Arguing Identity: Race, Religion and Beyond

Buried in the typical bile on the comment board of my last column is an interesting thread about the nature … Continued

Buried in the typical bile on the comment board of my last column is an interesting thread about the nature of identity.

To summarize, I stated that Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris had gone beyond the pale in their sweeping demonization of religious people, and wondered aloud whether their approach could potentially qualify as hate speech. To illustrate, I suggested substituting racial or ethnic categories for the religion references in their writing, and pointed out that we would never let anybody get away with making broad negative generalizations about blacks or Indians, so why is it okay to do it about Muslims, Christians or Jews?

The thread on the comment board is that racial and ethnic identity are qualitatively different than religious identity because race and ethnicity are inherited whereas religion is chosen.

I’m not sure it’s that simple.

Consider Horace Kallen’s famous statement about identity from the early 20th Century: “Men may change their clothes, their politics, their wives, their religions, their philosophies…they cannot change their grandfathers.”

It seems at first blush to support the point that my critics make. Religion is like clothes or politics, and unlike race or ethnicity, easily changeable.

But then Kallen goes on: “Jews or Poles or Anglo-Saxons, in order to cease being Jews or Poles or Anglo-Saxons, would have to cease to be.”

Why does Kallen suggest in one sentence that it is easy to change your religion (Judaism), and in the next sentence that being a Jew is a matter of ancestry and heritage, no matter what your spiritual beliefs may be?

The people who say that religious identity is different from other identities because it is based on a choice are making two mistakes: they are suggesting that other identities are not based on some degree of choice (or ‘social construction’, as sociologists like to say), and they are reducing religious identity only to a belief system (and beliefs, they claim, are chosen).

The truth is that all identities are hugely complex. Just because race has a physical dimension does not make it simpler to understand, and it does not mean there is no choice involved. Barack Obama and Tiger Woods have similar skin color. But Obama, son of a black Kenyan father and white Kansas mother, chooses to call himself an African-American. Woods – whose mother is Thai, Chinese and Dutch, and whose late father (a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army) was African-American, Chinese and Native American – highlights his mixed ancestry, calling himself a ‘Cablinasian’.

Or consider the main character in Philip Roth’s novel The Human Stain, a white Classics professor forced to leave his post because of a perceived racist slur. Except that it turns out that he is actually black and has chosen to pass for white his whole life.

The term “race” has at least as much to do with how an individual with a particular skin color chooses to engage the community and history of people with a similar skin color as it has to do with the physical fact of that skin color itself.

Religious identity is equally if not more complex than race. But, as Kallen suggests, it is certainly about far more than a belief system. The Jew that Kallen describes may well have become an atheist. He may also have rejected the matrilineal notion of Jewish identity. But if his grandfather was a Jew, than he will likely understand himself as a Jew also, and his fellow citizens will most probably see him the same way.

My favorite thinker in the area of religious identity is the great scholar and theologian Wilfred Cantwell Smith. Smith suggested that we view what we commonly call religions as “cumulative historical traditions” that have multiple dimensions. These include certainly beliefs and dogmas, but also philosophy, art, heroes, community, etc – aspects that religion shares with identity groups defined by race or ethnicity. Christianity is not just the Bible, but also the architecture of European Cathedrals and the social justice movement of Martin Luther King Jr.

What we call “religious identity” is really the relationship between the individual who calls herself “Christian” and the various aspects of the cumulative historical tradition that we call “religion”. Some people will emphasize the beliefs, others the community. There are secular Jews, cultural Muslims and nominal Catholics who are strong supporters of causes associated with their religious community (Israel, the Palestinians, etc), but not particularly devout or ritualistic. The reverse is true as well – highly devout believers who think little about the others in their identity group.

To call oneself a Jew, a Muslim or a Catholic simply means that you have chosen to enter a big tent with millions of other people who call themselves the same. It says nothing about which circle you stand in inside that tent.

There are raging debates happening between different circles within every “identity tent” – race, religion, ethnicity, etc. Arguments between people who emphasize community vs those who emphasize creed, between people with orthodox views on central texts and those with new interpretations.

Religious communities around the world are going through a profound transformation. Their tents are full of heated debate, not least between the pluralists and the totalitarians within each community.

It’s a shame, considering the complexity and importance of these debates and the fact that they involve billions of people, that the only goal that the aggressive atheists have for the tent of religion is to burn it down.

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  • Jim

    Regardless of the dimension of religion, community or creed or some mix, they all suffer from the fact that they can never provide a reasoned foundation for decision-making, and more often than not they are used as justification for terrible decisions. I see nothing in Mr. Patel’s commentary to suggest otherwise.

  • Chip

    Craig writes “It would be pretty clear to any 5 year old that the dialogue has degenerated into petty name calling and worse.”That’s true of any online forum about any subject anywhere. It’s simply a fact of human nature and has nothing whatsoever to do with any specific quality of atheists. To assert that it is something specific to atheists as Mr. Patel is doing is simply disingenuous and speaks of the very same myopia he’s complaining about. To wit, he admits that there are raging debates within specific religious identities about ideological or scriptural positions but seems to imply that if anyone outside of the tribe engages in the argument then suddenly it’s tantamount to racism. Biases are like accents. you hear everyone’s but your own.

  • cochino

    Turn about is fair play.

  • leena

    “Men may change their clothes, their politics, their wives, their religions, their philosophies…they cannot change their grandfathers.” Perhaps in his next post Eboo will share the history of his grandfathers in India. How many generations back did one of his grandfathers convert to Islam. Was it a willing conversion or was it forced as were so many in India? Was his ancestral conversion for faith or survival?

  • Ram , India

    The best purpose of religion is that it gives a feeling of commune to individual in his infancy of mind, beyond certain level of psychological consciousness mind does not need religion then again every individual cannot reach that level of consciouness. For such individuals religion is certainly necessary to survive. Nothing godly abot religion but its an indicator that shows that most humans mortgage their thinking n close their minds.jai hind

  • Freethinking Agnostic

    We’re too quick to dismiss the ideas of people who burned witches at the stake, Crusaded one religion against another resulting in the deaths of millions over the Semantics of their various beliefs, those who used their religion to justify Colonialism…we’re too quick to dismiss the ideas of people who believe that every word of a 2000 year old work of fiction is truth? How much time do we need to give these failed ideas and defense of religious authority no matter the source? Science, logic and reason have proved that no god or gods exist. It is up to us, to protect and expand the ideals of freedom, knowledge and equality, not to pray for them.

  • Mike

    Certainly, the most aggressive proponents of any viewpoint deserve critical analysis of their statements.But I have to wonder about the last sentence of this post:Is this any different than the perspective of religious fundamentalists or evangelicals who, to continue this metaphor, aggressively assert that we should all be under the same tent, in the same circle? Or the notion that even if one doesn’t join them there, that everyone should be governed by laws which reflect their narrow interpretation of morality?As an agnostic/atheist I certainly don’t support either fundamentalists or atheists who believe they possess the only true knowledge of how to govern. However, I am convinced that when it comes to governing a pluralistic society, atheists who remove invocation of religion from public discourse on how to have the right idea. (Note that this is not the same as saying that religious people should not publicly express their beliefs; it only means that such beliefs should remain personal and should not enter the decision-making of government).

  • Invincible

    Aww. Do the poor “billions” of adherents to various human mythologies feel insulted by the big mean atheists? That’s an awful shame. Too bad you can’t irritate the atheists by telling them they are damned to eternal hellfire, since they’ll just (continue to) laugh at you.If people — be they “billions” or millions or thousands — continue to believe in supernatural, omnipotent sky faeries and strive for public recognition of their imaginary deity(ies), and justify their public policy initiatives based on mythological books that they insist upon believing literally, then they deserve to be on the receiving end of scorn and ridicule.

  • MB

    Kind of like the faithful that declare that you can’t have high moral values without being religious (e.g. Mitt Romney et al.) I’ll ease up when the Big Tent includes Atheists and Agnostics.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    I mainly know about Christianity, but what I say fits other relgions, as well. Conservative Christianity, at least, has a mean streak of bigotry and intolerance entrenched in it. The frustration of atheists is a reaction to that. If Christians do not want to hear anti-Christian things from atheists, then they should stop regarding them so derisively, and with such smug superiroty, Individuals hate atheists because atheists appeal to their own doubts, which they wish to deny. And relgious orgnaizations regard atheisits as a political threat, that may weaken their power and wealth. To all of the religious people of the world, if you want acceptance in your personal beliefs, then you be tolerant, as well.

  • Anonymous

    The natural reaction to anything branded as “hate speech” is to stop that speech, usually by any means necessary. To call frank discussion (and sharp intellectual challenges) of religion “hate speech” is to take the first step back toward a world in which religion gets to do what it does best–giving people a reason to murder and physically attack those who don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Take your veiled threats out of this debate, and fight fair, with logical arguments.For shame!

  • Craig

    CHIP – I agree that verbal attacks here (and on any other column) are not solely perpetrated by atheists. I also understand the very nature of the atheist argument (being based in fact and truth) can be very offensive to a believer, since it’s not something that is believed, but rather, known, and can be backed up with empirical evidence.However, I find it outrageously offensive when a religious person tries to convince me that my worldview is empty and soulless and I should accept whoever as my personal saviour. I expect that any religious person would find it just as offensive if I were to say their worldview is based on lies, bloodshed, and totalitarian control of humanity in the name of their god. So if I choose that path, what will result? Then am I not just as vile as religious zealots? I do not accept religious dogma, theory, or viewpoints…but I will listen to them with respect, because I expect the same. Even if that respect is never given to me, though, it does not matter. The truth is there for all to see…and the religious “tent” will collapse under the weight of it without any hurtful comments from me.Cheers,

  • Jeff

    I would take Mr. Patel’s comments more seriously if he had been just as critical of the vicious attacks on atheists, including humanists and agnostics, that have been flowing out of the mainstream religious community for many years. Overall, I find the atheists I know more compassionate and understanding and accepting of other religions that are the “religious” (so-called) Christians, Muslims and Jews. I think Mr. Patel is generalizing the hateful views of some atheists as if those views are shared by many. In fact, I think there is less tolerance, and certainly more influence, by the vast multitudes of people who adhere to the mainstream religions– they continue to institutionalize discrimination against atheists all over the world. Even in the U.S., it is not safe to reveal that one is an atheist- the discrimination is tangible and widespread.

  • frodot

    The people who make a big deal about their religiosity tend also to be grumpy or even vicious about what other people do or don’t believe. Religion ought to be practiced privately by consenting adults, and otherwise kept quiet about. Its traditions are too disgraced.

  • echidna1

    Mr. Patel, I liked very much your quote from Smith. It describes for me the reality of religion experienced in community – people gathering for a variety of reasons based on many impulses: some reasoned, some emotional, some expressed, some not. I’ve for some time thought that the story of Jacob getting the name Israel (“he who struggles with God”), after the nighttime tussle with God/his conscience before meeting the brother he wronged, showed that the name Israel was a descriptor for faith/morality/goodness strugglers everywhere. I’d suggest we’re all “children of Israel” in this non-lineage sense – atheist, theist, or blogger – though it depends on how and why you appropriate the label. And fighting over labels, of whatever, seems to be where our civility breaks down so often.

  • John in Mpls

    I am an atheist, and I am at times appalled by what I see as a lack of reason in the world. I often dismiss religious points of view as being based on ignorance or fear. I have been known at times to have lower opinions of people who are religious.I have read much of Harris and Hitchens, and I do tend to agree with their points of view.That being said, I agree with Mr. Patel’s sentiment here, and I think he makes a cogent, well-reasoned argument. I also feel that Mr. Harris and Mr. Hitchens, as well as some posters here, do themselves and atheism a disservice by denigrating not the belief, but the believer. I have had my morality questioned and my soul cast into eternal flame by well-inentioned people whose belief I dismiss. I choose not to respond in kind.

  • ashkenazi

    Simple. The notion that “Jewish” is both a religion and an ethnicity is totally incorrect even though many Jews would still make that mistake. The original Jews of Israel spread out in the Diaspora in herds. The vast majority of modern Jews wending their way across Europe landing in Eastern Europe in the 19th century and then migrating en masse to the US or Israel in the 20th Century. This group is ethnically described as Ashkenazi and is ethnically a mix of ancient middle eastern blood with various European groups. Saying “Jewish” to mean “Ashkenazi” is a shorthand most of us have adopted, but it is a misnomer. Ask a Sephardi, Sabra or Bukharan Jew if you don’t believe me. If you ask me, I am Ashkenazi and not Jewish. Problem solved. I grew up with some cultural pressure to identify as Jewish, but I outgrew it like a child outgrows the need for Santa Claus.

  • Curious

    Mr. Patel,You can’t be serious! After reading the posts for your last column this is the column you came up with? Calling comments made by atheists bile? I haven’t been reading your column for that long, but for some reason I expected more from you.”Why does Kallen suggest in one sentence that it is easy to change your religion (Judaism), and in the next sentence that being a Jew is a matter of ancestry and heritage, no matter what your spiritual beliefs may be?”This is because judaism is the only religion that considers itself a race. I would like to ask you the question, in your family how many grandfathers ago converted your family to Islam? As an Indian hindu, I know that your family was forced to convert one way or the other from another religion.

  • Freestinker

    Anon writes:”I believe very view people choose their religion.Religion is usually thrust upon us when we are too young to understand or resist.Very few of us are able to stand back and see that our religion is silly,not just because others of different religions are as sure as I was that my religion was the one true religion,but because religion makes no sense if one really thinks about it. Its all in the mind.And its all put there when we are infants.And most of us are stuck with it for life.So you chose your religion! True it might have been painful due to religious brainwashing as a child but for all adults, religion is always a choice.

  • Sy. Q

    My 2 cents:Say a man is in the religion of football. Football is a religion with a billion adherents, many of whom are born into, and also to which many convert. Lets say the hypothetical man went into this religion because he thought it gave him discipline and that the vast majority of the others went into it for other and/or the same reasons. We could also say that throughout history this religion had been politicized used to justify many acts of abuse and murder. Would it still be right to claim this religious tradition as worthless and continually bash it? This is a bit convoluted, as I could have just plugged in any modern Abrahamic religion, but the point is the same. Atheists are quick to point out that religion is part of many if not all of the history of the world’s conflicts, and that, as a believer I can concede. However, I ask if there was no religion, do you not think some other excuse would be made for said conflicts? If you look deeper at many of the conflicts in world’s history, there are far more compelling reasons to have engaged in them: economic, political, racial superiority, etc. It is a vast and gross oversimplification to state that religion is a root of all evil in this society as it certainly seems Harris and Hitchens and their like claim to do. Can you say that religion can bring out the worst in human nature? Of course, but there are a million things that bring out the worst in human nature: poverty, disease, etc. many of which are just as if not more so culpable for many of the worst problems of human history. I, nor Eboo, as many suggest, is trying to muzzle criticism of religion or any critical perspective of religious history, but religion is only one thread in the complex makeup of human history, and to oversimplify religion as the greatest evil of human history is simply illogical. I am not some ardent anti-atheist, I have liked most of the atheists even better than many of the co-theists in my life as I have found them more tolerant, more understanding, and in some ways more kind than co-theists, although I am sure there are many who are not: it does not make atheism a vilifiable choice.

