29 April 2009

Just Some Stuff Stuck In My Head

Various stuff just churning around in my head today:

1. The Miss California pageant is not something I normally have any interest in, but I do take strong exception to their admonishing Carrie Prejean that exercising her right to hold and state beliefs that are not completely politically correct somehow does not "represent" California. I'm sorry, which way did the majority of voting Californians vote on gay "marriage"? As I recall, being someone who voted in favor of making sure California was using God's definition of marriage (man and woman, not two of the same sex), the gay activists LOST that round. That would strongly suggest that the majority of Californians were represented by Miss Prejean's defense of the true definition of marriage. I happened across a rather interesting article on the subject here.

2. I've been seeing a lot of strident anti-religion discussion online lately. Leaving aside that a lot of those remarks are borderline literate at best (News10's comments section offers the best examples of those), I've come to the conclusion that atheism has two source causes:
a) the arrogance of thinking that we humans are just so brilliant, special, etc., there can't possibly be anything greater than we are.
b) simple rebelliousness such as we see in any teen who doesn't want to deal with behavioral rules. Refusing to acknowledge a greater power that has the wisdom and authority to set rules for us allows the "I can do whatever I want" mindset. Well, take a look at society as a whole and see how well we're doing with that idea. Think the "no right and wrong, just do what you feel like doing" is working out well? OK, so it's now fashionable to reject faith as not scientific enough. Last I knew, truth is not determined by fashions that change constantly, but by reality.

3. I'm sure we've all heard about the Mayan calendar ending at the end of 2012, and all the apocalyptic things that are alleged to take place at that point. I think "The X-Files" has even addressed this (not that I get my science, history, etc., from Hollywood, please note (smile)). Myself, I subscribe to the calmer theory that what's going to happen when the Long Count calendar runs out is going to be very comparable to the transition from 1999 to 2000 or an odometer rollover in your car. However, if along about June, I get word of two special witnesses of Christ preaching in Jerusalem, as discussed in Revelation 11, I reserve the right to rethink that position. If those two witnesses show up about June, the prophesied 42 months of their preaching will end in December 2012. We shall see.


  1. Amen to #1 and #1. I wonder a little whether we'd be seeing the unreasoning hatred flying around the airwaves if the CA supreme court had decided the other way today...

  2. Alex, did you really mean to agree with #1 twice? ;-)

  3. nope. that would be 1 & 2...

  4. LOL! I have typing days like that.

  5. I say a hearty AMEN to your entire post. You make some excellent points in all 3 cases.

    I mainly want to comment on point #1. How interesting it is that the LDS Church remains under constant fire for all of the things that are going on with Proposition 8. Why can't people wake up and realize that it was not the LDS Church alone that took a stand in supporting traditional marriage between a man and a woman. If that were the case, are they also saying that the courts were strongly influenced and based their decisions solely on what the LDS Church believes and had to say? Sorry, but I don't think so! The Church had a very strong voice in opposing gay marriages, but the Church was not the one who gave the final ruling on the subject. I also wonder what rhetoric we would be reading if the decision had gone the other way in the courts. Perhaps then people who are in favor of gay marriage would once again lash out against the LDS Church claiming that they had won some victory over the Church. Victory?? How would one declare a victory when by the dictates of the very lifestyle they choose, they find themselves faced with constant problems, heartaches, mysery, and woe? In my humble opinion, if that is considered a victory, I personally would not want any parts of it. Just my two cents on the subject.

  6. charlie randall10 June, 2009 10:17

    Point 2a- I think you are miss-representing athiests here. I have never met an athiest who thinks we are the greatest beings ever; you almost make it sound like athiests believe we are the gods! Athiests tend to believe in a *scientific* explanation for the world and this neither supports or denies the human position in the grand scale of things. We may be alone in the universe, we may not; we may be the most 'advanced' life form, we may not. The point is that most athiests are not in it for the kudos, they just don't believe in the existence of a god
    Point 2b- You don't have to be religious to have a moral code and to know the difference between right and wrong. I've always been athiest, have never been rebellious and really take exception to your comments. Athiests should respect peoples religious beliefs no matter how crazy they think they are, but that cuts both ways.

    With respect

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  8. I think you're only partially right in paragraph 2. While there is some attraction to atheism for the rebellious I think there's more to it than that. You're two reasons make it too easy to dismiss that point of view.

