Atheists — naughty and nice — should define themselves

I was somewhat taken aback recently when I found myself on a list of “kinder, gentler atheists”–most of them women–compiled … Continued

I was somewhat taken aback recently when I found myself on a list of “kinder, gentler atheists”–most of them women–compiled by a religious historian attempting to distinguish between socially acceptable atheism and the presumably mean, hard-line atheism expounded by such demonic figures as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett. This nasty versus nice dichotomy is wholly an invention of believers who are under the mistaken impression that atheism is a religion in need of a good schism.

The list of “kinder” atheists was compiled for USA Today by Stephen Prothero, an On Faith panelist and professor of religion at Boston University and author of “Religious Literacy” (2007), a lively and incisive account of Americans’ ignorance about religion in general and their own religious history. Pleased as I was to find myself on a list in the company of such other spirited atheists as Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of the witty, recently published “36 Arguments for The Existence of God: A Work of Fiction,” and Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of “Doubt: A History” (2003), it is nevertheless slightly insulting to find your name used not only to place female atheists in a special category but as a foil for a mythical enemy known as the New Atheists. The latter consist, in Prothero’s view, mainly of Angry White Men who believe that all religious people are stupid and that “the only way forward is to educate the idiots and flush away the poison.”

I don’t mean to pick on Prothero, whom I greatly respect as a scholar of religion (this must be the sort of observation that he considers kinder and gentler), but his piece is a perfect example of all of the distortions of atheism cherished by anti-atheists.

Myth No. 1: The “new atheism” is a phenomenon that differs radically not only from atheism as it has existed since antiquity but from the views held by forerunners of modern atheism, including deists and Enlightenment rationalists, like Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, who played such a critical role in the founding of this nation. Try as I might, I find little in the works of Dawkins, Harris et. al.–apart from their knowledge of modern science–that differs significantly from the views of secular thinkers of earlier eras. What is different is that today’s atheists are not hiding behind other labels, such as agnosticism, in order to placate religious sensibilities. It is this lack of deference, more than anything else, that has outraged religious believers–particularly those on the right–in America. Most have confused their constitutional right to believe whatever they want with the idea that the beliefs themselves must be inherently worthy of respect.

Myth No. 2: Atheists think all religious believers are stupid. It is true that Dennett coined the unfortunate term “Brights” to describe atheists–which does imply that he considers believers dimwitted. But I disagree with Dennett on this point, and so do a good many atheists I know (some of whom didn’t even make the “kinder, gentler” list). I am quite prepared to concede that there are a fair number of intellectually challenged atheists, and I have no interest in arguing about whether the proportion of dunces is higher among the religious. As for the intelligence of religious believers, I doubt that many educated atheists would consider Aquinas, Abelard, or, for that matter, Prothero stupid. What we do think is that their ideas are wrong and irreconcilable with the laws of nature.

One point, however, is indisputable: there is a strong correlation between simplistic fundamentalist beliefs, relying on a literal interpretation of sacred texts, and lack of education. As the level of education rises, the number of people who believe in materially impossible tales such as the creation of the universe in six days; the literal resurrection of the dead; and the Virgin Birth diminishes. That is why fundamentalists have been tireless in their efforts to inject religious teaching into public schools. So it is generally true (although there are of course many exceptions) that the less people have learned about science, history, and different belief systems, the more likely they are to cling to a rigid form of faith.

Nevertheless, education and intelligence are hardly identical. Holders of doctoral degrees, whether in philosophy or biology, are less likely than high school dropouts to believe in the supernatural, but plenty of people with more than 16 years of formal education are quite susceptible to a wide variety of non-supernatural but equally muttonish notions dressed as lamb. One need only consider the number of grownup atheists who are still as entranced as 15-year-olds with the sophomoric Ayn Rand, whose basic philosophy, as expressed in her turgid novels, is that the only proper relation of one human being toward another is “hands off.” History is filled with atheists who have embraced every crackpot notion from eugenics to the desirability of eternal life facilitated not by God but by science. Of course, there have also been a great many religious believers who find that their godly philosophy include racial superiority and the inferiority of the poor. (Let’s not forget the most recent example of a stupid Christian politician, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who thinks that free school lunches encourage the poor and stupid to reproduce.)

What ultimately distinguishes atheists from religious believers, however, is that no intelligent atheist can ever claim that his or her ideas constitute absolute truth.

Myth No. 3: This brings us to the most common false stereotype about atheism–that it is a religion and, furthermore, that “atheist fundamentalism” is as intolerant as conventional religious fundamentalism. Prothero uses the revealing word “genuflection” to describe the supposed attitude of atheists toward the writings of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens. Other critics of atheism have described these writings as “sacred texts” for atheists. I hate to break it to the anti-atheists, but another crucial distinction between us and them is that we have no sacred, authoritative texts. Dawkins gave me a very generous quote for the jacket of the British edition of “The Age of American Unreason,” in spite of the fact that I have often written (and wrote in this particular book) that I do not agree with him or with Harris about the dangers of “moderate” religion to the body politic. Dawkins is not the Pope, science is not God, and all of these purportedly gentler women in the ranks of atheists are not handmaidens of the Lord. (I should add that Prothero did provide a separate list of “kinder, gentler” male atheists, whose chief qualification seemed to be that they had all struggled to free themselves from unquestioning faith. As someone who, as far back as I can remember–certainly from around age 12–never accepted what I was taught in Catholic school and suffered no pangs of conscience when I realized that I did not believe in God or in any religion, I probably qualify as a “hard” rather than a “soft” atheist.)

Integral to the myth of atheism as a religion is the false proposition that atheists claim to “know” there is no God. Robert Green Ingersoll, the 19th-century orator dubbed the “Great Agnostic,” put it succinctly in 1885 when asked a question by a Philadelphia reporter who was trying to get him to denounce atheists. “Don’t you think the belief of the Agnostic is more satisfactory to the believer than that of the Atheist?” the reporter asked. Ingersoll replied, “There is no difference. The Agnostic is an Atheist. The Atheist is an Agnostic. The Agnostic says: “I do not know, but I do not believe that there is any god. The Atheist says the same. The orthodox Christian says he knows there is a god: but we know that he does not know. He simply believes. He cannot know. The Atheist cannot know that God does not exist.”

Today, as in the past, atheists can say only that on the basis of the available evidence, we don’t think an omnipotent deity has anything to do with either the ultimate origins of the universe or the ethical dilemmas that human beings confront every day. Indeed, we do not “know” how the first particle of matter came into being any more than believers “know” how God came into being. We admit this. They don’t.

Myth No. 4: Atheists believe that science explains everything. No. We believe that science offers the best possibilities for explaining what we do not yet understand. Science–in contrast to religion–is a method of thought and exploration, not a set of conclusions based on unchallengeable assumptions. Science is always open to the possibility that its conclusions may be proved wrong by new evidence based on new experimentation and observation. Monotheistic religion’s bedrock assumption is the existence of a god who always was and always will be. Atheists (at least those with a scintilla of scientific knowledge) would never claim that the universe always was and always will be.

Myth No. 5:
Atheists deny the possibility of “transcendent” experience. They can’t see beyond the material world. This stereotype is partially true, but it all depends on what you mean by transcendent. If the concept is understood, as it is by many religious believers, as an experience that goes beyond and defies the usual limits of nature–including time, space, and the flesh-and-blood essence of human beings, then atheists do not accept the transcendent. But if the word is understood as something that pushes us beyond our everyday experience–that enables us to scale previously unknown heights of love, creativity, or wonder at what other members of our species have created, how could any man or woman of reason deny the possibility? We simply believe that such experience lie within, not outside of, nature.

As an atheist, I highly doubt that my subjective experience differs qualitatively from that of a religious believer who thrills to Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Michaelangelo’s David, Leonardo’s Adoration of The Magi, or, for that matter, the immensity of a night sky. I do not have to believe in God, or any supernatural entity larger than myself, to feel overwhelming awe upon holding a newborn baby or upon experiencing the reciprocal, passionate love that comes rarely–the kind of love, as Nietzsche observed, that “compels me to speak as though I were Two.” But I do interpret these experiences differently from a believer, because I do not ascribe any mystical or supernatural character to them. Such transcendent experiences do not make us greater than ourselves; they help us realize our best selves–the best of which our species is capable.

I see very little difference between the religious believer’s insistence on the existence of an immortal soul and the insistence of some secular philosophers and psychologists on the existence of a consciousness or a mind that is, in some inexplicable way, independent of our physical corpus. I do not consider the fruits of our love and labor–which will outlast our finite existence–less valuable because they depend on functioning neurons and because the neurons that produced them will eventually die. This insistence on an independent consciousness, mind, soul, or spirit is a product of human limitation and human arrogance. Because we are the most intelligent animals on the planet, we can imagine our own extinction. We hate that knowledge–atheists and religious believers alike–so we invent a variety of non-material concepts to explain away the inevitable end of a consciousness that depends entirely on our physical being.

Speaking only for myself, I find that awareness of my inevitable extinction enhances rather than diminishes my life. This awareness makes me want to leave something behind, if only a piece of scholarship that will be useful to some seeker of knowledge in a library of the future. I will admit that I am deeply disturbed by the possibility that libraries may become extinct, although the digital world offers a kind of eternal life that neither an atheist nor a religious believer could have predicted when I was a child. The novelist Milan Kundera has written about a number of developments the Creator never imagined–among them surgery and humans’ relationship with their dogs. To that I would add the internet. The digital world, because it is a product of human intelligence, is a part of the nature (for better and for worse) of which men and women also comprise a finite part. To fill our portion of the universe with the best achievements possible, through our love and our work, is purpose enough for a lifetime and requires no transcendence of nature and no afterlife.

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As I begin this new twice-weekly column, I invite readers to suggest subjects they would like to read about and talk about. I’m going to be dealing with everything from politics to baseball (the miserable saga of my New York Mets is yet another reason for me to be glad I don’t have a deity to blame), so all ideas are welcome.

About

Susan Jacoby Susan Jacoby is the author of "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism"­ and is completing a secular history of religious conversion.
  • WmarkW

    Is this going to replace Secularists Corner?The founding fathers lived just before Darwin made atheism realistic for Westerners. Before that, watchmaker-type arguments held even the most skeptical minds like Paine, Franklin and Jefferson to Deism. Had they lived a half-century later, they would all have probably died as atheists.

  • edbyronadams

    Being neither an atheist nor a theist, I find myself in the middle on this issue. I can speak of my own problems with atheism.1) Like an atheist, I believe in evolution. From my POV, human evolution was driven by intense intertribal competition, war, by another name. It made a species with a dual nature, kind and caring even altruistic to fellow tribespeople and willing to obey tribal law, but ruthless to the point of genocide to the “other”. With this genetic legacy, we must find a reason to choose the better side of our natures and atheism offers nothing. Appealing to reason and using that to validate some universal Golden Rule is not enough to overcome the emotional appeal for vengeance in aggrieved tribes. It requires spiritual strength for that.2) Atheists, Susan Jacoby included, have used the non establishment clause of the First to chase all religious sentiment from the public square. I see no harm to anyone, myself, a non Christian as well, from a prayer before a football game or a tiny Biblical reference on a gun sight. In fact, making secularism the default spiritual view relieves many non thinking people from the view that there is any transcendent retribution from bad acts, an attitude that is bad for society.

  • Schaum

    Atheists should define themselves?Collectively, or individually? If we have a collective definition of atheists, have we not essentially created “articles of faith” as all religions have done? Would this not strengthen the arguments of organized god-believers that “atheism” is, in fact, a religion?I don’t think I want others, atheist or not, to define my atheism. I would rather define — only — myself. So, I’m going to my WORD program and try to bat out the things I believe, or don’t believe, that define my own atheism. Is there such a thing as a private manifesto?

  • JayS99

    The prospect of spending eternity in heaven with a bunch of sanctimonious, intolerant right wing fundamentalists should be enough to make anyone an atheist.

  • arminius3142

    Susan,While I’m wrestling with the 5 Myths, and trying to formulate a reply, I’ll chime in with a suggestion for a column: Baseball! Since that best of sports is one of my lesser religions, I would love to hear what you have to say. I am an Atlanta Braves fan, but I do like the Mets, always hoping they will do well (but not as well as my team!). Also, as far as religion and baseball goes, you are forgetting the Mets’ motto: “

  • arminius3142

    Schaum,I don’t want anyone to define my beliefs either, nor do I wish to define the beliefs of others. And, like you, I take offense at anyone telling me what I should believe – or for that matter, what I should not believe. Yes, there is such a thing as a personal manifesto. I’ve tried my hand at it, but it is still a work in progress.

  • took1

    Jefferson can only be called a Diest by a stretch of the imagination. He was an atheist (at least, most of the time).Thank you, Ms. Jacoby, for articulating a position that many of us share. By the way, that doesn’t make this shared way of thinking a religion.

  • abhab1

    I am as scientific as the other guy. I cherish the advances brought about by science and the scientific method. Nevertheless I freely admit that not all knowledge come about by roping an issue into a lab and subjecting it to the scientific method of investigation. Humanity need to recognize phenomena that had happened to different cultures across the centuries. The truth demands it. It is a lucky person who has an experience that could not be explained except by a reality other than the physical reality. You can say their education is more rounded.

  • Susan_Jacoby

    Yes, this is going to replace Secularist’s Corner. It will not, however, be as closely tied to daily news as Secularist’s Corner was and will take a broader look at both secular and religious issues.–Susan Jacoby

  • Schaum

    3.10) I have read a lot of “testimony” – mostly from Christians and Moslems – professing their belief in God comes from the “spiritual ecstasy” they feel during a “religious experience.” I also have felt similar, overwhelming ecstasy when I take my telescope out into the dark of the desert and look out into the magnificent night sky. I become so overwhelmed by the immensity and beauty of it all that I can stare for hours. However, I still understand the basic principles behind how the whole of the universe exists, and none of it requires a God.So, I am an atheist. I can think of additional reasons for my disbelief, but they have more to do with why I have rejected Christianity, specifically. That, obviously, is another topic entirely. The unproven assertion that there is a god is simply illogical. When god can be proven, I will happily abandon my atheism.

  • Schaum

    2.4) I study history. I have noted that, as man grows less fearful of “things that go bump in the night”, the role of Gods has decreased: man’s understanding has replaced supernatural explanations for natural events. If there were a God, I would think it likely that, at our stage of development, the hypothetical God would only be responsible for those things which we do not currently understand. In other words the remaining God or Gods in our modern society could only be necessary to explain the “possibly” supernatural parts of existence. However, even though 500 years ago God(s) were necessary to explain the perfection of the heavens, now we know it is explained by the forces of nature and the families of matter. I do not see why this trend will not continue, as it has for thousands of years now, until understanding will eventually replace all of the hypothetical God’s reasons for existence.5) I believe much of the work of religion to be based on guesstimation and pure creativity. I find that such knowledge as the age of the Earth, the age of homo sapiens, and history as it happened over thousands of years, differs from religion to religion and, most importantly, it differs from the objective scientific findings of archaeologists, geologists, biologists, astronomers, etc.6) I have read that some high percentage of New York Catholic Priests were diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic by the MMPI (I think it was around 60%, well over the national average. The instances of temporal lobe syndrome (or epilepsy) correlate highly with religiosity. It appears, therefore, that sick people become devout religious types. I do not have any symptoms of schizophrenia or temporal lobe epilepsy.7) I have never seen the distinction between Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, God, the Cookie Monster, or unicorns. All of these things seemed were stories told to me by my parents and I eventually grew out to understand that all were fantacies.8) I have discussed religion with many theists, having been a Southern Baptist, Roman Catholic and then an Episcopalian before deciding I am an atheist and embracing Buddhism. Most cannot provide logical answers for even the most simple inconsistencies in their belief systems. Most of them are willing to make great sacrifice for their belief systems, and therefore endure dissonance when confronted with

  • Schaum

    THE ATHIEST IN MEFor the purposes of this post I will define (only) myself as “one who does not believe in the existence of God or Gods and operationally believes that there is no God, in the absence of proof to the contrary; and who is open to the concept of God if and when proof is discovered”. By “operationally” I mean that I believe such a thing for the purposes of ethical decision making within my life, but I am not 100% certain – I have seen no proof that ANYTHING is 100% certain.1) Religions (Christianity and Buddhism), as well as existentialist philosophy, have played a major role in my personal history. I recognize that, in ancient times, religions served an important purpose in uniting peoples into close-knit communities which, in turn, enabled the survival of the species by uniting it during some of it’s toughest times. Now that I have reached adulthood, I give up my childhood fantasies – Santa Claus, Easter Bunnies, Superman, God. Humankind has reached adolescence now and to progress, it must give up our unprovable childhood fantasies. I have reached maturity. I am not another drunk-driving, or drug overdose, or suicide statistic in the universe’s Intelligent Race Survival Book. I wish my maturing to continue, not my childhood fantasies. 2) I have received no proof of any interaction of any God or Gods with any humans. I have seen scientific and statistical proof that neither God nor Jesusgod answers prayers. All reports of such encounters and answered prayers that I have examined thus far have been clouded by ulterior motive, need for self-convincing, drugs or hoax. Because these reports are “supernatural” in nature, and cannot be proven, I find it logical to doubt the source and illogical to credit the information. Therefore, if I believed in God, I would also believe that he is dead or a liar – or both.3) I am moderately well-read in differing religious belief structures, all of which are mutually exclusive and equally unbelievable. (Some of these belief structures do not involve deities.) Which one is true? And if one is true, why one? Why any? Is it not just as likely that all of them got it wrong? If there is a God, how did such a being come into existence? The Big Bang Theory is, a remarkably simple idea. However I have heard no such ideas contemplating the creation of God. People who seem to have a broad knowledge about the workings of the universe, as we know it so far, do not think that a God is necessary to obtain a working hypothesis of the world around them: Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, David Suzuki, Arthur C. Clarke, and others.

  • Schaum

    Took1:”Jefferson can only be called a Diest by a stretch of the imagination. He was an atheist (at least, most of the time).”The Jefferson Memorial is my favorite structure in DC. I’m having a night wedding there in June.As you probably know, inscribed around the ceiling are Jefferson’s words: “I Have Sworn Upon the Altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” And certainly he recognized the tyranny of organized religion.I don’t think I could get married anywhere else.

  • PSolus

    “Atheists…should define themselves”This is exactly why I avoid this term. Too much paper-work; too high maintenance. Sounds too much like I just joined a club.I prefer to refer to myself as a heathen or infidel (especially to religious nuts), or simply as a non-believer.BTW, I also don’t define myself with regard to not believing in Sana Claus, the Tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, leprechauns, gremlins, trolls, fairies, Orks, Ents, elves, hobbits, etc. Life is just too damn short.

  • justillthennow

    Nice article, Susan! I liked almost all of it. Perhaps I liked it all, disagreed with some parts. Myths or stereotypes are hard to wipe clean. Often they are there for good reason, although the ones that are included in the stereotype may have conflict with it. The stereotype may be altogether wrong, but it seems they usually contain at least a grain of truth, if not half a bushel of it. So as this essay is a refutation of myths of atheists, or stereotypes of them, I read with a “grain of salt”.There is no doubt that generalizations are, generally, false for the majority, or at least for a minority of the whole. I agreed that all of your myths were invalid for the whole and, in my small experience, invalid for the majority of atheists.”This insistence on an independent consciousness, mind, soul, or spirit is a product of human limitation and human arrogance.”I can understand and respect that is your position and belief, but like the proposition of the existence of God without proofs, the potentiality of human consciousness surviving (even thriving!) post corporal death is unknown. Consciousness is little understood, and the current assumption that it requires neurons firing is only natural if one can only study consciousness through the study of neurons and brain chemistry. The assumption that an “independent consciousness” is derived of human limitation and arrogance is an attempt to define and compartmentalize it, but it is not based in knowledge. We do not know that consciousness does require corporal existence for itself to exist.Secondarily this statement: “that “atheist fundamentalism” is as intolerant as conventional religious fundamentalism.”‘Tis a food fight! Who is badder? Dunno, but I would have to nominate the religious ones. Intolerant badasses are defined by religion for centuries. However, there are many fundamentalist atheists that I have come across that appear every bit as judgmental, bigoted and intolerant as their religious compatriots. It may seem that once humans come across what they think is right, they ‘fundamentalize’ and make exclusive. Elitism is a foul and pernicious beast.

  • barferio

    “making secularism the default spiritual view relieves …”Secularism is a political view, not a spiritual view.

  • arminius3142

    Myth No. 1: “In essence, no difference. Non-belief is non-belief. There is a difference, as Susan noted, in the fact that the atheists are now more vocal, and that is as it should be. There seems to be a difference, however, in the methods used. I don’t think Jefferson would have ever called me, a moderate believer, dangerous. Dawkins and others think I am dangerous, even though I neither break their arms nor pick their pockets. Nor am I ever in their faces about what I believe.But anyway, as the Mythbusters would say, this myth is Busted!

  • arminius3142

    Myth No. 2: Easily debunked. I have known a lot of atheists – I used to be one myself – and the percentage of stupid atheists is just about the same as the percentage of believers. Actually, it may be smaller! Anyway, (most) atheists don’t think I am stupid, merely misled or deluded. I can live with that.Verdict: Busted!

  • PSolus

    “Dawkins and others think I am dangerous,…”How can “Dawkins and others” think that you are dangerous; they probably don’t even know you from (heh, heh) Adam.

  • garethharris

    Your comment about the incredible awe we all feel at the mysteries of the universe bring to mind two quotes:1 – “A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge.” — Carl Saganand 2 – “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.” — EinsteinWhy waste heartbeats on fights when there are so many wonders to see and experience here in our short lives? I am building a web site determined to sail on past these fights and start a fresh view. It is dedicated to Carl Sagan. I could use some help, no matter what your path.Fr. Gareth Scott Harris – SentimalStargazer.com

  • FH1231

    “I do not consider the fruits of our love and labor–which will outlast our finite existence–less valuable because they depend on functioning neurons and because the neurons that produced them will eventually die.”This much is fact…the fruits of our love and labor are themselves finite. In 500 million years, nothing in the universe will care about anything you ever did or said. Your love and labors have no real value…that you try and give them value is far more delusional than belief in a God. Most athiests can’t really accept the fact that their life has no “real” significance, so they dip their feet in religious concepts…it makes them feel better.

  • Ken16

    “Let’s not forget the most recent example of a stupid Christian politician, South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who thinks that free school lunches encourage the poor and stupid to reproduce.)”Overall, your essay is better balanced and more coherent than the usual atheist screed, and less sanctimonious and sophomoric than Schaum’s arch paean to his/her self-reported highly evolved self (which mines the rich motherlode of evidence that myth 2 is not so mythical), but the quoted comment undermines any claims to sweet reasonableness.Bauer, rather clumsily, used a folksy anecdote to illustrate that subsidizing bad behavior invites more of the same.Your take on it so misrepresents his comments (along with your “stupid Christian” epithet) that it reinforces some of the very traits you are trying to expose as myths.

  • arminius3142

    Myth No. 3: “Another easy one to debunk, and one need look no further than the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Now stop laughing, I’m serious! This ‘religion’ was invented by an irate young man, late at night, with a 6-pack of beer, as a reply to the Kansas board of education, who were intent to force intelligent design into the science curriculum. It is so well designed that he was invited to speak about it at a serious conference about the nature of religion. So the Flying Spaghetti Monster gospel embodies all the major facets of religion – creation, heaven, hell, a code of ethics, you name it. Look it up, then think about what you know about religions, and then see if atheism has any of them.The concept about atheists ‘knowing’ that there is no God – which they (almost) always will admit – is that some of them act, and talk, as if they do. That does not make atheism a religion.Verdict: Busted!And a final note about His Noodliness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster: have you been touched by His noodley appendage?

  • Schaum

    Ken16:Flummery, pettifoggery and pure kant.It is not the atheist’s fault that christers and godbelievers are unable to prove the existence of either. Prove god exists, and you put atheists out of business instantly. But noone is able to prove the existence of god.Nor is it the atheist’s fault, or problem, that christers and godbelievers get no assistance from their god and jesusgod in this matter.

  • jbarelli

    Could we add myth #6, which is that atheists are in solidarity of opinion about spiritual and religious matters?As a Christian, I find myself being told by people who are not of my faith that I (and “all Christians”) believe certain things, some of which aren’t even close to mainstream Christianity, and others that are debated among Christians.I know enough atheists to understand that some have an active need to proseltize for their “faith”. Heck, just read the comment boards here and you’ll find them. Most atheists seem, from this outsider’s perspective, to simply be folks that are unconvinced of the existence of God. They have no problem with people of faith, so long as those people respect their rights not to have our faith inflicted upon them.Yes, I said “inflicted”, because some people of faith have not figured out that pounding on Bibles and yelling at folks is a rather ineffective way of influencing people to consider other viewpoints.Some (only a few, but a very loud few) Christians want to make the Bible serve as civil law. Personally, I think if it becomes law, we miss the whole point of God giving us the ability to choose to follow, or not.Some (again, only a very loud few) atheists seem to want to outlaw religion and faith. I have heard people seriously suggest that teaching a child religion is tantamount to child abuse.Most of us, no matter what our faith (or lack thereof) see both of those positions for what they are. Insecurity in our own position, leading to a need to enforce it on others.

  • arminius3142

    Persiflage,Why is it that the two Carolinas, both South and North, are perfectly delightful places to visit, but have totally paleolithic politics? And SC is by far the worse. Hell, even my home state of Georgia doesn’t come close, and that’s even allowing for Newt Gingrich.

  • Navin1

    Can we understand the difference between truth, god, ideology, and religion? They each carry social baggage and their differentiation may assist in the conversation.Can a person who states that they do not know of a god, that they do not believe that we can know the truth, then claim (as a truth) no one else can? (An opinion is consistent with not being able to know, but a truth statement seems to me to create problems of logic) What would be the available evidence for such a claim? There are, by the way, older “atheist” traditions – Jainism being the most prominant that I know of, about 2600 years old now. On the other hand, every belief system has a myriad interpretations to what that belief system means. Of course each individual claims the “correct” understanding of their system of beliefs. Thus the ideology and the person are different. It is the ideology that is debated, the person has their own individual “truth” and those that can not know their own truth can certainly not know anyone else’s.hariaum

  • Schaum

    Navin1:”the person has their own individual “truth” and those that can not know their own truth can certainly not know anyone else’s.”Another sweeping and irrational generalization. You are in a position to “know” what other people can or cannot “know”?Nobody can “KNOW” anything. Film at 11.

  • ThomasBaum

    Susan JacobyThe “thing” about Atheists is tied in directly with the “thing” about Theists.Each and every Atheist is an individual person same as each and every Theist.There are both Theists and Atheists that use their respective beliefs/knowledge/outlooks to belittle others and in the process end up belittling themself.There are Atheists that when seeing that someone who is a Theist has written something, do not really “read” what the person has written whereas other Atheists do.The same goes for Theists.This does not mean that someone has to agree with what someone else has written or change their belief/non-belief but it would be nice if some would be “open” enough to at least try to see what the other has written, this includes both Theists and Atheists.Not only do we, humanity, like to put God in a “box”, we also tend to do it with our fellow human beings.I see it as a real “cop out” when some blame all of humanity’s troubles on “religion”, and yet will not acknowledge that there has been much good done in the name of “religion”.I also see it as a “cop out” when some will not acknowledge that there has been and are many things done wrong in the name of “religion”.Many have used “religion” as an excuse to do, shall we say, unnice things but “religion” is not the only excuse that has been used.As I have said many times: God is a searcher of hearts and minds, not of religious affiliations or lack thereof, I believe that this is something that both Atheists and Theists should think about.Also: It is important what one does and why one does it and what one knows.I can say that I know God Is because I have met God but there is no one that can say that there is no God, only that they do not believe there is a God which is in itself a belief.I can also say that if God were even remotely like what some Theists think than I would not, if given a choice, want to have anything at all to do with God.Just as not all Atheists can be put in a “box” neither can all Theists, it is our choice whether or not we “box” others and if we do, we “box” ourself.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • cornbread_r2

    Atheists, Susan Jacoby included, have used the non establishment clause of the First to chase all religious sentiment from the public square. I see no harm to anyone, myself, a non Christian as well, from a prayer before a football game or a tiny Biblical reference on a gun sight. In fact, making secularism the default spiritual view relieves many non thinking people from the view that there is any transcendent retribution from bad acts, an attitude that is bad for society. — edbyronadams I can’t speak to what Susan may or may not have said regarding religion and the public square, but I know a great many secularists, myself included, whose tolerance of religious expression in the public view is seen as a down-payment for the tolerance we expect to enjoy for the expression of our non-religious views in the same venue. Where I draw the line, however, is when a particular religion is promoted in the In what way is secularism a “spiritual view”?Just because some theists need to be scared into doing the right thing with threats of retribution in an after-life, doesn’t mean that they can’t also be deterred by sanctions imposed by societal entities. Besides, if belief in “transcendent retribution” was all that effective, why are atheists overwhelmingly

  • persiflage

    Arminius:’Why is it that the two Carolinas, both South and North, are perfectly delightful places to visit, but have totally paleolithic politics?’ A question for the ages. S. Carolina had Strom Thurmond and N. Carolina had Neanderthal Jesse Helms – for 5 Senate terms (1973-2003). Fortunately, I doubt we’ll ever see their like again. But there will continue to be unreasonable facsimiles….we gave several in and around the Columbia area alone. It’s a weird place to be an educated liberal – oddly, the Unitarian Church is in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the greater Columbia area. How that happened, we’ll never know.

  • Schaum

    Cornbread:”Could it be that some theists feel they can do pretty much as they please in the here and now just so long as they fall upon the mercy of their god and still get to attain a blessed after-life?”Al Capone, a Roman Catholic, is estimated to have murdered some 500 people in his lifetime, either by his own hand or by direct order from him. It is not easy to find his grave in Cicero, Illinois, but I went there with a friend who had found it. The tombstone is engraved with what were allegedly his last words: “My Jesus, Mercy”.

  • Susan_Jacoby

    Contrition as the gateway not to hell but to purgatory has always been one of the greatest appeals of Catholicism, as opposed to most heaven vs. hell Protestant sects. After all, if you were Al Capone, wouldn’t you like a religion that might still offer you mercy at the end? Actually, what’s depressing about the Capone reference is what a very small-time bad man he was compared with the larger, more “effective” merchants of evil of the last century.

