Believing In Things Unseen Is Not Delusion

I am honored to be here tonight, and I thank my friend Cal Thomas for the invitation. I am, as … Continued

I am honored to be here tonight, and I thank my friend Cal Thomas for the invitation. I am, as you have heard, a child of the Episcopal Church—which is, at the moment, rather like saying I was one of the first to book passage on the Titanic.

Ah, for the days when our theological crises were about running out of olives and ice. I like to think my presence here this evening is an outward and visible sign of your grace, and I am grateful for your hospitality.

I am also a child of the South, and though I might not admit this back home, whenever I come to Washington I feel a certain thrill when I see the Lincoln Memorial, a monument to the triumph of union over disunion, order over chaos, liberty over slavery.

And I always recall the story of the young Lincoln, running for Congress back in Illinois against a great evangelist of the day. One day during the campaign Lincoln went to one of his opponent’s revivals. At a climactic moment the evangelist raised his arms and cried, “Everyone who wants to go to Heaven, stand up!” Everyone did, except Lincoln, who kept his seat. Noticing this, the evangelist said: “Mr. Lincoln, where do you think you’re going?” And Lincoln replied, “Well, I’m going to Congress.”

How to get to both—Congress and Heaven, or, more broadly, how to exercise earthly power while holding fast to one’s faith—is a perennial conundrum, and no doubt one all of you wrestle with here in a temporal capital. We have no lasting city, but seek the city which is come, says the Epistle to the Hebrews, but that can be difficult to bear in mind amid the getting and spending of the moment.

The question before us may well define the history of the era: How can American believers conduct ourselves at home and tell our story abroad in ways that will advance liberty, fair play, and peace—that will, ultimately move us closer to what Churchill called the “broad, sun-lit uplands”?

Big questions—the biggest, really, short of the coming of the Kingdom. Some commentators have done very well of late with books arguing that the evils of the world can be laid at the feet of religious feeling. It is fashionable to think of the religious as simple and the atheistic as sophisticated. In this view, those who believe are superstitious, while those who disbelieve are to be congratulated for overcoming what one might call—just might—“the God delusion.”

I decline to accept the assertion that because I believe, I am deluded. I am no preacher, no paragon of faithfulness. Far, far from it. I am, instead, someone who has been blessed beyond measure—by a loving family, by caring priests and teachers, by selfless friends and generous colleagues. To whom much is given, much is expected, and so here are some thoughts of one to whom much has been given—one who is undeserving but grateful.

I am many things. Chiefly I am a sinner, and I have done things which I ought not to have done and left undone those things which I ought to have done—and, in the words of the General Confession of my tradition, “there is no health in me.” I am prone to cleverness and to glibness. Blessed with a wonderful education, I live in constant anxiety that I will fall victim to intellectual pride, turning my gaze inward, where it should not be, rather than training it outward, where it should be—outward toward my wife, and to my children, and to my friends, indeed, to all sorts and conditions of men—and, beyond them, to God, the Father Almighty, our beginning and our end.

Pride, we are taught, goeth before a fall, and pride begins, I believe, when we start to think that we, and we alone, have it all figured out. Whenever I am tempted to think in such terms, I try to remember the words of First Corinthians, in which Saint Paul, citing Isaiah, wrote: “‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.’”

At the heart of our story, the Christian story, is how God thwarted evil and death through the drama of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The essence of the gospel is, we all know, redemption, but it is also about reversal—about bringing life from death, light from darkness, victory from defeat, strength from weakness.

And it is about love and kindness and communion amid the tragic reality of a fallen world. In the brush of my wife’s hand, in the big, beautiful eyes of my children, in moments of affection and grace with friends, I believe I am glimpsing the divine—small, tiny hints of the glory and light and warmth that will one day envelop us when, at last, God makes all things new.

John Keble once advised young priests that they should not strive to be original in the pulpit, for the message of God in Christ is timeless, and needs little elaboration. Keble’s point has always reminded me of an old—and true—story from my ancestral parish in Tennessee. A future Bishop was a young curate to the then-Rector, himself a future Bishop. After the curate had given a particularly dramatic reading of the gospel at the 8 o’clock mass one Sunday morning, the pair returned to the sacristy, where the Rector said to the curate: “You know, son, just read the lesson. You didn’t write this stuff.”

It is true, he had not written this stuff, but in the words of the New Testament I think we may find sufficient reason—and I use the word “reason” advisedly—to take our stand against those who would belittle belief. Let me be clear: I am not a literalist, nor am I an evangelical. I do not have what many people I know and respect have: what is called “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

For my part, I believe in the historicity of the biblical story—that is, that the God of Abraham formed a covenant with the people of Israel and that, in the first century in Judea, a son of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, offered his followers a story of salvation that involved a human atoning sacrifice and a physical resurrection—a series of events, grounded in time and space, that, mysteriously and in ways veiled from complete human understanding, have effected the forgiveness of sins and have promised the gift of eternal life.

But I doubt, and to me doubt is a part of faith. Doubt is not unbelief; doubt is not cynicism. And when I doubt, I do not think I am being freed from the grip of a delusion. I see myself, rather, as following the ancient counsel of St. Paul, who told the Phillippians: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely … think on these things.”

Think on these things: do not be reflexively dogmatic, or blindly believing, but think—weigh the evidence, consider the possibilities. To pit faith against reason as Manichaean opposites is wrong-headed; as Chesterton once said, “Reason itself is an act of faith; it is an act of faith to suppose that our thoughts have any bearing on reality at all.”

Why do we believe what we believe? It is not because we tend toward fantasy; it is because we tend toward history, toward understanding how the past shapes the present and foreshadows the future. The historical instinct is fundamentally human, as fundamental, I think, as the religious instinct, with which it is inextricably bound up. For we believe, first, because of the stories we have been told and the traditions we have been given. We rely on a report from Cana, a scene from the Upper Room, a glimpse of Golgotha in that Jerusalem spring, an account—from the women, who had not fled—of an empty tomb, the testimony of those who believed they had seen something no man had seen before, or since: A body resurrected from the dead.

Fanciful? Perhaps, but we have no more reason to question the historicity of the major events of Jesus’ life than we do, say, Agincourt. For both we rely on accounts handed down over time, accounts embroidered and elaborated upon, but grounded in fact. For me, religion is much like history. So much of what we are told unfolded in the past we must take on faith. I was not at Agincourt, nor was anyone I know, yet I believe the essential story that an out-numbered King Henry V defeated a much more powerful French army. Witnesses wrote down what happened; the story was passed from generation to generation; and now, centuries later, I and most other people accept the basic account as fact, not fancy.

How did I, and they, arrive at such a conclusion? By the workings of reason: we absorbed the history, the testimony, and the tradition, weighed them, and decided that the preponderance of evidence suggests it is probable that things happened rather as the history, the testimony, and the traditions have it. The same kind of historical test can be applied to religion.

Forty years ago, Rabbi Abraham Heschel observed that “There are no final proofs for the existence of God, Father and Creator of all. There are only witnesses. Supreme among them are the prophets of Israel.” And, I would add, the apostles who experienced the living Jesus and who preserved the story of he whom the author of the Gospel of St. John called “the Word made flesh, full of grace, and truth.”

My point is no more or no less controversial or complicated than Shakespeare’s, when Hamlet said, “There are more things in heaven and on earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” To me, the secularist’s reflexive dismissal of the miraculous is as intellectually irresponsible as a believer’s blind acceptance. God gave us mind and heart, reason and faith. We must use all the gifts we have been given to the fullest, and remember the words of the Epistle of St. Peter: Always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you.

There is an old story about two friends who had known each other when they were young, one a Baptist minister, the other an Episcopal layman. They met after many years, and had a talk about faith; it was, it seemed, a lovely moment of ecumenical grace. As they parted, the Baptist said to the Episcopalian, “Yes, we both worship the same God—you in your way, and I in His.”

Yet one may hold fast but love those who disagree; believe deeply yet embrace those who believe differently. Such is the core of the gospel: to love God totally, and our neighbor as ourselves. To love God is to love his creation, all of it, from sinners to his Son; for how else can we know him, if we do not take him in full, the corrupted and the good? Richard John Neuhaus, priest and editor of the journal First Things, framed the matter this way: “There is a very big difference between tolerating others because nobody has the truth and being convinced of the truth that we are to love those with whom we disagree about the truth.”

Well put—and these words apply to anyone for whom the radical course of unconditional, forgiving love lies at the center of faith. And the love Jesus spoke of was not conditional, or selective, or exclusive. We are called again and again to humility, to realize that for now we only “see through a glass, darkly,” to understand that the first shall be last and the last first.

Whenever we think we have all the answers, remember the words Job heard out of the whirlwind: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world?” Where, indeed.

Let me close with a final thought. I do not want to live an unexamined faith. I want to question and poke and prod, to doubt like Saint Thomas—but, in the presence of convincing evidence, to fall with Thomas to my knees, and be thankful. For what, in the end, is our religion, but love for one another, and belief that once, long ago, upon a cross, a father committed the ultimate act of love, giving his son’s life for all others?

It is our fate and our good fortune, I believe, that you and I live in the shadow of that Cross, moving through the twilight, wandering the wilderness of this world, protected by the garden of the church, in the sure and certain hope that all will one day be well, on earth as it is heaven.

Jon Meacham, editor of “Newsweek” and an “On Faith” moderator, delivered these remarks to a pre-event dinner for media who covered the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 1

Jon Meacham
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  • Carl S.

    So, now we have one of the moderators of this site actually attacking outspoken atheists in front of the National Prayer Breakfast media. (while Francis Collins attacks atheists at the breakfast proper)And the other moderator here has indicated she believes in a form of “God” that very few “believers” in the USA would acknowledge.So, once again we atheists go unrepresented, at least in the management of this web site.If Mr. Meachum, or any of the other enemies of Dawkins/Harris/et al think that criticism of our perspective is going to make us run away with our tails between our legs, boy, are *they* mistaken.This is a form of war–a war that we will not shrink away from.We are coming out of the closet.The time for “tea and little cakes” is over.

  • halozcel

    The evangelist raised his arms and cried Everyone who wants to go to Heaven,stand up.Whoever exalts himself will be humbled Mat.23.12 The Baptist said to the Episcopalian Yes we both worship the same God,you in your way and I in His.Do not judge,or you too will be judged Mat 7.1 and we must remember the words of Epistle of St Paul,All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full recpect,that is written when the world was Flat.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think anyone cares what fantasy delusion someone believes in.Sadly…the deluded seem to think otherwise! And if you ‘believers’ are that honest in your conviction that you should be allowed to do things to everyone else based on that belief….Then I now state I believe a little pink shrew called Enid who said ‘He’ was the creator and decreed I must ensure everyone only eats cabbage dipped in custard every day of the week. Or is that going too far? Think on that.

  • Dragon Slayer

    I know most of you only understand direct causal relationships, but in spiritual arguments you have to think outside the square. For many years now, the world declared to USA – the most environmentally pollution country in the world – that global warming is endangering human life, from melting ice and rise in sea level, drought, hurricanes, virus propaganda, disease epidemic, famine, poverty, and etc. The USA responded that there are no visible proofs of global warming from burning fuel and raw uranium etc, therefore it is not responsible. Now, the world is experiencing exactly the quoted consequences, and Mr. Bush has admitted that Global warming is a fact! It was a fact right at the start, but because of the pessimistic attitude of the non-believers, the world is now placed in a much urgent situation than it would had the USA believed in the Scientists.Belief in something that is not visible is not delusional, and having faith in objective science can save us from the evils of environmental disasters.I have faith and trust in science when they are not pushing a political view or paid by multi-corporations. But it’s my belief in objective truth that motivated me support the cause, and to have a meaningful purpose for others.If I didn’t believe in God in the first place, I probably would have discarded scientific arguments as delusional and ignore the evidence.If something should be done about the environmental pollution now, it is practically faith and belief that has saved us, but it may be too late.Sarah was barren, but it was faith that made her the mother of the nation!

  • nicholas

    Everyone who thinks the 9/11 suicide bombers are now in paradise please stand up.

  • James

    If Mr Meacham Does Newsweek ReportingBuy Time.Mr Meacham’s approach to historical truth is simply INCREDIBLE, literally.The Christ story NUST be true because it has been handed down by tradition, Meacham says.The 6 day creation 6,000 years ago MUST be true, because it has been handed down by tradition.Brainless reasoning (or UN reason)Harold Bloom, 10 times the religious scholar Meacham is, notesthe is no verifiable fact about Jesus’s life.We can not be sure that ONE word attributed to him was actually uttered by him.You trust that Paul was inspired by God to quote him coorectly?Do you trust that Libby was inspired by Cheney to quote Tim Russert correctly.Not to mention the fact, morally abhorrent, that Meacham assumes that the Christian Religious myth is True, but the Buddhist or Islamic or Jewish or Atheistic or Humanist or Hindu version has no validity.And this person is editing one of our major news magazines. Delusion indeed.

  • Heraclitus

    Meacham: Believing in Things Not seen is NOT DelusionI totally agree.Here are some examples.I believe in the tooth fairy, though I have never seen her.I believe in Santa Claus (though, actually, I DID see him at the Mall, so this doesn’t count)I believe that the world is flat, though I have never seen it from a distance.I believe that Iraq has weapons of Mass Destruction, though I have never seen them.I believe the boy who want to have sexual relations with me will, as he promises, love me forever if i just give in to his demands.None of these are Delusions.I believe that Meacham has the ability to think rationally.

  • Inquisitive

    Jon,What is your religious background? Meacham seems like a mormon name.

  • James

    Heraclitus Has a ProblemOk HeraclitusBUTI KNOW that good existsWhat is wrong with YOU>?

  • Heraclitus

    Jamesi think you meant to say:I know that God existsso don’t give ME a hard timewhen you don’t even know the difference between

  • Norrie Hoyt

    Inquisitve,You asked about Mr. Meacham’s religious background.In his presentation, Mr. Meacham tells us that he is an Episcopalian and “a child of the South.”His views, however are those of a liberal, Northeastern Episcopalian, of the martinis-after-Mass (and sometimes before) variety, rather than those of his Jack Daniels-and-Coke drinking Southern cousins. He’s very unlike the parishioners of the seven Virginia Episcopal churches who are abandoning the Diocese of Virginia, and placing themselves under the jurisdiction of The Bishop of Nigeria. Among the Bishop’s many virtues is his promotion of a law to jail gay couples who show themselves in public, particularly by eating together in a restaurant.These seven parishes want to take the assets of their parishes with them and turn it over to this Bishop of the most corrupt country on earth, despite church law that says the property belongs to the Diocese of Virginia and not to the defecting parishes.Jon Meacham strikes me as a very smart, very good, very decent guy, despite his adherence to his evidently unexamined religious beliefs. I will meditate with the hope that he will advance religiously and find his way to Buddhism.

  • Stan

    Norrie Hoyt:How can there be ‘church law’ that is acceptable as law in a court in the United States of America on questions of real property?I’m familiar with all the monkey business that has been allowed over the years but it takes some kind of highjenks and acquiesing lawyers and judges to let one group take another group’s real property.I also recognize that the law is whatever the judge says it is and can have enforced.

  • Soja John Thaikattil

    Dear Mr MeachamMany thanks for sharing your thoughts on faith with such openness and humility. Although you say that you are not an evangelist, by sharing your faith you have done the work of an evangelist. In being a moderator on the “On Faith” forum in The Washington Post, and in making the forum Newsweek collaboration, you are working like an evangelist. Such evangelism is sorely needed in an age when books such as “The God Delusion” and “End of Faith” are making it to the top of best seller lists and staying there. You rightly pointed out “It’s fashionable to think of the religious as simple and the atheists as sophisticated.” We live in a world where narcissistic materialism has failed to provide the happiness and meaning it promised. Emerging pop atheism has blamed religion and projects itself as an intellectual answer to the problem of unhappiness and a life devoid of deep meaning. Erroneously, religion is being portrayed as anti-science and anti-intellectual. Hence there is an urgent need for more people like Francis Collins to speak up. There is an urgent need for such voices to reach the ears of those who might be uncritical in their assessment of books such as “The God Delusion” and “End of Faith.” The work you and Sally Quinn do is one of the important ways of providing an opportunity to bring the debate between people who supposedly suffer from “The God Delusion” and those who suffer from “The Delusion About God” out into the open. Everyone who is on a search for deeper meaning in life, those who are aware of the limitations of the rational mind to find all the answers, has the chance to explore the issue from both sides, and make a well informed personal decision. Your contribution to creating that opportunity is evangelical work. Thank you and keep it up!Soja John Thaikattil

  • James

    Soja’s Shibboleth:Soja, I presume you are a Christian.I am an atheist, but I challenge you to demonstrate that you or Mr Meacham are any more spiritually attuned than I,or hundreds of my atheist humanist friends.You act like Christians are the only ones who are capable of finding a life of deep meaning.What a crazy, uninformed notion.Start with Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, etc etc.Then get to humanists and atheists.The primary elements of spirituality • A sense of relation to something greater than yourself (nature, the universe, God, gods)• An inner moral sense of right action towards others and towards nature• Sympathy for the lives, and suffering, of other living beings, (and for yourself!).• A reverence for creation, both natural and human, and a nurturing of the creative imagination• Comprehensive self-knowledge and understanding.• A developed, cultivated and broad-based • Rich experiences outside the realm of the senses • A sense of the “One-ness” of all things In general, Buddhists are the most highly developed in this complex of qualities.Christians often don’t do so well.And Christ or God has nothing NECESSARILY to do with ANY of these elements.

  • fran

    At the end of the day a rose is still just a rose . Everything associated with the rose is still part of the rose . A fairy tale that comforts us is still just a fairy tale that comforts us when all is said and done . There is always a possibility we may find Atlas is holding the earth in his palms but until someone actually proves it to me I’m going to let myself remain a skeptic and seek wisdom from verifiable sources. In the old days imparted wisdom took the form of well I dunno God is doing it because they must have sinned against him and he’s punishing them. That is cynical.If god is all knowing and he gives his believers the knowledge and ability to pass on his word then why on earth wouldn’t he give them the ability to understand the meaning of phenomena that is taking place under our noses . I know why , cause it’s nonsense . It’s ghostly supernaturalistic magic being dished out to those who either lack the capacity to reason or are ignoring the obvious . They are led by fear of retaliation . They fear that if they make an attempt to think outside of the box and try to reasonably understand their being they will be punished for betraying this pretend god who is part of a cycle of millions of gods that have been worshiped by man through the course of intelligent existence on earth .