  • Jeremy

    I believe that Mr. Patel would do well to juxtapose the writings of Hitchens and Harris with the poisonous rhetoric that has emanated from all major religions: be it orthodox jews, orientalist catholics, or extremist muslims. Just as these extremists do not speak for the broader religious community, or “the tent” as he puts it, these atheist authors do not speak for the entire atheist community. Let me be clear, I have NO RESPECT for organized religion whatsoever, but I do respect any human being who while embracing the dogma of his/her choice still remains respectful of others. I feel that the author of this article, though harboring a good intention of defending his and others faiths, has become grossly hypocritical in assigning the views of a few prominent atheists, to the community of the many. Shame on you for making the very mistake that you have attempted to castigate

  • A. Kafir

    Ashkenazi,You are correct about the short hand for the short hand for “jewish” ethnicity. However, there is no getting around that the common usage of jewish. I imagine, eventually the the black jews of ethopia, the lost tribe certified as jewish of North East India, and the occasional jew in china will all eventually lay claim to the heritage of being jewish and not a jew. In all seriousness, I know mizrahi jews, recently from Bombay, who are atheists, and they refer themselves as “jewish”, and they do not think much of the Ashkenazi humor made popular in hollywood. Their sense of humor apparently bypasses yiddish completely. However, they do seem to enjoy bollywood glitz which I have never understood.

  • rbe1

    I think that the aggressivness would diminish somewhat if and when religious groups ceased attempting to portray religious dogma as a form of science, and thereby ceased attempting to inject religion into the teaching of science in our schools.

  • What is your Cultural Identity?

    Typical Bile??Your analysis using the terms race, religion and culture is deceptive. We all know your religion is Islam? Do you know your great-great -great grandfather’s religion? Are you sure that he was not a Hindu? The genetic make-up of majority of muslims in India is Indian meaning their ancestors followed one of the Hindu religious practices. And what about your great-great-great grandmother? In the muslim population of India, some of the paternal DNA can be traced to middle-east while almost the entire maternal DNA is Indian. So even if your paternal lineage may have come from middle east, your maternal lineage is almost certainly Indian. Was change of religion on your maternal lineage an act of faith? Or in typical misogynistic Islamic fashion, all you think of is your grandfathers but not the grandmothers?I was amazed by your totally unsupported assertion that the so-called aggressive atheists have a goal of burning down religion. Historically, and even today, the goal of Islam (and in the past of Christianity, no longer) has been to burn down other religions. Don’t accuse the atheists of harboring intentions that your people of your faith actively harbor today. Remember, the punishment for apostacy is death according to Allah. So please ask your Allah to show some tolerence on the non-believers first.

  • B.C.

    Poor Patel seems to think that the introduction of confusion is its own argumentative improvement. Alas….When someone is accused of racial hate speech, the question whether he is guilty as charged has nothing to do with the nuances of self-identity, and everything to do with the unreflective simplicities of bigotry. The very charge implies a level of thoughtlessness in the accused, and this is the primary reason that Patel’s initial comparison is not only off base, but rather depraved, because it implies, not only that people like Hitchens have superficial views of religion (they don’t–or better whether they do or not doesn’t matter, the burden of proof not being theirs), but that religion itself is so multi-faceted that no one religious identity can really be attached to an individual with any degree of certainty–an argument that most proponents of specific religious creeds would be ashamed to make. In his attempt to defend his poor analogy, he’s insulted both believers and non-believes alike.The only, really rather slight, favor that Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett ask of people who claim to have specific religious beliefs (and this is the relevant domain, other aspects of identity to the side), is that they allow those beliefs to be subjected to the same scutiny to which we subject all our other beliefs. If someone believes, say, that the world is about six-thousand years old, they ought to be able to present their evidence. I take it that they have, and that the evidence is extremely wanting. If the belief is held, even after it has been soundly refuted, we are free to make the informed judgment that the person holds an irrational belief, and when this process is repeated often enough to the same effect in other cases, we may plausibly judge said person to be foolish.It just so happens, that because religious beliefs are usually shielded from this type of investigation, they constitute a particularly ripe field of dodgy reasoning. If a house contains one room that all occupants are forbidden to clean, we shouldn’t be amazed to find that room filthy.

  • David in Mexico

    Very interesting article. I think the issue begs the question: Is there a connection between belief and genetics?I’m an athiest but wear a crucifix, occasionally go to mass and am active in the lives several godchildren. I enjoy being part of the community but don’t believe any of the mythology. I’ve tried but I just can’t. I figure my lack of belief is a “genetic defect”. Not in the sense that anything is wrong with me but in the sense that over the history of human civilization, being believers gave populations advantages over populations of nonbelievers. Therefore, believers survived and dominated. History seems to provide much circumstantial evidence for this hypothesis. I need to look no further then my home country of Mexico where the Roman Catholic church is still dominant. In general, Mexicans are a mix of Spanish genes and pre-Columbian American genes. When the Spanish arrived in Mexico there was a great clash of cultures between the multi theism of the pagan natives and the Catholicism of the Spanish conquistadors. Catholicism won. Obviously, among the native populations, the ones who survived the conquest were the ones that could adapt to the new conditions (Catholicism). This “not so natural” selection favored not only believers but believers who could easily change their system of belief. Today, Mexico is fertile ground for all kinds of spiritual missionaries not only Evangelical Christians but all kinds of eastern and new age philosophies are growing rapidly here. Mexicans seem to be predisposed to believing any or all of these. Coincidence?This is of course, pure conjecture. I have no training in genetics and I’m sure that if a connection exists between genes and faith, it is very complex and is influenced by social, cultural and other factors as well. But you have to admit that it seems like a reasonable hypothesis.

  • Jeff P

    Sy. Q: I liked your comment. Thank you, and I too believe that there will never be a shortage of things/economic inequalities/other reasons for human beings not to get along with one another. Tribalism seems to be a built-in, even protective mechanism that has come through the genes over the generations.No, certainly religious influence is only one of many (but we are discussing this in light of Mr. Patel’s claims and within an “On Faith” forum..)influences that divide us.What I like about the writings of the “new atheists” is their willingness to point out very specifically where harm is done indeed in the name of religion acting unilaterally, as a independent force.RBE1 makes a good point where I think it could literally doom us as a scientific community and how it could influence countless millions of our children to look upon scientific endeavors with scorn and distrust. How can we afford to lose even 1 IQ percentage point with regard to our scientific base and knowledge? Where does that leave us with places like the “Discovery Institute,” the creationist museums that are popping up like dandelions over the fields of America, and the legal battles that happen over the teaching of evolution in our classrooms? Is the correct answer just “well, home school them and teach them what you want them to learn…?” Is that the solution? In Texas, there’s legislation (and guess what chance it has of passing here…) where an institution wants to be able to offer on-line creationist biology degrees and the like–allow people to be “credentialed” with MS and PhDs in these “fields” and equalize the playing field in academia?It truly scares me.

  • Chuck

    I agree, in part, with those who suggest (in so many words) that adherents to religious doctrine have been “dishing it out” for centuries and, thus, should now be prepared to “take it”. However, I will simply add that, if atheists now feel justified and emboldened to attack and belittle people of faith, they are also validating the behavior and have no standing to suggest that they themselves should be not be attacked and belittled. If the behavior is wrong, it’s wrong regardless of the perpetrator. And as an additional caveat, I will mention that there are many, MANY more people of faith than there are atheists so, if push comes to shove, I suspect that atheists could ultimately find themselves on the receiving end of even greater attacks than they have known of late. I’m not suggesting that such attacks would be justified. I’m simply saying that, there may be unintended (and undesirable) consequences for those who, right now, are feeling so emboldened.

  • curious

    I don’t understand how people have posted claims that it has been PROVEN no deity exists. It is simply not possible to prove this assertion, nearly as impossible as proving the existing of a deity. You are taking the existence, or lack thereof, of a deity on faith, reasoned or not. it is not possible to scientifically test and prove the hypothesis either way.

  • artistkvip

    i like your articles…

  • Mr Mark

    Is it just me, or does today’s Patel column have you yearning for the comfort and security of the old, “I may have lost this battle, but you’ll get yours in the afterlife” arguments of the “old religionists?”;)

  • Mr Mark

    Dear ARTISTKVIP -Wow. I don’t know who you believe will take the time and energy to wade through the non-punctuated mess you just posted, but it sure as hell isn’t me.

  • Gary Davenport

    Are the atheists you are writing about actively involved in any tangible oppression of religous groups by the use of “hate speech”? I think not. Does hate speech not imply overt or covert threats? I think that you would be hard pressed to find in their arguments the sort of menacing speech nececessary to label them as hate speech.

  • Liar, Damned Liar, and Statistician

    Mr. Patel writes:As opposed to many occupants of that tent who wish to burn the actual atheists, as well as each other?

  • bob

    He didn’t suggest that it was “easy” to change your religion. He pointed it out that it is possible.Big difference.

  • Chris Everett

    Eboo writes “the dialogue has degenerated into petty name calling.”That’s just what religionists and religious apologists like yourself fear most – people who call religion by its name.SUPERSTITION!

  • A. Kafir

    Eboo,Cultral Muslims are apostates of Islam. Ibn Warraq, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Abul Kassaam, Irfan Khawaja, Wafa Sultan, are all cultral muslims. The Muslims do not allow anyone in the big tent who does not accept that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is Allah’s prophet to start with. Then you want to deny the sever sectarianism in Islam where muslim are not even willing to accept other muslims in their tent. Bahai’s wanted to be in the tent and they were dumped out unceremoniously and many were killed and are still being killed in Iran. Ahmeddiyas wanted to be in the tent and they were ejected and have been facing the wrath of the “true” muslims. You wrote about Hajj. Ahmeddiyas who say they believe in Allah, and they accept that Muhammad was Allah’s prophet but they still are not allowed into mecca or medinah. Pakistan puts on their passports under their religion as Ahmeddiya and not islam. Eboo you cannot muddle the facts by trying to create new races of Catholic, Protestent, Muslim, Hindus, etc.

  • A. Kafir

    What is your Cultral Identity writes: “Do you know your great-great -great grandfather’s religion? Are you sure that he was not a Hindu?”Eboo “PATEL” is obviously a Gujrati Ismaili Muslim. Their conversion to Islam is a story in its own right and quite funny. They were not converted by force, but by deception and in stages. Eboo’s ancestors were hindus and they accepted a few “Pirs” (saints, holy men?) who were running from persecution by the true muslims from Iran. These guys were coming just as the Zorastrians of iran fled from Islamic barbarity to find refuge in Gujrat. Here is a bit of the background of the Indian Ismailis off the net:This literature, which is known as Sat Panth (True Path), consists of ginans or gnans, religious poems composed in, or translated into, several Indian languages and meant to be sung to specific melodies in worship. Most of them are attributed to the early pirs but cannot be dated accurately and may have undergone substantial changes in the transmission. They include hymns, religious and moral exhortation, and legendary history of the pirs and their miracles, but contain no creed or theology. Islamic and Hindu beliefs, especially popular Tantric ones, are freely mixed. While idol worship is rejected, Hindu mythology is accepted. Ali is considered the tenth avatar (incarnation of the deity), and the imams are identical with him….”The majority of muslims do not consider the Agha Khanis as muslim. They are barely tolerated largely because of the diplomacy of Agha Khan and their policy of lying low and avoiding trouble. However recently the young Ismailis are reading Islam on the net and rejecting the ancestral blend with hinduism and moving more towards the arabized traditional Islam (saudi petro dollars help).

  • Craig

    I actually wrote this (I’m atheist) – “the dialogue has degenerated into petty name calling.”, not Mr. Patel.Cheers,

  • Steve

    You’re part of the religious intolerance problem in America.No non-believers want to “burn down” religion. That’s a lie: most non-believers don’t care AT ALL what other people do, including worshiping a supernatural deity. What we *don’t* want is anyone’s individual views of religion to be forced down *our* throats. We don’t want religious superstition used as an excuse to force pregnant women to give birth, whether we want to or not. We don’t want a religious test for political office, as there is de facto at this time in the U.S.We can’t stand idiots like Mike Huckabee, who wants to remake the Constitution to “fit with the Bible.”Baloney. Worship as you please, but shut the hell up about it to other folks, and don’t pretend as if you’re superior for some reason.If most of America is Christian, then most crimes in this country are perpetrated by Christians.Be humble. Your own bible tells you so. Judge not. That’s all the publicly loud Christian fanatics do. Mind your own business.And quit lying about what non-believers think about religion. I haven’t heard a single person call for banning religion – or “burning it down,” either.What a divisive lie, typical of the religously deranged.Protected class, my butt. Unprovable religious myth can’t protected. I’ll rip the goofiness in the dogma of most religions for the rest of my life, and enjoy that it irritates the hell out of religious liars like you.

  • Craig

    To echo the sentiment posted earlier by What Is Your Cultural Identity…Mr. Patel, I have never seen you post here. I would be extremely interested to see your responses to some of these posts.Thanks,

  • Chris Everett

    Eboo, you found bile?If i’m not mistaken, bile is a form of biological detergent used to break down otherwise indigestible globules of fat.If your essays stimulate the production of bile, I’m sure there’s a good reason for it.

  • Jeff P

    Chuck, I meant to comment on your post as well, (and then I’ll shut up.)By far the most dangerous thing to a religious person is another, different, zealous religious person. There is no “people of faith versus non-believer” battle out there. Look at the wars in the world, currently. Faith is too diverse, although the politicians would have some believe that it’s categorically easy to label everyone in that picture, which would be insulting to me if I were still a believer.Freethinkers have been thriving throughout all of human history, and where they haven’t been repressed, have given humanity progress in the arts, sciences, and philosophies. Where they were repressed, they moved along (around the Mediterranean) and enlightened the cultures where they were accepted.I believe (as you do) that bad behavior is bad behavior, but disagreement will thrive, and should, in regard to the claims made by the religious. If a belief system cannot accommodate a secular, rational-thought, humanistic existence where the expressions of free speech and of democracy are valued, and freethought is possible, then yes a battle should ensue. I’d not be surprised that a number of the religious folks would fight that war on the side of a secular society and those feeling “emboldened.” Unfortunately the time regarding “response” is at hand. I don’t believe it’s as “tit for tat” as you suggest in your post, but instead where people see decisions made for the majority of people based on the belief-systems of an outspoken few, then the “emboldened” will start to be heard. And the only way I see a threat that freethinkers should be worried would be if our society should became a controlling theocracy. But then, we should all be worried about that.