  • Schaum

    Susan Jacoby:”Actually, what’s depressing about the Capone reference is what a very small-time bad man he was compared with the larger, more “effective” merchants of evil of the last century.”Absolutely. But other than my mother’s, his is the only gravestone I’ve ever read.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    WHAT I BELIEVE: part 4I would say that life is a curiosity; we are set here, on the earth, as a kind of stage, like Shakespeare suggested, to act out our parts, but our scripts are not necessarily pre-determined, but perhaps reactive with all the others, in some sort of unpredictable way. And I do not know how any of this could have come to pass, nor the purpose for it, at all. Most present day organized religions are cast in metaphors of human existence. We do not worship stone idols anymore, but worshipping Gods very simply in human metaphors is not much different. These metaphors do not explain anything. What is really go on? It is far more fantastic than the mere metaphors of human religion. I do not think any human being can ever understand. I do not think that anything will be clearer, down the road. This thing that we are mixed up in, life, with all its impressions of order, experiences, perceptions, and inheritance of culture and customs, and what all of it, and any of it means, is actually pretty weird.Perhaps, at the foundation of all things, there may be something like “Providence” which is another word that some Protestants have used in the past, for God. To me this Providence is a kind of providing resonance that makes all be as it is.I like the word “Providence;” it rings happily in my heart, so perhaps that is what I believe in.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    WHAT I BELIEVE: part 1What is truth? It is what actually is. It is how things really are. But these are circular definitions. So, still, what is truth? Truth is existence perfectly perceived. Or again, truth is existence, unperceived, unmeasured, unnoticed. But this definition is hardly any better. Knowledge is acceptance of a body of facts and principles, which we believe are true. So knowledge is belief. Knowledge is inside of our minds, but truth is not. We may all seek truth, but all we can attain is imperfect knowledge.When you get down to it, it is not easy to say just what “knowledge” is; it is somehow related to the human and intellectual capacity of “knowing” and believing what seems true, and also to the nature of physical existence which enables the phenomenon of knowing, and therefore, of knowledge.There are two truths: the truth of the senses, and the truth of consensus. The truth of the senses is the truth that you see yourself. The truth of consensus is what other people tell you, whom you invest some trust in. Many people believe in the truth of science, for example.But science, as the bearer of truth, is not so simple, as it turns out; we cannot all be scientists, demonstrating all of the truths of science to ourselves; so we invest a degree of trust in science as a way of discerning truth, and accept the consensus of scientists on many subjects, as the definition of scientific truth. From this, I think of knowledge that is related to the acceptance of science, not as objective truth of real things, but rather as the consensus of scientists regarding matters of science.

  • dlholl

    Jefferson’s own documents state what he believed when he signed each one “in the year of our Lord Christ,”The mind is ever the builder. It is very sad to me that people choose not to realize that the very spirit/soul that makes them alive has eternal life. If one chooses to be hateful, resentful, jealous, angry, bitter, envious; s/he tends to build a nasty world — rather like Hell, isn’t it? However, if one follows the discipline of Christ Jesus “to love your neighbor as yourself”, care for the poor, the fatherless and widows; one builds a world of love and mercy — rather like Heaven. Most Christians work very hard at helping others and are not the self-righteous intolerant holier-than-thou mythical characters people love to hate.The one who loves to stargaze in awe? Try thinking Creator with a system that would make you fall to your knees wanting to learn more and to be out there! It just starts with your heart of mercy and love at the Cross.

  • Schaum

    DLHOHL:”The one who loves to stargaze in awe? Try thinking Creator “Try thinking Physics, which is based in fact, as opposed to christer beliefs, which are myths and superstitions which have no proof.I’m sorry you are unhappy. Think how much happier if you could prove the god and jesusgod myths. You’d annihilate atheists in a heartbeat. Wonder why your god and jesusgod are not helping you do that?

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Dlhol”If one chooses to be hateful, resentful, jealous, angry, bitter, envious; s/he tends to build a nasty world — rather like Hell, isn’t it?”While the sentiment that you express is worthwhile, I do not think that people choose their emotional states. The terrible flaw in traditional or orthodox Christianity is that people have free will yet are expected to choose the correct belief or be punished, and are expected to choose their emotions which they cannot choose, and are expected to choose their sexual orientation which they, likewise, cannot choose. And implicit in your question is that atheists are hateful, resentful, jealous, angry, bitter, envious, and that Christians are not. But this is just plain not true.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    DlholWhen I was a young man, I had an accident, and experienced alot worse suffering than the oft’ threatened “Lake of Fire,” a mere Lake of Fire…I wish.In the aftermath of this accident, I expereinced a physical and emotional suffering worse than a Lake of Fire, worse than anything that words can describe. I experienced what Jesus experienced on the cross.I do not believe that people are punished for being bad, immoral, heretical, or blasphemous; I believe that all people suffer on earth, worse than any threat of Hell. Realizing this, the concept of Hell, itself, grows small, and whithers away. I know that this aspect of Christianity, that God punishes unbelief, with Hell, is not true.

  • Schaum

    2.Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.Say nothing of my religion. It is known to my god and myself alone.I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.

  • Schaum

    1.”Jefferson’s own documents state what he believed when he signed each one “in the year of our Lord Christ,”THIS is your “proof” that Jefferson believed in christ??? That is a standard phrase that was in common usage by EVERYONE of the times. Charles Dickes, for instance, who was an avowed atheist,regularly used that same phrase! What are you thinking about!In spite of right-wing christer attempts to rewrite history to make Jefferson into a christer, little about his philosophy resembles that of christer myths. Although Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence wrote of the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God, there exists nothing in the Declaration about christers or their made-up religion.Although Jefferson believed in a Creator, his concept of it resembled that of the god of deism (the term “Nature’s God” used by deists of the time). With his scientific bent, Jefferson sought to organize his thoughts on religion. He rejected the superstitions and mysticism of Christianity and even went so far as to edit the gospels, removing the miracles and mysticism of Jesus leaving only what he deemed the correct moral philosophy of jesusgod.What Jefferson really SAID:

  • mokey2

    What still puzzles me about organized religion is why do so many people think they need a book, any book, to tell them who they should be? When people started reading/worshipping books and looking at TV and other media it stopped them from looking around their neighborhoods and doing what they could to help out.I’ve lived my whole life watching those around me- adopting characteristics of those I admired, avoiding those I don’t and adjusting myself when those qualities I’ve emulated turned out to be mistaken. Experience tells me what works and what doesn’t.I am a Pagan and a Pantheist. I fell in love with this amazing universe and planet through learning about it through scientific processes. The numinous experiences I’ve had could be considered ‘religious’ in nature, and I tend to think of them as ‘magical’, but I don’t believe there’s anything that exists outside of nature. Maybe the nature of consciousness and ‘mystical experiences’ are things that science will eventually be able to explain. Learning about how this planet works and how we humans got here and all the life that abounds on it- that’s Divinity (that i call Goddess because it’s the highest title I can give to the place I was born and will return to after I die) enough for me. Why do people need more than that?

  • walkerbert

    “The latter consist, in Prothero’s view, mainly of Angry White Men who believe that all religious people are stupid” I’m white, I’m male, but I’m not angry, but I AM appalled at the number of people there seem to be running around these days bowing their heads to the Invisible Man. You know, if you enjoy religion, if it brings you peace, personal fulfilment, and a way to fellowship with others, that’s great. But, is there honestly any more to it than that? Doubtful. Doubtful. A lot of people have made a lot of money off religion, organized and otherwise, and we’ve got institutions devoted to the study and practice of various sects of various religions, and you can buy tons of religious literature, all generally revolving around the question: Is there a God? Other titles build on that question: If There IS A God, How Would He Invest His Money, another favorite: My God Is Better Than Your God, So There, and of course: Heathens, Repent, The End Is Nigh, always a crowd-pleaser. Hey, it keeps authors employed, keeps people talking on the subject, but do you, that’s YOU, do YOU really believe any of that stuff? Honestly? Really, and truly? So, how much money DID you put in the collection plate?

  • chris41

    Us unkinder, ungentler atheists wanna let you pigeon-holing bible thumpers to just hold still. My aim ain’t what it used to be, dagnabbit!

  • fmmckeown

    These discussions are not very useful until people decide what “God” they are arguing exists. If its the God of the Christian Bible, it’s so clearly, provably false in so many aspects that it should be taught as such in Science classes. (i.e. the age of the earth, and all things biological) and social sciences. (i.e. the new testament instruction for slaves to be the best possible slaves they can be for their masters.) People change their definition of “God” to be able to say they believe in him/her, even if they end up having to define it as a ham sandwich. Get your definitions straight, then we can test it. And don’t think we can’t, just because you don’t want to. (See: “why doesn’t god grow back amputee’s limbs.)P.S. The notion that the obviously untrue statements in the Christian Bible are metaphors is a feeble defense that won’t bear scrutiny, by the way. When I read the bible, it was pretty clear to me, at least, that the writers meant what they said.

  • angelcortazar

    The problem with New Atheists is, despite what the author claims, a dismissal of religion as silly superstition. Religion may be wrong about a lot of things — including the existence of God — but it’s wrong in a deep way. Religion, like music or art, evokes an awareness of the most profound elements of our being. In addition, it provides cradle-to-grave fellowship and support in pursuit of transcendent meaning. Secular, atheistic society has thus far failed to match that power and failed to satisfy those human “spiritual” needs.

  • aussiebarry

    EDBYRONADAMS | FEBRUARY 2, 2010 11:40 AMWith this genetic legacy, we must find a reason to choose the better side of our natures and atheism offers nothing. Appealing to reason and using that to validate some universal Golden Rule is not enough to overcome the emotional appeal for vengeance in aggrieved tribes. It requires spiritual strength for that.2) Atheists, Susan Jacoby included, have used the non establishment clause of the First to chase all religious sentiment from the public square. I see no harm to anyone, myself, a non Christian as well, from a prayer before a football game or a tiny Biblical reference on a gun sight. In fact, making secularism the default spiritual view relieves many non thinking people from the view that there is any transcendent retribution from bad acts, an attitude that is bad for society.Whether religion or atheism is good or bad for society, is irrelevant, truth is not conditional.

  • knd76

    I have read many of the comments on this board and it’s making me angry. I believe that that you should live your life the way that’s best for you. I believe in a true separation of Church and State. I believe that you don’t have to believe in God or a god to be a good upstanding,moral person. What I don’t like is atheists thinking they are better than people who believe in religion and vice versa. I am a Christian, I believe in God and I find that it makes me happy. I don’t believe in hating other people based on what they believe. Even though I do believe in Creation, I believe in Science too. The point of my rant is basically no one knows without a doubt how this earth got here, what happens when we die. We are all just speculating. No, all religions aren’t “true” in the sense that there is a one “true religion”. This is all a gray area and what we ALL need to do is respect each other’s opinions and beliefs without all the self-righteous BS on all parts and get on with the act of just living life and getting along. That is all. Continue.

  • BrettPaatsch1

    I am an atheist too.Does it seem to you that evolution seems to select more for theism rather than atheism though?

  • spidermean2

    FACT NO. 1 — I truly believe that all atheists are idiots.Hands down, Darwin’s evolution fantasy is the CRAZIEST of all. He turned a PURE FICTIONAL IDEA into a pure science in which the idiots around the world today embrace.It boggles the mind to think that man is capable to be that insane. Soil + time cannot produce a brain. oNE billions years ago or less, there was only soil or water. And to think that time alone can form it into a human brain or any insect’s brain without some higher form of intelligence involved is NOT pure science but PURE STUPIDITY.Natural Selection? What selection? Selecting the right soil?Without a doubt, Darwin’s evolution fantasy is a living proof that truly, man is capable of thinking like monkeys. Humans evolving into monkeys.”The FOOL had said in his heart that there is no God”. Not only is this biblical, it’s VERY SCIENTIFIC. And it’s a FACT.Darwin was not a scientist. He was a theologian doing the work of a scientist. It’s like a janitor doing the work a bridge builder. Soon the bridge will collapse.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Aussiebarry said:”Whether religion or atheism is good or bad for society, is irrelevant, truth is not conditional.”But what is truth? and what is knowledge? You know what you think it true. But how do you know? Can you ever know truth, or merely believe that what you know is true?It is kind of mixed up, isn’t it? (Hint: No one has the answers to these question.)

  • aberdeen

    This supposed “scholar” makes the same bonehead absurd claims of other atheists regarding the so-called “founding fathers”, which are patently false based on every and all known legitimate historical sources. 1) No founding father claimed to be either an atheist or an agnostic. 2) Thomas Jefferson claimed to believe not only in God, but that human rights are written on the conscience of humanity; the last letter written by Jefferson mentions God. 3) Thomas Paine emphatically denied being an atheist several times in writing. 4) James Madison stated after the 1st Amendment was drafted that it would aid in the spread of Christianity. 5) Benjamin Franklin pretty-much invented his own private religion, but openly complained during the drafting of the Constitution that the framers were not seeking God’s guidance enough. And I could go on and on about Washington, Adams and others who all claimed to believe in God, but why bother?And finally, any moron knows that no human being on spec of dust Planet Earth could possibly know there is no God and thus, anybody who claims to be an atheist is an espouser of the very worst kind of blind faith baseless superstition, not to mention an obvious deliberate liar. May as well claim the giant rocks of Stonehenge piled up as they are all by themselves. What a total crock !!!FREE VIDEOS ON THE SUBJECT

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    SpideyI think you are trying to get a reaction and an argument. But actually, if you do not think evolution is true, then that is fine. There is no rule that requires you to have trust or belief in the consensus of science.As I said earlier, there are two truths: the truth of the senses, and the truth of consensus. The truth of the senses is the truth that you see yourself. The truth of consensus is what other people tell you, whom you invest some trust in. People have told you that evolution is true, but you do not believe them. So be it; no argument is necessary.But I also mentioned an aesthetic of knowlege, the appreciation of knowledge, the talent for discerning it and collecting it, the art of knowing how to know; I feel that you have an apathy towards knowledge which I fear is resistant, even impervious to any argument or persuasion.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    AberdeenBut Schaum had the actual quotes attributable to Thomas Jefferson. I believe that is really what he said. Don’t you? Why not? George Washington went to Anclican Church but did not believe in communion and avoided church attendance during communion, and would get and leave if a service of communion was performed in his presence. It is well-documented and well known that the educated elite of the eighteenth century had little in common with modern day conservative Christianity.

  • davewyman

    ABERDEEN wrote:”any moron knows that no human being on spec of dust Planet Earth could possibly know there is no God” I don’t doubt this describes Aberdeen.

  • Broadford

    Faith is choosing to believe something you do not and can not know. That is what atheists and those who believe in God have in common. Some atheists and some who believe in God are able to tolerate doubt about what they believe, some are not. Since there is no way to prove that God does or does not exist, through either science or theology, the reasoning of those who believe and those who do not has relative equivalency. Some use their consciousness to learn about science and try to answer the question with the knowledge they gain, some do the same thing with theology, and some do both. Whether you are an atheist relying on science, a believer relying on theology, or an agnostic relying on both, the reasoning you rely upon does not allow you to prove that there is or is not God. Science based reasoning is not inherently more relevant or revealing with respect to any knowledge or truth than reasoning based on theology. The human brain can and does do both, and there is no absolute scientific or theological truth that can be proved, including the nature of matter or the nature of God. So using reason to exile theology from our lives is no different than using reason to exile science from our lives. That leaves our free will free, to pursue natural science, theology, or both, in the search for the provable and knowable truth, but the ultimate truth about why and how we exist is beyond the reach of our powers of reason. So only by speculation based on experience beyond the limits of reason do we conceive and presume to know the answer and the truth. So, without knowing, we can and do choose. That is the way God planned it.

  • john_lombard

    I agree for the most part with Susan’s article; but I’d like to address for a moment the comments about atheists attempting to prevent prayer in school, or at public events.I do not speak for all atheists in this regard, but personally I have no problem with prayer in schools, or pretty much anywhere else. What I have problems with is a MONOPOLY on Christian prayer.If a school proposes that daily prayers will be done by people of different beliefs — Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Mormons, etc. — and that atheists can likewise give some sort of ‘daily thought’ or ‘inspiration, then I have no problem with it whatsoever.What distresses me is the implicit hypocrisy in Christians who complain about atheists who try to “silence” them, or “deny their freedom of speech”…yet who turn around and would deny the very same things to anyone who does not share their particular religious beliefs!I’m not opposed to Christians praying. What I’m opposed to is Christians using schools, government, or any other such public venue to promote one particular ideology, while denying those who have different beliefs the same opportunity.Either EVERYONE is allowed to do this…or no one is. But skip this nonsense that Christians have some sort of special status, and that opposing that represents an attempt to silence them.The day that Christians agree to give all other religions (and atheists) an equal opportunity to conduct such ‘prayers’ is the day that I will actively support prayer in schools, or anywhere else that you want it. Of course, for all their crying about ‘freedom of speech’, it is doubtful that we’ll ever see the day when the majority of Christians in the U.S. will ever support that same ‘freedom’ for those of opposing beliefs.

  • barferio

    I’d like to understand how it is that a believer in, say American Christianity just for an example, can so clearly see how false and man-made all the other gods are, but not view their own in the same light?What kind of mental trickery is needed for that?If you read their doctrine, all people who don’t believe in the right god are doomed to an eternity of torture by their loving god. So this, believers, is how you can see teaching religion to children is child abuse – all those Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists etc, they are teaching their children the “wrong god”, therefore they are dooming their offspring to this loving eternal torture you believe in.And the false dichotomies they live on – if this or that particular phenomenon is shown to be inaccurately described by the science of the day, therefore God. And their god in particular.Why are they able to use logic and reason when it suits them, but disavow logic and reason (or redefined the meaning of the words) when it comes to their religion, their gods?And they call it mono-theism, how? Yahweh (whatever), Jesus, the holy ghost (???) … 3 gods in one. Any good roman of the day would say you worship three gods. And take into consideration the absolute worship of Mary, particularly in the Latin American countries – this is worship of a goddess.There’s some part of the human cognitive mechanisms and algorithms which is parasatized by religion. The communism and nazism of the last century parasatized this same area – they were political religions, requiring from the believer the same kind of leader worship, god-father worship, etc — worship. They saw religion as a competitor for this and rightly so.But they didn’t do the horrible things they did as the faithists claim in the name of atheism – they did it in the name of power, in the name of their political ideology.Only someone who believes in a religion, a faithist, could possibly see that someone “believes in” atheism. That one makes me laugh.

  • donnolo

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that to be elected to public office in America a candidate must be devoutly religious. But I wonder how many of them merely pretend to be.Naturally it be pointless to do a survey of public officeholders’ religious beliefs; even a promise that the information would be kept confidential would not guarantee candor. Politicians have to much to lose from leaked information to trust in such promises.But a survey of retired officeholders with the same guarantee of confidentiality might yield reliable information. I’d like to see the results.

  • rand0

    The author fails to address to address the fundamental distinction between the two “types of Atheists”, that of tolerance towards others. She mentions it under myth # 3 but immediately turns her attention to another straw man (“absolute Atheist faith”). It should be clear to anyone who reads his works that Christopher Hitchens is a polemicist. His articles are tirades against people who believe what he considers foolish and rarely contribute toward the debate (look up his Romney and Huckabee articles for 2 examples). Now, it the choice of any Atheist to embrace tolerance or reject it, but naturally we would wish to distinguish between the two.One would hope that the recognition that there are no moral absolutes would engender tolerance among Atheists. Unfortunately we often see the opposite. It should be clear that I am not an Ayn Randian, and I have no love for her philosophy, but I recognize it as as valid a philosophy as any and I don’t spit upon those who live by or call them mentally stunted, inferior beings. (And, yes, I recognize the irony inherent in this example.)And so, the author may be right to remove herself from the ranks of the those who promote empathy and tolerance. And I’ll respect her for, while maintaining the distinction.

  • barferio

    Science based reasoning is not inherently more relevant or revealing with respect to any knowledge or truth than reasoning based on theology.Uh, that’s nonsense. Science based reasoning is tested, the good kept and the bad thrown out. 100%, diametrically different, and not equal at all.This is still another false dichotomy used by the believers in an attempt to add validity to their believing. Two answers to an argument are not inherently equal. And the atheist answer to your Christian god is the same atheist answer to the Muslim’s god, the Hindu’s gods, the Roman, Greek, Aztec … gods – prove it.

  • alance

    Many of our nation’s founders were devout Free Masons who believed in a Divine Creator – just look at the symbols on the back of the dollar bill.Our founders believed in religious tolerance, which gives you the right to express your opinions. Your views are seldom tolerant. You are constantly on attack and insult those who disagree with your views. Your opinions are just red meat your employers are dishing out to boost circulation for a dying news organization.

  • jnik

    Barferio’s comment was pretty good, except it didn’t cover the conceit Christians have not just against other religions, but against other branches of the SAME religion! Each one of the Christian franchises claims it, and it alone, is the ONLY TRUE CHRISTIAN FAITH!

  • jnik

    The biggest problem I have with Christians is they can’t talk to their imaginary friend without dragging me into the conversation.

  • huntyrella

    Once I visited a beautiful Jungle…there was much life in there. But I haven’t failed to see that there were wood traders around that were only interested in the wood that those trees, once dead, would become.

  • asoders22

    There is simply no reason to believe in God. That some people worked on a book over time is certainly no good argument – there have been other books. If we are harsh or nice and understanding towards believers depend on our different personalities. I find no reason to be terribly sweet and understanding, since faith has caused an enormous amount of grief, cruelty and trouble over the millenia. I respect people, but I don’t respect the strange and distorted thought process that leads them to faith – a bunch of feeble excuses, I think, emerging from the psychological need for a Father or a Great Leader.

  • Didaskolos

    A few comments on Myth No. 3: “This brings us to the most common false stereotype about atheism–that it is a religion and, furthermore, that “atheist fundamentalism” is as intolerant as conventional religious fundamentalism.”Perhaps it would be useful at some point in the discussion to introduce and explain the term ‘worldview’. Atheists, as do ‘theists’, share some common beliefs about what is real. The manner in which atheists and theists expound this and, in some cases, make them relevant to ethics, could perhaps be considered ‘religion’. It is a claim to an understanding of reality and (logical) consequences thereof. Some are more forceful than others in this process, which may lead ‘theists’ to make the statement that ‘atheists’ have also developed their forms of religion. ‘Worldview’ and ‘religion’, when defined well, can be useful terms. Perhaps an article on an ‘atheist worldview’ could be constructive.

  • BlueTwo1

    The typical American marinates in religion from the time he is a baby. The ideas go in before the age of reason. As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. As adults, Americans find it hard to dismiss something that they have grown comfortable with. Church is more than an opportunity to worship and to build moral muscle. It is a social setting for fellowship and charity. One man of my acquaintance is very intelligent who told me that he follows the rituals of his religious upbringing, to include regular church attendance and bringing up his children in the faith, on the off chance that the teachings of his religion are true, that Heaven and Hell await him, and that what religion has taught him is vitally important to his everlasting soul. So he’s bargaining with God for a bright afterlife. There is no evidence at all for the existence of God beyond a feeling that the natural world is too awesome for it to have come about without the aid of an intelligent designer. Religion is a framework on which many people hang their understanding of the world. It is the authority under which they organize themselves. It has to do with birth, marriage, death, and dealing with tragedy. It excuses executions and war. Gay bashing is a religion-based behavior. The Black Plague was explained as a punishment from God. Flagellants whipped themselves to show God that they knew that they were sinners who deserved punishment. As the punishment had already been carried out, maybe God would protect them from that other punishment: yersinia pestis.

  • thurgle

    One difference that gets covered over is that between God and religion. Religion, the body of myth rites and practices with a history, is one thing, God another. Subscribing to a religion requires a great deal more justification than acceptance that God exists. Can a theist rationally justify believing all that Catholicism, Judaism, or any other religion requires him or her to believe over and above and beyond the existence of the deity? I would be interested in seeing the Post explore more often and in more detail whether and how one can rationally go from point A — belief in God — to point B — acceptance of the doctrines of any one religion.

  • AdamNeira

    In the beautiful adventure that is life atheism leads to a boring, dead-end road. The universe is stable, ordered, benevolent and expansive. Prayer, vigilance and right action are valuable tools to employ.

  • yellowtavern2

    Well said. The demonization of atheists is absurd. This article should be mandatory reading for the fundamentalist frothing class who are constantly undermining American values by attack people with different viewpoints.

  • jnardo

    “In fact, making secularism the default spiritual view relieves many non thinking people from the view that there is any transcendent retribution from bad acts, an attitude that is bad for society.”Many comments about this topic like this one project social chaos as part of the question itself. Says who? The atheists are hardly the criminal element in society. As this article implies, the atheists are rarely evangelical. In fact, the term secularism implies that there’s even an ism involved. Simply saying, “I don’t believe that” does not constitute a belief any more than “No thanks. I don’t eat broccoli.” “I see no harm to anyone, myself, a non Christian as well, from a prayer before a football game or a tiny Biblical reference on a gun sight.”I didn’t either until Jerry Falwell and the Religious Right came along. Now I do. The ball is in their court, not ours…

  • tomcanick

    There is something to be said about polite conversation. The abortion doctor killer of recent fame would not participate in that. Nor would members of that really strange “church” from Kansas who protest at soldiers’ funerals. However, neither would Dawkins; he writes a mean-spirited column. But not every proponent of single country socialism is Joseph Stalin, not every Christian is SC’s Bauer, and not every atheist is … well Dawkins again (it’s about 6:30am, brain not yet fully on line).So. When the discussion becomes dominated by extremists, a line is drawn. The 1st Amendment allows us to hold different beliefs, doctrines, non-beliefs, facts, whatever. Enjoy that, don’t pollute it. Take most all of us (i.e., all US residents), plunk us down in a religious, non-Christian country, and we would all too quickly find out the truth about life after death. Some of my best friends are Christian, and some are not.

  • BillKeller

    We are created with dignity…it, when added to an active love, is enough.

  • bertilack

    With all respect, and standing as something as close to an impartial observer as possible (I am neither monotheist, agnostic, nor atheist and have a distaste for all forms of fundamentalism), I must report that your ‘myth number 3′ is no myth.

  • 12thgenamerican

    why is this woman in print?

  • Matthew_DC

    Atheists, like theists, can be grouped into categories based on external appearances. We’re all familiar with the arrogant theist, the pompous theist, the humble theist, the constructive theist, the destructive theist, etc. I don’t see why atheists would not show similar traits. Atheism per se does not remove all faults or endow a person with all virtues. RE: “There is simply no reason to believe in God.”This sounds like a creedal affirmation, originating in the emotions. David Eagleman’s “possibilianism” is a more logical position for the non-theist IMO. He’s not a stupid guy by any means.

  • mcscout

    yellowtavern2 thinks this should be “mandatory reading for the fundamentalist frothing class.” Really? A couple reflections on Susan’s article with an eye toward her unhelpful habit of refusing definition by genus. First, her fundamental thesis (that identifying a “new atheist” is unsustainable) is weak. Clearly we can distinguish between an atheist/agnostic who leaves others to their own beliefs and those actively trying to convert people to atheism. This distinction is applied to believers all the time, with the former being subjected to great scorn. The “new atheism” label is rightly applied to the proselytizing type such as Dawkins and Hutchinson. Second, consider her quote of and defense of Ingersoll who wished to equate atheism and agnosticism. This is also neither helpful nor honest. Clearly there is a difference between one who has taken the stance, “I don’t really know what I believe/think about the existence of a god” and one who says “I do not believe there is a god.” To state a propositional truth like that is to no longer be an agnostic. Susan quotes Ingersall, “The Atheist cannot know that God does not exist.” This is is congruent with Susan’s words earlier in the article “…no intelligent atheist can ever claim that his or her ideas constitute absolute truth.” She attempts to sustain this wishy-washiness through the end of “Myth 3.” Then it all breaks down. She claims “science is always open to the possibility that its conclusions may be proved wrong…” True, but keep in mind that by definition (again, an apparent struggle for Susan), science excludes non-material causes. By axiomatic belief (definition, in this case), science allows only material causes in the front door. Fine and effective as that is, one must embrace a lurid degree of circular reasoning to suggest that the path of science can lead to or sustain atheism. Required reading for all the frothing, uneducated masses? Can’t we require something more profound and coherent than this?

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    BroadfordYou are correct in saying that some people have faith in science and others have faith in religion, and there is basically no difference. There is some truth to that, in a technical sense. We all know what we see and experience ourselves with our own senses. Beyond that, we only know and believe what other people tell us, either directly, or through reading, and through inheritance of culture. I call this the truth of consensus.But the question is which truth of consensus is more true, and which leads to a more valid understanding of reality? There is no formula to say. It is a matter of artful judgement to say what kind of consensus of truth is the one to invest trust and belief in.Knowledge is belief in what you think is true. Knowing how to know what is true and what is not is an art to be cultivated and not just a matter of seeing or perceiving correctly. To know truth, a person must want to know. That is the problem. Many people do not care to know what is true; many people have an apathy towards knowledge. For these apathetic people, there is no argument to covince them. It is impossible to teach somone who does not care to know.

  • hartman_john

    Religious belief is like Feng Shue.If you need it, its important.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    So called fundamentalist or militant atheism is merely and only a reaction to hostile Christianity which seeks to stamp out atheistic thought. It is hypocritical to suppose that people would sit quietly by and not react to organized attacks on the very foundation of their beliefs. Religious people demand and expect respect for their religiousity, and seek preferential treatment above people who do not believe as they do. Then they get all bent out of shape when there is a push-back, and when they do not receive the very same respect that they would not extend to others. That is the harsh and awful truth.

  • jazzcarol

    More from Jefferson:”History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.” “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.”-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp, 30 July, 1816″Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” Sadly, I doubt Jefferson could be elected President in the 21st century, where it seems that every Presidential speech must end with that clarion call to believing voters: “God Bless America.”

  • pcl2

    In Myth 5 it appears to be argued that personal experiences of transcendence are a priori impossible and therefore ridiculous. Any serious student of the history and dynamics of religion could tell the atheist a thing or two about such experiences. Just to cite one example: ever since a guy named Bodhidharma traveled from India to China, a long long time ago, people have been devoting their lives to a particular type of body/mind training, including much meditation, contemplation and the encouragement of intuition, to supplement the familiar Western notions of prayer and devotion. The result has been, generation after generation, a direct transmission from teacher to student of a transcendental experience that widely recognized and deeply respected. People are willing to spend years of hard work to attain just the slightest taste of that experience. In the Japanese tradition, the words Zen, zazen, kensho and satori come to mind. Some of the atheists contemplating their relationship with such traditions might wish to look these words up and take them seriously.

