The Raving Theist

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Great Zeus

November 17, 2005 | 49 Comments

I caught Sam Harris’ lecture at the Center for Inquiry last night. He’s an articulate, engaging and entertaining speaker and I would urge you to catch his road show if he comes to or near your town. Among his many thought-provoking observations was this: although our elected officials routinely make public entreaties to “God” in times of crisis, any politician who took to the floor of the Senate to suggest prayers to “Poseidon” to stop the recent tsunamis and hurricanes (“after all, the ocean in is his jurisdiction”) would be laughed out of a job.

It’s difficult to explain exactly why this is the case. Of course, such a senator might be viewed as simply insincere and disrespectful, no different from an atheist who invoked the Flying Spaghetti Monster or the Invisible Pink Unicorn to make a cruel or mocking point. But let’s assume that the belief in the Greek gods was sincere. Why would his sanity likely be questioned?

From the atheist perspective, Poseidon is indistinguishable from Jesus or any other anthropomorphic representation of the God. However, I think even atheists would view the Poseidon worshipper as crazy in a way that mainstream or even fundamentalist Christians are not. So the truth-content of the belief, or its obvious idiocy, would not be the main reason for raising questions of mental competence. And those evaluating the Poseidonite from the religious side of the aisle would have less reason to attack on the grounds of rationality given their own absurd premises. They would, of course, brand their colleague’s belief as false — but that would not be their reason for their sanity assessment, insofar as they also reject as false all “mainstream” religions differing from their own without viewing the adherents of those faiths as nuts.

It’s empting to say that “everyone knows” that Poseidon’s a crock, or that the Greek and Roman Gods are part of an indisputably “dead” religion. But remember that the premise here is that the Senator in question is sincere. He’s not professing a concededly invented belief like the Flying Spaghetti Monster, one that everyone knows cannot be held seriously. Nor is it that Poseidon et al lack the “historicity” that makes beliefs in the Judeo-Christian tradition arguable in some way. The Hindu gods lack historicity, but no politician would openly mock the belief in animal-headed deities or use it to attack their worshippers’ sanity.

Is it merely that Poseidon-belief is so far out of the mainstream that the insanity is inferred from the dogged insistence in going against the social grain? Again, not so clear. Hindus, too, are a tiny minority in America, as are the Amish, but their resistance to social norms isn’t seen as a mark of insanity. There is, of course, a distaste for overtly sectarian proselytizing, and I suppose the invocation of Vishnu on the Senate floor would raise some eyebrows. But the objection would be one of etiquette, the sort which would arise in the case of too much Jesus-talk as well.

Comments

49 Responses to “Great Zeus”

  1. AK
    November 17th, 2005 @ 12:01 pm

    Well I consider anyone with any of those beliefs, whether mainstream Christian, Hindu, Amish, Poseidonist, etc… to be “insane.” In fact, I think anyone who subscribes to the concept of “faith” (belief without logical proof or material evidence) to be “insane.”

    Does that make me intolerant?

  2. Mort Coyle
    November 17th, 2005 @ 12:21 pm

    “…any politician who took to the floor of the Senate to suggest prayers to “Poseidon” to stop the recent tsunamis and hurricanes (“after all, the ocean in is his jurisdiction”) would be laughed out of a job.”

    “But let’s assume that the belief in the Greek gods was sincere. Why would his sanity likely be questioned?”

    Another flawed premise.

    If the fictitious Senator in question were sincere in his beliefs and had held those beliefs when elected, then he would no doubt be considered quirky, but not insane. Obviously, his constituents had found him competent enough to elect him to represent them, despite his unusual theology.

    He would likely be shown the same tolerance by Christians and Jews that they themselves expect be shown in a pluralistic society.

    I imagine the ridicule, scorn and intolerance would primarily come from secularist and raving atheists.

  3. qedpro
    November 17th, 2005 @ 12:59 pm

    whatever you’re smoking Mort pass it around.
    What if his constituents didn’t know?
    the senator would be laughed off the floor. christians and jews are not tolerant of beliefs that puts theirs in jeopardy or in this case mock theirs

  4. Dada Saves
    November 17th, 2005 @ 1:32 pm

    “I would urge you to catch his road show if he comes to or near your town.”

    Thanks for the head’s up. A day late!

  5. Dada Saves
    November 17th, 2005 @ 1:39 pm

    “Is it merely that Poseidon-belief is so far out of the mainstream that the insanity is inferred from the dogged insistence in going against the social grain?”

    Yes.

    “Again, not so clear.”

    Yes, it is.

    ‘Hindus, too, are a tiny minority in America, as are the Amish, but their resistance to social norms isn’t seen as a mark of insanity.”

    There are thousands of Hindus and Amish in America. If there were thousands of Poseidonists (and had been for some time) then they would be given the same respect as Hindus and Amish. Clear enough?

  6. Mookie
    November 17th, 2005 @ 3:38 pm

    I cannot frown as darkly upon those who worshipped Poseidon back in the day. Why? Because Poseidon represented some natural force, of which humans had very little understanding. It makes sense to assign attributes to a mysterious force, if one is not in a position to demystify this force. In the modern world, there is not much we could call a god, which makes faith and belief all the more frustrating. Religion and its need died when we started finding our own answers. The fact that it remains has more to do with the way it is spread and tolerated than any real merits or benefits it may have.

  7. hermesten
    November 17th, 2005 @ 3:57 pm

    “He would likely be shown the same tolerance by Christians and Jews that they themselves expect be shown in a pluralistic society.”

    Are you serious? If you are, do you actually know any Christians? I know plenty of Christians who have no respect for Catholics, Mormons, and Jevhova’s Witnesses, much less someone who worships an ancient god. In fact, I have heard Christians specifically ridiculing ancient Greek religious beliefs.

    Furthermore, I doubt whether any such senator could even be elected in this country. And certainly, the chances of any publicallly avowed atheist being elected to national office is essentially non-existent.

    However, I disagree with qedpro when he says Jews and Christians are equally intolerant. Fundies of both groups, perhaps, but I think Jews as a group are far more broad-minded and tolerant than protestant Christians as a group. It’s not Jews who are tyring to get prayer in school, the ten commandantments in the courtroom, evolution out of science, and the State into the bedroom: it’s protestant Christians.

  8. Mister Swill
    November 17th, 2005 @ 5:44 pm

    “Religion and its need died when we started finding our own answers. The fact that it remains has more to do with the way it is spread and tolerated than any real merits or benefits it may have.”

    I have to disagree with Mookie on this one. Although it’s true that religion these days tends to be more about identity and community, there still is one important reason for people to believe in God: The belief in objective morality.

    I keep tapdancing around this issue, but today I’m going to come right out and say it: There is no such thing as objective morality. Right and wrong, good and bad, these concepts are inherently subjective. Some atheists think that objective moral values can be derived logically, but that premise is a false one. No matter how logical one’s moral system, it can always be traced back to a subjective value judgement. This is why the Raving Atheist keeps butting heads with many of his readers on the topic of Abortion (not to mention euthanasia). His arguments are logically consistent, but they stem from his belief that the most important thing is human life. That’s fine, but it’s his opinion. My opinion is different. To me the most important thing is the experience of life. A person’s awareness and freedom from pain are more important to me than a person’s heartbeat.

    But once again, that is my opinion. I have a vegan friend who thinks the most important thing is the life of any sentient being. And the universe doesn’t give a crap about anyone’s suffering. The only way that any moral system could be considered absolute is if it were based on the value judgements of an infallible being. And as discussed on this website, the concept of an infallible being is fraught with logical impossibilities.

  9. hermesten
    November 17th, 2005 @ 6:22 pm

    I don’t get it Mr. Swill, since you say there is no such thing as an objective morailty, how can the belief in such a non-existent morality be a reason for believing in God?

    Are you saying there is no objective morality so the function of religion is to pretend there is? Or are you saying that there really is an objective morality determined by “God?”

    What I really don’t get is what contribution religion is supposed to make in solving this problem. Since you can’t prove that God, or more precisely, a god such as the Christian God, exists, we must choose the Christian, or Muslim, or whatever, version of “morality” on the same basis we must choose any other verision of morality that doesn’t claim to be derived from “God.”

    God is silent, so there is no other recourse when defining morality other than to accept or reject the claims of man.

  10. Mister Swill
    November 17th, 2005 @ 7:01 pm

    “Are you saying there is no objective morality so the function of religion is to pretend there is?”

    Exactly.