  • jesuguru

    Eboo has a point…Certain athiest(s): “Religion poisons EVERYTHING”Barak Obama: “Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King — the majority of great reformers in American history — were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public-policy debates is a practical absurdity.”Not all athiests are as ascerbic as that, and religions/religious individuals have plenty of poor examples. But both sides could use less stereotyping and more civility. Neither side has the moral right to be condescending, insulting, and dismissive offhand of the integrity of the others’ pursuit of truth.

  • jesuguru

    Eboo has a point…Certain athiest(s): “Religion poisons EVERYTHING”Barak Obama: “Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King — the majority of great reformers in American history — were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their ‘personal morality’ into public-policy debates is a practical absurdity.”Not all athiests are as ascerbic as that, and religions/religious individuals have plenty of poor examples. But both sides could use less stereotyping and more civility. Neither side has the moral right to be condescending, insulting, and dismissive offhand of the integrity of the others’ pursuit of truth.

  • Chris Everett

    Gareth Harris: You might be interested in “Superstition in All Ages (Common Sense)” by Jean Meslier. He was a French parish priest in the seventeenth century who went into seminary for an education and to please his parents, but was an atheist. He was amazed and horrified by the hypocracy of religion, so he secretly wrote this book (Common Sense was his title). The book was discovered after his death and ultimately published by Voltaire under its current name. It’s a totally unique masterpiece of atheist analysis from that era.

  • John

    Mr Patel,Hitchens’ “hate speech” was his stated loss of respect for an adult if he heard them say something like “I will pray for you”. That’s not different in kind (though it is in severity), for Mr Hitchens I presume, or for me, than losing respect for an adult if they said (with a straight face) “That’s OK, we’ll write Santa Claus at the North Pole and see if he can’t bring you a new one for Christmas.” In both cases, it’s not identity or heritage that causes a loss of respect for a person’s faculties, but rather their spoken words and ridiculous beliefs. In the movie Boogie Nights, Don Cheadle’s character responds to seeing a card trick with a comment like “doesn’t it scare you when you’re summoning those evil spirits?” This amusing line was to establish that the character, while decent as a person, was very gullible and, frankly, stupid. Perhaps the movie’s audience was bigoted to laugh at this, and instead should’ve been very respectful of this character’s religious views about evil spirits and card tricks.Your current blog post is an attempt to justify the position of the previous blog post – that’s it’s somehow bigotry for atheists to judge or speak ill of people based on religious beliefs, just as it would be if based on race. As was pointed out by many replying to your previous blog, this is completely mistaken, as beliefs are chosen, while race is not. In this post, you’ve tied to duck this obvious error by obfuscating the issues of race and religion. You seem to argue that race is more than skin color, it’s a social construct and identity characteristic; and to some degree a matter of choice. Likewise (if somewhat contradictorily) you argue that religion is more than a belief system, it is also an identity characteristic, and to some degree is not a matter of choice. As you correctly say, these issues are hugely complex. They are also irrelevant; they are red herrings for this question. Hitchens’ comment was not about someone’s religious heritage, or raised cultural religious identity – it was about their openly stated beliefs. As you cite Kallen, religion “is certainly about far more than a belief system”. But the stuff that is “more than a belief system” is not what Hitchens was referring to. His comment here was about beliefs. Hitchens has no complaint with a belief-based atheist who is by culture or heritage a Muslim, Hindu, Christian, or Jew. His complaint, his “hate speech” as you suggested, was from his contempt for ridiculous beliefs – not heritage or culture or identity, but belief.One can maintain religious identity while modifying one’s beliefs. This might lead to some religious debates, but those theological arguments would still take place within the same religion. I’m sure there are many devout Christians who deny the young earth claim, even though their other family members believe otherwise. That might lead to debates, even arguments, but it doesn’t mean that they’ve lost their identities and heritage as Christians. Elaborating on this in detail would run afoul of the huge complexity on issues of identity, but the essential point still stands – they would still be Christians by culture, heritage, and identity, after varying from their parents specific theological positions. As you point out, religion “is certainly about far more than a belief system.” So there is no avoiding responsibility for one’s beliefs based on an appeal to identity and religious heritage – and it’s your argument that establishes this.What is troubling about your post is that you seem to be attempting to absolve individuals from responsibilities for their beliefs. You seem to be arguing there is no personal accountability for a person’s beliefs so long as they raise some religious identity flag. “It’s not me who believes this, it’s my religion – leave me alone. I couldn’t help what religion I was born into – I’m helpless and it’s not my fault.” I don’t think I need to go into detail saying what’s wrong with this post-modern viewpoint. In fact, I suspect you don’t believe it yourself – it was just the only argument you could find to cover your previous blog’s mistaken position.Rather than trying to undermine the importance of personal accountability for beliefs, your ultimate goal would’ve been better served by demanding greater respect for it. I infer that your goal in your past two blog posts was to challenge what you see as religious bigotry by some atheists like Hitchens and Harris. I (an atheist) actually agree with you, but for different reasons than your failed defense in this post. You were on the right track, and I fully agreed with you, when, in your previous blog entry, you took issue with these atheists lumping all in a given religion together, no matter how mild or fanatical the beliefs within that religion were. Your argument would’ve been better had you said “If Hitchens and Harris really accept that it’s appropriate to disparage religious beliefs based on their evaluation of the content of those beliefs as absurd, then how can they remain consistent when they then castigate an entire religion in all its manifestations, knowing the huge variation in beliefs and rationality of the beliefs that exist within the same religion?” As an atheist, I believe Unitarians are wrong, but I believe that most Evangelicals are not only wrong, but also warrant a loss of respect and confidence in their intelligence, judgement, veracity, and perhaps emotional stability. Both groups are Christians, yet I judge them very differently because I hold people accountable for their beliefs, and when those beliefs are ridiculous – ridiculous sometimes to the point of questionable sanity – then I judge the person holding them accordingly.In particular, some of Hitchens’ tirades against Islam have been grotesque. He repeatedly attacks the whole religion, knowing full well the huge variation within its one billion adherents. By all means, take him, and Harris, to task for this obscene willful blindness – the pretending that one can speak meaningfully, and with stern judgement, about any of the great world religions while ignoring the massive variations in the followers’ intensity and types of beliefs.Regarding your “Buried in the typical bile” comment, I’ve often wondered if you and the other bloggers here get depressed to see your efforts at well written thoughtful analysis and commentary met with so many hateful and idiotic replies. I hope not. Even when I disagree, I appreciate your efforts and hope you continue with your blog.

  • M Miller

    My answer to “Anti-Religious Judgment” is “Religious Judgment”. Same thing.

  • Fred Evil

    Eboo, you made a good argument, but it had a fatal flaw. That flaw was quickly identified and pointed out to you. Instead of agreeing that your argument was flawed, you have rushed to save a broken analogy.It doesn’t work.If you’re brainwashed from day one that green is red, and red is green, at what age will you admit your understanding is flawed? Or will you go to your grave insisting others have it wrong….? Better yet, is red really green? Or is it actually BLUE?

  • Edward R. Joell

    I did not see any of the previous articles in your series nor did I see any of the commentary on your article. However the points you raise in your article concerning the complexitiy of religious identity seem to me to be hitting the mark in some respects and missing the boat in others. First, I would like to say that although I did not read the article by Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, any statement attributing all members of a group with certain characteristics amount to an expression of prejudice. If this expression of prejudice is intended to provide a rationale for actions against the group as a whole then yes I and any rational person would consider it hate speech. However that is different than maintaining that religion is something you are born with, and will always be with you. Religion is a matter of choice and how you express you religion is also a matter of choice. Just because you are a fundamentalist Baptist does not necessary mean that you oppose the right of gay people to express their love by being happily married. Just because you are Jewish to not automatically mean you observe kosher, or decline to work on the Sabbath. I identify myself as a Methodist, but when my minister advocates prayer in school, I do not feel obligated to follow sheepishly along with his beliefs. Most religious people are the same, (at least in the west); we pretty much make up our own minds concerning our beliefs. And while religion is a part of a person’s identity, in many if not most cases being trained in it by his or her family, it is not an unchangable circumstance with which you are born look how many altar boys grow up to be career criminals. It seems to me that the only example that the author gives to back up his viewpoint is that of a atheist of Jewish descent. However, he fails to recognize that originaly the term “Jew” was an english corruption of the Latin word for “Judean” which was more a description of nationality than of the religion Judaism. There are many followers of Judaism now that are not of “Jewish” descent and vice versa. His term “Cultural” Muslim sounds like he is referring to someone who observes the customs of Islam but is not necessarily devote. However, it fails to realize that these customs are themselves based on the religion and following them is in fact a form of observing Islam and again your choice. Where you stand on various issues espoused by other members of your faith may or may not have anything to with you identification with that faith. There are many people who were born and raised Cahtolic who became Protestants because of the Church’s stand on abortion and others that are vehemently opposed to the Church’s stand but remained Catholic nonetheless. Again it is a matter of choice. I cannot see this as equating with a black person choosing to pass as white to escape the impact of racism, or a Gay person pretending to be straight to keep from being exposed to those that routinely discriminate against Gay people in housing, and employment, and to hide from exposure to constant ridicule and humiliation.

  • Henry James

    Stipulating that I have not an ounce of hate for Mr Patelthis is one of the most intellectually sloppy columns I have read on this site (excluding Cal Thomas and Charles Colson, of course).Other commentators have vividly outlined the failings and I won’t repeat them.I will just point out that this site is here for vigorous discussion, and often for strong disagreement.A fundamental question is whether is is justified to have Faith in a God who intervenes in human affairs and to believe that such an entity exists.It is well within the bounds of this discussion to argue that there is no justification for such a belief. Most of us who feel that way have no hate for ANY class of people.To dismiss the argument because you think Christopher Hitchens is impolite (or, fantastically, engaging in Hate Speech) is a pretty silly position to take.We atheists here, by and large, want people to deal with the question.

  • Vinay

    As I was browsing at Border’s book store, I saw an interesting Cover Page of a Magazine called FP (Foreign Policy) and the title “World Without Islam”. Of course, I salivated and almost bought the magazine. But good for me that I browsed first and saved my $7.Graham Fuller (the author) starts by saying that world would be no different today if Islam had never been invented. He said other people would be killing each other just like Muslims do today.Fuller said Middle-East would have been the same with various sects of Christianity, Jews fighting and killing each other.He also took a cheap shot at my religion-Hinduism by saying that if Islam had not been invented, Hinduism would have been ruling in Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan etc.He also said that he is not surprised why Muslims have taken to terrorism (due to Christian/Western imperialism) but why they (Muslims) did not do it earlier.But if I were to analyse Fuller’s article carefully, the bottom line is that he is indirectly saying that invention of Islam has been a waste (he said world/humanity would have been in the same place without it). And Fuller let me just add few accomplishments of Hinduism and which have immensely benefited humanity:Kamasutra, Tantric Yoga ….

  • Chagasman

    I doubt very much that “only goal that the aggressive atheists have for the tent of religion is to burn it down.” This statement should be taken with a large grain of salt, seeing as how it was written by a man who subscribes to the view that Christians are somehow being “persecuted” by atheists. This is hardly the fact. Atheists are only asking that America continue to keep religion out of politics, and that the religious respect the fact that people have the right not to have religious symbols and sayings thrust into their faces in public places, have the right to demand that they not be forced to pay taxes to support religious institutions, have the right to demand that public institutions such as schools and court rooms be religiously neutral, in effect to keep religion out, so that no religion is placed above any other religion. However, Christians in particular seem to think that these requests are “persecution” because it prevents them from public displays of religion. It seems to me that athesists may have good reason to speak their mind, they think, with good reason, that religion is a major cause of suffering, cruelty, and conflict in the world. If they also think that belief in religion is belief in a fairy tale, well they are entitled to their opinions, just as religious people are entitled to believe that the atheist is going to hell. If you keep your religion or lack of it to yourself then no one is offended. If you go around trying to get other people to agree with you by means other than gentle persuasion (in other words, by force of law, in injection into politics, or by other means), then you will offend many.

  • Ned Farrar

    You ask: “Why does Kallen suggest in one sentence that it is easy to change your religion (Judaism), and in the next sentence that being a Jew is a matter of ancestry and heritage, no matter what your spiritual beliefs may be?”Well, the answer is that being a Jew has a double meaning – it is both a religion and a people. Spinoza, for example was issued the writ of cherem by the Jewish community of Amsterdam (essentially an excommunication) for his atheistic views and yet is still referred to as a Jewish philosopher. Perhaps most importantly, the history of anti-Semitism makes it clear that visceral hatred of the Jews as a people owed nothing to their religion. During the Inquisition one of the major targets of the inquisitors was the population of Spanish ‘Conversos’, Jews who had converted to Catholicism, often generations previously. And of course the Nazis regarded one as a Jew – regardless of what religion one practiced – based on whether or not they could find Jewish ancestors in one’s family tree. Finally, you may even have read the sad news of Rabbi Sherman Wine’s passing last July. He was a Jew. He was a Rabbi. And he was an atheist. These things are not mutually exclusive.So Horace Kallen’s statement still holds, one can change one’s religion but not one’s grandfather. And a Jew may still be a Jew, no matter his/her religion.

  • Enemy Of The State

    RE: “It’s a shame, considering the complexity and importance of these debates and the fact that they involve billions of people, that the only goal that the aggressive atheists have for the tent of religion is to burn it down.”Perhaps atheists seem eager to burn the tent down because we’re treated like pariahs, told constantly that we’re going to hell, equated with devil worshippers, denied political office (try to run for dog catcher as an atheist), and generally looked upon as if we have two heads. Here’s a novel idea: Stop judging and condemning those with different beliefs and start practicing some of that Christian compassion I keep hearing so much about.Get the plank out of your own eye before you worry about the mote in your neighbor’s eye.

  • Chris Everett

    If you’re religious but had no choice, you’re pathetic (the traditional meaning – eliciting pathos). No loss of respect for you, but righteous anger at those who crippled you.If you’re religious and had a choice, you’re a foolish dunderhead. Loss of respect for you!If you’re irreligious but had no choice, you’re lucky. No feathers in your cap, but count your blessings.If you’re irreligious and had a choice, you’re clear-thinking and observant. A FULL MEASURE of respect for you!

  • Thomas Baum

    TO FREETHINKING AGNOSTIC: You wrote, ” Science, logic and reason have proved that no god or gods exist.” This is an absurd statement. They have neither proved nor disproved the existence of God or of gods. If you or anyone else would like to read, actually read and/or comment on my posting of 1-28-2008 at 12:35 PM go right ahead. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • magpie

    “Except that it turns out that he is actually black and has chosen to pass for white his whole life.”Mr. Patel,Aren’t you furthering the very notion you argue against by suggesting that a person with some black background is required to present himself as black? That if he doesn’t, he’s “passing”?A person with one black parent and one white parent has both black and white grandfathers. So, what is your point?

  • Simon called Bert

    Thomas Moses Baum;Hate to break it to you, but there is no god. I’ve been up there and looked around. There’s nobody up there. Trust me. All my love. ScB.

