) Humanity is so sinfull that our sins could only be expiated by a tortuous human (or divine) sacrifice; or c) The Archangel Michael [?] squeezed the Prophet until he began to spout Holy Writ; or any combination of these three is anything but ridiculous.

  8. “When you try to put philosophical speculation at the same level as science you fall into the theologians trap.”

    When you try to put science on the same level of philosophical speculation you are mistaken. Science never gets to absolute truth, it only makes predictions based on past data, it never tells us why just that something is.

    I like Nietzsche to. I wish more athiests would read him.

  9. ” Universities are now the equivalent of vo-tech programs for professionals.”

    Except at the Techs you actually learn something.

  10. And one more thing.

    This post is going to sound smug so for those of you have an aversion to such talk you should probably stop reading.

    When I was a teenager I wondered about the universe. So I read Christian apologetics, and I also read about science and that theory I head a little about in science class called evolution. The more I read, the more convinced I became of atheism. I slowly went from doubtful Christian to agnostic Buddah apologist (now I resent those people most of all) to atheist leftist to atheist libertarian/social darwinist.

    The point of the story is this. I harbor resent towards believers and believe its justified. I don’t understand the person who calls himself “Christian” his whole life, goes through the motions, puts on the cross everyday and never gets curious enough to pick up a single book or ask the obvious questions. And those sheep make up the majority of humanity. I’ll never forget that in life the difference between those who think and those who don’t. They might as well be different species.

    And it doesn’t take a rediculously high IQ. Nobody who can read and has access to a public library has an excuse.

  11. ” Universities are now the equivalent of vo-tech programs for professionals.”

    Except at the Techs you actually learn something.”

    No kidding. My two older brothers, a cattle rancher and a high end welder do more to actually keep the country afloat than any 10 college educated people I know. Yet, the country spends billions of dollars every year trying to make sure people like them can write an essay on the gay Asian woman’s perspective on the Joy Luck Club. The world needs technicians and tradesman. The last thing it needs is more intellectuals. Yet, we worship at the alter of liberal education as an unqualified good in all cases.

  12. I’m a college professor and an atheist, yet I’ve taught about religion in American culture (I teach American literature up through 1900) in the deep south for years without the problems Taylor mentions. Honestly, I think this is less about religion in America and more about poor teaching. I’d never tell my students that I hoped they were more confused at the end of a course. I respect that they come into the class hoping that, by the end, they understand the material better. Most of my fundamentalist students figure out that I’m an atheist by the end of the semester (though I don’t advertise it), but they respect me because I never treat them like deficient human beings or jerk with them.

  13. “I don’t understand the person who calls himself “Christian” his whole life, goes through the motions, puts on the cross everyday and never gets curious enough to pick up a single book or ask the obvious questions.”

    So no one who has ever been a Christian has ever doubted or asked any obvious questions? The whole two thousand year history of the religion is one of a bunch of blind followers with low IQs? Wow. Maybe I should take my above statement back, maybe there is some good to a liberal education but you certainly never got one and it shows.

  14. john, you’re an idiot.

  15. Ben,

    I went to college in buckle of the bible belt and had lots of athiest professors and never saw anything like this guy mentions. The elefant in the room that the NYT is too PC to mention is Islam. I would guess telling a bunch of young Muslim men that there is no God, might be a good way to get your ass kicked.

  16. No Steven

    You are an idiot. It is one thing to be an athiest. It is quite another to claim as Chalupa does, that anyone who picked up a book and thought about these things would be one to. That is just rediculous and worthy or redicule.

  17. Grand Chulupa said about religion:

    “Its science that proves it false.”

    I wonder what it is about religion that science disproves?

    Cuz ya know religion per se, is not the same thing as believing evoution is false or something. Many many scientists are religious, and many believe that truth is like, a real value that they should strive for, even though there isn’t like a big word TRUTH hanging out there in the universe.

  18. John,

    Taylor’s not writing about when you went to school in the bible belt. He’s writing about now.

  19. John,

    Sour grapes much?

  20. Not once was religion or anything “religious” discussed in my undergrad and graduate coursework. But I went to school to get employable skills.

    My two older brothers, a cattle rancher and a high end welder do more to actually keep the country afloat than any 10 college educated people I know.

    All the college educate people I know are scientist, engineers, and doctors.

    And John, critical thought and religion are incompatible.

  21. David,

    It wasn’t that long ago. I want to see some examples. Who is doing this where? He doesn’t list one faith or one concrete example. I am not saying that it isn’t happening, I am just very suspicious of the NYT. Again, Islam is the 800 lb gorilla no one seems to want to mention. Certainly, running around as open avoid athiest can get you killed if you are obnoxious enough in places like Europe, but it isn’t the Christians doing the killing.

  22. “John,

    Sour grapes much?”

    WTF does that mean Joe?

  23. “All the college educate people I know are scientist, engineers, and doctors.”

    Good for you. You get an award or something, if anyone cared.

    “And John, critical thought and religion are incompatible.”

    That is so stupid as to be beneath response. Clearly you didn’t receive any kind of religious education at anytime in your life. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the critical thought and the truths in something like Aquinas or Augustine. If you don’t get that and think it is all just mumbo jumbo, then you are not worth talking to.

  24. So no one who has ever been a Christian has ever doubted or asked any obvious questions? The whole two thousand year history of the religion is one of a bunch of blind followers with low IQs?

    Maybe before darwin it was rational to believe in some kind of God, but now….after evolution has proved how we got here, and after a couple thousand more years of God not showing his ass and the advances of nueroscience putting duality to death and the triumuph of science being able to double the human life expectancy over the last 100 years among other things it now takes stupidity, self delusion, ignorance or a combination of all three to maintain a religious belief.

    Maybe I should take my above statement back, maybe there is some good to a liberal education but you certainly never got one and it shows.

    I fulfilled my requirements, thankyouverymuch. And maybe I just had bad teachers the catered to the stupidest of the stupid, but I’ve learned more from watching South Park then all the Philosophy and Humanities courses I took combined. Its a crapshoot that depends on the profesor.

  25. pigwiggle said:

    “…critical thought and religion are incopatable”

    Wow, this board has really shown me alot over the last 2 days. One with the Mitt Romney thing, and now with this.

    I guess Martin Luther King’s letter from Birmingham jail had no critical thought whatsoever. Deitick Bon Hoeffer’s valiant defense of the Jews, Ghandi’s teachings on non-violence, the Buddha’s insights on human psychology, etc, etc, etc, all these things were just a product of primitive dogma.

  26. “Maybe before darwin it was rational to believe in some kind of God, but now….after evolution has proved how we got here, and after a couple thousand more years of God not showing his ass and the advances of nueroscience putting duality to death and the triumuph of science being able to double the human life expectancy over the last 100 years among other things it now takes stupidity, self delusion, ignorance or a combination of all three to maintain a religious belief.”

    Two questions Darwin cannot explain how life came about from inanimate matter and it cannot explain how consciousness arose from animals. I don’t doubt evolution; it does not and does not claim to answer those two questions. Indeed, not every evolutionary biologist is an atheist. You can believe what you want, but to claim that anyone who still believes is just crazy and ignorant is just not true.

  27. John,

    I’ll grant that he could be writing about Muslims students, but he could also be referring to Christians, Jews, Buddhist, Hindus, or all of them combined. I don’t think it’s a specific religion at all, but a specific type of student who needs to find some bias as a reason why he’s having trouble, or why he should have to take a given course. What I’m trying say to is that combative, lazy and litigious cuts across cultural lines.

  28. David,

    I have no doubt that being lazy and litigious cuts across cultural lines. It is the part about “death threats” that gives me pause. No doubt there is some little dweeb out there somewhere demanding not to have to read Nietzche because he is a evangelical, or an orthadox Jew.

  29. Grand Chalupa,

    Darwin made the God which created the Earth in 7 days void. But he did not disprove, by any stretch of the imagination, the idea of a God. There are many many many conceptions of God. Not just the orthodox one.

    BTW, evolution hasn’t proved how we got here. It has demonstrated how we evolved from other life forms. Deist, Whiteheadean, and all sorts of other forms of God, or at least universal purpose, are completely harmonious with evolution.

    Chalupa, do you believe there is any reason for you to exercise intellectual honesty? Cuz you seem to think so. I respect that. But I don’t think there is, like, any proof that truth or honesty have any ontological status outside of your mind. Yet you seem passionately committed to it. Seems like you would either want to give religion and/or spirituality a break, or say that there is also no universal value in truth.

  30. Jay J- There aren’t many ontological reasons to value intellectual honesty (there are a few, though), but there are plenty of epistemological reasons to do so.

    Otherwise, I tend to agree with your points. Depending on mood, I consider myself either an agnostic or a believer in what Dawkins calls Einstein’s god. But I also realize that evolution, while a fact, has little if anything to say about the existence of a creator.

  31. John,

    I don’t think that death threats are a uniquely Muslim response to offending religious viewpoints.

  32. I harbor resent towards believers and believe its justified….And those sheep make up the majority of humanity. I’ll never forget that in life the difference between those who think and those who don’t. They might as well be different species.
    – Grand Chalupa

    It sounds like you were happier in your doubtful Christian days than you are now.

  33. “But I also realize that evolution, while a fact, has little if anything to say about the existence of a creator.”

    Evolution says nothing about how life was created in the first place, only how it evolved. It doesn’t claim to disprove God. Like I said above there are plenty of evolutionary biologists who are not athiests.

  34. It is one thing to be an athiest. It is quite another to claim as Chalupa does, that anyone who picked up a book and thought about these things would be one to. That is just rediculous and worthy or redicule.