  11. Mookie
    November 17th, 2005 @ 7:02 pm

    It is a widely-held view that religious folks are more moral, or are more adherent to their faith’s ethical code than non-religious or non-observant people. Some even think atheists have no moral code. I agree that we cannot have an objective morality, but this does not make religion necessary in any way.

  12. Mister Swill
    November 17th, 2005 @ 7:26 pm

    Point of clarification before this gets out of hand: I’m not arguing about why people ought to believe in God, I’m arguing about why they do. I should have been more clear about that at the end of my first paragraph.

    Another point of clarification: In my response to hermesten, I should have made one correction: The function of God-belief, for most modern people, is to attempt to account for the false concept of objective morality. I would argue (and I have before) that the function of religion, for most modern people, is to establish an identity as part of a community.

  13. Viole
    November 17th, 2005 @ 9:29 pm

    To address RA’s question;

    I suspect the reason why we regard the ancient Greek and Roman religion as laughable is that we are taught it as a myth. A collection of fun stories about gods people once made up, and even worshipped.

    On the other hand, we are in most cases taught that Christianity is a serious faith. Which is to say, people actually believe it is true, and therefor it isn’t laughable, even though it is a myth.

  14. Mort Coyle
    November 17th, 2005 @ 11:26 pm

    hermesten said: “Are you serious? If you are, do you actually know any Christians? I know plenty of Christians who have no respect for Catholics, Mormons, and Jevhova’s Witnesses, much less someone who worships an ancient god.”

    Perhaps a distinction needs to be made here. One can have tremendous respect for another person, but not for that person’s religious (or political) beliefs. For example, I have Mormon friends and most Mormons I’ve met have been wonderful people, but I don’t have a lot of respect for Mormonism as a religion. I don’t harangue them about it, although I love a good theological debate. I must admit, I don’t know any Poseidonists though.

    As far as atheists being elected to public office, who knows what any politician really believes!

    “It’s not Jews who are tyring to get prayer in school, the ten commandantments in the courtroom, evolution out of science, and the State into the bedroom: it’s protestant Christians.”

    Of course the sword cuts both ways. It’s activist atheists who are trying to get prayer out of school, the ten commandments removed from courtrooms, only evolution taught in school, “In God We Trust” removed from coins, “Under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, all religious symbols removed from public places, etc.

    There is plenty of intolerance to go around.

    Mister Swill, I appreciate you coming out and saying what is the obvious logical conclusion of atheism.

  15. MBains
    November 18th, 2005 @ 4:36 am

    Mort Coy said Of course the sword cuts both ways. It’s activist atheists who are trying to get prayer out of school, the ten commandments removed from courtrooms, only evolution taught in school, “In God We Trust” removed from coins, “Under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, all religious symbols removed from public places, etc.

    There is plenty of intolerance to go around.

    Rational Intolerance is survival for an intellectual species. It’s activist atheists who, along with many fine Believers of various beliefs, are trying to adhere to the intentions of the Constitutional Creators’ insistence that Religion and Government forever remain separate Motive Forces.

    All may have their gods (and eat them too!) but no legal compunctions may be encoded or enforced whose premises are founded in religious law or tradition because the singular acceptance of such a moderately tolerable state of affairs with any regularity has been shown by even the cloudiest histories to evolve into toleration for, then acceptance of, some of the most insane premises imaginable.

    Such tolerance led Caesar to the God-head of the former Republic of Rome. It led the Roman Catholic hierarchy to shuffle child-rapists from parish to parish because “they’d get over it” with God’s help. It led moderately delusional American’s (same as most H. Saps in their various individual delusions…*) to elect a “mainstream” IDiest to the Presidency because most of them have their own conversations with God/s.

    I am hardly an atheist activist. Show me an explanation for God (something Faith replaces) and I’ll do what It wants. If your point is simply that “You can’t explain God. That’s one of the Infinite properties that make it God” then you’ve got no footing for religiously motivated governance and I won’t tolerate your attempts at such. I will be intolerant.

    But if you just want to believe in the bogeyman without forcing anyone to live by your delusional belief, then have it and enjoy. We might even be likely to have plenty of pleasant conversation on the matter.

    * Everyone has delusions of one sort or another. I once had an epiphany that the Universe is an infinite Moebius Strip always leading to its own end/beginning/end/beginning… etc… Recent Physics ain’t supporting me much on that one though.

    Some folk just admit their delusions aren’t real and that there are rational explanations for even the most far-out of them. Kids are afraid of the “bogeyman in the closet” because they’ve experienced things they weren’t expecting or didn’t see coming and didn’t like the experience (well, mostly didn’t like it… ) so give their fear a name to try and subdue it. Their delusion of the bogeyman helps them to tolerate the unknown until it’s known to them.

  16. Mookie
    November 18th, 2005 @ 5:40 am

    MBains,

    Nice one. I doubt it could have been said better.

  17. Francois Tremblay
    November 18th, 2005 @ 6:32 am

    It’s very simple. Religion gains its meaning and credibility from inter-subjective agreement. When such an agreement exists, this is a state that True Believers uphold as “true”. Hindus and Christians both have established inter-subjective groups, while the Greek pantheon no longer does. Therefore Hinduism and Christianity are credible from the Believer perspective (and true within the group’s adherents), while belief in Poseidon is not.

  18. Mort Coyle
    November 18th, 2005 @ 12:05 pm

    MBains, interesting leaps in your associations there: Caesar to pedophile priests to George W. Bush?!

    The fact is, this country was founded by very religious people (including the Deists). Their intent was that no single monolithic denomination (such as the Church of England or Lutheran or Catholic) become the de jure national church. The hedge against this was and is the free expression in the public sphere of all religious beliefs (including atheism), not the suppression of them.

    I think, instead of tearing down the monuments of others, you should build monuments of your own. Our coinage, pledge, etc. are reflections of our past historical national identity. As our nation grows and changes, why not *add* to that national identity instead of trying to reduce it?

    Re: Mister Swill’s posts: It seems to me that, if one is brutally honest, to be a moral atheist is to live a lie. The logical conclusion of atheism is nihilism and the logical conclusion of nihilism (IMHO) is madness.

  19. hermesten
    November 18th, 2005 @ 12:31 pm

    “It seems to me that, if one is brutally honest, to be a moral atheist is to live a lie.”

    Ok, it may seem that way to you, but it’s still sheer nonsense. All you’re really doing is assuming a posture that self-justifies what you believe and makes you feel better. Now that is living a lie.

    You’re just spouting another version of the old canard that atheists can’t be “moral.” Atheists are either immoral or they’re living a lie. They can’t see the higher truth that you see. But then this is religion: it’s more about feeling better than being better.

    It’s very ironic. The biggest Bible beater and Jesus freak I know told me that we should kill every man, woman, and child, in Afghanistan; and that there was no such thing as morality; and that since he accepted Jesus as Lord, he would be going to Heaven no matter what he did. His vehemence may be atypical, but his attitude isn’t. I’ve seen other very vocal Christians gleeful at the deaths of Muslims in a natural disaster. Our biggest “Christian” is a liar, a crook, a draft-dodger, and a war criminal.

    When you point out the crimes of Christians, other theists posting here, like Sitting Pretty, contend that Christians aren’t any better than anyone else. I agree. This is also my experience. And of course, this clearly means that the value added by Christianity to the morality of man in the aggregate, is zero. I don’t see any evidence that any other religion has done any better. In fact, every country where religion reigns supreme is a shithole.

  20. hermesten
    November 18th, 2005 @ 12:43 pm

    And by the way, it’s not us evil atheists who are destroying this country. It’s Christians who want to torture and to make torture legal; and the most vocal Christian Repugnantkins who voted against making torture illegal. It’s Christians who are stripping Americans of centuries old legal protections like habeus corpus. It’s Christians who want to imprison people indefinitely without trial It’s Christians who are torturing people and ordering that people be tortured. It’s Christians who want to use nuclear weapons against the people in countries that don’t have nuclear weapons. It’s Christians ordering the use of napalm and white phosphorus in Iraq on women and children, and then lying about it until they’re caught with their hands in the cookie jar. It was Christians who lied about WMDs in Iraq.

  21. markm
    November 18th, 2005 @ 1:30 pm

    An American politician who openly admitted to Poseidon worship would clearly be insane, as this admission violates the First Commandment of Politics: Thou Shalt get reelected.

  22. Mort Coyle
    November 18th, 2005 @ 2:31 pm

    hermesten said: “You’re just spouting another version of the old canard that atheists can’t be “moral.”