  • chuckmcf

    Re Harris and Hitchens going “beyond the pale.” Mr. Patel, calling nonsense “nonsense” is simply telling the truth — even if you do it in a tart-tongued way. If you want to look at what is truly “beyond the pale,” take a look at some of the language — and pictures — used historically by religion to frighten people into belief in drivel. That is really disgraceful.

  • Ash

    Eboo,Didn’t you mother ever tell you that nobody likes a whiner?

  • Anonymous

    A KAfir is a LIER

  • Bachan

    ASHYou need to correct your statement “that nobody likes a winner”

  • Jeff P

    Where to start?Religious belief, as it comprises a more prominent public voice and is becoming an instrument of public policy, should and will be properly scrutinized, evaluated, criticized, debated, and written about in harsh reality.Push the agenda, and you’ll feel us push back. I’ve read all of those authors you criticize, and see no “demonization” of believers. I’ve heard them speak, and they are polite, intelligent and considerate, unlike so many Bible-thumping preachers who are ready to rapture. Where “belief” has caused division, damage, injustice–yes it is called out.”Hate speech?” Please, give me a break. Sounds like the Dutch cartoon issue. Prove to us that various religious beliefs can be more helpful than harmful, that belief-systems are something more than mutually exclusive at their core, and how “billions of people who believe”–never mind they all believe different things entirely–is a benefit to the human race, particularly as the moderate in their belief allow their faith to be hijacked by fundamentalist zealots.Bravo to the folks in this day who have the courage to ask the question: Is religion better for the world? I say, hold their feet to the fire, let them prove their worth to society. Within the Christian faith, I’d risk an answer: the whole point of that faith is not to “conform” to “the world.” “The world” is a sinful, lustful, god-hated place. Thus, you see the dilemma–the rest of us live in that world, and only want to see it get better, fairer, with a decrease of injustice and suffering–humanism at its best.

  • TJ

    Perhaps if you addressed some of the very excellent points made by posters in your last column instead of making up an argument that only a mental midget could find convincing, people would take you, and by extension your religion, seriously.This is an extremely poor essay Eboo Patel.

  • John Stephens

    Remarkably well written and cogent.Another case in point is the Taliban’s destruction of the Buddhas. Those statues were not just religious expression, they were art, culture, and an ancient architectural heritage that belonged to the whole world. One may just as well destroy the pyramids and the sphinx because one doesn’t worship Ra. What a terrible shame.No man is an island entire of itself, but a piece of the continent, a part of the main. (Or, something like that.) It’s baffling why so many persons endeavor to find some reason to express contempt for others, if not for one reason, then another. No reason for being boorish and narrow-minded is any justification.”What is desired in a man is kindness.” [Proverbs]Killing begins where kindness ends.

  • Mr Mark

    Like political parties, religions and their gods come and go. The seemingly eternal battles for popularity between competing political parties and/or religions change with the direction of the secular winds.This isn’t true of race or gender, is it?Unless and until Mr Patel and like-minded apologists for today’s popular religions acknowledge that their religions have no more claim on truth and reality than did Mithrasism or the worship of the ancient Greek gods, they’ll continue to talk through their victim-lined hats.I found this defense of Mr Patel’s previous column even less compelling than the original. Mr Patel’s argument rests on the idea that when one compares apples to oranges, they are still comparing fruits. Reasonable people see it a bit differently.

  • TJ

    I’ll even give you another chance.Eboo Patel writes: “To summarize, I stated that Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris had gone beyond the pale in their sweeping demonization of religious people, and wondered aloud whether their approach could potentially qualify as hate speech.”The doctrines of the Abrahamic religions are extreme in their sweeping demonization of non-religious people and even people of differing religions.Pot. Kettle. Black.Again, why do your religious doctrines deserve a free pass while Hitchens and Harris do not?

  • Will

    Bile? Perhaps the comments are a reflection of your essays. I have to agree with the other comments. If you want to spend an essay pointing out the complexities of racial and cultural identity, that would be a worthy goal. For instance, Barak Obama is as much a white man as he is black man, and yet we all refer to him as black. However, your attempt to equate the complexities of racial identity to those of religious identity simply muddies the waters. People are often born into the religion of their parents, but they can and do walk away from it. The same cannot be said of race or ethnicity.What people like Hitchens, Harris, Dennet, and Dawkins do is to point out that religion should not automatically get a pass when asked whether it does more harm than good. Why are religious people so afraid to have an honest debate on that subject? Instead you attempt to cloak yourself by saying that asking harsh questions about someone’s unsupported beliefs is tantamount to using racial slurs. Nice.

  • A. Kafir

    Anonymous writes (10:23 am):LoL!! And do you know of a human who does not lie down to sleep? Ofcourse, I am a lier, but mercifully I am not a liar like Mullah Victoria.

  • Gareth Harris

    I have tried working within and without [pun intended] the institutions of society and religion for most of my life as bot scientist and priest.

  • baccus

    No BACHAN.I’m sure ASH meant to say-“that nobody likes a wino.”

  • Anonymous

    I believe very view people choose their religion.Religion is usually thrust upon us when we are too young to understand or resist.Very few of us are able to stand back and see that our religion is silly,not just because others of different religions are as sure as I was that my religion was the one true religion,but because religion makes no sense if one really thinks about it. Its all in the mind.And its all put there when we are infants.And most of us are stuck with it for life.

  • Taffy

    The last post was mine.

  • Thomas Baum

    CONCERNING RACE, RELIGION AND BEYOND: Race, aren’t we all members of the human race? Religion, sometimes people get faith and religion confused, they are not the same. Since eight years ago today something happened to me that in due time people will know did happen, I am going to post what I posted on Eboo Patel’s “Our Faith Talk is in the Gutter” on this site also.Just thought that I would say Hi to whoever is interested and also to the disinterested. It was 8 years ago today that God the Father came into my heart and did not say a word, didn’t have to. That was on a Friday and today is a Monday but it was the 28th of January. While we are all bickering back and forth about whether God is Real or not guess what, in due time all will know. So many people seem to think that it isn’t important what you do and how you treat each other but only if you know God’s Name, that is patently absurd. IF God created us and wanted us to hate each other and treat each other with contempt because we don’t believe in Him then He wouldn’t be worthy of respect even if he was god. Also if God was such an egomaniac that knowing His Name was more important that how we treated each other than he should be avoided at all costs. IF God created us and gave us free will and didn’t have a plan for everyone to be in His Kingdom eventually, considering that God by definition knows everything, including whether we would ever take personal responsibility for our actions during our lifetime, then He would be most cruel and heartless. This is not to say that we aren’t responsible for our actions, quite the contrary, whether we believe in God or not we are responsible, but do we accept that now or will we accept it later. IF God does have a plan that is for all of His Creation to be with Him and He does, doesn’t it seem sad that so many of the people that profess to believe in Him cannot even fathom that God could be so forgiving and compassionate even to the point that they seem to say, even shout, THAT’S NOT FAIR, well maybe God isn’t fair but is a Being of Pure Love and just doesn’t meet their expectations of revenge. Vengeance and revenge are two completely different words and their meanings are very, very different. In other words when God said, “MY Ways are not your ways and MY Thoughts are not your thoughts”, well something to think about, is it not? Take care, be ready, see you in the Kingdom. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Hewitt

    Patel’s post is an obscure way to save a bad argument. One chooses their religion, and one doesn’t chose their race. Equating the two so as to criticize atheists for criticizing religion is nonsense. That Jews may be ethnically Jews even if believers in another religion, or that Jews by be religious Jews even if not ethnically Jews is the exception that proves the rule. Patel’s point does not validate his original argument.Patel’s attack on atheists as “aggressive” for daring to criticize religion, means only that he seeks to put religion beyond criticism. That is not toleration or pluralism. It’s hypocrisy.

  • Amanda

    To me, the purpose for religion is to teach us about God and what he wants for us, how to fulfill our existance and return to him. I believe religious belief is a personal choice. We choose how to live our lives.As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), we believe: In the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all people the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all people; If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.With this, it is always more important what God thinks of you than anyone else….faith is not about heritage or social status. To me, God’s opinion is all that matters on all things spiritual and all things religious…if you have a doubt or questions, ask God in prayer for the truth. Everything else is just an opinion.

  • Chip

    Oh good. More atheist bashing from Mr. Patel. Rather than admit he made a specious argument in his last essay, he equivocates his position (which is still silly and disingenuous) and puts the blame back on the atheists rather than on his own poor reasoning. Does it not occur to him that this sort of thinking is precisely what many atheists (myself included) find so overbearing and obnoxious about religionists?”Why does Kallen suggest in one sentence that it is easy to change your religion (Judaism), and in the next sentence that being a Jew is a matter of ancestry and heritage, no matter what your spiritual beliefs may be?”Do you honestly need to ask that question, Mr. Patel? Judaism is both a religion and an ethnic/tribal identity. The above question makes about as much sense and wondering how it’s possible that people who consider themselves Irish might not also consider themselves Catholic if their ancestors were Catholics. Whether you agree with the position or not, many (most? all?) Jews see Jewish tribal identity and the religion of Judaism as separate things. I’m guessing Mr. Patel already knows that but is willing to distort or conveniently forget common knowledge in service to his argument. Once again this is intellectual dishonesty and exactly the type of thing to which atheists will give no quarter.To the points about race, it matters not what Tiger Woods decides to label his race, or how he considers his racial identity. That is his choice (just as religion is a choice). What isn’t his choice is the exact nature of his mixed heritage. Mr. Patel equates the thing with its subjective label as if they are one and the same, and as if Mr. Woods choosing one label or the other changes what isn’t his choice. Again this is a silly argument and in no way invalidates (or even dents) the criticism of equating race and ethnicity with religion. The question of identity is interesting because I think Mr. Patel is demonstrating exactly the point I made in the previous thread, which is that many religious people so intertwine their identity with their religious beliefs that they see them as one and the same. They aren’t, and seeing them as inseparable is at the very root or the kind of virulent tribalism that’s been causing war, violence, bigotry, and discrimination since time immemorial. Consider a political partisan. If someone were to claim that they were a Republican in the same immutable non-optional way that they’re a Caucasian no one would think twice about labeling them a zealot, even if they were an extremely nice person. They would still be elevating their political persuasion to a level it doesn’t deserve. We’ve seen that kind of thinking on display in the Republican party for the last couple of decades and the results have been disastrous. The invasion of Iraq is a perfect example of people being so wedded to their beliefs that no counter arguments could penetrate, and when the results weren’t anything like their faith predicted, they simply moved the goalposts rather than admit that the entire premise was faulty. Their loyalty for their ideological tribe (regardless of where they stand on the ideological spectrum encompassed by their party) trumps their loyalty to reason, or to humanity as a whole. Mr. Patel is engaging in a similar sleight of hand in this essay. Rather than admitting that his premise is faulty, he simply takes atheists to task for not placing the same value on his voluntary and optional religious beliefs as he does, regardless of how they compare to empirical and reasoned truth. It’s precisely this kind of unreasonableness that Hitchens, Harris, and company, rail against (and rightly so). It may be benign in more liberal believers with pluralist tendencies, but in fundamentalists and ideologues it’s truly a dangerous and destructive phenomenon, and it should be pointed out and criticized in both. Even in someone interested in multiculturalism, pluralism, and interfaith relations like Mr. patel, this phenomenon manifests itself as a tribalistic us versus them mentality. Atheists are the “them.”If you want to truly embrace pluralism then you have to drop the conceit that your optional religious beliefs are sacred, immutable, and not open for criticism. Otherwise, no matter what kind of pluralist message you think you’re supporting, you’re laying bricks in the wall that will forever keep mankind divided into warring factions. You don’t see adherents of Aristotle playing the victim card when their philosophy is criticized by those who favor Plato. That would be ridiculous by anyone’s standards. It’s just as ridiculous when religious people play the victim card when criticized by non-believers for their entirely optional (and irrational) beliefs.

  • honest to blog

    “he seeks to put religion beyond criticism. That is not toleration or pluralism. It’s hypocrisy.”Any religious ideology that requires complete submission of its followers and punishes criticism and dissent with death is NOT “toleration, pluralism, or mere hypocrisy”- It is totalitarianism.

  • Craig

    Mr. Patel – It is unfortunate that so many people have apparently misunderstood your comments…but then perhaps I have as well. It would be pretty clear to any 5 year old that the dialogue has degenerated into petty name calling and worse.Here’s the thing, though…atheists finally CAN speak out against the stranglehold religion has had on society for so long. Is it wrong to speak out against the religion-driven conflicts, or the intolerance taught to children? Of course not. Is it wrong to verbally attack a specific person based on religion alone? Of course it is.You say – “It’s a shame, considering that billions of people are religious, that the only goal aggressive atheists have for the tent of religion is to burn it down.”. It is indeed a shame. It would have been much easier if believers were willing to look OUTSIDE of their “tent” every now and then to take a look at the rest of the world.Respectfully,

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    There are far more atheists, agnostics, existentialists and free-thinkers on this forum than orthodox religious people, because, mostly, orhtodox religous people just like to “discuss” things with each other. Take it from me, I know, from my own experiences.

  • T

    One thing that I notice atheists often do, which inspires them to criticize religion, is take theology more seriously than the religious do.Patel has a point that a great deal of religion is inherited tradition rather than beliefs according to some formal theology. Most believers don’t really know the theology they supposedly believe, they just go along with whatever tradition they are in.When these believers (again, not all of them, but many) turn to theology, it’s as a way to justify what they already feel is right, rather than as a way to figure out what’s right. That’s how one can get strictly pacifist non-hierarchical Quakers, Catholics with a strict hierarchy and “just war” theory, and other Christians who believe their faith requires war–all supposedly inspired by the same God and the same book.It’s not so much that different philosophers thought really hard and came up with different interpretations. It’s more that different people felt certain ways, and went to the Bible and prayer to find justification for how they felt.So, atheists criticizing religion often take the formal theology too seriously. Formally Islam and Christianity might require members to proselytize, but there’s lots of Muslims and Christians who don’t feel that way. Formally, they may make bizarre claims about the natural world, but believers with more reasonable views find a way to reconcile their scientific sense with their faith.

  • Chris Everett

    SEATTLEDODGER:I liked your comparison of religion to a chamber pot. The difference is that a chamber pot works in reverse.

