The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

Pot of Gold

July 2, 2006 | 140 Comments

Some pranks are so cruel that even the law punishes them. The classic example, known to every first year law student, is that of the joke played on an eccentric old woman obsessed with the delusion that a pot of gold was buried in her yard. A man buried a real pot there but filled it with dirt, so that when he led her on a triumphant procession to city hall to open it she was humiliated by the discovery.

A reader has now suggested that I might be setting up my religious friends and readers for a similar “smack down.” At first I wondered what in my past behavior could lead someone to believe me even remotely capable of such a design. Maybe there is enough. But that is not my plan.

I will tell you that I am digging for the pot. Consistent with my promise, I make no representations regarding whether I believe it contains gold. I will not say whether I believe the people who are digging with me are deluded for thinking it does. It does not matter if it is empty. For we are going there to fill it.

Comments

140 Responses to “Pot of Gold”

  1. Choobus
    July 2nd, 2006 @ 5:38 pm

    Pot of gold? Crock of shit is more like it. Despite the outcome of the case cited, practically all readers will sympathise with the hilarious prankster and only a few demented piss-ladies will feel for the crazy gold hunting nutjob. So go ahead RA, you go and dig up that there “gold”, but be warned: if it looks like shit, and it smells like shit, and if it tastes like shit and comes out of your arse then guess what? It’s probably shit.

    Is this a clue to RA’s change of heart? He plans to dig for “gold”. He also dig’s jeebus. HE dig’s ‘em. The clue, a message from dig ‘em: Give me a smack and I’ll smack you back!

    RA is on the horse. Chasing the dragon.

  2. IvyLeagr
    July 2nd, 2006 @ 6:05 pm

    RA:
    Change your online moniker now that you’ve succombed to delusion! Rational thinkers should not be fooled into thinking that the author of this blog shares their reason.

  3. The Lost Crow
    July 2nd, 2006 @ 7:13 pm

    Lame TRA..very Lame

  4. Lily
    July 2nd, 2006 @ 7:39 pm

    My respect for you, already sizeable, grows exponentially, RA. I wish you all the best. I haven’t been this moved by a “‘quest” since Parzival (Perceval for all you Chrétien fans).

  5. Choobus
    July 2nd, 2006 @ 7:48 pm

    How do you know it’s exponential? It could just be a power law. You can’t possibly have a sufficiently good data set to rule out a Kohlraush function.

    More lies from the God squad……

    However, one thing we can all agree on, RA is on an accelerating journey to Shitlordship. Quit while you still can.

  6. Kreme
    July 2nd, 2006 @ 8:02 pm

    Even if RA does decide to turn to theism, I’d like to know sincerely if it was that he turned, because of good humor he felt lacking from an atheistic community. Arguments for theism don’t stand on their own, and rely heavy on blind emotionally pleasing people experience for support. The real issue isn’t RA’s theism, but lack of good natured positive atheism. It’s possible, and exhibited by many; it’s just not very widespread. Even though I enjoy the RA site as it currently is, I support RA if he decides to try turning the RA site into a purely positive community. It’ll just be a bit of a travesty if he ultimately decides on carrying it full on into an theist site.

  7. Thelastfreethinker
    July 2nd, 2006 @ 8:10 pm

    Goddamnit, RA, stop acting like such a Christian already!

  8. C.P.D.
    July 2nd, 2006 @ 8:25 pm

    I’ve been reading TRA’s blog for awhile now- two years?- However long it has been makes no difference. I have been atheist since I thought about the question. I can recall feeling uncomfortable with some of the posts here because they were so ruthless, but since the anti-abortion posts started flowing I have been uncomfortable because I am reading what sounds just like some people I have known around AA who finally succumb to the fantasy after hearing the thought stopping catch phrases for the hundred thousandth time. Water cuts through granite a drop at a time. I read atheist and science books/blogs/magazines constantly and can recall times when, for a moment, I gave consideration to fantasy. I think RA got downwind of someone charismatic and was caught before he knew.

  9. Erik
    July 2nd, 2006 @ 8:27 pm

    Not to pile on or anything, but it’s a dead giveaway when you use the word “for” in the same way you would use “because”. Sorta like using “at hand” for “near”.

  10. sdanielmorgan
    July 2nd, 2006 @ 9:03 pm

    Perhaps TRA is being clever. I hope so.

    It appears he may be hinting that the joke may be on all of those who think there will be gold in the pot…and he’s helping us dig, which implies we will find out what is up.

    I really hope he’s just pulling a prank, perhaps as en experiment in psychology or in sociology (the treatment of atheists towards those who “fall away from the [lack of] faith”). I hope.

  11. Andy
    July 2nd, 2006 @ 11:50 pm

    If I’m reading him correctly, TRA is simply taking a step back and seaching for truth. That seems reasonable to me. I don’t think atheists (or Christians) have anything to fear from that if they truly believe their opinions/faiths. This fear of self-examination is strange for a crowd that prides itself on reason and truth.

  12. Nokot
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 12:46 am

    I’m with Andy.

  13. Choobus
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 2:03 am

    Who says searching for the truth and sarcasm have to be mutually exclusive? In any case, that’s not really the point. If RA wants to “search for the truth” or whateverver the fuck you call it, why not just say so? What’s the point in all this “I’ll never tell, tee hee” bollocks? IT’s provocative, to say the least, and also makes his retarded stance a hypocritical one, since this refusal to come clean invalidates and pretence he may have to truthiness.

    All these pandering suck jobs are just as bad as the celebrating christ punchers. Fuck you all, and fuck the repentant atheist[?] as well (unless this really is a wind up, in which case, I salute you sir).

  14. Gathercole
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 2:31 am

    Andy + Nokol, you’re absolutely right, RA shouldn’t have any fear of self-examination. However, it’s very clear that he does. He’s afraid to be honest with us about his “search for truth” because he knows it’s going to sound like hogwash and we’re going to shred him.

    His atheism always was secondary to his anti-abortionism, anyway. Seriously, the man’s obsession with it borders on psychotic. I was just reading his earliest posts; back in 2002 is when he posted the Basic Assumptions, but before that there were already 10 posts on abortion. He does seem to have the personality type for strange, pseudo-mystical obsessions like “mathematical destiny” and now, Christianity.

  15. reconciled
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 8:09 am

    Is the God with vindictive spirit the only way to see the God of the bible or can the bible show He is a God of love. Does God love everyone, even those who don’t know Him?

  16. Kate B.
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 8:17 am

    Add me to the Andy & Nokot camp. I’ve got no beef with RA’s search, no matter where it leads him.

    And, Lily: I’ll take Perceval over Parzifal any day.

  17. JP
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 8:43 am

    I haven’t been here in a while. I stopped reading recently because this blog started to suck. Apparentlly, after reading more today, this blog still sucks and will continue to do so.

    RA, can you do me a favor? Either take Jeebus’ nuts out of your mouth, or change the name of this blog so I don’t come across it while doing a google search for something interesting.

    I mean really, I could care less if you have decided to join the rank and file of the most bigoted, bass-ackward, and deluded of the sheep of this planet, just don’t wast my fucking time with it.

  18. Nightfly
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 9:24 am

    Well, really JP – you wasted all that time bitching about it, so why stop now?

    Questions are meant to find answers. That’s the gold in the pot. If you’re all so sure that the pot is empty, why should it bother any of you that anyone is looking for it? They’ll find out in due time that what they seek isn’t there and move on to more profitable ground – and be in no worse shape for the exercise. But I don’t see how refusing to dig any more is the smarter move.

  19. "Q" the Enchanter
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 10:08 am

    Oy! Enough with the metablogging. On with the show. This line of *administrative* posts is wearing *thin*.

  20. "Q" the Enchanter
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 10:08 am

    Oy! Enough with the metablogging. On with the show. This line of *administrative* posts is wearing *thin*.

  21. "Q" the Enchanter
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 10:08 am

    Oy! Enough with the metablogging. On with the show. This line of *administrative* posts is wearing *thin*.

  22. bUCKET__
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 10:56 am

    My main concern is that he didn’t mention anything about Leprechauns. Isn’t this offensive to the Irish?

  23. Robin L. in TX
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 11:29 am

    If atheists are really into reason and logic, then they should not be afraid to intelligently and rationally discuss and weigh all options. However, reading the comments here, I am inclined to think that many atheists have merely replaced theism with an anti-theistic religion of their own–one in which civility, and consideration and toleration for all men are considered vices, if considered at all.

    As a Christian, I could respond in kind, name-calling, cursing, and using infantile bodily-function language to address some of those who have commented on this thread, but I choose not to, because we are all brothers, whether we wish to acknowledge it or not. Committed atheist or seeker, I commend RA for his honesty, and his courage in stating his course here, where so few truly respect one another. Peace, RA. And may your seeking lead you to happiness wherever it leads you.

    Robin L. in TX

  24. Drusilla
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 11:31 am

    RA – May you have strong arms, a sharp spade and great perseverance. And my you have a small child’s joy in digging: Ah, the scent of fresh earth. (And worms can be rather fascinating too!)

  25. Lily
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 11:43 am

    Robin L.
    You are very right. Just last night I was surfing and came upon some blogger who puts atheists into one of two camps: philosophical (those who have thought things through and come to a resonable conclusion) and emotional (those who are reacting/rebelling against the religion of their upbringing).

    This particular blogger mentioned that philosophical atheists tend to be comfortable around religious people and able to talk to them. The emotional ones cannot and … rant.

    I had to laugh, it was so true to my experience here. Like all generalizations, it isn’t 100% true but it seems awfully close to a number of posters here.

  26. ako
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 12:11 pm

    This being a free country, TRA has the right to hold whatever views he likes, be they religious or not. If a conversion has taken place (or is in process), I would respect his right and desire to hold these beliefs, and give reasonable consideration to his arguments, even if they disagreed with my own views.

    People change, and being someone who reads and posts on their blog gives me no real claim on them, and no right to dictate their views, even if I think they’re clearly wrong. If TRA gets religion, I’d probably give the site a few weeks to see if I still found it worth reading before drawing conclusions.

    I’d actually rather see a religious conversion than some kind of psychology experiment. At least that would show more respect for honest debate.

    But what is the point of running a blog that’s been set up to argue for atheism and abruptly declaring you won’t criticize religion and “if God exists” is something you won’t discuss? Isn’t it a bit like running a political blog where you refuse to discuss issues or candidates out of ‘respect’ for people who might disagree? Posting “I’m not telling” strikes me as a baffling approach to the main subject of a blog.

    I also don’t understand how calling someone’s view incorrect is inherently disrespectful. The nature of holding opinions on anything means believing that your view is the most correct (otherwise why, and how would you hold it?) and refusing to suggest that someone might be wrong precludes serious discussion.

    And to some of the theist posters, I would like to add two things. First, how is it a display of ‘courage’ and ‘honesty’ to refuse to; declare your opinion, or express disagreement with others? It seems many of the theists see a depth in the recent posts where I see a blank. Is this just the presumption that refusal to publicly disagree means increased acceptance, or is there something that I’m not seeing?

    Second, posting on this blog does not make us TRA’s friends. It makes us an audience. Some of the posters may be personally aquainted with the Raving Atheist, I don’t know. But posting on the comments section no more constitutes a relationship to a person, than writing letters to the editors makes you the editor’s new friend.

    So if you want to criticize the general tone of the arguments offered by atheists, or accuse the readers of not following the deeper meaning (and I still don’t see any beyond ‘politeness is good’) of this new direction, go ahead. But trying to inflate the negative reaction to some profound betrayal, or equating it with turning against a friend strikes me as disingenuous

  27. Nightfly
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 1:08 pm

    ako – speaking for no-one else but me, I don’t see cowardice here. I’m simply trying to take RA at his word. He’s never been shy before, so I think that if he had scrapped atheism for theism (regardless of brand) he would have said so. Looks to me like he’s asking questions, that’s all. He may conclude that he can resume the blog as advertised. He may stick with toning down his approach without altering his philosophy. Since all I have to go on are the posts themselves I can’t be certain. In any case, I think he’s not telling precisely because he doesn’t yet know what to tell. When he does, I’m sure we will too.

  28. Ron
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 2:29 pm

    RA- Which pond would you rather go fishing in? The stagnant polluted pool of epithets, curses and malignment? Or the clear swift living waters of enlightenment and faith? Reading some of the comments on your blog, I am reminded of the former pool, where intelligent rational thought is replaced by “toilet talk”. Swim with the current, in the living waters, and best wishes to you.