    Oh no, atheists can be quite moral. I have atheist friends who I consider to be extremely thoughtful and moral people. That’s not the point. The point is that their morality is not consistent with their atheistic beliefs. *Where does it come from?* Without an objective moral base, it is arbitrary.

    “Repugnantkins”, that’s cute.

    Let’s look at some of the more ridiculous charges you’ve just made in your litany of Christian immorality:

    * Christians are gleeful at the deaths of Muslims
    * Christians want to torture people
    * Christians want to make torture legal
    * Christians want to take away habeus corpus
    * Christians want to imprison people indefinitely without trial
    * Christians want to use nuclear weapons against people in countries that don’t have nuclear weapons
    * Christians are ordering the use of napalm and white phosphorus in Iraq on women and children
    * Christians lied about WMDs in Iraq

    Now just so I have it straight, are these Christians also “Repugnantkins”? Are the non-Christian “Repugnantkins” also complicit in these crimes against humanity? What about the Christians who are Independent, Democrat or Green?

    If you could narrow that down for me, it would help. In a different topic, when I provided a list of 1600 Christian scientists, you suspected “that a good many of these ‘Christian scientists’ are Christians like Einstein”, in other words, not Christian at all. Who are the Christians you’ve made the above wild accusations about? Are they really Christians or, to use your words “Christians like Einstein”?

    The reason I ask is that I’ve been a Christian for 20+ years and none of these accusation describe me or any other Christian that I know or have known.

    I’m sure you wouldn’t make something like this up though, because you are an objectively moral person.

  23. Dada Saves
    November 18th, 2005 @ 2:46 pm

    Mort wrote: “Without an objective moral base, it is arbitrary.”

    I would argue it not arbitrary, but even if it were, that doesn’t make it immoral or amoral. It just means that it isn’t absolute across all time and all people. When a moral relativist uses terms like ‘good’ bad’ ‘moral’ etc., it is understood that the terms are subjective (not the same thing as arbitrary).

  24. hermesten
    November 18th, 2005 @ 5:09 pm

    Mort, your reply sounds like it came from the handbook of crafting republican talking points. Why, saying Bush lied is “rewriting history.” I didn’t say “Christians are gleeful at the deaths of Muslims.” I said I have personally heard Christians express glee over such deaths. Big difference.

    You make all kinds of accusations, but get quiet when the facts come out: as you did when you said I pulled the numbers on disbelieving scientists out of my ass. I was speaking about specific Christians: clearly when speaking to my personal experience, not so clearly when speaking to their influence in national politics.

    Torture, making torture legal

    Bush and Rice are clearly Christians, and they make a big issue of their piety. I don’t remember all the members of the Oklahoma republican congressional delegation off the top of my head, but the nutty and pious Inhofe is one of the senators who voted against making torture illegal. There were a couple other well known Christian wack jobs who also voted with Inhofe; all rather strange, since the majority of republicans voted the other way. Gonzales is a Christian –Catholic isn’t he? And he is the primary architect of the Bush torture regime. There are plenty of others in this Christian administration, as well as the fact that the primary support base for the chimp is made up of Christian evangelicals, but I only need to name two to use the plural.

    habeus corpus, imprisonment without trial

    Already occuring under our Christian president, on his orders. Furthermore, the congress, with a republican majority, is in the process of crafting legislation to overturn the supreme court ruling that people being held in US custody are entitled to have the evidence against them subject to judicial review. The Christian Bush administration has gone to congress and the courts for the right to hold people indefinitely without trial. Padilla, an American citizen even, arrested under the authority of the very Christian Asscroft, is still being so held.

    war policy

    The Christian Bush administration has already renounced the previous US policy not to make the first use of nuclear weapons; AND has stated that it reserves the right to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear powers; AND it has funded the development of nuclear weapons specifically for such use: e.g. “bunker busters.”

    The Bush administration used napalm and white phosphorus weapons on civilians in Iraq. And lied about it –over and over. They finally had to admit it when people discovered that military publications describe such use. They still lied about using it on civilians. Yesterday, in the face of overwhelming evidence, they finally admitted it. Since the military is 40% (look it up for yourself this time) evangelical Christian, there were undboubtedly Christians using these weapons and lying about their use. The Christian George Bush is our commander and chief.

    The whole Bush administration lied about WMDs, and many in the administration are Christians. I don’t know about Rummy and Cheney, two of the biggest liars, but the the liar-in-chief is a self-professed Christian, and so is Condi.

    So, you tell me, is Bush a Christian? If he isn’t, how come he has the support of hardcore Christians (supposedly, 77% of those who voted in the last election and identified themselves as evangelical Christians, voted for Bush). Are they all just fools?

    And finally, your Saddam or Bart Simpson defense doesn’t work (well, we may do some bad things, but Saddam did worse things / everybody else is doing it). It doesn’t matter who else besides Christians did these things (talk about moral relativists, the liberals have nothing on you guys). You’re the one claiming an objective morality. If morality meant anything more to Christians than preventing abortions and preventing homosexuals from getting married, then you guys would be leading the opposition to the criminal gang running the country, not supporting it. Come to think of it, since, as you guys are always reminding us, Christians are in the majority, if Christianity had anything to do with making people behave morally, all the bad things you guys are always whining about wouldn’t be happening.

  25. Mort Coyle
    November 18th, 2005 @ 6:09 pm

    “I didn’t say “Christians are gleeful at the deaths of Muslims.” I said I have personally heard Christians express glee over such deaths. Big difference.”

    You’ve personally heard Christians express glee over such deaths (difficult to believe) but didn’t say that Christians are gleeful at those deaths. I guess the distinction is too subtle for me.

    “…but get quiet when the facts come out: as you did when you said I pulled the numbers on disbelieving scientists out of my ass.”

    No, I just haven’t gotten around to responding to that one yet as it will probably be lengthy. I’m engaged in several dialogs right now and only have so much time… Plus my posts seem to get intercepted at times by the board owner…

    “I was speaking about specific Christians”

    Oh, ok. So are you trying to make the point that those specific Christians are representative of us all? If so, will you accept the same argument as it relates to, say, Stalin and atheists?

    You seem to equate Republican with Christian and use the terms nearly interchangeably, but you never answered my question about non-Christian Republicans and non-Republican Christians (like myself). Bill Clinton claimed to be a Christian also, btw, as did John Kerry.

    As far as 77% of Christians voting for Bush (besides the fact that this begs your “Christian like Einstein” point again), consider what the other options were. Speaking strictly for myself, there is much I don’t agree with in Bush’s policies but he was closer to my own views than Kerry or Nader. That is by no means an acquiescense to your ridiculous, Michael Moore induced allegations. I mean, come on, you’re still pushing that tired old “Bush lied about WMD’s” garbage?

    “It doesn’t matter who else besides Christians did these things…”

    So if a Christian allegedly does something bad, it invalidates Christianity? I wonder if you understand that the whole point of Christianity is man’s propensity to do bad things and God’s desire to save man from himself. Christians are painfully aware of their ability to do bad things. Being a Christian is a lifelong process of redemption, not an instant change into perfection.

    “Come to think of it, since, as you guys are always reminding us, Christians are in the majority, if Christianity had anything to do with making people behave morally, all the bad things you guys are always whining about wouldn’t be happening.”

    So you mean that a country where Christians are in the majority you might expect to find an extremely high standard of living, personal freedoms, generousity to the poor, etc., etc.? Obviously you want to credit Christians for the things you consider bad but find a way to not credit Christians for the things you consider good. The word “disingenuous” keeps coming to mind.

    Or do you mean that there is no such thing as free will and that if a nation is, say, 40% Christian, then the other 60% will all be good little boys and girls and the rest of the world will all play nice too and no one will ever have to make hard moral decisions?

    Can’t you come up to a less simplistic level of discourse than wholesale Christian-bashing? The world just isn’t that cut-and-dried.

  26. Percy
    November 18th, 2005 @ 6:19 pm

    “You make all kinds of accusations, but get quiet when the facts come out”

    And you seem to make all kinds of accusations, deliberately wording them so that they could be confused (that, or you just don’t convey these things very well).

    For instance:

    “It’s Christians who want to torture and to make torture legal; and the most vocal Christian Repugnantkins who voted against making torture illegal. It’s Christians who are stripping Americans of centuries old legal protections like habeus corpus. It’s Christians who want to imprison people indefinitely without trial It’s Christians who are torturing people and ordering that people be tortured.”