  • T

    The point of distinguishing “identity” from belief is to say that there’s a difference between someone’s beliefs and their identity. I know atheists who Jews, and Croatians who are atheists. They have their ethnicity and their beliefs. There are Jews who are Muslims, because of their ethnicity and beliefs.I don’t know any Catholic, Muslim, Quaker or Mormon atheists. I know people from these traditions who value parts of the tradition, but aren’t believers. Some will take part in ceremonies for the community or music. A typical atheist criticism of religion would not criticize these people, because they have habits, culture, identity, but not belief.Atheists are becoming vocal again after a period of keeping their mouths shut. I’m pushing 40, and was teased in elementary school for being an atheist (before I knew the word). But I had the feeling that “tolerance” was pushing in the direction of religion not mattering, and in the long run we’d be fine.It’s seeming now–in the U.S. at any rate–as if the tolerance of one religion for another doesn’t extend to the tolerance for no religion. There are lots of arguments about how “At the core our faiths teach many of the same things such as compassion, love for the Earth and our fellow people…” While I’m pleased whenever I see people getting along rather than fighting, this kind of tolerance is less acceptance and more finding common ground–and it’s ground atheists don’t share.So atheists have started to speak up again. Some of them may be too ornery. It can be hard to be both polite and honest. When I try speaking to my religious friends I tell them, “I respect you and your right to choose your religion, but I don’t respect your religion.” Is that hateful?

  • Chip

    John Stephens writes “It is a persistent vanity expressed by many of the nonreligious that they are smarter than those who believe in God. Wiser than Solomon? Wiser than Jesus, who was wiser than Solomon?”Jesus preached some wonderful things. Love your neighbor. Care for the less fortunate. Turn the other cheek. That’s all great stuff, though not especially original unless you believe no one had thought of those things in the entire history of man before he came along. There’s much to admire in the teachings of Jesus but to give him credit for inventing being a decent human being is an irrational conceit unburdened by anything resembling objectivity. Of course we’re wiser than Jesus was. We’ve had 2000 years of advancement since then in every sphere of human knowledge. Jesus never spoke out against slavery, for example. You’d think it might of dawned on him that it’s inhumane and unacceptable and since it was so commonplace in his day it would have been important enough that he’d spoken out against it – that it might have edged out graven images on the list of things not to do. Wise? Sure. In his time. By modern standards? No, not particularly. And even in his day, I’m sure there were countless people in the world every bit as nice as he was, who didn’t do magic tricks and weren’t trying to convince anyone they were the son of god. Are they lesser than he was? If the answer is yes then it’s not really his wisdom that people admire (since surely there have been countless others equally wise and benevolent who don’t happen to be in the Bible). It must be the magic tricks.

  • John Stephens

    MR. MARK:Don’t be shy, Son, tell us how you really feel.You might like to read Josephus, a Roman Jew and historian a generation or so removed from the time of Christ. Like any well-educated historian, he gathered the facts from folks who were in Israel in the time of Jesus or who knew those who were. He confirmed the scriptural accounts of the life of Jesus and subsequently came to believe in Jesus Christ.

  • A. Kafir

    T writes:I am not sure whether the “theology” of christianity or judaism is taken all that seriously. It is true that when discussing Islam the criticism does hone in on the Quran and the Ahdeet fairly rapidly.T writes: “Patel has a point that a great deal of religion is inherited tradition rather than beliefs according to some formal theology. Most believers don’t really know the theology they supposedly believe, they just go along with whatever tradition they are in”That is true but how does that lead to that the beliefs that they are supposed to be believe should not be examined and if the beliefs are found wanting, that they should not be pointed out? T writes: “It’s not so much that different philosophers thought really hard and came up with different interpretations. It’s more that different people felt certain ways, and went to the Bible and prayer to find justification for how they felt.” This does not sound right. There are not infinite number of sects, but a finite number. Individuals tend to cluster with a few individuals floating free. I think the “theological” foundations of the sects came about by the founder of these sects and they attracted the believers. It is hard to imagine Protestants with Luther. T writes: “Formally Islam and Christianity might require members to proselytize, but there’s lots of Muslims and Christians who don’t feel that way. Formally, they may make bizarre claims about the natural world, but believers with more reasonable views find a way to reconcile their scientific sense with their faith.”That is not correct in details. The similarity between Christianity and Islam is stretched and ignores a very critical difference between the two at present. Only a small minority of christians claim that every word in the Bible is inerrant. Christians have gone through a history of 800 years to separate church and state, and to attain an absence of beheading and burning at the stake based on sectarian differences. In Islam, ALL sects agree that Quran is error free because it is the literal word of Allah, and there has been no consensus acheived on sectarianism at all. Can you name a single “Muslim” who categorically and unambiguously has declared that there are errors in the Quran without his or her having been declared an apostate? Blasphemy and Apostacy does result in death in most of the Islamic world and is still taken quite seriously. In contrast, there are entire sects in christianity that accept that whole portions of the bible are incorrect. There are obvious scientific errors in the Quran, just as there are in the Bible. The reaction to that fact however is very very different. Can you name a single Muslim writer or thinker who takes it upon himself to high light thoses errors to push for reform within Islam without having being declared an apostate or bullied into retracting his statements? Most muslims choose the sane way of keeping silent and keeping their opinions on the matter to themselves. One of the contributions of the ex-muslims is to take the advantage that the internet offers for their safety to open the examination of islam and its beliefs to rationality, logic and scientific thinking. This has not been possible in the past because losing one’s head literally is not very conducive to productive thinking.

  • lindy

    hu u kiddin eh?,Thanks for your link. Makes me wonder where islamic sharia law and banking is being practiced. Does anyone know?

  • John Stephens

    I was kind of hoping this web site would prove to be fertile ground for understanding, not rancor.If you want to know why I believe as I do, I am willing to tell you. If you want to tell me why you do not, I am willing to listen. Enough with the ad hominems, already, and dismissing facts as fiction is just silly and childish. I don’t go to church because after studying the doctrines of over one hundred churches and attending many, I have never found one that believes as I do. Most are shockingly superstitious, mind-numbingly illiterate, knee-jerk responsive, brainwashed, or worse. Radio and television are choked with con artists fleecing the sheep in the name of Jesus. Ersatz Christians invaded Iraq. Fascistic fundamentalists have perverted our politics to the detriment of the country and the danger of the citizenry. Just for the record, it was the religiously intolerant who killed Jesus through their influence on the ruling elite. After spending years as an iconoclast and atheist, I well understand the animus many have against religion in general. I am diametrically opposed to the world church order which seeks dominance through politics and mercenaries such as Blackwater. Keep your eyes open, sports fans, it’s coming.Mostly, I resent the world church because I can’t get a beer on Sunday.My Christian creed is simple: Do no harm. That includes gays, atheists, agnostics, and anyone else not like me. I don’t have to agree with someone in order to be kind to someone.I do not believe in blind faith. Blind faith is for fools and madmen. Humility and discretion preclude details, but I have had experiences that confirm my faith.Lastly, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Tojo, just to name four, did not believe in God and murdered millions, so religionists don’t have a monopoly on evil. It is evil, whether from religionists or secularists, that must be destroyed. In that, we could find a common bond.My apologies for boring you to tears.

  • VICTORIA

    it rarely works with any efficacy to simply tear apart anothers belief (or non-belief) systems to change a persons mind about their own path. if i attack atheism- it will only alienate atheists- not many (if any) would be compelled to regard such attack as “eye-opening”. besides, it isnt really very rational or civil. for me, just hearing about what atheists(im including all varities, not trying to exclude or demean anyone, or shove them into one group) it isnt enough. without making comparisons to religion of any kind- are there any atheists who can tell me what is RIGHT about it? is it possible? perusing the posts by proponents of anti-theists here- i dont see any that have done so- not more reactions AGAINST- o- btw- lindy-

  • Mr Mark

    T writes:Indeed.This is one of the main arguments Hitchens puts forward in his latest books. He points out that it’s difficult to find a religionist of any Xian sect who agrees in whole with the theology of their chosen sect. Almost all pick and choose what they like about their religion and ignore that which they find doesn’t comport with their lifestyle.Ask your average Catholic about the virgin birth, and they’ll either say they think it’s a myth or fudge their response to some non-committal escape clause. Ask a Lutheran and 2 out of 5 will say that good works can get you into heaven, even though their theology disputes it. And on and on it goes.Of all the religions, Christianity (at least as its practiced in America) seems to be the most-modular of all religions. It appeals to the general laziness of the American population. One may cherry pick their Xian beliefs from a wide menu of options. The idea that Xianity comes down to “a personal relationship with god based on personal beliefs” speaks to this laziness coupled with an absolute lack of any accountability, that is, outside of the accountability one seeks to avoid, ie: eternity in hell.Better a lukewarm fan than no fan at all, eh, Pascal?The few Xians who actually embrace the horror of Yahweh/Jesus seem to be the Calvinists, and it’s hard to have a discussion with them on any plane as most have yet to accept the evils of scientifically conceived indoor plumbing as a reality of modern civilization.Certainly, this forum presents a mish-mash of Xian beliefs that render it well-nigh impossible for a novice to religious discussions to have a clue as to what Xians actually DO believe. And so it goes…

  • Chip

    Victoria writes “it rarely works with any efficacy to simply tear apart anothers belief (or non-belief) systems to change a persons mind about their own path.”Sure, that’s true if the person on the receiving end is closed minded and completely unwilling to step outside their beliefs and look at them objectively. Why should “beliefs” be different than any other kind of human knowledge. If I make a statement about something that someone can show me is patently illogical and factually lacking, then there is every likelihood that the new information I’m provided will change my opinion. If that wasn’t true, I still be a believer. Not everyone has their fingers in their ears yelling “lalalalalala I can’t hear you.” Maybe those who share their contrary opinions are giving you the benefit of the doubt rather than demeaning you? The real problem is people who equate any disagreement with their beliefs as being demeaning. It’s the definition of a closed mind.

  • Mr Mark

    Victoria sez:”without making comparisons to religion of any kind-are there any atheists who can tell me what is RIGHT about it?”The following definition of Atheism was given to the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Murray v. Curlett, 374 U.S. 203, 83 S. Ct. 1560, 10 L.Ed.2d (MD, 1963), to remove reverential Bible reading and oral unison recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in the public schools.“Your petitioners are Atheists and they define their beliefs as follows. An Atheist loves his fellow man instead of god. An Atheist believes that heaven is something for which we should work now – here on earth for all men together to enjoy.An Atheist believes that he can get no help through prayer but that he must find in himself the inner conviction, and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and enjoy it.An Atheist believes that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment.He seeks to know himself and his fellow man rather than to know a god. An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated. He wants man to understand and love man.He wants an ethical way of life. He believes that we cannot rely on a god or channel action into prayer nor hope for an end of troubles in a hereafter.He believes that we are our brother’s keepers; and are keepers of our own lives; that we are responsible persons and the job is here and the time is now.”Hope that helps.

  • A. Kafir

    Mullah Victoria writes: “not more reactions AGAINST-What is the FOR argument for eventually telling a kid that there is no Santa Clause, a tooth fairy, or a boogie man under her bed? Or is that transition to adolescence and rationality all AGAINST santa clause, tooth fairy and boogie men?FOR atheism:A simpler rational view of world around that is consistent with modern science. This causes far less psychosis that leads to maladjustment regarding nature. Essentially one does not waste tremendous amounts of time and effort trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Saving of all that time and effort can and often does lead to more productive ventures and results ( see most of the scientific advances in the last couple of hundred years for example ).

  • Chris Everett

    Victoria,You write “if i attack atheism- it will only alienate atheists- not many (if any) would be compelled to regard such attack as ‘eye-opening’.”Frankly, I wish you WOULD attack atheism – with reasoned, well-articulated arguments that you feel demonstrate the falsity of the conclusion that there is no evidence to support any claim of the existence of any gods, much less any of the particular gods of the more popular religions.Nor do I understand your characterization of the atheist posts here as devoid of discussion IN FAVOR of the atheist position. Quite the contrary. I read highly-informed discussions of the scientific theories (please don’t respond with any “just a theory” nonsense) that explain the origins of many features of the universe that the religious simply ascribe to “acts of god.” I read discussions of the non-religious basis for morality – the clear evidence for the evolution of a moral sense in higher animals and the tight correspondence between gene’s-eye self preservation and altruism. I read atheists going to great lengths, with great patience, to go over the fallacious arguments that the religious put forward on topics such as intelligent design or the recent logical proof of existence that a religous poster (David T, I think) presented (it had a three-letter abbreviation). And I’ve read atheists (maintaining a remarkably high level of scholarship for a newspaper blog) clarify points of history, biography, government, doctrine and religious origins.I’ve read almost nothing of the sort from the religious on this blog. No religious poster, as far as I’ve seen, has ever presented a reasoned argument in favor of faith (i.e. belief in the supernatural, or even less strictly, belief unsupported by evidence). I usually see: Bible quotations used as evidence in support of the truth of Bible quotations; reinterpretations of Bible quotations employed as a way of showing that the Bible quotations don’t mean what they say; misrepresentations of “the atheist position” as being devoid of morality, hateful of god, fearful of damnation, and its own form of religion where some of the recent athiest books are revered as infallible.There are rough words on both sides, but if you compare the top 20% of the atheist posts with the top 20% of the religious posts, I think it’s pretty evident that the atheists are the ones making the GOOD FAITH effort to dialogue.

  • VICTORIA

    chip- dont you think attempting to open dialogue shows a receptivity? to say, you are not going to attmept to positively construct my alternative to religon becasue i wont listen anyway- i didnt say atheists were demaning ME- i said i didnt want atheists to think i was demeaning THEM its called respect mr mark- thanks for your effort- the only difference is an addition to- it is possible to love god and man- my father had double pneumonia once, and had to have a lung removed- i offerend my warm handshake and said, “thank you DOCTOR” to be a person of faith, one does not passively watch injustice, or retreat into some ‘prayer’ as a substitute for action- although i cannot help but notice that your definition DID include comparisons to religious (or what is assumed to be religious)behavior. are there any definitions that stand on their own- without a reaction to- or comparison with religion?

  • Chip

    Thanks for the clarification, Victoria. I’ve never gotten that impression from your posts.

  • Anonymous

    EbooYou are more incoherent than usual. How many different angles will you approach your defense of the irrationality of theism before you retreat or surrender? Chances are, like most theists, you will never surrender but simply recycle your tired old dialog as rational people bore of you and your new victims emerge.

  • Pete

    EbooYou are more incoherent than usual. How many different angles will you approach your defense of the irrationality of theism before you retreat or surrender? Chances are, like most theists, you will never surrender but simply recycle your tired old dialog as rational people bore of you and your new victims emerge.

  • Mr Mark

    Victoria writes:”mr mark- thanks for your effort-the only difference is an addition to- it is possible to love god and man-“Well, that is THE salient point that all atheists are making here, isn’t it? The fact that our social consciences are identical except that you believe in god and we don’t? Are you willing to agree with the atheists that your sense of social conscience and your morality do not flow from god? Or, do you hold that the atheists’ social conscience and morality also flow from god but we just don’t realize it? Or, do you believe that your social conscience flows from god while mine flows from elsewhere but that they both arrive at the same place?Thanks for the comment.

