5/26/09

Atheism - The New (Emergent) Atheists, part 4 of 4

We now conclude Atheism is Dead’s consideration of the New Atheist movement headed by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens.

Part 1: Who Are The New Atheists? and What Are Their Claims?
Part 2:
What Is Their Appeal? and What Is The New Atheist Movement?
Part 3:
An Atheist New World Order – A One World Atheist Religion
Part 4:
Is The New Atheist Movement Dead? and Let Us Heed Their Words

Is The New Atheist Movement Dead?
The New Atheists have expressed that the proverbial straw-that-broke-the-Atheist-camel’s-back was the group of attacks on the United States of America on September 11, 2001 AD. That is not to say that some of them were not Atheist activists before then, but 9/11 fanned the flames of their activism.

The attacks on 9/11 where primarily caused by Islamic ex­tremism (with a long list of other causes such as maintenance or gaining of power, wealth, popularity, etc.). The question is: what have the New Atheists done in response to this particular event, this particular threat? Surely, they would focus their efforts primarily, if not exclusively, upon confronting this threat, this cause, head on.

Yet, what have the New Atheists done? What they have and have not done makes one wonder if their appeal to 9/11 is a reason or an excuse. After all, why 9/11? Are they not aware of similar atrocities throughout history? Are they not aware of the recent chronicles of the most secular century in human history also being the bloodiest—with millions upon millions being murdered not only during war, but also by their own regimes? (see here).

Have any of the New Atheists toured Islamic countries giving lectures in which they condemn Allah, Muhammad, Islam, or Muslims? Have any of them debated Muslims in Islamic coun­tries? Have any of them been interviewed on Al Jazeera? Have any of them written entire books in which they condemn Allah, Muhammad, Islam, or Muslims? Have they done anything of the sort at all?

The answers to all of the above are: “No.” Rather, what they have done is sit within the comfort and safety of countries based on Christian principles and conveniently launched condemna­tions which are roughly quantifiable as being 90% anti-Christian and 10% anti-other religions (and this may be being too generous an estimation).

Richard Dawkins wrote:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vin­dictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capri­ciously malevolent bully.[1]


However, has Richard Dawkins dared to make this declaration re­placing his statement: “The God of the Old Testament” with “The God of the Qur’an”? Has he toured Islamic countries proudly promulgating such sentiments? No.[2] Has Sam Harris written a Letter to a Muslim Nation? No.

There are at least two aspects to answer the question as to why, or rather, why not?
Firstly, in their eyes, 9/11 was caused by “religion” in general—Islamic extremism being a mere side effect of the main problem.

Second, and more importantly, Sam Harris had a stroke of genius in laying the blame for religious extremism on religious moderates. He reasoned that it was the tolerance of the moderates that eventually led to unrestrained extrem­ism. This was brilliant because it allowed the New Atheists to excuse themselves from taking on the real danger which they should be tackling; and instead, they could focus on what they could now declare to be the true evil of our world: Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, the Bishop of Canterbury, the Pope, et al. They could take aim at easy or otherwise mostly—if not altogether—harmless targets, while hiding from the real dangers of the world and at the same time paint themselves as courageous crusaders!


















Pope John Paul II forgiving the man
who attempted to assassinate him











Richard Dawkins also wrote:

In illustration of the dark side of absolutism, I men­tioned the Christians in America who blow up abortion clinics, and the Taliban of Afghanistan, whose list of cruelties, especially to women, I find too painful to re­count.[3]

Conveniently, Richard Dawkins’ pain allows him to completely fail to recount the atrocities of Islamic extremists and allows him to focus on the most preposterous examples of actions carried out by so-called “Christians.”

Thus, we ask: Is the New Atheist movement dead?
Atheists generally claim that “atheism” cannot be blamed for any malevolence, since it is merely a “lack of God belief.” And so similarly, we may argue that “theism” cannot be blamed for any malevolence, since it is merely an “existence of God be­lief.”
Moreover, “religion” cannot be blamed for any malevo­lence, since it is merely a “systematization of worship of God.”

The point: Atheists claim that since Atheism does not im­ply anything in particular beyond “lack of God belief,” it cannot motivate anyone toward anything. It is individual Atheists who go from “lack of God belief” to building their particular world views who may act malevolently.
Correspondingly, since theism does not imply any­thing in particular beyond an “existence of God belief,” it cannot motivate anyone toward anything. Furthermore, since religion does not imply anything in particular beyond a “systematization of worship of God,” it cannot motivate anyone toward anything.
It is individual theists and religionists who go from “existence of God belief” to building their particular world views or theolo­gies who may act malevolently.

Therefore, since the New Atheists generically condemn “religion” and have failed to focus their attention upon that which set the movement into motion in the first place, they—as a movement— are dead.
Granted, this is not to say they are done, or they will go away. They will surely remain vociferous and popular. The refer­ence to their movement’s death is to their credibility in general and to the direct consequence of being deficient in that which they had originally set out to accomplish.

Let Us Heed Their Words
Nick Spencer, a Christian and writer for the UK Telegraph blog, wrote:
Christians, whether or not they acknowledge it, have sometimes needed Atheists to remind them how to live like Christians.[4]

There is very much about which theists (and Christians, in particular) can agree with even the most militant Atheist activ­ists. We could “Amen!” many of their criticisms of “religion.”

Many of their objections are the same ones we voiced and are the reasons why we denounced “religion” and developed a personal re­lationship with the Messiah Jesus. Likewise, we could agree with their criticisms about superstition, religious fanaticism, religious abuse of power, money-hungry televangelists, hypocrisy, etc.

In fact, the only favorable mention of “religion” in the New Testament is,
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Thus, while overall the New Atheism is very faulty for various reasons and ought to be refuted at every opportunity, they do play an important role in the dialogue, in sharpening our apolo­getics, and in waking up the slumbering church.

[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006), p. 31
[2] The most they have done is that Sam Harris had one debate with Muslim Reza Aslan on US soil and Richard Dawkins inter­viewed a Muslim in Israel for his program “The Root of All Evil.” Richard Dawkins played nice by describing himself as “a gentle atheist.” In the same series, while interviewing American Pastor Ted Haggard, Richard Dawkins likened Haggard’s church service to a Nazi rally. He also wrote a truly pathetic critique of “Atlas of Creation” by the Muslim Harun Yahya.
[3] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, pp. 301-302
[4] Nick Spencer, “Atheism on a bus

30 comments:

  1. Mariano: And so similarly, we may argue that “theism” cannot be blamed for any malevolence, since it is merely an “existence of God be­lief.”
    Moreover, “religion” cannot be blamed for any malevo­lence, since it is merely a “systematization of worship of God.”
     
    You may so argue, but it isn't the case. This is especially true and an urgent issue in the US today with its undisguised Dominionist movements.