  • fran

    At the end of the day a rose is still just a rose . Everything associated with the rose is still part of the rose . A fairy tale that comforts us is still just a fairy tale that comforts us when all is said and done . There is always a possibility we may find Atlas is holding the earth in his palms but until someone actually proves it to me I’m going to let myself remain a skeptic and seek wisdom from verifiable sources. In the old days imparted wisdom took the form of well I dunno God is doing it because they must have sinned against him and he’s punishing them. That is cynical.If god is all knowing and he gives his believers the knowledge and ability to pass on his word then why on earth wouldn’t he give them the ability to understand the meaning of phenomena that is taking place under our noses . I know why , cause it’s nonsense . It’s ghostly supernaturalistic magic being dished out to those who either lack the capacity to reason or are ignoring the obvious . They are led by fear of retaliation . They fear that if they make an attempt to think outside of the box and try to reasonably understand their being they will be punished for betraying this pretend god who is part of a cycle of millions of gods that have been worshiped by man through the course of intelligent existence on earth .

  • James

    MIGHT there be Another Explanation Than GodAs a student of psychology and anthropology my whole life,I have seen and read of millions of people who have had virtually identical experiences and convictions as Mr Meacham describes.Guess What:They believed in MANY DIFFERENT Gods, not just Jesus. In fact, mostly NOT jesus.They can’t all have been right. But they were as sure as Mr Meacham that they were, because they had this burning in their chest.It is Slam Dunk easy to explain why Mr Meacham is so certain of his beliefs (in the complete absense of objective evidence).Those same psyschologists and anthropologists actually have a RATIONAL explanation for his feeling of Certainly.And it makes a lot more sense, and is a lot simpler, than the God Conviction Mr Meacham holds.

  • Heraclitus

    Cal Thomas and Jon MeachamMr M notes in his first paragraph that his “friend” Cal Thomas invited him to address the National Prayer conference.for those of you who aren’t familiar with Mr Thomas, you might want to google him and get a sense of why is is quite controversial.or read his collected columns on this website.many feel his is a jingoistic, trigger happy, right wing extremist. But judge for yourself.I would not want him praying for me, that’s all I can say.

  • E Favorite

    Regarding taking history on faith (a la Agincourt), there are such things as reliable records, and in some cases, depending upon the claim, there is substantial archeological evidence.I recently learned (via this forum) of a 2002 New York times article that discusses the lack of archeological evidence for many stories in the Old Testament (e.g., building Solomon’s temple, tumbling of the walls of Jericho, Egyptian bondage and Exodus). More shockingly, the article says this information is widely accepted among biblical scholars, and most shockingly, the information has been added to the new Torah and commentary, called ”Etz Hayim” (”Tree of Life” in Hebrew) found in all Conservative Jewish Temples. I checked it out myself last Friday. At the temple I went to, there were several copies of this book (thick, with a red cover) in each pew. The Biblical Archeology section starts on page 1343 – way in the back of the book (which reads back to front). The article suggests that people don’t notice it there, and that rabbis don’t point it out or discuss it.So, an article on new findings about Stonehenge makes the front page of the NY Times a couple of days ago (and gets reported on CNN), while an article on lack of evidence for major old testament Bible stories is on a back page and still isn’t being discussed 4 years later? People don’t want the facts to interfere with their faith, perhaps? It’s incredible and truly fascinating what lengths people will go to hold on to their beliefs, even a smart guy like Meacham who is particularly skilled at using words to obfuscate. Still, I am very grateful to Meacham and Quinn for this forum. They’ve started a much needed dialogue.Here are the first couple paragraphs of the article – click on the link above for the rest. If anyone reading this who is not in denial has influence with the media, maybe you can see to getting some front page coverage for this story.New York Times, March 9, 2002New Torah For Modern Minds, By MICHAEL MASSINGAbraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation. Such startling propositions — the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years — have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity — until now.

  • James

    Mr Meacham’s Incredible View of HistoryE Favorite points out again Not one “fact” about what Jesus did or said would be admissible in a court of law, or is agreed on by biblical scholars. Jesus himself never wrote a word that we know of. the “Gospels” were tendentious marketing materials used to establish a new religion (sell a new product).And Mr Meacham puts his certain faith in the Truth of this particular version of God, though there are 3,600 other versions of God that also have their Certain adherants.Does he believe what Cheney tells us about the Iraq war?

  • DryIce

    I am honored to be here tonight, and I thank my friend Cal Thomas for the invitation. I am, as you have heard, a child of the Episcopal Church—which is, at the moment, rather like saying I was one of the first to book passage on the Titanic.

  • Peter M

    “Think on these things: do not be reflexively dogmatic, or blindly believing, but think—weigh the evidence, consider the possibilities.”Yes, I’ve been thinking. And weighing the evidence. All those times I’ve seen people pray — “Dear God please let little Cuthbert live . . .” To no avail. It’s amazing that people are so deluded to think these petitions are listened to or answered.As Dawkins and others have noted, the Anglican church routinely prayed for the health of the English monarchs, and there is no evidence that monarchs lived longer than anyone else.Think of all the millions of prayers that have been said in foxholes, and all the million that have nonetheless died.Given the recorded history of violence in the world, and of natural disasters that have killed innocent millions, are you sure you want to ask for a ruling from this “benevolent” God? Or trust in his version of an afterlife?I think an equally profitable venture would be to thrust your fist to the skies and shout: “You miserable so-and-so, why did you let that tsunami kill all those innocent people?”It is time for you to give up childhood things.

  • Ba’al

    A shorter Mr. Meacham:It is not delusional to believe that the universe is a cosmological game in which we must believe that the problems of the world occurred because a woman once ate an apple on the advice of a talking snake, and that a man who is the son of God, and yet God, was born to a woman who never had sex, and was later killed by the Romans thereby eliminating the talking snake-induced curse, and if we don’t believe this we will go to hell, but if we do believe it we won’t.I’m guessing you’ll make a killing on the lecture circuit after this prayer breakfast, your pious words hit just the tone you need. Anyway, if those amateurs Dawkins and Harris make a few bucks on their books, I am betting it will be a lot less than the income of the pastor of the tax-exempt megachurch about ten blocks from my house; the church that is in what used to be called Compaq Center, once the home arena of the Houston Rockets.

  • Mr Mark

    A lengthy column from Mr Meecham, and yet the world still doesn’t know how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

  • Pam

    Mr. Meacham,Leaving aside such indicators as archeological findings and reliable documentation, if the story (such as the one about the battle of Agincourt) is a straightforward tale of natural people and events, it’s probably history. (Another indicator is that the French and the English agree about the outcome.) If the story (pick pretty much anything from the Bible, or Norse, Greek, Roman, Aztec, or any other mythology) involves superheroes, supernatural events, or any other sort of magic, it’s probably religion.It’s the twenty-first century – time to get over all this nonsense!

  • Dragon Slayer

    Almost there and not quite outside the square yet. Others may believe in whatever they wish, it is not the topic referred to in here. Their principles are not the same, and not free from material influence. Belief and faith therefore can not be universal among differing denominations.There are two layers of analyzing faith and belief but they must both be related. The physic must relate to the after physic. You cannot therefore say I believe in good (principle) and yet do (material) evil, it is invalid and incompatible. It is valid and logical when one’s belief is reflected by his/her act. But rational faith and belief must reflect the act that is objective, free, harmless, and good or conform to pure principles. Thus being a Christian or believer doesn’t mean that all of them share the same principles.

  • Gerry

    Mr. Meacham:God has not given us faith. Faith is just another expression for a rather secular human asset, vulgo called “wishful thinking”.There is no such thing as a “miracle”, setting aside that the fact that we and nature exist is the only real, inscrutable miracle.Beside this, believing in miracles is infantilism: Reason demands that if something happens it CAN happen, otherwise it would not happen (excuse this low level of platitude!). We may not know, or ignore all the conditions by which it happens, but substituting God as a chiffre for that ignorance is a cheap maneuvre which has been followed through all detectable history. When people didn’t know about electricity, it is Zeus or Thor or you name him who throws the blasts and makes the thunder grumble – or who makes fields bear fruit or not: God is the chiffre for the degree of human ignorance at a given historical point.The incredible mistake of “believers” like Mr. Meacham, Cal Thomas and the other people bathing in the benevolence of this terrible US president, is the unforgivable refusal to “update” this degree of ignorance, as knowledge has proceeded against the fierce resistance of “intelligent” scholars like Mr. Meacham (Galilei, Mr. Darrow in the “monkey trial”, the dance of the angels on a needle, etc. may serve as cues. The scholars who discussed this needle issue, were certainly very intelligent, although not very enlightened, just like the creationist ID crew!) But of course, once you call this ephemeral state of knowledge “eternal truth”, it stops all further development. And that is what we see in your circles.If you really “believe” in the Bible, you must believe in personal talk between God and a human being (if not yourself, at least somebody else like Abraham or Bush or the perpetrator of some of the worst genocides, King Saul). Try to picture this as close to your conception of reality as possible for a moment: If God “speaks” to you, the only proof for this is a particular constellation in your brain, which is the result of your biography, ergo of what a lot of people have told you and what you have thought out as a consequence thereof. But it is YOU who fabricates the conversation with god! There simply is no other instance or authority to verify your thoughts, impressions, fantasies than you! Meachem himself quotes Chesterton who says that the only proof you have is faith in what you can think of. Thank you: There is no faith outside the human brain.This delusion can go as far as Abraham ready to cut the throat of his son (let’s assume for a moment that this really happened.) It can go as far as Bush imagining his talk with god to invade Iraq (let’s assume for a moment that it was not bancrupt-Halliburton-Cheney who had more deadly “intelligent” secular motives). In case “god” is seen as an abstraction, as some more “enlightened” Christians do (a first step towards reason) – how can an abstraction have a son? What then is a son? Or is it just an abominable game with semantics? It is like Bush’s “war on terror”: You cannot fight a war on an abstraction, or war on a method. The little “miracles” available for Christians (Jesus walking on water, “virgin” Mary’s conception etc. are nothing but fabricated concessions, pandering to prevailing historical value conventions. (The value of women at a given time, e.g.)Mr. Meacham could have the singular possibility, with all the power given to him, to act as an enlightener instead of as an obfuscator, pandering to such spiritual caricatures as Bush and his gang, some of which really believe in the “Rapture”, tolerating our planet to be destroyed because of the Armaggedon idiocy. It is mind-boggling, dangerous to the highest degree, not just an intellectual entertainment, alas!

  • ANDY ROSS

    Jon, Sam has posted four targets and collected well over four thousand comments so far. That beats your stats. My advice: cut the anodyne preaching to the converted and get with the real questions. Holy war or rational peace? God or science?

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Meacham: “I do not want to live an unexamined faith.” Norrie: “…despite his adherence to his evidently unexamined religious beliefs.” Norrie, it’s considered good form to actually read the article before commenting.Fran says, “It’s ghostly supernaturalistic magic [etc.]…” Uh, no, Fran, that’s just your own delusional wishful thinking. We’re not lacking in reason and not motivated by fear. And Meacham is at pains to say we must use reason no less than faith. But by all means do try again, Fran.James talks about a 6,000 year earth, although nothing in Meacham’s piece suggests he believes that, and in fact he says he is not a literalist. James, see above comment to Norrie.James later says, “They can’t all have been right.” Why not?Gerry whines, “That a man of Mr. Meachams capacity dismisses, incapacitates his intelligence…” Oh, for God’s sake, open up your own mind a little, man!

  • DryIce

    Dear Sir, I agree wholeheartedly. Those who would make such arguments are projecting their own shortsightedness. Beyond that I can only say God Bless you to your heart’s content, may you receive all of God’s Blessings as you continue to do God’s Work, my brother. amen. I will save and re-read you column as my mind is a little scattered right now…I must walk…again…(smile)

  • Gerry

    Don’t waste… etc.:”it’s considered good form to actually read the article before commenting.”Gerry, whining

  • Soja John Thaikattil

    To ANDY ROSS:Francis Collins (ref his post on the forum), like Einstein (who said “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind”) has made his position clear, that there is no God vs. science conflict in his mind. According to Collins 40% scientists believe in God and the percentage hasn’t changed in the last century. Considering how much science was done in that time, there has not been a proportional increase in the number of atheists. It is possible to believe in the role of science while believing in God, and most believers do. So why does religion have to go?I didn’t get the impression on Sam Harris’ thread that any believer was persuaded to give up their faith based on the “evidence” presented by several atheists that God doesn’t exist. I doubt very much too that any believer suddenly woke up to the realisation that they were being stupid to believe in God. What did emerge was that the debate was going in circles with no end in sight. Whether that makes a case for atheism even if the endless debate had gone on for twenty thousand posts? Na ja.Soja John Thaikattil

  • Anonymous

    Brother Meacham, what a beautiful if somewhat slippery and dangerous morning this Gift is from God today. Be careful where you tread because in beauty there can be true mortal danger was a lesson. I love to walk, it is my nascent meditation, my Zen. Artists speak to me when I listen to them. Juanita Bynum A Piece of my Passion, if you like Gospel, you will *love* her. I do. And then I heard from Gloria Estefan and Stan Lee. The Music is from Ms. Estefan’s CD Destiny, Along Came You (a song for emily) Very Spiritual Music is Mrs. Gloria Estefan’s. Please allow me to share the lyrics as it will help me as much as anyone. And feel I’ve only scratched the surfaceYou were sent to me And as this feeling grows with every dayYou were sent to me Thula thula sanaYou were sent to me Courtesy of And Mr. Stan Lee came to mind as well. What I am feeling is that Mr. Colin Wolfe with be a very proud father soon. I left my copy of Destiny and Spiderman at his final resting place for his sweetheart to find when she came to visit him as reported in TWP. Those are just the feelings that I am getting, and they make such beautiful sense. I would make 100 such trips in as many days gladly just for one like that. Thank you Dear God! Name? colin, or emily or whatever makes the three of them happy! A Blessing is a Blessing is a Blessing! Perhaps I am just Delusional my brother Meacham. A Blessed state it is Heaven. May we all find it here on Earth soon! amen.

  • Anonymous

    Brother Meacham, what a beautiful if somewhat slippery and dangerous morning this Gift is from God today. Be careful where you tread because in beauty there can be true mortal danger was a lesson. I love to walk, it is my nascent meditation, my Zen. Artists speak to me when I listen to them. Juanita Bynum A Piece of my Passion, if you like Gospel, you will *love* her. I do. And then I heard from Gloria Estefan and Stan Lee. The Music is from Ms. Estefan’s CD Destiny, Along Came You (a song for emily) Very Spiritual Music is Mrs. Gloria Estefan’s. Please allow me to share the lyrics as it will help me as much as anyone. And feel I’ve only scratched the surfaceYou were sent to me And as this feeling grows with every dayYou were sent to me Thula thula sanaYou were sent to me Courtesy of And Mr. Stan Lee came to mind as well. What I am feeling is that Mr. Colin Wolfe with be a very proud father soon. I left my copy of Destiny and Spiderman at his final resting place for his sweetheart to find when she came to visit him as reported in TWP. Those are just the feelings that I am getting, and they make such beautiful sense. I would make 100 such trips in as many days gladly just for one like that. Thank you Dear God! Name? colin, or emily or whatever makes the three of them happy! A Blessing is a Blessing is a Blessing! Perhaps I am just Delusional my brother Meacham. A Blessed state it is Heaven. May we all find it here on Earth soon! amen.

  • White Eyes

    Jon Meacham,You, it seems, presume an establishment Christianity, sometimes called Constantinian Christianity because it has become attached to power. Can the radical Christian Messiah and Saviour be so at home among the ruling powers? It seems this latest wave of domesticating the Christian Gospel started with Jimmy Carter when he made being “born again” and being sorry for lusting at PLAYBOY girls at home in the White House oval office. Oh, woe is us!

  • DryIce

    White Eyes, what is power? Attached? Try intrinsic. Former President Jimmy Carter might very well be considered for Sainthood some day, I would watch what you say. Respectfully submitted for your consideration.

  • MMM

    Seems like it’s the mission of those who don’t believe as others do to “convert” them. Or basically, accuse them of being insane or dumb because they still make the choice to believe in the face of seeming impossibility. I guess it’s impossible to ask those who don’t believe to quit attacking those who choose to do so, so I won’t do that.I guess it is also impossible to ask those who do believe to quit thinking that those who don’t are wrong, so I won’t do that either. For the record: I believe in God, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I believe it is God who orders my life, the good and the bad, and I believe that some days He is proud of me, and others not so much, but all days I have to remind myself that He has said He loves me. For me,the idea of “I still love you” is vital. There are many reasons not to, but He says He still does, and I choose to believe that. The fact that He loves me no matter what doesn’t make me want to test Him often to see if it’s still true. I have done so, I admit it, but I’d rather take the easy road, and believe. And I do so knowing that the road will not always be easy. It has not been. I have suffered much. And I have learned much. And I am still here. My life is complicated enough without contemplating the eternal mystery of why God loves someone like me. I just know that because I chose to believe Him, that this life is better because of it. And I believe His promise that the next life, the one outside of this body that drags and is aging and aches in the morning, will be even better. What, I ask all you naysayers out there, is wrong with that hope? With that said: “I’m going to pray some more.”-Mulan

  • DryIce

    Brother Meacham, I could go through and address your very well constructed statement, but I could not really add much if anything to it, and would risk detracting. I trust you are happy with the response from anonymous above? Yes? He told me that Spiderman’s “Hero” Theme song was intended for Colin. Since the young man did not see any evidence of Jesus Christ in the World, he took it upon himself to try and make it a better place.Chad Kroeger (feat. Josey Scott) Lyrics – Hero Lyrics And they saySomeone told meA world full of killingAnd they sayNow that the world isn’t endingAnd they say[Repeat 3x]Actually, they cleaned it up a little here since And finally, Colin should know by now that his is the love of a hero.Don’t you just love our heros and Super Heros?

  • DryIce

    Lyrics above courtesy of

  • DryIce

    God Bless you all. Stay right with God, and there will be no fall.

  • Hereclitus

    An *Even Shorter* Version of Mr MeachamGod is NOT a delusion!!!(sound of young boy holding his breath)

  • nicholas

    You don’t have to be delusional to believe in god.