  29. Thorngod
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 3:35 pm

    Well, old granny’s getting sleepy now…getting bored now…z-z-zzzzzzzzzzz

  30. Jordan Greenaway
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 4:15 pm

    This has gone on a little too long – your ‘realisation’ has spanned over a whole week.

    There’s a difference between being respectful and being bland. Unfortunately you’re slowly edging onto being bland – still reading your content.

    -Jordan

  31. Choobus
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 6:10 pm

    All these endorsements from theists should be making you very nervous RA.

    When hobo’s start to congratulate you on your style it’s time to clean the vomit out of your hair and get a grip.

  32. Jason
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 9:41 pm

    One thing you should ask yourself is: do you really want to be associated with people who post the things Choobus does? Another thing to ask is: do people like Choobus who spew hatred with everything they say really have my best interests in mind when they post their “advice?”

  33. Choobus
    July 3rd, 2006 @ 11:17 pm

    Jason, do you like luxury? If so, are you friendly with Chris Treborn. I suspect the answer to both is yes.

    Oh and Jason, another thing to ask yourself is: do you feel lucky. Well, do ya, punk?

  34. Holopupenko
    July 4th, 2006 @ 2:02 am

         As I noted in a comment on an earlier post, those like Choobs are perfect examples–poster children–of why atheism is a self-defeating proposition. I take off my hat to him in gratitude for the work he does against atheism: THANK YOU!
         Choobs calls other people liars… while he himself LIVES a lie–threatening, like a playground punk, those that point out his self-destructive ways.
         If the universe is ultimately meaningless and without purpose to you, Choobs, then spare us the dishonesty of trying to purposefully convert us to your own, personal meaningless lie. Your hatred consumes you… there is little “human” left apart from the ashes. So, why should anyone take ashes seriously? You live on abnormality and self-loathing in order to get a rise from others… How sad: an existence defined on the negative–a privation… a shadow.
         Why, Choobs, why? Will you again respond with hatred, rage, foul language, threats? Are those what get you high and define your very essence?

  35. Choobus
    July 4th, 2006 @ 4:16 am

    Holopupenko (aka shit for brains) said

    SOME INANE BULLSHIT

    it matters not what some Jeebus loving spaztard says about me. I am Chobus, and my kingdong is not of your arse. For a cocksmoker such as you to try to understand my motives is as a piece of toilet paper trying to understand what is happening as it goes down the cistern. I willfully shit upon you and your ilk, and I do so without remorse. You are not fit (nor, I suspect, able) to comprehend my “essence”: however, let me put it to you thus.
    \
    Even the most pungent fart is, from my buttocks, more vaulable than any utterance you might have in support of your fucking cunt smacking God.

  36. Kreme
    July 4th, 2006 @ 5:42 am

    Hey! Just for the record, Choobs is his own person with his own character. Personality is a side item dependent on the individual, meaning, it’s his free right to exercise his freedom of speech, as it remains the free right of other people to exercise theirs, perhaps in a way not to be perceived so vicious. Not every Christian is the idea model of decorum either. However, two vicious personalities don’t make a more civil conversation. I’m not going to keep Choobus from speaking as he wishes. That’s up to the RA website editors, and he has been banned in the past. I’d argue Choobus is being contradictory if he were to claim himself a Bright, or Secular Humanist, but this isn’t what he’s doing. I’d also try to stop him if he were intent on actually realistically physically destroying people, not just lay on his usual flame, but as far I can tell, this isn’t what he’s doing either. He’s not the model of civil tongue, but then so what? If he wishes to stick to being his own individualist self, it’s his right to express as he feels. If I don’t like what he says, I read someone else’s comment. Being the big responsible person I am, I know can always use the scroll feature on the browser to read the comments of anyone I find favorable enough to read.

  37. Holopupenko
    July 4th, 2006 @ 7:12 am

    Choobs:
         Sounds like you’re desparately trying to convince yourself more than me… In any event, I grant you leave to e-scream your lungs out. Please continue your fine work of undermining yourself and atheism. Now, where did I put my popcorn…?

    Kreme:
          “… personality is a side issue”? Doesn’t one’s worldview, to a large extent, color one’s personality? What does that say about atheism? Atheists want to be bad as a reaction against the good… and succeed. Christians want to be good… but largely fail. You tell me which is the better option.

  38. ako
    July 4th, 2006 @ 7:20 am

    Nightfly,

    I wasn’t calling TRA a coward. While I don’t see any particular courage in the trend of the recent posts, I don’t see any particualr cowardice either. The problem is I don’t see much of anything. A lot of ‘mea culpa’ for past insults, and a lot of vague hints that he’s experienced something profound. While I appreciate that he might not be ready to share the experience, I don’t understand or appreciate the way he’s going about it.

    If he chose to share his questions and be open, that would be courageous. Impressively so, given the likelihood of facing ridicule. Not sharing is entirely understandable, but in that case why blog about it at all? Why not find a different topic? Something he would be secure posting about? Take a hiatus from posting new entries? Recruit guest bloggers like he’s done in the past?

    While I hope I’m wrong on this, I get the unpleasant suspicion that this is builiding up towards some sort of mind game. And while I can read and enjoy some blogs by religious people while still disagreeing with their theism, being played with like that would put me right off the blog.

    I’ll give it some time to see what pans out. Like I said, I hope I’m wrong.

  39. Therese Z
    July 4th, 2006 @ 7:52 am

    I’ll bet the angry foul-mouthed commenters here are the actually the meekest, most minimally-performing, resentful people around me, in my life and in my office. Lower lip perpetually stuck out, they are convinced everybody is either against them or know something they don’t know.

    I just can’t see people who comment this way as popular, confident or successful. It’s a shame, because they often demonstrate agile (if uninformed) thinking and quick (if sour) wit. Their gifts are bound up in hurt, frustration, unforgiveness and distrust.

    I personally have found faith in God to be freeing and joyful. But I do know a few serene, happy and loving atheists and agnostics, and I wonder what their solution is? I’ll have to ask, the next time the conversation swings around that way.

  40. Paul
    July 4th, 2006 @ 8:36 am

    Therese Z wrote:

    “I just can’t see people who comment this way as popular, confident or successful.”

    Unless their popularity, confidence, or success has nothing to do with them commenting that way.

    “Their gifts are bound up in hurt, frustration, unforgiveness and distrust.”

    Unless they don’t really mean it and have adopted a persona. Maybe it’s an acting class exercise.

    Another option is to not take it seriously.

  41. Christina
    July 4th, 2006 @ 9:02 am

    Looks like the atheists (aside from TRA) are on the warpath. Why do you folks feel so threatened? If you don’t like what TRA says, go elsewhere and be snide and snarky amongst yourselves.

    Personally, I think the fact that Christianity sends you into spasms is just more evidence that you know in your hearts it’s true. Else it wouldn’t be any more of a threat to your egos than, say, the International Order of Odd Fellows.

  42. Holopupenko
    July 4th, 2006 @ 9:03 am

    Paul:
         Ummm… then why do you take anything anyone says seriously? Why do you spend the time and effort taking on what Christians say? Point one.
         Point two: Choobs an actor? Maybe. What good is speculating on that, i.e., what does that add? And even if true, his approach undermines any rational discussion. To what end? To get a grade on some acting assignment while misleading others? Isn’t that of what he (and implicitly you) accuse TRA? Be serious: your comments are really empty…

  43. June
    July 4th, 2006 @ 10:25 am

    Nice strawman you are building there, Christina.

    You invent an opinion that atheists are threatened, and then use it as “evidence” that atheists are Christians in their hearts. Is this how you build evidence for your own faith?

    If you want to understand atheists, you must understand for openers that they feel as sure as you do in their hearts! SURPRISE!!! You are extremely sure there are gods and devils in this universe. We feel extremely sure that there are no gods and no devils.

    You believers find it useful to submit your life to supernatural beings; we find it useless. You say god brings peace to the world, but you have no evidence for that; even your own faith is split in multiple ways. We say the idea of a god has brought misery, hatred, persecution, wars, genocide, and suffering for thousands of years, and we have overwhelming evidence for that.

  44. Lily
    July 4th, 2006 @ 10:44 am

    Actually, June, we don’t have evidence for that. What our sad human history demonstrates is that humans have a pronounced propensity for violence, tribal loyalties, greed, selfishness, etc. ad nauseam.

    The far more interesting question is: why, in the face of what we are, do we long to be something else? Why do we strive against this aspect of our humanity? Atheism cannot answer this question.

  45. Holopupenko
    July 4th, 2006 @ 10:44 am

    June:
         You’re another example of why atheism is so uncredible: selective inattention. More people have been killed in the name of atheism than all the religious faiths of the world put together throughout recorded history. One empire alone, during the 20th century (whose communist ideology was animated precisely by “scientific atheism”), can probably claim that “honor” for its own.
         You want evidence? One word: Choobs. You want more–lots more? Look at the ravings of atheists in this blogs comments. Visit ANY atheist’s site and you’ll find hate so virulent that if released would make the Holocaust pale into insignificance. And, look at the “issues” MOST (but not all — I’m talking clear trends, not particular individuals) atheists support: killing unborn babies, abortion, euthanasia, the depravity of homosexuality, etc., etc., etc. You talk the talk… and people–real people–die. You’re so soaked in blackness of the culture of death that you can’t see straight… or at all.
         Christina is absolutely correct: your camp’s insecurity and whining and threatening and foul language speak so, so loudly–and you wear it like a badge of honor, because you believe a person acting upon the choice of doing evil frees a person. Keep it up: you’ve joined Choobs in being the best argument against what you support. Thank you!

  46. Thorngod
    July 4th, 2006 @ 11:15 am

    CHRISTINA- Seconding what June just said, I’ll add a couple more points. There is as great a variety of personalities and mental and intellectual levels among atheists as among spiritualists. However, I will point out that atheists have been not only threatened but tortured and burned (as were many a “believer” who ran afoul of orthodoxy) and I have no doubt whatever that if the likes of Falwell and company were ever to get control of our society, we atheists would be committed to Christian retraining compounds if not worse.

    Second point: The reason many atheists go into “spasms,” as you put it, is the same reason any intelligent person would get hives trying to explain a simple equation to someone who was too intelligent not to understand but for some reason couldn’t or wouldn’t. Religious claims are so absurd that when someone states one with a straight face we cringe and grit our teeth–and sometimes spume a little as well. We cannot reason with you on any point in religion because–though you reason as well as we in any other area–you cannot, or dare not, reason about your “faith.”

    Final point: I have met several people–all Christians, as it happens–who actually believed that humans “think” in their hearts as well as in their heads. This gross misconception comes, of course, from having so often heard the many common expressions that support that notion. It is the same effect as the repetitive drilling and reinforcing that produced your “faith” in your religion. I trust that in the case of cardiac cogitation you know it ain’t so!

  47. Thorngod
    July 4th, 2006 @ 12:07 pm

    BRAVO, HOLOPUPENKO! You deserve the golden fish award for the best lie a Christian has come up with in recent history! You have taken the worst crime of which religion has ever been accused, and which even most intelligent Christians reluctantly concede, and flipped the entire ponderous weight of it over onto the puny, overwhelmingly outnumbered and outgunned atheist! I’m not going to try to totally re-educate you, but Constantine did not instigate the bloody Christian capture of half the world by appealing to atheism. If that’s too ancient an example for you, then I’ll ask you to consider to what ideals our own society appealed in our major wars. It was not atheism, Holopopenko. What was it? The phrase “under God” was not inserted into our originally exclusively patriotic Pledge of Allegiance in order to inspire atheists to fight the “cold war.” Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Holopopenko, you’re an idiot!

  48. Michael Bains
    July 4th, 2006 @ 12:35 pm

    Like it matters, but I still don’t believe you RA. Of course, I could just be missing “clues” by not reading closely enough, or following your allusions, taking you seriously.

    BTW, what’s your buddy, Brian, think of all this? I’ve not his site for a while either because the idea that Jessie wasn’t a real person, as possible as that is, doesn’t seem any more likely than the possibility that he was.

    Hhmmm.. Before clickin’ post, I decided to check for myself.

    No help there. There are some good political posts though.

    Have fun, regardless.