    Christians are in fact a public menace and an embarrassment:
    “This confrontation [unprovoked invasion of Iraq in 2003] is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins”. 
       G.W. Bush, born-again Christian maker of war
     
    and this lunatic Christian theology-based foreign policy confuses and frightens more secular (i.e. sane) world leaders: Chirac is said to have been stupefied and disturbed by Bush's invocation of Biblical prophesy to justify the war in Iraq and "wondered how someone could be so superficial and fanatical in their beliefs". 
    Dawkins on his worst day can't match this evangelical madness in either scope or severity. I'd suggest that you take Jesus's advice and take the sequoia-sized log out of your own eye before fussing with the motes in other people's eyes, but we both know you never will.

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  2. "Dawkins on his worst day can't match this evangelical madness in either scope or severity."Dawkins can't match it simply because he doesn't have the means. That's not to say that I think Dawkins would declare war on another country and then try to justify it with a personal belief he supposedly holds if he was in such a position of power...I personally wouldn't argue with your assessment of Bush at all. But I think you're doing your camp a disservice by trying to bring up another subject entirely and not address the point Mariano is discussing; and that is, if these outspoken atheists like Dawkins and Harris (I'd really rather refer to them as anti-theists because I know some atheists and they're good people) are so anti-religion and are supposedly so concerned with the plight of humanity as a whole, then why aren't they more outspoken when it comes to religions other than Christianity?

    Sure, slam Bush all day long for his hypocrisy...many Christians will agree with you whether you're a Christian yourself or not (at least 99% of the Christians I know)...but when you see these anti-theists going after Christianity over, and over, and over and seemingly turning a blind eye to everything else then at what point do you stop taking what they have to say seriously? Are they really concerned with the betterment of people all over the world, or do they just have a personal axe to grind with Christianity? Moreover, would they be as outspoken in countries where they risk a backlash for their words either financially or physically?

    Unless I'm mistaken, that was the point of Mariano's essay. It's like seeing a rock band slam a particular form of government, claim to be "down with the people" and all of that, and then knowing they go home to gated mansions with private security...why take anything else they have to say seriously once you know a little bit more about them? Do you want to give hypocrites like this your money when you know they talk one talk and walk another? Likewise with this whole "New Atheism movement"...when are people going to stop putting hypocrites like Dawkins or Harris on a pedestal?

    "I'd suggest that you take Jesus's advice and take the sequoia-sized log out of your own eye before fussing with the motes in other people's eyes, but we both know you never will."Because of the title of the blog for one thing...and the fact that religious hypocrisy doesn't really need to be pointed out as another. How many people would argue with a negative opinion of George Bush and his supposedly Christian beliefs? Not very many, and for good reason because his hypocrisy is painfully obvious. But you have people willing to argue over the hypocrisy of the "New Atheists" mainly because it's the "in" form of accepted rebellion at the moment, and because their's tends to be a little more subtle. So when somebody like Mariano points it out, why try to change gears and bring another person into it entirely? Would it hurt your stance at all to simply say something, for example, like: "You're right...Dawkins and people like him need to start speaking up about other religions...I'm still an atheist, but you make a good point."? No one side of anything has 100% "perfect" adherents, but trying to shift blame when some people of one side are called out just seems petty.

    Sorry if this reply sounds aggressive, and I don't mean anything personal with it, but it bothers me to think that so many supposed "free-thinkers" not only eat up so much dogma with a spoon, but then go on and try to defend the perpetrators of said dogma by trying to point the finger elsewhere when the perps get called on it.

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  3. Gogira: Dawkins and Harris ... are so anti-religion and are supposedly so concerned with the plight of humanity as a whole, then why aren't they more outspoken when it comes to religions other than Christianity? 
    Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

    I know neither Dawkins nor Harris and won't speculate on their strategic thinking or motivations. But I can think of two reasons why they might/ought to focus especially on christianity.

    First, their main audience is fairly well educated english speaking people in developed countries, the heirs to European history, which means they and their audience are more strongly affected by christian influences, past and present.

    Second, christianity's greatest influence is in some of the most consequential nations today (ie those wielding the greatest cultural, economic or military power), and so it constitutes the greater threat. The problems engendered by isalm are serious enough, that's true, but they are mostly local. With christianity, as exemplified by Bush's bible-inspired invasion of Iraq, the problems are global: as the US goes so goes the UN, NATO, global economy, global ecology & etc.

    I suspect D&H preferentially target christianity because that will have the greatest effect on the greatest problem with the least effort.

    Why the hypocrisy you mention? I don't speak for them, but it seems to me that the vast disparity of power between the entrenched christian establishment and a handful of individuals is a likely cause. D&H are just two guys with day jobs uninvolved with prosetylizing. Compare that with christianity and its worldwide networks of churches, schools & etc., their 24 hour a day satellite tv & radio networks, their billions of dollars, etc. I think you were right when you observed that Dawkins doesn't do stuff because he doesn't have the means.

    Organized christianity has the power to effect change and isn't shy about using it. While D&H can advocate their world view and criticize others in their spare time, christianity (and other religions too) do all of that and get to appoint judges, write policy, invade nations and do many other such things besides.

    Dominionists aren't a majority religious movement in the US yet, but because of how the electorate is split into many fractions by multiple wedge issues, they end up holding the whip hand much of the time and so exercise a disproportionately large influence on policies and actions that increasingly come to reflect and support their religious world view.

    Example: You ask, do I want to give money to such hypocrites (D&H)? I don't consider them hypocrites, but no, I don't financially support atheism as such. I've only bought one book by Harris (curiosity) and two by Dawkins (FWIW I'm a biologist and I am interested in the biology, not the atheism, in them).

    I don't want to give money to hypocrites like Bush or christian missions either. But I have no choice here. I'm forced to pay for a bible-inspired war and faith-based social engineering initiatives in the US where my tax contributions to public funds are spent for religiously determined purposes.

    So when somebody like Mariano points it [alleged atheist hypocrisy] out, why try to change gears and bring another person into it entirely? 
    I think they are powerless, not hypocritical. I wouldn't call a lumberjack a hypocrite if he doesn't chop down trees because he has no ax.

    Second, Bush is an implicit part of Mariano's argument, not a gratuitous injection. This article is a feint to distract us from asking who made the messes that atheists haven't cleaned up quickly enough to suit the impatient Mariano. Bush is the christian right's creature and a principle messer upper. When Mariano chose the topic of inaction in the face of faith-based havoc Bush and his christian supporters came in with it.

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  4. "Thanks for the thoughtful reply."Before I get started, I wanted to take a moment and thank you for your thoughtful and civil reply as well. I was a little worried that I may have sounded harsh in what I'd written earlier because I was running on empty when I typed it. But, I guess I didn't, so I guess all is good. On with the show...