  • A Hermit

    Mr. Meacham seems to want to have it both ways. On one hand he tells us “To me, the secularist’s reflexive dismissal of the miraculous is as intellectually irresponsible as a believer’s blind acceptance.” Then he goes on at length about the importance of doubt, reason, thinking about things and weighing the evidence.I wonder why the secularist’s dismissal of the miraculous is assumed here to be “reflexive”. Does Mr. Meacham not consider the possibility that many of us spent a long time thinking about these things, examining the evidence, studying the history, reasoning, struggling with the conflict between the things our faith taught us and the realities of the world as we experience it and in the end actually came to a different conclusion than he did?I’m sorry if Mr. Meacham cannot accept that a path from faith to atheism could have come about from such a process, but such was my experience. My rejection of the miraculous is by no means reflexive or unthinking or lightly taken. I appreciate his willingness to embrace unbelievers, but even in this we are described as “sinners” and “corrupt”, a rather insulting characterization which tends to undermine the intended message of humility and love.Please do keep thinking and questioning Mr. Meacham, and please have a little more consideration for the opinions of those of us who do the same yet still disagree with you.And take another look at that history while you’re at it.RegardsA Hermit

  • Anonymous

    Since we are posting lyrics:God is alive; Magic is afootGod never sickened; God was rulerMany hurt men wonderedMagic is afoot. God rules. Though laws were carved in marbleBut Magic would not tarryMany men drove MagicThis I mean to whisper to my mind(L. Cohen)

  • Anonymous

    MMM writes “I guess it’s impossible to ask those who don’t believe to quit attacking those who choose to do so, so I won’t do that.”I feel your pain. The anti-Christian bias in our society has reached absurd proportions. Consider:1. During the 1988 election campaign, George Bush said that Christians should not be considered patriots or real American citizens.2. Bill Clinton steadfastly refused to give any speeches at local churches.3. Both major political parties are dominated by anti-Christians. The Republican party, for example, gave us such hard-core atheists as Pat Buchanan, Dan Quayle, Phyllis Schlafly and Ronald Reagan. And the Democrats have given us such personalities as the Rev. Martin Luther King and the Rev. Jesse Jackson– both noted for their vicious attacks on all forms of Christianity.4. On Sunday mornings, nearly all major television channels broadcast pro-atheist shows; it is nearly impossible to find religious programming during that time period. Further, Richard Dawkins has his own cable TV channel, while Pat Robertson has been unable to obtain one for himself.5. Most major newspapers run a special weekly section devoted to atheism. There are no equivalent sections for religious news.6. Anti-Christian shows such as the American Atheist Forum are broadcast by major national networks. Meanwhile, Billy Graham is only able to get on the air through public access TV, which is watched by few people.7. On news programs nobody is ever shown giving thanks to God after surviving a disaster.8. It is almost impossible to find a shopping mall with a Christian Armory book store, while Atheist Book Centers are featured prominently on every corner.9. While atheists couples who marry rarely have any difficulty finding a place to do so, it is nearly impossible for Christian couples to find a church where they can marry.10. For that matter, churches themselves are extremely rare, while atheist meeting centers can be found every few blocks.11. Jurors must take an oath upon a copy of the Skeptical Inquirer before they can serve. There have even been court cases thrown out because one of the jury members was a Christian who insisted on swearing on a Bible.12. Christians often find it nearly impossible to get time off work for religious holidays such as Christmas.13. Even our language reflects the radical anti-Christian bias that pervades our society. For example, when somebody sneezes, most people say “Darwin bless you”. Similarly, “Voltaire dammit!” is a common cussword.14. All of our money has the atheistic slogan “We do not trust in God” printed on it.15. In school, our children are made to recite the pledge, “One nation, anti-God, indivisible….”16. One cannot rent a hotel room without finding a copy of Nietzsche’s The Anti-Christ in the room.17. Organizations such as the Boy Scouts deny membership to Christians.18. In the military, it is nearly impossible to obtain Conscientious Objector status for religious reasons, even though those with philosophical reasons can obtain C.O. status relatively easily.19. Christian churches are forced to pay exorbitant taxes.20. It is impossible to drive without seeing a “Jesus Was A Fraud” bumper sticker stuck to a car.21. Georgia recently passed a new law requiring schools to have a “moment of noise” during which children are encouraged to degrade Christianity.22. College campuses usually have dozens of atheist organizations, but few if any for Christians.23. Many Christians are afraid to admit their Christianity to their parents and friends, for fear their kin will consider them immoral Christian scum and want nothing to do with them.24. At presidential inauguration ceremonies, Richard Dawkins (that well-known friend of several presidents) gives a short pro-atheism speech.25. For decades, high school and college commencement ceremonies have included brief speeches at the beginning and end of the ceremony in which atheism is praised and Christians deemed irrational. Christians who object to the practice, or who ask for an opening prayer instead, are regarded as cranks at best and subversives at worst.

  • Norrie Hoyt

    Stan, you wrote:”How can there be ‘church law’ that is acceptable as law in a court in the United States of America on questions of real property?”I’m familiar with all the monkey business that has been allowed over the years but it takes some kind of highjenks and acquiesing lawyers and judges to let one group take another group’s real property.”I also recognize that the law is whatever the judge says it is and can have enforced.”As you know, under the First Amendment, American courts cannot decide matters relating to internal church matters, such as which of two claimants is entitled to be the Bishop.Proprty, however has a physical presence in society at large, so, in some cases where church RELIGIOUS doctrine is not involved, the courts can decide property matters.In the Virginia case, all objective observers agree that the Episcopal church law governing parish property requires that title to the defecting parishs’s property remain with the Diocese of Virginia and not be given to the Nigerian diocese.Both sides were planning to file suit in civil court, thereby recognizing that the courts do have jurisdiction. They agreed to put off filing suit in hopes of reaching a Christian settlement. Good luck to them!

  • yoyo

    If one believes in a skygod,the chances are that one also believes in a skydevil,alien abduction,fairies,

  • Anonymous

    26. “There are no Christians in foxholes” is a popular slogan in our society.27. Communities set up atheist brainwashing facilities, and apply social pressure to citizens to report to these facilities every Sunday morning. Furthermore, attendees are expected to contribute money to support these facilities, and to build others through “outreach” programs.28. At baseball games, you can often spot people carrying signs that read “Origin Of Species, page 34”.29. Businesses often refuse to admit that they are Christian owned and operated, for fear of being boycotted by their atheist customers. Meanwhile, atheist-owned businesses often feature Darwin-fish logos in their ads.30. Atheists have often invented “deathbed deconversion” stories about famous Christians, claiming they became atheists just before they died.31. Insurance companies refer to natural disasters as “Acts of Darwin”.32. Forms for job applications, government aid and so forth often ask what type of atheist you are, with checkboxes for “atheist”, “agnostic”, “humanist” and so forth. If you are a Christian, the only thing you can do is check the “other” box– if one is provided.33. Sports teams often read from the Humanist Manifesto prior to the game, in the hopes that doing so will increase their chances of winning.34. Atheists constantly threaten television and movies producers with boycotts whenever they portray Christianity in a positive light.35. Well-known atheists like Michael Martin and Quentin Smith have set up ministries to witness to Christians, but it is virtually impossible to find Christians who specialize in debating atheists.36. The word “Christian” is recognized as a term which represents the worst of human attributes: cynicism, pessimism, selfishness, and moral turpitude. The word “Atheist,” on the other hand, is used to signify all that is virtuous, as in, “That’s mighty Atheist of you!”37. On sitcoms and movies of the week, the parents make references to how their lack of faith in God helps them get through life’s troubles. Meanwhile, Christians are portrayed as pathetic folks who end up converting to atheism.38. Atheists who convert to christianity are often told by their parents “It’s just a rebellious phase. Once you move through this stage of life you’ll realize that you never really believed in God.” Similarly, people who are raised as Christians are condesended to, and told that if they would give atheism a chance, it would fill the empty hole that Chistianity must be leaving in their lives.39. Most people assume everyone else is an Atheist and are unbelievers as they are. It makes for uncomfortable social situations for Christians and other religious types.40. Despite the overwhelming number of Atheists in the general population and in powerful legislative positions, when they don’t get their own way, Atheists whine that this is an anti-Atheistic country.41. Atheists constantly cite, out of context, books of philosophy by noted Atheists to prove that Christians live irrational lives.42. Atheists do everything possible to get laws passed that will prevent irrational Christians from making their own choices in matters of sex, procreation, life-styles, family units, etc.43. In small towns and communities all over the U.S. Atheist horns awake Christians at midnight on Saturdays preventing them from getting a good night’s sleep before their Sabbath. Fortunately for much of the population, few church bells wake Atheists who want to sleep in on Sundays.44. Atheist Army (and other Freethought) soup kitchens force homeless Christians to listen to Atheist propaganda before serving them a meal.45. Hundreds of self-help groups replace codependence with the 12 Steps of A.B.A. (Atheist Brainwashing Anonymous), convincing people they don’t have the power to help themselves but must rely on the power of Darwin to overcome addiction.46. U.S. Atheist organizations send missionaries to underdeveloped countries to convince people to renounce long-held local religious beliefs and become Atheists.47. All prisons have a resident atheist philosopher, and inmates are encouraged to participate in weekly philophical dicussions on Bible Contradictions. This is often reported to parole board, who consider it a good indication of contritenes on the prisoner’s part.48. A political candidate who declares himself a Christian will have far less chance of winning an election than one who flaunts his atheism.49. Whenever an atheist commits a crime, invariably people will argue that this is not a sign that teaching atheism might not guarantee a better society, because anyone who would act that way “isn’t a true atheist.”50. One often sees bumper stickers like, “Thomas Paine said it, I believe it, that settles it,” but seldom sees Christian bumper stickers.

  • T.W. Day

    The title of this deluded lecture, “Believing In Things Unseen Is Not Delusion,” is, at best, hilarious. The speaker states “Some commentators have done very well of late with books arguing that the evils of the world can be laid at the feet of religious feeling. It is fashionable to think of the religious as simple and the atheistic as sophisticated. In this view, those who believe are superstitious, while those who disbelieve are to be congratulated for overcoming what one might call—just might—‘the God delusion.’”The definition of “fashionable” is “conforming to the custom, fashion , or established mode.” Since the overwhelming majority of humans believe in some kind of indefinable, all-powerful, evidence-evading “God, the Father Almighty,” I think fashion is on the side of the deluded. Mecham also uses the power of the masses to prove that pride is the domain of those who believe that “we, and we alone, have it all figured out,” apparently arguing that going with the uneducated, unscientific hoard (the fashionable) is less prideful. I’ve heard this silly crap my whole life. It made no sense when I was a child and it’s even less sensible now that I’m approaching 60. The lack of evidence for something does not constitute proof that it exists. The fact that a majority desperately wants the world to be governed by magic does not make magic real. Possession of a college degree does not, apparently, prove that a person is “educated.”

  • Norrie Hoyt

    Dear DON’T WASTE TIME READING THIS I’M MENTALLY UNBALANCED,At last, a poster with an accurately descriptive nom de plume! I thank and congratulate you!You quote Mr. Meacham: “I do not want to live an unexamined faith.” and then me: “…despite his adherence to his EVIDENTLY [emphasis supplied] unexamined religious beliefs.”Then you write: “Norrie, it’s considered good form to actually read the article before commenting.”I agree. I wish you had carefully read my post before commenting on it. I read Mr. Meacham’s article quite carefully.He said that he did not WANT to live an unexamined faith. I replied that EVIDENTLY (from the evidence of his own article) he had not managed to do what he said he wanted to do, viz. examine his faith.I still think he’s a great guy. You, I’m not yet sure about.Regards & Best Wishes.

  • DryIce

    T.W. Day, you know what they say. There is no fool like an ole fool FOOL! Go to hell whenever you are ready.

  • DryIce

    Anyone else want to volunteer to get their asses fried, died and laid to the side? Step right up.

  • yoyo

    If the President believes in god,

  • colin

    Dryice

  • Ba’al

    Jon Meacham writes “For my part, I believe in the historicity of the biblical story—that is, that the God of Abraham formed a covenant with the people of Israel…” That story in Genesis was an obvious way for 7th century BCE Judeans to make fun of their neighbors by ascribing their origins to incestuous liaisons, etc. etc. Schoolyard humor, but humor nevertheless.

  • DryIce

    Yes Colin, my Father knows. He encourages me to explore this world and to report back to Him what I know to be true, so, why don’t you quit playing with yourself and get some fresh air?

  • DryIce

    Of course there is always the Supreme Court to make your Appeals, but I would not wait until the last minute if I were you T.W. I got a feeling that the Docket is going to get pretty full pretty damn fast. You do whatever in the *heck* you want to do. Choice is your variable. Have fun figuring out what to do…what to do my my so hard the choice. hehehehehe Oh life is too too short for this madness.

  • DryIce

    Of course there is always the Supreme Court to make your Appeals, but I would not wait until the last minute if I were you T.W. I got a feeling that the Docket is going to get pretty full pretty damn fast. You do whatever in the *heck* you want to do. Choice is your variable. Have fun figuring out what to do…what to do my my so hard the choice. hehehehehe Oh life is too too short for this madness.

  • yoyo

    When President Bush told Bob Woodward that he doesn’t discuss the Iraq war with his father..

  • DryIce

    Of course there is always the *real* Supreme Court to which you can make your Appeals, but I would not wait until the last minute if I were you T.W. Day. I got a feeling that the Docket is going to get pretty full pretty damn fast. You do whatever in the *heck* you want to do. Choice is your variable. Have fun figuring out what to do…what to do…. my my so hard the choice. hehehehehe Oh goodness, life is too too short for this silly madness you people insist upon putting yourselves through. Just couldn’t leave the apple alone could you? NoooOOOOOooo!

  • DryIce

    God Bless you all. Thank you Jon and Sally, TWP and Newsweek for providing this Blessed Forum. I am *honored* to be able to participate with you.

  • Moltenice:

    Dryice:Dfmmepr vmwür eotuvme uepouzmb wtzic, wet qwetrucn asdgjhx azghwe tzhjweve zjbtmb wertvebc qx!”Adgjsg cjymgshbd” wvsmksjh csvv?Hm….

  • Anonymous

    Dry Ice writes:It’s the wonderful Christian principles of tolerance and love for one’s fellow man, and turning the other cheek exemplified by its adherents that make it so difficult for us unbelievers to hang on to our skepticism.

  • Norrie Hoyt

    Mr. Meacham,With “friends” like DRYICE, neither you nor Christianity needs any enemies. He’s doing both of you in very nicely and effectively. Could he be, like St. Paul, a double-agent for the Antichrist?

  • nicholas

    Among the most Faithful

  • Steve

    YoYo: “Did God give BushEven if Iraq becomes so bad as to erode into armageddon, Bush and many other people who have adopted Christian rationalization patterns, will see it as God’s plan. Once you admit the supernatural into your rational scheme, you can make anything work. It is definitely delusional.

  • Phaedrus

    Jon, you are a journalist, so you should know a false-analogy when you write it. Therefore, shame on you for willingly trying to pass off accounts of the battle of Agincourt, which contain no claim of any violation of the laws of physics, with Christ’s resurrection etc, which very definitely does.Isikoff would have known better.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Steve says, “Even if Iraq becomes so bad as to erode into armageddon, Bush and many other people who have adopted Christian rationalization patterns, will see it as God’s plan.”What a bone-chillingly ignorant remark.Delusion may or may not be necessary for God-belief, but Steve very helpfully has demonstrated that the converse is emphatically not true.

  • Phaedrus

    Unbalanced:Before popping off, check out the first link that comes up after googling “Iraq as Armageddon.”You might want to buy the book that suggests exactly that.

  • James

    How I Know God is NOT a Delusion1. Because I have this warm feeling in my chest.Am I missing something?

  • Phaedrus

    Add as your new #3: Because the Bible is also a history book.Then you’ve got it.

  • Linda Joy

    Mr. Meacham- It might be helpful to you to investigate the many mythologies that were cobbled together by the Council of Nicea to create the “Jesus Christ” mythos. For example, look up the stories of Mithras, Horus, Dionysus and others. All virgin births, all saviors with disciples, hung on crosses, rose from the dead, etc. etc. By creating this mythology of Jesus and incorporating various pagan beliefs, Rome was able to consolodate power and create a state religion. The Council of Nicea decided which writings were holy and which were not, pagan writings and holy places were destroyed, and the Christ myth was promoted throughout the Roman empire and beyond through the use of violence. Christianity did not become a major religion because of it’s benign and inspiring message. It did so because the followers of the made up religion were willing to kill and conquer to promote it. So your dream of floating around in the church’s garden in the shadow of the Cross is an incredible example of delusion. The Son of God really is the Sun of God. Look it up!! Then ask for the pagans’ forgiveness–

  • Anonymous

    Faith is not linear, it is dynamic…

  • Anonymous

    Are all religions delusional, especially Christians that say they follow God and Jesus, and then destroy the Life they made on Earth?Is it time for Jesus and God to return for the Judgement Day to see how we have taken Care of the planet they made for us? Or for what we believe?Earth is a spaceship with all the resources aboard, to be used for All Life. After the Fall, Humans have fought over all Gods bounty. Is that what we were made for or, or for Equal Sharing. Without equal Sharing a spaceship is in trouble. So is Earth today.Is it time to clean up our filthy trash dumps and oil spills on land and sea, our nuclear bombs on land and sea. Should Christians be doing preemptive war? Should they be doing war period?Should we start cleaning house and get ready for the return of our visitors from outer space?Peace.

  • Dolores Lear

    Sorry I forgot to sign my comments on Jesus’ return to Earth.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    To ANDY ROSS:Entschuldigung! “Naja” war gemeint, nicht “na ja.”

  • Colin

    Faith is groupthink.

  • MMM

    Anonymous writes:MMM writes “I guess it’s impossible to ask those who don’t believe to quit attacking those who choose to do so, so I won’t do that.”I feel your pain. The anti-Christian bias in our society has reached absurd proportions.>>Thanks for proving my point. I commented, made sure everyone knew I was only speaking for myself, not condemning the world, and here comes someone with no name to pour on the sarcasm and try to make me feel bad about what I’ve said. All that wonderful mental energy, wasted. Your sarcasm is so bitingly wonderful. Maybe you should share your ideas on changing the “bias” instead of complaining about it. You don’t see me complaining to you about my life, and I won’t. It’s my life. If I see something wrong with it, I pray, and then with God’s help, I seek to make it better. How is this a bad plan?

  • Maple Suckin Puck Slapper

    Anonymous,Your, never ending list is: Well this list goes on and on as well.Cheers

  • ANDY ROSS

    To Soja John Thaikattil: Na ja sagt etwa so wenig in Deutsch wie in Englisch, damit hätte ich kein Problem. But naja is a cobra, is it not? If so, what are you trying to say?I have no problem with your question, “According to Collins 40% scientists believe in God … So why does religion have to go?” Not all scientists see the depth of their own confusion. Not all scientists see the issue as clearly as I do. Most people in the world still think that tolerance of any and all religious nonsense is the proper way to smooth our path to a better future. Sam Harris has been brave enough to say this is no longer true.Re your comment, “I didn’t get the impression on Sam Harris’ thread that any believer was persuaded … that they were being stupid to believe in God. What did emerge was that the debate was going in circles with no end in sight.” Believers are often deeply committed to their beliefs. But that you saw the debate as going in circles tells me more about you than about the debate. Drills go round in circles, but they also go deeper and deeper.I read some of your long posts on the Harris pages with interest. But you readiness to mix and match religious ideas dismays me. Mahatma Gandhi got away with it because he cut through to the heart of them all, to truth and love, as deep as the best of Jesus. Getting to the truth about difficult questions requires harder thinking than the smug vacuities I read in the target text on this page. To Phaedrus: I agree, the Agincourt analogy is insufficient. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  • Anonymous

    In a democracy, atheists are free to point out the absurdities of religion.In a democracy, the religious are free to try to make others conform to their religion through political action and efforts at conversion. No matter how little evidence there is for their beliefs.That doesn’t mean that they should. Or that those who believe in freedom should bend over and let them get away with it. I hope that Soja recognizes this, as is suggested when she says “In a democracy, everyone may pursue their own idea of happiness, but the right of one person ends where the right of the other person begins.” But I doubt it.