    Oh! Hope y’all have a great Independence Day!

  49. Holopupenko
    July 4th, 2006 @ 1:00 pm

    Thorngod:
         Okay, I’ll call your bluff: please put the numbers where your mouth is and cite credible references on how many people were killed by Constantine. Add to this any other credibly referenced numbers for all religious faiths throughout history. Then, compare this ONLY to Amnesty International’s and “The Black Book of Communism’s” estimates for deaths attributable to the Soviet Union alone (we’ll leave out China, Pol Pot, etc… for now.) I remind you, the Constitution of the former Soviet Union explicitly referenced scientific atheism. Then, World War II on the Nazi side alone: how many victims was it again? Compare this to any and all deaths directly attributable to religious faith. If you can’t or refuse to do this, and just assume your words are self-evident dogma, then I will thank you for supporting my position. I and the others are waiting… for you to wipe the blood off your hands for supporting a failed, deadly worldview.

  50. Choobus
    July 4th, 2006 @ 1:08 pm

    I am delighted to know that so many atheists find me distasteful (and more).

    Yes, I an a big fan of “foul language” (especially when addressing theist cocksmokers and other assorted cunts).
    It is true that I see no advantage in having long discussions with people who make no secret of the fact thet they eschew reality in favour of fairy tales.
    However, as all these theists come crawling out from under the recently revealed crack of RA’s jesisism let me tell you this: all your logic is belong to us.

    Keep it coming arseholes.

  51. Thorngod
    July 4th, 2006 @ 1:35 pm

    HOLOPOPENKO– I have an important errand to attend to but will take time for one question for you to mull over. How many Germans under Hitler (including Brown Shirts and Gestapo troops) do you estimate were atheist?

  52. Christina
    July 4th, 2006 @ 1:51 pm

    June, if the atheists here were that secure, they’d not be going into spasms over the possibility that TRA’s nonfaith might be wavering.

  53. Christina
    July 4th, 2006 @ 1:54 pm

    Thorngod, I’m not talking about posts that debate TRA. I’m talking about the spittle-spewing posts that contain all the logic of a toddler’s bedtime tantrum. And the bulk of what the atheists in here have been posting has been of the tantrum variety.

  54. Lily
    July 4th, 2006 @ 2:14 pm

    Choobus, They just don’t know you like I do, luv. If they did, they would know that you are really just one big softy.

  55. Holopupenko
    July 4th, 2006 @ 2:16 pm

    Thorngod:
         Do you always avoid difficult questions you can’t seem to (or don’t want to) answer with other questions? “Important errand?” You mean, you hear your mother calling? Okay, I’ll make it much simpler: focus ONLY and EXCLUSIVELY on the former USSR (I’ll chase you on the other officially atheistic and faith-suppressing regimes later). Here’s a hint: the 1932-33 Famine in Ukraine alone killed anywhere between 7-10 million. Start with that, and try to wash your hands of the blood of the victims of a state whose OFFICIAL ideology was based on atheism–the murderous worldview to which you acede. Again, we wait… before moving on to Eastern Europe, Pol Pot, Mao… and the Nazis. By the way, if you refer to the pagan pseudo-religious, Nietzschean BS animating Hitler as “religious,” well then, we’re all justified calling atheism a deeply-ingrained faith, aren’t we?

  56. Choobus
    July 4th, 2006 @ 2:25 pm

    Lily, please don’t underestimate the depths to which I am prepared to sink! The recent surfeit of christ-punchers has made me redouble my efforts in the service of crudity, blasphemy and offensive loquacity, and it’s jolly mean of you to undermine this with what could be construed as kind words. Knock it off. However, I must say that the obvious candidates for Shitlords like Holopupenkunt make me appreciate you and steve G. Slightly, a little bit.

  57. June
    July 4th, 2006 @ 2:53 pm

    Christina, if by “spasms” you mean penetrating comments from TRA’s readers, I think they have been quite restrained, considering what TRA’s blog used to be like in past years. Frankly, his recent posts have sounded like the gaseous byproduct of a bad case of food poisoning – which led me to the somewhat crude, yet anatomically correct, suggestion he should “blow it out his ass”.

    Yes, Christina, some readers are questioning why/how – on its face – this blog has become openly inconsistent with its own mission. Some of us are simply challenging TRA’s bizarre irrationality. Remember that this blog is supposed to be RAVING about how religious claptrap is trivializing our culture. And here comes TRA, polluting his own blog with drippy sentiment about not saying anything bad about God!

    We miss TRA pulling down the idiot GodSquad’s pants on Wednesday’s, or chortling about cannibalistic rituals of eating God’s flesh every Sunday, or making fun of cartoons about the Pearly Gates.

  58. Thorngod
    July 4th, 2006 @ 7:04 pm

    HOLOPOPENKO, I’m back! ‘Gone to see my long-dead mother, you ask? No, I was meeting my son to pick out a bathroom countertop and mirror, and another computer printer–and while I was strolling the aisles I spotted a nice large Japanese canvas I liked and purchased it to brighten a large blank wallspace in my wife’s bedroom–which I decided to go ahead and mount before I got back to you.

    Now, back to the fray. This should not be necessary. You write like an intelligent person (which I’m confident you are). But some things seem so obvious that it’s almost embarrassing trying to explain them to anyone over the age of fifteen. I know that may sound condescending, but it honestly is not intended that way. It’s just a sad goddamned fact! I really don’t relish spending fifteen minutes on this, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to write a lengthy religio-historic treatise for you. But I’ll present a few pertinent propositions and hope you can muster the modicum of reason required to see what should be obvious.

    Proposition One: About 95% of the people on Earth are and have always been devotees of one religion or another. This rough percentage holds for all large, organized societies and for all historic periods.

    Proposition Two: Though not all wars, revolutions and military conquests have been inspired by religion, an inordinate percentage of them have been (predominantly so during the thousand-year dim-witted Age of Faith), and those that do not incorporate a religious appeal in their war cry are nevertheless amply aided and abetted by the strong religious orientation of the always very superstitious peasants that make up the cannon fodder.

    –Your reference to the Communist Revolution is a transparent canard. The fact that Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Lenin, and maybe even the sad-mad Joseph Stalin were atheists had no effective bearing on the success of their enterprise. (Effective bearing, I said, not theoretical bearing.) Their war cry was not “For God” but “For liberty, equality and bread.” The Russian peasantry was totally, fervently Christian. Had the Communist revolutionists been Christian soldiers, the results would have been essentially the same, except that the revolution would have been shorter. Had they appealed openly to atheism, Russia would still today be a Christian monarchy and the names Lenin and Stalin would mean zilch.

    Proposition Three: If God is on your side, you’re more likely to win the contest. Tell me, Holopopenko, were Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee good Christians? You bet your believing ass they were. Was Abraham Lincoln a good Christian? Guess what! Honest Abe was so close to atheist that you couldn’t have wedged a razor blade between his agnosticism and his “Under God” ejaculations. But he was no idiot. Nor were Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Paine, Franklin, and quite a few other founding fathers–but not a one of these mentioned was a Christian! If they believed in a “god” at all, their concept of “God” was so far from yours that you couldn’t span the distance with a godstick. But Lincoln used his Christians to defeat the Confederates’ Christians, just as the Revolutionary intellectuals used their Christians to defeat the British Christians. God always does battle with God, whether under the same name or a sobriquet.

    Holopopenko, if I knew you personally, we’d probably be friends, or at least friendly acquaintances. All my friends are Christians–virtually all. The only atheist I’m sure I personally know is a woman who works with me, and for whose atheism I am somewhat responsible. Religion wears an exceedingly deceptive face. Close up–among fellow Christians, fellow Muslims, fellow whatever-your-faith–it is warm and charitable and forgiving and virtuous. But between Faith and Faith it is intolerant, uncompromising, damning and demonizing. The irrational absolutism of religion has been by far the most fabulous tool of war mongers and megalomaniacs from time immemorial, and it has provided charlatans (and yes, atheist opportunists) their primary means of fleecing fools ever since the first wooly-heads got religion. I keep trying to tell people this, but God doesn’t need any help from you (and he is also probably sick to death of your fawning praise). God is self-sufficient (and he doesn’t need you or I to tell him so, either). He is also going to do whatever the hell he pleases with that “soul” you think you have. [I trust you understand that I am referring to the “God” you believe in, not one that I do.] It is not God, my friend, who needs your attention, but your fellow man–not just your “feels good to be fellow church members” Christian neighbor, but your fellow Muslim, your fellow Chinee, your fellow wetback, your fellow n______ and all the others. And if you need God and Jesus to make you a good human being, then you’re the worst kind of cripple. I can’t speak for other atheists, but I stand on my own human feet. My body and brain, my friends and fellow humans, however frail they each may be, are the only things on which my existence ultimately depends. Eventually one of these must fail me. So must one of yours. And beyond that moment, you will not know or care that God is not there for you.

  59. sdanielmorgan
    July 4th, 2006 @ 7:31 pm

    Christina,

    If Christians really had faith, they wouldn’t be so excited to read about TRA’s pseud-conversion. As it is, they are riled up at the idea that someone who used to think rationally might be able to be like them, too. What they fail to see is that the conversion itself is the failure of the mind. I should know, as I abandoned my own for some time.

    I can’t believe that real Christians exist, or they would be distinguishable from the cowardly creatures that I see day in and day out. I don’t believe in Christians, just people who think they are.

  60. Thorngod
    July 5th, 2006 @ 2:02 am

    Well, sdaniel, I’m largely in agreement with you, but I have encountered a few that I would have to say were genuine true believers. Very few. Very damned few. The vast, vast majority are either hypocrites, charlatans, or pitiable self-deceivers. Self-deception is a favorite human artifice. It is not confined to the religious arena, but nowhere is it more conspicuously applied.

  61. Holopupenko
    July 5th, 2006 @ 2:24 am

    Thorngod:
         Come on, just deal with the issue at hand instead of pontificating and sharing with us your version of “War and Peace.” I don’t need your veiled platitudes, and, no, I’m not your friend… yet. (Don’t reduce love to mere kindness and chumminess and friendship.) Back up your assertion by putting EMPIRICAL evidence on the table: put your numbers where your mouth is. My request was simple: focusing ONLY on the former Soviet Union (an OFFICIAL atheistic state–read the official relevant documents), compare the blood bath WITHIN the borders of that empire (forget about all the external wars, forget about China, Pol Pot, and now North Korea)–for which I provided you references (please feel free to use your own) to ALL deaths attributable to ALL religious faiths throughout all of recorded human history based on credibly-referenced estimates. Go ahead: be honest and challenge your unsubstantiated assumptions… and prepare to be duly surprised… and then try, again, to wipe the indirect blood from your hands as you are a direct and open supporter of atheism.

  62. Kreme
    July 5th, 2006 @ 4:25 am

    Holopupenko,

    what part of the definition of Atheism explicitly states kill people, or follow the ways of others who’ve killed people? Granted it doesn’t follow along with the statement to not kill people either, but that’s why atheism alone isn’t an ethical set of guidelines. Atheism only relates to a stance one takes relating to the existence of gods. The ethics, and morality parts are entirely different matter altogether. It is not enough to look at the Atheistic idea, because even any person can be theist, or polytheist without any intently good natured ethical system. It’s when you consider the hypocrisy, and character of the people who claim to follow an ethical system, yet don’t, that you realize the potential corruptible nature of all people.

  63. Holopupenko
    July 5th, 2006 @ 4:55 am

    Kreme:
         Avoidance tactics, eh? Deal with it: as a result of atheism, literally rivers of blood have flowed as a result of the official policies of an empire that was 11 times zones across. Do you want me to continue to heap on top of that other regimes–former and existing?
         And here’s a howler–let me repeat your words to see how they sound coming right back atcha: It’s when you consider the hypocrisy, and character of the people who claim to follow an ethical system, yet don’t, that you realize the potential corruptible nature of all people. (1) Your last phrase is a clear, concise truth Christianity teaches dogmatically (what’s wrong with that?); (2) So, why don’t you practice what you preach and heed your own words: Christianity is not represented by Pope Alexander VI or Tammy Faye Bakker. To think otherwise is to asign collective guilt to an entire group for the sins of a few. Isn’t that the definition of a bigot? Is that what you’re saying, that you’re bigoted against Christianity AND Christians?
         Try again…

  64. Thorngod
    July 5th, 2006 @ 6:08 am

    Hey! Wait a fucking minute, Holopupenko! Did you not just now deride the Biblical declaration of your God that “assign(s) collective guilt to an entire group for the sins of a few.”? But I just minutes ago, on another TRA venu, took you to task for your declaration of that absurdity known as “Original Sin”!!!
    Holopupenko, I just a few minutes ago informed you elsewhere that I did not intend to contend with you again anytime soon. I did not intend to. But how do I ignore such blatant balderdash? I do not make a habit of insulting people, but you, H, are a fucking idiot. Try to redeem yourself!