    "First, their main audience is fairly well educated english speaking people in developed countries, the heirs to European history, which means they and their audience are more strongly affected by christian influences, past and present."Interesting point...but could I ask you to speculate on one thing pertaining to this statement? That is, in their dealings with Christianity, why would Dawkins or Harris seemingly want to, for lack of a better way of putting it, be so willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater? As Mariano pointed out in this essay, if nations with Christian influence so entrenched in their foundations are on potentially dangerous paths, then why do they enjoy the freedom(s) of attacking said Christian influence(s). It doesn't take a big stretch of the imagination to wonder how long their attacks on religion would last in non-Christian nations. Also, what about all of the good things religion (in this case Christianity) tends to inspire within the masses?

    "Second, christianity's greatest influence is in some of the most consequential nations today (ie those wielding the greatest cultural, economic or military power), and so it constitutes the greater threat. The problems engendered by isalm are serious enough, that's true, but they are mostly local. With christianity, as exemplified by Bush's bible-inspired invasion of Iraq, the problems are global: as the US goes so goes the UN, NATO, global economy, global ecology & etc."(emphasis mine)

    This is where I have to disagree with you. You state that Bush's declaration of war on Iraq is inspired by the Bible very matter of factly, but how true is this? Did he indeed get a vision from God or whatever on what to do about Iraq, or were there other motivations merely dressed in religious overtones to make them seem like good ideas?

    I've seen some people speculate that Bush's attack on Iraq was inspired by oil, basically wanting to follow in his father's footsteps. Or, you can go to about any White Nationalist or Black Muslim website and they're claiming that Bush's attack on Iraq was inspired by Zionism, ultimately done for the sake of Israel. So which is his main motivation? Religious? Zionism? Political? The thing is we the people are never going to know every single detail, but about any or all of the above can grab a line of dialogue here or there and back up their claims. I think trying to pigeonhole his motivation into a single category is not only major over-simplification, but possibly dangerous since we're not clear on the motivations of the people making the claims we're to which we're listening in the first place! Again, I'm not about to argue with a negative opinion on Bush and his war on Iraq, but I honestly don't think that war was truly and single-handedly inspired by his supposed Christian beliefs. You have to keep in mind that Bush is a politician and as such will tickle ears with nice words and fancy speeches...and since Christians outnumber non-Christians in this country, guess who he's going to try and pander his words toward first...

    continued...

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  5. "...that will have the greatest effect on the greatest problem with the least effort."I could almost agree with this assessment if in fact religious motivation was the true cause. But if you step back and look at it, at least in the case of "Dubya", here is a man who has knowingly lied to the masses (what about those "weapons of mass destruction" anybody?), a man who has gotten this nation into all sorts of turmoil, and yet it's this SAME MAN that some people (namely the anti-theists) are believing when he claims religious motivation! So by this logic he lies about points A, B, C, and D, but suddenly he's telling the truth when it comes to point E? This logic seems faulty...why is a liar suddenly telling the truth when he talks about God? Why aren't "brilliant" men like Dawkins or Harris suspecting more lies? Instead it seems like they're latching onto key phrases that serve their agenda's and running with them.

    "Organized christianity has the power to effect change and isn't shy about using it. While D&H can advocate their world view and criticize others in their spare time, christianity (and other religions too) do all of that and get to appoint judges, write policy, invade nations and do many other such things besides."That depends on who you're talking with. If organized Christianity has so much power, why is abortion even legal? Why aren't children praying or singing Christmas carols en mass in public schools? One woman...Madeline Murray O'Hare...with enough people behind her got prayer taken out of public school. If organized Christianity has such a perceived strangle-hold on so many aspects of government, her little movement wouldn't have even gotten off the ground. For that matter, if organized Christianity wields so much power over the masses and ultimately public policy, why is Christianity slammed so much in so many forms of mainstream media?

    I may be wrong, and I'm open to that possibility, but it seems to me that people like Dawkins and Harris are making an imaginary dragon out of organized Christianity that they can boldly slay someday with some sword of supposed rationality. They build it up and talk it up to supposed heights of extreme power, when in reality it's all sort of Quixotic...meanwhile they're cashing in like mad and the eyes of so many people are diverted from potentially real dangers and real problems in society.

    continued...

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  6. "I don't want to give money to hypocrites like Bush or christian missions either. But I have no choice here. I'm forced to pay for a bible-inspired war and faith-based social engineering initiatives in the US where my tax contributions to public funds are spent for religiously determined purposes."Could you elaborate on some of these "faith-based social engineering initiatives" please?

    But also, consider too that we're supposedly living in a majority government. I personally don't think it's ran that way, but that's how it's supposed to be on paper. So on that note, for an example, why should a couple who doesn't have kids have to pay taxes for public schools? You look around and it won't take long for you to see that we pay taxes on a lot of things we don't necessarily agree with on a personal level...that doesn't necessarily make them bad things on a more grand scale. You don't have to agree with them and you don't even have to like them, but sometimes it helps to look past your own circles and try to see a bigger picture. Are these supposedly religiously motivated policies such a detriment to society as a whole, or do you not like them because you suspect religion had a hand in it?

    "I think they are powerless, not hypocritical. I wouldn't call a lumberjack a hypocrite if he doesn't chop down trees because he has no ax."Interesting analogy, but the hypocrisy I was talking about is the venom spewed at Christianity that conveniently misses other religions. A person can't claim to be against religion when all they're talking about is one part of it. I would like to see Dawkins or Harris or whoever else is promoted to one of the Four Horsemen this week to just come out and say they hate Christianity...I wouldn't agree with them anymore than I am right now, but at least then I could respect their honesty.

    A good and glaring example of this is that clown Marshall Brain...you might've heard of him...I don't even know if he's making video's anymore...but anyway, I always found it interesting that he made fun of Christians, he made fun of Muslims, and he even made fun of Mormons, but would conveniently clam up when it came to Jews. All three of the above religions grew out of Judaism in one way or another, he's seemingly got such contempt for them, but he NEVER went after the foundation! That's when I realized that his "valiant" crusade against religion started and stopped when his career was on the line. He wrote how-to books for a living...how long do you think he'd keep his books in stores once people perceived him as being antisemitic? To that degree, I see the same behavior out of Dawkins and company. It WREAKS of cowardice and hypocrisy. At least Brain tried to divide his venom a little more evenly, and even then that wasn't saying much.

    "Second, Bush is an implicit part of Mariano's argument, not a gratuitous injection."That's fair...I'll concede that point. Sorry for misunderstanding where you were coming from.

    Thanks for this discussion, so far it's been pretty fun and thought-provoking.

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  7. "...Madeline Murray O'Hare...with enough people behind her got prayer taken out of public school." To be precise what was prohibited was the school (as an agent of the government) from forcing/encouraging/promoting students to pray. Students pray all the time in school. They self-organize prayer circles and pray up a storm. The schools are supposed to neither encourage or discourage this activity, so long as it doesn't interfere with the primary propose of the school - education.