  • Mr Mark

    Victoria wrote:”although i cannot help but notice that your definition DID include comparisons to religious (or what is assumed to be religious)behavior.”Don’t blame me, blame society which has elected to define atheists by what we are NOT. When one is defined as being an “a-” anything, one is almost forced to answer questions like yours by referencing what we are “a-” about. Trying to answer your question “without making comparisons to religion of any kind” is a bit like trying to describe an abolitionist without referring to slavery. Besides, the definition I posted referenced only god and prayer, not any religion or any concepts that are religion-specific.Considering that the very word “atheist” is a label that most atheist reject as surely as they would not call a Democrat an “a-Republican” or someone who doesn’t collect coins as an “a-numismatist,” I believe the definition I provided is about as good as one can get.BTW – why would anyone assume that religious behavior was being described in the definition I provided? There was no mention of wars, torture or forced indoctrination of any kind.

  • Jihadist

    Hello Mr. Eboo Patel,A quick one in reaction to your essay here and a wee fun with Mr. Hitchens and Mr. Harris, who I now know are the infallible gods of atheism whom some atheists will valiantly defend, as believers would for Buddha, Moses, Jesus and the Prophet. Only catch – one can libel and slander the dead but not the living. So, Harris and Hitchens are “sheltered”? Judging from the illuminating, revealing, educational and informative posts in the thread of your last essay, there is a chasm of what we understand from our own experience and perspective – by belief, by ethnicity, by citizenship, by values, by education and even by gender too. Let us call it being culturally cocconed in our own cultures. Even in the US, African-Americans and Hispanics have their distinct cultures. Even African-American English and Baptist churches are different from mainstream American English and mostly Caucasian Baptist churches. Identity is who we chose to be, ideals we chose to have, belief we held, interests we pursue and who we identify with and relate to. Needless to say, there are those who chose to relate to and identify with Mr. Hitchens and Mr. Harris on what they believe or disbelieve in, and what they mean for atheists in particular and what others think of them in general. Perhaps we should consider what is unacceptable to a group is acceptable to other groups. And what is unacceptable of them by others, is acceptable to them and their like-minded ones. I’m with you in not finding broad generalisations of any group acceptable, not only on race and gender but on faith. I see this as a difference in (or if one prefers a stronger word) clash in values and views. Mr. Mark, in one of his previous posts in another thread, accurately characterise this as part of the “culture war”. And E Favorite, in one of his previous posts in another thread, characterise that discussion there as to “ante up”. Mr. Harris and Mr. Hitchens has anted up their culture war on belief/religion and of course, believers’ reactions are expected on what they say and why, what they mean and for what purpose and what have you. For some atheists like Harris and Hitchens when it comes to believers, perhaps we should consider that it is that “simple”, that black and white for them. Perhaps we should talk about identity that is not only gender, ethnicity and citizenship, but also personal faith. The sum comprising the whole in a person.Perhaps we should talk about “deracination” of people too, by personal choice or in being imposed by the majority ethnic or cultural group. Perhaps we should remember that non-believers do identify themselves as atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, secular humanists, spiritual atheists etc rather than simply atheists – to indicate what kind or type of non-believers they are. You stated : “Barack Obama and Tiger Woods have similar skin color. But Obama, son of a black Kenyan father and white Kansas mother, chooses to call himself an African-American. Woods – whose mother is Thai, Chinese and Dutch, and whose late father (a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army) was African-American, Chinese and Native American – highlights his mixed ancestry, calling himself a ‘Cablinasian’. Speaking for myself, with a Dutch Catholic maternal grandfather, a Jewish maternal grandmother, Indonesian Muslim grandparents, I am too fair for Indonesians and Malaysians, said to have a beautiful golden tan by Europeans, alway assumed to be Latin American/Brazilian. I identify myself as Malaysian by citizenship, that I am “ethnically” Malay as I happily go by Malay customs and traditions, and a Muslim by faith and practice. I do not want to go further than my maternal and paternal grandparents on other ethnic and religious antecedents that I most certainly have and will not share here. It would seem that some atheists chose to take a “component” of their previous identity out, i.e. belief or belonging to a religious group, and replace them with a new one – humanism, ethical culture and such. But believers can be that too without being athiests. You stated : “Religious identity is equally if not more complex than race.”Yes it is. I am Muslim, a Sunni of the Shafie school, very partial to the Mutazilis, love some of the Iranian Shiites’ theological discourses, am averse to theocracies and frankly admire people of other faiths who are devout and spiritual in their own faiths among others. But then, a Muslim – Sunni, Shiite, Ahmadiyya etc, when asked, will always say he or she is a Muslim, never mind the actual complexities of his or her own personal belief as are for Jews or Buddhists or Christians or Pagans or Mormons or atheists etc.Like believers, atheists have a range of personal views and values that may differ with their own co-believers/non-believers and be similar with those outside their broad categorisation as atheists, Christians, Jewish, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus etc. It is possible that I can have and enjoy dinner with Mr. Mark, a witty, steady anti-theist atheist, and E Favorite, an earnest and heartfelt secular humanist, and have interesting discussions on politics and the arts. Only on Mr. Harris and Mr. Hitchens do I have a slightly different perspective from them. I do like what they said on everything else not related to their personal disbelief and my personal belief in God. You : Smith suggested that we view what we commonly call religions as “cumulative historical traditions” that have multiple dimensions. These include certainly beliefs and dogmas, but also philosophy, art, heroes, community, etc – aspects that religion shares with identity groups defined by race or ethnicity. Yes, Muslims do share a cumulative historical traditions, and seem less discomforted in knowing of and appreciating other cumulative historical traditions. Except of course, for some really, really bad ideas like communism or pornography. Not that some Muslim don’t peek into porn and enjoy lapdancers or even become communists. You stated : “To call oneself a Jew, a Muslim or a Catholic simply means that you have chosen to enter a big tent with millions of other people who call themselves the same. It says nothing about which circle you stand in inside that tent.”Yes, and to enter into an internal debate to move forward for one’s community of like-minded people and oneself. We can say Hitchens and Harris are on the peripherals of the tents looking in and shouting to get the attention of those inside the tents, and “warn” them of the dangers of religion. Perhaps better for them to point out the believers who really terrified, frightened not only atheists but will cause great harm to all regardless of belief. Atheists are not engaging in too much on their own internal debate on premises, priorities, methods and approaches here or elsewhere it seems. They want in on discussion of faiths they left behind but not to leave alone. That is, perhaps, why we have quite a number of committed atheists coming in On Faith threads apart from atheist panelists in On Faith. One only wonder if they are as passionate in real life in articulating what they stated here to their family, friends and colleagues are still believers. Or they need to affirm their own non-belief perhaps. Only they know why.You stated : “Religious communities around the world are going through a profound transformation. Their tents are full of heated debate, not least between the pluralists and the totalitarians within each community.” Yes believers are going through a profound transformation and intense internal debate in every area.Harris and Hitchens wants to interject with their own conclusions and observations. They need to use “exciting” words and statements that is generalised, sweeping etc to get the attention of believers any which way they can, and excite both believers and non-believers into sometimes excitable comments on their own excitable remarks. You stated : “It’s a shame, considering the complexity and importance of these debates and the fact that they involve billions of people, that the only goal that the aggressive atheists have for the tent of religion is to burn it down.”Of course some aggressive atheists wants to burn down religion and consign it the ashes of history with their Molotov cocktails they think is sufficient to nuke all religions from existence. Atheists have simple beliefs constantly reminded to believers and recapped as follows:- God/s is a delusion.Oh yes, it’s also about that ethical culture thing atheists love. And, you know, the focus on reason, logic, inquiry and an ethical life and such…If only Mr. Harris and Mr. Hitchens would study contemporary statistics more thoroughly, objectively and non-selectively. And current economics and demography and sociology and anthropology and political science and international affairs and relations. All those too. But it is too much to ask of them perhaps. After all, they are just humans. Thank you and best regards”J”

  • VICTORIA

    well thank you chip- it is probably because i spend a great deal of time in here fending off alot of hostility towards muslims- so i try to offer positive constructive examples and specualte on how islam actually IS as opposed to how some phobes IMAGINE it is- without descending into tit for tat- mr mark- those are excellent questions posed- i have to think about my own attitude or beliefs about atheists to answer i cant agree with atheists that my being does not flow from the god- i DO wonder what atheists think is the purpose of life, and the mechanics of death- if there is a spirit or soul- but i still have to think about it- however- youre welcome to deconstruct my pitiful and insufficient atempts here, as that will only make me think more- which i think we can all agree is a good thing.. i work from home on my computer, and am stealing time to be posting here- time that belongs to someone else right now im afraid- so i have to respect what i owe to another right now- although this is becoming compelling ps- im a left-handed artist type- and sometimes when i wade in waters with logical analytical thinkers- intuition is a large part of my nature (not esp- or psychic stuff) i do believe in the god- and the force of evil personified as shaitan- vividly- im sorry – cannot stay right now but i will certainly come back although its likely not until late at night peace chip and mr mark

  • Craig

    Hi Victoria,Interesting question. Just as religion has different value for many people (i.e. a sense of community, or a sense of being close to a god, or whatever), so to does atheism mean different things to each atheist.If I may use the definition from Mr. Mark, but remove the references to god or religion – “Your petitioners are Atheists and they define their beliefs as follows. An Atheist loves his fellow man. An Atheist believes that heaven is something for which we should work now – here on earth for all men together to enjoy.An Atheist believes that he must find in himself the inner conviction, and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and enjoy it.An Atheist believes that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellow man can he find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment.He seeks to know himself and his fellow man. An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated. He wants man to understand and love man.He wants an ethical way of life. He believes that we cannot rely on a god or channel action into prayer nor hope for an end of troubles in a hereafter.He believes that we are our brother’s keepers; and are keepers of our own lives; that we are responsible persons and the job is here and the time is now.”

  • Jihadist

    A Kafir : “You conflate jews and judaism.”Moi : As far as we outside the US and Europe can see, we can’t tell the difference between Jews or Jewish and Caucasians. Of course there are non-Caucasian looking Jews. Just as there are Hispanics who look like Malays and Hispanics who look like Scandinavians in the US. Being Hispanics means having a Latin (Spanish heritage). Being cultural Jewish is more ambiguous – ranging from cultural Jews to practicing Jews etc. A Kafir : Now ibn Warraq uses the word “cultral muslim” to distinguish between beliefs. He considers himself a cultral muslim because he does not believe that the Quran is divine or Muhammad any thing special. Cultral Muslims are those who no longer say the Shahada or believe in the tenets of Islam but still hold on to the culture of the predominant muslim region where they grew up. Moi : Actually, the term used by Muslims for those types are “nominal Muslims”. Not cultural Muslims. Even Salman Rushdie said himself to be a cultural Muslim. More accurate for him to say he is a cultural Indian. And more accurate for him to say he is British. So, are you saying cultural Muslims like Ibn Warraq are ones who don’t fast but celebrate Eid El Fitr like a kid? By the way, “nominal Muslims” don’t make a federal issue in being both “Muslim” and atheist and in vilifying Muslims for their beliefs. Only “cultural Muslims” do perhaps. Is Ibn Warraq confused? Or into a self-identified neo-identity as a “cultural Muslim” which Muslims do find amusing and bemusing.

  • VICTORIA

    im trying valiantly to shove you into a little box jihadist- but you’re making it very difficult for me. why cant you just be a good predictable little believer and satisfy my wide assumptions. and stop using your faculites of reason to make sense!

  • Craig

    Sorry about the last post – I didn’t mean to post it but hit the wrong button.I think Mr. Mark’s got it pretty much right. There’s not really a way to define atheism without refering to religion.I like the Victoria’s thought, though – “i DO wonder what atheists think is the purpose of life, and the mechanics of death- if there is a spirit or soul-“.I wonder this myself as an atheist. In the absence of religion, we are free to define this as we wish. I personally don’t believe in a soul (in the religious sense). I also don’t believe in an afterlife. Death is as natural a thing as there is, but when you die, that’s it…no continuation of consciousness, no elevation of consciousness, no anything. Our “souls” are apparent only in how we lived…and in the lives of those we taught something to while we lived.

  • Chip

    Victoria asks “i DO wonder what atheists think is the purpose of life, and the mechanics of death- if there is a spirit or soul-“I’ll give you my opinion, but it should only be considered mine and not speaking on behalf of other atheists. I think it’s a conceit to imagine that there is a “purpose” to life, nor do I feel that my life is somehow lesser because I don’t imagine any kind of divine purpose to my being here. I’m the offspring of a reproducing species, like any other. That being said, my personal goal in life is to try to live it with as little impact on other people as possible. I think it’s my duty to my fellow human beings to not be a burden if I can avoid it – to be self sufficient – and to try to not stand in the way of other people’s right to live an unfettered life in pursuit of their own happiness or meaning, as long as that pursuit doesn’t hinder mine. If not for those religious folks who think it’s their sacred duty to define how everyone else should live, I’d have no issues with religion, aside from it being an interesting topic to debate. I’d still think belief in supernatural beings is unfounded and a bit silly, but I’d likely be less compelled to speak out against it. As for death, I think the end of this life is the end. I don’t believe in a soul or any kind of transcendence to some other plane of being. That would be nice, but I can’t think of anything less stressful than no longer existing, and I take some comfort in knowing that the raw materials that comprise me will be recycled for use by other living things. Seems fair to me.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Mr T. made an excellent, excellent, excellent point, that most religious people don’t even know what their own beleifs are. My relgious beliefs seem very odd and apostate to many Christians, not because they are really so odd or bizarre, but because I actually DO KNOW what I believe and they do not. Conservative Angry Christirans who try to bully people into belief are the extreme minority of Christians. But they make a deafening noise, and anyone could be decieved into thinking that they represent Christians. Almost every Christian whom I have ever read posting here, are such people, who make arguments that are very poor, and unconvincing. They usually seem bitter, angry, and unhappy. I always feel compelled to come to the defense of the atheist position, even though I am not an antheist myself.Religious people are of two kinds: the kind of people who come here and like to discuss “it all,” and everyone else, who don’t care much, and only talk to each other about relgion, and then, not much. To be honest, I would never need to argue about God to anybody. If people do not believe, it is beyond my control. How could that trouble me? And so what if there may be gradually less Christians in the world, and the political power, influence, and wealth of Christian institutions is on the decline? How does that effect what I believe, and how I live my life? How does that influence what happens to me when I die, and if there is a Heaven or not?