  • bobmoses

    When is Jacoby going to address the fact that the vast majority of the atheists who post on her blog are hateful bigots?

  • haas1

    In this one column, Jacoby has better represented my views on atheism than the two books I read by Dawkins and Hitchens. I’m really looking forward to reading future columns. Bravo to Jacoby for taking this on, and bravo to The Washington Post for publishing her.

  • professor70

    Susan,This was a nice piece. Two suggestions for the future: The formation of an Athiest culture in American; and, the persecution of Athiests in contemporary times (Can an Athiest ever become President of the US?)Thanks!

  • jgrant1836

    In reading the postings, I think the poster “jnik” is “right-on” with his views in all of them that I’ve read this morning. Well said, jnik.

  • vimrich

    The question comes down to what kind of limits we choose to put on knowable truth. Is there truth we can know outside of physically knowable phenomena and information? Can a thing be proven true if it doesn’t make testable and repeatable physical predictions? Is this truth useful to people?ANY answer to that question of truth IS a religious (or philosophical) position. As such, Atheists DO make a religious claim – specifically, that if a thing cannot be proven scientifically, then it can’t be true.Get over it.

  • bob52

    How about a law that prohibits religious indoctrination until a child reaches 18, or better still, 21? If the religion makes sense, it should be an easy sell. Of course, the religions know different. They know they have to resort to frightening and even abusing children to get them to buy these absurd superstitions. Fortunately there are people like Susan Jacoby who figured out at age 12 they are nonsense.

  • peter49

    Susan You left out a myth: that the goal of atheism and atheists is the same as our religious friends, to proselytise and convert believers into being atheists.Atheists respect the right of everyone to think freely. I would never want to live in any world where everyone thinks the same as me. That would be way too boring.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    MosheIsraelA day is one rotation of the earth on its axis, and is 24 hours long, plus a few minutes. That is the definition that we go by. But a “day” does not really exist; a single rotation of the earth does not exist; it is merely a unit of time, that we use to help us keep track of things.Light is the spectrum of electomagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and darkness is its absence. Therefore, likewise, there is no such thing as darkness, but merely the absence of the perception of light. Therefore, there is no “separation” of anything into light and darkness.You are nit-picking the literal meaning of what is, and has always been regarded as, an allegory of creation.

  • norman1515

    I grew up religious, with one of the main influences in my life a brilliant, open, questioning Reverand in the Methodist chuch. As I studied history, it became clear to me that the faith I had was based more on wanting to be part of something acceptable and “universal” (meaning my own little world) that let me be part of a large tribe. As Gibbons says, in discussing how the Roman Empire dealt with the variety of religions under its dominion, “All religions are to the believer equally true, to the apostate equally false, and to the administrator equally useful.” Throughout history, in all religions, the distilled essence of how a church functions is to control its people through fear of being left out instead of a celebration of some mystic joy and revelation, which is where most of them started. Too many wars and pogroms and not enough cleansing and love. The reactions to your column in the comments posted show how very scared people are to have their beliefs brought into question. Ah, well, at least no one smarmily offered to pray for you, whether you wish them to or not.

  • kemcb

    I agree with JINK, go ahead and pray, but do not force me to do so! I live in Lynchburg which Falwell, Jr. is attempting to establish a theocracy! Pray as you wish, but do not impose your mythology onto the government, interfere with science research or medical treatment, dumb down science education with the myth of Intelligent Design. The desert religions of death, with its inherent misogyny, is based on faith! Faith which is blind belief or trust without evidence! There is NO evidence of any god, NONE! As an aside, the Christian Church should be paying a copyright fee to the Egyptians for use of the Egyptian god Horus, Isis, Osris! Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett have made me free! As Acharya S. (D.M. Murdock) so excellently demonstrates, all religions are astrotheological! Religion is dangerous, ask Dr. Teller!

  • Sojouner

    Myth 3 is ‘no myth’. Many atheists are incredibly intolerant and angry. They have made atheism a ‘faith’, to some degree. How ironic!

  • catherine3

    Wow. Well Done! I get the feeling you have been holding back for a long time, out of deference or politeness or whatever. Perhaps it is the greater tendency of women to do that, compared to men, that makes people like Prothero put female atheists in the “soft” catgeory. Like you, I just knew I didn’t believe at around the age of 12 or so. Unlike you, I tried a times to believe, often mightily, because a loved one was religious. What I came out with is the knowledge that you can’t make yourself believe anything, you can’t will it to happen. You either believe something, or you don’t. So it puzzles me greatly that some religionists find atheists such as myself as evil somehow. To answer what someone said here: scientists do not believe that if science cannot prove something, it can’t be true. Not at all! There are plenty of things that science can’t prove that may or may not be true. Anyway thanks and keep up the good work!

  • kwires

    I think you should also mention the non-believers that do not feel compelled to correct the religious magical thinking observations of their more religious cohorts. Many non-believers will mouth the sacred utterings of the true believers to accomodate the situation. Just as a citizen of the Roman empire would laud the emporer as a God figure, that for many was more a price of doing business rather than a belief. If you truly do not belief in a higher power, then there is no down side to playing along with the superstitious rituals surrounding them. Many non-believers feel no compunction to preach their non-belief. The religious get some value from their beliefs and practices, there is no reason to try and disturb this self satisfying behavior. The only exception is when there are attempts to force their beliefs into law.

  • tbarksdl

    Susan Jacoby has again displayed her intellect, acuity, and insight in dealing with religion. Well done.

  • msh41

    Religion, like music or art, evokes an awareness of the most profound elements of our being. In addition, it provides cradle-to-grave fellowship and support in pursuit of transcendent meaning. Secular, atheistic society has thus far failed to match that power and failed to satisfy those human “spiritual” needs.Hmmm. A good critique, in principle. Some objections, though: (1) There is no such thing as “atheistic society” and never has been. (There have been leaders who have been at war with the religion prevalent in their societies, because it conflicted with their ideology, but the societies remained religious.) So we can’t say that atheistic societies have failed to provide anything.(2) One cannot believe something just because believing it will have some benefit. Even if I’m certain that my life would be richer if I only believed that water boils when it’s cold, I couldn’t believe it.(3) Music and art do indeed put us in touch with “most profound elements of our being,” and they can do it without any belief in the supernatural. I am a musician and an atheist, and I’ve had a few mystical, transcendent moments. I suspect that such moments are just as rare among religious people as among atheists.

  • henrycohen3

    I agree that, as stated in Myth No. 3, “The Agnostic says: ‘I do not know, but I do not believe that there is any god.’ The Atheist says the same.” But I think that the terms should be distinguished this way: an agnostic thinks that there is a serious possibility that God exists and ponders the question; an atheist does not.

  • buckminsterj

    vimrich wrote: “Atheists DO make a religious claim – specifically, that if a thing cannot be proven scientifically, then it can’t be true.”A facile distortion common among anti-atheists. Atheists argue that if a thing cannot be proven scientifically, then it can’t be ASSUMED to be true – not that it “can’t be true.” A point Jacoby makes in her article, by the way.

  • douard1

    My late father often said he was an agnostic, since he didn’t know whether there was an omnipotent creator. I argued that agnosticism *is* atheism, and that I was an atheist for the same reason: I don’t know whether there is an omnipotent creator. However, all that means is that neither of us believed in a personal god that created and intervenes in human life. My belief that, given the evidence I now have, there is no god is clearly contingent and defeasible. If the evidence supports a belief in god, I will be prepared to change my belief. I ask of believers only that (1) they not corrupt the political system in the U.S.; and (2) they conduct their arguments rationally by attempting to ground their faith on empirical evidence they have not cherry-picked. The view that knowledge is evidence-based, defeasible, true belief is simply an explicit version of a principle most of us use most of the time to conduct our lives reasonably.

  • cadlecreek1

    The probelm with the scientific proof argument is you have to assume things are true without proof to scientifically prove something.For instance, prove time exists. You can’t prove time exists. You can define time. You can reference time. But goodluck coming up with a physical or mathematical proof of time. If you take away time from physics, the physical models begin to unravel. We just can’t wrap our heads around a world without time, but we can’t prove time. Is time a fundemental belief in physics taken on ‘faith’?

  • tomsawyer2

    Most of the theist commenters want to say that atheists believe this: “I know there is no God, and there is nothing you can say that will ever persuade me otherwise.” But I doubt that any atheists, including Dawkins, et al. have said that or wouuld ever say that. At least I have never read anything like that from them, and I’ve read a lot of their books. Atheism in that absolutist sense is probably not possible so long as we have no idea a) how the whole Universe (however defined) started, b) how the laws of physics came to be what they are, and c) what consciousness is. What most atheists would say is that the particular understanding of God held by many believers — a spirit who answers prayers, performs miracles, and requires some form of belief — is not in any way compatible with anything that we now know about the world. And that is an undeniable fact.

  • MrDarwin

    For many people my age (late 40′s) and older, Madalyn Murray O’Hair was for many, many years the public face of atheism. She played an important role but she was not a particularly pleasant woman and helped set the tone for the ongoing debate. 15 years after her murder, I suspect she’s still who many people think of when they think of atheism and atheists but it’s good to see a far wider variety of voices speaking for atheism, in a wide variety of tones and making a wide variety of arguments, these days.

  • asoders22

    “If there was no God, there would be no atheists.”What you mean is: If there was no such word and as God, there would no word a atheist.

  • barferio

    “If there was no God, there would be no atheists.”I really have to wonder at the mind that believes that. Are we speaking the same language, are we reading from the same dictionary?A favorite quote from Eric Hoffer: The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not.The fanatical atheist is at least someone the faithists can understand I suppose. But these people aren’t your worst enemy. Most of us just want to be free of your religious requirements, especially the neverending NOISE you push on everybody. It’s like having to sit in a nice restaurant and hear gangster rap blasting from the speakers.Listen to your rap, worship and pray to your god, but keep it out of my ears, ok?

  • jurasketu

    The hardest thing about life is having to pretend that any of it matters.

  • spidermean2

    In a way Im enlightened by the “truthfulness” of some atheist especially Catherine3.I think it’s really a brain problem that people can’t see the hand of God in creation. Something in their brains really does not work.There were times when I wished that there is no God but my brain simply can’t fathom the stupidity of such an idea.Truly the devil “snake” has the power. As they listened to that snake, it blinded their minds as opposed to what the snake said that the “fruit” (his words) will open their eyes.Amazing!!!

  • sherm1

    I’d like to see a discussion about “closet atheists”. Its hard for me to believe that our society is awash with true believers in the religious texts. Given our propensity for war, our love of materialism, our tribalistic we-they tendencies (like being a Mets fan), and just the wide diversion of values and principles seen everywhere, its hard to perceive some unifying quality in religious people (those that say they believe in God via a formal religion).In this world full of contention, and the nasty results arising therefrom, its pretty hard to find some overarching pattern or trait that is consistent with a deity that is all powerful and all involved with our daily existence (and keeping a “naughty or nice” database that includes every single human being). An earlier comment mentioned an analogy to broccoli attitudes. For an atheist the choice is to is to not prefer religion. Taken a step further, for the closet atheist the choice is to prefer religion but never order it.

  • reed2

    The difference between science and religion is very simple. Science is inquiry based, with acknowledgment that interpretation (belief) is fact-based and testable. Interpretation must change when faced with contrary facts. Indeed, science changes as more facts (data) become available. A faith-based system (religion) requires no facts and rejects even the posing of questions. Despite this basic difference fundamentalists assert that atheism is a religion (an evil one at that). Wrong on both counts.

  • nuncmilan

    The so called New Athiests seem only to write about their answer to the question HOW we got here as opposed to the question THAT we are here. The HOW is the big bang and evolution for Christians and Atheists alike. Or if you are one of those Evangelicals who literalise the metaphors in the Old Testament its that six day creation story with its seven refrains. Can we please get to the crux of this issue. Why is it that there is something and not nothing? Can Susan Jacoby please answer.

  • spidermean2

    Sherm1 wrote “Given our propensity for war,”Some people are simply dumb. If America did not go to war during WW2, Japan would have owned half of the world by now and there will be no such thing as freedom of speech.Where are the brains of these atheists? Why are they so DUMB?

  • twmatthews

    Susan,This is a wonderful column. There are many times in which I find myself arguing against the same myths — you worship science like a god, atheists are as “religious” in their disbelief as fundamental religious people are in their beliefs.This is the best argument I’ve seen that corrects the record. Even in some of the comments, it’s obvious that any suggestion that there is no god is met by a subset of Christians who depict themselves as victims. The idea that any religion can’t be criticized speaks volumes about the rotting state of the foundations of religious beliefs. There is very little difference between Muslims who trashed buildings in European cities because some publications had the audacity of publishing cartoons depicting Mohammad and Christians who scream about radical atheists simply because Christian beliefs are challenged.

  • spidermean2

    Reed2 wrote “The difference between science and religion is very simple. Science is inquiry based, with acknowledgment that interpretation (belief) is fact-based and testable. Interpretation must change when faced with contrary facts. Indeed, science changes as more facts (data) become available. A faith-based system (religion) requires no facts and rejects even the posing of questions.”Im 100 percent sure this guy is not an engineer. Why are these atheists SO DUMB?

  • sux123

    When I was a child growing up Catholic, I was never really sure that what was taught to me in Sunday School was true – I had my doubts. Later, when I got older I read books, studied history, the bible, the Quran etc. etc. I came to the realization that ALL religions were human inventions. This was very freeing to me – like a huge weight of my chest. I have no idea if there is a god or gods ( Do you know anything that there is just one of?), I don’t know how the universe was created and probably never will. But I am no different from anyone else in this respect – no preist, yogi, rabbi or scientist knows any more about our ultimate origins than I do. Anyone claiming to know is either lying, delusional or has just been trained from a young age. I know longer care what other people beleive as long as they do not try to use their beliefs to control my life. I think if the religous would investigate the origins of their faiths with an open mind they would realize that they are man made and can decide based on facts whether they still belive in them.

  • rexreddy

    Christianity, when followed as a guide line or instruction manual to life as Jesus intended, would produce a society very close to a utopia. Militant atheists are quick to point out the “Warren Jeffs” and other cult leaders or whack jobs. However; many millions of Christians are out there living peaceful, productive lives and contribute greatly to society as a whole.I think many of you should look closer at the positive things that Christianity brings before trying to eliminate it.Many posts by Atheists seem totally devoid of a rudimentary understanding of the religion that they seek to destroy. They quote persons on the fringe or topics on traditions that are no longer employed.Many Catholics do not believe verbatim. Yet they continue to send their children to Catholic schools. Why? Because: The Catholic culture has a very good track record for generating productive citizens. Without this type of an upbringing, the human morality compass defaults to “Do as thou wilt.”Life formed chemically in reactions involving energy and matter. Could some form of life form with antimatter, dark energy and other unknown conditions? Maybe an all knowing deity comprised of some form of energy did materialize.Maybe Stone Age and Bronze age man knew this but had no words for it.So that is how you got Bible.Maybe there is something to pray to.

  • spidermean2

    sUX123 WROTE “Later, when I got older I read books, studied history, the bible, the Quran etc. etc. I came to the realization that ALL religions were human inventions.”The real question is did you understand the Bible? I read it many times but the difference between you and me is I understood it and many of the metaphors in it.Why are these atheists SO DUMB?

  • xSamplex

    As someone with an advanced degree in engineering and thermodynamics, I am accustomed to speaking with people who have strong opinions about things like energy efficiency, but have virtually no comprehension of the underlying science. They are “feel good” advocates.In the same way, I am always amused how utterly at sea religious people are in thinking that rationalism is some sort of “alternative” to religion without any concept of the preposterousness of this position. They literally cannot discern the qualitative difference between logical assessment of empirical evidence, and the belief in “received wisdom”.This is most likely not a bad thing. If people believe that today’s concept of “god” represents some kind of divine being worrying about mankind, it is probably better that they are not trying to navigate life based exclusively on their own investigations of the world.This is not meant as a critique or attack. It’s just how I’ve come to accept that some people can’t understand the distinction between reason and received wisdom.

  • sannhet

    Susan:This is extremely well thought out and articulated. Minorities can appear angry and pushy and intolerant when they are simply expressing views that the majority is not used to hearing.

  • cadlecreek1

    reed2 stated ‘A faith-based system (religion) requires no facts and rejects even the posing of questions. ‘This is not true. The old testament belief of the beginning of earth was about 6000k years. After fossil and geologic evidence was presented, the ‘mainstrem’ old testament religions changed their timeline to incorporate a non literal reading of biblical versus.Many times in these debates the fanatics, on both sides, need to be isolated and have their arguments diminsihed. I can’t prove a ‘god’ but I cannot disprove a ‘god’. I choose to and want to believe their is something more then this life on earth. I believe this existence on earth would be meaningless without something more. What that something more is I can’t explain.The real point of this column is to dispell myths and misconceptions but this is a 2-way street. I am in close contact with an outspoken aethiest everyday. He thinks anyone that believes in any kind of ‘god’ or whatever is a ignorant backwards idiot. I guess he is not a kndler gentler aethiest.

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    spidermean2, you said,i think the real dysfunction is with those who can’t imagine anything WITHOUT falling back on the god hypothesis….

  • hitpoints

    “If there was no God, there would be no atheists”How’s this: if there were no Santa Claus, there would be no grown-ups.

  • sux123

    Can we please get to the crux of this issue. Why is it that there is something and not nothing? Can Susan Jacoby please answer.

  • spidermean2

    Rexreddy wrote “Maybe Stone Age and Bronze age man knew this but had no words for it.Here’s a believer who don’t understand the Bible. One reason is because you belong to a false religion called Catholicism. “My sheep know my voice”.The sheep of God knows that what they read in the Bible is their Shepherd’s voice.I can predict the future because I understand the bible. It’s all there.

  • DaveInMD1

    Well Done! More people need to understand that being in the gray area is not bad but enlivening. Being set in your ways no matter which way you lean is not growing – not growing is cowardly.

  • cadlecreek1

    ‘It’s far easier for me to conceive that it was always all here than to imagine it all being created out of nothing’This is called a statement of belief in something that can’t be proven.

  • adrienne_najjar

    There is no god. when are you neanderthals going to get it?

  • spidermean2

    walter-in-fallschurch wrote ” i think the real dysfunction is with those who can’t imagine anything WITHOUT falling back on the god hypothesis..”In search of other hypothesis, they became dumber than they used to be. 1+1=2. If you think there’s another answer for that, you are doing yourself a disservice. It’s the quickest way to be insane.

  • sux123

    ‘It’s far easier for me to conceive that it was always all here than to imagine it all being created out of nothing’Hmm, I think I said “conceive” and “imagine” – does not sound like a declaration of belief to me. I do beleive that I do not know the answer – that clear enough?

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    spidermean2, you said,really?!?! predict the future?!? wow… got any insight on the upcoming superbowl? got a date for the apocalypse? we’re long overdue, as you no doubt know. will bell-bottoms ever be fashionable again?

  • numdud

    In the beginning, Man created God.Got that line from the “Aqualung” album cover by Jethro Tull back when I was a kid.

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    spidermean2,seriously, what can you predict other than plague, wars, earthquakes (in GENERAL). basically, what can you predict that an atheist couldn’t using just his/her powers of reason? the bible has NO predictive powers, nor does it imbue you with predictive powers.

  • Pheidole

    Susan, with all due respect, there is at least some substance to every one of your so-called myths. Evidence for this assertion is on display in these posts – among other places. In general, one cannot invalidate a generalization by simply pointing out that there are exceptions to it. The best standard we have for determining the truth of generalizations is called “the preponderance of evidence.” Too bad we don’t employ it more often!

  • Estrogena

    Aussiebarry wrote, “Like an atheist, I believe in evolution. From my POV, human evolution was driven by intense intertribal competition, war, by another name. It made a species with a dual nature, kind and caring even altruistic to fellow tribespeople and willing to obey tribal law, but ruthless to the point of genocide to the ‘other’.“With this genetic legacy, we must find a reason to choose the better side of our natures and atheism offers nothing. Appealing to reason and using that to validate some universal Golden Rule is not enough to overcome the emotional appeal for vengeance in aggrieved tribes. It requires spiritual strength for that.” I agree wholeheartedly up until the conclusion, “Atheism offers nothing.” Consider the converse: that by removing an additional condition of tribal membership, the rejection of theism permits a more logical and durable reason to choose the better side of our nature: because we all live together at this time on this planet. We must agree on a way to share the world’s limited resources or we will continue to cause each other suffering and unnatural death. Society can only work on a global scale (intertribally) when the quest for peace and cooperation trumps principles of righteousness, inclusion and entitlement. Please note that with the exception of Pat Robertson and his followers, people generally did not consider the issue of religious belief before sending money to Haitian earthquake relief. Charitable people chose the better sides of their natures despite theism. It was humanitarian relief, not Christian relief or Muslim relief. I rejected Catholicism a long time ago but tried to donate to Catholic Relief Services after I researched the group and discovered that it already had operations in place in Haiti, the primary goal of which appears to be long-term humanitarian assistance rather than religious conversion. CRS had website issues that day, and I ultimately donated to the Red Cross through Non-Believers Giving Aid. Need I point out that spiritual strength has a very poor track record of “overcoming the emotional appeal for vengeance in aggrieved tribes?” Jonathan Swift’s example of Endianism is an instructive satire on historical power- and resource-grabs cloaked in theology. Throughout human history, theism has been the source of or justification for violent conflict far more often than it has prevented or resolved it.

  • spidermean2

    ewsnyder wrote “Self-deception is essential to human survival.”There it is. Right from the horse’s mouth. Atheists are actually deceiving themselves not to believe. While I don’t want to deceive myself, atheists love being deceived.Thanks for the very enlightening info. You guys are unbelievably stupid.

  • Skowronek

    “If there was no God, there would be no atheists”I disagree. Belief in a god or gods has to be taught. So if it’s not taught, it doesn’t continue. Atheism is where we all begin. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have a sense of wonder, or amazement at the world. It just means we don’t have a convenient label to affix to the world around us. There’s no easy answer to any questions, we simply don’t say, “Because God said it/did it/made it, that’s why!”

  • cadlecreek1

    “conceive” and “imagine”2 words that rely on a belief in something intangible 2 a : to take into one’s mind b : to form a conception of : imagine 1 : to form a mental image of (something not present) The proper science word is assume or given. Assume a singularity of infinite mass and density. Then boom big-bang. background microwave radiation 15 billion years of planetary and bilogical evolution. The problem is the asuumption. Given something we take as real with no proof. Kinda of like prove the existence and uniqeness of ’0′. The proof is a circular arguments of givens that rely on the existence of ’0′ to begin with. There is nothing wrong with believing in the big bang and believing that it happened something was there to bang, but no-one can explain how something was there at t=0 byond it was and accept it. There are theories of different universes and dimensional space and time and producing a singularity but it can always still come back to how did …. start. It is assumed to exist based on it needs to exist to prove a pointbut there is no proof besides we are here so it must be true. Religous believers use the same argument were here because the bible says we should be.

  • jaxas70

    The single most compelling argument against the existence of God is that of gender. God is always imagined to be male. Throughout the history of mankind, it has been males who have been exclusively in charge of writing up and translating scriptures that they call the word of God.God did not create man in his image. Man created God in his image. So let’s begin there. If God is male, is he subject to the same needs and desires that his Creation experiences? It is not good for man to be alone. Thus it is reasonable to assume He wasn’t alone. He says as much when he creates Adam: “Let “us” make man in “our” own image.” So who were these unnamed colleagues? Was there a Council of Gods? No. These are futile questions. There are so many holes, so many inconsistencies in Genesis that it begs the question as to why so many rely on it at all. God repents of his Creation and resolves to detroy all flesh. Then, in the same breath, he selects one man and his family to build an Ark and take a male and female of each animal species to be saved from the destruction of all flesh that he had repented of creating. Incomprehensible.As I read Genesis, I am struck with the notion that what I am reading are interpretations of far older texts from previous civilizations, rewritten and re-translated to fit the world the Hebrews in Moses time lived in. There is a good deal of scholarship on these earlier civilizations and their own myths and beliefs in “gods” and many of their stories parallel in great detail the stories that ultimately show up in Genesis.

  • sux123

    “conceive” and “imagine”Huh? what school did you go to. I can imagine unicorns – does not meen I beleive in them.I can conceive of flying invisible elephants – ditto.”Imagine there’s no heaven, it isn’t hard to doImagine all the peopleDid Lennon beleive this was all true?

  • spidermean2

    walter-in-fallschurch,Here’s the prophecy that atheists themselves can’t make :The next war is with Iran.I have so much to say but let’s just leave it at that.It’s all there in the Bible.

  • spidermean2

    Im an engineer and I understand what is science and pseudo science. By the grace of God, I also understand the Bible.You atheists are all DUMB. That’s the only reason why you call yourselves atheists. Im not so sure if there’s a cure to stupidity.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Test

  • cadlecreek1

    the definitions are from websters. Why does the aethiest argument always fall back to what school did you go to or where were you educated? I have 2 BS from UMD 1 in physics 1 in natural resource management. I am working on a phd in applied mathematics and scientific computing.back to the quote ”It’s far easier for me to conceive’ it sounds like a choice was made to conceive of….. this can easily imply a belief. It is ‘easier for me’ which is an argument used to believe in ‘god’. It is easier to concieve of ‘god’My original point is many of our scintific ‘facts’ are based on assuming a set of intial conditons with or without proof. It takes a belief or faith in science to accept the outcomes. I am not arguing for a biblical interpretation of of heaven and earth. My belief is there is something more. I have no idea what it is. I am pretty sure that it is not an invisible hand guiding our lives. But prayer could easily be compared to Einsteins though experiments. There is a spectrum of belief systems. It is not cut and dry. I like flying elephants. Do you have something against flying elephants??

  • Rickster623

    I simply do not “know” whether there is or is not such a higher being. Therefore I will anchor myself in my experiences, even with the knowledge that I may not fully understand some of them.I will not immediately dismiss any possibility though I certainly have a strong antenna for the entirely concocted stories created for the benefit of the teller only.Why is this controversial? Doesn’t this kind of attitude encourage interest in learning more about our world and drive us to explain it’s mysteries? How is this considered out of the ordinary?I’ll answer my own questions: Because people are comforted by the simplicity of “faith” in something they can’t explain and uncertainty is uncomfortable. Because others are deeply aware of the power they can gather by becoming the owner of Truth.

  • edzed

    I am not militant in my non-belief, but when someone knocks on my door to “tell me about Jesus,” I usually ask a number of questions they have trouble with. “In what year was Jesus born? When did he die? What does the book of Jesus say or is there no book of Jesus? When Jesus (the Son of the holy trinity) was on earth for some 33 years – were the Father and Holy Spirit alone and doing everything themselves? Did Jesus help to create the Universe?”

  • sux123

    Im an engineer and I understand what is science and pseudo science. By the grace of God, I also understand the Bible.Seriously though, I doubt if any group would claim Spidey here as ther own – he’s in a catagaory all by himself.BTW – what train is it you operate Mr. Engineer?

  • bob2davis

    When the world was discovered to be round (because no one fell off) many people maintained the belief for many years that the world was flat despite increasing evidence to the contrary. When Galileo produced evidence that the earth revolved around the sun, he was jailed by the catholic church and for many years many people maintained that the earth was the center of the universe. Despite the fact that all of the bible has been shown to be inaccurate, mythical, blatantly false, and rewritten for different historical periods, many people still believe in its veracity. This too shall pass when the majority chooses reason over folly. It is upsetting that ignorance persists for so long. I believe that the Flat Earth Society still exists! The incremental progress in man’s intellectual growth only serves to support the theory of evolution. I can only hope that it does not take millions of years for rational thought to dominate over faith.

  • ThomasBaum

    Schaum You wrote, “Nobody can “KNOW” anything. Film at 11.”So, are you saying that everything has to be based on faith/belief and that there is no way that anyone can “”know” anything”, as you have written?Isn’t saying that “Nobody can “KNOW” anything”, saying that you “know” that “Nobody can “KNOW” anything”?Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • pechins

    Mis Amigos: I have read the above reactions and I realize that you, via the Age of Enlightenment, have become “little gods.” It is sad and I will pray for you. As Saint Miguel Pro said as he faced the firing squad, “Vive Siempre Christo Rey” which for you little gods means Long Live Christ the King!!!!!”

  • sux123

    I am not arguing for a biblical interpretation of of heaven and earth. My belief is there is something more. I have no idea what it is. I am pretty sure that it is not an invisible hand guiding our lives. But prayer could easily be compared to Einsteins though experiments. There is a spectrum of belief systems. It is not cut and dry. ———————-And guess what, I am not arguing with you.I am sure you are very smart.My point was that it is easier for me to conceive of ‘something’ rather than ‘nothing’ at “the beginning” . I do not know or Believe in either being the truth – just turning the question around. You are reading way too much into this. Peace

  • spidermean2

    You atheists are all DUMB. That’s the only reason why you call yourselves atheists.Don’t be hurt guys. It’s simply the truth.Just an example. Many atheists believe that the Bible said that the earth is flat.Is this not gross ignorance of the Bible? Just accept it guys that you are DUMB. It might help in curing some types of stupidity.

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    spidermean2, you said,thank you, spidermean2. you have made my point. “iran” IS NOT in the bible. if you think it is, please quote me chapter and verse. same for “america” – not in the bible.if the bible did “predict” the future, wouldn’t it have used the real, current names of those places? i mean, something like “invaders from the north” (or whatever code words you think they used) is SO GENERAL as to be meaningless.really, seriously, what verses are you talking about that predict:1)U.S. war with iran2)U.S. war with a “stronger” country (btw, stronger than iran or stronger than the u.s.?)3)U.S. war with more than 15 countriesagain, please, what bible verses are you talking about?also, do you know about astrology? you know, when they say if you’re a scorpio (or whatever), you’ll “meet a mysterious stranger” or something. you understand how one can take general generic “prediction” like that and easily and finally, surveying the global landscape, an atheist COULD make those predictions.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Honestly, it matters little to me whether people believe in God, Son of God, nephew, niece, or sister.All one asks as an atheist or agnostic or religious secularist is freedom from these divinities. We ask that they be kept out of the legislature, thus far to no avail, our commitment to separation of church and state notwithstanding.The First Amendment includes to right to be free from and of religion. Believers would do well to respect that.