    Actualy I subscribe to that belief too. Now I can respect beleivers as human beings, and I can engage in discourse with them on a any number of issues. But overall my perception that there is still a defect to that person.

    And I am especialy dumbfounded when I see truly inteligent people who are beleivers. What is your belief based on? John WHY do you believe? To me believing that there is bearded man in the sky watching you choke your chicken or whatnot is the same as beleiving in Santa Claus and the Easter bunny, they do have the same level of evidence.

    And yes, John, science does get the absolute truth. It does it stages but most definetely gets an absolute truth. Laws of motion, laws of thermodynamics. For things that science hasnt ABSOLUTELY proven true, we have working theories, and all of these are adjusted as we get more and more facts. Religious beliefs on the other hand are adjusted based on what is convenient at the moment.

  35. Darwin made the God which created the Earth in 7 days void. But he did not disprove, by any stretch of the imagination, the idea of a God. There are many many many conceptions of God. Not just the orthodox one.

    BTW, evolution hasn’t proved how we got here. It has demonstrated how we evolved from other life forms. Deist, Whiteheadean, and all sorts of other forms of God, or at least universal purpose, are completely harmonious with evolution.

    That’s a cop out.

    First they believed in the miracle worker God.

    Then when science proves that to be bullshit they changed the definition.

    See Dawkins book the God Delusion. Of course you can’t prove a negative. If I’m supposed to respect belief in God as rational then we’ve also got to respect belief in warewolves and vampires.

    Chalupa, do you believe there is any reason for you to exercise intellectual honesty? Cuz you seem to think so. I respect that. But I don’t think there is, like, any proof that truth or honesty have any ontological status outside of your mind. Yet you seem passionately committed to it. Seems like you would either want to give religion and/or spirituality a break, or say that there is also no universal value in truth.

    I’ll agree with there being no universal value in truth. I think there only is for an intelligent person. I could not believe in God and had I lived in Afghanistan and didn’t know there was such a thing as atheism my mind would probably explode from the trillions of contradictions. A curious, intelligent mind needs to be convinced and is only convinced by reason and science.

    Nietzsche makes the point that untruths are neccessary for life so we should pick ones that make us happy and are “species-cultivating”. That’s why I like personal responsibility over collective responsibility and a sense of justice over compassion, although none of those things is more “true” in a scientific sense then any other.

    For the less mentally however (I told you I’d sound smug in this thread), however, there may not be as any value at all in knowing what’s true. Just something to get you through the night. I’ll acknowledge that.

  36. Jay J.,

    Do yourselves a favour… Read “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins.

    “Darwin made the God which created the Earth in 7 days void. But he did not disprove, by any stretch of the imagination, the idea of a God. There are many many many conceptions of God.”

    The burden of proof does not rest upon Darwin, or any other non-believer. It is a logical impossibility to prove the non-existence of an entity that by definition can not be perceived by our senses.

    See “Russell’s Teapot”. While you’re at it, have a look at the “Invisible Pink Unicorn”. Try to prove to us that neither of those exist.

  37. And John, critical thought and religion are incompatible.

    And this statement by Pigwiggle could be Exhibit A in the defense’s argument that the same applies to anti-religion…

  38. As I tell my religious friends (and I do have many) I’m an a-theist the same way I’m an a-unicornist. Show me either one and I’ll consider believing. Of course, I might just redefine what I mean by “god” or “unicorn.”

  39. jj-

    I guess Martin Luther King’s letter from Birmingham jail had no critical thought whatsoever. Deitick Bon Hoeffer’s valiant defense of the Jews, Ghandi’s teachings on non-violence, the Buddha’s insights on human psychology, etc, etc, etc, all these things were just a product of primitive dogma.

    You have a pretty loose idea of what qualifies as critical thought. Critical thought is analytic, logical, scientific, … All those folks were very successful at appealing to an inherent moral base in others. But morality and ethics are in essence arbitrary. Reason can be applied, but you have to postulate a bunch of other crap first.

    val-

    And yes, John, science does get the absolute truth.

    No. That’s really the best critique of science, I guess aside from the assumption of reproducibility. Science can only tell us for sure the way things aren’t, that is, assuming reproducibility.

  40. I’m trying to remember who it was that said we are all atheists: none of us believe in the existence of Neptune the sea-god or Ra the sun-god or Thor the thunder-god; the only difference between John and Grand Chalupa is that GC disbelieves in one god more than John does.

  41. John was bang on about science not giving absolute truth. Someone who believes the scientific viewpoint knows that there is always a possibility – however small – that any understanding could be proved wrong.

    Science, however, does tell us what CANNOT be true. 90% of scientific knowledge is in the category of “things that can’t be true.”

  42. Political correctness is generally imposed by uncritical professors and administrators on their dissenting students.

    In the few incidents of PC that occurred during my college years were not driven by administrators or professors, but by student groups with a racial or ideological agenda. Like anyone else, the last thing a university wants is bad press which could lead to fewer students, less government funding, and fewer donations from alumni and the corporate sector.

    It doesn’t matter if this is the African-American student union complaining about the “n-word” being printed in the right-wing college newspaper, or an evangelist student claiming that a professor asked him to consider something that contradicted his faith. The administration isn’t interested in justice, they just want quiet. The right has just figured out that they too can join the ranks of the cry babies if they bawl loud enough.

  43. “The world needs technicians and tradesman. The last thing it needs is more intellectuals.”

    John, you have read mein book, ya?

  44. John was bang on about science not giving absolute truth. Someone who believes the scientific viewpoint knows that there is always a possibility – however small – that any understanding could be proved wrong.

    You mean that the Earth can really be flat and the sun really does travel around us?

  45. As I tell my religious friends (and I do have many) I’m an a-theist the same way I’m an a-unicornist. Show me either one and I’ll consider believing. Of course, I might just redefine what I mean by “god” or “unicorn.”

    God is the part of your brain that tells you it is wrong to kill somebody even if doing so would aid in the perpetuation of your genetic material and/or the genetic material of other people you like.

  46. To me, what is more important than whether or not a god exists is whether on not I have a soul.

    At this point, based on what science and medicine have revealed, I don’t believe in the existence of an eternal soul. So I could care less about if and what god(s) exist.

    I identify as an atheist, but I’m not going to pretend that there’s no possibility of a powerful being, only that from my vantage point it’s highly unlikely; and who the hell cares anyway.

  47. Man, there’s a whole lot of dogma going on around here, and it ain’t all of the theistic variety. Anyway who claims that science disproves the existence of deity has just as much faith as the religionist who claims that the existence of deity can be proven. To state that science can disprove certain conceptions of deity is reasonable and accurate, but the existence of deity is untestable and therefore out of the range of science: it may be true or they may be false, but the scientific method can’t tell you that.

    I also love Grand Chalupa’s statement that he learned all he needs to know about philosophy from South Park. I wonder, however, what his reaction was to the episodes with Richard Dawkins and the United Atheist Alliance, which were a pretty sophisticated anthropological outlook on the matter that doesn’t support anyone’s claims to rationality…

  48. John was bang on about science not giving absolute truth. Someone who believes the scientific viewpoint knows that there is always a possibility – however small – that any understanding could be proved wrong.

    No. That’s really the best critique of science, I guess aside from the assumption of reproducibility. Science can only tell us for sure the way things aren’t, that is, assuming reproducibility.

    Wow, just wow. Like I said there are a multitude of working scienfic theories that
    still need more fact gathering to be proven or disproven. But to suggest that science doesnt ABSOLUTELY prove things because it hasnt proven EVERYTHING is asinine.

    Because there is a small chance that its actually the Earth revolving around the sun. And there is a small chance that if I pray hard enough I’ll be able to reach through this screen and strangle people.

  49. You mean that the Earth can really be flat and the sun really does travel around us?

    Technically science could demonstrate that, but the probability is so infintessimal that it can be ignored. The point is that science should not be dogmatic and should be open to revision as more evidence accumulates and any scientist who is being honest will admit that there is always a possibility of our current understanding being wrong or of being sublated into better understanding (think Newtonian mechanics and Relatviity).

    Ron Bailey’s “conversion” on global warming is a good example: when enough evidence accumulates, you change your mind.

    The problem is that it is people who do science and questions of ego and careerism get in the way. That’s why I find Dawkin’s trite little story about one of his professors thanking someone for proving him wrong on a point to be on par with a Sunday School lesson… Could it happen? Yes, I suppose, but I doubt it did.

  50. God is the part of your brain that tells you it is wrong to kill somebody even if doing so would aid in the perpetuation of your genetic material and/or the genetic material of other people you like.

    First of all, what’s your eveidence that “God” is a part of my brain or anything for that matter?

    Why do we need to attribute ethical reasoning to a God or any other supernatural creature? Do you really think that humans can’t figure out what’s best for themselves or civilization on their own without being nagged or threatened by a deity?

    On a side note: Why do I feel like I’m arguing with Dan T or Joe on an issue of government interference here. Could be that the same reasoning a “liberal” uses for government regulation (e.g. “Without government control, nothing would stop business from being corrupt and oppressive.”)of the economy is the about the same as the religious conservative’s instance that we need “God” to dictate morality (e.g. “Without God, nothing would stop humans from murdering and raping in the streets.).

    Maybe Left and Right have more in common than we thought, as do atheists and libertarians.

  51. Do you really think that humans can’t figure out what’s best for themselves or civilization on their own without being nagged or threatened by a deity?

    I don’t know, the track record either way isn’t terribly encouraging…

  52. val-

    “But to suggest that science doesnt ABSOLUTELY prove things because it hasnt proven EVERYTHING is asinine.”