  65. Holopupenko
    July 5th, 2006 @ 6:20 am

    Thorngod:
         Try to stay focused and on mission to back up your “Constantine” claim. I made it easy for you by only asking you to focus on one empire, and to compare that to ALL people who have died throughout ALL of recorded history as a result of ALL religious faiths. Again, put your numbers where your foul mouth is. Stop avoiding the issue by getting off the subject and making excuses… or admit you’re a bigot… whose hands indirectly drip with the blood of the victims who died directly as a result of atheism–which you directly and openly support. We’re all still waiting…

  66. Kreme
    July 5th, 2006 @ 7:42 am

    Holopupenko,

    I don’t agree that anyone is responsible for all the violence commited by past peoples. What is our responsibility is that we learn from these people so such negligence of human dignity is avoided. I can’t say whether such an ethic as stated in 1) is clear or concise in Christianity. It’s not a law required of any Atheist. But even then, Atheism alone is not an ethical set of principles. It’s not an anti-ethical set of principles either. I think you have to analyze each Atheist according to that individual Atheist’s set of ethical principles. Because not all Atheists are Maoists, or Stalinists, or Pol Pot’ists in regards to adopting the same ethical principles taken by each of these Atheistic dictators. That’s also not considering socio-economics.

    Unless you agree that there are different forms of Christianity (meaning Christian doctrine is not absolute as you claim), and that every Christian individually makes up his/her own rules that remove them from the responsibility of promoting destruction on the people around them, whenever they do, I don’t think you can’t compare the two. Christians supposedly have their own code of conduct they are to all follow.

    The more proper question if this in order to be of a fairer analysis, based solely on the question of Deity, is who’s killed the most people, Theists, or Non-Theists. But then you have to ask, well, what about agnostics? Who’s killed more people?

    Now if we were comparing Secular Humanism vs. Christianity vs. Islam vs. Wicca vs. Buddhism, etc. to see which people supposedly following each separate set of ethical principles commited the most violence, then that would be more idea for this frame of discussion. Do people with a particular ethical system kill more than people with a different particular ethical system?

  67. Holopupenko
    July 5th, 2006 @ 8:19 am

    Kreme:
         Okay, more or less fair enough on the points you raise. I admit I’m baiting the issue here, but for very good reasons as alluded to earlier. No one’s got a monopoly on suffering, I agree. I do, however, reserve the right to chase you on the essence of atheism… but not at this blog. With all due respect to the RA, this is kind of a free-for-all, knock-em-out forum that is not fully conducive to reasoned discourse.
         One thing I do request, however, is that you consider the core beliefs and arguments of Christianity: these really don’t change amongst the various demoninations. No, I don’t want to start a sectarian brawl here… merely to suggest you read OPENLY only the first section of Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Why? Because he doesn’t draw on theology but on public knowledge (available to all) to support his points. It’s not a work of apologetics in the sense of brushing aside obvious “problems” committed in the name of Christianity. It’s a short read, but worth your time if you’re honestly willing to shed some caricatured views of what Christianity is. Maybe you have read it… I don’t know.

  68. Kreme
    July 5th, 2006 @ 8:37 am

    Well Holopupenko,

    to tag further onto the point you were trying to make about Atheists being responsible for the bloodshed of Stalinists, Maoists, Pol Pot’ ists, etc, it makes no sense, because there are also religions which are atheistic. Mao himself saw to it that many Buddhists be exterminated. Atheism is neither a supposed set of ethical principles, nor a religion. The thing to really ask is what objective impulses do people carry that make them willing to kill others, and how can these be avoided, if not just removed?

  69. Kreme
    July 5th, 2006 @ 9:03 am

    Some more questions to consider are, whether it’s a biological impulse to aggressively kill some people carry, or if such a trait is learned through indoctrinated ideology? If it is ideology, what specific parts of the ideology most encourage people to kill one-another? Sometimes it could be irrational religious sacrifice while other times it could also be mere blind hate cult bigotry.

  70. Nightfly
    July 5th, 2006 @ 10:30 am

    Hey! Wait a fucking minute, Holopupenko! Did you not just now deride the Biblical declaration of your God that “assign(s) collective guilt to an entire group for the sins of a few.”? But I just minutes ago, on another TRA venu, took you to task for your declaration of that absurdity known as “Original Sin”!!!

    Thorngod – there is a difference between these, tied up in the word original.

    I couldn’t be held responsible, legally or morally, for something my father did at 15. The guilt for an individual’s committed sins are his alone. (They usually carry consequences that affect others, but the guilt stays put.) Original Sin is something quite different – it refers not to what any individual does, but what he is. I do not inherit my parents’ sins or the guilt from them, but I do inherit my humanity from them. My nature can start with nothing else than what they gave me. That nature is damaged.

    To put it another way: if I crash my car, I can buy a new one, and it won’t suffer from the previous collision – but if the cause of the crash was a design flaw inherent in cars, then the new car (though yet uncrashed) is liable to end the same way. The car itself needs a recall and refit. (Hence, baptizing babies even though they aren’t responsible for themselves yet.)

  71. Paul R.
    July 5th, 2006 @ 10:32 am

    H, sorry for the delay in my reply.

    I can offer you no objective procedure for determining the difference when someone is serious and when not. I’m just bringing up the possibility, that’s all. Sometimes people are serious, and sometimes not. It’s hard to tell sometimes. So let’s accept a little uncertainty.

    We can take people seriously even when they’re not, that’s fine, but we can’t be incredulous about it unless we have taken the possibility of them not being serious into account beforehand. So, I think your Point One is actually Point Zero.

    As for speculation, are you serious that you see no purpose in speculation in general, much less this case? Here we have behavior (TRA’s) that is *seemingly* contradictory or hard to understand, at least for some, and I’m speculating about other options to consider (which don’t invalidate any others). Excuuuuuse me.

  72. Thorngod
    July 5th, 2006 @ 2:43 pm

    NIGHTFLY, thanks for your effort, but I assure you I don’t need lessons in reasoning. Original Sin, as defined in the latest version of the Book of Holy, Everlasting & Changeless Truth appears to have taken on quite a different character than it had when first proclaimed against Adam’s descendents. However, I am always happy to find “believers” coming around to a somewhat more rational interpretation of things. Now if you or Lily or Holopupenko can just enlighten me as to the Creator’s reason for decreeing that his precious creatures, in order to survive, must kill and devour each other. Or is that one of the sacred secrets he has not yet deigned to reveal?

  73. Nightfly
    July 5th, 2006 @ 3:03 pm

    …thanks for your effort, but I assure you I don’t need lessons in reasoning.

    You’re welcome. I’m well aware you don’t need lessons. I was just trying to assure you that I don’t either. =) As for the “kill and devour” bit, I’m not sure if you’re referring to our general propensity for mayhem, or just specifically eating meat (or both.) I’m guessing the second, since the first is already covered above; and in that case nobody could tell you with perfect certainty. The best theory I’ve heard is that the two things are linked via our damaged natures – we are no longer in right relation with each other, or the rest of creation.

  74. Thorngod
    July 5th, 2006 @ 5:08 pm

    I see–so teeth and talons were not in the original design. But I’ll not task you with the difficulty of conjuring an explanation. I’m confident the theologians and metaphysicians have found at least one explanation for this and of every one of the other incongruities in the Grand Design. The obvious explanation, as it appears to me, is that he wanted a self-perpetuating theater of gory and sadistic entertainment, and he achieved this by decreeing that all his creatures, in order to survive, must feed upon each other. How do you like that scenario, folks? ‘Got a better one?

  75. Erik
    July 5th, 2006 @ 5:29 pm

    Nightfly,

    The theory might be that we humans are no longer right with each other or with the rest of creation, but why did the fall of man have to result in animals eating other animals? Are you really suggesting that the fall of man resulted in the propensity of the Ichnumedae to paralyze (not kill) their prey, drag it into a lair and lay an egg on it so that the larva has fresh, live meat to devour?

  76. Darby O'Gill
    July 5th, 2006 @ 9:01 pm

    Holopupenko me boy! Taint it just like ya Aleprechaunists to be coming about here spreadin’ trouble. You ask if atheists are the worst killers. This is strong stuff, so it is Everybody knows that it tisn’t the atheists that have killed the most people in war on this planet, bless the little people.

    Aye, I know what your thinkin’, “Then who might’n it be”. If only you’d believe in King Brian of Knocknasheega you’d have the answer. If people spent more time hunt’n for pots of gold instead of killing the world would be a better’n, so it is. The believers in the little people they are few, and mostly confined to this small isle. Tis, true, we’ve killed a few. All the rest we’re slaughtered by unbelievers like yerself. Aleprechanist!

    You be after insulting the atheists, you damn Aleprechanist. Jaysus, I’m after hitting you on your noggin with a pot of gold. Does youse all believe this fool. He’s not answering that one, sure he isn’t.

  77. Darby O'Gill
    July 5th, 2006 @ 9:01 pm

    Holopupenko me boy! Taint it just like ya Aleprechaunists to be coming about here spreadin’ trouble. You ask if atheists are the worst killers. This is strong stuff, so it is Everybody knows that it tisn’t the atheists that have killed the most people in war on this planet, bless the little people.

    Aye, I know what your thinkin’, “Then who might’n it be”. If only you’d believe in King Brian of Knocknasheega you’d have the answer. If people spent more time hunt’n for pots of gold instead of killing the world would be a better’n, so it is. The believers in the little people they are few, and mostly confined to this small isle. Tis, true, we’ve killed a few. All the rest we’re slaughtered by unbelievers like yerself. Aleprechanist!

    You be after insulting the atheists, you damn Aleprechanist. Jaysus, I’m after hitting you on your noggin with a pot of gold. Does youse all believe this fool. He’s not answering that one, sure he isn’t.

  78. Darby O'Gill
    July 5th, 2006 @ 9:01 pm

    Holopupenko me boy! Taint it just like ya Aleprechaunists to be coming about here spreadin’ trouble. You ask if atheists are the worst killers. This is strong stuff, so it is Everybody knows that it tisn’t the atheists that have killed the most people in war on this planet, bless the little people.

    Aye, I know what your thinkin’, “Then who might’n it be”. If only you’d believe in King Brian of Knocknasheega you’d have the answer. If people spent more time hunt’n for pots of gold instead of killing the world would be a better’n, so it is. The believers in the little people they are few, and mostly confined to this small isle. Tis, true, we’ve killed a few. All the rest we’re slaughtered by unbelievers like yerself. Aleprechanist!

    You be after insulting the atheists, you damn Aleprechanist. Jaysus, I’m after hitting you on your noggin with a pot of gold. Does youse all believe this fool. He’s not answering that one, sure he isn’t.

  79. Brian Macker
    July 5th, 2006 @ 9:04 pm

    I agree with my sockpuppet Darby O’Gill. What does someones disbelief in something have to do with culpability. The reason so many died under Mao, Pol Pot, and Stalin was FAITH in communism.

  80. June
    July 5th, 2006 @ 10:25 pm

    In order to persuade the sheep of humanity that they need saving, the priesthood has to first prove that they are in need of salvation. Without that step, who would bother to join a church and give money?

    The next step is to invent Original Sin, which posits our inherent imperfection, which can only be cured by joining the church and giving it money. This idea got so bad that Martin Luther protested against it, giving us Protestantism.