    Try to read that objectively (I know it’s hard, since you are the one who wrote it). Do you get out of that the writer believes a few Christians are doing all of this, or do you get the impression that Christians as a whole or as a majority are being accused here? I think you really need to clarify things in your posts better, do avoid these confusions.

  27. hermesten
    November 18th, 2005 @ 6:53 pm

    “Do you get out of that the writer believes a few Christians are doing all of this, or do you get the impression that Christians as a whole or as a majority are being accused here?”

    I’ll have to let others make this interpretation for themselves. As I said before, I acknowledge that in the paragraph you cited it isn’t clear that I am talking about specific Christians. I can see where it can be read both ways. However, I think that in the context in which the comments were made, and certainly in the context of the thread, with all the references to objective morality and the implied superiority of the Christian version of morality, a careful reader would understand the point I was trying to make: essentially, that despite all claims to higher or objective morality, there is no evidence that Christians behave better morally than anyone else.

    I have been posting here for awhile, and I, and other regular posters here, have said in the past that though we use the term “Christians” as short-hand, and are not always precise in our identification of particular groups. Whether or not we are specific, most of our criticism is directed at theists of a more “fundamentalist” orientation that I would guess to be about 20% of the Christian population. These are the people I’m concerned about. These are the people who scare me. I’m not really concerned about, say, Catholics, or even the minority Baptist convention that believes in separation of church and state.

    Not only are the fundies the ones who have the political power, but the more broad-minded, reasonable, or tolerant Christians have completely surrendered the “Christian” playing field to the fundies, and have allowed them to define what it is to be a Christian. I’m not concerned about transubstantiation and St Paul’s Epistles, I’m concerned about the imposition of Biblical law, and the movement to meld the church and state.

  28. Jeff Guinn
    November 18th, 2005 @ 8:48 pm

    Mort:

    You need to learn more about Divine Command Morality

    Then, maybe its irrelevance will make more sense.

    Hermesten:

    The Christian Bush administration has already renounced the previous US policy not to make the first use of nuclear weapons; AND has stated that it reserves the right to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear powers;

    There was never such a policy for the Bush administration to renounce, and it has never been US policy to renounce in advance any use of military power.

  29. Mister Swill
    November 18th, 2005 @ 9:07 pm

    Mort Coyle: “It seems to me that, if one is brutally honest, to be a moral atheist is to live a lie. The logical conclusion of atheism is nihilism…”

    I disagree 100%.

    Mort Coyle: “The point is that their morality is not consistent with their atheistic beliefs. *Where does it come from?* Without an objective moral base, it is arbitrary.”

    I disagree 90%.

    The one thing with which I agree is that yes, any moral system is, well, not arbitrary exactly, but any moral system can be traced back to an irrational whim. But so what? We are not purely rational creatures. Our emotions are far more powerful than our ability to reason. We are also social creatures. The opinion of the pack has a major effect on the way we behave. Most of us refrain from killing or stealing because ingrained deep within us is the feeling that killing and stealing are wrong. And we fear being judged harshly, not necessarily by a god, but by our peers.

    Ah, but despite all this, we are thinking creatures. Though not purely rational, we do have the ability to reason. And every one of us at some point questions why we feel so strongly that certain things are “right” and certain things are “wrong.” What is the basis of right and wrong? Where does morality come from? The problem is that whenever we examine a moral system logically, it will always be traced back to a value judgement that cannot be explained with logic. Moral systems are based on the way we feel about things.

    So we work from there. We all feel. We all have some ability to empathize. If we look at it rationally, we realize it is in our best interest to have a code of morals that we share with others (if we agree that it is wrong to kill, I will not kill you and you will not kill me). The larger the group that shares our morals, the better off we are. And for that matter, the more morals we have in common with others, the better off we are (less of this “it’s okay to kill them because they don’t share our other moral beliefs” crap). Sure, there’d be less to think about if there were some absolute set of rules etched into the fabric of the universe, but nobody ever said that life was easy.

  30. Mort Coyle
    November 18th, 2005 @ 10:40 pm

    “… most of our criticism is directed at theists of a more “fundamentalist” orientation that I would guess to be about 20% of the Christian population. These are the people I’m concerned about. These are the people who scare me.”

    Ah, well, why didn’t you say so. Those people scare me too.

    BTW, a lot of my attempts at posting seem to be getting intercepted by the “blog owner” and going into some sort of purgatory.

  31. Francois Tremblay
    November 19th, 2005 @ 2:52 am

    I’ve written a reply to Raving Atheist’s entry. You can see it at :
    http://goosetheantithesis.blogspot.com/2005/11/christianity-as-inter-subjective.html

  32. Lily
    November 19th, 2005 @ 2:16 pm

    I have been reading this blog for a month now and this is the worst (silliest, most confused, worthless) set of atheist comments yet.)

    I can’t tackle everything but here are a few things that jumped out at me.

    Scientists as believers: The NY Times cited a UGA poll last Feb that says that 40% of scientists are believers. Hermesten cited one that put the figure much lower. I haven’t had time to check either one out but it shows again that even if stats don’t set out to lie, it matters how many people were polled, how questions were worded. etc.

    Hermesten, you are giving us extreme left/liberal political talking points with regard to Mr. Bush and the war on terror.
    Yours is a comic book view of what is going on. Or, more accurately, a Daily Kos view. Of course, that is the same thing, come to think of it.

    Let’s be very clear about so-called “child-rapists” among the clergy. You all are buying lefty spin again. Most of the boys in question were young teenagers. We are seeing a homosexual crisis not a pedophilia crisis among a subset of priests. Don’t tell me that they are children. They are encouraged to explore their “sexuality” in schools (this is a scandal in Massachusetts) and there school clubs and a whole high school just for gay teens in NY. The priests in question still abused their parishoners and their offices in ways that make me wish a *little* torture were licit but it doesn’t help to cover over the nature of most of the real crimes.

    Mr. Swill needs to think more carefully. Without objective moral standards, only might makes right. If he is right, none of you have any business criticising the Bush administration, torture (if there is any) or anything else he chooses to do, except maybe as matters of policy (not effective/effective). But to get huffy on humanitarian grounds is preposterous.

    I am sure that Mr. Swill has wiped the word “should” completely out of his vocabulary, as must anyone who agrees with him. It is a totally meaningless word for such believers.

  33. Mister Swill
    November 20th, 2005 @ 2:11 am

    Lily, Lily, Lily.

    I’ll keep this as brief as I can, since my posts have gotten so long and off topic (I was going to bring it back to the Greeks, I swear!), but I would really like to discuss this at greater length. So, Lily (or anyone else, for that matter), please send an email to “me at misterswill dot com” (don’t forget to spell out “mister”) and we can continue this discussion. Perhaps I’ll post about this in the forums as well.

    Anyway, a couple of quick responses to Lily:

    My opinions come from years and years of meticulous, careful thought. I’ve searched and searched for an explanation of objective morality, but every path has led to a dead end, including the “because God is all good and he says so” path.

    Might makes right? Read my previous comment again. “The larger the group that shares our morals, the better off we are.” Nothing is stronger than sheer numbers, and nothing is more powerful than a person’s convictions. Shared beliefs are ultimately more powerful than any form of brute force. So, yeah. Might kind of does make right; just in a gentler, more uplifting way than you’d think.

    That’s also the answer to you question about why people who don’t believe in God can criticize oh, say, Dick Cheney and nine senators for opposing Senator John McCain’s proposed amendment outlawing torture. What morals really are are agreements between people about what is acceptable and what is not. If we don’t like the idea of being tortured ourselves, we should demand of our leaders that we hold up our end of the bargain.

    Yes, that’s right. I said “should.” I say “should” all the time. I’m just not confused or silly enough to believe that my concept of “should” is written in the sky.

  34. Mark Plus
    November 20th, 2005 @ 10:38 am

    Does the age of a deity have something to do with the “insanity” of the belief in it? For example, inscriptions from the Achaemenid Persian empire (contemporary with early classical Greece and its gods) praise the Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda, yet the Zoroastrians still exist and they still worship this deity.

  35. Mort Coyle
    November 20th, 2005 @ 4:41 pm

    Jeff Guinn said: “You need to learn more about Divine Command Morality”

    Am familiar with Divine Command Morality, and the Euthyphro Dilemma, which strikes me as a lot of intellectual tail-chasing. However, here’s an interesting modification called Divine Nature Theory: http://www.theism.net/article/29

    Re: The link to the Ronald Sider article: His book “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger” is one of my favorites. Sider is one of many much needed voices reminding comfortable cultural Christians (who, from the perspective of the world-wide Church, are a minority) what God’s proirities are. I’m a strong believer in the “micro-loan” concept that Sider champions. Here’s one example: http://www.womensopportunityfund.org

    As usual, it’s Christians that are on the front lines of seeking justice for the oppressed, healing for the sick, opportunities for the poor, etc.