    I’m not suggesting, it is the scientific method. Make a proposition … try and disprove said proposition. That’s it. There is nothing in there about proving a positive. Also, I didn’t say anything about the necessity to prove everything. Pick one single thing, anything. Science can only show us how it is not.


  53. You mean that the Earth can really be flat and the sun really does travel around us

    Technically science could demonstrate that, but the probability is so infintessimal that it can be ignored.

    How does one engage in discourse when whoppers like that come up.

    Please, for the love of God, explain to us how that could technicaly be demonstrated.

  54. And I am especialy dumbfounded when I see truly inteligent people who are beleivers. What is your belief based on? John WHY do you believe?

    Val, even truly intelligent people are willing to accept that their rationality and the resources available to them in this lifetime cannot leave every stone unturned. They make some room in their lives for that unknowable realm, and in doing so, I might add, add a small but healthy dose of humility to their lives.

    As I tell my religious friends (and I do have many) I’m an a-theist the same way I’m an a-unicornist. Show me either one and I’ll consider believing.

    Ron, if you sit around waiting for other people to show you things you may find life rather unfulfilling. πŸ˜‰

  55. Why do we need to attribute ethical reasoning to a God or any other supernatural creature? Do you really think that humans can’t figure out what’s best for themselves or civilization on their own without being nagged or threatened by a deity?

    We don’t need to attribute all moral or ethical thinking to a god(s). rather, we only need to attribute the part that cannot be explained by evolutionary imperatives. That was why I worded my previous answer to Bailey the way I did.

  56. I’m not suggesting, it is the scientific method. Make a proposition … try and disprove said proposition. That’s it. There is nothing in there about proving a positive.

    Yes, that is the scientific method. However a positive (or causality) can be proven by then replicating whatever thing you deconstructed.

    Now I didnt know until I tried that an apple will fall to the ground if I let it go in midair. So I make a proposition, ‘this apple will float once I let it go’. I do and it falls. So I can now make a proposition, this apple will fall when I let it go. I let go and it falls. Thats a positive, just because you arrive at your positive by testing a negative doestn make it any less positive.

  57. To Chalupa and all atheist and agnosnic leaning posters:

    At 10:40 a.m., when speaking of religion, Chaulpa said, “Its religion that proves it false.”

    I understand Russell’s teapot, burden of proof, and all the rest. But Chalupa said that science proves religion false. Chalupa’s words, not mine.

  58. Ron, if you sit around waiting for other people to show you things you may find life rather unfulfilling. πŸ˜‰


  59. I understand Russell’s teapot, burden of proof, and all the rest. But Chalupa said that science proves religion false. Chalupa’s words, not mine.

    Science proves the stories of the old testament false, that is fact. That’s what I mean by “religion”. If you make the definition of religion any belief in the supernatural, then that can not be proven false, that is true. Doesn’t mean we should take it seriously.

  60. pigwiggle,

    MLK’s letter from Birmingham Jail, Gandhi’s teachings on non-violence, the Buddha’s insights on human psychology, all these things have stood the test of time (some more than others) in influencing civilization.

    Now I understand the difference between moral intuition and valid application. Are you saying that there was no valid application on widely shared intuitions on the examples I mentioned, since you are of the belief that rational thought and religion are incompatible?

  61. They make some room in their lives for that unknowable realm, and in doing so, I might add, add a small but healthy dose of humility to their lives.

    Excuse me, it would athiests who leave room for the ‘unknowable’. Theists would attribute the unknown to their specific flavor of diety.

    But Chalupa said that science proves religion false. Chalupa’s words, not mine.

    For a while now, science has been disproving many religious assertions, creation in seven days and the like, evolution, etc… What has been happening is that in the face of overwhelming evidence religion has been redefining its permises to fit. Not for everyone, there are very many fundamentalists and literalists around still. There are some assertion that cannot be disproven by science, much the same way as Mr. Bailey sugested it cant disprove the existence of unicorns.

  62. We don’t need to attribute all moral or ethical thinking to a god(s). rather, we only need to attribute the part that cannot be explained by evolutionary imperatives.

    That’s faulty God-in-the-gaps thinking if ever there was: Science can’t explain something so GOD DID IT?

  63. “So I can now make a proposition, this apple will fall when I let it go. I let go and it falls. Thats a positive, just because you arrive at your positive by testing a negative doestn make it any less positive.”

    Proposition was a very bad word for me to use. The scientific method supposes that you propose a hypothesis, which is an explanation for some observable.

    It isn’t science for me to suppose the sky is blue and then look up. I need to explain why it is blue and then test the consequences of the explanation.

    Otherwise … look around you, proof the world is flat, the sun does move about the earth.

  64. Technically science could demonstrate that, but the probability is so infintessimal that it can be ignored.

    How does one engage in discourse when whoppers like that come up.

    Please, for the love of God, explain to us how that could technicaly be demonstrated.

    I’m going to turn this question around. What exactly do you think I am arguing? Do you think that, if the Copernican view were wrong, that science could not demonstrate it?

    Technically, science could demonstrate that the sun orbits the earth, if it were true. That is my only point. It is a rather pro-scientific statement and a recognition that science is not infallible, despite the rather dogmatic adherence to that stance by some here.

    If you can’t understand contrafactural hypothesis in argument as a way to discuss things, then I am afraid we cannot engage in discourse…

  65. Fave quote:

    “I contend we are both atheists – I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you reject all other gods, you will understand why I reject yours as well.” – Stephen F. Roberts

    People should be judged by their actions, not their beliefs. I have many believer friends who are intelligent and contemplative. I allow them (what I believe to be) their delusion in exchange for them not demonizing my lack of belief. Those who do not do me this courtesy are not my friends. Those who would suspend one’s rights or liberty solely based on their beliefs are to be actively resisted.

  66. Political correctness and religious correctness are the same damn thing, regardless of Ronald’s assertion to the contrary. OK, one is more popular than the other, that’s a difference in degree, not in kind.

    And would you all leave John alone? People who grew up believing in religious myths will defend them to the grave, regardless of how irrational the myth is. If John truly believed in God, he’d be sacrificing lambs at an alter regularly. The way that Christians pick and choose which of God’s commands to follow and which to blatantly disregard makes it so that I can’t take their faith seriously. But growing up under this belief system, THAT is real, and there’s really no reason to constantly push buttons. Goddam Dawkins wannabees.

  67. It isn’t science for me to suppose the sky is blue and then look up. I need to explain why it is blue and then test the consequences of the explanation.

    You know I cant really figure out which side of the argument you fall on here.

    P.S. The sky is blue due to Rayleigh scattering. Due to the compositon of the atmosphere the molecules interfere with only the blue frequency waves and the scatter it. So the sun looks orange/red because those rays are hitting you directly but the scattered light is blue ie color of the sky.

    With this FACT, we can predict the color of the sky on other planets if we know the atmospheric composition.

  68. Chalupa,

    I told you religion was much broader than that, and you told me that was a cop out.

    Then you admitted that your version of truth is no better than any other, since there is no universal value in truth. BTW, there are many scientists who are atheist, reductionist, materialist, the whole nine yards, who acknowledge that there are rationalizations of God which could be completely consistent with the data, so perhaps your head would explode in Afghanistan, but you shouldn’t imply that all religious or theistic systems would be full of contradictions. You may say that there isn’t a good reason to believe them, but that’s not the same thing as incoherence.

    Also, on the emptiness or lack thereof of values, I’m afraid Dawkins and Dennett disagree with you. At least I’m sure Dennett does. The secular humanistic tradition isn’t nearly as void of morality as people have come to think. D & D both seem to have been born of this tradition and Dennett in particular believes there is good reason to posit objective moral values. But if you don’t, I’m not sure why you feel so much more intellectually-honest than thou, since that is just the “untruth” that you have chosen which has no objective superiority to any other “untruth,” at least in your mind.

  69. jj-

    “Are you saying that there was no valid application on widely shared intuitions on the examples I mentioned, …”

    No. But certainly, making me feel sad, or guilty, or self righteous, none of these things are reasoned. Logic is (probably) an external and fundamental feature of the world.

  70. Otherwise … look around you, proof the world is flat, the sun does move about the earth.

    Errrr… No. There were many scientists from the ancient Greeks to Galileo who figured out the shape of the Earth and the that it orbits the sun with just evidence they obtained by looking all around them.

  71. For the most part, religions are personality cults. Cults are manifestations of human tribal instincts.

    Please note that I’m only speaking of “religion” and not of theological concepts.

  72. No. But certainly, making me feel sad, or guilty, or self righteous, none of these things are reasoned. Logic is (probably) an external and fundamental feature of the world.

    You might want to read Dam?sio before you conclude that logic exists outside of the human mind as a fundamental feature of the world. As a neuroscientist he comes to some pretty good evidence that emotion and reason are fundamentally intertwined.

  73. pigwiggle,

    Sorry, but you said religion and rational thought are incompatible. Making you feel sad or guilty or self-righteous may not be reasoned, but these things are not, like, un-reasoned right? I mean, reason is morally neutral isn’t it.?

    My question was to ask if there was no valid application of widely shared intuitions in the examples I mentioned. If there was, then you shouldn’t say rational thought and religion are incompatible.

  74. That’s faulty God-in-the-gaps thinking if ever there was: Science can’t explain something so GOD DID IT?

    Depends on what the something is. If the “something” in question is a sense of morality that recognizes higher or different imperatives that diverge in some respects from the red in tooth and claw imperatives of evolution, then I would say “yeah.”