  81. Holopupenko
    July 5th, 2006 @ 11:29 pm

    Thorngod:
         I’m back to see whether you’ve made any attempt to back up your claim with empirical facts. You have not: you refuse to put numbers where your foul mouth is. You are like poor, pitiful Darby: believing as self-evident (“Everybody knows that it tisn’t the atheists that have killed the most people in war on this planet”) but not able to willing to prove it. The irony is atheists demand “scientific” facts, but themselves can’t even put a single referenced fact on the table to back up historical claims… and when it comes to backing up their worldview (There is no God, or there’s no evidence to indicate a God) you get little more than angry handwaving and more BS of the type “EVERYONE knows!” rather than reasoned philosophical arguments. Face yourselves for what you have painted yourselves out to be: intellectual cowards, liars regarding historical claims, hypocrites for demanding evidence while not willing to provide your own… and indirectly killers for openly and directly acceding to what is ultimately a worldview of death. I tip my hat to the depth of “faith” you have… and I thank you profusely for the visits and views my blog experienced over the past few days.

  82. SteveG
    July 5th, 2006 @ 11:58 pm

    The next step is to invent Original Sin, which posits our inherent imperfection

    Original Sin, our inherent imperfection is the most obvious and provable doctrine of Christianity. Or do you deny our inherent imperfection? ;-)

    Original sin is a fact as practical as potatoes. G.K. Chesterton

  83. Nightfly
    July 6th, 2006 @ 12:40 am

    The theory might be that we humans are no longer right with each other or with the rest of creation, but why did the fall of man have to result in animals eating other animals? Are you really suggesting that the fall of man resulted in the propensity of the Ichnumedae to paralyze (not kill) their prey, drag it into a lair and lay an egg on it so that the larva has fresh, live meat to devour?

    No, not at all. I must have misunderstood Thorngod’s original question – I thought he was referring specifically to us and our behavior, not to all of the natural world. For all we know, carnivores hunted their dinners before the fall, but why would we need to know?

    But I’ll not task you with the difficulty of conjuring an explanation. I’m confident the theologians and metaphysicians have found at least one explanation for this and of every one of the other incongruities in the Grand Design.

    I’m sure they have several. You’ll get a lot of debate about the morality of our eating meat. A theist may hold that, since we are the rulers of creation, we’re allowed to eat whatever parts of it we like. Others would disagree – unlike mere beasts, we are moral agents and thus must conduct ourselves differently: meat is wrong because we know better. An atheist may reach the same conclusion, but on the entirely opposite ground that there is absolutely NO moral difference between us and the other beasts: meat is wrong because we are all meat. Then others will, on the exact same premise, say that meat is fine because they’d just do us if they could. And thus we swing round full circle, and neither the materialists nor the metaphysicians come up with a set answer. It is, philosophically speaking, small potatoes.

    The obvious explanation, as it appears to me, is that he wanted a self-perpetuating theater of gory and sadistic entertainment, and he achieved this by decreeing that all his creatures, in order to survive, must feed upon each other.

    Some people may enjoy nature shows for the gore (and the camel’s humps) but to say that God gets a kick out of it is to make the same mistake that atheists often accuse theists of making – anthropomorphizing God. It also clashes hard with the common atheist jibe that God, master of all creation, doesn’t give two shakes about all of us altogether, much less any individual.

  84. Thorngod
    July 6th, 2006 @ 12:42 am

    Gee-sus, Steve G, you take an obvious, indisputable and unchallenged fact of this physical world, claim it proves the doctrine of Original Sin, and then challenge us to disprove the doctrine by disproving the physical fact. You’re one clever wizard, S-G. I’m nominating you for the Shaman of the Year honor. Start practicing your speech, Steve G, and if your costume is a bit ragged, replace it. The award ceremony will take place on the summer solstice. The Unorthodox Latter Day Druids (of which I am a charter member) have rented Stone Henge for the day. I’ll be in touch.

  85. Thorngod
    July 6th, 2006 @ 1:13 am

    HOLOPUPENKO, you persistant leech; I hoped I had banished you to some re-education center somewhere. When I point out to you (as I emphatically did) that about 95% of the denizens of this planet are “believers” in the Great Silliness, what more should I be required to say? Come on, now, Holopupenko! It was always “believers” killing “believers.” Of course it was not true believers always leading them. But they were lead by the nose and by their faith–always! Even on the rare occasions that their leaders did not appeal to their religious object, even then they fought in the name of that object–Jesus, Mohammed, Yahweh, Mahavira, Vagawi, or Wherethefugarwi–and you, Holopupenko, know damned well that that is a fact! Surely you will not try to convince ME (You don’t know who the fuck you’re dealing with!) that five percent of the population of the world (the five percent that are non-believers) are responsible for most of the bloody carnage in this garden of Eden!

    You demand numbers? I have given you the only number you should require, the approximation of 95 percent. Try to disprove that figure, my possible friend.

  86. Holopupenko
    July 6th, 2006 @ 2:48 am

    Thorngod:
         You are numbers-challenged: you spout one number (95%) as if it were true without backing them up with credible references… and then scream “you know damn well!” Quite the scientific approach you have there… On the other hand, you’ve given yourself no choice to challenge such unsubstantiated opinion with empirical data: atheism MUST be true, people of faith kill. Thorngod said it, atheists believe it, that settles it. End of story, end of empirical data, end of science… all from those who oh so falsely believe (again, unscientifically) that the modern empirical sciences are the epistemological arbiters of all human knowledge. Sheer, will-to-power hypocrisy.
         Okay, two can play at that game. This is a much more credible statement, AND, because you intentionally will not provide credible references, neither will I: What has been the case throughout history is that major international wars have had trade and resources at their core (leading to ideological battles) fueled by imperialistic motives. There is no evidence to suggest this trend will change… except for the fact that resources will diminish, and that power conflicts and self-interest will perhaps mean that gross violations of basic rights and death or misery for millions of innocent people will become a more acute issue. Surprisingly, in contrast to accepted and largely unquestioned assumptions, religious faith has born the brunt of the blame, when in fact the evidence suggests religious faith—throughout history—was usurped to justify trade and resource issues lying at the base of conflicts. [Memo to Thorngod: always follow the money.] While it is certainly true that in many cases religious faith added a dimension of urgency to such conflicts (because religious faith touches upon the deepest and most important issues of human self-understanding), and as a result suffering was increased, there is no credible evidence to suggest that religious faith was at the core of the motivations that initiated such conflicts. Very few conflicts throughout history, in fact, can be termed “religious” in nature. Even the Crusades were more of an issue of justice against Muslim land-grabbing and enslavement of Christians than struggles over narrow theological issues and interpretations. Moreover, and on the contrary, religious believers have credibly argued that faith, by instilling moral limitations, have mitigated suffering and killing in conflicts. One clear example is the Inquisition—a favorite whipping boy of secular researchers. In fact, there is document evidence that the Church strongly influenced, and in many cases, stayed the hand of political powers in carrying out executions. The best estimate available is that roughly 3,000 people died as a direct result of the Inquisition—hardly an fact that supports arguments against religious faith when the 20th century alone saw mass killings of civilian populations on a scale and efficiency unimaginable by people in earlier ages.
         Deal with it… and please, again, provide credibly-referenced numbers to back up your emotional faith-based assertions. Kinda tough when the atheist’s favorite tool by which to Christians is applied back at them… and they fail ever so miserably.

  87. Erik
    July 6th, 2006 @ 7:08 am

    Nightfly,

    The issue IS what animals did before the fall of man. It would be simply illogical, bordering on lunacy, to suggest that, say, T. Rex had massive jaws and sharp teeth to graze with. There is absolutely no reason to think that the lives of predators and prey have changed all that much in the past 100 million years. So the question becomes: why did God create life on Earth with such an eat-or-be-eaten structure?

    This has nothing to do with a particularly atheist view of God. Atheists don’t view God as being disinterested, because atheists don’t believe there is any god at all. The point is what you believers say about God. You say God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omniscient. OK, that means there is nothing this god cannot do. So it is impossible to escape the notion that God preferred a living earth on which animals that can feel pain also tear each other to shreds, die off by the millions in mass starvations, etc. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that God intended the Ichnumedae to behave precisely the way they do.

  88. SteveG
    July 6th, 2006 @ 8:45 am

    Gee-sus, Steve G, you take an obvious, indisputable and unchallenged fact of this physical world, claim it proves the doctrine of Original Sin, and then challenge us to disprove the doctrine by disproving the physical fact.

    Thorn, you really need to lighten up dude. I didn’t challenge you to prove or disprove anything. I was only having a bit of fun with the obviously absurd statement June made.

    I take it for granted that atheist don’t believe in such a thing as perfect vs. imperfect inherent nature. From your view our nature simply is what it is, no? So claiming it as having an objective value is nonsensical, which was kind of the point of my comment, to point out a rather nonsensical statement by June.

  89. Absurd June
    July 6th, 2006 @ 9:19 am

    I don’t have imaginary friends in the sky with omni powers. I don’t eat god’s flesh every Sunday. I don’t believe in a young Earth, talking snakes, global floods, virgin mothers, angels, devils, heaven, hell, or Original Sin.

    That makes me the absurd one.

  90. SteveG
    July 6th, 2006 @ 9:25 am

    June:
    I didn’t say you were absurd. I said your statement was (and it was). I make absurd statements all the time, so join the club! :-)

  91. Brian Macker
    July 6th, 2006 @ 9:55 am

    Holopupenko,

    You should listen to Darby. He has provided an example of a group to which you belong (or should I say anti-group) that has killed more people than even the anti-group the atheists. I assume anti-groups are allowed in your little contest since you have included people who don’t believe in your ideology. Now it is quite clear that out of positively defined groups the communists have killed the most people. I don’t however think anyone here is advocating communism. Why don’t you go over to the usenet, find a communist group, and harrass them.

    Regards,
    Brian

  92. Holopupenko
    July 6th, 2006 @ 11:25 am

    Brian:
         Put your numbers where your e-mouth is.
         Communist regimes and communist groups are officially atheistic (read the relevant texts, go back in history, ask a communist).
         Intellectual cowardice and bigotry are the only responses provided so far.

  93. Nightfly
    July 6th, 2006 @ 8:45 pm

    Erik – again, that may well be the case, but why would we need to know? God chose to make some animals hunt others for dinner, as part of a fairly complicated ecosystem. It may have been for any number of reasons. It’s a quite minor issue in the scheme of things, which is why I’m having trouble understanding how it came up quite suddenly in a discussion about human behavior.

  94. Thorngod
    July 6th, 2006 @ 10:45 pm

    HOLOPUPENKO, I have returned…but not for long. In the details of our dispute I think we are largely in agreement. I certainly don’t dispute the obvious fact that the instigators of wars more often than not are intent on personal gain or glory. And states go to war for economic and territorial reasons. But their armies, in most cases, are not raised through appeals to avarice and personal glory, but by cries of “God and country!”
    It takes an army to wage a war, and my contention is that a man with a “God” who thinks he’s fighting for that god will be more easily recruited and will fight more feircely, whereas an atheist, generally speaking, is less eager to fight for anything.

    You seem to be a staunch Christian, and it’s understandable that you don’t want to see your religion as a warmongering one, but it wasn’t love that Christianized the western world. It was conquered with the sword and beneath the banner of Christ, just as Islam conquered vast territories in the name of Mohammed.

    By the way, I’m probably more Christian–ethically speaking– than the majority of Christian believers I know; I just don’t believe in any of the superstition.

  95. Erik
    July 7th, 2006 @ 7:34 am

    Nightfly,

    The point about animals is that one might come to understand the creator you believe in better by looking at the creation as a whole. Take the moment before the supposed creation of man: earth is populated in no small part by animals that eat others to live. Not all animals do; many are vegetarians. The animals that are eaten suffer because they have nerve endings, so they experience pain, and no doubt fear, when they are predated.

    Your creator obviously intended this to happen. It could just as easily have created world where animals only things with no nerve endings. Why is this not an important insight on the nature of the creator?

    Turning to original sin, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that everything happened exactly as planned.

  96. Lily
    July 7th, 2006 @ 11:55 am

    Erik: I won’t pretend to have an answer for the question you are posing. I will point out that any conclusions we draw about nature before the fall are speculative in the extreme.

    We are not given any information about the purpose of animal creation in the Bible beyond what we can cautiously glean from the fact that man was given dominion over the earth. Did animals eat each other? We can’t know for sure. But even if that is true, any insight it gives us into the nature of the Creator, is highly contingent on His purpose for doing so. And that we do not know.

    As far as your statement ( Turning to original sin, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that everything happened exactly as planned.) goes, I think that the mistake you are making here is assuming that God experiences time as we do. That is not what we believe. God is the great “I am”. His time is unmeasured, while ours is measured. I am by no means qualified to say much on this subject, since this gets into areas where I have everything to learn and nothing to teach. But there are people who have studied and wrestled with this question and, I feel fairly confident, there are highly suggestive, if not comprehensively, satisfactory answers out there.