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  8. I am not a spokesperson for Richard Dawkins, so don't misconstrue my opinions as necessarily reflecting the Good Doctors position. I've read most of Dawkins books and I think the criticism that he unfairly singles out Christianity is unfounded. As a biologist and a public intellectual, Dawkins is very concerned with discovering, promoting and explaining how biological evolution works. The primary enemies of this science are Christians - so you fight the enemies that attack what you hold dear more than the enemies that don't.

    Also, Dawkins is fundamentally interested in the truth about how the universe works, and he is convinced that the scientific method is best (perhaps even the only) way to figure that out. So for Dawkins, the theistic premise is, at the bottom, just a scientific question: Do entities such as gods exist (in a real world sense of the word 'exist')? Now, from this perspective, it really is not important to focus on any particular religion - the details are not really that important to the existence question. What is important is the core description of what this entity called a 'god' is like and how that entity might interact with the real world. In Dawkins analysis, this core concept is incompatible with the way the observed universe works and with that whole swaths of proposed gods are discounted totally. Included in those failed gods you can single out the god of Judaism, or Islam, or any of the various concepts covered by the umbrella term 'Christianity'.

    After this complete discounting, Dawkins really doesn't pay much attention to the more philosophical theistic concepts such as pantheism or deism. He simply points out that after all the words spun in describing those ideas, they, for all practical purposes, boil down to the basic atheistic/agnostic position.

    Now, I can't recall every reading Dawkins explicitly mentioning the Hindu pantheon and, I suppose, he could be rightly accused of a Western culture chauvinism but I suspect that if the idea of a monotheistic god is not viable then it is also the case that a polytheistic god is also not viable.

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  9. "To be precise what was prohibited was the school (as an agent of the government) from forcing/encouraging/promoting students to pray. Students pray all the time in school. They self-organize prayer circles and pray up a storm. The schools are supposed to neither encourage or discourage this activity, so long as it doesn't interfere with the primary propose of the school - education."Thanks for the clarification jdhuey. But I hope the point I attempted to make can still stand; and that is, if organized Christianity did indeed have so much sway over public policies, odds are children would still be praying in school en mass to this day.

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  10. Wow! Nice discussion between Jdhuey and Lou Gojira. Thanks guys I'm enjoying the civility.

    I'd like to add to Lou's point about Christianity having sway over public policies. I think at this point in time the sway is weak, and getting weaker everyday.

    To be honest I'd be more worried about the inevitable Muslim influence, such as is the case in Europe. Americans can tend to get isolated I think.

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  11. Oh and also MaskedMarauder, don't want to leave anyone out.

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  12. Gojira: This is an interesting exchange, as you say. And it is the sort that should happen more often but rarely does. Sigh! But the topic is bifurcating wildly in many directions here and its losing focus. My replies here will be sketchy by necessity and not intentionally flippant or flimsy for any purpose other than brevity.

    You state that Bush's declaration of war on Iraq is inspired by the Bible very matter of factly, but how true is this? 
    The quote I gave is from a private conversation between Bush and Chirac, the French head of state, and not intended for public consumption. As such I think its fair to say its either a candid authentic admission, or a deliberately fashioned argument to persuade Chirac of something or other. Either way, Bush is indicating he thinks this mad logic is a legitimate excuse for going to war and all the evil that that entails.

    The thing is, liar, loon or merely ludicrous, Bush is still the darling of the christian right. And that speaks volumes (to me) about the virtues of chirstianity: they are nill. That the religious, self-styled bastions of morality and righteousness can't or won't reign in the madness just confirms that intuition.

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  13. Well, one of the consequences of the separation of Church and State in the US has been the proliferation of different churches. In countries where the government supports an official church the number of different churches is very small; however, in the US there are thousands. So, any 'organized' religion in that environment is going to have a harder row to hoe. However, wrt to the O'Hare case, the important point is that it was won in a court of law, not in the legislature or in the court of public opinion. She won because she was right and the Supreme Court is very sheltered from political influence. The religious right pretty much has had a strangle hold on the Republican party since the 1980's and the influence has been dramatic. Now, I happen to think that the reason that the Republican party is currently out of power is that the Religious Right overplayed their hand (in large part due to their unwillingness to compromise) and alienated the median voter.

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  14. Gojira: Why aren't "brilliant" men like Dawkins or Harris suspecting more lies? Instead it seems like they're latching onto key phrases that serve their agenda's and running with them. 
    Two things. One, it doesn't matter if what Bush said was sincere or cynical manipulation. The point is, it worked. He sold evil to christians who are probably average or even inherently good people otherwise. And that, I think, is a flaw, maybe the flaw, in religious worldviews. Divorced as it is from critical thinking and rational thought it makes people easy marks this sort of manipulation. From Peter the Hermit and the first crusade, to George the Oaf and the Operation Iraqi Freedom today, its a dysfunctional world view that does more harm than good. In my opinion.

    Second, and I don't speak for D&H, I think the bit about picking on the lies is a distraction. The point is that something in religion makes those lies believable, or even endearing. A lot of what passes for religion, I think, is just tribalism. And the Jesus's Gang vs Muhammad's Gang scrapping over religious market share is like the Sharks vs the Jets scrapping over turf. It is a fight for power, and that includes oil, and not a principled confrontation. But their argument, Jesus Good--Muhammad Bad, such as it is, can only engage religious minds and passions. So my question is, if religion incites me to take sides in a silly dispute like that, why would I want any part of it?

    I see that the O'Hare thing was already discussed, so I'll skip it except to say that it was the Supreme Court that put the prayer out of schools because it went against the dictates of the US Constitution. Washington, Jefferson, Paine and those wild radicals deserve the principle credit/blame, not her.

    For that matter, if organized Christianity wields so much power over the masses and ultimately public policy, why is Christianity slammed so much in so many forms of mainstream media? 
    I don't think that's factually true. Off hand I can't think of any adverse religious stories in the news except those that belong there (child abuse by priests, abuse of 501(c)3 status by religious organizations, etc). The press just doesn't do hatchet jobs on churches. I'd welcome a counter example if you know of one.

    ...meanwhile they're (D&H're) cashing in like mad and the eyes of so many people are diverted from potentially real dangers and real problems in society. 
    The video evangelists, with their satellite networks and all, make D&H look like pikers. I'll bet the Pope's robes cost more than D&H make in a year on their atheist efforts.

    As for the persistence of problems; with all their superior resources and other advantages, the churches aren't solving them either! In fact, they're aiding and abetting the villains, in many instances. So why hold D&H especially accountable?

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  15. So on that note, for an example, why should a couple who doesn't have kids have to pay taxes for public schools? 
    That's an excellent question. Its a deep one and books have been written about it, but here's my el cheapo quick-sketch take on it.

    Let's take it as axiomatic for now that democracy (let's ignore the various forms for now: direct, representative, etc) is the best possible form of government. What is it? I'd say its something like: government through the informed consent of the governed.