    When I think about black holes or quasars or white dwarfs or moons or whatever, those kinds of things don’t neccessarily suggest any intelligence. But a moral sense is a different kind of a thing. Prof. Pinker is probably right that a lot of it can and did fall out of evolutional conditioning. However, I don’t think all of it came out of that because some of our common morality seems highly inconsistent with evolution to me. it is that residuum that suggests a transcendent intelligence to me (and hopefully to Bailey now, too!).

  75. val-

    Take your apple business again. 100 years ago Newtonian mechanics was the FACT of the day that explained your apple problem. But Newton was wrong. Now the FACT is Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, which don’t really agree very well. Maybe you just have a weaker definition of what is a FACT than I do.

    jj-

    “My question was to ask if there was no valid application of widely shared intuitions in the examples I mentioned. If there was, then you shouldn’t say rational thought and religion are incompatible.”

    Well then, sure. I can see the rationality of exploiting others irrationality for an end.

  76. Then you admitted that your version of truth is no better than any other, since there is no universal value in truth. BTW, there are many scientists who are atheist, reductionist, materialist, the whole nine yards, who acknowledge that there are rationalizations of God which could be completely consistent with the data, so perhaps your head would explode in Afghanistan, but you shouldn’t imply that all religious or theistic systems would be full of contradictions. You may say that there isn’t a good reason to believe them, but that’s not the same thing as incoherence.

    Sorry, you still haven’t given a lick of explanation as to why the belief should be taken seriously. I still go back to Russell’s teapot.

    Maybe you can come up with a concept of God that is not incoherent and contradictory but it would still be stupid.

    To sum it up….

    The traditional Abrahamic God is full of contradictions.

    A deist God may not contradict itself but is still a belief right up there with unicorns and the Easter Bunny.

    If all you are aguing is that you can’t prove away God, then you win. Nobody will ever do that and if that’s all you need to maintain your delusion you have my blessing.

  77. pigwiggle,

    Do you see all moral intutions as irrational?

  78. It’s not Religiously Correct, it is the great American pre-occupation with not offending anybody. Although, usually Southerners and Christians are exempted from citation by the Scorn Police.

    Aside from that, Mrs TWC is a serious education analyst and we are acquainted with many, many people in the field of education (in all aspects) and based on that immersion I would conclude that whatever this is, it is an aberration and not the norm on college campuses across the land.

  79. TWC: I think you underestimate the number of schools that are run based on fear of lawsuits.

  80. As I tell my religious friends (and I do have many) I’m an a-theist the same way I’m an a-unicornist. Show me either one and I’ll consider believing. Of course, I might just redefine what I mean by “god” or “unicorn.”

    Are you also an a-atheist?

    What I mean is: does somebody have to affirmatively demonstrate the godlessness of the universe before you will believe the universe has that status (or change your definitions)?

    If not, why do you have a different standard of proof for proving to you the godded status of the universe than you have for proving to you the godless status of the universe?

  81. In the beginning, man created God.
    PERIOD, END OF DISCUSSION.

  82. Grand Chalupa,

    If you want to go around acting “truthier-than-thou” even though you believe your views are just as “untrue” as mine, then go right ahead.

    The fact of the matter is, your presentation has been very sloppy, (which is common among atheists and even religious fundamentalists assured of their rightness) that’s really what our exchanges have been about. I really don’t know if there is a God or not. I disagree with you about the universal “untruth” of propositions and views. I happen to agree with Sam Franklin, I think there is a transcendent type of value or intelligence in the universe. Dennett’s view isn’t too far from this. David Chalmers view is that consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe, and he hasn’t had his status as a reputable philosopher of mind revoked yet.

    Basically, I’m willing to allow the real possibility that there is something transcendent. Like a counter-entropic lure, a strange attracter, or something like that. I’ve experienced this, but I haven’t experienced tea-pots or men in the clouds or anything like that.

    Have a good day.

  83. John,

    I fail to see why you don’t think Christians are the ones generating most of the death threats. Certainly they comprise a much higher percentage of the population than Muslims, and are certainly capable of it (ask Ward Churchill). I think your assumption is unwarrented.

  84. Depends on what the something is. If the “something” in question is a sense of morality that recognizes higher or different imperatives that diverge in some respects from the red in tooth and claw imperatives of evolution, then I would say “yeah.”

    So, when we lack evidence for a phenomenon, we throw up or hands and jump to the conclusion that a tyrant in the sky is responsible? That’s it, discussion over? GOD DID IT?

    Sam, that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard and I live with a fucking Republican.

  85. Take your apple business again. 100 years ago Newtonian mechanics was the FACT of the day that explained your apple problem. But Newton was wrong. Now the FACT is Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, which don’t really agree very well. Maybe you just have a weaker definition of what is a FACT than I do.

    The Newtonian mecahnics were not wrong. Infact Im pretty sure the apple still falls today. What you see now is the EXPANSION of those laws with the addition Quantum mechanics and reltaivity as they apply to things really small, things really big and thing really moving fast. However the apple still beleives Newton to this day.

  86. “which is common among atheists and even religious fundamentalists assured of their rightness”

    It’s either sloppy or too obnoxious. I don’t mean that atheists are one or the either, I mean that religious people will always see the debate in these terms. Notice how not a single religious person has addressed the Stephen F. Roberts quote? Just act like it isn’t there. Nobody addressed my comment about how religion is one giant cherry pick. Observe the stuff that we find useful and disregard God’s commands we find inconvenient, hiding behind some priest’s justification. Sad.

  87. The only conclusion to be drawn from this thread is that all of us, no matter what position we take on religion, are pretty stupid.

  88. Lamar,

    Why shouldn’t we cherry pick from religion? I don’t understand what is sad about it.

  89. Lamar, yes lawsuit fear is real, and stories like this play well with libertarians. But I remain unrepentant. This incident is about fear of giving offense, perhaps even fear of a legal action for giving offense. It is not about Religiously Correct behavior.

  90. Why does every mention of religion on these strings become a pissing match of science over faith? The two are really not reconcilable.

    I have studied many libertarian writers and must have missed the part that said “You must turn in your religion and become an atheist before you mind is free enough to understand liberty and markets.”

    The article questions if religious correctness is becoming the new political correctness. And quite honestly the NY Times article seems a little light on examples. Which makes me question the motive for publishing the article more than the topic it presents.

  91. Sam, that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard

    I seem to get that a lot. The other one I get is that I am mentally ill.

    Funny thing is that I don’t feel crazy and the standardized tests said that less than 1% is actually smarter than me.

    When I went to the crazy doctor many years ago, he said I was just depressed. If I really am crazy I wish he would have spoken up then. He and his pills did a creditable job with my depression, and I bet he could have really made some headway on my crazy, too, if he realized just how crazy I was. I wasn’t trying to hide my crazy or anything like that. I just wanted to be well, like everybody else. I thought I was totally there, but when a bunch of people tell you you are crazy then you have to start to wonder.

    Oh well, better crazy than depressed. I used to wish so hard for an accidental death every day so hard that it was painful in my head. being crazy is a bit funner because I get to enjoy life now and the only drawback is other ppl thinking I am crazy.

    Is there anybody out there who thinks I am actually sane and truthful?

  92. Why shouldn’t we cherry pick from religion? I don’t understand what is sad about it.

    Because if you believe that your God is infallible then everything he is alleged to say about morality and behavior is always right. People who pick and choose what’s right and wrong (e.g. Not stoning homosexuals, disobedient sons, women who are raped in the city and didn’t cry out for help, people who work on the Sabbath, etc.) are disobeying the will of an infallible authority.

    So which is it? Is God infallible or not?

  93. Can we agree that not all forms of theism involve invisible men along with myriad rules, rituals, and scriptures? Can we acknowledge that there are other ways to answer the god question?

    Although I usually find myself in the camp of the brights (I’m even registered as such) I am sick of seeing atheists act as though fundamentalism, or the Abrahamic religions in general are the sine qua non of theistic thought. They are not. I’ve seen way too many discussions that follow the same form:

    Atheist: You twit! You believe in an invisible man in the sky and that the world is 6,000 years old!

    Non-atheist: Well, no. I think that it’s conceivable that there might be some sort of intelligence that created or guides the universe.

    Atheist: How can you believe that there’s an invisible man in the sky? You’re cherry-picking the bible! What about all these inconsistencies in the dogma of the church?

    Non-A: Well, I’m not defending any of those positions.

    Atheist: My dog, how stupid does someone have to be to believe in an invisible man?

    Repeat until exhausted.

    Even Dawkins acknowledges that belief in a Spinozan/Einsteinian conception of god is not foolish.

    While we’re on the subject, could we all stop stealing arguments and phrases from the God Delusion and passing them off as our own thinking? Please? It’s a good book. But it’s Dawkins’ book.

  94. I’ve discovered that I can read the first three comments in this thread, the last three, skip all the ones in the middle and be satisfied. I suggest the same approach when reading the Bible.

  95. I have studied many libertarian writers and must have missed the part that said “You must turn in your religion and become an atheist before you mind is free enough to understand liberty and markets.”

    So, in other words, it’s logically kosher for a theist libertarian to oppose Earthly tyranny and oppression, but advocate slavery to an invisible tyrant who lives in the shy?

  96. Akira MacKenzie,

    If there is a God, I don’t believe that God is omnipotent, and I know many many religous people who don’t believe God is the origin of the silly things you mentioend. They think this thanks to the usefulness of cherry-picking.

  97. Can we agree that not all forms of theism involve invisible men along with myriad rules, rituals, and scriptures?

    Nope. What forms of theism are you refering too?

    Can we acknowledge that there are other ways to answer the god question?

    Like what?