  97. Erik
    July 7th, 2006 @ 12:24 pm

    Lily,

    Are you really saying that it is speculative in the extreme to conclude that T. Rex was a meat-eater? Is it really unbridled speculation to conclude that lions have hunted gazelles for thousands of their generations? If I were to find a fossilized fish with the fossilized remains of another fish in its stomach, would I be engaged in extreme speculative behavior if I concluded that one fish ate the other?

    Is it wild speculation to conclude that the animals whose remains are found in the La Brea Tar Pits got stuck and died miserable deaths there? Is the conclusion that many animals have died awful, painful deaths from events such as volcanic eruptions beyond the pale?

    In short, are you really saying that the fall of man actually changed the nature of nature?

    With regard to original sin: what, exactly, does time have to do with any of this? I stongly suspect that the answers out there that are suggestive are more suggestive of the nature of the people who came up with them rather than suggestive of the truth. They are twisting their brains around to avoid the obvious: an omnipotent, omniscient god must have intended for things to turn out exactly the way they have.

  98. Just June
    July 7th, 2006 @ 12:36 pm

    “it is difficult to escape the conclusion that everything happened exactly as planned”

    BINGO.
    Adam never had a chance! Eve and the Tree of Knowledge and the Talking Snake were just part of one big setup. As we used to joke in high school: “Jesus died for your sins, so don’t disappoint him!”

  99. Thorngod
    July 7th, 2006 @ 1:11 pm

    Judging from the numerous items of evidence in Genesis, I think it’s fair to say that its writers had far simpler notions of things–time, gods, and whatever else–than modern revisionists would like to impute to them. In Genesis, God is both time-challenged and space-challenged. He cannot see through mountains, and his angels are his spies as well as his messengers. It’s no wonder his first son, Lucifer, was able to raise a revolt against him. And if Lucifer had been as crafty as Brer Rabbit, he might have succeeded.

  100. Thorngod
    July 7th, 2006 @ 2:18 pm

    As for the nature and lifestyle of beasties during the 3½ billion years preceeding The Fall, paleontologists have unearthed ample evidence. They ate each other–and homo simplicitus did not excuse himself from the table.

  101. Nightfly
    July 7th, 2006 @ 2:21 pm

    Erik –

    I agree that creation as a whole can give us insight into the creator, but there’s a subtle contradiction in play here – the thought that a creator could have limitless choices but only one possible motivation for the choice He actually made. He could have had several that are in keeping with His benevolence, some of which we could never guess unless we were told – and we were not. Primarily the theology of the fall is concerned with the fallen creatures – us.

    If I had to speculate, I would say that God, being infinite, requires nothing outside Himself. Nothing He could invent could add to His completeness in any way. He need not have created at all. Lion-eats-zebra is not some sort of cruel diversion to Him, akin to lion-eats-Christian for a Roman tyrant. It seems at least as likely that God meant for this world to be a gift for us (and them), rather than a trinket for Himself.

    He could conceivably have denied animals nerves – but how would they tell sharp from soft, hot from cold, or food from poison without them? How would they gain and process any information whatsoever about their environment? Without this, they can’t appreciate and fully live according to their own natures in the world He made. He could have given the lion a taste for strawberries rather than gazelles – but does the lion, in this way, lose something else that God wished for him to have? In trying to be nice to the prey, would He diminish the predator?

    The design He came up with was to make animals sub-moral creatures. The lion can keep his ferocity, power, and grace without committing any wrong or standing guilty of crimes against animality. (Or against humanity, should he catch one of us.) To a beast, it is not right or wrong to eat or be eaten, it just is. We, being moral creatures, use words like ruthless, cruel, and savage when contemplating this, and while effective to evoke a description, they are not accurate as regards the morality of a pack stalking a herd. The wolves don’t wake up longing to hunt, they just wake up hungry. They don’t seek a great challenge to prove their skills, they just pick off the least-challenging prey. And the prey don’t spend their days in abject misery, wondering “Is this the day I don’t come home to the pups?” It’s not cruel for God to have made things this way any more than it is for the animals themselves to act that way – unlike humans, predators never hunt without need. This isn’t virtue any more than hunting at need is cruelty – it just demonstrates all the more that it isn’t an element in their equation.

    There are probably objections to this as well, as is inevitable in any such guesswork. Even where we know more – our own case – there are defensible arguments both for and against vegetarianism, among theists and atheists (as described above in very brief detail).

  102. Thorngod
    July 7th, 2006 @ 4:38 pm

    NIGHTFLY, you bet your ass there are objections! You remark that “God” is no more to be blamed for having created the beast that suffers than the lion is at fault for having to kill and devour it. That’s rather slipshod, fellow! Of course, one can take the perfectly defensible position that “God,” being arbiter of all matters, cannot be “wrong” (morally or factually), in anything. In the case of “God,” in other words, might necessarily makes right.

    But such a “God” does not conform to the current model, does he? (He did in the early day. In the Pentateuch he is famous as a harsh, angry, jealous and vengeful tyrant.) But today’s crop of softie believers insist he is a god of love, beneficence and mercy. I’d say the ancient patriarchs’ characterization was much closer to what all the evidence indicates–and I think the available evidence is sufficient.

    You speculate “that God meant for this world to be a gift for us….” This notion is the same, and as silly, as the popular notion that the human parent “gives the gift of life” to the child. That’s nonsense. At the point that the gift is proffered, there is no child to receive the gift. The gift is self-directed. And “God” himself could not gift his creatures with the life that they did not exist to receive!

    Furthermore, considering that near a third of humanity has endured lifelong suffering throughout recorded history (and through most of pre-history the percentage must have been near total), the “gift” looks suspiciously like a Trojan Horse.

    Your “vegetarian” reference sparks another thought: If appears that many humans have become far more loving and merciful than the “God” that others persist in worshipping.

  103. Erik
    July 7th, 2006 @ 6:13 pm

    Nightfly,

    If God could not have made things any other way, then God is not omnipotent. In any event, he could have made all animals vegetarians. So what you’re basically saying is that animals are inferior to us; therefore, their suffering does not matter.

    And how do you know that animals do not think in certain ways? We know for locksure that they experience fear. We have also observed elephants exhibiting what appears to be grief for other elephants that have died. What makes you so sure they have no thoughts?

    And when someone kills an injured animal, they are often described as “putting it out of its misery”. Are they just sadly mistaken? Don’t you try to comfort animals when they are injured? Don’t you at least feel remorse at the sight?

    Don’t you see how your explanation of these facts is pure rationalizing?

  104. Lily
    July 7th, 2006 @ 7:27 pm

    Erik: You asked: Are you really saying that it is speculative in the extreme to conclude that T. Rex was a meat-eater?

    No, I’m sorry if I gave that impression. What I was trying to say is that coming to conclusions about why anything is the way it is, in the absence of information, is highly speculative, and subject to the vagaries of the state of our digestion.

    What I was trying to say (badly) about original sin was in response to your remark: Turning to original sin, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that everything happened exactly as planned. This is, emphatically, not the case. If I understand big bang correctly, it, like ex nihilo creation, indicates that the universe had a beginning. Then and only then, does does it make sense to talk of time as a succession of events. Prior to the beginng of the universe was God “everlasting” “timeless”, etc. How he then relates to His creation which does experience time as a sequence of events is an issue I have gotten interested in because of the discussion here.

    I am trying to wrap my mind around an article that was recommended to me as a introduction to the subject to try and come to a better understanding of the issues y’all have raised here. I find it interesting and readable but I still have way more to learn. If you have nothing better to do this weekend, have a look and then explain it to me! (http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/realtime.html)

  105. Thorngod
    July 8th, 2006 @ 1:21 am

    LILY, I have read the Craig piece and I will postpone viewing my latest Netflix movie to synopsize and critique it for you. I risk having mine outclassed by Erik’s, of course (which case would certainly not surprise me), and I look forward to reading his take on the same material.

    Dr. Craig, author of the article, is critiquing a theory of “Relative Timelessness” (Dr. Craig prefers “Divine Eternity”) by doctoral candidate Alan Padgett. Basically, there are two time theories being considered: Theory A, which incorporates our conventional conception of temporality, with a past that no longer is, a present that is the immediate “becoming,” and a future that is not yet; and Theory B–which echoes certain implications of Relativity Theory–in which time is viewed as “tenseless,” with temporality merely the impressions from a static reality on consciousness as consciousnesses are carried along the spacetime continuum. Theory B is rejected because it cannot accomodate creatio ex nihilo and would require that the physical universe be co-existent with God.

    Unfortunately, Theory A is not in conformity to Einstein’s theory, which favors Theory B, and so some tweaking must be done. Padgett needs to find a way around the aspontaneity problem, since if God’s time is to be correlatible with cosmic time, there has to be some way of rationalizing Relativity’s “reference frames” to bring them into synchronization. Padgett accomplishes this through a bifurcation of time into Measured Time and Ontological Time and by theorizing that Relativity effects are illusory, and are actually due to the effect (a non- relativity effect) of speed on the physical “clocks.”

    Being theologians, Padgett and Craig require a created universe, one that exists and is sustained only by the will of a non-material Absolute. The pre-Relativity concept of universal time conformance accomodated the ex nihilo version of creation. The new universe is compatable with Spinoza, but not with Genesis. These are two intelligent men attempting to correlate a new perception of reality to the intractable features of a primitive theology.

    Now, if you have time and interest, I’ll offer you a philosophical tidbit of my own. If a god created the “material” world, then prior to that creation, there was only divinity. God was all, all was god. Whence, then, came the stuffness of the universe? There was no “outside God” (outside of or aside from). Of what, then, is the material world composed? It can only be God stuff–concentrated, or condensed, or in some manner transmogrified. If one insists on the basic premise–and I think all theists do–then there is no escape from that conclusion. Consequently, all things that are are in and of God, and every facit and every act are necessarily expressions of some aspect of the character of God. The laws of physics are his laws, and what you and I refer to as “nature” is a mirror image the very nature of “God.”

  106. Lily
    July 8th, 2006 @ 6:20 am

    Thanks, very much Thorn. That makes sense and is very helpful. I am just fascinated by issues the article raised and now I am on a tear to learn more.

  107. June
    July 8th, 2006 @ 10:21 am

    So, when all is said and done, it is quite possible that “god” is simply another name for the universe. And therefore humanity’s hopes for a savior are simply the natural hopes of avoiding adverse natural effects such as pain, disease, death, and decay.

    Doesn’t that make obvious that religious constructs such as Genesis, Eden, Adam and Eve, the Snake, the Fall, Satan, Original Sin, Redemption, etc. are just metaphors for our environment? And that the difference between atheists and believers is simply that believers say Noah stuffed all existing species of animals into the ark, and atheists say this must be false on its face, since Noah did not even know other continents existed, much less saving animals such as the Koala and the Kanguru.

    And so I am genuinely puzzled what all the fighting and arguing is about. I am a skeptic when it comes to Noah and his sons building a boat the size of a cruise ship, or saving 650,000 species of beetles. Others apparently are more easily convinced.

    Is that what we are insulting each other about here?

  108. Choobus
    July 8th, 2006 @ 10:57 am

    “Padgett accomplishes this through a bifurcation of time into Measured Time and Ontological Time and by theorizing that Relativity effects are illusory, and are actually due to the effect (a non- relativity effect) of speed on the physical “clocks.”

    Thanks for that Thorn, I needed a good laugh (not at you). This sort of bollocks always makes me laugh. Even a very basic understanding of physics can reveal this sort of “reasoning” to be, frankly, desperate. Instead of occams razor we have a very hirsute turd.

  109. Lily
    July 8th, 2006 @ 11:00 am

    June: I am aware that there have been young earthers and other biblical literalists here. But I (like SteveG and a number of others) have been trying for the last 10 or 11 months to clarify that for millions and millions of educated believers science is not our enemy, nor is the kind of literalism that believes in Noah’s ark necessary.

    Somehow, it never advances the argument.

  110. Erik
    July 8th, 2006 @ 12:35 pm

    Lily,

    Thanks for the reference. I think Craig twists himself into a knot, because he has to posit that there can be cause that is not temporal; i.e., some thing A caused some thing B, but there is no temporal relationship. This is illogical, but it is necessary in order to get around the problem that if god can be an uncaused thing, there is no reason that the universe cannot.