  • A. Kafir

    Craig writes:It is not clear let alone certain that we are free to define the purpose of life. We hardly understand evolutionary constraints that are built into us to know what we are free to define. We are starting to understand the “web of life” and “eco-systems” to understand the total inter-dependence of life, and how one is not entirely free to ignore the constraints imposed by our dependence on other species. We barely understand the interplay of psychological interplay between individuals to fully grasp how much autonomy we think we have is for real. Yes it is tempting to think that an individual is completely an island unto himself or herself and the purpose of his or her life can be defined independently of others, but we lack knowledge at present to know how much of that is true.Freedom from superstition allows us to start learning and start posing questions so we can find an answer that is “real” and consistent with nature, but at the moment we can only guess at it and deal with our ignorance as best as we can without inventing ghouls and goblins.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Chip said that:Victoria asks “I DO wonder what atheists think is the purpose of life, and the mechanics of death- if there is a spirit or soul-“People who ask this question do not have any imagination. It seems like it should be easy to put yourself in the position of atheistic belief. I know for a fact, that being a Christian and attending church every Sunday does not make a person good, and failure to believe in God does not make a person bad. To me this is, well, flamboyantly obvious. A person who cannot see this is really not paying much attention, at all.Another question that I often hear asked of atheists is, “well, why don’t you just kill yourself?” (I have also had many conservative Christians ask me that question, as well).I would imagine atheists do not kill themselves, because they would prefer to live. The question does not make sense anyway, because many Christians commit suicide, and many atheists do not. And what about Islamic suicide bombers? Being religous does not give a person any more of a reason to live, than it does in making a person happy, or in making a person good.

  • Jihadist

    Hello Chris Everett:)You stated : As usual, I don’t know what to make of you. You’re probably being intentionally frustrating as a sly message that we all need to lighten up, so I’ll interpret you along those lines, but ARGGHHH!Moi : Of all the posters here, you got my number. We all need to lighten up. All I did was to put in cliches/assumptions said by atheists on believers, and cliches/assumptions by believers on atheists. Of course I am curious to know what atheists think, believe in and why not only on matters related to belief and religion, but those related to ethics and values, and on issues of the day too. I am starting to notice that some posts by some atheists on issues not related to faith, belief, religion, God/s etc are ………..(fill in the blank). I’m sure you do too. And yes, I had a lot of fun ragging, teasing, joshing atheists a bit in the previous and current Eboo Patel threads on some things atheists said. So, sue me.

  • Jihadist

    Hello Drew,You : If you tell a young child that there’s a three headed God in the sky, he will believe you.Moi : Not my kids. Perhaps those weaned to believe in Santa Klaus, the Tooth Fairy, Witches etc perhaps? You : As an atheist this is how I see religion. I suspect most atheists see religion this way. Any wonder that Hitchins and Harris believe it to be important enough to fight against?It’s a battle that needs to be fought.Moi : Of course it is a battle for atheists to fight. To prove they are rational and logical after stating all believers are illogical, irrational, delusional and what have you. Hey, don’t look at me. Atheists set up their own standards and tells all and sundry how smart they are. So, it is a battle for atheists of their own chosing and making. Not only on God/s and religion, but on everything else. Want to fight for seperation of church and state? Or to fight against believers just for believing in God/s and being members of organised religion? Want to fight against global warming, eradication of poverty and illiteracy, HIV/AIDS or to full time fight against believers for just believing in God/s and religion? Pick who you fight with. Or what you will fight against. Pick you own battle. Your own war. And consider the time, the opportunity and the cost.

  • E Favorite

    And here’s a gender friendly and belief-free version (just shows you how times change):Atheists love life. Atheists think that heaven is something for which people should work now – here on earth for all people together to enjoy.Atheists think that they must find in themselves the inner conviction, and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue it and enjoy it.Atheists think that only in a knowledge of themselves and a knowledge of other people can they find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment.They seek to know themselves and others. They think that a hospital should be built instead of a church. Atheists think that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. Atheists strive for involvement in life and not escape into death. They want disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated. They want humankind to understand and love each other.They want an ethical way of life. They think that people cannot rely on a god or channel action into prayer nor hope for an end of troubles in a hereafter.They think that we are each others brother’s and sister’s keepers; and are keepers of our own lives; that we are responsible persons and the job is here and the time is now.”

  • Jihadist

    Mr. Mark,You stated : “Certainly, this forum presents a mish-mash of Xian beliefs that render it well-nigh impossible for a novice to religious discussions to have a clue as to what Xians actually DO believe. And so it goes…”Moi : Not only Christian, but Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim beliefs. So, you are a musician. Religion/belief seem like music, – fundamentally just eight notes, and believers took those eight notes and make music with major and minor keys etc – from the sublime to the pompous to the ridiculous too. Believers of course, go for the music of belief of their preference. Of course there are innovations in music throught the ages and cross-cultural influences and fusions too. Is classical music akin to traditional/conservative religious belief and rap is atheism? And for classical music, we are not talking about boroque and romantic and neo romantic and what not. And I just can’t get into most of country music. No accounting for taste and personal preference. As you stated, “And so it goes…” Thanks and regards”J” 🙂

  • ats1

    Religion is normally a choice, while race and ethnicity are not. Religionists make claims that cannot be substantiated and these claims are often contradictory.Interfaith cooperation is not realistic, at least not as long as apostasy, blasphemy, and other sins are punishable by religious doctrines enshrined in “infallible religious texts”. Humanity is our common bond. Religions are divisive and intolerant of one another. I think the tent of religion is showing signs of wear and there’s no deity going that’s going to prop it up as long as people are allowed a free exchange of ideas. It’s time for religions to come out of the dark (ages). This is the only life you get. Make the most of it.

  • Chris Everett

    Mr. Mark, E Favorite, A Kafir, DITLD, Craig, Chip, et alWOW! What a cornucopia! Thanks to Victoria for bring out the best in us.

  • Jihadist

    …..and oh, by the way, I just saw from the previous Eboo Patel thread that Chris Everett and Mr. A. Kafir were disquieted in my calling Mr. Christopher Hitchens a bigot and making bigoted remarks. Mr. Everett gave the example that if Mr. Hitchens being anti-Nazi will not be considered bigoted. Come now, religion is not an ideology like Nazism or Fascisim or Communism, unless, of course, you are implying all religions and beliefs are ideologies. Of course I am aware some like to call Islam an ideology, thus, perhaps making it perfectly all right for Mr. Hitchens to be anti-theist or anyone anti-Islam as he/they would be on the same level of acceptability as being an anti-communist or an anti-Nazi. Mr. Christopher Hitchens, in stating he is anti-theist, is stating he is anti-monotheism, anti-Abrahamic faiths. And did I not gave an explanation what a bigot is in the previous thread? You can look it up in any dictionary of you don’t like my defination. I repeat – Mr. Hitchens saying he is anti-theist, would be like me saying I am anti-atheist. Bigotry covers race, creed and gender. In Mr. Hitchen’s case, it is bigotry against creed, as in belief, as in believers. Monotheism, the Abrahamic faiths covers a wide range of believers-from Hasidic Jews to Quakers to Sunnis to Catholics to Baptists to Mormons and there’s too many. So, give a new defination of bigotry if you must to your satisfaction, one that does differentiate the bigotry on race, gender and creed. Is is possible for atheists to accept and consider that some atheist writers can and do make statements that are,for lack of better word, erroneous?Surely everything Hitchens and Harris say and do is not regarded by their fans as infallible, that they can do and say no wrong? Are we witnessing the phenomena of atheists who can be as “blind” as the believers they despised or despaired in putting their adulated ones on superhuman faultless and flawless pedestals?As for A Kafir asking whether I am implying Mr. Hitchens is being irrational is saying he is anti-theist? Yes he is, and a wee dastardly too. He can say he is anti-God. But he did not, only he is “anti-theist”. He did not say he is anti-Hinduism/Hindus, which is both polytheistic and monotheistic.He did not say he is anti-Buddhism/Buddhists which runs the gamut from Zen to Theravada to Mahayana etc.An atheist who said there is no God, religion poisons everthing, but not all religions apparently. I take it Mr. Hitchens don’t travel to Asia much to know the diversity of beliefs, both theists and polytheists. And Mr. Everett, don’t get into is this “baiting” and “counter-baiting”? After all, Mr. Hitchens, in stating he is anti-theist, baited. It is up to us whether we bite or bite back. And hair-splitting of course, on what is bigotry, and who are bigots.Thanks, regards and good night.”J”:)

  • Thomas Baum

    TO DREW: You wrote, “I’m inclined to agree with you that Jihadist is becoming more and more desperate as her Jihad amongst us atheists is getting her nowhere. Except for other religionists like DiTLD, and T.Moses Baum, she is influencing no-one, and is looking increasingly foolish as the logic of the nonbelievers becomes ever more difficult to deal with,or escape.” You can label me anyway that you like but I personally do not consider myself a “religionist” but I am a messenger. I am not here to try and influence anyone but I am here trying to do the job that God gave to me. I do find it kind of interesting that some of the people that get the most upset about what I write don’t even seem to actually read and think about what I write. By this I don’t mean for them to believe or not believe what I am saying but to put me into someone’s predetermined label just shows that some are not as open-minded as they think they are. It doesn’t matter if someone believes I have met God but it is a fact. When I write that God is a searcher of hearts and minds not of religious affiliations or lack thereof, do you really think the label “religionist” applies? God will somehow see me thru on the job He has given to me and no one human, demonic or satan himself is going to keep God’s Plan from coming to Fruition. Take care, see you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Chris Everett

    Thomas,I’d be very interested if you could describe, in detail, what the experience of “meeting God” was like. I’d especially appreciate it if you could be specific about the actual phenomena you experienced, as opposed to any interpretation of the phenomena. Was it sensory (lights, sounds, images)? Was it emotional (euphoria)? Was it intellectual (thoughts, insights)?I get the impression that you ascribe to Christian doctrine. How did your experience convince you of the truth of Christian doctrine as opposed to some other doctrine?The experience you refer to is totally alien to me and I can’t even begin to imagine it. Any help you can give to communicate it to someone like me, for whom repetition of doctrine, etc, is unconvincing, is appreciated.

  • Jeff P

    Chris Everett:And a big thanks to YOU for your input. This has been an excellent thread, I think we’ve all learned much from one another.Jihadist: a few things–I have to confess I feel like I know you a little less than I imagined. But I sincerely enjoy your posts. Thank you for taking the time to articulate your thoughts so well.What I find exciting about these times in America, along with a flurry of literature from all reaches, is that we’re able to actually talk about this at all, on a forum like On Faith. I think it’s incredible to actually ask the question: is religion good for humankind? I think it’s incredibly important to see the influence of the religious on our system of poliltics and public policy. (We’ve witnessed our Congress spend time on HR 847 about the “importance of Christmas,” and Huckabee’s reference to the implications for changing the constitution, but I bet you’re not aware of HR 888 which is up next, which would suggest more Evangelical sentiments.)I’m not so sure this is about opportunity to rant, or to express feelings/thoughts that we otherwise wouldn’t share with our families, colleagues, or neighbors, or to “worship” Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris–they have their own web sites and forums, and if there’s anything consistent about atheists, they generally don’t agree on very many things. You should watch “The Four Horsemen” someday to see just how often the “new atheist” authors disagree with one another. On Faith is an incredible opportunity to put issues on the table, even harshly and heatedly at times, to be picked apart, with a range of opinion. I believe we visit this site because it’s a place where we can see thought from leading theologians, and at least in America they command a lot of respect, and (I fear to say) sway much of our thinking, at least in the South. To see someone say “no way!” to the president of Evangelicals is significant, in my view, and I appreciate that candor.Although many of us have left our faith, we can’t just “leave it alone” because so many religiously mechanical facets interact with our lives day in and day out, and many here do fear what consequences may come if the fundamental fervor isn’t channeled. Like it or not, moderate Christians (at least) in general don’t seem too motivated to generate the conversation about what needs to change–I think an accurate claim made by Sam Harris, and a few progressive Christians who post here. And yes, you mention facetiously that atheists are concerned about ethical things–I truly think they are, and I’d be willing to wager maybe more so than believers.I hope I never offend you (and will never intentionally do so) but thanks for the good fights!

  • TJ

    Jihadist writes: “TJ : The doctrines of the Abrahamic religions are extreme in their sweeping demonization of non-religious people and even people of differing religions.Moi : Are you sure? As far as I know, most Muslims are most outraged of their own, or former Muslims or non-Muslims who demonised them first.But of course, domonising of the religious by the religious is not restricted to them. We now have a new trend of irreligious demonising the religious. And Democrats demonising Repbulicans. And Republicans demonising Democrats. And America demonising Iran. And Iran demonising America.What else is new of people demonising people who don’t share the same views as them?”Weak. Try again.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Thomas Baum -I hope you will forgive we non-believers for feeling uneasy when you say, “God will somehow see me thru on the job He has given to me and no one human, demonic or satan himself is going to keep God’s Plan from coming to Fruition,” as the last, oh, 3,000 people who said something similar ended their thought by adding, “even if I have to kill every last one of the infidels in the process.”

  • TJ

    Jihadist, hint: Read and understand my statement before you respond to it.

  • Chris Everett

    Jihadist,You write:”Atheists have simple beliefs constantly reminded to believers and recapped as follows:- God/s is a delusion.Frankly, after so much dialogue, I’m amazed that you don’t seem to comprehend the basic points that virtually every atheist here is making in a clear, unanimous fashion, especially given that you repeatedly characterize atheism as “simple”.- Atheists are against DELUSION, not the cultural aspects of religion.As usual, I don’t know what to make of you. You’re probably being intentionally frustrating as a sly message that we all need to lighten up, so I’ll interpret you along those lines, but ARGGHHH!

  • E Favorite

    T: “When I try speaking to my religious friends I tell them, “I respect you and your right to choose your religion, but I don’t respect your religion.” Is that hateful?”No, but it may be a bit more honesty than many believers know how to deal with. I had a long conversation about this back in October with a believer named “Demos” here on “on faith” and he simply couldn’t accept my reasoning. For the full conversation, see John Stephens: “I was kind of hoping this web site would prove to be fertile ground for understanding, not rancor.”I wonder if you really mean “grounds for acceptance of religious beliefs, not disagreement based on evidence and logic.”Jihadist: “…Mr. Hitchens and Mr. Harris, who I now know are the infallible gods of atheism whom some atheists will valiantly defend, as believers would for Buddha, Moses, Jesus and the Prophet. Only catch – one can libel and slander the dead but not the living. So, Harris and Hitchens are “sheltered”?”Then again, perhaps mischaracterizing atheist authors allows you to discount their thoughts and atheists’ reactions to them?

  • T

    Jihadist, you say, “Mr. Hitchens saying he is anti-theist, would be like me saying I am anti-atheist.”In the video, Hitchens describes what he means by calling himself anti-theist. He means that not only doesn’t he believe in God, but he’s glad there is no God, he finds the idea very unattractive. So, him calling himself anti-theist is purely a statement of his attitude towards religion for himself, not saying anything about his attitude towards believers.Elsewhere he does talk about his attitude toward believers… I’ll have to think about that more. I’m not at all a fan of Hitchens, he certainly doesn’t speak for me, although on the points we agree he says it better than I could.His choice of “anti-theist” is a little troubling, but it’s hard to think of what the alternative would be. He means he’s anti-God, not that he’s anti-believer. So, you could call yourself “anti-atheist”, but what would you mean by it? Many, many very tolerant religious people who are inoffensive to me are anti-atheists if that means they think it would be better if I was religious. That’s a point I disagree with them about, but I don’t think it’s bigoted.