  36. Paul
    November 21st, 2005 @ 1:18 am

    Over at http://www.thinkingchristian.net/ I posted the following in a discussion of morality regarding same-sex marriage (http://www.thinkingchristian.net/C1148465919/E20051108100018/index.html). Sorry for the length, at least it’s all my own words.
    =============
    When I argue for a moral position A (like SSM), I might do two completely different things at the same time:

    1. I may be successful in arguing for A with those who are initially against it but who also share with me another value, B, and also rank B above value C, where C is the reason for being against A. For example, I may be successful in arguing for single-sex marriage (SSM) with those who are initially against it but who also share the value of equality and also rank it above tradition, when tradition is the reason for being against SSM. Because I and the others in the argument for and against A share the relevant value or section of morality that requires adopting A (that is, B), we remain within the same relative moral code for this issue A, and the problem of competing relative moral codes is irrelevant, and I can therefore make a moral case to these others.

    2. For those who do not share value B with me, whether they are within my social group(s) or not, I cannot make a moral argument (“B requires adopting A”). Relative morals say that, if one doesn’t share a value (B, in this case), there is no way to judge between values (B and C). In this case, my arguments can only have an amoral, political force. It is a question of power and will to see if I can make the adoption of A a reality. Other aspects of my morality may limit the ruthlessness with which I attempt to impose my will on this issue.

    For those outside my society broadly (say, Muslim female circumcisers), situation 2 holds and, if push came to shove and I had to decide whether to support FM or not, I would not support it, but on no moral basis to those who don’t share the reasons for opposing FM, but merely on the basis of “opposing FM is what I want” (and I want no FM because I’ve been brought up in a society that says it’s immoral: it’s so well inculcated in me that it’s part of who I am). I can say that it goes against my moral code, but what’s really going on with those outside that moral code is a question of power and will.

    For those inside my society broadly (say, those opposed to SSM), I can attempt to find a value B (say, equality) that we share and convince them to rank it high enough over value C (say, tradition) such that I can make a moral argument for A because we share a moral code (B over C), so the question of competing moralities doesn’t intrude. If, after conversation, it’s apparent that they don’t hold B/equality high enough to outweigh C/tradition, then we lose that moral consensus on B and C, and things revert to a question of power and will. If morality is relative, we only have the morality that we share.

  37. hermesten
    November 21st, 2005 @ 9:57 am

    “…a lot of my attempts at posting seem to be getting intercepted by the “blog owner” and going into some sort of purgatory.”

    You’re not the Lone Ranger. I’ve been trying to figure out what the trigger is. Unless it’s random, it’s more complicated that using profanity or length or number of posts. Maybe we’re on a watchlist.

  38. hermesten
    November 21st, 2005 @ 10:28 am

    “That is by no means an acquiescense to your ridiculous, Michael Moore induced allegations. I mean, come on, you’re still pushing that tired old “Bush lied about WMD’s” garbage?”

    I realize this is a republican talking point disseminated on Fox “news,” but “Michael Moore?” And you accuse me of being simplistic. How about those well known “lefties” Paul Craig Roberts, Brent Scrowcroft, Karen Kwiatkowski, James Bamford, and Charlie Reese? And anyway, Michael Moore is not serious Bush opposition. If you watched his weak, weak, weak F911 doc, then you have to wonder if the guy isn’t actually working for the republicans.

    But I’m at a loss about what you’re suggesting. Are you seriously saying he didn’t lie, or are you just saying it doesn’t matter that he lied? Because it is an indisputable fact that he lied. He, and members of his administration said numerous times that the “knew” Saddam had WMDs, and futhermore, they “knew” where these WMDs were. They didn’t say they merely “believed” so, or it was highly “probable,” they said they “knew.” Since, in reality, he didn’t, they clearly lied.

    But this was an obvious and transparent lie from day one, since there is no way we would have put troops at risk in an invasion if Saddam had WMD’s. Just like if we invade Iran it will be absolute proof we know they don’t have any either. North Korea, on the other hand, may have some, since we’re just interested in “negotiation” with them.

  39. hermesten
    November 21st, 2005 @ 11:23 am

    “….it has never been US policy to renounce in advance any use of military power.”

    OK, the US has always said, for example, to deter Warsaw Pact aggression, that it reserved the right of first use of nuclear weapons. But then, we were talking about attack by a nuclear power with the possibility of escalation to nuclear exchange.

    However, it’s not true to say US policy doesn’t renounce “any” use of military power, since we have a treaty agreement under the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and have stated:

    “The United States reaffirms that it will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapons States parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons except in the case of an invasion or any other attack on the United States, its territories, its armed forces or any other troops, its allies or States towards which it has a security commitment, carried out or sustained by such a non-nuclear-weapon State, in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State. ”

    From nuclearfiles.org

    The following paragraph is a more accurate description of what I was talking about:

    “The SCW states clearly that the United States “reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force—including through resort to all our options—to the use of WMD.”[9] This notion of using nuclear weapons to deter WMD attacks from “rogue” states is not new—Pentagon planners had been giving increasing attention to this previously more obscure element of U.S. deterrence policy in the post-Cold War period. However, the Bush administration’s elevation of this idea to U.S. official policy has significant repercussions, not least because the threat of nuclear retaliation against biological, chemical or radiological weapons attack directly contravenes U.S. legal commitments under the NPT never to use nuclear weapons against a state not armed with nuclear weapons itself.”

    From http://www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/si/2004/feb/huntleyFeb04.asp

  40. hermesten
    November 21st, 2005 @ 11:53 am

    Lily, I’m not quite sure how to respond to you. You’re not smug and condescending like SP or other theists posting here, but you say stuff like: “the NY Times cited a UGA poll last Feb that says that 40% of scientists are believers. Hermesten cited one that put the figure much lower.” When in fact, I cited the poll that put believers at 40% (after I myself had allowed that believers might be as much as 60%). The other poll, with fewer believers, clearly identified a more select group of scientists.

    It doesn’t matter though. Every poll shows that there are significantly more disbelievers among scientists than among the general population, and that the “harder” the science, the more disbelievers. The fact remains: the more people know about the workings of the universe in which we live, the more likely they are not to believe in God, and especially the Christian version of God.

    Lily: “Hermesten, you are giving us extreme left/liberal political talking points with regard to Mr. Bush and the war on terror. Yours is a comic book view of what is going on. Or, more accurately, a Daily Kos view. Of course, that is the same thing, come to think of it.”

    It’s hard to take you seriously if you’re world-view is this circumcribed by the false left/right dichotomy promoted on Fox “news” and throughout the MSM. These views are held by people throughout the political spectrum, from conservatives like Paul Craig Roberts (republican and Reagan appointee), Charlie Reese (right-wing Christian), and Joseph Sobran (Catholic), to libertarians like Harry Browne, Justin Raimondo, and Ron Paul (republican representative in congress). Even David Hackworth, a war supporter, was attacking the Bush clowns and calling Bush a draft-dodger way back in 2003.

    And even notorious right-wing war supporter Andrew Sullivan is discussing the Bush torture regime and saying Bush is a disaster for conservatism. It would seem that even conservative republicans, well, all but the most “Christian” of them, can be against torture and what the Bush regime is doing to our country. I think you’re the one reading the comic books.

  41. nanovirus
    November 21st, 2005 @ 1:30 pm

    Mookie:
    Poseidon represented some natural force, of which humans had very little understanding.

    You mean like like how little understanding the fundies have of some natural force like evolution? :)

  42. Lily
    November 21st, 2005 @ 3:41 pm

    Sorry, Hermesten, I misread the poll you posted or else had some sort of intelligence (mine) black out. Or some such thing. Undoubtedly the devil made me misread it.

    You may remember asking me about all those churches full of scientists from my time in Cambridge. You are right that I never took a head count and my experience is anecdotal. Yet the idea that maybe around 40% of the MIT glitterati are believers strikes me as plausible. Certainly, every physician I used at MIT Medical (a limited number, to be sure) turned out to be a Christian. Now it is certainly true that 60% is many more unbelievers than believers but 40% is still a whopping number given the belief expressed here often that only idiots are Christians and they don’t understand science, blah, blah, blah!