    In any event, I do not see what the discussion of time has to do with anything. If you believe that god was the first cause, then I have to ask whether god intended to create the universe. If the word “intend” means anything, then either god did not intend for the universe to exist, in which case god is an unwitting role player in something that exists outside of god, or god actually intended the universe to be created.

    Let’s go with the latter for the moment. If god is both omnipotent and omniscient, and created everything that exists, then it is rational to conclude that the conditions of life on earth were intended. But the ultimate conclusion of that thought is dangerous for the believer, because the entire edifice of Christian belief, with sin, punishment, redemption, etc., comes crashing down, as free will is a complete illusion.

    The whole discussion of time is merely an attempt to avoid this conclusion. It is, essentially, the attempt to say: “On the one hand, god created everything there is and knows everything there is, was and will be; on the other hand, god is not responsible for any of it.”

  111. Lily
    July 8th, 2006 @ 1:29 pm

    Thanks Erik, This has me all excited because it takes me back to those heady days in college when I did (almost by accident) drop into a medieval philosophy course and was immediately confronted with dealing with Aristotle (particularly, Categories, and Metaphysics, if I remember correctly), so that we could see and understand the ground on which Anselm, Aquinas, et al. were building.

    Where time comes into it for me, in answering your question about free will vs intention is in trying to get clear in my own mind (using, so far as is possible, reason apart from revelation), how one can answer the proposition that God knew we would fail and planned everything out.

    I suppose I should start out with a null hypothesis. But I can’t unknow what I know first from revelation and then from experience. So I am assuming that we can try and figure out how God “experiences” (which is already a fatally flawed concept) time. And, that, hopefully, will get me closer to my goal.

    I wish our friend Choobus had been a little more forthcoming. He said: Even a very basic understanding of physics can reveal this sort of “reasoning” to be, frankly, desperate. I don’t have a basic understanding of physics (I took it in college to and it was the one course I dang near flunked) and would have liked to understand why his reasoning is desperate.

  112. Nightfly
    July 8th, 2006 @ 2:53 pm

    If God could not have made things any other way, then God is not omnipotent. In any event, he could have made all animals vegetarians. So what you’re basically saying is that animals are inferior to us; therefore, their suffering does not matter.

    No, and no. He could have done anything, but he did this, and what we know about why primarily concerns us, not nature. Neither did I say that natural suffering does not matter – only that it is not moral. In talking about it, we’ve had to bring in all sorts of other considerations, including the question of free will itself.

    So let’s cut to the chase, since it looks like the two threads are coming together: If god is both omnipotent and omniscient, and created everything that exists, then it is rational to conclude that the conditions of life on earth were intended. But the ultimate conclusion of that thought is dangerous for the believer, because the entire edifice of Christian belief, with sin, punishment, redemption, etc., comes crashing down, as free will is a complete illusion.

    That is true ONLY IF the conditions of life on earth are currently as He made them originally – in other words, if you deny that there is any fall caused by our disobedience. You have to presume that we have no free will in order to eventually conclude that we have no free will.

    The whole discussion of time is merely an attempt to avoid this conclusion. It is, essentially, the attempt to say: “On the one hand, god created everything there is and knows everything there is, was and will be; on the other hand, god is not responsible for any of it.”

    Or, there is free will, and we caused our own misery through sin – and to deny that is to attempt to absolve us from all of our responsibility in the matter. Not surprisingly, that’s the very first thing the very first sinners tried to do the instant they were caught – “It was the woman you put here with me! It was the serpent you made!” It’s blindingly evident that people choose, and that they sometimes choose very badly. Free will is not a theistic theory, it is just observable fact. Deny it and it’s not surprising that errors jump in almost immediately. Indeed the whole of creation becomes an absuridty without free will – where God intentionally creates creatures who will use words like “ought” and “right and wrong” when all such things are impossible, and soon inescapably conclude that he does not exist.

    I still do think that the world was a gift for us. That we broke it makes no odds. “God” himself could not gift his creatures with the life that they did not exist to receive! And yet, here were are, so obviously he could and did. I do not agree that, even in a fallen world, that it is better not to be than it is to suffer, for bunnies and lions any more than for us.

  113. Erik
    July 8th, 2006 @ 4:43 pm

    Nightfly,

    How is natural suffering not an issue of morality? If it is immoral for you to cause suffering for an animal, then so much the more so for god who causes it daily in staggering amounts but has the power to prevent it. Unless, of course, you simply excuse god for what appears to be quite an obvious conclusion. Or at a minimum, a conclusion that is not irrational.

    Free will seems apparent to us. But if god (1) created everything, with (2) full knowledge of all that is and is to come, then (3) free will is an illusion.

    Look at it this way. God writes a book of your future life, down to every last detail, and gives it to you. God would have no difficulties doing this, since he is supposedly omniscient. Try as you might, you are utterly incapable of changing one little letter of that book, aren’t you? If you actually had free will, you could change your future. But you cannot under this scenario; therefore, free will is an illusion.

    You have in fact hit the nail on the head — remove free will and “ought” etc., mean nothing. But that is exactly what you do when you posit an omniscient, omnipotent being.

  114. Erik
    July 8th, 2006 @ 4:46 pm

    Lily,

    I am not a physicist, either, so I tend to get a bit bogged down in the discussions about time. But I would be more interested to understand how it is that your perception of time and its application to god clears up the free will problem. I may be thick, but I just don’t see it.

  115. June
    July 8th, 2006 @ 5:11 pm

    Wow, Nightfly, what a complex dance you have to do in your mind in order to maintain that shimmering illusion of God. Now, imagine for a moment that there is nobody at the center — in fact, there is no center. How does that feel? Suddenly, these bizarre distortions vanish. No more time bifurcations, no gods sacrificing their sons, no original sin or guilt or shame, no loathing of your body because of its natural desires, no eternal punishment, no angels, no devils. The whole house of cards collapses around you, and there you stand, free to be truly human for the first time in your life.

  116. Lily
    July 8th, 2006 @ 6:11 pm

    ERIK:
    I am treading where even angels who have only a liberal arts education would fear to tread! Until I get this business straight in my head, I have to fall back on C.S. Lewis’s analogy. He wrote something (in explaining omniscience) to the effect that we could stand on a high hill and see two cars on a narrow curvy road heading towards an inevitable crash. We would not have caused it but we would know about it before it happened.

    Our knowledge of the event in no way negates their responsibility for driving carefully on a dangerous road nor have we, in any sense, planned it. Cars are dangerous in the hands of careless drivers. Physical laws come into play when accidents happen. But that does not make God “responsible” for the tragedies and sorrows of life. Intervention in our affairs to keep us from ever “reaping what we sow”, would negate our freedom to act as moral beings entirely.

    JUNE: All adult matters seem complex to children. Children’s matters seem complex to dogs and my attempts to teach my garden worms German have failed comprehensively.

    How could trying to understand the world, God and ourselbes not be complex? It seems to me that Nightfly has done a fantastic job of trying to explain some important things in a way I could not do even half as well. If you think man, without a sense of shame, a sense of right and wrong or knowledge of God would be fully human … ye gads! What you would get is homo sapiens (no longer sapiens), fully animal adrift in a nature that, as we have been discussing, is red in tooth and claw.

    I find that notion too horrible to contemplate.

  117. Erik
    July 8th, 2006 @ 8:30 pm

    Lily,

    Take a look at the book analogy I posted earlier. If you cannot avoid the car crash because you were fated, ahead of time, to do so, then the entity that arranged your fate is responsible. That is because that entity has in fact made your choice for you. You haven’t made any choice, because you had no options.

    Your only option to truly save free will is to admit that god is not omniscient.

  118. Brian Macker
    July 8th, 2006 @ 9:35 pm

    Holopupenko,

    I already put my money where my mouth was. Aleprechanists have killed more than atheists. Most if not all atheists are Aleprechanists, plus most Catholics, plus most Muslims, plus most Hindus, etc. I assume you don’t believe in leprechans either, so you are probably in this very large group of people. In fact, I’m an Aleprechaunist myself. I fully admit that us Aleprechanists have been responsible for more deaths than Atheists, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews.

    I haven’t visited in a while because I would have figured this out already, or at least someone else might have clued you in.

  119. June
    July 9th, 2006 @ 6:20 am

    “How could trying to understand the world, God and ourselves not be complex?”

    By not starting with unnecessary, illogical, unproveable, invisible, supernatural, self-contradictory assumptions?

    By not making it more complex than it is?

  120. Lily
    July 9th, 2006 @ 9:46 am

    Erik:
    I don’t think that knowing and intending are the same thing. If God experiences time as an eternal “now”, as we believe, then, it seems to me, free will is perfectly consistent with God’s omniscience. (I am pretty sure I mispelled that.)

    But we can pick this particular argument up next week, by which time I will have fully mastered Einstein’s theory of relativity and all other theories of time, as well! :-)

  121. Thorngod
    July 9th, 2006 @ 12:06 pm

    NIGHTFLY remarked, “You have to presume that we have no free will in order to eventually conclude that we have no free will.” Further on he says, “Or, there is free will and we caused our own misery through sin….” In regard to the first contention, only honest inquiry is required to discover a fact; presumption is not required. However, I suspect that what he meant is that free will is a fact, and that one can deny it only through presumption. We shall see.

    As to the misery of the human animal (and all others), that was necessitated by the nature of existence (the harshness of nature), and “sin” was an effect, not the cause. Our species had to claw its way up through more than a million years of hunger and terror. The notion of “sin” had to await the commission of more “wrongs” than you or I could count. There have been many sins committed in edenic gardens–and I could confess to a couple–but if there was an “original” such sin, it was otherwise not unique and was relatively unconsequential.

    If there is one miracle to which most atheists and most “believers” apparently subscribe, it is the fantastic notion of “free will.” There are some atheists who don’t, and there is a wing of the Christian faithful that also allegedly denies it–the Calvinists, who presumably still believe in Predestination. I have no use for Calvinists, but they are closer to the truth than their Christian brethren in that one belief–though they’re flat wrong in their interpretation.

    Everyone experiences “free will.” And not only humans! If you could ask a squirrel or a turtle whether it had no control over its actions, it would insist that it does, that it acts deliberately, intentionally, consciously. And it would be right. If the squirrel and the turtle are conscious, they are aware of their volitions, even as you and I. You know what you want and what you intend and you are aware of acting toward those ends. But the critical question is, are you “free” to choose between or among possibilities? What could “free” mean in
    this context, since every decision you make will be determined by what the total “you” is at that moment, which is only what you have been compelled by the unforeseen and intractable flow of circumstance to become?

    In what way can your will be “free”?

  122. Nightfly
    July 11th, 2006 @ 1:20 am

    Wow, Nightfly, what a complex dance you have to do in your mind in order to maintain that shimmering illusion of God. Now, imagine for a moment that there is nobody at the center — in fact, there is no center. How does that feel? Suddenly, these bizarre distortions vanish. No more time bifurcations, no gods sacrificing their sons, no original sin or guilt or shame, no loathing of your body because of its natural desires, no eternal punishment, no angels, no devils. The whole house of cards collapses around you, and there you stand, free to be truly human for the first time in your life.

    Thanks for thinking of my welfare, June. =)
    I’m flattered that you think my mind capable of inventing such intricacies, but believe me, this is not so. I am not creating, merely describing. Were I simply imagining things I daresay that they wouldn’t be nearly as convincing. Then again, some would have the both of us believe that I have no say in the matter…

    God is not in time. Lily’s description was excellent – all reality is now to him. He doesn’t have to wait to get what we call the future, nor does he lose the past. We are his images, not He himself, and we can only touch the sum of reality in the brief point of the present. He sees it all at once from the outside, much as a man can look at a map and see all the streets of a town, while those actually in the town can only see to the corner.

    So, when God looks at our lives, he sees all of it. He doesn’t look ahead to see what we do next Tuesday; there is no “next” or “ahead” about it to God. He doesn’t predict or foresee, he simply sees that which we chose to do. Knowing what someone does is not the same as making them do it. If we do, in fact, get a book of our lives, it is a book we cooperate in writing, one page at a time. He just doesn’t have to wait for the finished project.