    I think most people try to be logical and rational most of the time. After all, logic and reason have proven themselves time and time again. They can be credited with most of the advances that make our lives more comfortable. I actually think logic and reason are infallible.

    However, we humans are not infallible and it is we humans who must attempt to apply logic and reason to our experiences to draw our conclusions. Some people claim that logic and reason necessitate and acceptance of religion, often Christianity. I happen to think they've made logical errors in reaching that conclusion.

    When I look at the evidence I've been able to find and I apply my best reasoning to it, I find many things of wonder and amazement, but no God. That's not to say that I do not believe in right and wrong, which you seem to equate with atheism. I simply see no reason to think there is a conscious guiding force at work.

    Before you accuse me of arrogance I want to point out that I began my comment with an admission of fallibility. But with that admission comes an assertion that you too are fallible. It's in the deep and honest consideration of this fallibility that I think we start to find some very interesting ground for contemplation and discussion.

  9. My atheism doesn't stem from either reasons you had mentioned. I'm struggling to see where reason 1 came from - lacking the belief in a creator, athesits essentially believe we were brought about by scientific chance - an accident, so to speak. Do people take this as making us "special"? I've never met such an atheist.

    The same could be said of belief... that we just "have to" have been made by a supreme being because we're so special. Neither makes sense.

    There are certainly the rebel-type - and they congregate online in masses. That doesn't make them correct or incorrect, it's just a less respectable reason to reach the same conclusion.

    Some of us are modest, I assure you. That said, I would love to have a discussion with you about fate and the divine plan vs a human's free will if you're up for it.

  10. Well, I'm going to try and offer a different perspective to this forum.

    #1. I agree, she has every right to express and hold whatever beliefs she has. However, I do not think our government should legislate based on religion, period. It is a violation of our constitution, I also don't think that the majority should be able to legislate against the minority's rights. Our government has successfully taken marriage out of the religious sector and has placed it in the publically regulated sector which has stripped it of all religious meaning. When they started doling our special rights to recognized couples they started violating rights by not extending those to every couple. Before I get comments about "well what about incest and marrying animals!" The recognition is between two willing adults. This definition will not change should gay couples be allowed to enter into a recognized status. I really don't care what term you use, so long as the same rights are applied. At present, domestic partnerships lack A LOT of the same protections marriages do. I think marriage should be taken out of the public sector, and that government should recognize all consensual adult relationships in order to gain the legal and financial benefits of those relationships.

    #2. But we *do* recognize a "higher power," in a sense anyways. We recognize the power of society, that if we are to have a coherent society we must adhere to the rules that are beneficial to all in our society. What do you think is so wrong in our country? We had an economic crash yes, how is that connected to anyone's faith? I assure you if you took a cross section of the traders, bankers, and politicians who were involved in this debacle they would be from all spectrums of our society. We are a generally peaceful society, we're digging in our heels and trying to get back on our feet. I think if we spent less time calling each other names and finger pointing we could get a lot more done. It doesn't take a belief in a higher power to help people, and want to see a better change in our communities.

    #3. I'm not really sure about this. I think that if we continue down the path of consumption we are currently on, we will destroy ourselves. Whether that will coincide with any prophesized events from a book of faith that's beyond my knowledge. I think if we don't stop now and take a very hard and critical look at the way we're living and the way we operate on a global level things won't get much better.

  11. Addressing your claims as to the reasons why some people turn atheist.. well, I must say I disagree pretty strongly. And I think your post could do with a counterpoint. Arrogance? Imagining something greater? Among the people I know, at least, humility is not in short supply. Rebellion? Maybe, in some cases, but not against behavioural rules. The usual reasons given (and believe you me, I have probably read more accounts of losing belief (and experienced a fair number) than is strictly good for me) are either disbelief in the tenets of their religion (which, I'm sure you'll agree, can look pretty far-fetched in the eyes of a skeptic), or sometimes a traumatic experience. In the latter case (probably what what initially caused my own atheism), trauma, the loss of belief is not exactly a carefully weighted decision, but rather an emotional lash out, a feeling of having been let down. In the former case, it is a process of (more or less) rational questioning (what kept me from reverting to Christianity), where you end up finding that your religion really isn't very believable (comparative religion studies are very conducive to this line of inquiry).
    Of course, your characterisation of atheism as rebellion might be more valid in the US - here in Denmark, strict religious belief is not very common, and behavioural rules derived from religion are all but non-existent.