    As far as our current political situation is concerned, well, we are already talking about religion. If we throw politics into the mix, I can’t even imagine how sweet and civil our discourse is likely to be!

    Let me just try to make a few points–Least important first. Andrew Sullivan left the ranks of the righteous so long ago that I pay his opinions no never mind no matter what side of an issue he comes down on.

    Please try to believe that I get my news from many more sources than Fox. While I fully respect the views of those who think that there might have been better ways to to prosecute the war on terror, the WMD situation was believed by everyone including the UN at the time we got in. Sadam had to go. I have always wondered, if another inducement to go into Iraq at this particular time might have been to put us in a position to act against Iran’s nuclear program. If so, I am doubly in favor of this war.

    Nobody is in favor of torture but what is torture? Or, rather, where is the line between what is permissible and impermissible? I think listening to rap “music” is torture. And while that is flip (although true), my larger point isn’t. I don’t have much sympathy for Muslims who won’t hesitate to cut off my head but go to pieces when shown red ink and told that it is menstrual blood. Is that torture?

    Now that we have an all volunteer army and have had for many years now, there is an entire generation with no notion of what is involved in military life, esp. in times of war. We can’t bring Woodstock morals to the prosecution of war. (All of a sudden I can hear playing “When the moon is in the 7th house and Jupiter aligns with Mars….”) We need to toughen up, mentally, morally and emotionally. Our enemy thinks we are soft weenies and I fear that they are not entirely wrong, at least as far as our left wing is concerned. And I have a theory about that which I will regale you with someday, if you like.

    Peace, man!

  43. hermesten
    November 21st, 2005 @ 4:45 pm

    Lily, I’m not a fan of Andrew Sullivan, but he has an honest discussion of what we’re doing to people on his website, and he isn’t talking about menstrual blood and flushing Korans. By our admission, something like 27 people have died in our custody. Some of these people were tortured to death, again, by our own admission. Something like half of this admitted number died from torture. They weren’t dying from menstrual blood or harsh language. There are also accounts of military personnel breaking legs of prisoners, with metal bars, for “sport,” in their free time.

    This nonsense about torturing Muslims who are cutting heads off is just a rationalization, and an excuse for torture, just like the “ticking time bomb” argument. The vast majority of those being tortured, by admission of our own military, are not “terrorists.” Seems like if you do more than watch Fox, you should already know that many many of the people we have detained and tortured were innocent people handed over to US forces for money, or to settle tribal scores. Torturing people is not only wrong and immoral, but stupid and counterproductive.

    If you think this stuff is going to stay in Iraq and Afghanistan, you and your children are in for a rude awakening. Something like 30-50% of our police are ex-military. The attitude that condones and practices torture comes home with our troops. If you think we’re going to torture people abroad and Americans aren’t going to be affected, you’re deluding yourself. However, I fully expect that as we start torturing Americans for information –and why not, if it works in Iraq– people like you will be telling us that it’s good we have finally stopped being “soft” on criminals, and that not to torture people the police arrest is a sign of “weakness” that hardened criminals will only exploit.

    The fact of the matter is, a majority in congress, including a majority of republicans, voted for legislation to make torture illegal. The dissenting republicans are the most vocal “Christians” in the senate.

    Lily: “Now that we have an all volunteer army and have had for many years now, there is an entire generation with no notion of what is involved in military life, esp. in times of war. We can’t bring Woodstock morals to the prosecution of war.”

    This, and the following couple of sentences, is the funniest thing you’ve said in any post. The clowns in charge today are draft-dodgers, every last man Jack of them. Here you are supporting these self-serving cowards and dismissing the concerns of a man who actually served his country, fought, and was tortured –John McCain. This is a bunch who, having never served themselves, refer to combat tested medal-winning 37 year Marine veterans like congressman Murtha, as unpatriotic cowards. Col. David Hackworth wrote at length about these gutless despicable draft-dodgers and what they have done to people in uniform. Do you really want to be on the side of a bunch of self-serving liars who use the military for political purposes and send our troops off to combat based on lies, and improperly equipped?

    And please, stop with the republican talking points for awhile, and read what I said. In the first place, the “everybody thought so line is nonsense,” as well as irrelevant. Unless you’re saying we went to war based on what everyone else was saying, so it’s not our fault? (and anyway, everyone else wasn’t saying this). Are you a teenager telling mommy and daddy, BUT mom, everybody else is doing it!?

    In the second place, it was a lie, as I said before, because this information was not presented as likely or probable, but CERTAIN. We were told over and over again that we KNEW Saddam had WMDs (a term that is itself a lie, since it suggests nuclear weapons, but covers all kinds of stuff that does not cause “mass destruction”) AND we KNEW where they were. You can’t KNOW something that isn’t true. The fact that they weren’t there is absolute proof that in fact, we didn’t KNOW. BELIEVING does not equal KNOWING.

    The funny thing is, people like Jonah Goldberg are already writing articles saying Bush lied, but so what, cause’ FDR lied. This is obviously the next line of defense. Really, is this the kind of people you associate with? Are you really comfortable with all these mutating rationalizations? Do you really want to support a crowd who contends that the president of the United States has a right to lie the country into war for it’s own good? Are you really onboard the train with people who say that perjury is a serious crime when committed by a democrat, but just a technicality when a republican does it?

  44. Lily
    November 21st, 2005 @ 5:47 pm

    Hermesten: You clearly feel passionately about these subjects and so you should. Torture is never ok. The argument is over whether or not we use torture as a matter of policy. That some subset of thugs would cross the line doesn’t surprise me and I want them prosecuted to the full. I have heard of credible instances of torture and it makes my blood boil. But …

    I have trouble disentangling the lies/hype from the reality. I don’t want to hamstring our military which faces death every day because we are too soft to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate techniques.

    I am not going to refight the whole argument that has led up to the present time. Is poison gas a wmd? We know Sadam had it because he used it to gas some thousands of Kurds. He was in violation of UN resolutions that explicitly gave us the sanction to go in, WMD or not, just because he wouldn’t let the inspectors inspect. It is simply a lie you are buying into that there was no justification for going after Sadam. It is reasonable for you to hold that the justification didn’t seem strong enough, but not that it was nonexistant.

    I get a little steamed when told that I am a thug, a warmonger and in favor of torture. So I am not going to say anything more. Let’s just leave it this– the Iraqis don’t want Sadam back and if we ever manage to pull of a semi democratic Iraq or, at least, a stable, peaceful Iraq, we will have done more to ensure the peace of the region than anyone could ever have dreamed of even 10 years ago.

  45. hermesten
    November 21st, 2005 @ 6:43 pm

    “…if we ever manage to pull of a semi democratic Iraq or, at least, a stable, peaceful Iraq, we will have done more to ensure the peace of the region than anyone could ever have dreamed of even 10 years ago.”

    This isn’t going to happen. We have destablized the entire region and will have to suffer the blowback for years to come. What really blows me away is that Christians like you support a war whose obvious result will be to replace a secular regime with a Muslim theocracy; and one probably heavily influenced by Iran.

    I heard similiar stuff about Vietnam. Had to stop the big bad commies in Nam or all of Asia would go communist and Americans would lose all their freedom. The net result: 54,000 dead Americans, 3,000,000 dead Vietnamese, and a communist Vietnam. Like the Seinfeld show, Vietnam was a war entirely about nothing.

    And in the end, this war won’t be any different. The best we can hope for is that thousands of Americans and Iraqis had their lives destroyed for nothing, because the most likely scenario is a civil war in Iraq, possible intervention by Turkey to prevent a Kurdish State, a less stable middle east, and thousands of new well trained terrorists battle hardened by combat with the US army. In conducting terrorism, as in war, there is no subsitute for experience. The experience we’re providing terrorists in Iraq is priceless.

    Assuming of course that the lunatics now running the county don’t attack Iran or Syria and further destablize the Middle East before they collapse from the weight of their own hubris and corruption, or get turned out of office.

  46. hermesten
    November 21st, 2005 @ 7:09 pm

    Btw, we’re not talking about the actions of a few. We’re talking about the president and vice-president of the US standing before the world and telling everyone that this administration must have the legal authority, under US law, to torture people. Not even the Nazis were this brazen or morally impaired: they lied about it and pretended they didn’t do it.

    I’ll tell you, it’s really wierd to watch a anti-Nazi propaganda movie like Foreign Correspondent and see the depicted example of Nazi evil be entirely compatible with standard US interrogation techinques. Apparently, people in the 30’s thought this stuff was bad (before of course, the full horror of fascism had been revealed), or it would have had no propaganda value. Ah, but then I guess I should look at how much we’ve progressed.