    Where to go from these two givens? Well, from this I think its safe to recognise that the people are the government. So, if the first duty of the government is to protect itself, that means protecting the people. Protection from physical threats, bombers, floods and famine are obvious threats that the government sort of acknowledges already.

    But if "the informed consent of the governed" is a critical component of our government, then the government has an valid interest in protecting those things that are vital to sustaining informed consent. I think this was implicit in much of what the founding fathers were going on about in the bill of rights. The freedom of speech and of the press, for instance. The people can't be informed without the public dissemination of information through a free and unfettered press, and there can be no genuine consent if people can't openly discuss the news and issues of the day.

    Let's go one layer deeper. What good is a free press if the people are illiterate and can't read the news, or if they haven't the training to make sense of the news they do read? Protecting the enumerated rights is futile if the access to information, or the ability to use it, is blocked by poor education.

    That's where education ought to be or can be viewed as a natural right. Like freedom of the press, education protects the principle of informed consent the people need to govern themselves. In the anti-discrimination Rodriqueze case justice Marshall argued that equal access to quality education was a legitimate interest of the government because it "directly affects the ability of a child to exercise his First Amendment rights, both as a source and as a receiver of information and ideas."

    The short answer is that childless people (full disclosure: I have no children and I vote for every school levy I can lay my hand on) should support schools because if you don't you'll get illiterate ignoramuses writing your laws or waging unnecessary wars.

    Along the same lines, things like trying to get creationism, intelligent design, or other junk sciences into classrooms subverts these vital goals. They engender superstitious thinking and poor critical skills which undermines the ability of people to exercise informed consent on important issues. And, SURPRISE!, its religion that is being used to do this because there's no other way to sell this mind-rotting crap.

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  16. But also, consider too that we're supposedly living in a majority government. I personally don't think it's ran that way, but that's how it's supposed to be on paper.  
    You're right, we aren't living under a majority government. The US is almost unique in this respect among developed nations. This is so for a lot of reasons, but just looking at the US Senate should be enough. With the filibuster rule the senators from states representing as little as about 15-20% of the population can block any legislation, or use its threat to bargain for minority interests. And that's just one of the entrenched mechanisms in our form of government that subvert majority rule. It probably isn't the sort of book you'd like to read, but the best, most personal, book I can recommend on this and its social consequences is "The Secret Lives of Citizens," by Thomas Geoghegan. He's a Catholic, by the way. Not that it matters, but its just to say this is not "atheist propaganda" in any way, in case you're worried. But it shows how hard it is to do good in today's political environment no matter how hard you try.

    I never heard of Marshall Brain. I think I'll continue to wallow in my ignorance as bliss in this case.

    But otherwise, I think your opinion of Dawkins may suffer from what is called attention bias. I'm guessing that most of what you know of Dawkins comes from sources such as this blog which is, frankly, hostile and biased against him. Your opinion wouldn't hold up, I think, with a broader awareness.

    For example, in another post in this blog Mariano attacks Dawkins for his criticism of a book by a muslim creationist. In my reply to that post I link to a video of Dawkin's presentation to some sort of symposium on fundamental islam (here). He does this sort of stuff, it just isn't what he does the most of, and it certainly isn't acknowledged by his religiously motivated critics, from whom you form your opinion of him. Remember, Mariano is defending Yahya's indefensible trash pseudo science in order to score cheap points against Dawkins. So, yeah, I understand why say what you say about Dawkins here, but I don't think its fair.

    As Mariano pointed out in this essay, if nations with Christian influence so entrenched in their foundations... 
    We have many influences, not just christianity. Claiming all cultural advancements as christian achievements is just theft. In particular, our freedoms and self government come from the Enlightenment, a reaction against religion, not religion as such. Democracy is an antidote to the tyranny of theocracy, not an affirmation of it.

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  17. Could you elaborate on some of these "faith-based social engineering initiatives" please? 
    There's a lot of it at diverse levels of government. There's always the perennial favorite of creationism or ID in schools, the Dover case is the most recent manifestaion.

    More generally, the ACLU site is a good place to watch, but they only trigger on complaints brought to them. Probably the most notorious is the Hanas case. But you'll see it all around if you pay attention.

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  18. Masked Marauder:"But the topic is bifurcating wildly in many directions here and its losing focus. My replies here will be sketchy by necessity and not intentionally flippant or flimsy for any purpose other than brevity."Yeah, this discussion is going all over the place, thanks in no small part to me...sorry if I managed to derail it any further, but thanks for the courteous approach. I'll take the same approach; I'm going to shoot for brevity, and hopefully not get off on any tangents like I have already.

    "The quote I gave is from a private conversation between Bush and Chirac, the French head of state, and not intended for public consumption. As such I think its fair to say its either a candid authentic admission, or a deliberately fashioned argument to persuade Chirac of something or other. Either way, Bush is indicating he thinks this mad logic is a legitimate excuse for going to war and all the evil that that entails."Either that or he's trying to fall back on an emotional appeal, that is if Chirac happens to be religious, since none of Bush's other "reasons" hold any water. That'd be like one of those people who tend to exclaim: "Will somebody PLEASE think of the children?!" That doesn't necessarily denote the person's love or their concern for a child's well-being, more often than not they're merely trying to tug at some heart-strings to get what they want by talking about a topic most folks tend to hold dear.

    Also, whether or not Bush had a microphone in front of him at the time of saying it really doesn't matter...like most people of power they can't make a peep without the public hearing about it one way or the other, so again I think it's safe to say that he's going to say whatever he thinks the people are going to want to hear.

    "The thing is, liar, loon or merely ludicrous, Bush is still the darling of the christian right. And that speaks volumes (to me) about the virtues of chirstianity: they are nill. That the religious, self-styled bastions of morality and righteousness can't or won't reign in the madness just confirms that intuition."That doesn't surprise me. For a while I was watching Pat Robertson do damage control for whatever Bush wanted to say or do, so I understand how that "group-think" attitude could put you off on Christianity. I won't get all Biblical or anything on you, so please excuse the paraphrasing...I just remember two things that Christ said: "Judge a tree by the fruit it bears." and "Many will come saying 'Lord, Lord', and I will say 'I never knew you'."

    Yes, like anything else religion can and will get exploited as a means to an end. I've been saying for years that Christianity doesn't need any outside detractors...the hypocrites will do the job soon enough.

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  19. Masked Marauder: "Two things. One, it doesn't matter if what Bush said was sincere or cynical manipulation. The point is, it worked. He sold evil to christians who are probably average or even inherently good people otherwise. And that, I think, is a flaw, maybe the flaw, in religious worldviews. Divorced as it is from critical thinking and rational thought it makes people easy marks this sort of manipulation. From Peter the Hermit and the first crusade, to George the Oaf and the Operation Iraqi Freedom today, its a dysfunctional world view that does more harm than good. In my opinion."I agree with you to a good extent on this...I'd be a liar if I tried to say that religion (in this case Christianity) wasn't played upon as a means to an end. But I don't think that getting rid of it all together (as Dawkins and company seem to want) would erase the potential for this kind of danger. A manipulator will merely find some other aspect in life to play upon if they want to sway opinion or make allies. A quick and easy example of this is Brian Sapient...he used atheism itself to get what he wanted...that is, people sending him money so he didn't have to work, and rousing angry teenagers into making jerks out of themselves all over the internet to get himself cheap and easy media exposure.