    In any event, the main point I wanted to make was that I find your arguments less than convincing. I happen to live in a society where I've been able to witness firsthand the consequences of widespread disbelief. It seems it does not (for us, at least) result in a "I can do whatever I want" mindset. We have relatively low crime and corruption rates, very little poverty, and are considered one of the happiest nations on earth. I can recommend Phil Zuckerman's recent book (Society without God), where he describes his experience living here as a sociologist.

  12. Regarding 2B, it's not the "I can do whatever I want" mindset. It's the "I am a product of my own decisions" mindset. Decisions result in consequences. Am I willing to accept those consequences? Often, no. This is how society regulates behavior, with or without religion.

  13. One more thing...

    The only thing threatening the "sacredness" of marriage is DIVORCE. Not gay people being in love and wanting to commit to each other for the rest of their lives.

    Ban divorce and tell me how well that goes. Then we can talk.

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  15. I think that it's very unfortunate that you believe your two scenarios regarding the source of atheism in your second point. While I am the first to admit that many atheists on the internet are full of vitriol and spite, there are ample examples of Christians who behave in a similar manner or worse. I doubt that you would find it fair if all Christians were judged based on the hateful bigotry of a handful of misguided individuals. In addition, you imply that atheists all share the same opinions, beliefs, or dare I say doctrine. That is the farthest thing from the truth. There is only one thing that all atheists have in common: a lack of belief in a god. That being the case, I cannot presume to speak for atheists in general, but as an atheist of 12 years I always feel the need to explain my specific beliefs and opinions when faced with inaccurate stereotypes. At the very least it may make Christians think twice before immediately assuming that any given individual that identifies as an atheist falls into the negative stereotypes.

    Science, man, does not have all the answers. We are still years away from explaining even relatively simple phenomena. But I believe that science, the process of formulating explanations for natural phenomena via controlled and repeatable experimentation is man's best hope for understanding ourselves and our universe. Science changes when new evidence comes to light, religion is stagnant and unchanging even in the face of overwhelming evidence that its tenets are incorrect. I'm not angry or bitter, I'm not rebellious, and I don't have a superiority complex. I simply choose to believe only in that which can be explained rationally through experiment and evidence that, given the appropriate education and facilities, anyone can fully understand and confirm on their own.

    I am not rebellious or anti-authoritarian. I recognize and respect our democratically elected leadership. I recognize and respect the laws of society as necessary to maintain a peaceful and successful civilization. I do not, however, recognize an authority that has proven through its own admission that it is a violent, vengeful, jealous being. I refuse to respect such a being, and would refuse to worship it even were it proven to exist. While I admit I don't understand those that can see past all that and still think that god is a loving, caring, forgiving being; I respect the fact that people have their reasons for doing so and only hope that they've put as much thought into their beliefs as I have into mine.

  16. Grudge, your username speaks volumes for your attitude toward life. Do read my latest post for comments on your other points, that is if you are sufficiently open-minded to do so.

    I have experienced the fruits of living by your philosophy, and they are foul. I arrived at faith in God at age 23, have devoted much study to my faith (and, as I'm sure you'll find horrifying, I allowed information that is not lab-verifiable, such as my direct experience, its due share of influence), and arrived at the conclusion that denying the existence of anything outside the gospel of scientism is not rational behavior. One has to explain away or deny too much to stick to that "philosophy".

    I'm sorry you dislike the idea that there is unchanging truth in the world, but that doesn't change that reality. That you feel that eternal constants are "stagnant" says a great deal about your position that changeable man is the ultimate source of wisdom. Funny, most people find that reliable truths to build a life on do not constantly twist and turn with the winds of philosophical fashion.

    I do find that at least 95% of atheists have in common smugness about their own perceived intellectual superiority, anger against anyone who disagrees with them, and a mixture of fear and rage at having to face another's faith-based dismissal of that smugness.

    You don't get to invalidate my personal experiences, because your dogmatic version of "rationality" would wish away anything not measurable in a lab or that is superior to human "wisdom". Accept it.


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