  • timmy

    The Sam Harris method of open criticism of religion is successful in two ways.1. It gets the conversation out there, where before, the conversation was almost non existent. Yeah yeah I know, the conversation has been around since Nietsche and before. But never like this. Not in such an open era. Not with the internet. I’ll bet when Nietzsche made his statements, there weren’t 5000 responses from all walks of life from all corners of the globe by the end of the week.2. While the Sam Harris kind of blunt criticism will have no affect on the truly faithful, it certainly does have an effect on those who only thought that they believed. And on those who only have, as Dan Dennet phrases it, “a belief in belief”.I agree with Richard Dawkins take on the “belief in belief”.

  • timmy

    Soja,Atheists are comfortable with criticism of atheism from believers.From what I’ve seen, believers could use a little more oil in their feathers.

  • James

    Rights of Religious and Non ReligiousSoja says:The trick is identifying that point where your right ends and mine begins.Do you, as part of a Christian majority, have the right to make me feel lesser, socially unacceptable, because I don’t believe?Do you, as part of the christian majority, have the right to stop stem cell research that might cure my sister of Parkinson’s disease in 15 years?Do you, as part of the Christian majority, have the right to support George Bush’s message that his HIgher Father, he being a born again Christian as he has been at pains to inform us, told him he should start a war that has killed 300,000 iraqis and catastrophically destabilized one of the world’s vital geopolitical regions.seems like the Christian majority is extending over into the rights of others, in these and many other ways, with striking regularity.

  • Stan

    Dragon Slayer wrote:”Sarah was barren, but it was faith that made her the mother of the nation!”It may not have been as intended – but you sure got that right. It must have benn ‘faith’ as it sure wasn’t 120 year old Abraham [that got a 90 year old barren woman pregnant].

  • Anonymous

    James says, “Do you, as part of the Christian majority, have the right to support George Bush’s message that his HIgher Father, he being a born again Christian as he has been at pains to inform us, told him he should start a war…”We’ve been around the barn on this on other threads, but ONE MORE TIME… The claim that President Bush ever said that God told him to “start a war”, or green-lighted it, or tacitly okayed it, or expressed any opinion whatsoever on the subject, IS AN OUTRIGHT UTTERLY AND REPEATEDLY DISCREDITED BOLDFACED LIE, the repetition of which calls into serious question everything else the poster may say. Stop saying it and move on!

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Phaedrus, the claim was not that some kook believes it, but that “Bush and many other people” believe it—and as I said, that is just bone-chillingly ignorant.

  • Phaedrus

    Unbalanced:If you think that there are not that many “kooks” out there, look at the percentage of Americans who express belief in the inerrancy of the literally translated Bible. Then read Revelations. Then think again.

  • Sledge Hammer

    There is a lot of use of the word God as if it had meaning. What does it mean to say that 40% of scientists believe in God? Are we talking about the sort of God that Einstein considered or Yahweh? These are completely different ideas. To lump them together in one word is simply confusing.

  • Sledge Hammer

    I’d like to try to bring some understanding to the chasm between many of the Christian and the not religious posting here. I think an important unspoken aspect of the way many Christians think, is the holy spririt. covenant with the people of Israel and that, in the first century in Judea, a son of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, offered his followers a story of salvation that involved a human atoning sacrifice and mysteriously and in ways veiled from complete human understanding, have effected the forgiveness of sins and have promised the gift of eternal life.”How can Mr Meacham hold this view of the bible when it is so uninformed by the body of data provided by biblical scholarship? My experience is that it is common to dismiss their work. This attitude is commonly expressed as “They (biblical scholars) aren’t spirit led”. How can Mr. Meacham urge Christians to think and use reason and then make a statement like the above (as if it were reasonable)? Because with the holy spirit in his set of explanatory mechanisms, this is reasonable. This is how Mr Meacham can say “…a physical resurrection—a series of events, grounded in time and space, that, mysteriously and in ways veiled from complete human understanding”. “Mystery” is the word often used when reason fails. Being able to include “mystery” in the reasoning is possible because the holy spirit is available as a recourse taken when reason fails.

  • Soja John Thaikattil

    To ANDY ROSS:Naja was my idea of a Zen Koan, a word out of context and has as much or as little meaning as the sound of one hand clapping. (Nein, nein, nein! You don’t look or sound like a cobra! Um Gottes willen! Unless atheists decide to propogate their non-beliefs by flying aircrafts into buildings, or stamp out religious beliefs with former Soviet style government, I don’t see any danger at all.) Maybe I should have stuck to: Na ja! I was only trying to point out that the number of posts in response to Harris’ comments “sagt wenig”, wasn’t a statement in favour of atheism, considering all those posts hadn’t brought a single believer around on the strength of the arguments in favour of atheism. I assume that the scientists who believe in God do so because they have not learnt to think for themselves and desperately need Harris et al to clear the confusion in their minds. You wrote: “Not all scientists see the issue as clearly as I do.” And you are quite sure “most people in the world still think that tolerance of any and all religious nonsense is the proper way to smooth our path to a better future?” Most of the six billion people on the planet? Wahnsinn!Drills go in circles and deeper, but I saw no sign of it going deeper into any believer on the Sam Harris thread. My readiness to mix and match religious ideas dismays you? In your opinion, I should at least be a Mahatma Gandhi, with the qualities of Jesus Christ to get away with it. As you see it, I couldn’t possibly have indulged in thinking which according to you must be “hard” to get to the truth about difficult questions, and what I have expressed are mere “smug vacuities?” Hoch interessant! Soja John Thaikattil

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    PS: Andy Ross: I ask for a favour: If you could explain “hard thinking” and how to acquire it, and how exactly to use it in thinking through difficult questions, with a list of difficult questions I should be thinking through using “hard thinking,” I’d be grateful. I was never taught “hard thinking” in school or university. Many thanks.

  • Steve

    Unbalanced:Taken form:These millennialist beliefs about the end of the world are widespread in the United States. A Gallup poll taken in March 2002 revealed that “46 per cent of Americans describe themselves as ‘born-again’ or evangelical.” In a 1999 Newsweek poll 71 per cent of evangelicals said they believed the world would end in a battle between Jesus and the Anti-Christ at ‘Armageddon’.The belief that Rapture is imminent is widespread in the US. The Left Behind series of novels about the end times—co-authored by religious right leader Tim LaHaye—has sold 50 million copies since 1995″ Unbalanced, I have tried to support my claim here and it includes polls/statistics, not just me mouthing off. I ask that you like-wise correct yourself. I ask that you support your assertion of my ignorance. Please use statistics or other objective criteria.

  • Soja John Thaikattil

    To ANDY ROSS: Errata:You wrote “Most people in the world still think that TOLERANCE of any and all religious nonsense is the proper way to smooth our path to a better future. Sam Harris has been brave enough to say this is no longer true.”I responded to that comment reading “intolerance” instead of “tolerance”. For some reason I thought that your mention of Harris’ courage was related to the 40% scientists who still believe in God, and his message to them. Stupid me! Okay, I’ll give another go at responding to the comment as I understand it now. You mean that Harris is brave enough to say that the opinion of “most people in the world that religious tolerance is the proper way to smooth our path to a better future” is WRONG. So Harris is right in propagating the abolition of all religion and the rest of the world is wrong in propagating religious tolerance? Do I get you right this time? But surely Harris doesn’t advocate stamping out religion using the methods of the old Soviet communists? Being an American, I take it that he doesn’t. So I presume what he has in mind is simply spreading the “good news” of worldly salvation through atheism through his books, and through his many followers like you. Simply out of curiosity may I ask: In what way is the “Harris et al atheistic movement” going to be different from a religious movement – in its teachings, in its benefits to humanity and in its method of propagation? It will bring paradise on earth; it will be a free and happy world where each one will live according to their own idea of morality, their own idea of right and wrong? There are to be six billion ideas of right and wrong and six billion ideas of morality? I can remember a time in my life twenty years ago when, as a young woman, two different ideas of happiness in a marriage couldn’t produce happiness, so I can’t help wondering about six billion ideas of happiness. What benefit does the non-religion of atheism offer someone like me, who believes in science and religion without any contradiction?Soja John Thaikattil

  • ANDY ROSS

    Said Soja John Thaikattil: Some scientists who believe in God betray confusion in their thoughts quite unwittingly. They say things that seem good to them but make little sense when viewed more critically. Most scientists are specialists, and are soon out of their depth beyond their specialty. As for tolerance, I do believe that most people think a tolerant approach is the “proper” way to go, even if they or their extremist friends tend to prefer a more robust approach. For example, I think the proper way to deal with murderers or rapists is to imprison them and try to reform them, but I must confess I tend to prefer the approach of shooting or castrating them. Most humans harbor such conflicting or even confused views. It is part of the human condition.Mixing and matching ideas from different sources can work well, but it requires great care to create a harmonious result. I said not that you expressed smug vacuities but that the text at the head of this page did. Hard thinking is an approach I learned many years ago as a student in Oxford and as a teacher in London. It prizes focus and sharp edges. At the neuronal level, it amplifies specific output spikes and inhibits their near neighbors. At the linguistic level, it rewards clear formulations and exact definitions. At the rhetorical level, it celebrates sharp criticism and deprecates lazy acceptance of half-truths or emollient vacuities.To acquire hard thinking, one needs to study a discipline like mathematics or physics, where there is well founded agreement on right and wrong answers to many questions. In this way, one learns the ability to contribute usefully to philosophical debates. Plato’s academy reportedly had an inscription over the entrance to the effect that no-one ignorant of mathematics should enter. Nowadays many scientists suffer “physics envy” for essentially this reason. The problem-solving approach of mathematics and physics is held up as an example for the other sciences. The approach can be helpful in tackling just about any difficult question.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Steve,This was your claim: “Even if Iraq becomes so bad as to erode into armageddon, Bush and many other people who have adopted Christian rationalization patterns, will see it as God’s plan.”First, none of your “evidence” supports in the least your claim that President Bush would regard further calamity in Iraq as an expression of divine will. The ugly insinuation is that the President would be perfectly happy to see such a divinely ordained calamity. That is a very serious accusation, notwithstanding its transparent absurdity.Obviously I can make virtually any kind of vague assertion about “many people”. What number is sufficient to make it true? You imply without evidence that all evangelicals are millenialists, as is everyone who bought a Left Behind book.And none of your “evidence” even mentions Iraq. Your premise seems to be that Armageddon is a real possibility (I gather that you are among the 71%), and that whenever Armageddon occurs, those who put stock in Armageddon prophesies would deem such prophesies to have been fulfilled. Uh, well, okay, no argument on that last part.Steve, knowingly or not, you’re just trafficking in crude bigotry.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    To ANDY ROSS:Just to set your mind at rest that I did not mean cobra when I wrote “Naja”. I looked up the word only after you mentioned cobra! In my mother tongue, Malayalam, a cobra is “Naga pambu.”

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Phaedrus replies, “Nobody said Bush ‘would be perfectly happy’ to bring about armageddon…” My post clearly acknowledged that that is an insinuation—but it is an unmistakable one, else what on earth is Steve’s point?”…or that everyone who bought a ‘Left Behind’ book is an evangelical.” Steve offered those sales figures to support his claim that “The belief that Rapture is imminent is widespread in the US.” In and of themselves they demonstrate nothing of the sort (unless you believe, for example, that bodice-wearing buyers of romance novels literally await a bare-chested Fabio to sweep them up onto the back of his horse). In any event, this claim is wholly unrelated to Steve’s original point.”…if he believes what he claims to believe, [President Bush] would see a silver lining in that mushroom cloud.” Again, that’s just utterly ignorant bunk and a hideously bigoted delusion.

  • Phaedrus

    Unbalanced:Read a little and you may develop a different impression as to what is “bunk.” I have provided a couple of references for you. As to your ridiculous analogy regarding LeHaye’s material and bodice-rippers, nobody believes that romance novels are prophetic. LeHaye fictionalizes an account of what millions believe will happen in one way or another prior to the second coming of JC. And that prophecy requires a cataclysm in the Middle East. Your bad analogy is worthy of, well, Jon Meachem. As to your use of the word “delusion,” I would think that you would want to avoid that particular subject.

  • Phaedrus

    What it makes you think is that if the claims underlying the worlds montheistic religions were made by someone today, for the first time, that person would be considered to be suffering from a psychotic illness.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Phaedrus, I spoke out precisely BECAUSE I have read and heard so much of this bigoted claptrap in recent years that I cannot in good conscience remain silent.The analogy doesn’t work for you only because you happen not to harbor an obsessive infantile hatred of incurable romantics.And you’re right, I use the term delusion quite deliberately.

  • DuckPhup

    Soja John Thaikattil wrote: “I agree totally that all atheists have as much capacity to be spiritually attuned as any believer. But that is not because of atheism. It is because ALL human beings have a spirit. Talking of spirituality in the context of atheism has me completely confused. I thought that atheism was about denying the spiritual dimension of human beings, and being completely scientific, believing only in what can be measured quantitatively! So have I completely missed the definition of an atheist?”– No. To the contrary, you completely misunderstand the nature of ‘spirituality’. Spirituality has nothing (necessarily) to do with ‘spirits’, and the ‘supernatural’. Spirituality has to do with self-realization. The religiose merely embellish self-realization with absolutely unnecessary (and imaginary) accoutrements such as souls, spirits, demons, dieties, angels and holiness… and then delude themselves into believing that these bangles are defining elements. They are not. —

  • James

    Spirituality and DuckphupDr D is absolutely right. Here is ONE list of spiritual qualities: NONE *require* belief in God, and in fact belief in God can hurt in some cases. )feel free to add to the list or critique it{Elements of Spirituality• A sense of the meaning of life (and death)• A sense of relation to something greater than yourself (nature, the universe, God, gods)• An inner moral sense of right action towards others and towards nature• Sympathy for the lives, and suffering, of other living beings, (and for yourself!).• A reverence for creation, both natural and human, and a nurturing of the creative imagination• Comprehensive self-knowledge and understanding.• A developed, cultivated and broad-based • Rich experiences outside the realm of the senses • A sense of the “One-ness” of all things

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Ducky makes it sound as if there’s something untoward or unpleasant or undesirable about the “imaginary”.Hard to see how a human being ever could achieve self-realization without fully exercising the imagination, since it is an essentially and uniquely human faculty.The necessity or non-necessity of “accoutrements” is entirely a matter of opinion (and of imaginationd).

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    James, you mention imagination twice. According to Ducky, this is not allowed.

  • Phaedrus

    Unbalanced:The analogy does not work for anyone with a reasonable grasp of logic because it is simply a poor analogy. And in the face of this being exposed, you move on to ad hominems, as expected. Either put up some actual information that backs up your assertions, or go back to the shallow end of the pool.

  • DuckPhup

    Sorry… I forgot to address this part:Soja John Thaikattil wrote: “I thought that atheism was about denying the spiritual dimension of human beings, and being completely scientific, believing only in what can be measured quantitatively! So have I completely missed the definition of an atheist?”– You thought wrong. Atheism isn’t ‘about’ anything. The only common element among atheists is that they are not impressed by the so-called ‘evidence’ (faith) through which believers bring themselves to believe… just as you are unconvinced by the evidence that would call for you to believe in Thor, the Easter Bunny, pink unicorns, garden gnomes and bridge trolls. As a consequense of that, though, atheists generally understand that one can be a completely normal, rational, moral, altruistic, caring human being WITHOUT the absolutely unnecessary (and imaginary) accoutrements such as souls, spirits, demons, dieties, angels and holiness with which the religiose delude themselves. The bible is not ‘evidence’… nor are your traditions, or the fact that hundreds of millions of other people ‘believe’… or the warm-fuzzy feeling that you get when you think about Jesus. If you were to HONESTLY examine the basis for your ‘spirituality’, as YOU define it, you will find that your world view is rooted firmly in the myths, superstitions, fairy tales and fantastical delusions of a tribe of ignorant Bronze Age fishermen and peripatetic goat herders… and unsupported by even the least shred of credible evidence. –***********”I contend that we are both atheists.  I just believe in one fewer god than you do.  When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” ~ Stephen Roberts

  • Heraclitus

    Anonymous Bush or Hieronymous BoschJames’s title aboveI think this eerie coincidence calls for deep investigation.

  • Betty

    Did I read the Title Right?is this column REALLY Called”Believing in Things Unseen is Not Delusion”in the part of Missouri where I grew up,Is Meacham telling me we had it wrong.?Mr Meacham, I have some lovely swamp land in Floriday I think you would like.

  • Anonymous

    James,[a] In case you failed to notice, Hersh’s supposed source is as anonymous as I am; but more importantly[b] nothing in the passage you quote even remotely supports your contention that President Bush ever said that God directed him to “start a war”.If this was your “evidence” for that contention, then you lied.

  • James

    AnonymousI will amend my claim.Bush said, in response to bob Woodward’s question,”no, i consulted a Higher Father.”So I will state that Bush consulted God in the process of starting the war.Put that undisputed fact together with Hersh’s story and only a blind person would deny the close relationship between Bush’s belief in God and his belief that he was “chosen” by God to start this war, with God’s support.If you cllaim there is NO connection here, i don’t know what you have been reading for the last 4 years.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Dukfup, over and over and over again you recycle your hyperventilating “bronze age fisherperson” line without ever once explaining exactly what your problem is. What’s your problem, pal?While you’re at it, perhaps you can explain the atheist obsession with the “one fewer god” / “athorist” pseudo-argument, when it is so transparently unproductive? The only people who care whether propositions about God are provable are those who choose not to believe them in the first place. Nobody who does believe cares. And who cares one way or the other whether Thor exists, or Zeus? Maybe there are elements of truth in them.Atheism does seem like a colossal time-waster.

  • E Favorite

    Phaedrus – I suggest that before you respond to “Don’t Waste Time Reading This, I’m Mentally Unbalanced” you take heed to his name.

  • timmy

    MURe: “Atheism does seem like a colossal time-waster.”So we should sign up at our local church and believe because it’s too much bother to counter the religious assertion?

  • Phaedrus

    E favorite: Yes, I know you’re right, but I can’t seem to be able to resist the compulsion to drag this kind of thinking into the light so that everyone can get a good look at it.

  • DuckPhup

    unbalanced wrote: “James, you mention imagination twice. According to Ducky, this is not allowed.”– That is simply not true. If you were to fire up your reading comprehension skills and look again (absent your penchant for intentionally misrepresenting what people say), it should become quite clear to you that I was saying that BELIEF in imaginary supernatural accoutrements is NOT a necessary element in the pursuit of self-realization… i.e., ‘spirituality’. —

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Ducky, was your parenthetical “imaginary” not meant to be disparaging? And if you disparage a laundry list of things simply because those things are unnecessary products of the imagination, are you not disparaging the use of the imagination? I reject the idea that I mischaracterized your post.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    “This is the language of a theocrat.” Bigoted nonsense. It simply means he consulted his conscience.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    “f you disparage a laundry list of things simply because those things are unnecessary products of the imagination, are you not disparaging the use of the imagination?”if you criticize unecessary steps in an equation, does that mean that you are criticizing mathematics?Phaedrus is right, you need to work on your analogies, or stop trying to use them.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    Actually, on second thought, what you butchered this time was an attempted syllogism, rather than an analogy. There seems to be a general need for remedial logic.