    But on the flip side, what about all the good things that religion (again, in this case Christianity) can inspire within people? I don't know about you, but if I'm at an ATM late at night, I'm not looking over my shoulder for Christians.

    "So my question is, if religion incites me to take sides in a silly dispute like that, why would I want any part of it?"Again, I can see where you're coming from. However, I believe that if religion was wiped out tomorrow people would find other excuses for tribal mentality, be it skin color, nationality, gender, or what have you. I agree with you that getting confrontational over religious views is silly and even dangerous, but as absurd as it may seem in light of that religion does seem to tend to unite more than separate...in my opinion. And I don't think this aspect is worth the sacrifice should religion get wiped out.

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  20. Masked Marauder: "I see that the O'Hare thing was already discussed, so I'll skip it except to say that it was the Supreme Court that put the prayer out of schools because it went against the dictates of the US Constitution. Washington, Jefferson, Paine and those wild radicals deserve the principle credit/blame, not her."Fair enough, but I'll say again, if organized Christianity did have the power Dawkins and company seem to indicate, I think it'd stand to reason that praying en mass in public schools would still be in effect.

    "I don't think that's factually true. Off hand I can't think of any adverse religious stories in the news except those that belong there (child abuse by priests, abuse of 501(c)3 status by religious organizations, etc). The press just doesn't do hatchet jobs on churches. I'd welcome a counter example if you know of one."I wasn't talking about news stories so much as I was talking about entertainment. Some sitcoms will (The Simpsons immediately comes to mind) get blasphemous to the point of the joke not even being funny anymore. Some comedians seem to build a career out of poking at Christianity. And look at the round of applause Kathy Griffin received by saying "Suck it Jesus!" Granted the executives didn't originally air that bit, but her career hasn't suffered for it. How long do you think her career would last if she had something like: "Suck it Martin Luther King!" or "Suck it Anne Frank!" instead? Why aren't these Christian groups using their "powerful" influence to shut her down?

    "The video evangelists, with their satellite networks and all, make D&H look like pikers. I'll bet the Pope's robes cost more than D&H make in a year on their atheist efforts."I don't know about that. Didn't Dawkins get something like three million dollars just to start writing a new book? That's not peanuts by any stretch.

    But again, I agree with you about the televangelists and all of that. It's certainly rotten and needs to be confronted...but fighting fire with fire as Dawkins and company seem to do keeps us at square one. Why not use their "superior intellect" and move past all the grandstanding and hyperbole? Instead they're amassing their own little flocks of sheeple, and seemingly blindly attacking any person of faith. I think that if Dawkins and company changed their approach a bit, they may even find some religious people willing to help their cause.

    "As for the persistence of problems; with all their superior resources and other advantages, the churches aren't solving them either! In fact, they're aiding and abetting the villains, in many instances. So why hold D&H especially accountable?"I hold them accountable for the same reasons...they're aiding and abetting to a good degree themselves. Just look at how Dawkins and company jump through intellectual hoops of fire whenever something like Communist atrocities gets brought up. But more so for the reason I alluded to above...they're just as bad as the televangelists that embarrass everybody, they just go at it from another angle. And if the subject of the blog was religious hypocrisy, I'd be blasting that in the comments section as well.

    And as far as churches solving problems, what kind of results are you wanting? Do you think even half of these halfway houses, soup kitchens, and missionary jobs overseas would be going if it were up to people like Dawkins?

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  21. Masked Marauder: "That's an excellent question. Its a deep one and books have been written about it, but here's my el cheapo quick-sketch take on it."Thank you sir...I aim to please. ;)

    "Along the same lines, things like trying to get creationism, intelligent design, or other junk sciences into classrooms subverts these vital goals. They engender superstitious thinking and poor critical skills which undermines the ability of people to exercise informed consent on important issues. And, SURPRISE!, its religion that is being used to do this because there's no other way to sell this mind-rotting crap."I didn't quote the whole piece because I'm afraid of character limitations, but before I get started I wanted to thank you for such a well-worded and thoughtful reply in that post. I appreciate your efforts and your civility even if I may not agree with you 100%.

    Anyway, about what you say, it sounds like you're assuming that the majority of Christians are Young Earth Creationists, and I pretty much know that is not the case. Yes, people like Ken Hamm and Kent Hovind tend to go the route of religion to try and change the curriculum, but how successful are they? Ken Hamm had to build his own "museum", and Kent Hovind got popped on tax evasion. I think this point answers itself on its face...that is, again, if organized Christianity had such powerful pull Young Earth Creationism would probably be an alternative course to science class, and atheists wouldn't be teachers at all.

    If you ever go to YouTube, check out some of ExtantDodo's videos...the videos can be thought-provoking stuff at times, but also be sure to read the channel description. In it, you should see: "Extant Dodos Productions is an outreach medium for two MD/PhD students (with the kind assistance of a few others) to combat the growing war on science."

    Read that again...growing war on science...do you think somebody is prone to a little drama? Even their videos show what an exaggeration this is. They've started a sort of weekly video series picking apart Kent Hovind...the same Kent Hovind that's behind bars right now. If this "growing war" was such a threat, why aren't they grabbing new and fresh material that's being slung onto the masses daily? Why pick apart some guy's old videos who's already been shut down? Do you think this "threat" to real science is true, or is it getting blown WAY out of proportion? For that matter I can't help but think that Dawkins and company are helping to perpetuate this supposed "war on science" myth. Hasn't the Pope even said that the Catholic Church is cool with evolutionary theory? I know Francis Collins has, and he makes no bones about being a Christian...so again, where is the real threat?

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  22. Masked Marauder: "It probably isn't the sort of book you'd like to read, but the best, most personal, book I can recommend on this and its social consequences is "The Secret Lives of Citizens," by Thomas Geoghegan. He's a Catholic, by the way. Not that it matters, but its just to say this is not "atheist propaganda" in any way, in case you're worried. But it shows how hard it is to do good in today's political environment no matter how hard you try."No, actually that sounds like something I'd like to read. Thanks for the recommendation!

    "I never heard of Marshall Brain. I think I'll continue to wallow in my ignorance as bliss in this case."You're not missing much. He's yet another YouTuber that's got a mean-on for Christianity, and the masses that go there blow lots of smoke up his behind because of it.