  47. Mort Coyle
    November 21st, 2005 @ 9:57 pm

    hermesten: “Are you seriously saying he didn’t lie, or are you just saying it doesn’t matter that he lied? Because it is an indisputable fact that he lied. He, and members of his administration said numerous times that the “knew” Saddam had WMDs, and futhermore, they “knew” where these WMDs were.”

    U.S. News on the “Big Lie”:
    http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/051128/28barone.htm

    I normally avoid doing this, but in this case it seems appropriate:

    October 9th, 1999 Letter to President Clinton Signed by Senators Levin, Lieberman, Lautenberg, Dodd, Kerrey, Feinstein, Mikulski, Daschle, Breaux, Johnson, Inouye, Landrieu, Ford and Kerry:
    “We urge you, after consulting with Congress and consistent with the US Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions, including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq’s refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs.”

    Joe Biden, August 4, 2002:
    “This is a guy who is an extreme danger to the world, and this is a guy who is in every way possible seeking weapons of mass destruction.”

    Chuck Schumer, October 10, 2002:
    “It is Hussein’s vigorous pursuit of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, and his present and future potential support for terrorist acts and organizations that make him a danger to the people of the united states.”

    Sandy Berger, February 18, 1998:
    “He’ll use those weapons of mass destruction again as he has 10 times since 1983.”

    Senator Carl Levin, September 19, 2002:
    “We begin with a common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations, is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.”

    Senator Hillary Clinton, October 10, 2002:
    “In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock. His missile delivery capability, his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists including Al-Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.”

    Madeleine Albright, November 10, 1999:
    “Hussein has chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies.”

    Robert Byrd, October 3, 2002:
    “The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of ’98. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons.”

    Al Gore, September 23, 2002:
    “Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.”

    Joe Biden, August 4, 2002:
    “I think he has anthrax. I have not seen any evidence that he has smallpox, but you hear them say, Tim (Russert), is the last smallpox outbreak in the world was in Iraq; ergo, he may have a strain.”

    Bill Clinton, December 17, 1998:
    “Earlier today, I ordered America’s armed forces to strike military and security targets in Iraq…. Their mission is to attack Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors.”

    Dick Gephardt, September 23, 2002:
    “(I have seen) a large body of intelligence information over a long time that he is working on and has weapons of mass destruction. Before 1991, he was close to a nuclear device. Now, you’ll get a debate about whether it’s one year away or five years away.”

    Russell Feingold, October 9, 2002:
    “With regard to Iraq, I agree Iraq presents a genuine threat, especially in the form of weapons of mass destruction: chemical, biological and potentially nuclear weapons. I agree that Saddam Hussein is exceptionally dangerous and brutal, if not uniquely so, as the president argues.”

    John Edwards, January 7, 2003:
    “Serving on the intelligence committee and seeing day after day, week after week, briefings on Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and his plans on using those weapons, he cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons. It’s just that simple. The whole world changes if Saddam ever has nuclear weapons.”

    John Kerry, January 31, 2003:
    “If you don’t believe…Saddam Hussein is a threat with nuclear weapons, then you shouldn’t vote for me.”

    Bill Nelson, September 14, 2002:
    “I believe he has chemical and biological weapons. I think he’s trying to develop nuclear weapons, and the fact that he might use those is a considerable threat to us.”

    Al Gore, September 23, 2002:
    “We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.”

    Tom Daschle, February 11, 1998:
    “The (Clinton) administration has said, ‘Look, we have exhausted virtually our diplomatic effort to get the Iraqis to comply with their own agreements and with international law. Given that, what other option is there but to force them to do so?’ That’s what they’re saying. This is the key question. And the answer is we don’t have another option. We have got to force them to comply, and we are doing so militarily.”

    Bill Richardson, May 29, 1998:
    “The threat of nuclear proliferation is one of the big challenges that we have now, especially by states that have nuclear weapons, outlaw states like Iraq.”

    Hillary Clinton, October 10, 2002:
    “It is clear, however, that if left unchecked Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capability to wage biological and chemical warfare and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons.”

    Al Gore, December 16, 1998:
    “[I]f you allow someone like Saddam Hussein to get nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, chemical weapons, biological weapons, how many people is he going to kill with such weapons? He has already demonstrated a willingness to use such weapons…”

    Bill Clinton, February 17, 1998:
    “If Saddam rejects peace, and we have to use force, our purpose is clear: We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.”

    Madeleine Albright, February 1, 1998:
    “We must stop Saddam from ever again jeopardizing the stability and the security of his neighbors with weapons of mass destruction.”

    Nancy Pelosi, December 16, 1998:
    “Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology, which is a threat to countries in the region, and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.”

    Al Gore, September 23, 2002:
    “We know that he has stored nuclear supplies, secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.”

    John Kerry, October 9, 2002:
    “I will be voting to give the president of the US the authority to use force if necessary to disarm Saddam because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.”

    Ted Kennedy, September 27, 2002:
    “We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.”

    Jay Rockefeller, October 10, 2002:
    “There was unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. We also should remember that we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction.”

    Joe Biden, August 4, 2002:
    “[H]e does have the capacity, as all terrorist-related operations do, of smuggling stuff into the United States and doing something terrible. That is true. But there’s been no connection, hard connection made yet between he and al-Qaida or his willingness or effort to do that thus far. Doesn’t mean he won’t. This is a bad guy.”

    Madeline Albright, February 18, 2002:
    Iraq is a long way from (here), but what happens there matters a great deal here, for the risk that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest national security threat we face — and it is a threat against which we must and will stand firm.”

    Jane Harman, August 27, 2002:
    “I certainly think (Hussein’s) developing nuclear capability which, fortunately, the Israelis set back 20 years ago with their preemptive attack which, in hindsight, looks pretty darn good.”

    Dick Durbin, September 30, 1999:
    “One of the most compelling threats we in this country face today is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Threat assessments regularly warn us of the possibility that North Korea, Iran, Iraq, or some other nation may acquire or develop nuclear weapons.”

    Bill Nelson, August 25, 2002:
    “[M]y own personal view is, I think Saddam has chemical and biological weapons, and I expect that he is trying to develop
    a nuclear weapon. So at some point, we might have to act precipitously.”

    Nancy Pelosi, October 10, 2002:
    “Yes, he has chemical weapons. Yes, he has biological weapons. He is trying to get nuclear weapons.”

    Evan Bayh, August 4, 2002:
    “I’m inclined to support going in there and dealing with Saddam, but I think that case needs to be made on a separate basis: his possession of biological and chemical weapons, his desire to get nuclear weapons, his proven track record of attacking his neighbors and others.”

    Bill Clinton, February 17, 1998:
    “We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st Century…. They will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build arsenals of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. We simply cannot allow that to happen. There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein.”

    Hillary Clinton, January 22, 2003:
    “I voted for the Iraqi resolution. I consider the prospect of a nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein who can threaten not only his neighbors but the stability of the region and the world, a very serious threat to the United States.”

    Joe Biden, August 4, 2002:
    “We know he continues to attempt to gain access to additional capability, including nuclear capability.”

    John Edwards, February 6, 2003:
    “The question is whether we’re going to allow this man who’s been developing weapons of mass destruction continue to develop weapons of mass destruction, get nuclear capability and get to the place where — if we’re going to stop him if he invades a country around him — it’ll cost millions of lives as opposed to thousands of lives.”

    Joe Biden, August 4, 2002:
    “First of all, we don’t know exactly what he has. It’s been five years since inspectors have been in there, number one. Number two, it is clear that he has residual of chemical weapons and biological weapons, number one.”

    Senator Bob Graham, December 8, 2002:
    “We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has and has had for a number of years a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction.”

    John Kerry, February 23, 1998:
    “Saddam Hussein has already used these weapons and has made it clear that he has the intent to continue to try, by virtue of his duplicity and secrecy, to continue to do so. That is a threat to the stability of the Middle East. It is a threat with respect to the potential of terrorist activities on a global basis. It is a threat even to regions near but not exactly in the Middle East.”

    From a December 6, 2001 letter signed by Bob Graham, Joe Lieberman, Harold Ford, & Tom Lantos among others:
    “This December will mark three years since United Nations inspectors last visited Iraq. There is no doubt that since that time, Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to refine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer- range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies.”