  • boblas

    It always strikes me that a great deal of what is written by atheists argues against a blind faith in God, whereas Atheism itself requires a nearly equal amount of faith, in my opinion. In a great sense, it is just another religion who’s priests are authors such as Ms. Jacoby. There are many parallels in how they compare their opinions and make a public stand, much like the leaders of the different denominations and religions we have.I think just as much as she forwards her thoughts on God and religion, I also think much reasonable thought is left out that can support the existence of God. Like many in her category, there is not much life experience and maybe too much education (yes it’s possible).Ultimately, I would place her in the same category as a bible thumping preacher on the annoyance meter. There isn’t much substance there. Not much soul searching. I consider her opinions about as fair and balanced as Fox news, in other words. The bottom line is she needs you to buy her book.

  • abhab1

    First of all by definition an atheist is he who do not believe in the existence of a God or Gods. Agnostic on the other hand, does admit he does not know if there is a God or Gods. Many on these threads who claim to be agnostics are full-fledged atheists, and the other way around.Atheists freely admit that they could not prove the nonexistence of God. Science that they act as if they know more about it than the others could not prove their case. They predict though “that someday” it will. This is not part of the scientific method of investigation. As a scientific minded person I will hold judgment until the evidence proves my case.Large body of phenomena that could not be reproduced at will and investigated by the scientific method has occurred in many cultures and throughout history that a fair-minded person should not dismiss offhand as myths or mirages. When the same kind of apparition happens in Spain in the 17th Century, in Italy in the 18th Century in Egypt in the 20th and 21st Centuries, a thinking person must stop and reevaluate his belief system. Please do not tell me that”someday’ science will have a mundane explanation for such phenomenon. The minute we realize the existence of a reality other than the physical one, the belief in a vital initiating power behind the scene becomes much more logical. Call it whatever you will. I call it God.

  • braunt

    Ms. Jacoby,If you truly believe that atheism is not another form of religion (Myth No. 2), then why do you post your columns in the On Faith blog, which purports to be “a conversation on religion and politics?” You could have posted on one of any number of the many Post blogs, so why this one?Is it simply your cynical way of attacking anyone who deigns to believe in a religion, especially Christianity? I think what you perceive as Myth No. 3 is more real and applicable to you than you would like it to be.

  • jackaroe

    There are many kinds of intelligence, so conversations about weather people are smart or stupid in any context are pretty meaningless. I think spidermean2′s post is a lovely example of this. He claims to be smart in engineering and bible study, and if it is so then those are certainly types of intelligence. But many people would consider his grammar an indication of cognitive impairment. (“There is no cure to stupidity”?) So let’s stop arguing about who’s smarter, who’s got more schooling, more facts to back them up, etc.

  • riolki

    Dennett’s term “Brights” means “The Enlightened”, and doesn’t mean that atheists are more intelligent or that believers are stupid.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Yesterday, I was with a group of foreign-born students, one of whom, Ukrainian, by birth, wrote of growing up under Communism.The absence of God, of church in her life, had left her empty, she wrote, with endless questions about the purpose of life, etc.This led to a broad, far-ranging discussion on religion, Marx, religion and politics, religious institutions, secularism, transcendence.One student, from PRC, a quiet sort, listened attentively, occasionally shaking her head. I asked her if she’d ever missed a “transcendent God” in her life. She replied, “Physics.”"What?” I asked.”Physics,” she said.She proceeded to explain, while walking to the board upon which she quickly drew diagrams, wrote formulas, her face flushed with excitement. It was really something to see.

  • dolph924

    Good article. I once was one of those who assume that religion is a sign of mental weakness. Then I met a guy who was off-the-chart intelligent and yet he was a Christian Scientist — surely it’s hard to find a more ignorant religion than one that insists on prayer in place of medicine. Not only that, the guy was a college football player (all Ivy-League punter) so if his knees took a licking from a linebacker, he was going to have to pray those ligaments back together (i.e., he’d limp for the rest of his life). Plus, he really could not be called uneducated, as he was graduating with high honors from Harvard. I had to face it that there must be a complete disconnect between intelligence and religion if this supremely intelligent and well-educated person could be a part of a supremely ignorant religion. Since meeting him, I’ve accepted that religion must be based in a different part of the brain than intelligence and that even the most devoutly religious folks might be intelligent. That doesn’t mean I respect religion — far from it. But, I do respect those who sincerely believe in it, provided that they leave the rest of us alone. Now the hucksters in pulpits with one hand in the back pockets of the poor and the other down the pants of young children? Not so much.

  • spidermean2

    walter-in-fallschurch, The prophecies were written in very deep metaphors. Which verses? Im not allowed to do so. It’s a gift from God. You have to earn it for yourself.”And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:” Jn 3:14This verse has many meanings. Try starting from this verse.

  • ThomasBaum

    barferio You wrote, “Only someone who believes in a religion, a faithist, could possibly see that someone “believes in” atheism. That one makes me laugh.”Why should it make you laugh, isn’t the “definition” of atheism either, One who does not believe that there is a God or gods or One who believes that there is no God or gods?It is not one who “knows” that there is no God or gods.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • spidermean2

    Language is not science and Im a person not gifted in this particular field. It does not measure intelligence by any means. It’s more of a memory thing. If you buy some Japanese products, you would easily notice that their english in their instruction manuals is worse than mine. Very good products but bad english. It is simply because language is an art and not a science.Atheists are all DUMB. Sure they are good in language skills but they sorely lack in analogy and science.The only reason they are atheists is simply because they are DUMB. That’s a scientific fact.The Bible is a very intelligent book and only people with some degree of intelligence can actually understand it.By the grace of God, He gave me that gift.”And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:” Jn 3:14

  • beckerl

    I looked at the article that was the source of this response and it seems to commit to two of the “myths” described above. One is that it says that people at the conference genuflected to what they called the four horseman of the movement. The second is that speakers from a stage dismissed religious people as stupid.It is not clear from the article whether Jacoby was at the event. I have certainly seen atheists dismiss religious people as stupid. And I have also seen references to Harris and Dawkins which took the fact that they said things (however silly) as if they were therefore true or significant. I am not sure why that does not count as genuflecting.Is Jacoby taking on faith that these things did not occur as Prospero describes them, or does behavior that would count as genuflecting by a religious person not count as genuflecting when done by an atheist?I am an atheist. And I would agree that athiests should not genuflect, should not make the mistake of thinking that theists, and not only the past, must be stupid, should not treat atheism as a religion, and should recognize that science has limits (in fact even greater limits than Jacoby suggests unless one has a very expansive notion of what science is).I am not sure about the transcendental point, but then that word is probably to ill defined to be meaningful in this context.But my belief that atheists should not do these things does not mean that atheists do not do them. And experience should be the basis for saying if they do or not. Prospero is reporting what he saw. I am not sure on what basis Jacoby is denying what he saw.

  • Maerzie

    I have never yet met an atheist who could grow a tree or grass without using any pre-existing materials, like seed, dirt, water, air, yet the fact of a “Supreme Being”, superior to us, (which most people call: “God”), continues to be denied.Also, in my 45 years as a Registered Nurse, I have cared for numerous “atheists”, who, all of a sudden, on their deathbeds, decide that there is a “God” after all!! More frequently than not, an atheist is actually a fallen away Catholic! The idiocy of “atheism” is actually sort of hilarious, as they are simply people who never learned how to THINK.

  • davepenner

    If religion is “opiate for the masses” then atheism is “opiate for the intelligentsia”.

  • tojby_2000

    braunt wrote: Ms. Jacoby,If you truly believe that atheism is not another form of religion (Myth No. 2), then why do you post your columns in the On Faith blog.._____________________________________

  • rcupps

    Ms. Jacoby, I would like to hear your comments and participate in a discussion in regards to being an atheist in a family of believers. As an atheist, it is difficult, sometimes painful for me to discuss religion with my family, as they seem so content with their lives of faith as Christians. Honestly, I haven’t revealed to them my beliefs (or lack there of), and I think that them not knowing about this profound part of my makeup has placed an unspoken barrier between us. OK enough rambling. PS: I’m sorry the Mets suck so bad. Actually, no I’m not. I just said that to butter you up a bit.I hate the Mets. Even if there was a God, the Mets would still suck.

  • sux123

    If religion is “opiate for the masses” then atheism is “opiate for the intelligentsia”.One might argue that your strength did not fail you after all, but just came up with a new approach. However, it is YOUR experience and not for me to say.In any case, Congratulations!

  • bsquaredbrown

    Sojourner: “Myth 3 is ‘no myth’. Many atheists are incredibly intolerant and angry. They have made atheism a ‘faith’, to some degree. How ironic!”Most, if not all, of the atheists I know are not intolerant or angry. However, just like people of faith, you cannot judge all atheists the same. While there are many tolerant and kind people of faith, there are also many who are intolerant and angry too. Just look at some of the comments here for examples. Could it be that the atheists Sojourner knows come off as intolerant and angry because they are confronted by people who are either trying to change their beliefs and ideas, or because they are confronted by intolerant and angry people? If the only religious people I ever saw were people like Pat Robertson, then I might believe that all Christians were angry, intolerant fools.On an unrelated note, most of the comments seem to think that religion = Christianity and the World = America. Many comments are completely myopic. Why is that?

  • spidermean2

    Jacoby wrote ” Science–in contrast to religion–is a method of thought and exploration, not a set of conclusions based on unchallengeable assumptions. “Just another stupidity in atheism. Evolution has many loopholes and yet for atheists, it’s a kind of science that should not be challenged.The only reason why people call themselves atheists is simply because they are DUMB. There is no doubt about it. It may be hurtful but it’s a scientific fact.Intelligent Design is a very valid science and yet they are so afraid that it may unhinged their so called “TRUE SCIENCE” of evolution.

  • persiflage

    ‘But many people would consider his grammar an indication of cognitive impairment. (“There is no cure to stupidity”?).’Educational considerations for sure, but more likely, an emotional impairment bound up with early developmental issues. In such cases, religion becomes a belief boundary protecting the believer from the psychic abyss – and notice that the believer’s chosen religious persuasion is the only correct view, out of all possible views (along with claimed special powers of biblical discernment, etc.)Definite elements of OCD and deep-seated inferiority constraints as well…..the origins of which clearly go far back in time.

  • probashi

    A non-believer since I became an adult more than 50 years ago, I have found nothing to change my mind. If anything, the more I see, read and hear about the role of religion in society the more skeptical I become. Many religious organizations are nothing but business entities, legally empowered to dupe the gullible while engaged in blatant hucksterism to enrich those at the helm. And their gods appear to be always available to support wars.

  • Anne12

    As a naturalized citizen of this country, I have experienced that indeed the most radical bible thumpers usually lack not only a well rounded education but also intelligence.Best example here is the person naming himself SPIDERMAN, whose style of writing and rhetoric exposes him as the ueber “dumb” person that he accuses others to be.

  • vimrich

    “Atheists argue that if a thing cannot be proven scientifically, then it can’t be ASSUMED to be true – not that it “can’t be true.” A point Jacoby makes in her article, by the way.”The atheist claim goes beyond saying we cannot ASSUME it as true. Atheists claim there is know way to reliably determine if it is true. When I say “can’t be true” I mean “can’t be KNOWN (or proven) to be true.”"How is truth able to be known or proven?” is not a scientific question.Science is clear that it is carving out a subset of truth – truth that make testable predictions about the physical world. It takes philosophy/religion to go on and say that such truth is the only kind that we can reliably know or prove.

  • Freestinker

    Susan wrote: “Atheists (at least those with a scintilla of scientific knowledge) would never claim that the universe always was and always will be.”—————Susan,Since the universe exists and since the universe has existed (in some shape or form) as far back as we can thus far detect, it is possible that the universe has always existed (in some shape or form). An eternal universe, consisting of endless cycles of constant change, is a perfectly rational conclusion based on the limited evidence we have thus far. Until we have evidence that proves nothing at all existed before the universe (as we see it today) was formed, an eternal universe is a very plausible conclusion. But what kind of scientific evidence would prove the existence of a pre-universe where nothing at all exists? It’s a really tough question that might be beyond the realm of science. “Nothing” is a human concept with no real world or natural examples. In nature, something is always there, even if we can’t see it. So the question, “did nothing exist?” is almost as far beyond the reach of science as the question of whether gods exist but the universe most certainly exists. So until science shows otherwise, it seems perfectly rational to conclude that the universe may have always existed. The pre big bang science is inconclusive, so nobody including atheists really knows so for me it’s kind of like the corollary to the question of whether gods exist. No evidence yet to prove they do so it’s fair to conclude they probably do not exist. The corollary,likewise with the universe. It exists. We have no evidence to suggest it hasn’t always existed, so it is fair to conclude the universe has probably always existed.

  • harryvonk

    Ms. Jacoby, Thank you for a reasoned and articulate exposition. What a lovely encapsulation of philosophy is the last sentence of your piece.

  • Wahoobear

    Its not so much religious people versus non-religous people – its forcing a set of beliefs on the public at large by extremists. Major religious groups like the RC Church, the Episcopal Church, Jewish groups accept evolution and scientific research.The problem is that a large group of religious fantatics want everybody to believe there is no evolution based on the Bible – thus, making superstition and science equivilents.There is nothing in the Bible that says “life” begins at conception versus birth – yet we have certain religous fanatistics insisting that “life” begins at conception and getting laws written that equate conception & birth – laws that have never ever been in force in history. Why aren’r children baptisted at conception? What importance is birth? It the perversion of logic or the dicotomy in values that forces so many people to reject extreme, illogical and superstitious religous views. Didn’t one well known right-wing GOP religious pundit say that Haitians making a pact with the devil causing an earthquake two-centries later. Voltaire came to the opposite conclusion in the 1740s after an earthquake in Lisbon. Since there is a close link between these religious fanatitics and one political party that does their bidding, why shouldn’t non-religous citizens push back -and uphold the Constitution?

  • loebner

    I’m an atheist, and deeply religious; Science is my religion. My atheism is derived from the basic principle of science which is parsimony; atheism is parsimonious.If science were to demonstrate the existence of a deity then I, too, would believe. And it would be possible to prove the existence of God by demonstrating that his/its existence was the simplest explanation, eg, that intercessionary prayers worked (using a double blind study to control for the placebo effect). As a matter of fact, there _was_ a study of intercessionary prayers, and, not surprising, they didn’t work. That’s why so many children of parents who believe in faith healing keep dying of treatable diseases such as diabetes.

  • speak2animals

    I must correct the author on one significant misconception. Far from offering a new kind of “eternal life,” the digitization of media renders our human knowledge base more fragile and prone to permanent extinction than ever before. Read the New Scientist article at

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Rexreddy said that atheists seek to eliminate and destroy Christianity. But that is plain, just not true. And where ever did such a notion come from, I cannot imagine. Atheism is not a religion and has no organized agenda. If an individual atheist or atheistic writer seeks the destruction of Christianity, that hardly means that it is the goal of atheism, and as the belief and will of scattered individuals, it hardly poses a threat.Once again, an atheist is someone who does not believe in God, not someone who seeks to destroy Christianity. Christians who take this attitude are really projecting the way that they think about other points of view.

  • JohnQCitizen

    My experience is that beautiful women are disproportionately not atheists, which is reason enough for me to get with God.

  • spidermean2

    For those who don’t believe the prophecy, the only intelligent way to resolve it is to just wait.See for yourself if there is truth to it or not. Jot it down on paper so you won’t lose it. The Bible is full of prophecies. The prophets wrote it down for future generations to see. Miraculously, the idiotic atheists cant understand a single prophecy.Just accept it guys that you are DUMB. There is no other scientific way of looking at it. That’s the only possible verdict.

  • AliHT

    I disagree that there is no useful distinction between an atheist and an agnostic, and I certainly disagree that agnosticism is about packaging atheism in a more palatable way.I consider myself to be agnostic because I am more open to the possibility that there might be a creative force in the universe that some people tap into when they experience transcendence than an atheist would be. You say that atheists aren’t certain, either. But I think the difference is in the degree.When someone tells me that he or she felt the presence of a dead relative, I expect that an atheist, at least internally, would disagree and believe that there must be an alternative explanation for what the person experienced.On the other hand, while I am deeply skeptical of things like haunted houses, I’m not so sure that some people aren’t able to achieve some sort of something–psychic resonance, perhaps–that allows them to tap into some spiritual energy that exists in the universe.I don’t know what it is that I’m trying to describe, but that’s precisely the point. I don’t know. I myself have had experiences that I can’t explain. And while I don’t believe in a deity that directs the affairs of humanity, still, I don’t completely disbelieve in a gentler, more amorphous spiritual something that might be out there.I don’t BELIEVE in such a being or realm. But neither do I DISBELIEVE. I am agnostic.I agree that atheism does not necessarily mean absolute knowledge that there is no god. But I think that atheism implies a greater degree of disbelief than agnosticism. I’m not suggesting that there is anything noble in my ambivalence. Maybe I’m nothing more than a fence sitter. But I certain don’t see my agnosticism as an apology or hedge to believers. I have many friends who are atheists, and it’s a label I sometimes use for convenience. I don’t mind being thought of as a non-believer. But when I am doing my best to describe myself accurately and honestly, I prefer the label agnostic.

  • amm72

    Susan,I am also a nonbeliever, and I both strongly agree with some of this post and strongly disagree with some of it.On the one hand, I do think that there’s a sense in which atheists are assumed to be “strident” about things when believers are not. It bothers me to see distinctions between “nice atheists” and “mean ones” for similar reasons to yours. The point should not be how we deliver our message and whether we’re pointed or genteel, but rather that people of faith can and should think about the challenges we raise and about how to live with us in a harmonious rather than antagonistic way.And I think that many of us are justifiably angry at the sorts of believers who not only revile us, but who attempt, through strongarming and fear tactics, to force others to believe as they do. Faced with that awful perversion of faith, who wouldn’t get mad?All that said, however, I do think that there are people who are belligerent about their unbelief in ways that are unproductive. I actually left several atheism-themed fora as a youth because our discussions somehow vaulted from thoughtful discussions of arguments for and against the existence of God to obvious and blatant baiting of believers and trolling of online fora.That… well, there was a cruel kind of fun in that at the very beginning, but I soon tired of the endless patting one another on the back for being “more rational” than those who have religious faith. I don’t consider “rationality” a “God” to these people, no, but I certainly think they were obsessed with thinking of their reason as better honed than that of others — especially when they were simply blustering and engaging none of their reason whatsoever!As you say, there is a certain subspecies of religious person who, sadly, appears to be using religion to avoid thinking about the world around her: the kind of person who subscribes wholly and unreflectively to inerrancy and therefore believes things that basic common sense wildly contradict. That person, I do think, is indeed allowing her reason to rust from disuse.But I’ve met many people of faith who are not like that. These tend to be people who think that science offers answers to how the world works and that religion answers (or tries to; often these folks stress that God is mysterious not to strongarm people into defying their own reason but simply to note that some things, we don’t and may never understand) why the world works as it does. While I disagree deeply with them about religion, I’m not sure I disagree that looking for non-scientific tools for thinking about the questions science can’t answer is worthwhile.And that is why I do think that some of us, those of us who are hellbent on denying any positive place for religion in any person’s life, ought perhaps to watch their tone or even to rethink their assumptions.

  • ThomasBaum

    DanielintheLionsDen You wrote, “Religious people demand and expect respect for their religiousity, and seek preferential treatment above people who do not believe as they do.”Who exactly do you mean by “religious people”?Have you met all of the “religious people” on earth?Have you met all of the “religious people” that have ever been?Have you met all of the “religious people” that are to come?How can you possibly say “religious people” are, as you imply, just a bunch of “clones” of each other?There is no difference between this statement “religious people” than all whites, all blacks, all athesits, all (fill in the blank), is there?Then you wrote, “That is the harsh and awful truth.”I suppose the “harsh and awful truth”, as you put it, is that it does not matter if one believes in God or not, to have a “holier than thou” attitude, pretty obvious isn’t it by reading some of the comments contained on this posting?Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • bestotimes

    Susan,

  • fnwy

    The only problem with Atheism — the only problem — is that it requires nothing. It has no “ought” nor any “thou shalt not.” An atheist is as likely to be a Bolshevik as a Nazi or a Wall Street investment banker. As Alasdair MacIntyre has shown in his book After Virtue, reason cannot establish a framework for ethics. Atheists can be ethical, obviously; they simply have no rational reason to be. Ayn Rand, Hitler, and Stalin were all avowed atheists. Thus they illustrate the truth that atheists need not even value science or truth. They can believe whatever they want, and often do.

  • sux123

    Thank you, Freestinker.I wish I had put it so eloquently.

  • fishcrow

    Atheists whine a leeetle too much for me to take them seriously. Without God, then everything is relative, and life has no meaning.If you want to be an atheist, suck it up, take it on the chin, and stop whining – you’re contradicting yourself and you just annoy the rest of us who prefer a life based on reason.Go play Wii or take up knitting but cripes stop crying about how no one understands you.

  • Freestinker

    AliHT,If you are a non-believer, you are an atheist. If you don’t think it’s possible to know for sure whether gods exist or not, then you are also an agnostic. The two labels are, for all practical purposes, exactly the same. I’m guessing you prefer the term agnostic because the believers you know (friends and family) find it to be a more acceptable term but make no mistake, if you lack a belief in gods, you are also a pure atheist.

  • alloleo

    I’m not an atheist, meaning that I pretty much ignore religion altogether so I don’t define myself by being “free of theism”. I don’t collect stamps either but I don’t label myself an “aphilatelist”. So I don’t have any contempt for theists per se. I do have some impatience with believers who urge that not believing in God is just another form of belief. It’s awfully self-absorbed. It’s like a dog lover asking, “Do you love dogs?”, and if one’s indifferent to dogs and says “No”, they respond with, “Oh, so you hate dogs?”. I no more “believe” in “no God” than I hate dogs.

  • HermanKrieger

    The TrinityThose who are busicalThose who are doubtersThose who are inbetween

  • rajeschke

    Spidermean,All of your comments thus far have been a series of “straw men” arguments about evolutionary theory. You have also outrageous assertions devoid of love and decency. I am one of those crazy Bible believers but I also believe in engaging in a decent discussion in the freedom that the United States provides. To spidey I would say this “if you speak in the tongues of men and angels but have not love you are nothing but a banging gong or a clanging cymbal.” Your conduct on this site is embarrassing and demeaning to Christians everywhere. To the atheist I would like to apologize for the way you have been mistreated by Christians everywhere. We are not a perfect breed which is why we need to depend on the one we believe to be perfect. I hope you can look past the outrageous and infuriating remarks made to you by unloving individuals and continue to engage in a civil and decent discussion that takes all viewpoints seriously. People are meant to be loved, not berated.

  • seasail

    I stopped believing in god when george bush et al (the republican hate mongers) were elected. With the madness today, wars; lying; cheating and health care failure, there couldn’t be a god. If there was, he would wipe the earth clean and start over.

  • sux123

    The only problem with Atheism — the only problem — is that it requires nothing. It has no “ought” nor any “thou shalt not.” ——————————-

  • Skowronek

    Has anyone had to deal with atheists appearing on their property, trying to persuade you about atheism? I never have. But I HAVE had to shoo away various people from varying Christian beliefs showing up on my doorstep, hawking their wares. I have yet to be greeted by a door-to-door salesmen for a book written by an atheist, or agnostic. Spidermean wrote:”The prophecies were written in very deep metaphors. Which verses? Im not allowed to do so. It’s a gift from God. You have to earn it for yourself.”Balderdash. You’re not permitted to do what? You keep saying you know when the world is going to end, that the bible has all the answers to questions, but you never, not once, answer any question that is put to you.”Deep metaphors” can be explained, but then you would actually have to give a specific response to a specific question and take the chance that you would be wrong. Sidestepping a direct question indicates that you just don’t know.But don’t let that stop you. By the way, exactly what kind of engineer were you? What did you design (be specific!)? Name a bridge, or a part, or SOMETHING.

  • greyhound1

    Susan, Thank you! For the beautifully-written article; as someone who is continually stunned at the scorn and hatred directed at atheists – as evidenced by some of the posters on this thread – I’m very much looking forward to reading your column.I would like to point out, though, that the myths about atheism are wrong only insofar as all stereotypes are wrong; there are those who fit every one of those five descriptions. (I can certainly recall atheists who think that believers must be stupid, or who believe there is no god as vehemently as any fundamentalist believes that there *is* a god.) Still, it was by-and-large spot-on, and I can only hope that the more intolerant believers learn something from it.Finally, thank you for explaining that atheists feel wonder and awe just as deeply as believers, if not more so. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to explain that it’s far, far more amazing to believe that DaVinci, Picasso, Mozart, Einstein, etc, were as brilliant as they were *on their own*. They did not require a god to achieve what they did, and it is truly awesome (in the original sense of the word) that humans can reach such heights on their own, without the help or inspiration of some omnipotent deity. Moreover, the fact that nature is able to produce a waterfall, a leaf, the human eye, leaves me far more wonder-struck than the idea that a supreme being created it. How is it impressive that a supreme being created a tree? It’s not; it’s a given that such a being could do such a thing. The wonder of the natural world, then, is far greater when you can look at it as it is: as nothing more – and nothing less.

  • spidermean2

    Engineering can be a very hard subject depending on your teacher. He can give you some real hard scientific problems to solve.In contrast, discussing with atheists is so easy. They are so DUMB and their method of reasoning is very shallow and faulty.But some are very good in writing skills and that’s all there is to it.Sorry guys, you just have to face the truth and the truth is that you became atheists because you guys are so DUMB.Engineering can be a very good start to heal you from stupidity.I had an atheist friend before in college but he never finished the engineering course. He has great language skills but sorely lack the logical prowess to be an engineer.Dawkins, Darwin and many atheists are not engineers. They are very good writers but simply lack the brains to be engineers.Hurtful, but that’s the truth. The only reason people call themselves atheists is simply because they are DUMB.

  • kare1

    Gotta love SPIDERMEAN. For all his supposed intelligence, the BEST he can come up with if ATHEISTS are DUMB.WOW what rallying cry for RELIGION if I ever heart one. Become one of us so as to not be considered DUMB.Funny thing is, while he may want to be a Christian, would his GOD support him in his downgrading of fellow humans just because they believe differently?Jesus to bystander — “Do you believe in me?”Yeah like that conversation would ever happen.

  • dcmom

    Trust me. There are intolerant and ignorant atheists. I recently attended a book group meeting where a mother told a child to “take an antidepressant” if she believed in heaven. Anyone who purports to know how the world began is just shutting out new ideas. As a Catholic, I accept all the scientific evidence of evolution, but I also know that there are many questions yet to be explained. I choose to believe in a guiding force behind creation, while others do not. Not all believers are fundamentalist Christians.The most intelligent people will continue to evolve in their beliefs — always questioning and being open to new possibilities.

  • Freestinker

    “Without God, then everything is relative, and life has no meaning.”———Fishcrow,Even with God, everything is relative, based on individual interpretation unless of course your opinion is infallable. ;)And for most atheists, life certainly does have meaning, it just means something different to us … but it still has meaning.

  • spidermean2

    rajeschke wrote “I agree that the chances randomness brings forth life are slight (1/10^10^164 as stated to me by a NASA scientist, enough zeroes to fill a room) “You asked the wrong person. The probability is ZERO. ————Skowronek wrote “Deep metaphors” can be explained”.Ok, try this one :”And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: “Here’s a clue. It’s related to the talking snake in the garden of Eden.Let’s see how intelligent atheists are.c ya later guys.Atheists are DUMB. The the SAD truth.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Dear Thomas BaumYou have a point about the word “knowing.”Just what does it mean to know something?This has to do with truth, and belief.In fact, these three words, truth, knowledge, and belief, have very deep and complicated meanings. Yet people throw them around casually, in a kind of short-hand way of expressing short-hand thoughts. Truth is what actually is.Knowledge is what we believe to be true.Belief is what seems true.These are all circular definitions, and ultimately not very descriptive or satisfying.I believe that valid knowledge is based on artful judgement of all that we perceive ourselves, and the many claims of truth seeking our faith and trust. I believe that science, for example, is a trustworthy source of valid knowledge. Therefore, I believe, for the most part that the consensus of science is true. But I only believe this because I understand what science is and how it works, not because I do every scientific experiment myself.Other people reject science and invest their trust in other ways of thinking about the world. Either way, it is a knowledge that people believe to be true.Some people are very good at this artful judgement of figuring out how to know things that are true, and others are not so good at it. And many people do not seem to care at all.

  • EastCoastCommentator

    My understanding of Atheists seem to reflect the true party of no:No GodInstead of no, why not try and examine everything for a common thread? I submit not everything that exists can be seen, e.g. gravity – you can’t see it, but you can see it’s effects.The same can apply to God. He is invisible and He holds all things together, but you can see His work.The Bible describes Jesus this way:He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 (New American Standard Bible)

  • sux123

    I am an atheist an have been for about 30 years.My Son is 9 and told me he believes in God and heaven. I asked him why and he said, “I have all these thoughts in my head and when I die they I think they have to go somewhere”.I told him that he had a very valid argument and to never let anyone tell him that they know the real truth because nobody does.In the end, we all have to figure things out for ourselves.

  • spidermean2

    kare1 wrote “Funny thing is, while he may want to be a Christian, would his GOD support him in his downgrading of fellow humans just because they believe differently?”This is what God said :”The FOOL had said in his heart that there is no God”.

  • persiflage

    ‘Thus they illustrate the truth that atheists need not even value science or truth. They can believe whatever they want, and often do.’Everything said about atheists can be said about the devoutly religious – who, especially among the fundamentalist set, willfully obstruct and defy the findings of science at every turn. These same purblind religionists would gladly take political control of society in order to implement their religiously inspired beliefs and values on ALL citizens, without exception. You are not the least bit likely to find these same impulses among non-theists in the West. Instead, the ‘live and let live’ philosophy is much more in evidence among the non-religious. And here, we’re not bringing criminals and anti-social misfits into the conversation – as a good many of them are behind bars. Totalitarian regimes that prohibit religion are simply forcing populations to worship political leaders instead instead of supernatural deities. Religion is never necessary for humanitarian values and morally informed behavior – at least in this day and age. In the past, there were simply no options to religion…it was a global/societal universal. That was then, and this is now.