    P.S.Non-atheist = theist (you got a double negative in there)

  98. If there is a God, I don’t believe that God is omnipotent, and I know many many religous people who don’t believe God is the origin of the silly things you mentioend. They think this thanks to the usefulness of cherry-picking.

    Jay why the qualification ‘If there is a God’ are you a theist or an atheist?

    If you are a beleiver then what do you base your version of God on? The Bible? Sunday Morning at Church?

  99. “Non-atheist: Well, no. I think that it’s conceivable that there might be some sort of intelligence that created or guides the universe.”

    i.e., there’s some sort of vague, unidentifiable something that can’t be explained or criticized, and this vague concept accounts for everything, except itself, which is too vague.

    Luke called it the force. Before you flip out, think what the Force was, and think what you are saying. If I’m wrong, give us more of a definition. Otherwise it seems like you are merely throwing your hands up and saying, I don’t know, but there’s got to be something.

  100. Val- Yes, I’m aware of the double negative. Thank you. Neither “agnostic” nor “theist” worked for my purposes. As for concepts of god that don’t rely on organized religions or scriptures, I’m going to invite you to listen to the folks who are discussing such ideas. Or just pick up the God Delusion and read through the chapter that discusses pantheism. That’s one variant of the sort of thing I’m referring to.

    And Val, sometimes, “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer.

  101. Also, I understand the temptation to dismiss all theism as religious or even fundamentalist. After all, that does make the argument much easier.

  102. The cherry-picking issue is interesting.

    Take marriage, for example. Religious people tend to take the view that marriage is forever, and once you are in you don’t get out. Another view is that marriage exists for the sake of the people in it, and if it has ceased to serve both of those of people, it should end.

    People have similar views about religion – one view states that Dogma X is absolute truth and a moral person lives by it. Another person says that if he’s going to trust Dogma X, well then Dogma X had better be trustworthy because it exists to serve US.

    If there is going to be such a thing as religion at all, I like the idea that it exists to serve and improve the lives of the people in it. But I think that idea, although shared by a lot of people when choosing a church, is blasphemy to a true fundamentalist.

  103. “Also, I understand the temptation to dismiss all theism as religious or even fundamentalist. After all, that does make the argument much easier.”

    I guess the temptation is just as strong as the temptation to avoid rational criticisms by redefining beliefs in such a way as to shield them from any criticism.

  104. Art, it has to be a pissing match because most libertarians are obsessed with a smoldering hatred of religion that takes on the aura of a 1950’s Bircheresque, McCarthyist (Joseph, not Charly) witch hunt for commies under the bed. Many of their criticisms are valid but only apply to a small minority of religious fanatics. The truth is, that most people who consider themselves religious are fun to have a beer with. Their kids are normal and play with yours. They go to work, pay their mortgages, pray over dinner some times, and generally put their pants on one leg at a time.

    As my good friend and Dogfather to my children said many, many times, we really don’t know whether or not Dog exists or not. To speculate about it is interesting and fun and to do so does not make you a whim worshiping irrational dogmatic fool.

    I’m not sure if there is a Supreme Being and would speculate that if God exists he doesn’t exist in the form my sister thinks he does.

  105. No. Godamnit, Lamar, I am not endorsing any view of whether there is a god. I am saying that there is more to theistic thought than a lot of atheists are willing to acknowledge. That is why I’m being vague-because there is a lot of thought out there, and I’m not going to try to deal with each version of non-religious theism here.

    And again, “I don’t know” is also an acceptable answer.

    And why on earth would I flip out over the force comment? Ah, because I must be a closet religious person, eh? After all, I’m criticizing some atheist arguments. Cute, except I’m not religious. I will point out that the force is similar to Taoist conceptions of the universe, which some would consider a brand of theism.

  106. I’m sorry, Lamar. I’ll stop pretending that there is a wide variety of thought on the god question. And I’ll admit it. You’ve got me. I’m a raving, bible-thumping fundie. Praise Jebus. You may now trot out the same tired, easy arguments, pat yourself on the back, and bask in your victory over the forces of evil.

  107. Val- Yes, I’m aware of the double negative. Thank you. Neither “agnostic” nor “theist” worked for my purposes. As for concepts of god that don’t rely on organized religions or scriptures, I’m going to invite you to listen to the folks who are discussing such ideas. Or just pick up the God Delusion and read through the chapter that discusses pantheism. That’s one variant of the sort of thing I’m referring to.

    And Val, sometimes, “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer.

    Actualy, yes I was planning on doing that. Considering how many times it was quoted in this thread I figured it might be a worth-while read.

    Pantheism is even more out there then your standard run of the mill religions. It is strictly a philosphical exercise. But the problem is its still refering to ‘some sort of intelligence that guides the unverse’. It might not have the same doctorines of good and evil, but then we are not really discussing this aspect anyways.

    And BTW what a nice way of telling me to shut-up you found there.

  108. Val, TWC said it better than I can. The only point I’m making here is that the debate is more complex than either side wants to admit, and we’re never going to get anywhere arguing with charactures of the other sides’ ideas.

    Your point about pantheism as a philosophic exercise is a valid one, but that’s exactly what I’m talking about when I refer to non-religious theism.

  109. And yes, The God Delusion is a very worthwhile read. I enjoyed it immensely, even if I’m not willing to go as far as Dawkins does.

  110. val,

    I’m an agnostic. I know, I know, flying teapots and stuff. I’m familiar with that.

    This came up because Lamar said that cherry-picking from religion is sad. I don’t understand why. I mean, hell, we would be doing a lot more crazy shit if we didn’t cherry pick wouldn’t we?

    Anyways, I don’t think we have to think in binary ways about this, Judaism here, Christianity there, Religion here, psychology there. I mean maybe 3/4s of Islam is screwed up and ? of Christianity is screwed up. Why not just combine them? I’m not talking about stuff like Mohammed and the Resurrection, but subtler aspects of religion.

    Theistic thinkers have done this ya know?Alfred North Whitehead, Paul Tillich, Martin Buber, Dietrich BonHoffer, Gandhi, etc have all blazed their own trails in thinking about God.

    You shouldn’t just go around saying “God” thinking that everyone has in mind the same Western, Judeo-Christian, Orthodox God that you have in mind. And this criticism would be applicable if I was a theist or not.

  111. What about Prof. Taylor’s original point? According to his biography, he’a mostly taught at private institutions, but I see where he was a visiting professor at North Carolina. There’s no way anyone should be able to demand that their instructor in religious studies at a public institution* must be a believer, in a particular faith or in any religion. Having a department of religion at a public university strikes me as problematic, anyway, unless the attitude is maintained that, while the state doesn’t endorse religion, it is an important force in the world, and a proper field of study. This will often lead to viewing the subject through philosophical, anthropological and sociological lenses, which methods require a certain amount of skepticism. I can see where this would honk believers off, but there is a solution to that. They can attend a religious university or college, preferably one affiliated with their denomination.

    As for Mr. Taylor’s work at private institutions such as Williams, it is up to the governing board to what extent they want their religious studies courses to be exercises in value-neutrality or reinforcement belief. Here’s some examples of the latter you may all find instructive.

    I graduated from a Catholic, Jesuit institution. For quite some time, however, the governing board has had its membership extended to include lay persons. Priests are actually a minority on the board, though the University president has always been an S.J. Over 20 years ago there arose a controversy when a Jesuit faculty member quit the order and the priesthood. The University, taking the position that, since he hadn’t signed the standard contract used for lay faculty, but a specialized “Jesuit contract,” his continued employment depended on remaining a part of the order, and they terminated it. This resulted in howls from advocates of “academic freedom,” who claimed that, “Jesuit contract” aside, the prof had tenure. A long battle, in both the courts and the organs of academic politics ensued. The American Association of University Professors sanctioned the school. Eventually, smarting from the difficulties in recruiting faculty resulting from those sanctions, and hampered by a theory of employment law that saw the increased lay involvement in governing the school as bringing it under the scope of the anti-discrimination statutes, the University settled the case. The Professor was allowed back on the faculty, and the University re-wrote their contracts for those under religious orders on a going-forward basis, to make the connection between their status as clergy and faculty members more defensible in court.

    However, no changes could be made regarding to already tenured faculty. As a result, another Jesuit, hires after he was formally laicized, is still teaching at my alma mater, even though after he bcame tenured he became a proponent of views on subjects such as abortion that are considered heretical by the Vatican. Since he’s tenured, they can’t fire him, but they don’t assign him to any required courses. He’s even banned by the local Archbishop from giving talks at local Catholic churches.

    If academic freedom can trump the Pope at a private, Catholic institution, what makes these students think they will get their way? Plainly, identity politics is the only thing that could overcome it. We see this from the hitory of the establishment of minority studies programs. If the protestors can get themselves recognized as an Official Victim Group, they stand a good chance of mau-mauing the adminstration of their school into giving them veto power over who teaches a course. If they can’t garner that status, they’ll have to either put up with what is offerred to transfer.

    BTW, I’ve been an atheist since I changed my mind between my Junior and Senior years of college. So I don’t have a dog in the fight between my alma mater and this “rogue theologian,” except insofar as he is a reliable pinko teaching “Social Justice” and “Social Ethics.” If he were doing so out of the Political Science or Philosophy departments I might kick, but professors who do that are a commodity. My experience of Catholic education is that it is not anti-science at all, especially in regards to the Natural Law tradition. Catholics theologians don’t have any problem with evolution. If the evidence convinces them of the theory – and I’ve never run into an instructor who denied that it does – they just consider evolution to be a tool their god uses to create the world. Catholics are noticeably less hung up on scriptural literalism than some of the Protestant sects, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows a lick about the history of the Reformation.