    From a joint resolution submitted by Tom Harkin and Arlen Specter on July 18, 2002:
    “Whereas Iraq has consistently breached its cease-fire agreement between Iraq and the United States, entered into on March 3, 1991, by failing to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction program, and refusing to permit monitoring and verification by United Nations inspections; Whereas Iraq has developed weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological capabilities, and has made positive progress toward developing nuclear weapons capabilities”

    Barbara Boxer, November 8, 2002:
    “Iraq made commitments after the Gulf War to completely dismantle all weapons of mass destruction, and unfortunately, Iraq has not lived up to its agreement.”

    Robert Byrd, October 2002:
    “The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retained some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capability. Intelligence reports also indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons, but has not yet achieved nuclear capability.”

    Wesley Clark, September 26, 2002:
    “There’s no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat… Yes, he has chemical and biological weapons. He’s had those for a long time. But the United States right now is on a very much different defensive posture than we were before September 11th of 2001… He is, as far as we know, actively pursuing nuclear capabilities, though he doesn’t have nuclear warheads yet. If he were to acquire nuclear weapons, I think our friends in the region would face greatly increased risks as would we.”

    Jacques Chirac, October 16, 2002:
    “What is at stake is how to answer the potential threat Iraq represents with the risk of proliferation of WMD. Baghdad’s regime did use such weapons in the past. Today, a number of evidences may lead to think that, over the past four years, in the absence of international inspectors, this country has continued armament programs.”

    Bill Clinton in 1998:
    “The community of nations may see more and more of the very kind of threat Iraq poses now: a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists. If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow.”

    Hillary Clinton, October 10, 2002
    “In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.”

    Clinton’s Secretary of Defense William Cohen in April of 2003:
    “I am absolutely convinced that there are weapons…I saw evidence back in 1998 when we would see the inspectors being barred from gaining entry into a warehouse for three hours with trucks rolling up and then moving those trucks out.”

    John Edwards, Oct 10, 2002:
    “The debate over Iraq is not about politics. It is about national security. It should be clear that our national security requires Congress to send a clear message to Iraq and the world: America is united in its determination to eliminate forever the threat of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.”

    Al Gore, 2002:
    “Iraq does pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf and we should organize an international coalition to eliminate his access to weapons of mass destruction. Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to completely deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.”

    Bob Graham, December 2002:
    “We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction.”

    Jim Jeffords, October 8, 2002:
    “Saddam Hussein is not the only deranged dictator who is willing to deprive his people in order to acquire weapons of mass destruction.”

    Ted Kennedy, Sept 27, 2002:
    “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein’s regime is a serious danger, that he is a tyrant, and that his pursuit of lethal weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated. He must be disarmed.”

    John Kerry, October 9, 2002:
    “The threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but as I said, it is not new. It has been with us since the end of that war, and particularly in the last 4 years we know after Operation Desert Fox failed to force him to reaccept them, that he has continued to build those weapons. He has had a free hand for 4 years to reconstitute these weapons, allowing the world, during the interval, to lose the focus we had on weapons of mass destruction and the issue of proliferation.”

    John Kerry, Jan 23, 2003:
    “(W)e need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime. We all know the litany of his offenses. He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. …And now he is miscalculating America’s response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction. That is why the world, through the United Nations Security Council, has spoken with one voice, demanding that Iraq disclose its weapons programs and disarm. So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but it is not new. It has been with us since the end of the Persian Gulf War.”

    Joe Lieberman, August, 2002:
    “Every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States.”

    Senator Patty Murray, October 9, 2002:
    “Over the years, Iraq has worked to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. During 1991 – 1994, despite Iraq’s denials, U.N. inspectors discovered and dismantled a large network of nuclear facilities that Iraq was using to develop nuclear weapons. Various reports indicate that Iraq is still actively pursuing nuclear weapons capability. There is no reason to think otherwise. Beyond nuclear weapons, Iraq has actively pursued biological and chemical weapons.U.N. inspectors have said that Iraq’s claims about biological weapons is neither credible nor verifiable. In 1986, Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran, and later, against its own Kurdish population. While weapons inspections have been successful in the past, there have been no inspections since the end of 1998. There can be no doubt that Iraq has continued to pursue its goal of obtaining weapons of mass destruction.”

    Nancy Pelosi, December 16, 1998:
    “As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am keenly aware that the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons is an issue of grave importance to all nations. Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.”

    Ex-Un Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter in 1998:
    “Even today, Iraq is not nearly disarmed. Based on highly credible intelligence, UNSCOM [the U.N. weapons inspectors] suspects that Iraq still has biological agents like anthrax, botulinum toxin, and clostridium perfringens in sufficient quantity to fill several dozen bombs and ballistic missile warheads, as well as the means to continue manufacturing these deadly agents. Iraq probably retains several tons of the highly toxic VX substance, as well as sarin nerve gas and mustard gas. This agent is stored in artillery shells, bombs, and ballistic missile warheads. And Iraq retains significant dual-use industrial infrastructure that can be used to rapidly reconstitute large-scale chemical weapons production.”

    John Rockefeller, Oct 10, 2002:
    “There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. And that may happen sooner if he can obtain access to enriched uranium from foreign sources — something that is not that difficult in the current world. We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction.”

    John Rockefeller, Oct 10, 2002:
    “Saddam’s existing biological and chemical weapons capabilities pose a very real threat to America, now. Saddam has used chemical weapons before, both against Iraq’s enemies and against his own people. He is working to develop delivery systems like missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that could bring these deadly weapons against U.S. forces and U.S. facilities in the Middle East.”

    Henry Waxman, Oct 10, 2002:
    “Whether one agrees or disagrees with the Administration’s policy towards Iraq, I don’t think there can be any question about Saddam’s conduct. He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do. He lies and cheats; he snubs the mandate and authority of international weapons inspectors; and he games the system to keep buying time against enforcement of the just and legitimate demands of the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States and our allies. Those are simply the facts.”

  48. hermesten
    November 22nd, 2005 @ 3:01 pm

    You’re quoting democrats now? My God: Hillary Clinton? Nancy Pelosi? Ted Kennedy? John Kerry –aka Bush Lite? Man, are you ever desparate. And what’s the point? Not a single one of these quotes addressess the issue at hand: Bush, and members of his administration, lied the country into war. Apparently, you have the idea that the number of people who believe something, or profess to believe it, for whatever reason, has some bearing on whether or not something is true or false. It doesn’t.

    Frankly, I don’t care whether or not people were fooled by Bush or chose to go along with the Iraq bullshit because it served some other interest. You need to get off this phony left/right dichotomy and realize that both parties are screwing this country and have interests that are served by promoting wars like the one in Iraq. The fact is, the Clinton administration is on record as stating that killing 500,000 Iraqi children was “worth it.” The democrats were hardly in a position to repudiate the previous eight years of sanctions and attacks on Iraq that they all supported under Clinton.

    The irony here is that the democrats were more than happy to continue sanctions against Iraq and bomb Iraqis whenever the spirit moved them, while before 9/11, it was republican oil industry executives associated with Cheney who were putting out feelers for an end to sanctions.

    Again, Bush, Cheny, Rice, Rumsfeld, et al, stated they KNEW Saddam had WMDs and they KNEW where these WMDs were located. They didn’t say they merely believed he had them, or he probably had them, they said they KNEW he had them and they KNEW where they were. Since they found no such weapons, this was a lie. Is the difference between KNOWING and BELIEVING really that difficult of a concept for you to grasp?

  49. Mort Coyle
    November 22nd, 2005 @ 11:15 pm

    hermesten, I guess I just don’t get where you’re coming from. It appears that just about *everyone* was convinced that Saddam had WMD’s (I recall reading an article in the Atlantic Monthly which posited that even Saddam may have thought his WMD programs were farther along than they actually were because his minions were telling him what he wanted to hear).

    It would be nice if we had the capability to peer into the inner workings of hostile totalitarian regimes but the reality is that our tools of intelligence are limited, especially in those situations.

    The quotes I’ve seen of Bush (from anti-Bush web sites) regarding WMDs seem to contain qualifiers like:

    “We’ve also discovered through intelligence…”
    “Our intelligence officials estimate…”
    “The British government has learned…”
    “The United Nations concluded…”
    “We have sources that tell us…”
    “Intelligence gathered by this and other governments…”

    So I guess if acting on bad intelligence = lying then we need to throw out the whole bunch; dems, repubs, libs, cons, etc. and start over from scratch which, of course, isn’t going to happen.

    Time will tell whether the democracy in Iraq will hold and whether or not it’s long-term affect on the Middle-East will be positive or negative.

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