  • datdamwuf2

    Susan,Please devote more writing to this: “Most have confused their constitutional right to believe whatever they want with the idea that the beliefs themselves must be inherently worthy of respect.”This is where we are, this is why we can’t have a rational, reasonable discussion with the religious. And if some atheists have become more vocal, it is because our silence for so long has enabled Christians in the US to insert their beliefs into our daily lives. It is so bad now that we are told an atheist could never be elected to public office! While a woman who had a Christian witch hunter bless her was named as a vice presidential candidate. How have we come to this? One last note, we don’t think the religious are stupid, only indoctrinated. Home schooling was pioneered by devout Christians, how many Christians are home schooling their children because they don’t want them exposed to anything that undermines their religion? The US just granted asylum to a german couple because their country would not allow them to pull their kids out of public school. There are still constant battles to insert this one brand of religion into public schools, so where is the respect from the religious, not only for atheists but for other belief systems?

  • Pamsm

    Use your dictionaries. The words “atheist” and “theist” deal with The words “agnostic” and “gnostic” deal with I am both an atheist and an agnostic – I don’t Believers are both theists and (to the extent that they are honest with both others and themselves) agnostics.They are separate things.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    FarnazYou made it!You punched a hole in the citadel.

  • teoc2

    “Holders of doctoral degrees, whether in philosophy or biology, are less likely than high school dropouts to believe in the supernatural…”Anyone doing research in molecular biology is doing research in the supernatural and by definition are believers in the supernatural.Whether or not they are high school dropouts, that would be something worthy of a doctoral thesis in anthropology or sociology or perhaps education.how quickly Susan Jacoby went from “I’m not saying believers are stupid.” to “believers are high school dropouts” and I if pressed she would undoubtedly say ” high school dropouts aren’t necessarily stupid”.With the state of public education these days there is much to be made of that argument—dropouts, if studied. would undoubtedly include many with higher IQs than the “graduates” of the the class. but then not to worry because at least the teachers don’t believe in the “supernatural”.

  • mrclumpy

    Susan, this was a terrific, well-thought out column. Thanks.

  • ThomasBaum

    msh41You wrote, “There is no such thing as “atheistic society” and never has been.”Unless I heard wrong, there was at least an attempt at a “atheistic society” but it failed to wipe out people’s beliefs and ultimately collapsed.Ever heard of the USSR?The “god” that this “society” tried to impose was the “state”.You then wrote, ” (There have been leaders who have been at war with the religion prevalent in their societies, because it conflicted with their ideology, but the societies remained religious.)”The “atheistic ideology” of the USSR was not at war with the “religion prevalent” but with all.You then wrote, “So we can’t say that atheistic societies have failed to provide anything.”This “attempt” at an “atheistic society” seemed to have “failed to provide” much beyond an extraordinary military machine and even that collapsed.Seems as if they tried to “lift the spirits” of the people with the “supremancy” of the state yet somehow deaden and killed the spirits of the people.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • beckerl

    FNWY,You are right that no ethical beliefs follow directly from atheism. But then no ethical beliefs follow directly from theism in the abstract either. And theists have been across the board ethically as much as atheists have.The choice of a particular theistic viewpoint should, in theory, commit one to some ethical principles, but in practice it doesn’t seem to. There is as much variety in ethical views among Christians as among atheists. And one needs to make some ethical leaps in accepting a religion.The difference is that atheism is not a religion, and so theistic considerations should not play a role in the ethical views that an atheist adopts. But what kind of ethics an atheist accepts is no more arbitrary than what religious beliefs a theist accepts, possibly less so (although that would require a lengthy argument to support).

  • teoc2

    oh yeah, and one more thing, when Susan Jacoby refers to the “supernatural” she is talking about faith.Well scientists are great practitioners of faith and scientific “knowledge” is itself largely “faith based.” Yes the the earth is round, but ask a physicist how or why it came into being and the discussion immediately becomes “faith based.”An honest one will say, “We don’t know, but we believe.”That is an act of faith.

  • Ishmaeli

    We need to be more vigilant about defining what “atheism” is. So many Christians equate the term with “anti-theism” or even “Satanism” that many of us shy away from the label, but it is the most accurate way to describe anyone who is not a theist.If there were a similar word for people who do not believe in alchemy or astrology, it would equally apply to all people who do not ascribe to these forms of pseudoscience. All people who do not believe in alchemy are “a-alchemists.” This does not mean that they share any religious, political or social views, or are in any way a collective group of like-minded people. The only thing they have in common is their lack of belief in alchemy. So it is with atheists. If you do not profess a belief in a god, you are an atheist. You cannot be “neither theist nor atheist” any more than you can be neither sexual nor asexual.To that end, agnosticism is not some kind of middle ground between theism and atheism. It refers to something else completely. Either you are gnostic or you are agnostic, and as with atheism, agnosticism simply describes everyone who is not avowedly gnostic. A gnostic is someone who believes that absolute truth can be known by spiritual or supernatural means.Most theists are gnostic–they believe that they “know” that their beliefs are true through divine revelation or some other spiritual means. Most atheists are agnostic–they don’t believe that they themselves or anyone else can “know” with certainty about something like the existence of god for which there is no physical evidence.In theory, there can be gnostic atheists and agnostic theists, as well. Most concepts of god include the characteristic that he is able to make himself known to his believers, hence, gnosticism. But it’s entirely possible to believe that the universe is best explained by the existence of a god without claiming to have any first-hand knowledge of his existence. And spiritually gained knowledge of absolute truth has to come from somewhere, so the gnostic atheist (who “knows” that god does not exist) must believe in some other supernatural entity that imparted that knowledge to him. But again, it’s entirely possible to hold such beliefs. (I suppose it’s also possible that one could take a gnostic position out of epistemological ignorance, but that’s another matter.)However, the vast majority of us are either gnostic theists or agnostic atheists. I believe that in the past, non-believers emphasized the agnostic component of their non-belief in order to appear humble before believers. It may be a new development that we are now more comfortable emphasizing the atheist component, but nothing has changed with regard to the nature of our unbelief in gods.

  • medogsbstfrnd

    one would think that a self-promoting rationalist would figure out the logical fallacy of spiritedly arguing (and insisting upon being insulted by) a “nasty versus nice dichotomy” which “is wholly an invention of believers” but then immediately asserting in “myth 2″:

  • walter-in-fallschurch

    pam,Maerzie, you said,uh…yeah…exactly… what does that tell you about the rationality of their “decision”. obviously, it’s the any port in a storm mentality. it’s so darn predictable it’s cliche.

  • rcupps

    Spidermean, not to rain on your “Atheists are stupid” parade, but Darwin was not an Atheist. On the contrary, Darwin was a Christian (he actually studied for awhile to be an Anglican priest) who believed that evolution was proof of God’s work through the laws of nature.

  • jdnathan

    Those who view atheism as a religion should ask themselves a question: if I were an atheist, what would I believe? If your answer is “evolution,” then clearly you are wrong because many sincerely relgious people accept evolution. The same is true for the Big Bang. The fact that atheists share one common point of view on the existence of the supernatural or of “God or Gods” doesn’t constitute a religion. Those who believe in God or Gods aren’t thought of as members of the same religion — they may all be theists, but that hardly turns Hindus into Jews or Christians into Animists. Generally, a religion is a set of values, beliefs and rituals based on a consistent view of the intentions of one or more supernatural powers. Atheism is merely the view that the supernatural doesn’t exist. From that point forward, each atheist has to figure it out for herself or himself, which is both liberating and risky (see Joe Stalin). But of course, belief in God/s can lead to positive or negative (see Spanish Inquisition) consequences. Anyhow, what some of those commenting here fail to understand is that believing something is true, even though you can’t prove it, is not a religion. Perhaps they can get a better handle on that by considering this: if I believe in God but don’t base my actions on what I think God wants me to do and don’t participate with other believers in worship, then wouldn’t you agree that I am not religious?

  • Skowronek

    Spidermean wrote:Atheists are all DUMB. Sure they are good in language skills but they sorely lack in analogy and science.

  • cstation

    Susan your column seems to suggest that, unlike science, religion does not advance through experimentation and fact. I would argue that the evidence written in the Bible does prove an advancement through process over time. Genesis, in fact, was one of the last books written in the Hebrew Bible. Many of its ideas about relationships with other nations clearly evolved over time. Just because God is all in all doesn’t mean that believers don’t need to test and explore what we believe are the revelations God has given us. The problem with fundamentalism is that, in my view, they refuse to see this process in the Holy Texts. But the process is there non the less.monty keeling

  • apspa1

    Two strangers on a park bench begin a friendly conversation.At one point one of them looks around the park and wonders to his new friend, “Do you think we will ever know how all this began?”The other responds, “But we do know. All this, everything was created by a god.”"A god” asks the first man. “Tell me about this god. Where is he?”"Well we don’t know for sure. Some say he is everywhere.”"He? So this god is a he.”"we think so. Some say he created man in his image.”"What does he say.”"He never talks to us. Some say they converse with him but there has never been any proof.”"Has he ever written any messages to us?”"Well there is a book that some people wrote that has a story about god writing his demands on a stone, but it destroyed and the pieces lost?”"Well, when was god born?”"God was never born or created. He always was and always will be.”"Always was and always will be?”"Yes, god is all powerful, all knowing and omnipotent.”"So I ask a question that wonders about a single unanswered question about the world around us and you claim the answer is a never ending series of unknown and unprovable beliefs. That is, you find it easier to accept and live with many unknowns rather than simply one.”And there gentle people we have a believer and an non-believer. A theist and an atheist.

  • Freestinker

    TEOC2,I respect (and tolerate) your right to believe in any nonsense you like but the nonsense itself must earn my respect (and tolerance) and nonsense rarely earns my respect nor my tolerance.See the difference?

  • sux123

    #1. We are all ignorant of the ultimate truth of the Universe.#2. Some of us are also ignorant of #1

  • jckdoors

    I’m an athiest. A good person. Don’t push my thoughts on others. Don’t participate in the back and forth between the camps. I go through life minding my own business, and wish others would do the same.

  • cassie123

    My thoughts:I appreciate that Susan does not view “religious” as less intellectual than athiests. I am sure there are many people who claim to be athiest who feel the same way. However, it is hard to deny that some athiests have made it very clear that they believe their intellect must superceed anyone who is religious and no religious person can be “smart”. I am not sure how you can claim: “One point, however, is indisputable: there is a strong correlation between simplistic fundamentalist beliefs, relying on a literal interpretation of sacred texts, and lack of education.” Is there some kind of study that this is based upon??? First, I don’t think that the level of education that one receives necessarily means that they are smart or stupid. I know a lot of people who act “stupid” that have many degrees and vice versa (Susan: I am not sure if you are necessarily wanting to make the leap of eduction = smarts, but then again that is the impression I received). Second, is it possible that those with high eduction levels may not feel comfortable talking about religion with co-workers or friends, perhaps due to a bias against them? I am mainly thinking of the field of science. Being religious is often seen as incompatible with science – when that just is not the case (in fact, it is truly unfortunate). This has led to problems with conintuing work.No one can “prove” God exists. It just isn’t possible. I am a Christian, and I would say that as it stands now, I cannot “prove” that God exists, but of course on the flip side, an athiest cannot “prove” that God doesn’t exist. I do think that the evidence for God’s existance is strong which has led me to a belief in the one true God. As I have put my faith in God, I have felt God more and more. Either way, we both can have points of view that differ – fine. I am not sure why so many are “scared” of having someone talk about the existance of God. I am not “scared” when someone talks about the big bang theory (although I think it is bunk). There seems to be some hypocrisy on BOTH sides at times, but only the religious (namely Christians) are ever called out for it. Any time a Christian wants to defend themselves, they are merely spouting more religious sentiment. Be fair. Is that too much to ask?

  • garrafa10

    “…Holders of doctoral degrees, whether in philosophy or biology, are less likely than high school dropouts to believe in the supernatural…”Apparently Ms. Jacoby is unfamiliar with the numerous colleagues I have in the University of California system who are practicing believers of their religion. This is true across disciplines from physics to history. What is more disturbing is the ease with which Ms. Jacoby is prepared to parade her stupidity on a weekly basis.

  • js_edit

    Yes the the earth is round, but ask a physicist how or why it came into being and the discussion immediately becomes “faith based.”An honest one will say, “We don’t know, but we believe.”That is an act of faith.Posted by: teoc2 | February 3, 2010 12:46 PM————————Um, no. But your comment does betray a complete misunderstanding of science.A physicist or astronomer might say “we believe” when speaking of the origins of the Earth or the universe, but it’s a belief based on evidence — not faith. The best evidence that we have leads us to certain conclusions, but those conclusions can always be modified in the light of new evidence.The key to it all is evidence. Faith has absolutely nothing to do with it.

  • guy11976

    Ms Jacoby has given some of the best arguments for atheism that I have read. I especially admire the realization that we cannot know for certain that there is or is not a god, nor can we prove either proposition. Anyone including Jesuits know that the proofs have always come up wanting!

  • Freestinker

    “If some aspect of the universe isn’t known or cannot be known, why hold a belief about it?”———Because it fills the gap in our knowledge which makes us feel warm and fuzzy (not).Besides, it’s always fun to make a wild guess but you should admit that it’s just a wild guess!

  • apspa1

    There were thousands of functioning churches of all denominations throughout the Soviet Union.In fact the Soviet government provided subsides to the maintenance of churches based on the size of the membership.Fully functioning monasteries were equally represented.It was the law!

  • cmecyclist

    “…Holders of doctoral degrees, whether in philosophy or biology, are less likely than high school dropouts to believe in the supernatural…”Apparently Ms. Jacoby is unfamiliar with the numerous colleagues I have in the University of California system who are practicing believers of their religion. This is true across disciplines from physics to history. What is more disturbing is the ease with which Ms. Jacoby is prepared to parade her stupidity on a weekly basis.Posted by: garrafa10 | February 3, 2010 1:30 PMYou have completely misread the original statement. Since despite your degree, you don’t get it, I’ll make it simpler for you.It doesn’t say that highly educated believers in a god DON’T exist. What it says it that a higher percentage of those with doctorates (we’re talking percentage, NOT sheer numbers here) are atheists than people without a high school degree.

  • garrafa10

    “You have completely misread the original statement. Since despite your degree, you don’t get it, I’ll make it simpler for you.It doesn’t say that highly educated believers in a god DON’T exist. What it says it that a higher percentage of those with doctorates (we’re talking percentage, NOT sheer numbers here) are atheists than people without a high school degree.Posted by: cmecyclist”Perhaps you need to read her statement fully? It is quite clear what she is saying with absolutely no empirical evidence to justify her assertion, just like you. You are a mongoloid.

  • mandrake

    These comments originate from people who are religious and think that everyone is.They want to consider atheists as just being another religion since they refuse to believe that religion is an optional part of life. Truth be told, religion is no more vital than NASCAR. Some people follow it others don’t. When people ask me who my favorite NASCAR driver is and I say “I don’t have one” the presumption is not that I am a part of some minority of secret NASCAR fans, they simply assume it’s not part of my life. Such as it is with religion but for some reason people just can’t accept that. I do not refer to myself as being an atheist as it infers that there is any reason to have any opinion one way or the other. I simply say I am not religious or have no religious beliefs.

  • Freestinker

    GARRAFA10 wrote: “Apparently Ms. Jacoby is unfamiliar with the numerous colleagues I have in the University of California system who are practicing believers of their religion. This is true across disciplines from physics to history. What is more disturbing is the ease with which Ms. Jacoby is prepared to parade her stupidity on a weekly basis.”——–GARRAFA10,What is even more disturbing is that a Professor in the Univ. of California system lacks the basic reading and comprhension skills necessary to understand Ms. Jacoby’s point.CMECYCLIST explained the nature of your misunderstanding quite well.

  • cfournier

    To garrafa10: Apparently you are unaware of the meaning of the phrase “less likely”. Anyone who does know the meaning understands that she was not trying to make a blanket statement that the most educated are by definition not religious, but statistically speaking there are numerous surveys that show they are less likely to profess a belief in god. (At the same time, those who are more educated and profess a faith, are more likely to participate in structured religion, e.g. being a member of a church and attending regularly. Maybe that’s why you know so many colleagues who are part of a religion.) I could provide links, but there is a lot of work to cover this topic and a simple google search will provide you with many to choose from.It could be said that the ease with which you parade your stupidity by not having any background research is disturbing. Unfortunately, it’s just expected.

  • EastCoastCommentator

    Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom…James 3:13

  • zanderae

    I am secure in my atheism and respect others’ right to believe or not believe whatever they want. However, if being lumped in with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens makes me a “mean” atheist, then by all means color me bad.

  • cmecyclist

    garrafa10,People who can’t respond intelligently to arguments do so with insults.

  • djjunk

    I’m agnostic about God like I’m agnostic about fairies. I can’t really KNOW that they don’t exist. I can’t PROVE that they don’t exist. And there certainly are some very ardent believers in fairies (like my 5 year-old) and I will do nothing (yet) to disabuse her of that belief (better to have a millstone around my neck and to be thrown into a sea of Baptists…)Atheists/Agnostics: I think that all the hedging about “cannot know with absolute certainty” stuff does provide a little CYA for the counterattack, but really…is it necessary? Can’t you just speak plainly about what you ‘know’?Theists: Quoting the bible to prove your points? Do you also condone the stoning of adulterers, incest (e.g., the “good” Lot with his daughters, post Sodom), and giving up shrimp? Or do you just pick and choose which parts of the ‘divine word’ to follow? And if YOU can pick and choose which divine directives to follow, then who is really making the decisions?Susan: thanks for a thoughtful article.oh, and one more thing. The whole “how can there be something from nothing” argument for the existence of God really needs to be put out of its misery. Proponents say that everything must come from something, and therefore God must have created this. Where does God come from? Oh, he was always there? So it is possible that something has always existed, was not created, begotten (not made)? But that ‘something’ cannot be matter, energy, or the universe? Why not, exactly?

  • ewsnyder

    Spidermean: You could not have missed my point more completely.

  • ThishowIseeit

    Ms Jacoby,

  • markskaggs

    What a sad, sad commentary on the state of the author’s own heart. What a cleverly built foundation of self-deceptions she espouses to deny what every culture in the world inherently knows: GOD IS.

  • FergusonFoont

    Although I do not believe in any kind of anthropomorphic “deity” I do believe that there is a greater whole of which we are all a part, a whole that by its very definition meets the criteria of a “god” in that it is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. This “God” is everything, literally everything, not just every object and the space between itself and other objects, but every combination of those objects, every time there has ever been and ever will be, every thought, every hope, every dream — EVERYTHING. This is omniscient because it INCLUDES all knowledge. It is omnipotent because every power there is to bring about any effect is a part of its whole. It is omnipresent because everywhere is an aspect of its being.But I hate being called an “atheist” simply because I do not believe in a hoary old guy ordering everything about, and in fact I am quite certain that “He” does not exist. There are many things I do not believe in. If I am an “atheist, am I not also, among many other things, an aleprechaunist, an alochnessmonsterist, an aghostist? I don’t believe in leprechauns, the Loch Ness Monster, or ghosts any more than I believe in a deity as a sentient being. I do not wish to be defined or categorized by my absence of some particular kind of unsubstantiated belief.But I guess I’m one of those mean old atheists, because I am less kind than Ms. Jacoby in that I regard religion as nothing more than than a particularly persistent superstition, albeit one that, from time to time, takes a somewhat nastier turn than avoidance of ladders and black cats. Literally millions of lives have been lost to various disputes between one set of religious superstitions and another. This is why I am pointedly intolerant of proselytizers of all sorts who confront me almost on a daily basis, often unintentionally just by wearing their particular brand of religion on their sleeves (or, in a particularly weird and increasingly pervasive trend, on their bumper stickers — would an omnipotent God need advertising?).I understand where religion comes from — our own conscious self-awareness, which renders us unable to conceive of our own ending because of the hardwiring of our brains. We have therefore built up a particularly ornate but nevertheless false edifice of the “afterlife” so as to accommodate our inability to see past our own lives with our own eyes.But I also understand, for example, the underlying causes for the rise of the Nazis, but I have no more intentions of becoming one of them than I do of becoming a religious believer.

  • braunt

    TOJBY_2000 wrote: “Because On Faith is the only appropriate venue to challenge the basic premise.” In reponse to:Your response still doesn’t answer the question. Why is it the On Faith blog the appropriate venue? Is it because all atheism has to offer is anti-religion? In my original post, I posited that Ms. Jacoby uses the On Faith blog as avenue to attack religion; TOJBY_2000 uses the term “to challenge.” Either way, by posting her columns in the On Faith blog, Ms. Jacoby can only be against something, specifically religion. If she had used another venue, say a science or reason, or social concerns, or some other blog (POSTGLOBAL?) she could have used her belief system positively.

  • Pamsm

    MarkSkaggs,If, indeed, all cultures know about God inherently, why don’t all culturs believe the same things? Why is proselytizing necessary?

  • mark75

    What I find tiresome about religious people’s impressions about atheism (and this is reflected repeatedly in these comments) is that it’s incompatible with awe, wonder and transcendence. I’m an athiest who finds great joy in gazing at the night time sky and imagining what could have produced all this. I practice yoga and zen meditation to help open my mind to the joy of just being here and being alive. No where in this is the requirement for belief in a supernatural deity, a soul, a heaven. Science has not and will not answer every question. Answers offered in the Bible and other religious text do not, to me, satisfy. That’s okay. I find wonder in these unanswered questions themselves.

  • DC68

    I think the reason that atheists have become more militant or adamant is that they have realized that things aren’t going as they expected. In the 60′s and 70′s, we knew that we were part of the forward march of humanity. Religions and other old-fashioned belief systems were eroding in the face of scientific advancement and would simply disappear. Mainstream religions had to modify and moderate their dogmas in order to fit in with the modern ethos. Strangely, this process did not continue. Belief systems that were unscientific and backward gained in popularity at an alarming rate. Fewer American accept evolutionary theory than did 40 years ago. This in the face of massive paleontological discoveries, increasing knowledge of DNA and the genome, etc. This reversal has caused atheists to reconsider their soft stance on religious beliefs. They are no longer the antiquated opinions of your grandparent’s generation. They are being held by young people and will influence policy. That is what is so disturbing. The Scopes monkey trials will have to be fought again and again.

  • streetnoise

    @ DATDAMWUF2It might surprise as many agnostics as it would so-called fundamentalists how many kids are increasingly home schooled due to:Many U.S. parents believe religion has no place in govt. backed public institutions. However, there are growing numbers who want their children educated in academics absent religious indoctrination and are doing something about it, sacrificing income in order to insure their kids grow intellectually prepared to make both erudite and moral decisions. It is not lost on those parents that they are also forced to fund the very public schools that cannot adequately educate their children while doing harm by promulgating religion, as well as questionable cultural social experiments. When public school teachers opt to stay home and tutor their own kids due to the above issues, corporate organized religion has crept too far into the mainstream daily life. That religious schools receive taxpayer money is further insult to injury. It ceases to become a protected personal belief system when it flourishes by being forced on all others.

  • js_edit

    Um, braunt,Because “On Faith” is the most logical place to put a blog about the absence of faith. That’s a topic that discusses the issue of faith.Of course, you know that. You’re just being needlessly pedantic in order to pain yourself as the aggrieved victim of an attack by mean old atheists.

  • AlBme

    As an atheist, I share some attitudes with most atheists but do have some non-traditional beliefs that do not fall nicely under either atheistic or theistic categories. I don’t believe in a supernatural being as creator, reigning over, and micromanaging its creation. Nor do I believe that morality has somehow been imposed upon us by some godly decree. Rather, morality is a set of tenets which evolved along with our sense of justice. Nor do I believe that there could be an ‘afterlife’, per se — much less do I find the idea of spending eternity in perpetual awe in the face of such a god, and apparently doing little else, all that exciting a prospect. I say, ‘per se’ because if the Universe can be taken as a single space-time continuum that includes the entire reach of time from beginning? to end?, (a very big if), then our slice of time in which we existed may continue to be part of that vast continuum — much like a strip of film. (That is pure speculation, no worse than a religious belief — true. But, at least it’s something that, in theory, can be investigated scientifically. The more likely result is that after death, there is only oblivion.)One thing I do believe is that spirituality is as real an aspect of humanity as is our sentience. The cornerstone of that spirituality is shared by both theists and atheists alike — that being, the contemplation that the Universe exists and more importantly, that each of us, individually, exist. The idea that the Universe either came to be all on its own or has always existed are equally miraculous possibilities. But not miraculous in the sense that some being caused such an event. It happened on its own! Contemplating that is the very essence of spirituality. More so is the very act of the contemplation of existence. Miraculous indeed.I bet that most atheists, and theists, equate religion with spirituality. They are, in fact, not the same thing. I argue that religion hijacked spirituality for its own selfish goals many millennia ago and continues to do so today. I don’t know if this comment has helped debunk some myths or possibly helped perpetuate them. (In particular, regarding Myth #3 — except for the intolerance part. Each of us have the right to contemplate existence in any way we wish. Even if we didn’t have the right, we would do so anyway; in secret.) But, this is the current state of my journey. It is me, an atheist, perhaps paradoxically, exposing my spirituality to any one who cares to read about it.

  • Susan_Jacoby

    I am very happy to have the chance to respond to those who asked why I post on the “On Faith” blog if atheism isn’t a religion. I do it because I’m interested in reading the responses of religious believers as well as other atheists, just as I’m interested in reading other posts by religious believers on the panel. These comments–suggesting that I ought to be posting on some blog dedicated to science or atheism–exemplify everything that is wrong with intellectual discourse in our society. For the most part, Americans only visit Web sites that reflect their point of view, just as people watch cable news programs with which they already agree. So they never read or hear a thing that challenges their preconceived opinions. If you want to talk only to those with whom you already agree, you’re welcome to limit yourselves that way. I would rather reach a broader audience, just as I would rather expose myself, as a reader, to a broader spectrum of ideas.

  • js_edit

    garrafa10,Mongoloid? Seriously? Please let me know which California university you work for so that I can make sure that none of the kids in my family ever enroll there.

  • Cthulhu3

    The problem with Jacoby and other atheists is that they act as if religion were some external, “foreign” virus that infected the pure, atheistic, rational world from outside, sort of a lost “Golden Age” myth for the non-believer. They betray this fallacy and faulty logic in comments like Jacoby’s above: “To fill our portion of the universe with the best achievements possible, through our love and our work, is purpose enough for a lifetime and requires no transcendence of nature and no afterlife.” If religion, like the internet, surgery, atom bomb–whatever–is just an expression of our materially-based intelligence, a product of evolution, what makes “filling the universe with our best achievements” any better or more preferable than “filling it with myths and practices that are the product of our materially based minds” (aka religion). I mean, Jacoby and her ilk constantly jump between “facts” and “values” as if they have a foundation for their “values” based on “facts”. What’s the foundation? Is rationality any more preferable than myth–both are merely the byproduct a blind, purposeless physical process. There is no ultimate plan, no planner, no guidebook, no end (per Aristotle) to this universe, no arbiter. Methinks Jacoby et al are really closet Deists who are somehow hoping that by throwing “Progress” and “Atheism” together frequently, that people will come to believe that atheism is some sort of Faith in Human Progress project. Unfortunately, they are not following the logical path of atheism to its ultimate conclusions–they half-step. Nietzsche understood this well.

  • RememberIraq

    Susan, Very well done. I never read anything about religion these days but this caught my eye. I never “comment” or read “comments” but this time I was curious and read a few. I think the faith column is appropriate because it allows discussion. Sure the supra religious types will get mad but many current religious people are tomorrows “atheists” for lack of a better word. I like “non-believer” and consider myself such. I never read “atheist” info although I have read Dawkin’s science work like The Ancestor’s Tale.It’s like this. I cannot tell you what God is, I can only tell you based on factual scientific info what God is not and I can accurately tell you that there is not one faith on this planet that can incorporate the Universe from the uncertainty of the quantum to the infinity (near infinite) of the Cosmos.

  • datdamwuf2

    to streetnoise: I wasn’t saying that Christians are the only ones home schooling, just that they led the charge because they believe that public school undermines their indoctrination of their children. I can well imagine some parents doing this for the opposite reason, especially in Texas, because I’ve followed the insanity there regarding “teaching” Christianity in the public schools. It makes me angry that one religious sect claims they know the truth and then tries to “teach” it to children. In the US that sect is usually Christian, I just wonder how much they would like it if I tried to institute a religion class in public schools that examined every major cult and at least a few of the smaller ones? I’m sure it wouldn’t go well, I don’t think I have the cash to deal with the lawsuits they would bring.

  • Schaum

    JNIK:”Presbyterians say Episcopalians are going to Hell, and vice versa.”Actually, Episcopalians almost NEVER say anyone is going to hell. They prefer to leave the judging to their god.

  • flonzy3

    Being a jerk no matter what your cause is, is counter productive. As an atheist I don’t think of myself as smarter than people who believe in God, frankly those loud mouth atheist who talk down about religion often themselves come off as fools on top of being petty.

  • biu9

    Regarding Myth #3, I encourage you to read recent developments on research in Near Death Experiences (NDEs),authored by Dr.

  • leoxthree

    I am not an atheist. I admit freely that I am not an atheist because I want to believe there is an omnipresent, immanent, divine presence that is wholly, if perhaps impersonally, benign and loving. (And definitely not anthropomorphic.) I know that if such a being exists, it is totally beyond my comprehension, but I have faith that such a being exists. This faith helps me get through the day, and I believe my faith helps me improve as a person. I am not religious. Religion is a social construct, IMO, a system of worship (and even living) agreed upon by those with common beliefs. Religion can have very little to do with faith, and can be used too easily to sway the masses to acts that would be abhorrent to any god worth believing in. Religion can also be very divisive, and stifling. But religion can act as a force for good, whether through charity work or by encouraging moral conduct in followers, and this should also be acknowledged. Like any social construct, it has its pros and cons.I embrace science. I love science. I think science is a marvelous search for answers that we must fully support. Science forces us to think and re-think, and we absolutely should re-consider and re-assess religious doctrines when scientific theory or fact challenge them. Doctrines, after all, are created by people, based on their view of God. I have yet to see any scientific facts that deny the possibility of God, and many that leave me in continued awe of the beauty and complexity of our universe. My choice to believe God is part of it (as many scientists do) does not invalidate the science, any more than the science invalidates my faith. For me, it is all part of the same wonder.I know annoyingly smug atheists who are certain they alone “get it”, and that they are both intellectually and morally superior to any believer they’ll ever meet. I know belivers who are equally annoying and smug, and also think they are intellectually and morally superior to any atheist they’ll ever meet. Both groups despise me. This tells me I must be doing something right. I thank Ms. Jacoby for her column, and all those who have commented for the great discussion.