  • Phaedrus

    Ok, so you are admiting that Bush consults what he considers to be the “will of god” when faced with a matter of conscience.

  • DuckPhup

    unbalanced asked: “Dukfup, over and over and over again you recycle your hyperventilating “bronze age fisherperson” line without ever once explaining exactly what your problem is. What’s your problem, pal?”– No problem. Thanks for asking. I recycle that line with respect to the Abrahemic death cults of desert monotheism (…the myths, superstitions, fairy tales and fantastical delusions of a tribe of ignorant Bronze Age fishermen and peripatetic [parapathetic?] goat herders) because I have learned, over the years, that it is very effective, insofar as pithy one-liners go. It serves as an intellectual dope-slap… and I have been informed on many occasions that it has caused faltering ‘believers’ to look into the basis for their ‘faith’, only to discover that “the Emperor has no clothes.” Of course, it has no effect whatsoever upon the hopelessly deluded. I take note that you seem to be immune. –“While you’re at it, perhaps you can explain the atheist obsession with the “one fewer god” / “athorist” pseudo-argument, when it is so transparently unproductive? The only people who care whether propositions about God are provable are those who choose not to believe them in the first place. Nobody who does believe cares. And who cares one way or the other whether Thor exists, or Zeus? Maybe there are elements of truth in them.”– You are referring, of course, to the Robert Stevens quote: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” [Sorry… I can’t pass up another opportunity present this transparently unproductive ‘athorist’ pseudo-argument.] This is also an ‘intellectual dope-slap’ which has proven to be quite effective (not ‘unproductive’), so I continue to use it. It puts things into perspective… quite nicely, and concisely.I try to limit useage if these to once-per-thread, although I sometimes lose track. Since you seem to haunt all the threads, it stands to reason that you should notice. Thanks for paying attention…. and thanks for playing. –*********”Atheism can be regarded as a ‘belief’ only in the same way that one might consider NOT collecting stamps to be a hobby.” ~ Unknown

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Phaedrus, yes, that was never in dispute. What I disputed is that President Bush ever said God told him to “start a war” (per James’ claim), which strongly implies some kind of divine mandate.That would be a truly extraordinary claim, and extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence (do they not?) — surely more than the tissue of innuendo and prejudice that has been offered.

  • Phaedrus

    Would you consider the question as to whether to wage war a matter of conscience?

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Ducky, I hate to burst your bubble, but anybody whose faith was sunk by your one-liners suffers from an *extremely* suggestible personality.I propose an experiment in which we read one group your one-liners and read another group random lines from the back of my phone bill.Also, may I respectfully suggest that pithiness demands brevity.

  • Anonymous

    Phaedrus, obviously. The fact that the President asked forgiveness suggests that he was fully aware of the moral difficulty and in no way claimed divine approbation.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    above 2:48 is me

  • Phaedrus

    No actually is does not, at all. And you did not aswer the question. Stop dodging.

  • DuckPhup

    unbalanced wrote: “Ducky, I hate to burst your bubble, but anybody whose faith was sunk by your one-liners suffers from an *extremely* suggestible personality.”– Duh!!! Congratulations. You have just succinctly described why most religious people are religious in the first place. —

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Phaedrus,First let me reiterate that the burden of proof falls on the person MAKING the claim—not me.Now, you’ve lost me. You asked, “Would you consider the question as to whether to wage war a matter of conscience?” I answered (as anyone would), “Obviously.”If there is some way I can help you further, please do let me know. But perhaps you can also help me understand why you (apparently) are so desperate to believe something for which there is no evidence?

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Ducky says I “described why most religious people are religious in the first place.”But if that were true, Ducky, then your one-liners would be effective on “most religious people,” and they manifestly are not. Have you any other evidence?

  • Phaedrus

    By your own estimation Bush consults god as to “his” will on matters of conscience. Whether to wage war, by your estimation, qulaifies as a matter of conscience. Therefore, Bush consulted god, prior to deciding to wage war in Iraq. Case closed.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Phaedrus,I do find amazing your desperation to accept a truly extraordinary claim solely on the basis of an anonymous stranger’s speculation (even if it followed from my speculation, which it does not). Surely this will get your skeptic’s card permanently revoked?We remain precisely where we were: Nobody has yet provided a scintilla of evidence that the president ever once said anything remotely like James’ claim that “God told him to ‘start a war.'” Unless and until it is substantiated, this extraordinary and false claim remains nothing other than an outrageous and unconscionable lie. I have no skin in this — I will be delighted to acknowledge clear and convincing evidence if and when it is presented.Meanwhile, I remain amazed if unsurprised at self-identified atheists’ capacity for self-delusion.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    “Therefore, Bush consulted god, prior to deciding to wage war in Iraq. Case closed.” Again, this was never in dispute. The dispute is over whether the president ever said God told him to start a war.

  • Phaedrus

    No desperation here Unbalanced. I just enjoy fundies trying to have it both ways: bragging that Bush consults them and their God before making any big decisions, then when the results are disastrous, backing away as fast as possible. Now that you have admitted god’s complicity in the war in Iraq, or Bush’s false reading as to what God actually wanted of him, I leave you to your messy thinking in peace.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    “Therefore, Bush consulted god, prior to deciding to wage war in Iraq. Case closed.” Again, this was never in dispute. The dispute is over whether the president ever said God told him to start a war.”If this was truly never in dispute, why did you bther to dispute it? By your own admission, Bush asked God before taking us to war. Are we to believe that having done so, he went any way other than what God “told” him to do? By asking, Bush invited God to render an opinion. By going to war, Bush did what he thought God wanted him to do. As my son would say, “Dude, you just got owned!”

  • EMM

    A few random comments:The kinetic energy of most of the postings thus far would indicate that few are well reasoned. Arguments that deliberately drip of satire and sarcasm rarely convince others of their merits. Last night I watched “Jesus Camp” and was taken back by the myopic reactionary beliefs of most of the folks depicted in the film. The comments of Carl S. in the first posting as well as those of several others on this thread are similarly disturbing. Our culture has in recent years become enamored of all things extreme; form TV shows, to sports, to politics and now, it would seem, to all things spiritual and/or atheist/agnostic. To paraphrase Barry Goldwater: Extremism in the cause of (whatever you happen to believe) is always a vice. Personally, I tend toward Bertrand Russell’s adage that “It doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you don’t altogether believe it” I’m a Christian, but I reject biblical claims of inerrancy, the science vs. religion debate, the historical accuracy of the Bible and many of the other extreme assertions made by believers that seem to generate much of the enthusiasm on both side of this debate.Having said this, I do not dismiss my faith as either unfounded or irrational. The wholesale dismissal of all believers as irrational, uneducated and delusional is without merit. And, while I disagree with Mr. Meacham about several of his points, not everything he says is wrong, just because he is a believer. I’ve spent many years advocating for both sides of this issue, and I for one am not afraid to respectfully discuss issues of belief or unbelief with those who want to engage in real dialogue. Hopefully that will prove possible, beginning now.

  • ANDY ROSS

    Unbalanced and Phaedrus:Who cares how Bush verbalized his decisions? Whatever, they were bad. I would rather endorse the decisions of someone who tried to be on the side of God, conceived in the Christian manner (despite the End Times coloration that may creep in), than someone who tried, say, to follow in the footsteps of Ghengis Khan. To a psychologist, praying is is a kind of meditation or reflection, and any decision arrived at thereafter is likely, ceteris paribus, to be better than one made on impulse. Agreed, Bush’s prayers seem not to have helped, but I doubt if they did harm. As I see it, the psychology of Bush 43’s Iraq adventure has much more to do with erasing what he imagined to be the blot on the family escutcheon caused by Bush 41’s 1991 decision to pull out of Iraq before toppling the Butcher of Baghdad.But the important question is what do we all do now?

  • Phaedrus

    There is a huge difference between prayer and meditation, despite their also having similarities as you mention. In meditation one does not assume that one is communing with a deity of whom to make requests and receive information. I am not at all comfortable with a person making war and peace decisions based upon what he/she assumes a deity is advising. This would serve to close one off to contrary viewpoints and information, don’t you think?

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    I’ll summarize just in the unlikely event someone is participating good faith:James’ claim: President Bush has said that God told him to start a war, meaning that the president has claimed a divine mandate.Evidence presented thus far: Absolutely none.The president has been quoted as saying that he prayed over the decision. It would be grossly irresponsible for any president not to pray over such a momentous decision.What God “told” the president, if anything: Unknown, and there’s no evidence that the president ever made any claim to anyone about it one way or another.President Bush says he asked God’s forgiveness, thereby explicitly acknowledging that he may be acting contrary to God’s will.Conclusion: [A] Some self-identified atheists have very flexible standards of intellectual honesty. [B] Some people are so deluded by an obsessive hatred of “fundies” that they’ll fall for absolutely anything that flatters their sick ignorant mindless bigotry.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Phaedrus, for someone who despises “fundies”, you have an awfully “fundie” view of what prayer is. Obviously one does not receive instructions or communication from outside one’s brain, or purge one’s brain of all other input.

  • Phaedrus

    I am not going to devote any more time to debunking these statements, or pointing out their internal inconsistencies. What I will say is this: Bush himself has opened himself up to this kind of scrutiny for two primary reasons:1. Since the very beginning he has worn his faith on his sleeve. He made it the issue that it has become with his own statements and policies. Some say this was merely to capture the fundie vote (See Kuo). Others, that he truly believes what he has said he believes. (like the infamous Rev Haggard). 2. The results of the major policy he has pursued, namely the war in Iraq, has been an unmitigated disaster. I think the evidence is strong that he lied to the country to get us into it, that he had no plan to actually do as we should have after we were there, and that he has not leveled with us about how it has been going since then. We are entitled to ask how this could have occurred. And it is not at all unreasonable, given #1, to question the degree to which his born-again theological underpinnings contributed. This does not constitute an “extraordinary claim” in my view.

  • ANDY ROSS

    Phaedrus, meditation or reflection are big amorphous concepts, assuming we don’t mean disciplined Buddhist meditation or fond reflection on times past. Similarly, prayer is an activity that may be instantiated in a wide variety of physical processes. In the case of a U.S. president from a patrician family, we can guess fairly well what sort of considerations would tend to be prominent in the resulting thought processes.In any case, however, people act for reasons that they themselves can introspect only very imperfectly. They rationalize and confabulate more than one would naively credit when asked why they do what they do. People with serious brain injuries or afflictions tell themselves the most absurd stories to cover their apparent disinclination to recognize their true deficits. The relevance or efficacy of prayer is the least of our problems in explaining why people act as they do.As to whether George W. Bush is sufficiently well equipped intellectually to make decisions over war and peace on behalf of 300 million people, I shall just say he is a conscientious man trying to do a difficult job with all the help the Republican party can give him. It seems that despite all that he is failing to do the job well enough, but being British I shall leave that judgment to the U.S. electorate.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    I won’t belabor this either, and people can judge for themselves the merits as well as the consistency of standards. We began with a very specific factual claim for which there remains no evidence, extraordinary or otherwise.You now say “it is not at all unreasonable…to question…” By all means, question. Just defend your conclusions with something—anything—other than prejudice.

  • E Favorite

    EMM — “Arguments that deliberately drip of satire and sarcasm rarely convince others of their merits.”In your opinion, right? I have been convinced in such arguments. I find that sarcasm and satire, like metaphor and other literary devices, can be quickly clarifying and quite convincing. On another issue and getting back to the original subject of this discussion, what points in Meacham’s essay do you not agree with? And which ones do you agree with?Also, regarding your rejection of the “historical accuracy of the Bible”, does that mean you accept the lack of historicity of the Old testament as revealed in recent Archeological studies and as accepted by the Conservative Jewish hierarchy (as per my post above, Feb 2 10:30 PM)? If so, what effect does that have on your religious beliefs and practices? I know this last question is very broad. That’s mainly because I don’t know how else to put it. I’ve been wanting to ask a member of the clergy, but I hesitate 1) to put them on the spot and 2) to put myself on the spot, by being visibly stunned by their response. (This has happened in the past with other religious questions).This way is easier – at least for me and hopefully for you too. I’d appreciate whatever reply you make to any of the above questions.Thanks

  • Phaedrus

    This is not about the relevance or efficacy of prayer. It is not about how people in general make decisions, it is about how one particular person seems to have made decisions that have had enormously bad outcomes. And most of all, it is about what can be learned by an attentive electorate as to what we should be looking for in future leaders. Dissecting how we got to where we are is a necessary step in this direction. Incidentally, I am a Republican, and can assure you that many many moderate Republicans have been frozen out of policy decisions for the last 8 years. (see Kevin Phillips last book: American Theocracy). Bush never availed himself of the collective insights of his own party.

  • James

    My OUTRAGEOUS STATEMENTHEre is the actual statement that I made:”Do you, as part of the Christian majority, have the right to support George Bush’s message that his HIgher Father, he being a born again Christian as he has been at pains to inform us, told him he should start a war that has killed 300,000 iraqis and catastrophically destabilized one of the world’s vital geopolitical regions.”The undisputed evidence tells us this:1. Bush consulted his Higher Father (ie God) when deliberating about whether to start the war in Iraq.2. Bush has NOT said, “and God told me to go ahead”3. HOWEVER, the choices of what God DID tell Bush includeBush MUST have interpreted God’s response as BSo if God did not appear to George and SayHe, in Bush’s clear implication, validated W’s inclination to Start the War.God could have said George, you SHOULD go ahead,My quote above is:This is clearly what Bush meant us to believe

  • Phaedrus

    GO BEARS!!!!

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    No, what he meant us to believe is what he actually said: “I’m surely not going to justify war based upon God. Understand that.” He also said he asked for forgiveness, plainly acknowledging the possibility of violating God’s will.Again, the real issue is the hypocrisy of people who offer themselves as paragons of rational thinking. There’s no shortage of desperate true believers despite evidence that (so far) is at best MIA.

  • James

    DWTmillions of believers got his not so subtle message that God was on our side through the Higher father quoteand then he says, Oh, I didnt REALLY mean it later when challenged.he is trying to seem bothagainI can NOT believe you take this person seriously, after all the lies he told to get us into the war.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    James, I respect your passionate expression of your views. My purpose was not to defend the president or any of his policies, and I assume that would be off topic anyway. My purpose was to challenge what I see as unfounded, extremely irrational and unjust attitudes directed toward evangelicals (and I am not one), and very closely related to that, idiotic paranoia about imagined theocratic conspiracies. As I indicated, I frankly am flabbergasted to witness this kind of hysteria on the part of those who insist reason is their only guide. I can’t promise I won’t continue to challenge those attitudes, but I will try to avoid repeating myself more than I have.

  • James

    Not being sure why i am addressing athere are roughly 1.5 million hits on Google of how Bush has associated himself with born again christians/evangelicals,and I am accused of unfair and unjust

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Phaedrus, that’s another hoary old myth that won’t die. Shaath was recalling what Bush supposedly had said two years earlier. Shaath does not speak English and had relied on a simultaneous translation. From Wikipedia:”Shaath later qualified his comments, saying that he and other world leaders at a Jordan summit two years ago ‘understood that he was illustrating [in his comments] his strong faith and his belief that this is what God wanted.’ Both the White House and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who was also present at the meeting, deny that Bush ever made such a statement.”

  • Phil C

    Just speculating here – I bet W saw the results of the last election as a test of faith – a sign from God to stay the course

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Do you not agree that resolving the Palestinian question is a moral issue?

  • James

    Unbalanced Arguments for Bush RationalismShould we be surprisedis the one person in the worldWho does not recognizeHow, in “Gods” name,Answer: it can, if one is Mentally Unbalanced.This is not the delusion ofThis is the delusion of

  • Phaedrus

    And the Evans quote, and the Abbas non-denial-denial, and David Frum’s statement that the first words said to him as a White House staffer were “missed you at Bible study,” and the clearly embedded religious language in major speeches, and the weekly meetings/discussions with evangelicals like Ted Haggard when even John McCain could not get that kind of access etc etc. None of this is going to mean anything to you unless Bush himself does an interview in which he commits political suicide by saying “yep, God told me to do it, and I did it.” And even then, if his spokesperson denied that was what he meant the next day, you would probably say he was quoted out of context. The preponderance of the evidence says that Bush is a born-again christian who prays for guidance on matters of world importance, seeds speeches with religious phraseology, makes statements to foreign dignitaries about God telling him to do this or that-then uses non-denial-denials and translation difficulties to extricate himself, listens to right wing religious figures more than the moderates in his own party, all the while lying repeatedly to the world to justify a disastrous war.

  • Betty

    When the Delusions of Answered Prayers Lead to DisasterThe problem with PrayerThe problem, and it is a MIGHTY ONE

  • EMM

    In my experience arguments made with dripping sarcasm have almost always led to an entrenchment to the starting positions held by the opposing sides. Your experience may well be different. I’d also add that in my experience overtly sarcastic comments are rooted in anger and rage, which are almost always unacknowledged by the person(s) using sarcasm as a verbal weapon.Regarding Meacham, I would agree when he says that for some people “those who believe are superstitious, while those who disbelieve are to be congratulated for overcoming what one might call—just might—“the God delusion.” I’ve read similar sentiments several times in this forum for example.I would also agree when Meacham says “But I doubt, and to me doubt is a part of faith. Doubt is not unbelief; doubt is not cynicism.” I agree with Paul Tillich that doubt is an unavoidable element of faith, that when denied leads to judgment, intolerance and frequently far worse. Proponents of any faith or ideology need to grapple with their doubts, fears and anxieties, less they project them onto others.The historical validity of the Bible is frankly not of much concern to me. I know many Christians are appalled by such comments. But many Jews and Christians agree with me on this. I’m not a Bible scholar, though I’ve read it a few times and study it to some degree every day. For me the real power of the Bible is in the sweep of the story, not the details. I’ve suggested in other posts that to claim the inerrancy of the Bible seems a foolish wager. All one would need to do is to prove one period or comma was out of place and the whole of it would fall as well. Not a reasonable position in my mind. As to specifics, such as whether Moses or other Bible figures actually existed, I’d demure to the scholarship of the experts. But I don’t see how this would negate their significance in the development of Judaism and Christianity, one way or the other.As to how this impacts my personal beliefs, my Christianity is deeply rooted in the words and behavior of Jesus. My call as a Christian is to live in as Christ-like a manner as I can. I believe in an active engagement of the world, following Jesus’ example. My hope and desire is to be loving, kind, caring and peaceful in all my thoughts, words and deeds. All the nitpicking about the details bores me. What I say rather frequently is that any thought, belief, idea, dogma, ideology or pattern of behavior that distracts me from my desire to live my Christian values, I’m willing to let go of. Bottom line: I’d rather be loving and peaceful than be historically correct, theologically correct, politically correct, or to win any argumentative points. And when others, believers or nonbelievers alike, ask why they should do the same; I simply reply ‘because you can’.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    James, Phaedrus, Betty: Hate is a cancer. It destroys reason and can destroy one’s very humanity. I pray it’s not too late for you. I pray that enough of your rational faculties remain for you to overcome your obsessive loathing and paranoia. I pray that you develop or recover the capacity to engage in reasoned discourse based on fact rather than hysteria and febrile imaginings. You don’t have to give in to the hate. Please don’t.And please, never say all atheists are rational.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    EMM, I admire your commitment to simply following Jesus’ example and eschewing the details, but it raises a few questions: Do you live in a rich country? Do you own anything? Do you have an income? Are your days entirely filled with serving the sick, the outcast, the poorest of the poor? Do you lead others to repentance and conversion? Or does all that amount to “nitpicking about details,” so long as you are “loving and peaceful”?