  123. Erik
    July 11th, 2006 @ 7:21 am

    Nightfly,

    Three questions:

    1. Do we experience “time”?
    2. If so, then does god therefore not experience something we experience?
    3. Is god less than omniscient if he cannot understand what it is like to experience time?

  124. Thorngod
    July 11th, 2006 @ 9:48 am

    “…a book of our lives…. He just doesn’t have to wait for the finished project.”

    -A bloody shame, because it would be a damned good read. But being in stop-time, he gets the ending simultaneously with the beginning. That’s no way to read a good book.

    It has always amazed me how much Christians seem to know about the nature of God and the physics of the divine plane.

  125. June
    July 11th, 2006 @ 10:11 am

    That’s a very nice explanation of a wholistic god, Nightfly, but I don’t see how time compression gets God off the hook. Also, the Bible disagrees with your view; it tells us that God watches every move we make, and even interferes here and there with plagues and floods, and watches over the sparrows or the lilies of the field. He even sends detailed instructions for building a huge barge!

    Regardless of how God experiences time, long before he created the universe, he was able to see that his design for the cosmos was not perfect, that Adam and Eve would not resist temptation, that his creatures would end up in misery for generations of humans.

    As he was tweaking cosmic parameters, he could have tweaked them a tad more to make the universe a safe, joyful place that would have brought him glory. Instead, he allowed it to become a stinking river of blood, pain, fear, and death. I give more credit to humanity for surviving than I give to God for creating this mess.

  126. Nightfly
    July 11th, 2006 @ 3:03 pm

    Erik – three answers.

    1. Yes. Time is the measure of change.
    2. Since his own nature is changeless and contains all perfections, God does not experience time. He has no need to. His divinity gives him an inherent advantage over us in this regard.
    3. God invented creatures that live in time. In order to do that he had to understand it even better than we do. Omniscience doesn’t need to rely on experience in order to know.

    Thorngod – I agree about the good read; at least, I’m enjoying my little chapters. I won’t pretend to know all about “the physics of the divine plane,” but at the very least they aren’t merely mortal physics writ large.

    June – again, I have to thank you for the compliment, but disagree when you say the Bible contradicts this view. In fact, everything that you describe from the Bible is entirely consistent with a God who is not in time. In the Bible, the name He gives Himself bears this out – “I Am Who Am.” Moses asked for a label, but what he got instead was a description – “I Am,” the eternal present, always now, abiding. And the second thing about the name addresses the previous discussion about existence – “I Am,” existing of His own inherent nature, requiring nothing else to cause him.

    Able to see the Fall? I dare say so. Anyone with a child knows, even as they cradle that child for the first time, that there will be skinned knees, lousy report cards, childhood illnesses, braces, crushes, lost jobs, terrible quarrels, grudges, bereavement, and death. It begins with a great deal of pain for the mother and a whole lot of aggravation along the way, even in raising a child who eventually grows to make her proud in the end. It would be “happier” if all children were simply paintings on the wall, always smiling in the sunshine. Yet even people who enjoy good paintings still have their children. Parents don’t simply kill their children when they’re being difficult, and replace them with drawings – unless of course they are depraved or utterly insane. Why should we prefer God to act that way towards us? One can hardly credit humanity for surviving while blaming God for the forbearance that makes it possible.

    By necessity, if God is going to create free creatures with their own minds and wills (for that is what it means to be in his image), there is the possibility of those creatures not being of the same mind as he – abusing that will and rebelling against him. It would be much safer and happier, I agree, if that had never happened – if the perfection God gave us had remained unbroken, if those to whom the gift was given had not trampled it under foot. Now that it has, however, it’s far preferable to be given the chance to be part of the repairs rather than simply scrapped wholesale. God could easily “fix” everything so that there is no such thing as evil, by simply removing the very thing that others here are calling an illusion, our free will. The result would be a world of the very same iron conformity that theists are accused of desiring – a Stepford Reality.

  127. June
    July 11th, 2006 @ 3:48 pm

    Your analogy of God and the Fall to human parents knowing their child will suffer fails in its essential aspect: As omnipotent designer, God has the power – some would say the duty – to change the future for the better. Human parents cannot alter the design of the cosmos.

    And finally, what is the meaning of free will when you are punished for exercising it?

  128. Erik
    July 11th, 2006 @ 3:57 pm

    Nightfly,

    You have proven my point. Even if you say that god is “outside” of time, god is fully aware of what it’s like not to know one’s own future. But there are no facts that would be described by humans as being in the “future” that god is unaware of or that he did not in fact create himself. There is therefore utterly no way, under this structure, that I could ever change any event that will happen in the future, no matter how hard I might try. I may have the belief that this is possible, but not because it actually is possible; rather, it is because god created me with that belief. Real free will is, therefore, an illusion.

    By the way, if god is completely unaffected by time, then why did he need to rest on the seventh day?

  129. Thorngod
    July 11th, 2006 @ 3:59 pm

    What! Out of senseless nothing to provoke
    A conscious somethiing to resent the yoke
    Of unpermitted pleasure, under pain
    Of everlasting penalty, if broke!
    -E. Fitzgerald, Rubiayat of Omar Khayyam. . .

    Probably the most concise rebuttal to such nonsense ever composed. Absurdity is absurdity, no matter how you parse it.

  130. Robert N G
    July 12th, 2006 @ 8:57 pm

    Recall, RA, a long time ago when we first engaged in conversation, you asked if I, a total stranger, would give up my life for you if I knew it would guarantee your salvation. Well, I still don’t know you, though a little better than before, and while I can not imagine the actual circumstances that could result in such a choice, the answer is the same: gladly, and without hesitation.

    You may be surprised when you come across the gold. It can be disguised in the most unusual ways.

  131. Thorngod
    July 12th, 2006 @ 10:49 pm

    RNG, In a college sociology class once, I heard a good Christian lad attest that he’d not tell a lie if his best friend’s life depended on it. I have still not decided whether he should be classified as an admirable fool or simply as a fool. But I had no doubt that he was religious.

  132. Robert N G
    July 13th, 2006 @ 6:48 am

    Veritas!
    Quid est veritas?
    (Est vir qui adest.)

  133. Nightfly
    July 13th, 2006 @ 12:35 pm

    But there are no facts that would be described by humans as being in the “future” that god is unaware of or that he did not in fact create himself.

    This is where you consistently go wrong. “Aware of” does NOT mean “created himself.” My whole point is that God sees, but we act. In fact, the whole other half of this complaint has been precisely that God sees but does not always act. Obviously there’s a difference, and the act of witnessing an event does not dictate the details. You may as well say that you caused the Miracle on Ice because you know that Eruzione will score that goal the next time you watch the highlights.

    For all we know, the whole of totality that God sees is constantly in motion because of our free choices now. I think I did make a mistake here, but in description, not logic – I used the term “finished product,” which isn’t precise. It connotes a static reality that we discover, not a changing reality that we help invent. Creation is “finished” in the sense that it is finite, that it has boundaries and set rules to govern its operation, but the actual operating is still going on.

    What! Out of senseless nothing to provoke
    A conscious something to resent the yoke
    Of unpermitted pleasure, under pain
    Of everlasting penalty, if broke!

    Well, as you’ve seen above, I do not use language nearly as elegantly as Fitzgerald, but the verse you’ve quoted is false – fantastic writing, but inaccurate as a description of reality. If all is “senseless nothing” then there can be no such thing at all as a yoke, or permission, or penalty; and we cannot possibly be “conscious somethings” capable of understanding any of it, much less expressing it as marvelously as Fitzgerald did. To even cast the argument is to prove it false. In other words, “absurdity is absurdity no matter how you parse it.”

    PS – By the way, if god is completely unaffected by time, then why did he need to rest on the seventh day? – it says only that He rested, not that He needed to.

  134. Nightfly
    July 13th, 2006 @ 1:20 pm

    As omnipotent designer, God has the power – some would say the duty – to change the future for the better.

    People are already super-touchy about anyone even suggesting that some of their choices are immoral; now you’re saying that God should go beyond suggestion and actually make it impossible to do any wrong? I should just step aside entirely and let you and Erik argue free will without me. =)

    And finally, what is the meaning of free will when you are punished for exercising it?

    You need to make up your mind here. On one hand, you’re complaining that we get punished for our choices, and on the other, you are complaining that we don’t get punished enough! It’s hard to refute an argument that refutes itself. But in any case, it’s clear that choice itself isn’t the problem, but which choice we make. If I shake your hand, I am not punished. If I punch your head, I am. The issue is that some people use their freedom to do wrong.

    That brings us right back up top to your initial protest – why doesn’t God make it impossible to misuse our freedom? It’s self-evident that if He did there would be no such thing as freedom. Are you really eager for that? You complain that some people think we should be God’s followers – you would rather be his puppet? If I punched you, would you want the cop to shrug and say, “Too bad, God’s fault”?

    By necessity, if we are free, we are also responsible for how we use that freedom. It may be great fun to smash in all our windows, but afterward we’d be fools to blame the contractors when the rain gets in, nor expect them to foot the bill for repairs.

  135. Erik
    July 13th, 2006 @ 2:48 pm

    Nightfly,

    The difference between the Miracle on Ice and what we are discussing is that I did not create hockey, ice, skates, Lake Placid or Mike Eruzione. BUT GOD CREATED EVERY BIT OF IT WITH PERFECT KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT WOULD HAPPEN AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT. I don’t know how you could possibly say the two are similar.

    Once again, I have to ask you about the thought experiment regarding the book written by god. If you are powerless to change your future, then you have no free will. Period.

  136. Nightfly
    July 13th, 2006 @ 11:06 pm

    You are not powerless to change your future. Being watched does not dictate your actions. I am trying to use analogies (imperfect as they are) to illustrate the difference between seeing something happen and doing it oneself. Being made by God doesn’t mean being made to do things by Him. He made hockey (amen!), ice, skates, Eruzione, and Lake Placid – but what happened there was the work of the participants. You asked again about a book of the details of our lives. Our lives are the book itself – we already have it, and the details are revealed in our choices. Unlike a human story, the characters are free to chart their own course. He made all things, but He made us free to act of our own will; free even to argue passionately against their own freedom and His existence.

    I’ve been noticing pattern in the conversation, an inclination on your part to add a little bit extra to everything: seeing becomes doing, and objects become actions, and resting means requiring rest. Above all, you take the extra step of assuming that limitless power means the inability to choose not to use it – but that in itself is a self-contradiction; being unable to control one’s own power is a serious limitation, and God isn’t subject to it. God is free to grant us our own freedom.

  137. Erik
    July 14th, 2006 @ 11:20 am

    Nightfly,

    I fully understand the difference between watching and doing. But you seem to think that god is analogous to each one of us. That plainly is not the case — we did not create the situations in which we find ourselves. But god did.

    Maybe I’m not understanding the basic premises of your beliefs, so I’m going to list a few pertinent ones below. You can tell me if they are incorrect:

    1. God created everything that there is.
    2. God knows everything, including, from our perspective, all events, past, present and future.
    3. There was a “time” when nothing existed except god.

    Now, perhaps you can tell me if, at the moment prior to creation, whether god, in his omniscience, knew everything that was, is and will be (presumably so, since god is unaffected by time). If so, the entire US-USSR hockey game was scripted, from the beginning of time. To test this, let me ask you: could it have turned out differently without god’s prior knowledge?

    So, I’ll ask you again: could god write a book about your future? If you read it, would you be able to change one letter? If you could not, how can you possibly say you have free will?

  138. Robert N G
    July 14th, 2006 @ 4:44 pm

    I must say that what Erik says is making no sense to me whatsoever. Knowing the future in no way implies willing it. It seems perfectly logical to me that a God who wants to be loved would create creatures capable of loving freely, which means that they have the option not to love Him. Personally, I much prefer the company of people who choose to be with me than the company of people who are obligated to be with me. Knowing God as I do, I’m sure He feels the same way.

  139. Erik
    July 14th, 2006 @ 5:41 pm

    Knowing the future might not imply willing it. BUT CREATING ALL OF CREATION, PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE, WITH FULL KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT HAS, DOES, AND WILL HAPPEN, DOES IMPLY WILLING IT. I’ll ask you the same question, RNG: If god an write a book of your future, and you read it, can you then change one little letter? If you cannot, then you have no free will. Period.

  140. Robert N G
    July 14th, 2006 @ 7:56 pm

    John 19:22

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