  • Bugs3

    I think the fact that we are having this argument proves we are all freakin’ insane. Sane people would look at what’s in front of them every day and deal with it, not argue about whether there’s an invisible something-or-other behind it all.But whatever. SHOW ME this invisible something-or-other and I’ll believe in it. Don’t assume its existence – simply demonstrate its existence. Then I’ll believe. Otherwise, you’re talking pink elephants.

  • Hellene2

    It’s amazing in the discussion of atheism, how Ms Jacoby completely forgets the militant atheism of the Soviet Union and the rest of the former communist world which left the biggest blood trail in all of human history. The Russians having had their fill of the moral maiming and spiritual desert of the fallen atheistic regime, now once again identify themselves (70% in 2008) as Orthodox Christians. You only have to look at the blood-soaked communist experiment to see the consequences of institutionalizing atheism in the devastation of every population upon which it has been inflicted. The shrill invective against religion by the moderen cohort of western atheists is a remarkable echo of the same seething hatred shown by the militant atheists of the Soviet Union. No matter how many people they killed or terrorized to stamp out religion, they came to the conclusion as expressed in a Russian saying that “religion is like a nail; the harder you hit it the deeper it goes.” Nevertheless, it is no stretch at all to believe that a lot of western atheists, given their hate-filled hysteria, would be glad to pick up the hammer again for another try.

  • Schaum

    Brettpattsch1:”I am an atheist too.No. A former Baptist/Roman Catholic/Episcopalian and now an atheist who practices the philosophy of buddhism, it seems to me that human superstitions and fears of death and non-being select more for theism than for atheism.

  • Jazzman7

    My question is and has always been: Why does it have to be “religion”? By that I mean that belief of individuals seems to morph into religion of groups. The term “atheism” leads some to believe that a non-acceptance is somehow religion, that it is necessarily organized, that there is a belief system.What needs to be recognized (hopefully accepted, but recognition may be the best to be hoped for) is that atheism is a projected concept, not the end process of a skeptical thought process. I am atheist, but I would not say I am AN atheist nor that I follow atheism. The latter two terms tend to imply that a person is a believer in some system of explanations. The term “atheist” means “without a religion (or theist structure)”, and that essentially is the result of a person’s evaluating religious options and determining that none makes (personal) sense.In all the discussions one might hear and read, the notion of an atheist body of belief persists. It blurs the conversation, but one might suppose that it is a persistence of habit more than one of evidence. At bottom, one will find as many “stripes” of atheist as one finds of believers. There isn’t a unifying dogma to non-deistic(is that a word?) thought. As with any other human beings, we might be good or bad, conservative or liberal or in-between, happy or sad, depressed or ebullient. As for me, my being atheist was the result of a methodical questioning and reasoning and from the background of one “schooled” in Christian tradition. I am comfortable and confident I have made good choices. I live as decent and humanistic a life as I can. That is all I expect of my neighbors, however they may arrive at their ethics and behaviors.

  • MML2

    If everyone, atheists and non-atheists alike, viewed religion only as a tool with the sole purpose of helping people conduct their lives in a manner that enhances both their happiness and the happiness of every other creature on earth, it would not matter whether God exists. Each of us would be free to choose the path to happiness that works for best for us, whether through religious or secular means, without judging another’s path.But egos have turned most religions into businesses and power seats, in total conflict of their real purpose. Some religions have a vested interest in instilling fear and ignorance to obtain members. Power and money drive the need for a religion to justify itself as righteous, which in turn drive these discussions regarding the existence of God.Nevertheless, both the educated and uneducated seek happiness throughout this hardship called life, regardless of culture, country, religion, or tribe. Educated and uneducated undergo experiences that challenge socially conventional notions of how to obtain happiness. Educated and uneducated are equally likely to find that believing, or not believing, in a supreme being helps bring happiness. It doesn’t matter. What matters is whether we each find a path that works.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    It seems that most of the believers posting here are Christian or Catholic.Do they believe in God? Or do they believe in doctrine?

  • wilhouse49

    I recently read “The Case for a Creator” and “The Case for Christ”, both by the former atheist Lee Strobel. Both books were a wonderful affirmation of my believe in God. Not only is spontaneous life…The Big Bang and its reulting Universe, not possible without an intelligent cause, but everything about about us and the world around us screams out Creator. I think Atheists make some very sound arguments for their non belief that have given me more than a little to think about. In the final analysis I must come back to “How did it all, including the Big Bang, get started? I am compelled to believe, not necessarily understand, that God is at the start of it all. Just as a horse can’t appear in my living room from nothing, the same principal holds true for ,life and everything else. There must be a Creator!!

  • DPA7

    If it is to be athieism, then what is the source of comfort and peace of mind that allows a person to function in a world afflicted by insecurity, poverty, disease and death. Do you recommend any books on the subject?

  • cassie123

    wilhouse49I have read all of the “Case” books by Lee Strobel. You are right. They are great and I love them. I would recommend them to anyone curious about the evidence for Christianity. If you have questions, learn about it. Then decide. So many people just listen to what others tell them or they only want to ask questions…but not find answers. For those true skeptics out there, these books will provide a compelling arguement for the Christian faith. If you choose to disagree after reading them, then so be it. I personally agree with the books and have ready them several times.

  • slavicdiva

    I stopped believing in a deity starting at around age 12; for me, it was a process that involved examining exactly what the Catholic faith professed, and whether I believed it. Unfortunately, when I was younger, my questions about the faith were not answered – or I received the standard nuns’ answer, “Don’t be insolent!”I also had a real problem with the Catholic church viewing me, a “mere” woman, as “less than” my male contemporaries. Wait, wasn’t I made in god’s image? Apparently not.Ultimately, there was too much in the Catholic and Christian faiths that I did not believe – so I felt I had no business calling myself a Catholic or Christian. In my 20s, I was friends with another recovering Catholic, who was perpetually in search of a religion. I never understood why he felt compelled to have one, which is when it dawned on me:I don’t need a god.If you need or want a god, good for you – go find it, wherever it may be, and I hope it does for you what you need it to. But I don’t need or want it; kindly respect my lack of need in the same way you expect me to respect your need for same.I have never been proselytized by a fellow atheist. No atheist has ever smugly lectured me about the beauties of non-belief. No atheist has ever rudely insisted that s/he was there to lead me to the “true path.” And I have never attempted to convert anybody to anything. Believe whatever you want – just respect my right to do likewise.For future topics, I would like to see a discussion of the following paradox: More and more people apparently profess no faith or particular religious affiliation, yet the media still insists that atheists cannot be elected to public office.Why is this discrimination – especially in the light of the Constitutional prohibition against “religious tests” – allowed?

  • BlaiseP

    Cthulhu3 | February 3, 2010 2:40 wrote:The problem with Jacoby and other atheists is that they act as if religion were some external, “foreign” virus that infected the pure, atheistic, rational world from outside, sort of a lost “Golden Age” myth for the non-believer. They betray this fallacy and faulty logic in comments like Jacoby’s above…Jacoby and her ilk constantly jump between “facts” and “values” as if they have a foundation for their “values” based on “facts”. What’s the foundation? Is rationality any more preferable than myth–both are merely the byproduct a blind, purposeless physical process. There is no ultimate plan, no planner, no guidebook, no end (per Aristotle) to this universe, no arbiter. Methinks Jacoby et al are really closet Deists who are somehow hoping that by throwing “Progress” and “Atheism” together frequently, that people will come to believe that atheism is some sort of Faith in Human Progress project. Unfortunately, they are not following the logical path of atheism to its ultimate conclusions–they half-step. Nietzsche understood this well. Well, Nietzsche admirably described the godless, aimless and orderless world which resulted when Christian Europe deleted the ‘Christian’ from its worldview. But was this new worldview and the subsequent great role Nietzsche played in the spiritual life of the 20th century beneficial or harmful? The philosopher was fascinated by Darwinism. The idea that weaker, inferior specimens are eliminated and only the noblest and best of the species survive appealed to him, and he thought that such a law should also apply to the human species: weaker individuals should die while the stronger survived and helped the inferior ones to die. He despised Christianity because it embraces the opposite principle: it would have us protect the meek, the wretched and the weak, in defiance of the laws of nature.Take away Jacoby and her acolytes’ “values” &tc (and you are right that they are ultimately deist) all we have left is Herbert Spencer and Nietzsche. Given the harm their cruel ideology inflicted on the 20th century, do we really want to let them back out of their respective boxes?(Still, your comment was thoughtful.)

  • js_edit

    teoc2,Your own definitions belie your argument. I won’t even go into your characterization of the science of physics, which is clearly an opinion with little factual basis.That said, your definition of faith reads “complete trust or confidence in someone or something”You go on to say “science places its trust and confidence in today’s explanations based on the available evidence today… science is a belief system based on faith, until proven otherwised based on the evidence available today…”Therefore, science isn’t faith. Science doesn’t put “complete” trust or confidence in any explanation. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be willing to change its conclusions in light of new evidence. Indeed, if it placed complete trust in an explanation, it wouldn’t bother to continue testing and looking for new evidence.But the fact is, science tests, retests, and then tests again its fundamental assumptions. And new evidence constantly leads to new conclusions — or a refinement of old conclusions. Our understanding of basic concepts such as gravity and evolution have changed tremendously since they were originally explained. And they will continue to change as new evidence is discovered.All to say, there’s no “complete” trust or confidence in any of the results. It’s really not faith.

  • Schaum

    Cassie123:”I would say that as it stands now, I cannot “prove” that God exists, but of course on the flip side, an athiest cannot “prove” that God doesn’t exist.”‘God exists’ is a positive posit. Only positives can be proven, and if they cannot be proven, they are disregarded. On the other hand ‘God does not exist’ is a negative, and negative posits CANNOT be proven, by atheists or anyone else. Atheists infer that god does not exist because god-believers are unable to prove that he does. Prove the “truth” of god, and atheists are instantly shot down. They used to teach critical thinking and logic in high schools. Sad that this is not often the case any longer. But, they do still teach scientific method in general science classes.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Demste:CAN SOMEBODY TELL ME WHERE THE DINOSAURS CAME FROM AND WHY NOAH DIDN’T PUT ANY ON THE ARC?

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Poor ole’ dumb Hellene2Once again, an atheist is not a Communist; and atheist is someone who does not believe it God. There is no economic theory, nor dogma associated with atheism; it is just that, to some people, the existence of God does not seem true.It is as simple as that.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Evolution is generally not taught formally as a class; it is instead a construction that supports much of what science explains. People who want to know about the world and about the universe learn about it as a they naturally satisfy their curiosity and seek to learn new things.We evolved the way we have, so that we might navigate our way through the world. Many of us seem to have a natural curiosity that is a basic part of our make-up, and goes well above and beyond what is needed to get us safely from one day to the next.So, then, I suppose, that is why a great many of us do not have this curiosity, yet get along well-enough; a great many people are apathetic towards knowledge, and only want to know enough so that they can get tops off jars, work the tv remote, change gears in a car, and stuff like that, but don’t want to know about evolution, and don’t want to think about the nature of existence or things like subjective experience; it is too much trouble, mentally taxing, and has no utility in survival to be bothered with.

  • Freestinker

    Wilhouse49,Everyone knows (or should know) that there isn’t any evidence for the existence of any gods.And begging the question doesn’t prove any gods exist, it merely demonstrates your failure to grasp the basic rules of reason.In my experience, seeking rational arguments for the existence of gods is a sure sign of a religious skeptic. Maybe even a future atheist!Pure religious faith needs no evidence, proof, or logical arguments. Isn’t that the supposed beauty of religious faith? That it is a complete mystery?

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    I don’t think people in general are very interested in religion or spiritual matters. Even very religious people who go to church, pray, and read the Bible are not very interested. Going through the motions of a theological script, written by men, and imposed upon man, is not in my opinion, being “interested” in religion.But, likewise, I do not think people are very interested in science either. Each new utility of science is merely incorporated into the landscape of our existence by each succeeding generation, with some vague notion that science is behind it, but not knowing how or why. Oh, people like to drive the cars, travel by air, watch their big screened TV’s, cook in their micro-waves, sync their ipods to their computers, and do all this modern twenty-first century stuff. But, science? to most people, it is boring, remote, and dull, and it is just as easy to reject its philosophy as take it, if the theological script dictates it.So, I do not see the conditions of man, changing much in the near future, with regards to religion.I call this condition “apathy towards knowledge.” How can we rouse people from their apathy? I am not sure we can.

  • js_edit

    teoc2,Nice job. Don’t actually engage any of my arguments, just post an argument from another poster and claim victory. You’ve still yet to prove that science is a faith, based on the definition that you provided. And you’ll never be able to.

  • Pamsm

    Skowronek to Spidey:Sanitation.

  • teoc2

    S_EDIT | FEBRUARY 3, 2010 4:10 PM”Don’t actually engage any of my arguments, just post an argument from another poster and claim victory.”You’ve still yet to prove that science is a faith.”I am not the least bit interested in your arguments.If you will recall, and the evidence will support the fact that, you engaged me in argument.I am not attempting to prove science is a faith, nor did I ever say that, again, as the evidence will support.I am simply asserting that, like religion, science is a belief system that relies on “faith” as it is defined in the english dictionary.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    In defense of a religious world view many religious people say that atheism is based on faith, and science is too.In a technical sense, they are right.Yet religious faith is not comparable to faith in reason, faith in ones own senses, or faith in science. When faith yields valid knowledge, then it has proven a utility that is necessary in the artful judgement of knowing what is true and what is not true.Many people do not understand this broad, valid, and accurate method of acquiring knowledge, and prefer to avoid its acquisition, and they continue on just fine without it. So, in a way, scientific knowledge is not necessary for a person to live, know, and understand his own immediate landscape; and to those of us who are interested in this knowledge acquired through trust in valid consensus of thought, knowledge becomes something that is esthetic, like art or poetry or music, something that is important, and that adds to the richness of the lives of those who seek it, but something that many people are not interested in, and reject.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    DITLD:But, likewise, I do not think people are very interested in science either.I wonder why so many of them feel the need to proselytize rather than leave the rest of us alone.As for science, the problem lies with education. Although there have long been doctoral programs in Science Education, Math Education, we have not made much progress in educating the majority. The great divide between them who knows and them who don’t widens with the growth of technology and increased specialization. This is unfortunate. We need to have many more ways to explain, more ways to interest children in the physical world, etc.

  • js_edit

    Also, teoc2,I hate to tell you, but the quote you keep posting from SUX123 does little but undermine your own argument.The only people who claim to know the “truth” of the Universe are the religious. And their claim to “truth” is based on faith, not evidence.Science makes no such claim, and is willing to admit that there is much about the Universe that we don’t know. What science does is observe the Universe and try to learn more about it. So I would say that science is keenly aware that we don’t know the “truth” of the Universe (whatever that means), while numerous religions claim to know it absolutely.

  • Freestinker

    JS_EDIT,Obstinate Theists love to use arguments of ambiguity to obfuscate honest debate. It’s hard to blame them for it though because it’s all they have.They love to use wiggle words (words with more than one distinct meaning) like faith and belief loosely without specifying which meaning. They hope their ambiguity prevents others from pinning them down. They intentionally mix up the different usages as if they were the same.They say stuff like “science is a belief system based on faith” with the intent to equate a confidence which is based on scientific evidence with religious faith (belief without evidence).They hope this tactic levels the playing field by making science just as subjective as religion but it actually exposes the logical fallacy (ambiguity) on which many of their conclusions are erroneously based And it clearly exposes their ignorance of the basic rules of logic and reason.It’s sloppy thinking at best, and intentional obfuscation at the worst.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    If a religious person does not seek to prove his beliefs with scientifially modelled arguments, then there is really no way that anyone can say his beliefs are not valid, and if anyone does, it should not matter. More simply, there is no way to prove that God exists, so why try? If a person believes in God for reasons that cannot be easily proven, then such a person should have he courage of his convictions and just say so.

  • mdcurler

    So nice to see an atheist in a major newspaper. It is so rare. I hope they keep you on and you stay as a regular writer, bringing reason and critical thinking to this area of the country who needs it more than anywhere else.

  • cassie123

    “‘God exists’ is a positive posit. Only positives can be proven, and if they cannot be proven, they are disregarded. On the other hand ‘God does not exist’ is a negative, and negative posits CANNOT be proven, by atheists or anyone else. Atheists infer that god does not exist because god-believers are unable to prove that he does. Prove the “truth” of god, and atheists are instantly shot down. “There is actually a lot of evidence that God exists. You may come to a different conclusion based on that evidence but to me, it points to a loving, all powerful, all knowing, always present, living God. You, on the otherhand, my find a lot of evidence that you see as God doesn’t exist. I can’t pull God out of my pocket and show Him to you. I would say that even if I could, I doubt many would believe – they would explain it away. My point is that ultimately, all of us have to have faith that our conclusions from the evidence we have is correct. I have faith that my conclusions are correct. For instance, evolution is just a theory that people subscribe to based on the evidence (which is sparse I think while i think there is much more evidence for Natural Selection – the end result being extinction not creation of new species). To subscribe to the theory of evolution, you have faith that your conclusions from the present evidence is correct. The wonderful thing about the Bible is that it doesn’t teach blind faith. Anything that requires blind faith is suspect in my opinion. In fact, the Bible istelf is a piece of evidence for God.

  • Freestinker

    “I am not attempting to prove science is a faith, nor did I ever say that, again, as the evidence will support.I am simply asserting that, like religion, science is a belief system that relies on “faith” as it is defined in the english dictionary.”——–TEOC2,Religious faith is completely different than faith in science.Religious faith is belief without evidence.Scientific faith (as you call it) is belief based on testable evidence.You are using the word “faith” ambiguously (in two different ways) but then you claim the meanings are the same. Unless your deceit is intentional, it’s very sloppy reasoning on your part.

  • PeterXavier

    “The orthodox Christian says he knows there is a god: but we know that he does not know. He simply believes. He cannot know. The Atheist cannot know that God does not exist.”This is what is known in philosophy as the Law of Contradiction. Two antithetical propositions cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. X and not be non-X. You cannot not know and know at the same time.If you know that they do not know, then you must know. But if you don’t know, then you don’t know that they don’t know.Peter Trahan

  • js_edit

    I am not attempting to prove science is a faith, nor did I ever say that, again, as the evidence will support.I am simply asserting that, like religion, science is a belief system that relies on “faith” as it is defined in the english dictionary.Yes the the earth is round, but ask a physicist how or why it came into being and the discussion immediately becomes “faith based.”An honest one will say, “We don’t know, but we believe.”That is an act of faith.——————Natch

  • Schaum

    Bill64738:”Webster’s New World Dictionary.Wrong. My definition of an atheist –and I am one– is “a person who does not believe there is a god.” BIG difference. Atheists, more grounded in an appreciation of and for reality than god-believers and christers, will be quite happy to believe in god once his existence is proven.

  • wiz_fan

    “CAN SOMEBODY TELL ME WHERE THE DINOSAURS CAME FROM AND WHY NOAH DIDN’T PUT ANY ON THE ARC?Dinosaurs had gone extinct millions of years before the Noah’s arc story. However, the story still doesn’t hold water (no pun intended). There are over 1 million species of animals in the world. To put 2 of each species aboard a boat, even today would be impossible. Like most of the tales in the bible, this was meant to be allegory. Many of the stories from the bible are not scientifically possible. ie. changing water into wine, parting the red sea, etc. Why do so many Christians take these stories as fact when theyve been proven impossible? These ideas have been pounded into their heads since they were small children. Most adults do not have the intelligence to challenge what they have been taught as fact for their entire lives. Its much simpler to just accept it. They repeat the process by teaching their children the same myths.

  • Freestinker

    “In fact, the Bible istelf is a piece of evidence for God.”———–Circular reasoning just makes you look stupid. You might not actually be stupid (Myth #2) but begging the question is very stupid.

  • js_edit

    Freestinker,LOL. Well said. I completely agree with you, I just figured that it was my turn to engage one of them. Sometimes it’s fun to bang your head against a wall :)

  • sux123

    Scientific “faith” and Religious Faith.If I jump off a cliff I have every faith that I will fall to my death.If I do the same on the moon, I have faith my landing will be softer.Why? Science has proven the laws of gravitation.If, on the other hand, I jump off the earthly cliff and have faith that God will save me – that is religious faith.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Yes the the earth is round, but ask a physicist how or why it came into being and the discussion immediately becomes “faith based.”An honest one will say, “We don’t know, but we believe.”That is an act of faith.

  • PSolus

    “Webster’s New World Dictionary.This is the accepted definition only because the people who edited the dictionary believe in a god or gods.”Wrong. My definition of an atheist –and I am one– is “a person who does not believe there is a god.” BIG difference.”I’ve taken a different tack: Instead of calling myself an atheist, I refer to myself as a heathen, infidel, or non-believerNote that I also refer to myself as a drunk, rather than as an alcoholic; that way, I don’t have to go to any meetings.

  • Schaum

    PeterXavier:”If the atheist cannot know that God does not exist, then the atheist cannot know that the believer does not know that God does exist.”Well, you are certainly no Jesuit.The atheist can rightly infer that the believer does not know that god exists, when the believer is repeatedly and consistently unable to prove that god exists. If he cannot prove it, he cannot know it. And the burden of proof is the believer’s.

  • rschaeffer1

    I would be interested in reading what Ms. Jacoby has to say about “Religious Humanism”, which attempts to provide a religious foundation to agnostic and atheist belief. Unitarian Universalism is an example of a religious denomination that invites the full spectrum of belief from theist to athiest, and is the home for many religious humanists.

  • EnemyOfTheState

    Whether or not there is a sentient god is, I believe, unknowable. But, based on my experiences and limited scientific knowledge, I’d have to say the odds are not in religion’s favor.

  • DC68

    Regarding Deism and Atheism, it is a little self-serving to see Madison or Jefferson as being religious. Jefferson was quite strong in his condemnation of religion, let alone Christianity. Most modern atheists and agnostics are willing to listen to arguments concerning an unmoved mover. As Einstein pointed out, this conception does nothing to support religion. As an atheist, I am unconvinced by a primary force since the existence of such a force only then begs the question of how it came into existence. It opens as large a question as it answers. What I find ridiculous is the idea that vacillation regarding the event that sparked the universe 15 billion years ago somehow supports the claims of a bronze age bedouin regarding his special relationship with the creator of the Universe. Christians, Muslims and Jews all recognize Abraham as their father. They believe that he, and he alone, had a covenant with the force that created the entire universe. Strangely, in a modern context, we all know immediately that a person who makes such a claim is lying or mentally unstable.

  • brattykathyi1

    This is an excerpt from the “Myth No. 3, and I wanted to point out that it contains a logical contradiction of truth. If the atheist cannot know that God does not exist, then the atheist cannot know that the believer does not know that God does exist. If you know that the believer does not know God exists, then it logically must be true that you know that God does not exist. Or If you do not know that God does not exist, then you cannot know that the the believer does not know God exists

  • sux123

    Whether or not there is a sentient god is, I believe, unknowable. But, based on my experiences and limited scientific knowledge, I’d have to say the odds are not in religion’s favorWell, s/he does not seem to read the Washington Post – has not commented on this thread at all. Unless, of course they are using the Spidermean psuedonym…

  • DC68

    Oh, and Garaffa10, any member of a Physics Department at a University who is actively religious knows that they are in the minority.

  • wpreader2007

    “The list of ‘kinder’ atheists was compiled for USA Today…”That was all I needed to read, Susan. USA Today is one of the worst newspapers in this country. It’s written at a pretty simple level (grade-school, I’m thinking?) and its online comments sections reveals some scary folk in our land.I appreciate your outlining these myths about atheism. I have a good friend of mine who I met because he was wearing the rather cheeky T-shirt reading, “Thank God for Atheism.” I grew up in the protestant church but, largely because of organized religion’s misplaced priorities and hypocrisies, and some disillusionment from life in America as only an intelligent African-American could experience, have more or less shelved religion. I still have belief in a supreme being; I just don’t understand how he/she/it works, particularly with millions upon millions of “followers” who seem to abandon common sense, good will and critical thinking in favor of jingoism, prejudice and outright bigotry.And I think it goes without saying that there are plenty of atheists in this country whose behavior is more “Christian” than so-called Christians.

  • flamingliberal

    A thorough understanding of evolution, an understanding that is reflective and connects the dots dispenses with the notion that there is a god of any kind. But you have to understand Darwin’s theory is its complexity and its beauty and let its wisdom slowly seep into your mind. It won’t come all at once. And wisdom will never come from a high school biology course that touches on Darwinian evolution.Aside from that how can critical thinkers actually believe that someone was dead for three days, bursts out of his tomb by a resurrection, spends a little time here with an immaterial body and then sits on a cloud and goes up into the sky (where heaven is) never to be heard from again?Or that there is one god, but he’s really three gods, but no, he’s really just one god, sort of like three flavors combined into one.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    There have been quite a few comments about the world being round.But is it really round? Walk around on it a little bit, drive your car on the highways, go hiking, just sit on your front lawn, or in the park and look around:… it sure seems flat to me, a little lumpy, maybe, but not round … come on, for crying out loud! It seems flat to me.

  • dustyphoto

    Alas, the concept that religious people only recite texts and do not think is a misconception among all the secularists. You should go to a rabbinical school or a seminary, to hear all the thinking that goes on about those texts. Religion is not about non thinking. It’s a living, breathing endeavour, as meaningful as two biologists arguing DNA and RNA. Science is just another belief system. Ask any astronomer the life cycle of a star, and you will get a theory. It’s like every planetary scientist gets his clock reset with each probe to the solar system. It’s because we really don’t KNOW anything. We just Believe we do.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    FlamingliberalYou don’t even really need to know or understand very much about evolution to believe that it is true.Rather, a familiarity with science and how it works, should enable anyone seeking to collect valid knowledge about the world to acknowledge that, yes, evolution is probably true.

  • flamingliberal

    Susan Jacoby is entitled to her opinion, of course, but I know there is no God or god or gods. Just as I know there is no Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, or Zeus or Apollo and on and on. I know the afore mentioned do not exist and I know God does not exist. Period.

  • Freestinker

    “Religion is not about non thinking.”———-Generic “thinking” and logical reasoning are two very different things.Thinking just requires brain activity, any brain activity while reason requires following the rules of logic. And religion certainly does not follow the rules of logic! That’s the difference.

  • greyhound1

    @Hellene2:You’re getting your causes and effects mixed up. You suggest that atheism was the cause of all the suffering in the USSR, but in fact communism – and specifically the Soviet flavor thereof – was the cause of both the suffering and the enforced (though ineffective) atheism. One more time: atheism and the suffering of the Soviet people were effects; Soviet communism was the cause of both.Finally, I haven’t heard any “shrill invective against religion by the moderen cohort of western atheists”, and I certainly haven’t met anyone who is trying to “stamp out religion”. Really, the only “hate-filled hysteria” I hear comes from… well, you. Atheists, for the most part, are more than happy to let people believe whatever they like; the second big difference, in fact, between atheists and theists, is that we don’t feel the need to impose our beliefs on anyone else. We even pride ourselves on being reasonable and rational, neither of which is lends itself to being shrill or hysterical. We may try to reason with you, but we’re certainly not going to “pick up the hammer”. Sorry to disappoint you.

  • drdb1029

    If the atheist cannot know that God does not exist, then the atheist cannot know that the believer does not know that God does exist. If you know that the believer does not know God exists, then it logically must be true that you know that God does not exist. The point is that you cannot prove a negative statement, no matter how many negatives you string together. Please look up “Non Sequitur” in your philosophy text.

  • JamesCroft

    I welcome this new column, and the clear-sighted and eloquent way in which you have begun. We tackle many of the same themes at TheNewHumanism.org – you may be interested in visiting.

  • greyhound1

    Here are my two (well, five) cents regarding the ridiculous dispute about Myth #2. First off, a quote: “One point, however, is indisputable: there is a strong correlation between simplistic fundamentalist beliefs, relying on a literal interpretation of sacred texts, and lack of education. As the level of education rises, the number of people who believe in materially impossible tales such as the creation of the universe in six days; the literal resurrection of the dead; and the Virgin Birth diminishes.”Please note that she is *not* saying that those with a higher education are guaranteed to be un-religious. Rather, she’s saying that their interpretation of religion is more likely to be nuanced and non-literal, while those with less education are more likely to believe in the literal truth of their holy book. Thus, Ms. Jacoby did not say anything that contradicts the idea that Cali physics professors might be religious. Secondly, I don’t see how this constitutes an ‘attack ‘on anything. She’s actually defending the intelligence of the religious, even though PhDs are less likely to be religious themselves. In fact, I’d think you’d be gratififed; the religious right seems to have an allergic reaction to intelligence and higher education these days, so you should be happy to be placed in a different category from all those mean ol’ PhDs.Finally: Mongoloid? Really? Wow, name-calling sure makes me take your argument more seriously…

  • MillPond2

    Darwin’s (and Wallace’s) work on the theory of evolution remain the best explanation for why life exists on earth, but natural selection does nothing to explain why the universe exists. Nor is Quantum mechanics particularly intuitive, even to many intelligent people. Besides, human intelligence does not mean that an otherwise intelligent person can demonstrate brilliance across all levels of knowledge or expertise. Mostly, we are all “dumb” in some respect (except for such rare crossover geniuses as Da Vinci).I’m not convinced that had 18th century skeptics such as Thomas Jefferson been aware of natural selection, that such knowledge would have influenced them to become die-hard atheists.

  • greyhound1

    BTW, my compliments to FreeStinker and DanielintheLionsDen; I always enjoy reading your posts, which are far more calm, lucid and rational than what you usually get on these boards. Kudos!

  • Boomerang1

    TEOC2 wrotefaith is not synonym for religion, nor is it a synonym for religious belief or belief in god or belief in the non-existance of god…”The term that makes me crazy is “faith-based initiatives.” What a meaningless combination of words.

  • onofrio

    Forgot, so loved the whirled…

  • allknowingguy

    I issue a challenge to the theists out there:Stop indoctrinating children. Let them become adults first, then begin their religious education when they are of a proper age to think critically.If there is a God, then surely he will find a way to maintain the general faith of society without having to rely on the desire of children to please Mommy and Daddy.But I doubt it.