  • Steve

    Unbalanced, I agree that siting the Tim LaHaye stuff was week. But you didn’t comment on the gallop and newsweek numbers which are not.You make some good points about my wording. So I’ll stand corrected. To restate my response to YoYo’s comment “Did God give BushI think this claim is support by my previous material, not to mention the rapture index.While I can’t show a clear connection between Bush and the millennialist movement, his proximity to the movement has generated enough general concern to prompt “the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance [to write] a formal letter to Bush, saying, in part, “Please assure the American people that you are not developing foreign policy on the basis of a fundamentalist biblical theology that requires cataclysm in Israel in order to guarantee the return of Christ.” I think this general concern renders the Bush component of my comment far from “bone-chillingly ignorant”.

  • Steve

    “Nevertheless, in my case I pray that I be as good a messenger of His will as possible.” This is scary to me. Bush doesn’t ask that he be a messenger OF HIS WILL. The issue isn’t that he prays or what he is praying for. The issue is that he is telling us that he sees himself as a Messenger of Gods will. What does that mean? Does that mean that we can count on him to let us know when God delivers these messages? Does it mean that he sees himself as the fullfiller of Gods will? Do you get the impression about Bush that if he felt God delivered a message that he might not act on it? Frankly, it I don’t want to have to wonder about that. It scares me.

  • Anonymous

    Steve says, “This is scary to me…Does it mean that he sees himself as the fulfiller of God’s will?…It scares me.”Embrace your fears, Steve. Cherish them. Indulge them. Don’t ever let anybody tell you your fears are irrational. Your fears are your own. They are precious to you. They give you meaning. No one can ever take your fears away from you unless you let them—never let them! Never!!Here’s more presidential scariness to keep you up at night:Here on earth God’s work must truly be our own. [1]Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” [2]Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization…They will need Thy blessings….and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph…Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom….help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice….I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade…With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy…Thy will be done, Almighty God. [3]1-JFK; 2-Lincoln; 3-FDR

  • Heraclitus

    Question from a 12 Year OldMr Meacham says My Question:Does Believing in Something PROVEWhat if a LOT of people believe in it?

  • James

    Dear 12 Year Old QuestionerHere is one result of our When an Authority Figureour Gullible Childrendoon’t bother, Hans Blix like, to look at the evidence.But that’s OK

  • EMM

    Don’t waste time reading this – I’m mentally unbalanced: “EMM, I admire your commitment to simply following Jesus’ example and eschewing the details, but it raises a few questions: Do you live in a rich country? Do you own anything? Do you have an income? Are your days entirely filled with serving the sick, the outcast, the poorest of the poor? Do you lead others to repentance and conversion? Or does all that amount to “nitpicking about details,” so long as you are “loving and peaceful”?”As a Christian I attempt to live as closely to the example of Jesus as possible. Do I fail? Yes I do. And each and every day I get back up and try again. I must pay my bills, feed my children and attend to the myriad responsibilities of living in the 21st century USA. Having said that, it is my intention to do so in the most loving, compassionate and environmentally responsible way I can. And I take as much personal action as my time, my responsibilities and my resources make possible. If I lead anyone to repentance and/or conversion it will be as a byproduct of how well I fulfill my call to be Christ-like. An old church hymn from my childhood says ‘They will know we are Christians by our love’ and I’m persuaded that convincing people by any other means is doomed to failure.

  • Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)

    Statement from another 12 yr old made here in UK (guess which part!):”Dryice”, “Emm” and “Don’t waste time…I’m nuts” are one and the same poster better known as Numpty over on Sam’s page. See if ye can spot him under various other aliases as ye go along. The bampot gets a lotta fun out of that daft ploy.I was the one that baptised the chancer as “Don’t waste time…I’m mentally Unbalanced” so ye won’t catch me believing sight unseen…I know em when I see emm!

  • Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)

    What’s happened over on Sam’s “God’s Hostages” page.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    Somebody should explain to Unbalanced etc, that a crucial part of being rational is being able to evaluate inconclusive evidence and make probability judgments based on it. This is precisely what I see Phaedrus, Steve, E. Favorite, Betty etc doing. There are any number of things that provide evidence that Bush has blurred the lines between theology and government in his tenure, although no likely “smoking gun” in which he was stupid enough to admit it in unequivocal terms. A rational person could very well weigh this evidence and make probability statements on its merits. It is overwhelmingly likely that global warming is a fact, but some in the scientific community continue to claim that no “conclusive proof” has been produced. Nonetheless, most scientists believe that the weight of the evidence is sufficient at this point. Nothing “irrational” about their position, and to claim that there is, is to admit limited knowledge of rationality itself.

  • E Favorite

    Bernie Bee – The Harris page is too long to “refresh” easily. Waiting until the whole page is loaded, then pressing the “end” button should take you to the bottom of the page, but you still may have difficulty when you try to scroll.How about posting what you have to say here?PS I hope you’re wrong about Emm also being MentallyEmm – Thanks for the response. I get back to you later. PS I hope you’re not also Mentally

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Bernie dearest, you promised to post in verse from now on!? Don’t disappoint, eh?The problem with that other page no doubt is down to the fact that (due to this forum software’s goofy design) that one page now well exceeds 3MB in size.As for my moniker, I have stuck to it religiously (excuse the expression) since you gave it to me. If you think that I am anyone else, you must be suffering from a rare bout with sobriety, for which I advise immediate medication.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Marcus, what’s completely irrational about their attitude is that it arises in the first instance purely from ignorance and hatred of others not like themselves. In those situations the flimsiest of “evidence” always offers comfort and justification.

  • Phil Tripp

    Bernie-put your cursor in the scroll area and right click. Eventually, a window will pop up with some options. You can than left click the “bottom” option and it will take you to the last post. No need to scroll down from the top. I have the same problem as you with the slow speed. Andy and E-Favorite offered some solutions. I will try those today. I am somewhat computer challenged. Those guys are not. I am hoping to avoid computer Armageddon.I am intrigued by your proposal that at least three or four of the names, posting on this thread, are the same person. I hope you are not correct. If you are, it says something very devious about at least one individual on this site. Harmless fun? I don’t think so. Perhaps something much deeper.I expected to see more positive statements on this thread rooting for Meacham’s article. I am not quite sure what to make of the myriad of negative responses. I was under the impression that about 10% of the world’s population are non-believers of some type. Can any generalizations, of the 10% figure, be made from this small sampling?

  • Anonymous

    E Favorite:”Dryice”, “Emm” and “Don’t waste time…I’m nuts” are one and the same poster better known as Numpty over on Sam’s page. See if ye can spot him under various other aliases as ye go along. The bampot gets a lotta fun out of that daft ploy.*** I can assure you that I have never posted any comment anywhere except as EMM. Frankly, Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)sounds a bit unbalanced him/herself.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    “Marcus, what’s completely irrational about their attitude is that it arises in the first instance purely from ignorance and hatred of others not like themselves”Wow. “Ignorance.” “Hatred of others not like themselves.” Looks to me like you are assuming more “facts not in evidence” than you say they are. Perhaps Freud had something with that “projection” defense mechanism after all.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    EMM, without question living as Jesus would have us live is the best homily. As St. Francis put it, “Preach the gospel at all times—If necessary, use words.” The flip side of course is that words in fact are necessary at times. Sometimes it’s too easy to lose sight of the fact that if I truly love someone, I am actively concerned for that person’s spiritual and intellectual development. I cannot love and be indifferent. Word or example? It has to be both/and, not either/or.

  • Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)

    Numpty also used Anonymous quite a lot on Sam’s page.

  • EMM

    Don’t waste time reading this – I’m mentally unbalanced:“if I truly love someone, I am actively concerned for that person’s spiritual and intellectual development. I cannot love and be indifferent. Word or example? It has to be both/and, not either/or.”Of course I never said that it has to be exclusively one or the other. My point is that for me, being Christ-like is my calling as a Christian. I believe that Christian love must come first. I am committed to being loving as my first priority, everything else is subordinate. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “In the end there are three things that last, faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love“. So even if I “give my body over to be burned and have not love, I gain nothing”. And Paul’s description of love is one I find inspiring to the core of my being. I do not believe in love as an abstraction. Love is experiential. I would rather treat others in a loving way, than to be ‘in love’ or to ‘love someone’. I sometimes put it this way: It is easier to be in love with your wife/husband, than it is to be loving toward your wife/husband. Put another way, for me God is more verb than noun. With regard to words, I think, given our mutual penchant for contributing to these discussions, neither of us need worry about using too few. As to indifference, this is a subject that I have thought about at some length. And I strive to avoid this nearly universal consequence of living in the richest most powerful nation on earth. I try to remind myself often that indifference has become, in my view, one of the great sins of our time. But that is another discussion altogether.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Bernie, I’m neither a numpty nor a bampot, and I have used a moniker (and the one) since people asked me too. Drink up! And what about the verse?

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Marcus, I’d far rather defend my case than theirs.

  • EMM

    E Favorite:”Dryice”, “Emm” and “Don’t waste time…I’m nuts” are one and the same poster better known as . See if ye can spot him under various other aliases as ye go along. The bampot gets a lotta fun out of that daft ploy.*** I can assure you that I have never posted any comment anywhere except as EMM. Frankly, Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)sounds a bit unbalanced him/herself.Posted February 5, 2007 12:23 PM Sorry about the “Anonymous” posting. A slip of the finger. “Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed):My previous post stands. I have no idea who Numpty is nor have I ever heard of “Sam’s page”. You may of course continue believing (and no doubt will) anything you desire.To E Favorite, Chip and Betty, as you can see some of the my sarcasm has snuck into this post.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    I have yet to see any evidence that you understand theirs enough to defend it, based on your comments. And, I think that you have been hoisted on your own pitard here. But, I’ll let them speak to their “ignorance” and “hatred” if they are so inclined.

  • James

    If Believing things With No EvidenceWhat IS?Sone Dictionary DefinitionsWe have no *objective* evidence that God exists, and plenty of evidence that the claims made for his existence are baseless.or thisnothing we could say to a true believer would constitute Contradictory evidenceTake an example:then spend 10 minutes examining the reliability of bible evidence.for instance, NOT ONE “fact” about Jesus the Christ is verifiable in a way that would stand up in a court of law.Not to mention all the contradictions, statement for which there is no evidence, etc.But Meacham stamps his foot and saysIt depends what the meaning of Is Is.

  • Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)

    Numpty, ye’ll get the verse when ye desist from using multiple IDs on here.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Bernie, proffering utterly false accusations is way out of line.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    God is being itself. If anything is, God is.

  • James

    DWTThanks for the meaningless tautology.

  • Heraclitus

    Marcus Aurelius’s DelusionWe must bow to the royalty of Marcus.Dawkins use would fit perfectly with the DSM definition, would it not, o great one.””usually involve a misinterpretation of perceptions”.I KNOW God exists, because I *felt* his presence after I prayed.I KNOW that I was abducted by aliens, because I saw the creature myself.When Meacham says “God is NOT a delusion”Are there ANY ways in which belief in God is NOT like the DSM definition?

  • Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)

    Numpty says ‘profferin false accusations is way out of line’

  • ANDY ROSS

    Bernie Bee Ba Bo B-m,Your poetry on the long page is a revelation! Ye’re a reet Robbie Burns an’ no mistake! We shall have to call ye Bernie Burns – but don’t let any sassenachs who can’t hold their Glenfiddich or roll their arr’s call ye that or ye’ll soon be “Bunny Buns” – an’ they’ll ‘ave ye liftin’ yer kilt to see the evidence!Seriously, believing in things unseen is not delusion, but to quote Jon, “Ah, for the days when our theological crises were about running out of olives and ice. … Some commentators have done very well of late with books arguing that the evils of the world can be laid at the feet of religious feeling. … I am deluded. … I am a sinner … I believe in the historicity of the biblical story … I live … in the sure and certain hope that all will one day be well, on earth as it is heaven.”Can we take this seriously? Can you?

  • Marcus Aurelius

    “God is being itself. If anything is, God is”Sounds like pantheism. “There is only one substance, and it is divine.” Spinoza.

  • Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)

    That’s a good Scottish name ye have yersel’ Andy.Bet it isnae that long since yer forebears set out for wherever ye are?Actually Scotsmen have done more good in this world than those from any other nation.

  • Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)

    I’m glad tae see the philosopher Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius has shown up here! He knew how tae deal wae the Christians n Meachams o’ this world all right!He said some really neat things such as:”If God, all’s well

  • DuckPhup

    Quoth Bernie: “Actually Scotsmen have done more good in this world than those from any other nation.”And my brother says that the Irish would have conquered the world, were it not for Guinness…Liam: “What say we go invade Sweden?”Sean: “OK… but sure’n we’ve got time so stop by the pub, for a wee dram, before we go.”Oh, well.All this talk of Glenfiddich is getting tiresome, though. Better is the crock of Tullamore Dew.My brother also says that whenever he hears Wagner playing, he gets the urge to invade Poland.

  • Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)

    I know! I know Duckphup! I know only too well! Last Hogmanay and again on Ne’erday there were right rammies here over that very subject!And d’ye know it’s true what Andy says about the ‘r’ sound.Well I was taken aback, quite amazed in fact. Turns out they’d never heard the Scottish accent!Which just goes to show all of us here get a good laff at that wee neice o’ mine when she comes back here and starts talking wae a Bronx accent!

  • Phaedrus

    to Marcus Arelius:Actually, Unbalanced’s remark about God as “being” is taken almost verbatim from Tillich, who attempted to merge Sartre style existentialism and Christianity in his “ground of pure being” concept. Of course, he did not follow Meachem’s ridiculous argument about the historicity of the Bible, and did not even espouse god as an embodied being. Jesus merely served to illumniate the juxtaposition between infinite being and finite existence, with no cross or any of that. It is rather interesting that unbalanced would throw this one out there, becuase Tillich was opposed in no uncertain terms by mainstream christians, some even calling him an atheist at heart. His thinking does have connections to Spinoza though, as you point out, and particularly Heidegger. Oh, and by the way, on the “hatred” thing: claiming that one is hated by another carries the embedded assumption that one is significant enough to the other to be hated. Kind of grandiose, actually. Cheers.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced (Fr. Chancer Numpty-Bampot)

    I did not presume for myself the distinction of being hated. I have no such grandiose delusions (per DSM)—at least not on that account. I had made it clear that I am not an evangelical myself. But when they came for the Jews…

  • Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)

    “But when they came for the Jews…”Imagine if that Pope had stood up and said “unless all germans lay down their arms they will be excumunicated!”So how far away would you say that Pope was from the teachings of Jesus?

  • E Favorite

    Hello EMM – First, more on sarcasm: I don’t think Chip’s remarks, for instance, were “dripping” with sarcasm. Other devices, like humor, can also be used to cover harsher feelings — or not.Regarding doubt accompanying religious faith, my feeling is – how could a person not have doubts about some of the tenants of faith? Some of these things are incredibly hard to believe, especially given we live in an era when so much is explainable. Doubt in the context of faith almost seems to be presented as something noble – it’s more proof of faith — the willingness, the ability, the “gift” to believe when all one’s senses and experience indicate otherwise. To me, it’s suspension of disbelief. Fine at the theatre, not so great in real life.I can think of one major way that the historicity of the old testament would make a difference. The Jews are presented as God’s chosen people. It’s gotten them into a lot of trouble with people of other religions and given them an ancient claim on a piece of land that’s gotten them and others into even more trouble. The story is a myth. No truth to it, but thousands of years later, people are fighting and dying over it as if it is true. No one’s fighting over Zeus or Jupiter or Isis or Mithras or Dionysus or Sisyphus and the rest – we accept them as myths.Jesus may be an historical figure, a myth based on earlier myths, or some combination of the two. Whichever, he had some universally good, if not necessarily original, ideas. I think it’s fine for people to be guided by those ideas, or by the philosophy of any leader or guru whose teaching helps people without hurting them or teaching hate. But as with the Old Testament, the faithful are expected to accept certain historical facts (e.g., his very existence, which can’t be proven) and/or supernatural events (virgin birth, resurrection, assumption) as truth. I wonder what the point is of even pretending to believe these things? It seems like enough that the teachings of Jesus are worth following. From what I can see, EMM, you’ve personalized your religion – given considerable thought to it and chosen what works for you. Dawkins might call it cherry-picking, but I think there’s another, similar phenomenon that is better described as personalizing. I also think it’s of a higher order than cherry-picking, which is deciding what, among a vast array of choices and interpretations available in the bible, to accept as being factual or important. That then becomes a person’s or a denomination’s dogma: “This” means God hates homosexuals; “that” means only saved Christians get into heaven or “this” is too harsh, so let’s ignore it, but “that’s” lovely and comforting, so let’s emphasize it. Personalizing seems less concerned with proofs or facts or judgments. It’s more about personal predilection. Maybe predilection is a better word, or eclecticism, or designer religion – drawn from whatever sources fit well, according to the person choosing. EMM – does this make any sense to you?

  • Steve

    I don’t think it’s hate, I think its fear. I think Marcus’ comment about probablity is an important point. We know from personal experience and from history – hell we have today’s evidence – what sort of potental problem we have here with a person who, in a position power, makes claims to being a messenger of God’s will.

  • Anonymous

    Like I said, Steve, embrace your fears. Cherish them. Indulge them. Don’t ever let anybody tell you your fears are irrational. Your fears are your own. They are precious to you. They give you meaning. No one can ever take your fears away from you unless you let them—never let them! Never!!

  • Anonymous

    Oh, the irony of asking Who is anonymous?

  • Marcus Aurelius

    Phaedrus:Interesting, thank you for a substantive post. Tillich’s view actually seems more connected with Eastern philosophy, e.g. “the tao that can be spoken of is not the tao,” and “the naming is the mother of the 10,000 things.” In fact, given this apparent similarity, I am wondering why Tillich even needed to posit a god at all, it seems he is describing a realm of physics more than a religion?