    Kevin

  112. Six,

    And again, “I don’t know” is also an acceptable answer.

    Exactly.

    I also learned that “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer during due diligence or at a deposition. For some reason that surprised me.

  113. Why shouldn’t beliefs be redefined? I mean, if evidence shows that the Earth was not created in 7 days, then that view should be abandoned right? What’s wrong with shifting views in light of new evidence?

    You know, all this isn’t just a modern phenomena you know…The Buddha was talking about stuff that mental health professional still find valuable, and if you don’t see any meaning at all in Judeo-Christian scripture, then we’ll probably never see eye-to-eye.

    If people find meaning in their faith, but redefine the weakest parts, why should that bother you?

  114. 6, you have a small point. What usually happens is that an adherent to one of the major brands of theism paints themself into a corner and instead of thinking critically about the issue, redefines the debate. I’ll admit that you have a point that affects an insignficant number of people, and no more. And your personal religious beliefs aren’t entirely relevant to your argument. I know how complex these issues are, and my point remains.

  115. Jay –

    The thing is we are talking about theism vs atheism. Which is strictly a of YES GOD/NO GOD discussion.

    If you wish to beleive that there is NO invisible external intelligent force guiding the unverse, but choose to follow the positive humanistic traits of religion (like helping those less fortunate etc…) because it makes you feel better, then to me you are still an atheist. You know you can be a good person with out beleiving in god.

    If on the other hand you do ‘good’ things becaue the bilbe said, or because that intelligent force told you one way or another then you are a theist.

    See the question is not wether you are good or evil, not about postive or negative aspects of religion. Its do you beleive that there is that God/Force/Energy out there.

  116. TWC
    Thank you for the heads up. It is pretty amazing though. There are over 100 posts on this string and almost none of them are dealing with the concept of censorship and restrictions on speech on campus whether from political or religious correctness, which is were Ron started this article.

  117. If you do not believe at least in the positive humanistic traits of religion, like external or objective values, then why in the shit do you care about justifying you beliefs, or caring if other people do?

    And no, you can’t decide all on your own what the conversation is about. When someone just comes along and says “religion” then they are talking about all of it, positive humanisttic traits and all. Atheists would do much better to stop being so damn sloppy in their presentation.

    If you wish to isolate certain aspects of religion to critique, then do so. If religion in general is being discussed, then don’t be surprised if people talk about all kinds of differing aspects of religion.

    I’ve got to do more Christmas shopping, I’m leaving this mad house for another one…

    OUT.

  118. Full disclosure: I am a weak atheist. Some people call it “agnostic,” but that’s not really accurate.

    The problem with cherry-picking religious notions is that you end up basing your beliefs on circular reasoning: “I believe this because it appeals to me,” but “It appeals to me because I want to believe it.”

    Beliefs ought to be built on a standard. Atheists argue that that standard ought to be evidence. Fundamentalists argue that that standard ought to be their holy text of choice.

    Basing it on whatever happens to flit into an individual’s mind leads to the notion that truth itself is subjective. As an atheist, I find that notion to be completely idiotic.

  119. Val, I think you’d find that we agree on most things. As I said, I’m not religious. I’m not exactly an athiest, either, although Dawkins’ definition would put me squarely in that camp. I just want the debate to proceed in line with what people actually believe.

    As was pointed out above, the god question is probably insoluble. And that’s what makes it interesting.

  120. a-t-h-e-i-s-t

    Please, at least spell the word right.

  121. “Although I usually find myself in the camp of the brights (I’m even registered as such) I am sick of seeing atheists act as though fundamentalism, or the Abrahamic religions in general are the sine qua non of theistic thought. They are not. I’ve seen way too many discussions that follow the same form:”

    Right on, number 6. I’m so tired of these straw men types of responses to religion from people on this board. When I talk to a fundamentalist about “God” or a “Divine Presence” it’s quite obvious we are talking about something completely different to the point the label “God” becomes meaningless as a common topic of conversation. My conception of God is much closer to the Taoists – I don’t need to have seen unicorns or men in white beards to support such a belief. Rather, it’s supported by the experience of well being and something akin to a sense of beauty and unity I experience in contemplation. Whether this same ‘force’ I experience in contemplation is responsible for creating the entire universe, or for guiding it, is beyond my interest. I simply enjoy and gratefully appreciate the experience of communion with something that takes me out of my normal I-centered/egoistic awareness.

    Instead of arguing with the fundamentalists out there or in your head, pick up some Emerson or some works on Taoism or Christian Contemplatives from ages past such as Meister Eckhart.

  122. I’ll have to disagree with you there, Number 6. If a question is fundamentally insoluble (as opposed to something that might become soluble as time progresses), then any discussion about it is necessarily mental masturbation.

    We might as well ask ourselves how President Gore would have dealt with 9/11. An amusing diversion to pass the time? Perhaps. Interesting in any meaningful way? Not really.

  123. My two older brothers, a cattle rancher and a high end welder do more to actually keep the country afloat than any 10 college educated people I know. Yet, the country spends billions of dollars every year trying to make sure people like them can write an essay on the gay Asian woman’s perspective on the Joy Luck Club. The world needs technicians and tradesman. The last thing it needs is more intellectuals. Yet, we worship at the alter of liberal education as an unqualified good in all cases.

    Absolutely. Jefferson, Montesquieu, A. Smith, etc. were basically wastes of oxygen. If only they were welders.

    Populism always leads to the same basic conclusions about market failure, which is why there are no (intelligent) libertarian populists.

  124. Son of a!
    I would have to agree with you. Most of this post is mental masturbation.

  125. Craven administrators prove something about administrators.

    However, Taylor doesn’t much question his own view of the matter. Uncertainty only goes so far, if you’re a professor writing in the NYT.

    I’d propose handicapped parking for religious students, myself.

  126. Most of this post is mental masturbation.
    Most of this post is mental masturbation.
    Most of this post is mental masturbation.
    Most of this post is mental masturbation.
    Most of this post is mental masturbation.
    Most of this post is mental masturbation.
    Most of this post is mental masturbation.
    Most of this post is mental masturbation.
    Most of this post is mental masturbation.
    Most of this post is mental masturbation.
    Most of this post is mental masturbation.
    Most of this post is mental masturbation.
    Most of this post is mental masturbation.
    Most of this post is mental masturbation.
    Most of this post is mental masturbation.

  127. Son of A!: Well, all philosophical questions could be described as mental masturbation to one extent or another. What is ‘mind’? Good question. No one knows for sure, but it’s a damn interesting question, and even if we don’t find an answer, you can learn some things along the way.

  128. val-

    “The Newtonian mecahnics were not wrong. Infact Im pretty sure the apple still falls today.

    Again, you are confusing theory with the empirical observation. If I insist the sky is blue because it reflects the ocean, but am then proven wrong, is the sky still blue?

    Newton was wrong, time and space are not absolute, and he also missed with his equations of motion (which are reasonably good approximations, but still wrong). QM and Relativity aren’t an expansion of Newtonian mechanics, but a complete rewrite. That is the way science works. Someone comes up with a reasonably good explanation that fails with some stuff. The next guy comes along with a better explanation that explains more, and so forth. Hopefully sometime soon someone will come along and show us where Einstein and all the QM folks missed.

    But if your hang up is Newton, consider Mr. Becher. Becher proposed a theory of combustion which held that all flammable stuff contained a material called phlogiston. It made a lot of sense at the time. You could dephlogisticate something, and things contained a limited amount of phlogiston which had weight. Phlogiston helped explain the different qualities of oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide, which were all thought to be “air” with different degrees of phlogistication.

    Mr. Becher was wrong. the whole business was more complicated than he first believed. The FACT of phlogiston was replaced by Dalton’s FACT of the atomic theory of matter. See?

  129. Not that there is anything wrong with masturbation, so long as it doesn’t replace that which you are masturbating about.

  130. I left an asterisk hanging in my post above. I meant to footnote my comment with the Obligatory Libertarian Disclaimer that government schools shouldn’t be issuing degrees in Religious Studies. Granting History, Sociology or Anthropology degrees, where the student has concentrated on religion’s cultural, historical or sociological importance are fine by me, and, of course, all those Public Universities should be privatized, anyway. πŸ™‚

    As for “weak atheism,” that describes me, sort of. In my case, the evidence that had been presented to me for YHWH, Yeshua and the Paraclete lost its power to convince me of their existence. Now I tend to answer the question “Is there a god or gods?” with the Scottish verdict – “Not proven.” I function as if there were no gods, just as I live my life as if there are no intelligent beings living elsewhere in the galaxies. Now, we may someday encounter such beings, or their artifacts, but until convincing evidence of their existence presents itself, I’m going to be a “weak a-alienist”, too.

    As for a confluence of libertarianism and religious belief, aside from the occasional clash on who deserves to be considered a rights-bearing human (abortion, slavery), faith and minarchism aren’t implacable enemies. In fact, given the 20th century experience with totalitarian statolatry, small government should be seen as religion’s friend. Conversely, the voluntary charitable and educational works of religious organizations can be used by libertarians as evidence that the welfare state isn’t the best way to ameliorate social problems. We libertarians need to convince our religious friends that involuntary “charity” is morally vacant, just as obeying laws prohibiting victimless “vices” for fear of temporal punishment is a poor substitute for following the tenets of a faith voluntarily.

    “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” – Lev. XXV, v. x.

    Hey, the devil can quote scripture to his purposes, right? πŸ™‚

    Absolutely. Jefferson, Montesquieu, A. Smith, etc. were basically wastes of oxygen. If only they were welders. – Chris S.