    "But otherwise, I think your opinion of Dawkins may suffer from what is called attention bias. I'm guessing that most of what you know of Dawkins comes from sources such as this blog which is, frankly, hostile and biased against him. Your opinion wouldn't hold up, I think, with a broader awareness."This is a fair assumption, and I can understand how you would think that. However, aside from watching videos posted by fans of the man and about the man, listening to him speak and whatnot, I also own a copy of The God Delusion and Dawkins formed my opinion of Dawkins himself. I won't rule out the possibility that maybe I haven't seen or heard the good side of the man just yet though...right now it seems unlikely, but you never know...

    "We have many influences, not just christianity. Claiming all cultural advancements as christian achievements is just theft."I never claimed that, and I apologize if it sounded that way.

    "There's a lot of it at diverse levels of government. There's always the perennial favorite of creationism or ID in schools, the Dover case is the most recent manifestaion.

    More generally, the ACLU site is a good place to watch, but they only trigger on complaints brought to them. Probably the most notorious is the Hanas case. But you'll see it all around if you pay attention."
    Will do...and thanks for the links.

    *whew* I need to get off the internet and get my day started! Thanks again for the discussion Marauder. Have a good one and I'll talk to you later.

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  23. Gojira: [briefly] But on the flip side, what about all the good things that religion (again, in this case Christianity) can inspire within people? I don't know about you, but if I'm at an ATM late at night, I'm not looking over my shoulder for Christians. 
    I'm unconvinced that religion, or even christianity in particular, is responsible for the good things. As far as I can tell they're part of human nature. Human beings are a social species and that can't happen if everyone murders everyone else. Different cultures account for this common trait in different ways, but its always there.

    A manipulator will merely find some other aspect in life to play upon... 
    True, that. But nobody offers an explanation that he or she doesn't think makes sense to the listener, and the religious frame of reference that is the only one in which Bush's statement might make sense, is a uniquely powerful and dangerous one. If you accept the premise on which that explanation is based, that God told Bush to invade Iraq, then you cannot question or oppose it. In effect it is a bid to replace informed consent by shamanic divination. Consider, what would have been the reaction if Bush had said he received orders from a telepathic connection with the Doggee People from Sirius? Both assert being guided by one or more superior beings, but only one has a significant authentic and unquestioning support.

    ... but I'll say again, if organized Christianity did have the power Dawkins and company seem to indicate, I think it'd stand to reason that praying en mass in public schools would still be in effect. 
    Remember, once there were prayers in schools, I was one of the kids who had to say the lord's prayer at the beginning of every school day (and you can see how well that worked). So the current situation is a claw-back and just one battle in an on-going "war." And it isn't over. This blog is one of many examples of the reaction to that and other similar endeavors to make public business religiously neutral.

    Didn't Dawkins get something like three million dollars just to start writing a new book? That's not peanuts by any stretch. 
    I don't know. It's more than I would have expected, and it sure ain't hay. I doubt publishers are trying to lose money so I have to assume that that's the going price for a popular author these days. Does it induce him to write different things than what he'd write without the cash? I don't know. All I know is that the issues I've seen in the few of his works that I've read haven't changed much from the days he was just a biologist writing about biology for other biologists.

    Do you think even half of these halfway houses, soup kitchens, and missionary jobs overseas would be going if it were up to people like Dawkins? 
    Actually, I sort of do. Nothing I've heard from him indicates he's cruel or even without compassion. I guess he'd advocate doing those things through the government, not the church, of course, but he'd be for it. England, and Europe in general, has universal health care, guaranteed minimum standard of living, proactive criminal correction progams, and gives, per capita, much more foreign aid than the supposedly more christian US.

    Just look at how Dawkins and company jump through intellectual hoops of fire whenever something like Communist atrocities gets brought up. 
    I don't know what he says about Communist atrocities. But I don't see how Communist atrocities are any better or worse than christian atrocities. Are the Indoesian, Armenian or Rwandan genocides any better or worse qualitatively than the holocaust? I'd say no. So, specifically calling attention to Communist atrocities (and, I'm guessing, therefore Atheist atrocities) is just a feint. If all people are capable of that sort of behaviour then only pointing at communist/atheist culprits is a dishonest argument.

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  24. Gojira: Anyway, about what you say, it sounds like you're assuming that the majority of Christians are Young Earth Creationists, ... 
    Not strictly true. There are two sides to the young earthers' position. One is to dispute the perceived age of the earth, and the other is to dispute the perceived evolution of life on earth, no matter how old it might be. The second component is common to all creationist obscurantist arguments. The Dover Penn. case had to do with Intelligent Design which is concerned exclusively with that second component. It says nothing about the age of the earth and so it is not structurally hostile to young earth creationism and so draws support from a variety of camps. And, yes, I'm aware that many christians are not any kind of creationist. But for those form whom creationism is a core belief, it is very motivational and very corrosive.

    If this "growing war" was such a threat, why aren't they grabbing new and fresh material that's being slung onto the masses daily? 
    Since the videos are still "out there" to criticise its clear that there need not be new material. Indeed, the anti-evolution stuff hasn't changed much since it appeared in the 19th century. Every now and then some new "disproof" of evolution comes up, but its always another instance of the classic archetypes. ID is just Palley's Blind Watchmaker gambit in a new suit of clothes. Hovind et al. and those following in his tracks are just aping what I heard in Gish's talks back in the 70's. Even in this blog, Mariano is rehashing arguments originated in the Dark Ages. Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun here.

    Religion is inherently a conservative (in the general sense, not just political) endeavour. Sometimes that's a good thing; cultures have to remember successful solutions to social problems. Othertimes its pathologicas; old solutions to new problems don't often workand cultures need to learn new lessons from new experiences. The science deniers are solid on the first part and openly hostile to the second part. All the hoo-hah aside, I think that's the core of the "growing-war".

    And it is a real threat. Its like the MIT of junk science. Postmodern creationism is the prototype and the labratory for the climate change deniers and other anti-rational initiatives working against our common interests.

    I also own a copy of The God Delusion and Dawkins formed my opinion of Dawkins himself. I won't rule out the possibility that maybe I haven't seen or heard the good side of the man just yet though...right now it seems unlikely, but you never know... 
    I never read that book. Maybe because its focused on that one subject it is more biased or severe that it ought to be or maybe more than Dawkins intended. Either way, its good to see you're reading the original sources.

    Carl Sagan wrote a similar, I guess, book: The Demon-Haunted World. I tried reading it, but it was too mushy and preachy for my taste. I quit after about 50 pages. Maybe you're having the same reaction to Dawkins.

    CIAO

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  25. Masked Marauder: "I'm unconvinced that religion, or even christianity in particular, is responsible for the good things. As far as I can tell they're part of human nature. Human beings are a social species and that can't happen if everyone murders everyone else. Different cultures account for this common trait in different ways, but its always there."