  • onofrio

    Danielinthelionsden,”There have been quite a few comments about the world being round.If it weren’t ’round here, we’d be just floatin’ off to Mars. And I don’t think I could hold my breath that long, no sir!

  • arminius3142

    Danielinthelionsden,”The world actually is not really round. It is an oblate spheroid.

  • Boomerang1

    I would add Myth No 6: Atheists have no morals.As an atheist, I do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, not because of any thought of reward or punishment.

  • onofrio

    PeterXavier a.k.a. Peter Trahan,Thee:”If you know that they do not know, then you must know. But if you don’t know, then you don’t know that they don’t know.Ah, another alumnus of the Peter Huff Memorial Insitute of Nyah Nyah. You must have scored an A+ in Solopsistic Circularity.If you go on to do the postgrad coarsework, be aware that Sententious Casuistry is quite a tough module. Make sure you master Denial and Special Pleading first – takes out the sting.

  • bucinka8

    jaxas70 wrote:In addition, there is much evidence among Old Testament scholars that at least one of the writers was female. I think it’s “J;” perhaps someone can clarify without me having to google it.

  • Schaum

    CASSIE123: “In fact, the Bible istelf is a piece of evidence for God.”equus fimus in panis

  • onofrio

    Should be solipsism. How solopy of me…

  • onofrio

    CASSIE123″In fact, the Bible istelf is a piece of evidence for God.”And the Babble: is’t elf? Is a pea so fervid, and dense? Forgot…

  • onofrio

    Arminius,”oblate spheroid”Isn’t that just a fancypants way of saying “round”?

  • tojby_2000

    FURTWD wrote: If there was (were) no God, there would be no atheists. ___________________________________________

  • maysvillerocks

    Have to admire their FAITH in no GOD, wish some Christians had more of their FAITH.

  • js_edit

    teoc2,Your definition of faith still belies your argument, as I said hours ago. And the quote you posted all over this thread also didn’t mean what you think it means. And so it goes.

  • onofrio

    …or sorta roundabout round, not precisely spherical, but round enough, you know, like a ball…

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Thomas Baum, you asked me:”Who exactly do you mean by ‘religious people’?”I think I mispoke, in the rapidity of giving my thoughts. I do not object to people being religious. I was responding to the hostile proclamations of the religious people, who post here. that atheism seeks to eliminate and destroy Christianity.Many of the religious people, who post here. are strident and bitter against all reason. Many of the religious people. who post here, say they are Christians, but it would be hard to tell if they did not say so.I realize that these people do not speak for all religous people nor for all Christians. I realize that most Christians do not post their beliefs on a blog such as this. I was using the term “religious people” as a short-hand, but it really does not accurately communicate my true feelings.I, for example, did not intend to offend or insult you. I like you and think your posts are interesting.I should have been clearer. I was referring to conservative, fundamentalist Christians, religious people like that. And even in that qualification is probably still too broad. I was born in a Christian family and grew up a Christian. I certainly do not hate my mother and father, my grand parents, and all my aunts and uncles, who raised me up in a Christian environment, and I have little to criticize about them. In general, I am more on the side of Christians than atheists. It is just that I do not feel that atheism is a threat, and I do not think that atheists are treated fairly. And, let me say misguided Christians rather than religious people, need to hear criticism from people like me; it is good for them and better in the long run for them to hear a critque of their hostility towards others, and to point out how their hypcrisy appears to others.

  • teoc2

    JS_EDIT FEBRUARY 3, 2010 7:39 PM”Your definition of faith…” excuse me?The definition of faith does not belong to me it belongs to the New Oxford American Dictionary.Your inability to deal with evidence speaks volumes.Science is a belief system as are all religions and they all utilize faith as a component of that belief system.Faith clearly doesn’t mean what you think it does.

  • bpai_99

    “You cannot disprove the existence of God. You just have to take it on faith.” – Woody AllenIt is fair for atheists to assume they are intellectually superior to believers. After all, believers feel they are morally superior to atheists.”The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.” – George Bernard Shaw

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Arminius and OnofrioWhen I take the garbage out on Mondays and Thursdays, and walk down the walk, I could swear the earth is flat.Except, there is a little bump in the sidewalk, and once I tripped on it and fell forward onto the concrete, actually smashing my face on the concrete. I felt sure some teeth must have come loose, so I felt them in my mouth, but luckily, they were all still in there solid. I laid there about 30 seconds because the wind was knocked out of me. I had an oozing wound on my cheek, that you get from scraping your skin on concrete, sort of a stubbed face instead of a stubbed toe.I wished someone might have seen me and helped me up, but no one did. Then I got up, and feeling all in once piece, I went inside to get sympathy from my brother. But he hardly noticed at all, and did not realize the trauma of my accident.So, anyway, I think the world seems flat, except for that one bump in the sidewalk.

  • YEAL9

    Religion is not necessarily evil. Unfortunately, it has been taken over by evangelists, imams and other for-profit individuals/groups under the guise of being non-profit.

  • js_edit

    The definition of faith does not belong to me it belongs to the New Oxford American Dictionary.Your inability to deal with evidence speaks volumes.Science is a belief system as are all religions and they all utilize faith as a component of that belief system.Faith clearly doesn’t mean what you think it does.Posted by: teoc2 |————-I never said that your definition of the word “faith” was anything other than the one you posted. I merely said that you failed to make the case that science is “faith-based”, given the definition that you offered.And, yeah, words do have more than one definition.

  • Schaum

    TEOC2:”Science is a belief system as are all religions and they all utilize faith as a component of that belief system.”Uh…wrong. Science is not a belief system. It is a system for discovery and confirmation. Christers have a belief system, about which nothing has been confirmed.

  • teoc2

    SCHAUM | FEBRUARY 3, 2010 8:32 PM”Science is not a belief system.”Yes, it is.

  • onofrio

    Danielinthelionsden,You are a most subtle philosopher. Indeed, the apparent flatness of the earth, relative to ourselves, is as necessary for us as its actual sphericality. The seams between what seems and what is are…seeming!

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Teoc2Science is not a religion and neither is atheism. Surely that is just common sense.Surely no one who says otherwise has any serious interest in knowing what is true and what is not true.

  • onofrio

    Danielinthelionsden,I think all here could benefit from adopting the aesthetics of knowing, or epistemic art, that betimes you have described.

  • jonjermey

    Yes, science is a belief system, just like religion. The difference, though, is that the claims and predictions made by science come true; those made by religion (when they can be understood at all) do not.When the claims of science stop coming true and we can no longer build bridges, fly aircraft and cure smallpox, then religion will have a chance to fight on level ground. Till then it suffers from the unsurmountable handicap of being demonstrably wrong.

  • Clear_Stream

    The author, like many, has a very incomplete view of religions especially Eastern Religions. Instead of going in to speech, let me comment on the author’s comments.Myth No. 1:Myth No 2:Myth No 3:Myth No 4:Myth No 5:SUMMARY:

  • Schaum

    teoc2:”I said science is a believe system that is faith based, as in based in a faith in science”And you are still wrong.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Teoc2The actual practice of science is the analysis of existential orderliness. There is no faithiness to it.A belief in science among people who are not scientists is actually a trust in the consensus of scientists on matters of science, and there is very good reason to trust this consensus of science given the abundance of scientific utility. In seeking to know what is true and what is not true, this trust, or faith, as you put it, in science, or in the consensus of science, as I put it, enables valid and reliable knowledge about the world. This kind of faith in the consensus of scientific opinion is not comparable to religious faith. This should be clear to anyone seeking a valid and reliable knowledge and awareness of the world. I admit, that technically, there is faith in scientific belief, but the inability to distinguish between this type of faith and religious faith shows a coarse obtuseness and an inability to judge artfully what is true and what is not true.

  • onofrio

    To “judge artfully”.Zesta!

  • js_edit

    I never said science is “faith-based” (your word not mine)…I said science is a believe system that is faith basedPosted by: teoc2 | February 3, 2010 8:38 PM——————-The ellipses are mine, the words are yours.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    OnofrioAre you saying that the world isn’t flat?When you go on a trip and drive to the airport, isn’t the road flat? And then when you get on the plane and it takes off and you look down on the earth, what do you see? flat! flat! flat!Oh sure the horizon does look a little curved, but maybe that is because everything is sawed off at the edge a little curved, like the legs of a recent reproduction of an antique Queen Anne desk. And even when the astronauts went to the moon and took pictures of the earth, it still looked flat to me; oh, I can see that is was shaped like a cirlce, but it was a flat circle, wasn’t it?It sure seemed flat in those photos, a big blue flat circle in the moon sky.FLAT. Like an old can of coke, left opened in the refrigerator too long!FLAT, like Kathleen Kelly’s solo in the church choir.(oops! I hope she doesn’t read this).

  • Schaum

    Faith is not based in reason, logic or science. And certainly science is not faith-based. Alcoholics Anonymous is faith based. Science is a fact based exploration and discovery activity. Given the dangers of faith — and considering the accomplishments of reason and observation in the activity called science — I find it absurd that, whenever christers “engage” atheists on these blogs, there is always some blogger who claims: “Of course, your science is just a religion like mine.. Fundamentally, science is faith-based.”Science is not religion and it doesn’t in any way rely on faith. It is true that science embraces many of the “virtues” of religion, but it does not posses its vices. Science is built upon verifiable evidence. Religious faith not only lacks evidence, its independence from evidence is its pride and joy. Why else would christers be so critical of doubting Thomas? The other apostles are presented as exemplars of virtue because faith was enough for them. Doubting Thomas, on the other hand, required evidence. Perhaps he should be the patron saint of scientists. And logic-oriented thinkers and scholars.Science is often call a faith-based religion because it supports the evidence and fact of evolution. To the unreasoning, this superficially looks like faith. But the evidence that causes rational humans to hold a belief in evolution is not only overwhelmingly strong; it is freely available to anyone who makes the effort to seriously study it. Anyone can study the same evidence that evolution-scientists have done — nothing has been hidden– and may freely and of their own volition come to the same conclusion. But if you have a belief that is based solely on faith, it is impossible to examine your “reasoning”. You retreat behind the defensive wall of “faith” where you cannot be reached.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    sci⋅ence

  • Schaum

    Onofrio:”To “judge artfully”.Zesta!”Yeah, except that ‘artful’ can also be used as a synonym for “wiley”, “sly”, “artificial”, adroit in attaining an end usually by insinuating or indirect means.Wonder what he meant….

  • teoc2

    DANIELINTHELIONSDEN | FEBRUARY 3, 2010 9:30 PM”I admit, that technically, there is faith in scientific belief… to judge artfully what is true and what is not true.”as I said science is a belief system, as to artful that is in the eye of the beholder.though “judge artfully what is true and what is not true” sounds a whole lot like “it depends on what “is” is.”

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    ArminiusI’ve heard that Southern Baptists believe that when you die, your soul goes to Atlanta first, for the connecting flight to Heaven.

  • teoc2

    SCHAUM | FEBRUARY 3, 2010 9:20 PM”‘I said science is a believe system that is faith based, as in based in a faith in science’”‘And you are still wrong.”when confronted with evidence contrary to your belief system, as do all ideologues, you sink to unreasoned absolutism.

  • arminius3142

    This debate about science being a faith is approaching the absurd.I am a believer. I have

  • arminius3142

    “Of course, Daniel ITLD, this is common knowledge to all here, not just the Baptist crowd. The same is true also if you are going to hell!

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Teoc2 There is no other way to decide what is true and what is not true, than by artful judgement. If you disagree, can you tell me how anyone knows what is true and what is not true?With regard to the words, truth, knowledge, and belief, there are no good definitions. They can only be defined in circular definitions of each other. But there is an art to knowing which can be refined or coarse. And there is such a thing as tin ear when it comes to knowing. And there is an apathy to knowing, for people who are happy enough to just get along, without knowing much of anything.

  • arminius3142

    teoc2, you are starting to sound like Spidey:”I suppose it might not be too much to ask that you reply to the argument instead of tossing insults. On the other hand, in your case, it probably is too much to ask.

  • onofrio

    Schaum,Thee, re Dan-de-Lion’s artfulness:”Yeah, except that ‘artful’ can also be used as a synonym for “wiley”, “sly”, “artificial”, adroit in attaining an end usually by insinuating or indirect means.”Sans aucun doute! Double zesta!Judging true from un has ever required a certain foxy magick. The goodly scribe may conjure precisely one-sixty-fourth of the shattered whole shehe reconstitutes, so long as shehe is not caught in the act. And the whole shall not be diminished.

  • spidermean2

    FACT NO.2 – The only reason why a person calls himself an atheist is because he is DUMB. It’s almost useless to discuss with these people. They almost think like monkeys. It doesn’t sink in what you say to them.

  • onofrio

    Teoc,”Another common response to those confronted with evidence that challenges their belief system is to fein umbrage with someone who would dare challenge their belief system.”Would that unwholesome umbrage be the original “fein sin”, a.k.a. Sinn Fein? (two n’s for diabolical enphasis, led by a drunken S). Umbrage or no, that sort of talk could lose you your kneecaps…better to “keyip the Fayith”. I’ve always wanted to visit Umbrage. It’s prettier than Tuscany, I hear.

  • onofrio

    Spidermean,”They almost think like monkeys.”Whereas you’re all the way there, eh, you eight-legged simian, you.

  • Schaum

    TEOC2:”Another common response to those confronted with evidence that challenges their belief system is to fein umbrage with someone who would dare challenge their belief system.”Yeah, christers are like that. Comes with the territory, I guess.

  • Schaum

    TEOC2:”and your evidence for this is?”See, it works like this: If you cant prove your assertions, I get to infer that they are false assertions. And, for all your bluster and defensiveness, you remain unable to prove your assertions.Sucks to be you.

  • lolamarie

    Correction: Daniel Dennett didn’t coin the term “Brights” – Paul Geisert did. Also, it no more implies that others are dim-witted than “gay” implies that others are morose.

  • onofrio

    Danielinthelionsden”Are you saying that the world isn’t flat?”I am saying it is both wrinkly flat and roundly fat, when it can be bothered to show up.And that’s no showdown :^)It was evident to Sherlock Holmes that the sun went round the earth.

  • BratPack33

    The tale of the Tower of Babyl in the Bible best describes this posting board.

  • onofrio

    Teoc,Thee to Arminius:You might like to look up ‘feign’ in yours.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    SchaumIn seeking valid and accurate knowledge of the world, sincerity is a given. I can only speak for myself, and not for others, but since I am interested in understanding the world for my own beneifit, deliberate deception of myself is not an issue, although, of course, I could always be sincerely mistaken about things…. and furthermore, to Teoc2:I have thought alot about fundamentalism and what makes the fundamentalist tick. Part of it is fear of a confusing world, or if not fear, then, a difficulty in forming a sense of order from it all. To be realistic and honest, there is much about life that must be accepted without clear understanding and without clear guidance. But people may freely deny this realism and honesty for the shelter of certainty, which is almost always misguided and misplaced. Another thing that I have discovered about the deeper reality of the world and of existence is that there is complexity to knowledge and truth which goes beyond the mere perceptions of our physical senses, and that a sense of valid knowledge and truth, is, in fact, a difficult accomplishment, related, to an appreciation of any fine art, or even to poetry. I call this the “aesthetic of knowledge.”I believe that knowledge of the world is a collecting process, in which the more accurate and valid view of things goes to the one who is more talented and creative in the art of collecting and arranging chunks of knowledge, and that some people are gifted at this, and others are not, and that others, still just don’t care, and are apathetic towards knowledge.This is my observation that a “sense of knowledge” is somthing that is difficult to achieve, and therefore, you would not expect people to come by it easitly or automatically. I do not really think that superstitious or religious beliefs cause people to develop an apathy towards knowledge; on the other hand, perhaps it is the apathy towards knowledge which causes people to latch on to all of the many child-like beliefs, which are easier to understand, and do not require much thinking.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    … this is giving me an ice cream headache …

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    There is no faith in the practice of science, other than “I do science, therefore, I am.”But most people do not prove science by doing the scientific experiements themselves. And even individual scientists do not do all of the experiments of all science, just narrow studies about particular things in their field.Instead, if a person understands science and how science works, then a person can, with assurance, invest trust in the scientific consensus of science on matters of science. That is a somewhat limited faith, which is not absolute, but contngent on the believability of any particular scientifc discovery, and the degree of consensus amoung scientists, and the force or plausibility of dissenting scientific views.This is far, far afield from religious faith. The ability to make such a distinction is what I mean when I use the term “artful judgement.” I cannot explain it if you don’t have it. But I can see it clearly when someone does have it.I admit, that this concept of “artful judgement of valid knowledge” is not clear cut or easily definable. But that is because there is not way to define, clearly and objectively just what is truth, knowledge, or belief. In our language, they fall under category of nouns, and we banter them about easily in familiar sounding sentences, but their meaning is illusive and circular. People who speak authoritively about truth, knowledge, and belief do not really understand what they do not know.And how can I make someone get it, if they don’t get it? There is an artisitc quality to “getting it” which I cannot easily define.

  • cornbread_r2

    your dogged refusal to accept this as truth is sufficient evidence of it being true…Have you tried this argument out in the real world? I’m really curious now what else you might think is true just because everyone else thinks it’s false.

  • onofrio

    Bratpack,”The tale of the Tower of Babyl in the Bible best describes this posting board.”OK smartypants, I knew Baby 1 had a Towel in the Wholly Babble, but I bet you didn’t know there was a Baby 2, eh, did ya? No, you’d have to read Twillkeen’s The Two Towels to know that, which it’s clear you haven’t. Baby 1 is Sour Ron, Baby 2 is Sorry Man; both have lots of filthy org chasms in their Towels. Sorry Man gets slung out of his Towel by a tribe of giant rock-throwing runts, while a hairy little hobo and his precious friend try to stick a ring in Sour Ron’s flaming crack … but I don’t want to give the end away; you really oughta read it.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    ArminiusYou’re right; if everyone were going to Heaven, there would be no need for a connecting flight in Atlanta, would there?

  • onofrio

    Teoc,”The more I see of people the more I like my dog.” — George Bernard Shaw”You obviously like the line.” – Glutinous Bodily Secretion

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    TEOC2To be honest, I am not sure what you’re talking about. I thought you were equating the faith of science with the faith of religion. Is that not right?You are a little unclear in what you are getting.That is ok. It doesn’t matter to me.Here is an excercise, though, which you can think about.Define truth, knowledge, and belief to your own satisfaction. The dictionary definitions are circular, all referring to each other. That is fine for purposes of grammatical usage; but I am more interested in the philosophical meaning.I accept that we are all here, in the world. I accept that we are all interested in truth. I accept that we all know things. I accept that we all believe things. In a practical way, I get it.But, if you just slow down for a moment, and think about these terms, then you are pretty much stopped in your tracks. If you think I am splitting a hair 40 ways, then maybe you are right; maybe I am.

  • Schaum

    TEOC2″not to mention the fact that you’ve sunken to personal insult in lieu of disproving my assertion…”You evidently do not read for comprehension. You have made an assertion which you have not, and cannot, prove. In the absence of any proof, I am under no obligation to accept your delusions. I don’t have to disprove what you have failed to prove.You continue to be unsuccessful in proving your assertions. Perhaps failure is your style.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    OnofrioWhat the heck were you talking about? It was all Greek to me. But then, I looked at it again, and “POOF” I got it!It is like my mother’s favorite hymn: “Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear.”

  • Schaum

    TEOC2: “rationale”Yes, you definitely do need to buy a dictionary. “Rationale” is not the same thing as “rational.”

  • cornbread_r2

    teoc2:It doesn’t matter what you plug in for the word “this” in the bit I quoted. It’s a ridiculous statement.Your dogged refusal to accept this as truth is sufficient evidence of it being true.

  • teoc2

    CORNBREAD_R2 | FEBRUARY 4, 2010 12:13 AM”Your dogged refusal to accept this as truth is sufficient evidence of it being true.”right back at ya sweet pea

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    TEOCI take it for granted that the consensus of science is more or less true. I don’t worship science or pray to science of have any particular faithy feeling about science.I just find it a little weird when someone challenges the validity of science, and I sometimes want to retort, with a defense.I, of course, realize that many people do not trust science; they put their trust in other ways of thinking; and they acquire knowledge which they believe to be true. That is their knowledge which is difficult to challenge since they do have a basis for believing it is true. However, I believe such knowlege that is not based on a trust in science is less valid, and less likely to apporach truth.If you do not trust science, I cannot make you trust it. There is no way to prove anything to you about science if you do not trust science. But I can tell myself that your ability to make an artful judgement about what is true and what is not true is is not very well developed.Beyond that, there is not much to argue about.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    OnofrioIs it my imagination, or is Teoc2 just a tad meta-annoying?

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Teoc2I posted this earlier but it got lost in the internets. So here goes again:”I am suggesting that somethings aren’t knowable regardless of what we believe.”I am in complete agreement with that. I posted “what I believe” near the beginning of this thread, if you care to look at it.So, why are we arguing?You are giving out your thoughts in dribs and drabs, so it is difficult to tell what you are getting at.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    OnofrioDid you know that Frisbeeterians believe that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof, and no one can get it down?(Now I have to go to sleep, because the sandman is beating me to death; apparently, he is heavily into S&M).

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Teoc2,Fane umbra, Juh, lead on.

  • Schaum

    TEOC2:”at least my rationale is rational…”Yet another assertion which you have yet to prove.

  • teoc2

    FARNAZ1MANSOURI1 FEBRUARY 4, 2010 12:52 AM”Fane umbra, Juh, lead on.”and ghoch hugh too

  • hitman2

    Atheists — naughty and nice — should define themselvesAnd thir concepts too —- How much “scientific” you are, while you suppose time which is of great value. – if not God.TIME….helpless without supposing time?????Can anybody come up with the limitation of our rationality?

  • onofrio

    Danielinthelionsden,”Is it my imagination, or is Teoc2 just a tad meta-annoying?”I have yet to see even a tad of metanoia among the Jacobyns, Dan-de-Lion.We be trenchantly entrenched lobbers of obloquy…As for your Frisbeeterians, they sound like a nice change from all the Sullen Baptics, Rampant Catholists, and Deformed Proddypants around these parts…

  • Schaum

    Hitman2:”Can anybody come up with the limitation of our rationality?”I think you have already done that.

  • Schaum

    TEOC2:”and tell me again about virgin birth and how atoms are the smallest unit of an element…”Oh, I think you are already influenced by too many myths.

  • ThomasBaum

    spidermean2You wrote, “The prophecies were written in very deep metaphors. Which verses? Im not allowed to do so. It’s a gift from God. You have to earn it for yourself.”If it is a “gift from God”, how can one possibly earn it?If it is a “gift from God”, should you not try to share it with others or should you hoard it?Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Teoc2, last post addressed to yew.

  • ThomasBaum

    AliHT You wrote, “And while I don’t believe in a deity that directs the affairs of humanity,”I have met God and while I believe that God is very much involved with and cares for us, I do not believe that God “directs” the affairs of humanity.If God were a God that “directed” the affairs of humanity than we would be no more than “fancy” biological robots.There are many, both those that believe in God and those that do not believe in God, that tend to put God in a “box”.God Is a Being of Love, Pure Love and God has a Plan and God’s Plan will come to Fruition but we are not “puppets on a string” in God’s Plan.Then you wrote, “still, I don’t completely disbelieve in a gentler, more amorphous spiritual something that might be out there.”This feeling, thought, intuition, whatever may have come from deep within.Whether or not someone believes in God, it seems to me pretty obvious that there is more to life than the mere material aspects of life.By “material aspects of life”, I do not just mean “things”, I also mean the material components of life itself.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    DanielintheLionsDen You wrote, “Truth is what actually is.I suppose, at least for you, I will have to change my statement: I have met God so I know that God Is to The truth is that God Is, I know this (I truth this) because I have met God.Semantics can sometimes get in the way of speaking, when I write “I know God Is”, it means exactly what it seems to mean, not something I “believe” to be true.You then wrote, “I believe that science, for example, is a trustworthy source of valid knowledge. Therefore, I believe, for the most part that the consensus of science is true.”Science and the scientific method is a very good way of going about figuring out how things work and how things have gotten to where we are.There are “limits” on the “types” of knowledge that science is for and I would venture to guess that most “reputable” scientists would agree.There are some things that we will “never figure out”, but this does not mean that one day we will not know and by know I mean know not believe to be true.I am not a scientist but when one looks to the micro and the macro and the in-between of creation or whatever one wishes to call it, it is quite awesome.Question: Why would anyone think that it is less awesome if God created it?Does this make sense to you or anyone else?A question concerning the above question: Could some be so intimidated by the mere thought that the Awesomeness of the Creator is so far beyond the awesomeness of the created world as to be something to not think about if at all possible? Something to think about.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • DC68

    Thomas Baum. Are you saying that you have met god? What does this mean? Walked and talked and shared information like Abraham did?

  • Ynot1

    “…materially impossible tales such as the creation of the universe in six days; the literal resurrection of the dead; and the Virgin Birth…”If God can’t do the “materially impossible,” what’s the point? Just feel-good, do-good stuff?

  • Freestinker

    RE: Religious Faith (belief without evidence) vs. Faith in Scientific (Confidence based on objective testable evidence).TEOC2 refuses to even acknowledge the different meanings of the word “faith” and continues to use the different meanings as if they were the same. The ambiguity in his/her argument is so obvious as to make it laughable!But acknowledging the different meanings would ruin the whole charade so on he/she goes, self-amused like a cat chasing it’s tail.Now where’s that laser pointer .. I bet TEOC2 would go kitty-nuts over that dancing little red dot!

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    ThomasBaumOnly just recently, I have been thinking very hard about the words: truth, knowlege, and belief.In a grammatical sense, and in a practical sense, we all understand these concepts. But on a deeper level, if you try to give more than a superficial explanation of these concepts, it is very difficult.Even if you know something is true with unshakable, rock-solid certainty, how do you know it is true? If you could explain it rationally, then wouldn’t everybody else know it was true too? But people do not agree on what is true. How come we think science is true? How come some people think it is true that God exists, but other people think it is true that God does not exist? Why aren’t all of these truths easily discernable to everybody equally? And if people have such difficulty deciding among themselves what is true, is God really going to hold it against people who do not believe in God, or who do not believe in Jesus, or do not understand or know anything about the Bible?I do not think so, and I arrived at this thought, not from any particular theological analysis, but merely by wondering about these seeminlty simple words, truth, knowledge, and belief.These three words, subtle veriations on each other, can defined in terms of each other, in circular definitions. These definitions are not much good, in my opinion.

  • LutherHLivingston

    Susan,Have you read The Last Pagan by James Westfall Thompson (1916)which can be found via Google Books? The intro to the poem is quite long, but the poem itself is very interesting.Luther

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    YEAL9 That voice! Where have I heard that voice? It seems eerily familiar.mmmmmmmm ?What can be this strange feeling of deja vu all over again?

  • arminius3142

    “That got a laugh here, Freestinker! It should be obvious by now to most of us here that TEOC2 will give us a reasonable reply about the same time Spidey will: never.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    FarnazYou commented on my earlier post, but I did not see it at the time:”I don’t think people in general are very interested in religion or spiritual matters. Even very religious people who go to church, pray, and read the Bible are not very interested. Going through the motions of a theological script, written by men, and imposed upon man, is not in my opinion, being “interested” in religion.”My point was that people follow these presecribed, scripted religions out of habit, compulsion, and half-hearted interest, repeating the same old plattitudes to each other, in groups of the same sheltered and cloistered people, quoting the same verses from the Bible; even the people who feeled compelled to persecute gay people do it by focusing on a tiny, tiny print fragment from their Bible.I do not regard this kind of autonomic involvement with religion to have anything to do with “interest” such as, it is interesting, let us find out more. So if someone would toss out a new and interesting idea, you would hardly expect these incurious and apathetic people to respond.

  • Schaum

    ThomasTheHallucinator:”I have met god.”Did you make pictures?

  • the-brights

    Regarding the term “Brights”To clarify: “Bright” was first made public in April 2003 at a freethough conference.The term “Bright” was created by Dr. Paul Geisert, and the definition of the term by Dr. Mynga Futrell (A Bright is an individual with a naturalistic worldview, free of supernatural and mystical elements). The Brights Net has grown to over 50,000 registered members in 203 nations and territories.The word Bright refers to the Enlightenment, a time when reason and science offered a hope for humanity to move toward a better world. Never have the Brights claimed superior intelligence to supers (“supers” are Daniel Dennett’s suggestion in “Breaking the Spell”).The movement’s three major aims are: promote the civic understanding and acknowledgment of the naturalistic worldview, which is free of supernatural and mystical elements; gain public recognition that persons who hold such a worldview can bring principled actions to bear on matters of civic importance; and educate society toward accepting the full and equitable civic participation of all such individuals. (see http://www.the-brights.net)

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    I researched these definitions, actually, lifting them out of more complex definitions; to demonstrate that I am not imagining the complexity of these three concepts, nor making this more complicated than it really is.Folks! It’s complicated.TRUTHKNOWLEDGEBELEIF

  • Pamsm

    “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”~Mark Twain

  • rick_desper

    Pedantic point:”Before matter was created time did not exist.”This is not a sentence that makes any sense. It makes no more sense to talk about “before time existed” than it makes sense to talk about “above space”. “Before” and “after” are words that are only meaningful in a universe that has a time dimension associated to it.

  • ender2

    As usual we’ve been pulled off topic to rehash the unwinnable argument. What religionist choose to believe is a matter of faith and empirical evidence does not fit into the equation.Now back to Susan’s post.The agressively outspoken atheist is a not an entirely new phenomenon, but there are more of us now. As an atheist,I don’t care what others believe nor have any interest proselytizing my belief system. What I and I suspect many atheist are up at arms about is the ever increasing push by religionist to push an agenda of influenceing public policy and receiving public funds. These groups are bringing vast cash and personnel resources to the fight. As atheist don’t follow any set agenda and most are by not ‘joiners’ they do not have the resources to fight well in political arena where the oposition has been actively ‘stacking the deck’ since Reagan coopted(or was coopted) by the “moral majority” by actively participating in elections, while lobbying and pressuring politicians to push their agenda.Many atheist view themselves as the last line of defense for the Constitution and the RELIGIOUS FREEDOM and the freedom from religion our fore fathers dreamed of and fought for.Religionist continue assailing public discource over their button issues while using their followers emotional responces to gain support for their political goals of obsfucating the line between church and State. More power to them and to Susan. Now the rest of us need to know our enemy and adopt their tactics. There are atheist meetups and groups growing all over the country. Join one soon. Mobilize. Be Loud.