    TJ did set up a nail factory on his plantation.

    Kevin

  131. Again, you are confusing theory with the empirical observation. If I insist the sky is blue because it reflects the ocean, but am then proven wrong, is the sky still blue?

    Yes absolutely the sky is still blue. Im not really sure what your are getting at here. I presented a positive test of ‘blue-sky’ theory.

    Again it seems like you are try to prove to me that scientific theories change as more and more is discovered. AND I COMPLETLY AGREE.

    Newtonian motion was incomplete so along came Quantum Mechanics etc to plug in some of the holes.

    Which are you claiming that Newton was wrong or that he didnt see the whole picture. I think all physics classes still teach Newton as fact, with mathematical equations and such.

    PS. When I say Netwon, I mean the three mathematical laws, not him sitting under the tree.

  132. John | December 22, 2006, 10:55am | #
    The world needs technicians and tradesman. The last thing it needs is more intellectuals.

    Then why did you become one John? Or are you saying that lawyers are not intellectual.

  133. Regarding the Op/Ed piece. I too went to a college in the Buckle of the Bible Belt. As a non-Chrisitan I was exposed to the hostility that exudes from “holier than thou” types. I have been chased down, harassed and threatened for having a fucking darwin fish on my car. I have had my property vandalized by “God fearing” Christians. Muslims aren’t the only ones who perpetrate violence upon others for thier contradictory religious beliefs. It may be against the doctrine of Christ but that doesn’t stop violence in Christ’s name now does it?

  134. If I ask: What is God?, what sort of response will I get. I tend to find responses unsatisfactorily, um, vague, or off point.

    Perhaps a more pertinent question is: Are you a mysticist or a naturalist?

    If you are a mysticist, then the answer is whatever you decied it is. If you are a naturalist, then the answer is to be discovered using the tools available to us, including rational faculty.

  135. val-

    I’m too busy to explain in detail the vast difference between a Newtonian reality and those described by Einstein and the QM folks. Simply put, Newton’s world was completely deterministic, with absolute space and time. QM killed determinism and Relativity killed absolute space and time. No small holes there.

    Look, I’m only pretending to be a physicist anyway; hopefully Dr. Thoreau will make it by to pick up my slack. But trust me, nowhere in creation does F=ma, even though sometimes it is very close.

    But my point doesn’t rest on the veracity of Newton. Like my phlogiston example; it is simply that your FACT of today is tomorrow’s quaint folly.

  136. ?government schools shouldn’t be issuing degrees in Religious Studies. Granting History, Sociology or Anthropology degrees, where the student has concentrated on religion’s cultural, historical or sociological importance are fine by me?

    You don’t know what Religious Studies is then. (I’m not being snide at all in this comment). You seem to confuse Religious Studies and Theology. Religious studies is exactly what you describe as OK. It does not qualify one to be a priest and does not require one to be a believer (in fact publicly affirming one’s belief in a Religious Studies program is looked at somewhat askance).

  137. I’m too busy to explain in detail the vast difference between a Newtonian reality and those described by Einstein and the QM folks. Simply put, Newton’s world was completely deterministic, with absolute space and time. QM killed determinism and Relativity killed absolute space and time. No small holes there.

    Look, I’m only pretending to be a physicist anyway; hopefully Dr. Thoreau will make it by to pick up my slack. But trust me, nowhere in creation does F=ma, even though sometimes it is very close.

    Ya my physics credentials are make belief as well. And yes Im aware that QM challenges determinism and SR challenges absolutims of space/time. In fact QM and SR are somewhat mutually incosistent as well. I still dont think that they disprove Newton’s laws, but compliment the theory of motion to apply to things Newton could not have even imagined.

    P.S.
    Why doesnt f=ma? Some things in QM dont have mass so I suppose it fails there. We’ll wait for Thoreau I suppose….I didnt realize he was a physist though.

    Today fact could be tommorows folly, but not always.

  138. Today fact could be tommorows folly, but not always.

    Which is the exact point I was trying to make in my “whopper.” I’m not as off as you thought… (And no, it was not some sort of covert claim for Intelligent Design, Young Earth Theory, or any such non-scientific stuff)

  139. Rabble! Rabble! Rabble! Rabble! Rabble! Rabble! Rabble! Rabble! Rabble! Rabble! Rabble! Rabble! Rabble! Rabble!

  140. You don’t know what Religious Studies is then….You seem to confuse Religious Studies and Theology. Religious studies is exactly what you describe as OK. It does not qualify one to be a priest and does not require one to be a believer (in fact publicly affirming one’s belief in a Religious Studies program is looked at somewhat askance). – Fenevad

    Be that as it may, Fen, it still smells like an attempt to sneak a stripped-down version of a divinity school onto the public’s tab. Mind you, I’m a stodgy old coot when it comes to any “studies” curricula. I’m agin’ Area Studies, v. getting a degree in History, Geography, or Political Science, and the various Minorities Studies programs. I guess I hold out some hope that someone who takes a degree in History, but has taken a fair amount of courses that deal with the African-American experience might have inculcated in him standards of historical method, while suspecting that someone who goes into “Black Studies” may not approach his work with a social scientist’s proper detachment. “Studies” programs can be hothouses of indoctrination and identification with the subject, not that someone in Anthro or PoliSci has never “gone native.” Anyway, the stick of the First Amendment was there to beat Religious Studies with, so, what the hell, I used it. If all the gubmint colleges were privatized I’d have nothing to bitch about in this regard.

    Kevin

  141. You guys still here?
    Anything settled yet?

  142. Be that as it may, Fen, it still smells like an attempt to sneak a stripped-down version of a divinity school onto the public’s tab.

    Well, it’s my PhD minor program, and I can say that most of the faculty in my program would fight any attempt to bootleg divinity school into their program tooth and nail, and I can assure you that 70% of the students would fight it as hard as possible since they are rather outspoken about being non-religious (not anti-religious, usually, but rather fascinated with it as an outsider).

    As far as it goes, though, I would agree with your privitization idea about universities, if nothing else because it would get the Federal Gov. out of controlling research through Human Subjects Review Boards and other legal CYA programs that the gov mandates. Going private would also help make universities accountable and competitive.

  143. You guys still here?
    Anything settled yet?

    Yes. Yes we have as a matter of fact. We established, and I think everyone will support me on this, that I am right. Which supports my girlfriend’s assertions that I always have to be right.

  144. For the past 35 years or so, I’ve listened to (mainly) conservatives tell us how bad our schools are–how Johnny can’t find China on a map, all the classics have been flushed, grades inflated, courses dumbed down, etc., etc.

    Presuming that this is all true (and, of course, conservatives would never lie–it is immoral), then the inevitable consequnce would be students deficient in critical thinking skills, and deficient in the cultural background to even appreciate what ideas might need the application of these impaired critical thinking skills, such as they are.

    Sounds like the perfect breeding ground for the topic being discussed here.

  145. I’ll have to disagree with you there, Number 6. If a question is fundamentally insoluble (as opposed to something that might become soluble as time progresses), then any discussion about it is necessarily mental masturbation.

    We might as well ask ourselves how President Gore would have dealt with 9/11. An amusing diversion to pass the time? Perhaps. Interesting in any meaningful way? Not really.

    Dude, are you some kind of fundie puritan who has something against mastubation? I masturbate a lot. There’s some evidence that it’s good for the prostate. I also spend a fair amount of time thinking and speculating about things that I’ll probably never have a definitive answer for. I believe this is good for the organ associated with that exercise too.

    I agree that the specific topic of “how Al Gore would have handled 9-11” isn’t particularly interesting (after all, it concerns Al Gore, sheesh) but in general, questions of “what if?” (the South won the Civil War, the Nazis won WW2) can be really bloody fascinating. And I’m hardly the only one who thinks so — speculations on such questions sure do sell a lot of books.

    PS: By the way, I am ABSOLUTELY FUCKING AMAZED that everyone on this thread can spell “Nietzsche” — personally, I can’t — but apparently NO ONE can spell fucking “r-i-diculous”! Here’s a little nmemonic aid that might help out:

    R-I, not R-E!
    R-I, not R-E!
    Please don’t spell “ridiculous”
    “Rediculously”!

    PPS: Happy holidays, everyone!

  146. “Why shouldn’t beliefs be redefined? I mean, if evidence shows that the Earth was not created in 7 days, that view should be abandoned right? What’s wrong with shifting views in light of new evidence?”

    You are confusing a change in beliefs based on evidence with a change in definitions to defeat an argument.

  147. Would you guys puleeeeze keep it down in here? I’m trying to allocate asset basis on a 1031 exchange involving six properties and I can’t concentrate.

    Thank Dog for red wine.

    And Thank Gates for Excel.

  148. These religious PC guys are nothing but a bunch of wimps. The Taliban (however) kicks AZZ!

  149. Lamar said:

    “You are confusing a change in beliefs based on evidence with a change in definitions to defeat an argument.”

    Lamar,

    Can you give me an example(s) of changing beliefs to defeat an argument?

    BTW, it could be that I’m confusing it, or it could be that you haven’t made the disinction clear in your critiques, so perhaps an example ot two would be in order.

  150. My question to the religiously correct is: If you already know the Truth, why bother going to college anyway?

    That’s easy. Know your enemy.

  151. Lamar,

    I’ll wait for an example or two of what you mean by “changing beliefs to defeat an argument.”

    But for now, let me just say that religion is a broad category. If most atheist people have one fixed definition for religion, fine, but religion is much wider than just traditionally mainstream Judeo-Christian concepts of God.