    True enough...maybe I've let personal experience and listening to what others have to say on the matter influence my judgment, or ideas on this. As I said earlier, I know some atheists and I consider them good people, so obviously by my own admission I don't think all good acts can get attributed to religion. And, on that note, I don't think people tend to refrain from bad behavior solely for religious reasons either. I'm just saying that religion helps to inspire good, or perhaps more noble behavior within people, maybe even most people. I guess this is boils down to a matter of personal observation and/or interpretation.

    "True, that. But nobody offers an explanation that he or she doesn't think makes sense to the listener, and the religious frame of reference that is the only one in which Bush's statement might make sense, is a uniquely powerful and dangerous one. If you accept the premise on which that explanation is based, that God told Bush to invade Iraq, then you cannot question or oppose it. In effect it is a bid to replace informed consent by shamanic divination."

    I don't necessarily think that's true. Yeah, some people are going to be lemming-like and swallow whatever it is they're told without question (remember that "they're just jealous of our freedom" line when 9/11 happened and a lot of folks believed it?), but I don't think this is an inherent flaw of religion. In the case of Christianity, all one has to do is study the Bible and see if whether or not what a person claims as "ordained by God" is just that or not.

    "Consider, what would have been the reaction if Bush had said he received orders from a telepathic connection with the Doggee People from Sirius? Both assert being guided by one or more superior beings, but only one has a significant authentic and unquestioning support."

    No, not unquestioning my Bro. The Bible says to test things, to see if they might be true. Sorry I can't remember the exact verse at the moment, but I'm guessing you're probably familiar with it. Also, consider too how the disciples questioned the authenticity of Jesus a lot of the time, and He never kicked them to the curb for doing it.

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  26. Masked marauder: "Remember, once there were prayers in schools, I was one of the kids who had to say the lord's prayer at the beginning of every school day (and you can see how well that worked). So the current situation is a claw-back and just one battle in an on-going "war." And it isn't over. This blog is one of many examples of the reaction to that and other similar endeavors to make public business religiously neutral."Hmmm...you could be onto something that I'm not noticing because I'm seeing it from another angle. I personally wouldn't perceive it that way, so I guess again this boils down to personal interpretation.

    "Actually, I sort of do. Nothing I've heard from him indicates he's cruel or even without compassion. I guess he'd advocate doing those things through the government, not the church, of course, but he'd be for it. England, and Europe in general, has universal health care, guaranteed minimum standard of living, proactive criminal correction progams, and gives, per capita, much more foreign aid than the supposedly more christian US."Hmmm...another interesting point. I'll have to concede this one because I'm not educated enough about how the government operates on the other side of the pond to agree or argue.

    "I don't know what he says about Communist atrocities. But I don't see how Communist atrocities are any better or worse than christian atrocities. Are the Indoesian, Armenian or Rwandan genocides any better or worse qualitatively than the holocaust? I'd say no. So, specifically calling attention to Communist atrocities (and, I'm guessing, therefore Atheist atrocities) is just a feint. If all people are capable of that sort of behaviour then only pointing at communist/atheist culprits is a dishonest argument."I remember a piece I'd read a couple of years ago when Dawkins was asked about Communist atrocities...but how it was worded, it wasn't necessarily a feint, but rather a turning of tables on him, since he'd made a claim along the lines of how atheism supposedly leads to a "superior" kind of morality. He deflected by claiming Stalin's atheism had nothing to do with how he handled his people...and made some weird argument about how dictators usually have funny mustaches...he basically wimped out, in other words.

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  27. Masked marauder: "I never read that book. Maybe because its focused on that one subject it is more biased or severe that it ought to be or maybe more than Dawkins intended. Either way, its good to see you're reading the original sources."Attempted to read...I got to about the halfway mark and had to put it down. I'm sorry if this sounds unfair to the man, but I just couldn't stomach the smarmy, condescending attitude and pitiful arguments Dawkins tried to put forth in that book. The way I see it, if you're trying to convince a person that D is true, you have to establish that A, B, and C are true first. Dawkins seemingly shot through certain points, only halfway explaining them or expounding upon them with wishful thinking, and then expected you to be in full agreement by the time he got to said point D. Maybe if I was already a non-believer or was teetering in my faith his book could've driven the final nail in the coffin of my belief in God, but as it stands I personally consider that book a miserable failure.

    And just so you know, I'm not being harsh on him because he's atheist. I have a friend at work who is an atheist, and a fan of Dawkins' earlier works. I remember taking The God Delusion to work with me one day, and I held it up for him to see. He merely shook his head and said something like: "If I had that book in my hands I wouldn't read it...Dawkins needs to stick to subjects he knows..." Maybe I should've tried to read The Blind Watchmaker instead.

    "Carl Sagan wrote a similar, I guess, book: The Demon-Haunted World. I tried reading it, but it was too mushy and preachy for my taste. I quit after about 50 pages. Maybe you're having the same reaction to Dawkins."Maybe so. Like I say, there could come a day when I'll see or read something from Dawkins that impresses me enough to take him seriously. I'll just have to wait and see.

    Well Bro, I don't know about you, but I'm about to call this discussion a stalemate. It looks like we've found more common ground in this than points to argue about, and even the points of contention seem more like personal interpretation issues. I hope this has been enjoyable for you as it has for me. You can have the last word on this if you want to take it. Again, thanks for the discussion...

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  28. Gojira: Dawkins seemingly shot through certain points, only halfway explaining them or expounding upon them with wishful thinking, and then expected you to be in full agreement by the time he got to said point D. Maybe if I was already a non-believer or was teetering in my faith his book could've driven the final nail in the coffin of my belief in God, but as it stands I personally consider that book a miserable failure. 
    That sounds like me & Sagan. The interesting parts I already knew and what I didn't know wasn't interesting. I guess sometimes its hard to anticipate what arguments work best for somebody who thinks differently from yourself.

    Back in the 1960s CP Snow, a physicist and a novelist, wrote a book on the Two Cultures. It was about how the literary and science factions in culture were pulling apart and losing common ground. Neither of either knew or cared much about the other. The scientists didn't know the trends in current literature and the poets hadn't a clue about the new discoveries, technology and ideas that were transforming their society. A pity really: the people who know what's happening can't talk and the people who can don't know what to talk about.


    Well Bro, I don't know about you, but I'm about to call this discussion a stalemate. 
    Sounds like a plan. It was good to hear from the other side without the brawl.

    See ya.

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  29. All I can say is: I can't wait to be a part of the Greater Caliphate. I want to dress up like Counter Strike too.

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  30. Dawkins who is a great scientist wrote the God Delusion to try to explain to the intellectual pigmies that there is no evidence for a God. The religious retards can't seem to understand this. There is a big difference between wishing for a God to exist and evidence for a God. Most people can't handle reality that there is no scientific evidence for a God so they attack the messenger or in this Dawkins. Mariano's essay is like all his essays, right wing Christian Blabber that distorts the truth while offering no evidence to substantiate his points.

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