  • Schaum

    Blaisep:” If the Gospel be true, if Jesus Christ be God, what difficulty is there?”If the Hindus are correct, if cows are sacred and deserving of worship, what difficulty is there?”

  • Navin1

    I see Hinduism as the external construct onto Sanatana Dharma. This largely based on the western idea of those people over by the Indus. Sanatana Dharma is the belief system of eternal truths/religions. The Vedic statement is: There is one truth people call it by many names. This injunction is the evidence of a universal system.Chrsitianity is a dvaitic system, one that divides the christian and the pagan, etc, the heaven bound and the hell bound. Of course this as metaphor can be seen as universal, though the Ying/Yang seems to be a better metaphor for a universal construct of duality. Historically, christianity is a jsutification for colonization as is islam. Not universal but simply attempting universal power. I appreciate the attempts to look at this fundamental problem of truth, knowledge, belief, etc. Does it not become clearer, then, that much of the argument is founded on poor thinking about poorly defined constructs. Yet, we all attempt to construct an idea of reality. (And then argue about whose construct is better)Would it not be simpler to say:I believe in a God that is Truth.OrI have a wish to believe in truth and in that truth I wish to project ideas of love, compassion, service, etc.orI choose to act based on a belief of xyz….(these are gyana, bhakti, and karma yogas, by the way)But the humility of realizing that so much depends simply on our definitions of a presumed reality, we should hold it difficult to demand others hold our ideologies. Of course the answers we find on our road to truth make one desirous and willing to certainly argue and compare ideologies, but, to me, it seems that this is better as a whetting stone for our intellect (buddhi) as it shaves away our ignorance. On the other hand, bowing down to bullies has been the failing of temperate peoples throughout history. Thus karma (as the execution of what is natural to us) demands we do live by the principles we choose and to defend the right of individual conscience. hariaum

  • thebobbob

    Yo! It’s the 21st century!! Give up on the old man is the sky cr.ap! Why are we still arguing with these morons?

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    NavinWhen I was about 18 years old, I became interested in Hinduism and Bhuddism and I began to read alot about these two religions on my own. But after about two years, I gradually lost interest. Since then, I have never resumed my interest. To my young mind, the idiom of this way of thinking was so foreign that it was almost opaque. Perhaps to get it, one must need a class or a tutor.It is not easy to say that I believe in a God that is truth. For what is truth? And what is God? It is no easier for an Eastern mind to unravel this mystery than it is for a Western mind, for they are both human minds, which are blocked by the nature of existence from ever knowing the answers to these questions.You also suggest saying that “I have a wish to believe in truth and in that truth I wish to project ideas of love, compassion, service, etc.”I believe that you are referring to what I would call a “good heart.” And I firmly believe that the “good heart” is independent of all religious belief and practice, and the “good heart” comes from an inner will, that we do not control, but is dependent on the heritage of genetic predisposition, the hertiage of culutre, and the contingency of the landscape in which a person lives and experiences life.For the most part, I do not believe that people choose their actions based on any beliefs, but instead, they logicalize a system of beliefs to justify their actions. I do also believe that the concepts of truth, knowlege, and belief are easy to consider within the context of a local landscape of personal experience. But, in projecting into a wider view of the entire world which we do not experience, and when projecting into vastness of the cosmos and all of existence, in seeking to make some sense of the fact of existence and our lives, that these concepts of truth, knowledge, and belief prove illusive to definition and understanding, and that it is the very nature of existence that is resistant to our understanding of it.

  • Navin1

    DLDYes.Yes.When I was seven years old I was convinced of the atheist perspective. Life has brought me elsewhere.What you are describing is a genuine pull to be good, honest, etc. This, I believe, is human nature. No more can we be certain that when I see this shade of blue, you see the exact shade of blue. Yet we try. We know we can not see the full spectrum of light, yet we do not close our eyes. What a noble thing to be human, to know that we can not know, but to be driven to know more. It is, of course, our biology that makes most of our decisions.I do not believe we need to all call ourselves Hindu. Neither I nor Hinduism believe that. But, I do believe we are more informed about our relationship to Tat Sat by learning what the old teachers have said (and in so doing, agreeing or disagreeing with it). This is why Hinduism is not a tribal religion. It assumes that you too are seeking whatever that thing that is truth. Even the most cruel Rakshashas are seeking the truth (though usually materially oriented). I believe that we should study all of the world’s scriptures (and scientific and secular philosophic treatises). By the luck of my life, I have been working intensely on just that. That should is not a moral should, rather a natural imperative to live the life of a biological creature geared to abstraction.Then, we will be able to stand on the shoulders of giants (Jains call them Thirtankaras). But you are right, if it was easy, we would all have done it already.In the internet world, though, we can bring together ideas that help us to explore these ideologies deeper. What a wonderful time. But, I do have a moral imperative. I project that my fellow creatures, and my planet mother, are in danger of extermination (or at least a major shift in evolution) by the threat of a nuclear war. I hope to be wrong, but I believe that if we are to avert this calamity we need a systemic ideology that supports poly-ideology, that accepts atheist and theist, dualist and non-dualist, intelligent and dullard, and says there is one truth and we call it by many names. I think this simple “truth” is the starting point to peaceful co-existence with nukes.hariaum

  • Schaum

    Blaisep:”Christianity and Hinduism are not similar.”We are not talking about christianity and hinduism. We are talking about “truth”.

  • Schaum

    Blaisep:” that there is one God and that he became man and walked among us– spirit becoming matter, timeless entering time–and that that overwhelming fact is true. If that is so, then what other religions believe is irrelevant.Your point, as well, is not germane.”If there is one god, and he became man and walked among us, died and was resurrected — the major christer myths — if this is a truth, why is it not provable?My point is not germane to you, because it exposes the fallacy of your “logic”. It threatens your personal superstitions.

  • Schaum

    The word “truth” truth has lost its correct, original definition and is being used more often to describe that which is both untrue and unprovable by those who desire to have their viewpoint more widely accepted or to influence the beliefs and actions of others. These people believe that if they say their unprovable fallicies often enough others will start believing it—that magically, it will become true. Whether these people actually know their information to be false or they, too, have been genuinely convinced does not matter when the real problem presents, that being the PROOF that the “truth” is true. Without proof who is to say what is the truth?Truth consists of a fact or group of facts that can be proven as fact by one or more established and accepted methods which are strictly defined and rigorously applied. Methods of proof are evident in their simplicity and authoritative in their absolute observability. The laws and customs of most of civilization are those requiring eyewitness testimony and physical evidence that is at once unique to the fact and identifiable in nature. They are universally accepted as valid methods of proving the truth of a matter.Things that are considered useless, even detrimental, in proving facts include testimony by those with an interest or desire for a particular outcome (ulterior motive), those who have previously been known to offer false testimony (perjury), statements attesting to statements made by others (heresay), circumstances which are seen as irrelevant to, or not consistent with, already proven facts (irrelevancy), most tetimony of young children, speculation, and opinion except that of a bonafide expert. These are globally inadmissable as proof of fact because the results of such are not consistent, not undeniable yet unidentifiable in their nature, and offer no absolute, undeniable verification of being fact or fiction. Only physical reality, and its ability to be PROVED, is truth. No amount of insistence, no quantity of reiteration, and no amount of personal willpower proves thruth. Only indisputable, obviously recognizable evidence is proof of truth. Truth is not open to opinion or customizable per person or cause, there is not my truth and your truth, there is only fact. If statements cannot be proven impartially they are assumed to be false. There is no other possibility. It either is or is not the truth, period. If it is truth, it is provable.

  • arminius3142

    Truth, per Kierkegaard, from Wikipedia:When Søren Kierkegaard, as his character Johannes Climacus, wrote that “Truth is Subjectivity”, he does not advocate for subjectivism in its extreme form (the theory that something is true simply because one believes it to be so), but rather that the objective approach to matters of personal truth cannot shed any light upon that which is most essential to a person’s life. Objective truths are concerned with the facts of a person’s being, while subjective truths are concerned with a person’s way of being. Kierkegaard agrees that objective truths for the study of subjects like mathematics, science, and history are relevant and necessary, but argues that objective truths do not shed any light on a person’s inner relationship to existence. At best, these truths can only provide a severely narrowed perspective that has little to do with one’s actual experience of life.While objective truths are final and static, subjective truths are continuing and dynamic. The truth of one’s existence is a living, inward, and subjective experience that is always in the process of becoming. The values, morals, and spiritual approaches a person adopts, while not denying the existence of objective truths of those beliefs, can only become truly known when they have been inwardly appropriated through subjective experience. Thus, Kierkegaard criticizes all systematic philosophies which attempt to know life or the truth of existence via theories and objective knowledge about reality. As Kierkegaard claims, human truth is something that is continually occurring, and a human being cannot find truth separate from the subjective experience of one’s own existing, defined by the values and fundamental essence that consist of one’s way of life.

  • Schaum

    “I suspected that my father’s ripe old age was not a divine blessing, but rather a curse; that our family’s excellent mental gifts served only to excite us mutually; I felt the stillness of death rise around me when in my father I saw a doomed man destined to survive us all, a cross on the grave of his own hopes. A guilt must be weighing on our entire family; God’s punishment must be upon it; our family was to vanish, swept aside by God’s mighty hand, blotted out, erased like an experiment goen wrong.” Like Nietzsche, Kierkegaard was one of the fathers of existentialism.Existentialism is a term applied to the work of a number of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences,[1][2] generally held that the focus of philosophical thought should be to deal with the conditions of existence of the individual person and his or her emotions, actions, responsibilities, and thoughts.[3][4] The early 19th century philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, posthumously regarded as the father of existentialism,[5][6] maintained that the individual is solely responsible for giving one’s own life meaning and living that life passionately and sincerely,[7][8] in spite of many existential obstacles and distractions including despair, angst, absurdity, alienation, and boredom.[9]

  • hitman2

    What they thought:Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

  • hitman2

    Max Planck (1858-1947)

  • Schaum

    Hitman2:Not quite. Here is what Albert Einstein said, in his own words:Albert Einstein:“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it”.“I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it”.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    SchaumRecently, mostly through this forum, I have come to realize that intelligent people are mistrustful of science, usually pointing to the example of evolution, which they do not believe. No matter how you may present the evidence and the argument to them, they simply reply that it has not been proven.So, that got me to thinking, that to be honest, almost none of science is proven to me, that is, I have not performed all of the experiements and research that define all of the accumulated facts and principles of science. So I cannot say that I believe in scientific findings because of evidence. I believe that the evidence exists, even if I havce not seen it or even read about it, and I believe in the principles of the scientific method, and I observe and recognize all of the utility of science. That is, I understand how science works, and therefore, I generally agree with the consensus of science on most matters of science.But a person who does not understand how science works can withhold their belief in the findings of science, and there is no argument or proof that you can present to them that will change their minds. These people go to the doctor’s and dentist’s when they are sick; they watch their flat screen tv’s and listen to their ipods; they pay close attention to the weather forcasts and observe the sattelite pictures of weather patterns. All of this, they incorporate into the landscape of their experience, just as they do the air, and the meadows, and the mountains, that simply exist for us to perceive, and they do not grasp that science is why they have all of the things in their lives.These people are apathetic towards knowledge, and do not care to know; and that is where I come up with my sense of an artful judgement when it comes to discerning what is true and what is not true. Some people have a very good and even easy ability to make this artful judgement, and when you see this quality in another person, you recognize it immediately; yet, other people are blanked out in this capacity to judge, artfully, what is true, because they don’t care.I do not think of these people as crazy or delusional, but I do think that on matters of belief and knowledge, you cannot regard them seriously. An appreciation of the aesthetic of knowledge and the ability to artfully judge what is true and what is not true is the mark of a modern, worldly, and sophitocated person.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Immediately after World War II, the existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, attained rock-star fame in France and became a pop culture icon. It is almost impossible to imagine a serious philosopher that could acquire this kind of fame. Yet it was because of the mass appeal of his existential views after the trauma violent and brutal German occupation. The mass appeal of existentialism in France has faded, but Christianity never recoverd its former status.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Truth is that which is demonstrated by evidence. But it more than that. Knowledge is a belief that is true, but it, also, is more than that.If you believe that truth is what actually is, then it easy to imagine truth which has never been demonstrated by evidence because we are not aware of it. It is possible that there is much that actually is, that we do not know about. But notice, in the sentiments that I have just espressed, it is difficult to discuss, quality, or define any one of these concepts without also reference to one of the others.Maybe this is the true trinity: truth, knowledge, and belief.

  • Schaum

    DITLD: “I have come to realize that intelligent people are mistrustful of science, usually pointing to the example of evolution, which they do not believe.”And you call these people intelligent?

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Another aspect of the aesthetic of knowledge which I forgot to mention and which is the most important aspect, is that people do not care to know what is true because they do not need to know.If someone says that they do not believe in evolution, they can still navigate their way through life easily and happily. All you need to know to get along in the world is the landscape of your personal experience; just so long as you can unscrew the lid from the pickle jar, things should be ok.Yet, knowing what is true in the world beyond the landscape of personal exerience is interesting, fun, and exciting. It is that little spark of creativity in human beings that also motivates poets, artists, and musicians. It is a whole aspect of life that the apathetic and incurious do not ever get to experience.

  • Schaum

    DITLD:”An appreciation of the aesthetic of knowledge and the ability to artfully judge what is true and what is not true is the mark of a modern, worldly, and sophitocated person.”Again your use of the word artful is confusing.Truth relies on proof, facts; an individuals “artful” judgement about a truth is unnecessary and certainly is not dependent on modernity, worldliness or sophistication. Truth depends solely on fact.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    SchaumHuman inteligence is variable, but compared to an ape, for example, even a very stupid person is pretty intelligent.

  • Navin1

    From Wiki:There are three “primary truths” inherently accepted in the investigation of knowledge and truth. They are the first fact (the fact of our existence), the first principle (the principle of non-contradiction) and the first condition (the ability of the mind to know truth). They cannot be validated with positive proof, as they are an inherent in every analysis. As a demonstration of their a priori nature, a person objecting to these essential truths cannot set a standard of proof without implicitly accepting the premises.[2]Some truths (very few) are self-evident. They are immediately obvious, such as the three primary truths. However, truth is not usually self-apparent and must be proven through the medium of rational analysis. For example, the boiling point of water must be discovered and tested. The authority of scientists who performed such an experiment is usually accepted, but if they are doubted, the experiment can be recreated and the evidence of truth confirmed. To be of rational value, evidence must be objective. Jonathan Dolhenty posits that there are three possible sources of objective evidence: the evidence of the senses, the evidence of rational thought and the evidence of expert testimony. Dolhenty expresses the need for caution with expert accounts, stating that there must be a willingness to challenge authority. He points out that experts have made errors, and even falsified evidence, on occasion.[2]Intuition is an assumed truth with an unknown, or unexamined, source. It is a judgment without rational examination of the facts. Many persons experience intuitive epiphanies which later prove to be true. Scholars have sometimes come upon valid theories and proofs while daydreaming or otherwise mentally occupied with something bearing no apparent relationship to the truth they seek to reveal. Intuition is at best a source for truths, rather than a criterion with which to evaluate them. Intuitive knowledge requires testing by means of other criteria of truth in order to confirm its accuracy.[12]The principal distinction between intuition and revelation is that revelation has an assumed source: God (or another higher power). Revelation may be defined as truth emanating from God. Many religions fundamentally rely on revelation as a test of truth. This criterion is subject to the same criticisms as intuition. It may be a valid reference of truth for an individual, but it is inadequate for providing a coherent proof of the knowledge to others.[1hariaum

  • Schaum

    DITLD:”If you believe that truth is what actually is, then it easy to imagine truth which has never been demonstrated by evidence because we are not aware of it. It is possible that there is much that actually is, that we do not know about.”I agree. I am perfectly willing to believe in god, or in sacred cows (do they give holy milk?) for that matter…IF they can be proven. Until proof is discovered, I’m not buying into other people’s myths and superstitions. And, while he remains unproven, god is a myth/superstition.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    SchaumYes, but what if you do not have access to the evidence? Most of what you know about science is not by the evidence that you have observed, yourself. It is what you have read or heard. This is second hand. That is where an arful judgement assists you in deciding what is true or not true. For as I said, people easily refute and deny science by saying that they have not seen the evidence. And if you refer them to the literature, they say, that isn’t proof.In addition, you are refering to observed truth. But if truth is what acually is, then might we assume that there are also truths unknown to us, yet to be discovered? I suspect that you think that this my way of saying that the existence of God might be true, and that is my hidden motivation for speculating on an artful judgement when determining what is true. But that is not my motivation. Excluding any discussion of the existence of God, this is still my belief.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    I observe that we are evolved from the animals. In the higher animals that we are more closely related to, we have similar sensory perceptions, which vary some. A dog, for instance, lives in a world of smells which we cannot imagine. A hawk has hyper-refined sense of vision which likewise would be difficult for a human being to imagine. Yet, we do experience the same modes of percpetion as the higher animals.Animals are born into the world, and they do not go to school or read books or do experiments. Yet they know all about the landscape of their experience; they know how the world works, and how things are put together. Outside of the landscape of their experience, they have no knowledge or awareness. Yet, they get along, grow to adulthood and reproduce.People are like that too. We know, or at least easily learn all we need to know to navigate a landscape of personal experience. But beyond personal experience, we are able to figure out alot of what is true, and to acquire a body of knowledge that is far distant from our personal experience.On simple, local, and singular matters, there is no confusion, and the practicality of the world and our suitibility to live in it is self-sustaining.There is only a problem when you get around to intelligent wondering, thinking, and imagining what is beyound the landscape of personal experience.

  • Schaum

    DITLD:”But if truth is what acually is, then might we assume that there are also truths unknown to us, yet to be discovered?”Is there some other way to say it? Again: show me proof, and I will believe. I do not believe things that have not been proven. Is this difficult to comprehend?

  • daniel12

    Part three.But seeing into things must pay or else we are pursuing a vision of not only no value but one which will bring us to extinction. This calls of course the whole scientific enterprise into question. The scientific enterprise is dedicated to the truth, proof leading to the upholding of foundational truth. Science apparently is unconcerned with whether the truth helps or harms us. The whole modern age shares this prejudice. But then again fortunately despite our noble, dispassionate declarations of seeking the truth–no matter whether harmful or helpful–we fasten with obvious speed on useful truth.The point being that truth is not necessarily a positive thing, to be preferred over a piece of obvious falsity. The truth must help or be rejected for helpful falsity. Basic Darwinism. What it takes to survive. The truth can help. It can harm. It does not necessarily set one free. It can kill one. And falsity does not necessarily imprison one. It can set one free. Thousands of children with their imaginations can testify to the last sentence.Truth must help or it must go. Falsity must help or it must go. What it takes to survive. What does this all mean? Among other things, it means the human race really has not become sophisticated at using its consciousness. It is trapped in a prejudice of preferring truth over falsity. It operates in a one way fashion, does not know when to accept or avoid a truth. Does not know when to accept or avoid a piece of falsity. Operation of consciousness. Employ it well.

  • daniel12

    Part two.Obviously the human race pursues the truth because it feels there is some value to be derived from it. The human race really does not pursue the truth in dispassionate fashion, which is to say pursue the truth regardless of whether it helps or hurts us. The religious person has his truth and believes his salvation lies in it. The atheist is against religion because he believes religion harmful, not based on reality–which means the atheist supposes reality to be helpful and not harmful.And Mr. Charles Darwin sheds great insight on this matter. Darwin declared a species will do what it takes to survive. A species does not exist to pursue truth and avoid falsity–only humans apparently believe so–but simply exists and tries to go on existing. This clearly squares with the typical religious person and scientist. Both believe themselves dedicated to the truth–and expect something from it.Now what are we to make of those people who are so obsessed with the truth that they attack such things as religion viciously (for its falsity) and go so far as to say the truth must be arrived at even if it is something which dismays the human race, causes resignation,–such truths as entropy? What would Darwin say about that? I think we can only conclude that Darwin would say a species willing to pursue the truth in the direction of painful truths (truly harmful ones) is a species which is in degeneration, not doing what it takes to survive but preferring a view of existence which harms it.Darwinian theory implies that survival comes first–whether by illusion or truth. Furthermore every species including humans has been getting by without any real knowledge of the truth. The human race has been concerned about the truth for only a fraction of its existence and animals not at all. So why bother with the truth? Answer: apparently intelligence is of value and it pays to see into things.

  • hitman2

    Says Matt Slick:Atheists can be morally good. They can even be people of integrity. But that isn’t the issue. Having good morals doesn’t mean you have objective morals. One atheist’s good morals might only be coincidentally consistent with true objective morality where another atheist’s isn’t.Objective morals are those that are based outside of yourself. Subjective morals are those that depend on you, your situation, culture, and your preferences. Subjective morals change, can become contradictory, and might differ from person to person. This is the best that atheism has to offer us as a worldview.Think about it, in atheism, there is no moral right and wrong. There is no moral “should and shouldn’t”. Why? Because when you remove God, you remove the standard by which objective moral truth is established. In atheism morality is up for grabs.In an atheistic worldview, lying, cheating, and stealing are neither right or wrong. They are phenomena to which, if the atheist so decides, moral values can be assigned. Sure, the atheist might say that we all should want to help society function properly and it does not benefit society as a whole to lie, cheat, and steal. But, this is weak intellectual reasoning.Let me put some flesh and blood on this and show you why. What if there were a global economic meltdown and social turmoil ensued so that robbing people at gunpoint to get food became common place. Robbery would then be a social norm. Would such a norm be wrong? If it is not wrong, then you affirm situational ethics and can’t complain when the situation suits somebody else’s fancy and you get robbed at gunpoint. Of course, this would lead to anarchy.

  • barferio

    So hitman2, you’ve obviously put a great deal of thought into the morality question. Why aren’t we out stealing, raping, robbing, murdering as you seem to imply we must without your objective standard? Why are the prisons so full of Christians, and so empty of atheists?We obviously have some form of self-control being exerted here. And let me use the god-believer’s rationale – just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.For those of you who are unable to access this morality internally, who rely on other’s external morality, this complaint of yours seems to be quite common. Since you never developed the morality we have developed, is this what you would do if you decided to dump your faith?

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Schaum”I do not believe things that have not been proven.”But you believe in the findings of science and most of that, probably all of it, has not been proven directly to you, but is what you have either read about or have heard about from other people. Your explanation of evidcence and proof does not explain how you believe science.And in thinking about this, keep in mind that I also do believe in the findings of science, so I am not posing this question to trick you or to prove that you are wrong, but to demonstrate that belief in what is true is not necessarily a matter of directly experiencing the evidence, personally, but is also related to a way of thinking about how the world works, which, according to my terminology, involves an artful judgement and a consideration of knowing how to know as being similar to artistic creativity. I know you do not like my terminology, artful judgement, and maybe that is not a good way to say it. But whatever you call it, it is more realistic than saying that we only know what is true by personal experience of evidence.

  • Schaum

    DITLD:I lifted the following from a post on another thread, written by Timmy2. I do it, because he is right and states it very well. Perhaps this will be clearer to you than I have been able to be:” Everything is a placeholder until new information arises. Science spends all of it’s time trying to prove itself wrong. What can not be proven wrong, is considered a theory. Not even scientific laws are considered “truths”.”Only the theist claims to hold the truth. The atheist is just the person who doesn’t believe the theist knows the truth, or if there is even such a thing as “The truth”.”

  • Navin1

    From Schaum”While objective truths are final and static, subjective truths are continuing and dynamic.”It is interesting to note the use of authority, Kierkegard,etc when debating this issue. We often turn to people who have thought about things, experts, to either reveal to us a deeper understanding or a confirm (through selection bias) what we want to believe. Yet another interesting thing as DLD pointed out earlier, it is complicated.Can we draw conclusions as to why the idea of Truth is so difficult? 1) it doesn’t exist and most of the genius of the past failed to see it, 2) it is truly difficult, 3) we need a more advance method (kind of like when science guided us to newer v better truths)…. But, I do note, that pretty much there is a consensus that there is an objective truth and we do experience a relationship to truth (the objective and subjective dichotomy). And I also note the Wiki comment that: “As a demonstration of their a priori nature, a person objecting to these essential truths cannot set a standard of proof without implicitly accepting the premises”Further, we have evidence that the non-logical brain, usually the right hemisphere and limbic system, is evaluating our “reality” in non-verbal ways to establish truth, the evolutionary argument being that the lobe of the brain evolved with a utility to survival (or it is a remnant). But also, along the lines of evidence and proof, how many times have we seen TTY, Yussaf, claim there is no proof that Hitler was a catholic, that muslim’s oppressed the Hindus… People also choose the evidence they want to look at and legitimize (for we have also heard, that certain sources of statistics should be suspect and therefore not valid as proof of anything)This then leads to the question, how much research is adequate to deny? hariaum

  • Navin1

    From Patanjali Yoga Sutrahariaum

  • ThomasBaum

    DC68 You wrote, “Thomas Baum. Are you saying that you have met god? What does this mean? Walked and talked and shared information like Abraham did?”No, God works in different people’s lives in different ways.God Is a Trinity and God the Father came into my heart, He did not say a word, I just knew that it was God the Father.By the way, God the Father is not a He, a She nor an It but is a Being of Love, Pure Love.The Holy Spirit came into my body and revealed that the Catholic Eucharist is Jesus, the Holy Spirit did not say a word either, I just knew that it was the Holy Spirit.This is why I say that God Is a Trinity, granted I was taught that God Is a Trinity but I did not know that it was true until I met the Trinity, I did believe it but I did not know it.These events happened over a two day period and it was not long after that, that I met satan, it was not a pleasant experience but I thank God that I experienced it.God knew that I needed to know that satan is also real and God allowed satan to have a one on one, so to speak, with me for 24+ hours.I guess one could say it was more of a get acquainted thing than a “walked and talked and shared information” thing.God knew that I needed to “know” some things rather than just believe them for me to even attempt to do the “job” that God chose for me to do.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • ThomasBaum

    DanielintheLionsDenYou wrote, “Even if you know something is true with unshakable, rock-solid certainty, how do you know it is true?”You just do, there is no other answer I can give.You then wrote, “If you could explain it rationally, then wouldn’t everybody else know it was true too?”Nothing personal but get real.I do not have to “believe” what happened to me is true or not, I know that it is true and to be truthful with you, it is quite “unbelievable” but nevertheless, it is true.I can explain “rationally” what I experienced to the best of my ability but I, for one, leave it up to whoever may hear about it to “believe” or not believe that this happened to me, there is no way that I could get someone to “know” that this is true or not.As I have written before, it will be God that will provide the “proof” that God Is, not me and it will be in God’s Time.I needed to know that God Is, to even attempt to do the “job” that God chose for me to do, God knew this and God revealed Himself to me in a very personal way.You wrote, “How come we think science is true?”I would say because God created things in a way that conform to standards that can be quantified and gave us the ability to “figure things out”, what do you think?It isn’t so much that science is true or not true, science is just a word, science is the discovery of how God’s Creation, at least the physical part of God’s Creation, is constructed.You then wrote, “How come some people think it is true that God exists, but other people think it is true that God does not exist?”Best answer that I can think of is: Faith is a “gift” that no man should boast, of course there does seem to be quite a few boasters out there and they seem to come from both sides.You then wrote, ” And if people have such difficulty deciding among themselves what is true, is God really going to hold it against people who do not believe in God, or who do not believe in Jesus, or do not understand or know anything about the Bible?”Two statements I have written many times: God is a searcher of hearts and minds, not of religious affiliations or lack thereof and It is important what one does and why one does it and what one knows.Something to think about: If one believes, what does one do with that belief?You then wrote, “I do not think so, and I arrived at this thought, not from any particular theological analysis, but merely by wondering about these seeminlty simple words, truth, knowledge, and belief.Actually, just one word LOVE.God’s Plan is for ALL, doesn’t seem to be very many that believe it and sad to say there seem to be quite a few that don’t even want it.See you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom.Take care, be ready.Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Schaum

    ThomasTheHallucinator:”You just do, there is no other answer I can give.”At last you have spoken a truth. You can give nothing but opinion. Certainly no facts that can be proven as truths.You’ve “seen god”? As you say, get real. Or prove it.

  • kentigereyes

    You sho can babble girl.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    One more go around before we get to the orphans of Haiti:If truth is what actually is, then knowledge is a mirror of truth that existst in our minds; but then, what is belief?Belief is can be either the acceptance as true of what is known to be true, or what is not known to be true, which includes speculation and hope.

  • artatlarge

    As usual, we find the unbelievable arrogance of the “believers” who state that there is no moral compass to be found in Atheism.

  • Jackalope1

    I have to disagree with your point in Myth #4: “Atheists (at least those with a scintilla of scientific knowledge) would never claim that the universe always was and always will be.” There’s an interesting article that gives an explanation for an eternal universe at http://www.earthletter.org/firstquestion_one. It’s a rational explanation of how the universe is eternal founded on a scientific understanding of how the universe works. It’s quite convincing and satisfyingly eliminates any role for a “Prime Creator.”

  • saami

    Mets! To really know the agony of belief, you need to be a life long CUBS fan. Maybe that’s where I found our that praying to a non-existent god doesn’t work.

  • latheekizhisseri

    Dear Susan Jacoby,I never knew that American intellectuals (both religious and athiest) can be such fools, as evidenced by info and observations in your article. Now I know why films like Avatar and Jurassic Park pulls crowds in US. If this is the level of foolishness of intellectuals (and great scientists, writers, religious leaders, politicians etc)what is to be expected from ordinary people?One more thing: Your claim that humans are the most intelligent animals has no concrete scientific proof, and among the approximate 15 to 100 million species estimated, human science so far know only 1.7 million species! That is our knowledge about nature is only 1.7 %. So, your claim has no valide, scientific, proven, objective basis. Humans also seems to be the biggest fools among animals as they destroy their own world, their own survival basis and they are the ones who kill each other most. These are not symptoms of high intelligence. Your arguments are highly anthropocentric, which is not scientifically as well as spiritually accpetable.So, neither atheists nor religions are right about the reality of the world and the earth. Both are big business, like the war industry, both are highly destructive, for the Earth as well as all beings of the world.

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