    To point out more sophisticated conceptions of God and/or universal values is not changing definitions. Of course you can scoff at them if you want, but pointing out other versions of theism or value theory isn’t only defeating an argument, its showing that religion is much larger than one or two conceptions of God.

    Now, if someone says the Bible is infallible then ignores the most problematic parts, I would see that as hypocritical and insincere. But people can also pick and choose in that they can be inspired by Martin Luther King, Gandhi, BonHoffer, and more, but at the same time be repulsed by Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Louis Farrakhan, etc. A person can have political views that are probably pretty close to the anti-religionists in this thread, but still gain something from the most compassionate and hopeful aspects of religion. That too is picking and choosing.

    BTW, I never got an answer from pigwiggle. pigwiggle said that Gandhi, MLK, etc were really playing on people’s moral intuitions, not exercising reason. So I asked if pigwiggle denied that there was any valid application going on in the belief systems proposed by the aforementioned individuals. pigwiggle said, “I can see the rationality of exploiting others irrationality for an end.”

    If you’re like me, then pigwiggle’s words seem like they’re calling moral intuitions irrational. I asked pigwiggle, in fact, if pigwiggle though that all moral intuitions are irrational. Never got an answer as far as I can tell, so I’ll ask again:

    pigwiggle,

    Do you see all moral intuitions as irrational?

  152. If most atheist people have one fixed definition for religion, fine, but religion is much wider than just traditionally mainstream Judeo-Christian concepts of God.

    Such as…… This is a perfect example of unassailable vagueness. Taking an obvious statement (Jesus isn’t the only god? No shit, sipowicz) and declaring all arguments against religion void because there may be an unnamed, ill defined counter-example that nobody can talk about. And now it is my job to seek out these mysterious religions? No thanks.

  153. Yes Lamer, yes it is your job to seek out mysterious religions if you’re going to speak as if all of religion is summed up by one or two examples of a God-conception. That’s just how it goes. When someone says “religion is stupid because religion is X” it is their responsibility to have done the necessary work to be able to make that statement with accuracy. The person who points out that religion is broader than those examples is not the one charged with educating the person who made the original charge. Rather, the person who made the original charge is responsible for making sure they have thought through what they have to say and posses the necessary knowledge to make the statement.

    You’re like someone who comes along and says “man that postmodern philosophy currently practiced on the continent of Europe is way too muddleheaded; philosophy is a waste of time.” Then I come along and say, “well you’ve got the pre-Socratics, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, you’ve got Medieval Philosophy, you’ve got the Existentialists, you’ve got Nietzsche, you’ve got Quine, you’ve got Ayer, you’ve got the whole Analytic tradition of the English speaking world, and you’ve got a whole tradition of philosophy in the East.” Then you say “well that’s too vague.” Well Lamar, I don’t really have time to flesh out the whole diversity of philosophical, teleological, theological, and metaphysical history of mankind in this thread. All I should have to do is mention these other things in order to demonstrate that there are more than just one or two conceptions of religion.

    I know more than a couple of Episcopalians who attend church every Sunday. They’re educated, affluent, and sensible. They oppose the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools, they fall anywhere from left-wing to New Democrat to Classical Liberal. Not too many fundies or Marxists in their midst though. The sermons (or homilies, as their referred to in Episcopal Churches) focus mostly on how to live your life from day to day. Many of these parishioners don’t believe the most implausible and repugnant parts of the bible (thanks to cherry-picking, without which they would be fundies). Some who hear about these people say that only the weak minded would do something like this. But most of the people who attend these churches regularly live lives that many intellectual atheists and agnostics would call full and satisfying. Maybe they could do it without church, but there are many denominations where the people are much more educated, affluent, and accomplished than the average population. I understand that there is probably some self-selection going on, but I think there are strong inductive reasons to believe that the environment provided by many (not all) of these churches contributes to a sense of curiosity, grandeur, and ambition, than what would be there otherwise. Now, THIS IS RELIGION TOO.

    These churches are tax-exempt religious organizations, they pray, they rely on one another, they socialize, etc. It is a religion; there is no getting around it.

    Buddhist monks have found that if they meditate all night long with little more than a blanket between their butts and the ground, they can actually spend the night outside in the freezing cold Himalayan Mountains without getting frostbite and they can actually control their body temperature to the point of melting the snow and ice under their butts. Now, these monks say that there is nothing supernatural going on here, but that they have learned to discipline their minds to a very high degree, through meditation. Also, many of the insights of the Buddha are now being incorporated into practice by many reputable psychologists. THIS IS RELIGION TOO.

    Now, other than to mention Gandhi, MLK JR, Dietrich Bon Hoffer, the Buddha, etc (all who, by the way lived lives and proposed ideas that have led to what many atheists would consider to be social progress), and to mention what I have in this post, I should not have to do more work than this. If someone is saying religion is X, all a respondent should have to do is to disagree, and tell them where to go and research so they can correct themselves. You have more work to do than to sit back and criticize and challenge others to provide you with the rich detailed history of religion.

    Paul Tillich, a Protestant Theologian, is famous for saying, “God is not a being; God is the ground of all being.” Tillich was not a fundie and was not, so far as I can tell, shifting definitions so he could beat you in an argument. You may have to consider the fact that some theologians may have original thoughts that aren’t designed for the sole purpose of winning an argument. Now, Tillich’s God is really not all that different from what many agnostics and even atheists profess belief in. And BTW, if you feel that there is NOTHING like that at all out there to believe in, then maybe you should drop your ‘truthier-than-thou’ attitude, since truth isn’t, like, built into the universe or anything. If beauty, truth, love, or anything of this nature is NOT a feature of the universe outside of our nominal poofs of passing consciousness, then why are you so committed to coherence and soundness? After all, those must be just as “untrue” as anything else.

    And BTW, if you really wish to press the issue of morality, then you could split the atheistic community in half. Some say that there is good reason to believe (but not all do) that math and logic are objective structures of the universe and others believe ethics may be (some say they are) be transcendent in a similar way. The mega-atheist Dan Dennett is one who holds this belief. Go ahead and criticize Dan Dennett for unassailable vagueness, but don’t pretend that everyone who ascribes to a transcendent ethical system is relying on the same justifications. Also, realize that if there is no transcendent or objective reality to morals, then truth (and intellectual honesty) goes out the window. In which case, the nominal poof you call unassailable vagueness is just as much of an untruth as assailable clarity.

    So go do some research, it will make your critiques much more sophisticated.

  154. Hey, I agree with most of what you are saying. Look back at my posts. My first two posts addressed the topic of the article, and when I underhandedly attacked Western Christianity, I did so with respect to a single poster, and was clear in such identification. Another one I admitted that #6 had a bit of a point, and said confined my comments, clearly labeled, to the major brands of religion. At no point did I make the broad sweeping allegations of which I am accused. In fact, I even said to leave the religious alone because they will defend their views to the end, regardless of logic and rational argument. Then people said, “hey lamer, there’s more to religion than Jebus.” And I know this. I obviously don’t believe in a larger intelligence or collective spirituality, and I try to confine my arguments to that basic belief.

    I wouldn’t mind splitting the atheistic community in half. Just like there is “Jesus, save us from your followers” there should be the same concept in atheism. I can’t stand the Dawkins’s of the world, who think that they know the only true way. The only truth I know is my way, and that wouldn’t work for anybody but me. To the extent that religion creates conflict and war, I think that is fair game to criticize. To the extent that people go to church or believe whatever makes them whole and raise respectable families, why would we want to upset that? In the end, there will always be something unsophisticated about religious arguments, whether pro or con. There will always be a counterexample to prove an assertion wrong, whether pro or con. I wouldn’t call it truthier than thou, but if the phrase works, then all religious people and atheists are truthier than thou. Though your sophisticateder-than-thou attitude is pretty thick too. Curious, though, if religion and atheism both have limitless counter-examples and unprovable assertions, why would I go on a snipe hunt for the perfectly unassailable belief-system? My job is to live, not to Dawkins-style prove the world wrong.

  155. I frankly can’t blame religious students for using the same tactics that leftist politically correct students do. The left made the rules. Everybody has the same right to play by the rules.

    This is what scholars call a “prisoners’ dilemma.”

    No doubt everybody would be better off if everybody was more tolerant of opinions they don’t like.

    But religious students should not be suckers, having to put up with being attacked when (for example) they offend the gay lobby, but having no recourse when their religious views are attacked.

    So long as the left can get away shutting up ideas they don’t like — with no negative consequences to themselves — they will continue to shut up ideas they don’t like.

    So the only way to bring tolerance is to make it clear that only an even-handed regime of tolerance will be acceptable.

  156. “Such as…… This is a perfect example of unassailable vagueness.”

    also, it’s pretty plainly obvious that if you created a political compass type map of religious beliefs by sect, you’d see an incredible spread of conceptions of divinity. it’s not just an issue of strange and mysterious religions in the far corners of the earth or anything like that. there’s plenty of rather striking divisions within the christian population of the united states.

    saying “religion isn’t rational” is like saying “love doesn’t follow the rules i want it to” which is itself a lot like saying “water is wet.” well, it is the sphere of the ineffable, and oddly enough, is ineffable. during a policy argument this is a good point to make, of course, but in terms of a social critique, it’s ultra-lame. i’m not religious in the slightest, but when you start repping “critical thinking” (which, like “sheeple” is a word to watch out for, rhetorically, and probably a poor choice if you’re trying to convince someone of your position) you had better durn well show some.

  157. My question to the religiously correct is: If you already know the Truth, why bother going to college anyway?

    For the same reasons every guy goes to college:

    (1) Chicks.

    (2) Booze.

    (3) No parents.

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