  • Marcus Aurelius

    By the way, from NPR yesterday:Several states are considering mandatory, or strongly suggested, administrations of Merck’s new medication that seems to significantly cut a woman’s risk of cervical cancer later in life, to adolescent girls. Great idea right? Science in the public interest? Wow, where do I sign my two girls up!?Well, guess which groups are opposing these measures? Seems that getting this med makes it more likely that girls will fornicate, in the eyes of some. And so, fundamentalist religious groups are coming out against it. Better cervical cancer than fornication. In the words of David Byrne: “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.”

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    “Better cervical cancer than fornication.”I don’t disagree with you on the substance, but this line makes no sense (perhaps in homage to Byrne’s injunction to stop making sense).Those advocating administration of the vaccine to very young girls presume adolescent fornication. The groups opposed oppose the behavior that creates the risk in minors in the first place. It’s absurd to say they find the risk acceptable. It’s just that they propose a different prevention strategy. Agree or disagree.But no, go ahead. Feel the hate.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    “The groups opposed oppose the behavior that creates the risk in minors in the first place. It’s absurd to say they find the risk acceptable. It’s just that they propose a different prevention strategy”This is exactly the kind of nonsense that led to the shameful delay in governmental response to AIDS initially. “If everyone will simply restrain their biological impulses then there will not be a problem.” And, implied beneath this (despite their smiling denials) is “If you engage in this sort of sinful behavior, you deserve what you get, after all the Bible says clearly that the wages of sin is death.”Justask New Orleans, right Pat?1. Even if 90% of adolescent females were to eschew sexual intercourse due to fear of cervical cancer someday (or, of course, the threat that they will enganger their immortal soul in the process), then the remaining 10% are worth this initiative. 2. Given that the aforementioned threats are, and have been, present throughout, and sexual activity amongst adolescents is what it is, then what the opposing group is actually endorsing is the staus quo. Which means that preventable cancers will not be prevented. Unconscionable. 3. There is, reportedly,no additional risk created by receiving the medication, and then practicing abstinence. No mutual exclusivity. So we can preach abstinence anyway, and still protect the girls that choose not to take our advice. Thus, the only downside for the religious right on this is that those promiscous girls might not get what is coming to them if we medicate them. How can any rational, sane, and moral person oppose protecting these girls?!?

  • Robert

    “Whenever we think we have all the answers, remember the words Job heard out of the whirlwind: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world?” Where, indeed.”but you do think you have it all figured out?and the answer is the bible? No that is sheer hypocracy makes me sick.

  • Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)

    What makes me even sicker Robert is Numpty (back to posting as Anonymous) coming on with claptrap like this:”Like I said, Steve, embrace your fears. Cherish them. Indulge them. Don’t ever let anybody tell you your fears are irrational. Your fears are your own. They are precious to you. They give you meaning. No one can ever take your fears away from you unless you let them—never let them! Never!!”A while back I read of a Ukranian guard in one of the Nazi death camps describe a Jewish Rabbi among a batch of fellow Jews about to be put to death turning around and calmly saying ‘There is no God’Perhaps, if only the Jesuit Numpty had been around he could have cheered that Rabbi and the rest by cheerily telling them to cherish their fears!

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Marcus,Again, I don’t disagree with you on the substance.Your original post, however, didn’t bother to offer any rational basis for your position. The entire argument was: “guess which groups” (you know, “those” groups—Jews, Gypsies, blacks, trailer trash, Puerto Ricans, Catholics, rednecks, the disabled, women drivers, Italians, Mormons, fundies—which of “those” groups do you mean?).A rational person says, “I disagree for the following reasons,” not, “Don’t you hate ‘those’ people as much as I do?” A rational person with a compelling argument needn’t demonize others or mischaracterize what they actually say.You ask, “How can any rational, sane, and moral person oppose protecting these girls?”While again, as I said I don’t disagree with you on the substance in this instance, I can assure you there are many rational, sane, and moral persons who are deeply concerned about creeping political and goverment intrusion into family privacy and parental authority. Everyone is in favor of “protecting these girls,” and nobody opposes the right of any parent to vaccinate her or his own child. The issue is the degree of political and government coercion over private decision-making that is permissible, and the appropriate uses of public resources. Those are perfectly rational and legitimate issues in a democracy.But I am left wondering about the rationality of your imagined superiority to “those groups”.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Nazi analogies are bad form, O Kilted One, but at all events you’ve got it addled. It is the Nazis who cherished and indulged their fears.

  • MartinDH

    Good grief! That many words in order to complain about accusations of delusion which then proceed to demonstrate that he is delusional. What a waste of bandwidth.

  • Jack

    Such delusional gobbledygook! Everything stated is complete nonsense, but too much to argue here.However, since Meacham obviously likes so much to quote scripture (as though that rubbish means anything whatsoever) and [some real] people, I’ll provide some quotes as well:”When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.”..Robert M. Pirsig”There is not to be found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestioned good sense, education and learning, as to secure us against all delusion in themselves.”..David Hume”We have names for people who have many beliefs for which there is no rational justification. When their beliefs are extremely common, we call them ‘religious’; otherwise, they are likely to be called ‘mad,’ ‘psychotic’ or ‘delusional.'”..Sam Harris”It is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”..Carl Sagan”It is in the temporal affairs of mankind, not in the delusions of religious faiths, that man’s actual well being and happiness on this earth is attainable.”..Culbert L. Olson”Religion is scarcely distinguishable from childhood delusions like the “imaginary friend” and the bogeyman under the bed. Unfortunately, the God delusion possesses adults, and not just a minority of unfortunates in an asylum.”..Richard Dawkins”Isn’t it sad how some people’s grip on their lives is so precarious that they’ll embrace any preposterous delusion rather than face an occasional bleak truth?”..Bill Watterson”Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable…. A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear and realistic thought. He is not a mere ass: he is actually ill.” ~ H.L. Mencken, New York Times Magazine, 11 September 1955″Faith is nothing more than the license religious people give themselves to keep believing when reasons fail.” ~ Sam Harris”Faith is like a piece of blank paper whereon you may write as well one miracle as another.” ~ Charles Blount (1654-1693)”Faith is the antithesis of proof.” ~ NY State Supreme Court Justice Edward J. Greenfield, 1995″Faith is believing something you know ain’t true.” ~ Mark Twain [Samuel Clemens] (1835-1910)”Faith is an absolutely marvelous tool. With faith there is no question too big for even the smallest mind.” ~ Rev. Donald Morgan (b. 1933)”Faith,” said St. Paul, “is the evidence of things not seen.” We should elaborate this definition by adding that faith is the assertion of things for which there is not a particle of evidence and of things which are incredible.” ~ E. Haldeman-Julius”Faith is deciding to allow yourself to believe something your intellect would otherwise cause you to reject — otherwise there’s no need for faith.” – Unknown”Faith is a cop-out. It is intellectual bankruptcy. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can’t be taken on its own merits.” ~ Dan Barker”Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to.” ~ George Seaton”Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” ~ Richard Dawkins

  • Translated Jon Meacham

    I am NOT delusionalI simply am NOT.Because I said so.

  • Anonymous

    “A rational person says, “I disagree for the following reasons,” not, “Don’t you hate ‘those’ people as much as I do?” (Which I never said)”A rational person with a compelling argument needn’t demonize others or mischaracterize what they actually say.”(you say, in the process of mischaracterizing my argument.)”I can assure you there are many rational, sane, and moral persons who are deeply concerned about creeping political and goverment intrusion into family privacy and parental authority.”(You probably voiced the same arguments about mandatory inoculations for other disaeses too, I suppose. But, I bet you would look down on female circumcision, which is justified with this same type of reasoning, as is refusing to allow blood transfusions for children who are bleeding to death)I don’t know if you actually post under other names to the same site, as some say. I don’t know if you really believe the things you post, their nature suggests that they MAY be provocatorial self-amusement. But, IF the things you write represent the zenith of that thought of which you are capable, I understand why you would want to obscure your identity beyond the already ample anonymity provided here.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    To paraphrase, “Everything stated is complete nonsense, but since I’m too lazy to offer a single original insight, and yet feel compelled to have you acknowledge me, I’ll just paste a few old chestnuts that everybody’s heard but that give me great comfort in my intellectual laziness.”

  • Marcus Aurelius

    Previous post was mine.

  • Just passing through

    OK, here is an original one for you Unbalanced:”Faith is what Unbalanced relies on to convince himself that he is clever, despite all evidence to the contrary.”

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Marcus, first, thanks for the childish and gratuitous insult. It is emphatically untrue that I post under different ids, except when—as just happened to you—I inadvertently end up as anonymous. However, since virtually everyone here is quite anonymous, the materiality of that whole issue escapes me.There’s a huge difference between, on the one hand, diseases that are easily communicated in classroom or a public setting, versus others.It is telling that, once again, you distort what I said. I did not suggest that family privacy and parental authority are absolute, merely that they are legitimate issues for rational debate in a free society. That ought to be an entirely uncontroversial proposition.And yes, I absolutely stand by my characterization of your original post. The irrational hatred came blazing through.

  • Kristian Z.

    I suppose he believes in the historicity of all the other religions, too. They are stories told through generations and also written down. Must be as true as the Jesus-story is, then.

  • Cruci Fiction

    I love “old chestnuts” that are rich in non-delusional reason and logic — over-and-over again. They’re great food for mental health and critical thinking skills, and get even better with age.

  • Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)

    What are ye on about Numpty. You’ve already admitted over on Sam’s page using various identies!

  • Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)

    Kristian Z and Cruci-fiction that’s Numpty again!

  • Marcus Aurelius

    “Everything stated is complete nonsense, but since I’m too lazy to offer a single original insight, and yet feel compelled to have you acknowledge me, I’ll just paste a few old chestnuts that everybody’s heard but that give me great comfort in my intellectual laziness.”(what was that you were saying about childish and gratuitous insults?) “I did not suggest that family privacy and parental authority are absolute, merely that they are legitimate issues for rational debate in a free society.” (the issue at hand is whether it is morally justified to refuse to allow a child to be inoculated against a disease that might someday kill them otherwise, after a period of extreme suffering. A rational person might debate the role of “family privacy” in opposition to protecting children in this fashion- for about 2 seconds.) “There’s a huge difference between, on the one hand, diseases that are easily communicated in classroom or a public setting, versus others.”Yes, and that difference is the perceived role of “willfulness” in contracting so-called “social” diseases. Which brings me back to my original thesis, and I will spell it out clearly for you, so as to avoid confusing you:The ONLY reason that the religious right would oppose protecting children in this fashion is because of its view of the inherent sinfulness of sex, outside of that sanctioned by its god. This view inevitably leads to the judgment that death is an acceptable punishment for committing a moral sin. And this in some twisted fashion is what passes for “moral reasoning” by much of the religious right, and its apologists, of which you seem to be one. The rest is sophistry.

  • Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)

    Marcus, sophistry is what Jesuits specialise in.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Marcus claims, “the issue at hand is whether it is morally justified to refuse to allow a child to be inoculated”.That is not at all the issue. No one proposes “to refuse to allow” anything whatsoever within the private sphere. The sole issue is the proper role of governmental compulsion.”This view inevitably leads to the judgment that death is an acceptable punishment for committing a moral sin.”What hateful ignorance. Thanks for providing yet more evidence of your febrile loathings. Disgusting. How dare you speak of either morality or rationality.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    I repeat, Bernie, if I discredit myself why would it be necessary for you to expend so much of your own energy piling on?

  • Bernie Bee BA (Calcutta failed)

    Right anuff Numpty. Like I mentioned before your real purpose is to have us waste time on your nonsense and thereby hold us back from discussing other more interesting matters.I have to admit you’ve been verry successful at that right frome I first joined in here.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Not sure how anybody could have that much power, Bernie. Perhaps what annoys you is dissent.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    Oh yeah, and one more thing. On your “hatred” charge. My experience is that “hatred” is an unpleasant internal state. I quite enjoy exposing folks like you, and smile with each keystroke. Oh, and I looked up “Numpty.” It fits.

  • Kristian Z.

    Bernie Bee: “Kristian Z and Cruci-fiction that’s Numpty again!”I had no idea what you were talking about until I read some of your other posts. No, I’m not Numpty (whoever that is). But I guess it becomes true if you only BELIEVE it, and then it doesn’t really matter what I say.

  • James

    Carlin PlugMass D is right!”But he loves me!”

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Marcus says, “I quite enjoy exposing folks like you, and smile with each keystroke.”Likewise, of course. It’s quite horrifying that bigotry of such astonishing brazenness as yours persists into the present day. It’s hideously ugly to contemplate—but that we must, and we must focus the antiseptic of hard sunlight on it. To do so fills me with dread and sorrow—but I can do no else.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    In D.C. the religious right is opposing the inoculation measure despite the fact that is non-compulsory. reason cited: May encourage girls to have sex.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    “Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV,” says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.”Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex,” Maher claims, though it is arguable how many young women have even heard of the virus.

  • Steven Carr

    It is good to see religious people exposing the vacuity of their position.’Perhaps, but we have no more reason to question the historicity of the major events of Jesus’ life than we do, say, Agincourt.’Perhaps Christians should say the same of the Koran, or the Book of Mormon.Of course, they don’t , and the same reasoning that Christians use about the Koran and the Book of Mormon applies to the New Testament.See

  • Steven Carr

    Are 4 anonymous documents of unknown provenance are just as good evidence as the evidence for Agincourt.Let us not forget , that within 20 years of the alleged resurrection, converted Jesus-worshippers in Corinth were scoffing at the very idea that God would choose to raise a corpse from its grave.Were Englishmen scoffing at the idea that archers were involved in the Battle of Agincourt?

  • Marcus Aurelius

    The founder of the National Abstinence Clearinghouse also opposes the vaccine. This organization was formed “to promote the appreciation for and practice of sexual abstinence (purity) until marriage.” Leslee Unruh, the organization’s founder, stated firmly, “I personally object to vaccinating children against a disease that is 100 percent preventable with proper sexual behavior.” Note that this does not refer to “mandatory” vaccination. It refers to ANY vaccination of children, despite the fact that they might be prevented from developing cervical cancer later in life. Now, it is not really a mystery what this position is based on. I’ll bet anyone with half a brain could tell this person’s religious orientation, despite the fact that it is not mentioned in this quote. Why is that? And what would be the result if people like her could make her will binding on everyone? The deaths of some number (who can tell how many at this stage) of women who had sex as adolescents, before they could decide for themselves to get this vaccination. There is no number of carefully worded press releases from right wing religious groups than can conceal this fact.

  • Faith-Based

    I am a believer, and I tend to see things the way that John Meachem does, as he writes in his essay. But, frankly, I am embarrassed at what people like Dont Waste Time Reading This- Im Mentally Unbalanced- has written here. The things you try to justify, and the way you complain about someone doing something, and then do that thing yourself in the same posting. Good grief!My God is a loving God, and I have faith that he would never approve of this junk. I made a lot of mistakes in life, still do, and God forgives me. If any of my grandaughters gotten some disease by doing something wrong, but they could have been saved with medecine if it had been allowed, then I say their deaths are to a big part on the adults who kept them from getting the medecine. Shame on you. Jesus would never have approved of these people, or you for covering for them.As for the rest of you making fun of God. He’ll forgive you anyway.

  • James

    Faith-BasedWe are NOT making fun of God. God doesn’t exist.We are critiquing your certainly of belief. especially in a God whose qualities are described in the Bible, and a God who has no discernable interest or effect on the world.

  • Phaedrus

    Marcus,You dog! You should be ashamed for beating up on poor old Unbalanced like that. Any light -hitting shortstop in “the show” can hit double-A pitching.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Marcus, care to explain precisely WHO is quote IMPOSING “theologically derived prohibitions on the rest of us”, and HOW, exactly? Any evidence at all?Again, I just can’t get over the hypocrisy, let alone the bigotry.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    (sigh) Look, Unbalanced. If you cannot read, I cannot help you. You are even embarrassing other believers now. Phaedrus is right. You are a poser, disingenous. And tiresome. I can see why the other guys have fun poking at you, but it just gets old, and there are others on these threads (like “Believer” for instance, or Rafael) who are a lot better at what you try to do. I leave you to the others.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Thank you. Maybe someone will post something a bit more on topic.

  • Sancus

    This article was so vulgar in its banality that the penultimate sentence, a gentle rewording of something heard millions of times, shocked me into an abhorrence for all Christians. In it the author expressed a maximum level of general approval for child sacrifice.”For what, in the end, is our religion, but love for one another, and belief that once, long ago, upon a cross, a father committed the ultimate act of love, giving his son’s life for all others?”Go to your hell, Meacham.

  • Soja John Thaikattil

    To ANDY ROSS (Ref post 4 February 2007 5:38 AM):Thank you for your thoughtful response.I agree most humans harbour conflicting and confusing view about how to deal with problems such as the ones you mentioned. With six billion conflicting and confusing views, and the human condition being what it is, there is need for an objective standard. Thus setting moral standards has been one of the primary goals of all religions, moral to serve as compass in situations of conflict and confusion. I do not deny that all human beings have a conscience to guide them, and atheistic humanists have come up with very good standards, but the fact remains that religions have focussed much on setting moral standards. As for mixing and matching ideas from different religions, I must confess that my thinking has been influenced most by Dom Bede Griffiths, whom I met in May 1984, and with whom I spent a lot of time over several visits and lengthy stays at his Christian Ashram. BTW Gandhi, while being the only Indian politician, is not the only Hindu Indian who had a universal concept regarding religions. Fr Bede is among the pioneers in adopting that concept into Christianity. Many thanks for explaining what hard thinking is. I didn’t have a clue when I was learning mathematics and physics in school that I was actually training myself in “hard thinking.” It was simply called “science.” I find “hard thinking” simple and straight in comparison to abstract thought which seems complex. So I’m really surprised that simple, straight thinking is called “hard” while complex abstract thinking is considered “soft,” not fair to abstract thinkers at all, and gives too much credit to scientific thinking on the other hand.Bis dann!Soja John Thaikattil

  • Blue State Mike

    Ah, the power of “believers” to rationalize their fanciful delusions…what we’ve have here in the u.s. ever since the 1960s is the buildup to a second civil war – maybe not with guns and cannons – but with words and beliefs for sure; i’m not compromising my deeply-held secular convictions for the mass delusions of the other side, who have betrayed the secular roots of the founding fathers of this country and who, to my mind, are arguably traitors; bring it on; last man standing…

  • E Favorite

    EMM – Thanks for getting back to me. Another description I would give your views is “personal philosophy.” In your case, the teachings of Jesus is its basis. For other people, a very similar philosophy might be based on another religious leader or on no religion at all. One of the things that has been fascinating to me in these discussions is learning exactly what people mean by initially broad statements, such as “I’m a believer” or “I believe in God” or “I’m a Christian.”

  • Pheadrus

    Mike, I am from a red-state, and things are warming up a bit here as well. Marcus has introduced an important topic I think, in that it clearly points up the workings of some (we will see how many) on the religious right. Consider what would be necessary to oppose the vaccinations of young women against a virus that can ultimately lead to a disease such as cervical cancer, because of your religion’s position on sex outside of marriage? I think that this debate must be carried forward, and that we should not let these people hide behind red herrings such as “parental rights” etc. You don’t see this concern for “parental rights” when it comes to issues like school prayer and whether to allow “intelligent design” to be taught as if it were science. I do sense a “manning of the intellectual barricades” effect across the country, and agree that it is overdue.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Phaedrus, should this or any vaccine be required for adults? If no, what is the difference?If yes, are there any limits at all to the medical procedures that political activists and government bureaucrats—who, after all, know what’s best for you—can require you to undergo?

  • DuckPhup

    Pheadrus wrote: “Consider what would be necessary to oppose the vaccinations of young women against a virus that can ultimately lead to a disease such as cervical cancer, because of your religion’s position on sex outside of marriage?”– It is easy to penetrate the thinking behind that: “Presently, by the grace of god, I am able to hold a threat of death over my daughter’s head as a tool to exert coercive control over her behavior. If she contracts cervical cancer and dies as a consequence of engaging in behavior that is proscribed in scripture, and in spite of that threat, then that is god’s just punishment… amen. If you secularist fools vaccinate her, you are effectively disarming god, and depriving me of this powerful manipulative tool.” —

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Sure, Ducky, that makes sense. Adolescents are terrified of contracting cancer much later in life. In fact, all adolescent behavior can be explained in terms of their conscientiousness when it comes to risks to their health and safety. Informing them of consequences always is a means of control—and a foolproof, ironclad one at that.

  • Phaedrus

    Duckphup:Actually I would put a finer point on it: “I would rather my daughter die of cancer than do anything that in my warped sensibilities would make it more likely that she would fornicate. And I want the same thing for your daughter, and yours and yours and everyone elses, praise Jesus!”

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    It’s a bit rich for one as diseased by bigotry as you are to refer to ascribe “warped sensibilities” to anyone else.

  • Soja John Thaikattil, Sydney, Australia

    To ANDY ROSS:ErrataGandhi was the most famous Indian politician with a universal view on religions, a deeply religious man whose practice of religion was known to the world, but he is NOT the only Indian politician with a universal view. Dr S Radhakrishnan, the former philosopher president, who also universal in this thinking, comes to mind. Surely there are others. Hinduism in its essence as a religion has a universal philosophy and that is its greatest strength. In my opinion it can swallow any religion and still remain true to itself. For instance in India I dare say that I could be a Hindu and have Jesus Christ as my Ishta Devata, my personal diety.

  • Dave Matthews

    If there is a God, a caring God, then we have to figure he’s done an extraordinary job of making a very cruel world.”

  • walter

    So, if i read correctly:Sure.

  • Pam

    “Sure, Ducky, that makes sense. Adolescents are terrified of contracting cancer much later in life. In fact, all adolescent behavior can be explained in terms of their conscientiousness when it comes to risks to their health and safety. Informing them of consequences always is a means of control—and a foolproof, ironclad one at that.”Well that’s precisely the point, MU – these people want adolescents to abstain until marriage (and if all of them do, they will, ipso facto, all be safe). But we all know that adolescents *don’t* behave as though consequences pertained to them – thus the need to vaccinate them, give them proper sex education, and make condoms available. They will do what they will do regardless of all the preaching their parents do. No, not *all* of them, but what percentage are you willing to sacrifice?Informing them of the consequences *if they don’t abstain* has little effect. Informing them of the consequences and telling them that there is an easy way to avoid them will save lives.The problem is that the parents think that you’re giving them any easy way to avoid consequences, you’re giving a green light to sexual adventure.Which would you rather have – a daughter who loses her virginity before marriage or a daughter experiencing a teen pregnancy out of wedlock, with STDs and the specter of cancer looming?

  • Phaedrus

    “14 percent of physicians believe it is acceptable to withhold information about medical options they oppose morally, such as teen birth control, abortion and sedating dying patients, according to a survey published Wednesday. In addition, 29 percent feel no duty to refer patients elsewhere for such treatments.” MSNBC 2/7/07Surely the religious would never seek to impose their god-derived prohibitions on others? I am shocked, shocked!

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Pam, thanks for your comments, but actually the irony was intended—if kids aren’t dissuaded by the immediate prospect of pregnancy and STDs, then the very distant possibility of cancer is *hardly* going to be the “powerful manipulative tool” that Ducky’s hateful fantasy depends upon.Look, the underlying issue remains standing up to bigotry and saying no! The statement that a parent would consider a daughter’s death to be “just punishment” is precisely the kind of depraved and despicable lie that bigots always have told right down through the ages. We must say no—ignorance and hate WILL NOT STAND.

  • Soja John Thaikattil

    To ANDY ROSS:As an afterthought (Ref your post 4 Feb 07 5:38 AM and my response 7 Feb 07 2:28 AM): You wrote: “To acquire hard thinking, one needs to study a discipline like mathematics or physics, where there is well founded agreement on right and wrong answers to many questions. In this way, one learns the ability to contribute usefully to philosophical debates. Plato’s academy reportedly had an inscription over the entrance to the effect that no-one ignorant of mathematics should enter. Nowadays many scientists suffer “physics envy” for essentially this reason. The problem-solving approach of mathematics and physics is held up as an example for the other sciences. The approach can be helpful in tackling just about any difficult question.”The thought just occurred to me: Isn’t the “hard thinking” you are referring to commonly known as “left brain” thinking? And isn’t abstract thinking commonly known as “right brain” thinking? Isn’t it also common knowledge that each type of thinking has its place and strength, but cannot exactly be interchanged to fulfil the function of the other, although one can/does enhance the effect of the other? And isn’t science, which comes under the category of “hard thinking” you are talking about, predominantly a left brain activity, and study of religions, the arts and anything involving abstract thinking, predominantly right brain activity? Are we perhaps running into trouble in the discussion of religion because left brain thinkers insist that religion should be explained in left brain scientific terms? Science doesn’t try to explain or measure music or any other form of art by its standard. So surely, shouldn’t it be self explanatory that science, an excellent tool to discover and explain the physical universe, may not be the perfect tool to measure and quantify religion?A religious person who doesn’t treat the Bible (or any other Scripture) like a science or history textbook, (simply because Scripture wasn’t written to teach history or science) should have no problem reconciling science and religion. Atheism continues to remain a mystery to me, and since I haven’t invested any time in studying it, I can’t add much to the debate. My two cents in the discussions was primarily to defend my belief and to affirm my conviction that religion is a valid and integral part of human life. Ende meiner Vorstellung. Alles Gute!Soja John Thaikattil

  • Doc Bob

    Unbalanced:There is a legal term for anyone who would seek to prevent vaccinations of this type for these adolescents (both boys and girls. It works for anal transmission as well, so we must protect homosexual males too.) It is called child endangerment. I do not knwo who you are trying to kid with this ridiculous tack yu are employing. You say ignorance will not stand? well, it will on this thread as long as you are posting your screed to it. We in the medical community recognize your type. We see it in my ER every time some idiot jeapardizes their childs health by refusing to allow for a blood transfusion for “religious” reasons. There is a name for that also, it is called “negligent homicide,” but these idiots are not tried generally if they can demonstrate that they were merely following their “religion.” The kid may be dead though, as sure a sacrifice as Abraham’s son was set to be, and for the same superstitious crap. Perhaps you ought to more carefully consider what it is you are advocating. Idiot. Your type sickens me.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Bobby, what I am advocating is that people not tell despicable hateful lies about other people. I make no apology, because it’s a perfectly reasonable position.Nor do I apologize for thanking God that I live in a country where everyone has the freedom and the privilege of being dead wrong, because they can freely decide for themselves, for any reason at all or no reason, without asking anyone’s permission, what is or isn’t crap.From your comments, you want to bring to bear the full power of the state in the form of felony prosecution against those patients or parents whose decisions you disapprove. Of course, ironically, that’s precisely the charge that has been laid above against the hated “religious right”!And my “type”? What exactly is my “type”, Bobby?

  • Doc Bob

    No, I do nt advocate charging the patients, only the parents who make decisions that cost another human being their life, and on account of completely irrational beliefs no less. It is absurd to see a child being denied 21st century medicine because of 7th century beliefs.There is no difference between denying life-saving medical care to another human being, than there is killing them by another means. And the person who pays the ultimate price for this is NOT the one who holds the belief. if the adult wants to refuse care, then that is their right. But children are not property. You can claim that you are defending freedom and liberty if yu want, but it is BS. And your type is the pseudointellectual fundamentalist who hides this behind concepts you really do not understand. I see the other junk yu have written, whining about evidence and then ignoring it or changing the subject when someone nails you on it. You don’t seem to be fooling many people though, so that should tell yu something.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Bobby, children are not property, and no one suggests that family privacy or parental authority are absolute. But thank God they can’t be abrogated simply because you in your infinite and arrogant wisdom know better.Perhaps you can answer my earlier question: Can and should the government force adults to receive this vaccine? If no, how can it force children? If yes, what are the limits to what it may do?But again, all of this is a digression. The larger issue remains the despicable hateful lies told about other people.Bobby, I may a pseudo-intellectual, but I am not a fundamentalist, and it is presumptuous of you to claim to know what I do or do not understand. Whatever my shortcomings, I have engaged in the discussion in good faith, and that is more than can be said of certain of the others. As for my powers of persuasion, if you follow the discussion for any time at all you will see that nobody ever persuades anybody of anything.

  • Phaedrus

    Doc:I was set to acknowledge your contribution and suggest that you not rise to others’ bait, but then something in your first post struck a chord. If you have actually had a child to die on your watch because of the parents’ religous prohibitions on blood transfusions, then you have witnessed a ragged edge of the so-called “culture wars” that few others have. As a psychologist, the worst that i have experienced is an opthalmologist who told my ten-yr-old patient that his vision problems were caused by a “failure to bind satan in his life.” Took a few sessions to work through that, but no comparison to what you describe. Perhaps another way to conceptualize this issue is to substitute another behavior with disease implications. Suppose that a company developed a drug that, if administered in adolescence, would protect people who smoked from acquiring smoking-related lung cancer. The drug could be given without interfering in any way with exhortations to these young people that they should not smoke, from any parent or group. Would we expect the same type of opposition that we are seeing with Gardisil? Would there be groups coming out with statements that this drug was not necessary because “proper” decision-making on the youngsters’ part would be enough in and of itself? Not likely. And what would we think of anyone who did stand in opposition to this? Would we not question their judgment, their intelligence even? Would we not seek to supercede their abilities to fail to protect their child in this way? So, what is the difference here? I submit that it is the role of “sex,” and the religious attitudes towards it. Any rational person would recognize that receiving an injection to prevent lung cancer is not likely to affect the decisions of an adolescent to smoke or not. And it is obviously the same with sexual behavior, in fact it is even LESS likely as there is no biological “drive” to smoke. Is this general inability to consider long-range behavioral implications in daily decision making not the very reason that we do not grant outright autonomy to children? Is this not why adults take it upon themselves to make serious decisions on their behalf? But, what are we to do when the adults themselves execrcise such atrocious judgment? There is no infringement on parental liberties to have children vaccinated with Gardisil. There is no state intrusion on what they can tell their kids about sex, or anything else. Most of the proposed laws have an opt-out provision, yet they are still opposed by some religious groups. Would there even be an opt-out clause if this were not a “sexually” transmitted virus? Probably not. But this is the latitude afforded to superstition in America, if that superstition is in the form of a “religion.” In this case, as in the blood transfusion example, it is inevitable that needless deaths will occur because of the actions of anyone who in any way prevents children from being vaccinated. Simple as that. Those individuals and groups may not be actively “seeking” those deaths, but their failure to recognize the long-range consequences of their behavior is inexcusable for its own adolescent qulaities. It is past time that people stood against this kind of superstitious silliness. Thanks for your post.

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Can and should the government force adults to receive a new vaccine? If no, how can it force children? If yes, what are the limits to what it may do?What if objections had to do not with “superstitious silliness” but perfectly rational skepticism about whether the long term safety and efficacy were sufficiently understood, or about the role of lobbyists in promoting compulsory use? Is that okay? What are the limits to your imposing your judgments on other people and their children? Where do you draw the line?

  • don’t waste time reading this – i’m mentally unbalanced

    Bobby raises a very interesting point in advocating the vaccine for boys as well as girls (on the theory some of them will be violated anally). Not surprisingly, not even Merck’s lobbyists are pushing that idea, even though it obviously would double their sales (and more than double profits). Such a proposal undoubtedly would raise the debate to a different level altogether.Phaedrus, I don’t expect you to reply, but just to clarify: Do you also support compulsory administration to boys, at double the public expense ($360 per person)? Who gets to make the risk/benefit analysis? Are there any possible objections that are not based on “superstitious silliness”? If Bobby is right, then why aren’t the political activists and lobbyists pushing this idea?

  • Me

    in response to the above comment about boys. Yes, they should be vaccinated, especially the ones who attend churches.

  • Bob Russell

    Jon Meacham says “…Chiefly I am a sinner, and I have done things which I ought not to have done and left undone those things which I ought to have done—and, in the words of the General Confession of my tradition, “there is no health in me.” I am prone to cleverness and to glibness. Blessed with a wonderful education, I live in constant anxiety that I will fall victim to intellectual pride, turning my gaze inward, where it should not be, rather than training it outward, where it should be—outward toward my wife, and to my children, and to my friends, indeed, to all sorts and conditions of men—and, beyond them, to God, the Father Almighty, our beginning and our end….” I feel heartily sorry for you if you honestly believe any of this nonsense with which you have been brainwashed. Your lack of self-esteem is very sad indeed. I hope you start using your natural intelligence to free yourself from this mumbo-jumbo.

  • Neal Jettpace

    Mr. Meachum tries to argue against the human damage that religion has perpetrated by presenting reasons for believing in non-observable realities. This is a straw man and is missing the point entirely.The reason for such damage (damage by the way which has been well documented for at least the last millenia and is still ongoing in many portions of the world) is simply the text in the sacred documents themselves, not the belief in supernatural beings.When I read the NIV New Testament this last April I was astonished at what I found. Paul’s admonitions against women and homosexuals are in very clear text. In just as clear text he sanctions slavery in three separate letters (slaves be obedient to your masters as all authority comes from God). The text about the Jews responsibility for Jesus’ crucifiction is fairly clear as well. And this is just the New Testament! All of these ancient sacred texts seem to have this type of language. I understand the Koran, Torah and Bagavahdgita to have it also.Not all believers (in fact rather few) are the sophisticated thinkers Mr. Meachum represents. To most, if its in the Bible its true. And even more so given the clarity of the passages. To argue against the source of the problem being one of superstition is to either deceive by rhetorical slight of hand, or be ignorant of the actual cause itself. Just ask the Jews.

  • ANDY ROSS

    Said Soja John Thaikattil:A swamp can swallow any person unwise to walk into it, but this is hardly a strength. My understanding of Hinduism may be superficial, but I see it as hopelessly rooted in ancient tradition, such as a caste system with dalits at the bottom and people with pale skin at the top, a creation myth based on a prehistoric queen giving birth to a tide of maggots that became humans, the practice of suttee and a preference for boys over girls, and a veneration of cows and other animals that seems quite excessive. All this means it is unable to offer any help in preparing us for living in a world where the Abrahamic religions are becoming obstacles to progress and where robots will soon make many millions of people functionally obsolete in the global economy.Said Soja John Thaikattil: Science is certainly not just a left brain activity. Anyone with only half a brain would be at a serious disadvantage in a scientific career. Intuition and the other prized traits of the right cerebral hemisphere are essential to do science at anything more than a merely technical level. The best scientists are also visionaries and holistic thinkers. Equally, most artists who lost the functional capabilities traditionally associated with the left cerebral hemisphere would quickly cease to be good artists. For example, imagine a writer who lost all use of the patches of left-brain neocortex known as Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas. But the deeper point I want to make is independent of this. Science is the perfect tool to “measure and quantify” not only music and other arts but also religion because science just is the business of measuring and quantifying natural phenomena in all their variety. Scientists already get very involved with music via the science of acoustics and with visual art via computer graphics. Conversely, a religion without the exact methods characteristic of science is just a fuzzy comforter, a sort of psychic teddy bear, that should just back off in any showdown with science. Said Phaedrus: I think this is right. If we abstract from the emotive issue of casual sex, the issue can be compared with laws mandating the fitting of safety features in cars, which arguably encourage dangerous driving by reducing its risks. In both cases, as I see it, an important issue is net cost to the taxpayer. Medical and other bills for treating cancer patients or road accident victims tend to be paid by all of us in our insurance premiums, and we have a right to mandate any preventive steps that improve the statistics, reduce net costs, and leave human freedom and dignity intact.

  • DuckPhup

    A few people have invoked art and music as somehow being relevant to this discussion. Although no one has mentioned it, these references call to mind of a contrversial work of art that appeared a while back, and stirred up a huge controversy…. ‘Piss Christ’. A more sophisticated version of that kind of art appeared a few years later… and it was very revealing. It was a combination sculpture/picture, made primarily out of elephant dung, and titled “The Virgin Mary.” National outrage ensued… people lobbied to discontinue funding for the NEA… the artist’s life was threatened… demonstrations were held… it went on for weeks. Nobody got killed, though.But nobody got it.Insofar as art goes, it was not very good… it looked like it could have been made by a 6th-grader. And considering that it was made out of elephant dung, it certainly could not be expected to have a very long shelf-life. So… why was it art?Well, one of the primary objectives of ANY work of art is to emotionally involve the viewer… to make the viewer a participant in the ‘art’ experience. In that regard, this particular work was one of the most wildly successful works of art in history.But still, nobody gets it.Here’s the secret… the ‘art’ was in the NAME of the work. If it had been named “Mrs. Smith”, or something like that, nobody would have cared; it just would have been a sloppily done, smelly, poor excuse for art that would have lasted for a few days, and then vanished from sight and from memory. However, as ‘The Virgin Mary’, it still elicits an emotional response to this day… even among people who never even saw it… YEARS after it was relegated to the dumpster.The artist ought to make another one, and title it ‘The Prophet Mohammed’, and see what happens. Now THAT would be ‘art’.

  • Richard Morgan

    Hi, Jon,Just read your piece “Believing in the unseen etc” on the Richard dawkins site.I thought I’d drop you a line, because I’ve noticed that you’re still using the Sleepitov Sermonizer 1.2. Can I suggest that you prayer-load the Sermonizer 2.0 which has some great new features? (You can get it free at Richard.

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  • Mistifica

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  • Patricia

    faith is sometimes difficult to understand, hence sometimes we think that God is not even there at times. i use to ask numerous questions about why things happen, recently my life went into shambles and i lost faith in not only God but also in many other elements of life. I came home and even decided that life is no longer important, something different happened i got home and picked up the bible decided to go thru different readings, i came across a certain one, it gave me the answers to my life, especially for what is happening.God and the unseen are there, we just cant stop for a minute to listen to the silence and what is really there.Sometimes we should listen to the silence you will be surprised with what is being said.