  • jkj

    Religious belief is nothing more than wishful thinking combined with willful ignorance.

  • E Favorite

    Chris Everett: “As usual, I don’t know what to make of you [Jihadist]. You’re probably being intentionally frustrating as a sly message that we all need to lighten up.…” That’s one possibility. Another is that she is fighting against an increasing sense that atheists may have it right after all.

  • irae

    You are, apparently, some variety of Fool, Patel. ‘Jewish’ is both a faith and an ethnicity. Your imaginary adult friend is a personal choice. Being an ethnic Jew is not. Get it yet, or should I get out the crayons and stickers? Believers… sheesh!

  • TJ

    T writes: “His choice of “anti-theist” is a little troubling, but it’s hard to think of what the alternative would be. He means he’s anti-God, not that he’s anti-believer.”Although I don’t know it for a fact, I would strongly suspect that ‘God’ is not a theist. I

  • Jeff P

    Jihadist:Thanks for your reply. Sorry about the cartoon mixup, thanks for the clarification. Danish, that’s right. Never saw the cartoon myself, but only paid attention to the issue as it became news that a death sentence had been put on this guy. That was shortly after so much murder generated because of the “Satanic Verses” stuff.Nevertheless, sorry it seems sweepingly bigoted to you for me to ask the question: Is religion better for the world? I don’t find that bigoted at all, and would be curious to understand why you think it might be. I’m asking from the standpoint of measurable, definable criteria.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Someone, a few comments back, I forget who, referred to me as a “religionist.” I am not sure what I am but I do not think I am a religionist. I once had a friend, a co-worker, from Iran. One day, she broke down in tears, and said, “Mohamed, Mohamed, Mohamed, I wish I had never heard that name.” Because, at least she thought then, that Islam had ruined her life, that it had cut her off forever from her homeland and from her family. But now, years and yeas later, she has a husband and children and a new homeland, here, and I think she is happy.When I hear the statement, “religion poisons everything,” I have to admit that I agree that it is a true statement. It has poisoned alot in my own life. Therefore, I would hardly consider myself to be a “religionist.”I do not think fundamentalist religon is going away any time soon, because this type of belief is more of a psychological state than a choice, something that, apparently a large swath of humanity is predisposed to.I know alot about Christian fundamentalism, and by inference, something of Islamic fundamentalism. I have always regarded Christianity and Islam as mirror images of each other. What these fundamentalist “belief” systems have in common is the single decision of the believer to conform the mind to an unbending doctrine or dogma. In this sense, Communism and Naziism were also fundamentalist. The actual dogma to which one has pledged mental conformity is actually not very important to a fundamentalist, just the conformity, that is what is important.The purpose behind this decision to mental conformity is that it is easy, and comforting. Afther the single decision to conform ones mind to the fundamentalist doctrine, no other decisons are necessary; all of your thinking is already done, and you are finished, and off the hook. When Victoria wonders about the motivations of atheists and how can they go on living without belief in God, she is really wondering, what it would be like to be released from the decision of mental conformity to a doctrine and then be forced to think. People who have not conformed their minds to a fundamentalist doctrine can look up at the night sky with wonder and awe, for what can it all be there for, and what it all must mean. Fundamentalists never, ever, traverse this ground, all they do is harrangue that they have the truth, and everybody else is wrong.When speaking with a fundamentalist and trying to get them to see your point of view, it reminds me a little of the “Miracle Worker” in which the teacher Anne Sullivan tried to get Helen Keller to understand the meaning in the world all around her, to which she was deaf and blind. I don’t have the energy and stamina of Anne Sullivan.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear John Stephens -I don’t know where you got your misinformation about Josephus, but it IS misinformation of the most-rank order.The two passages in his writings that mention Christ have been conclusively demonstrated to be forgeries from the 4th century, most-particularly, the Testimonium Flavianum. CTCNL has provided a succinct debunking of your statement below.Josephus became a believer in Jesus? Not even the greatest apologists for Josephus claim that.You need to get the basics straight if you hope to debate in the forum. Unlike the average church goer, the non-believers here have actually read the Bible and are well-versed in the typical lies that get floated to provide third-party support for the existence of the various godmen of antiquity.Try again.

  • Drew

    Jihadist;Drew : If you tell a young child that there’s a three headed God in the sky, he will believe you.Jihadist: Not my kids. Perhaps those weaned to believe in Santa Klaus, the Tooth Fairy, Witches etcIf this was not true, no kid would ever become religious.You deny,deny,deny,like a typically indoctrinated supernaturalist. If you only knew what you are missing. But it’s in the nature of indoctrination to prevent that ever happening.

  • T

    Back to Hitchens’ contempt for the religious… It’s hard when you’re asked point-blank about something like that. He deserves some credit for trying to be honest, but it does seem like he’s putting things too strongly. From the sounds of Quinn, it sounds as though he’s putting things stronger than he really believes.Consider this: If a Muslim or Christian was asked point-blank, “Do you feel pity for atheists?” how would they answer? How many would honestly say they don’t feel pity? If they said they do pity atheists, is that bigoted?

  • Chris Everett

    hu u kiddin eh?,Thank you.The notion that religions aren’t INHERENTLY idealogical is ABSURD. What is CREED? What is DOCTRINE? Religions assert unsubstantiatiated claims about the nature of reality. THAT IS IDEOLOGY!!! The only “religions” that don’t are the ones, such as Unitarianism, that have been “deflawed” (as CCNL likes to say) or Ethical Culture, that were secular from the get go.Obfuscation and misdirection can be tantalizing and can bring up other interesting and important issues beyond those that are to the point, but ultimately it’s just another sad example of BAD FAITH by someone OF FAITH.

  • Mr Mark

    Chip -If one wishes to cherry pick, then, sure, Jesus said some good things.But for everything Jesus said that was good, he also offered a counter that was quite despicable.For instance, Jesus said to love your enemy as yourself. He also said to hate your family. Apologists will say that one takes Jesus out of context when putting a negative read on his admonition to hate your family, yet they never make the same claim for the “love your neighbor” quote. To me, both statements are absolutely clear in their simplicity, and I take them at face value. If we wish to interpret these quotes beyond face value, then I could easily assert that Jesus saying to love your neighbor “as yourself” is an admonition to engage in masturbation with your neighbor, loving them as you would yourself. Xians would call that blasphemy, yet they have no problems at all finding a positive spin for his saying to hate your family.As far as “wisdom,” Jesus was locked into the OT. He was quite clear that the law would be in effect until heaven and earth passed away. That hasn’t happened yet, so I’m going to assume that all of the 600+ laws of the OT are still in effect, at least for the Jews. That would include stoning your kids to death if they talk back to you.And what kind of “wisdom” did Jesus possess when he got everything wrong about the natural world? Jesus was god, yet he believed in Adam & Eve, not evolution. He believed that the mustard seed was the smallest of seeds (it isn’t) and that it grew into a mighty tree (no mustard plant grows into a tree). He believed the story of Noah’s flood (2 Peter 3 calls those who DON’T believe the Biblical accounts of creation & the flood “willfully ignorant”). Jesus – ie: god – believed that illnesses were caused by evil spirits. Jesus – ie: god – believed that people born deaf and dumb were that way because of deaf and dumb spirits. Comically, Mark reports that Jesus heals a boy with a deaf and dumb spirit by calling for the spirit to leave the boy. Somehow, this deaf spirit hears Jesus’ words…and then, the dumb side of the spirit “cries out.”Jesus believed that diseases like epilepsy were caused by Satan. In John, Jesus said that god punished people by making them cripples. However, god made one blind man blind from birth not because he or his parents were sinful, but so that Jesus could show up and restore his sight (I’m sure the blind man appreciated those years of blindness he suffered through so Jesus could do his party trick. We can only hope the long-suffering and newly-sighted man wasn’t run over by a Python-esque oxcart as he left the scene of his healing).Wisdom of Jesus? I don’t think so.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    For JihadistYou didn’t meantion me; I wish I would be able to meet you someday, but of course, I think that will not happen.Because my own Christians beliefs have “blossomed” into something more than the standard teachings of most churches, and because I won’t keep my big fat mouth shut, I understand how atheists feel. Most religious people use the word “Godless” with absolute disdain and contempt. Muslims have that awful word, “infidel” and Christians have that other awful word “apostate” which is what I am. In fact, I should just start calling myself an “apostate Christian.” But to me, those are just silly, school-yard words that people use, to hurt each other’s feelings. Calling someone fat or ugly would be just as effective, and equally inappropriate.And there is another word “blasephemy,” that religious people like to toss around alot; only a believer of the blasphemed religion can be a “blasephemer;” non-beleivers cannot be; to accuse outsiders of blasephemy is to assume the position of God, and then to speak for God, as God would speak. When someone hurls the accusation “blasephemer” at me, I question their mental health, because I fear that they may themselves and God confused.One last thing, you have repeatedly grouped Sam Harris and Christopher Harris together, but they are actually quite different, and nothing at all alike, in the things that they write, and in their styles and tones. I will admit that Christopher does seem a little bitter at times on the subject, but even he does not come close to some relgious people whom I have had discussions with who become red-faced with hysteria. I think it really is true that as reviled as atheists are, that for religious people, the greater enemy is the “apostate.”

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    I have a question for Muslims, about pictures of Mohammed being blasphemous.Just what is a picture of Mohammed? Is it defined anywhere in Islamic Canon Law? Or is it just a folk custom?If someone draws a picture, what makes it a picture of Mohammed? If the artist says it is a picture of Mohammed, then does that make it a picture of Mohammed? Why would that make it a picture of Mohammed? I don’t think it should; the identity of a person depicted in this way is purely imaginary. If imaginary representations of Mohammed are blasphemous, then is it blasphemous to imagine a picture of Mohammed without a physical drawing? What if you tried not to imagine what he looked like, but still, you kept imagining it, and couldn’t help it? Would that be bad?Alot of this is rhetorical, designed to provoke thought. However, I really do wonder, what makes a picture of Mohammed valid enough to qualify as blaspehmey? Isn’t this actually putting alot of emphasis on something that has no existendce or reality? How can someone’s random drawing be supposed to be a picture of Mohammed? Only a photograph could be a picture of Mohammed, and I don’t think anyone needs to worry about that. I think there is probably more of a theological point here than I am currently able to understand, since it does seem to be pretty important to alot of people.

  • Gordon

    You raise several interesting points, Mr. Patel, and I agree with most of them, but not all.First, I agree that some of Mr. Hitchens’ remarks are over the top, and Mr. Harris’s more so. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion speaks less shrilly but reaches the same conclusion: We would all be better off without religion. While I agree with that conclusion, I protest that it is somewhat irrelevant to the real world. Religion is not going to disappear in the lifetime of anyone now living, so the practical question is, What should people of good will be doing in the meantime? Your piece on the NPR site provides the best answer to that question I have seen.That said, I think Messrs. Dawkins, Hitchins, and Harris are closer to the truth about religion being findamentally different from race and ethnicity than you apparently think they are. One can change one’s religion. Ayaan Hirsi Ali comes immediately to mind. Your example of mixed-race merely shows that race is not an absolute category, not that people can actually change their heritage. If you will forgive me for saying so, I think your statement, “The term ‘race’ has at least as much to do with how an individual with a particular skin color chooses to engage the community and history of people with a similar skin color as it has to do with the physical fact of that skin color itself,” is simply wrong for most people. I am Caucasian, and I would never be able to convince anyone that I am anything else. Similarly, “Jewish” has at least three meanings, religious, cultural, and racial, and I think you are confusing them, as many other people do.I don’t quite know what to make of the young man in your previous post who complained that he was discriminated against because he was religious rather than because he was Christian. Specifically, it is not clear to me what actions he considers directed against his religiosity in general as opposed to specifically Christian practices. You claim this is a problem faced by more and more religious people, but I think a couple of specific examples of the behavior you are condemning would go a long way.Finally, I completely agree with you that the real clash of civilization is between the totalitarians and the pluralists. I think we atheists would be a lot less defensive if pluralist Christians did a better job of showing us that religious totalitarianism is unacceptable to them, too. It is un-American to advocate that the government send your fellow citizens to prison for the crime of not sharing your religious beliefs. I need to hear a lot more Christians make that point a lot more forcefully before I stop believing that religiosity, which in this country usually means Christianity, is a threat to our liberties. I am confident those people are out there, I just don’t hear them very often. If they think the Dawkinses and the Hitchenses and the Harrises are wrong about them (and I hope they are wrong), let them show us why.

  • E Favorite

    Chris Everett – A few months ago, I asked Thomas Baum a lot of the same questions about his religious experience as you are asking now. I’ve looked around a bit for that thread and can’t find it. However, I recall Thomas’ account involved a very powerful experience that included a visit to a psych unit. Thomas, do I have that right? Mr Mark – I think you were active in that discussion. Does that ring a bell?

  • Jihadist

    Hello Jeff P,Thanks for your post. I don’t consider this as a “good fight”. Just a discusssion. We already know what atheists think on God and religion, but not too much on matters related to ethics, morals and values.Interesting to see atheists coming up with some principles and ethics here on life that seem to be updated revisions, editions and modifications on morals, ethics and values found in religions.Sweeping generalisations:- Believers abide by morals, ethics and values stated in their religions that personally suit them and their objectives.- Non-believers revise their attitudes and thinking on morals, ethics and values to suit their life and objectives.Small catch – believers are personally less into stringent observation of their religions’ stated codes and injunctions on morals, ethics and values than non-believers assume and presume. Thanks and regards

  • seattledodger

    eboo patel, this contribution has even less substance than your last. religious belief is not an inherited attribute. yes, one generation can attempt to ‘pass’ their religion to the next, but the same can be said for the family chamber pot. and at least you’d get some use out of the chamber pot.affluence and education killed poor baby jesus in europe a century ago (that, and the slaughter in fields of flanders). europeans discovered that, amazingly, you don’t need god when you have the national health service.here in the states, xtianity is on life support. church attendence is plummeting, thus the phenomenon of a few ‘mega’ churches replacing the traditional, small congregtions across the american heartland. at least you can get daycare cheap, so god still has a few uses.if jesus is pretty much yesterday’s news, even the new kid, mohamad, is looking a bit under the weather. sure, islam is extremely salient politically right now; it’s the obvious recourse for those traditional societies that are under pressure from globalizationa and modernization.but i met an interesting lad the last time i was in london who sybolizes the problem for islam (and it’s future). he was a young morrocan lad selling weed in camden town (not bad actually, though we’re a bit snobbish about that here in seattle). he called himself a muslim but he hasn’t ‘submitted’ to any gods. the next generation of european ‘muslims’ will not be muslims in sense other than cultural.ding dong, your gods are dead.

  • E Favorite

    Daniel ITLD: “When Victoria wonders about the motivations of atheists and how can they go on living without belief in God, she is really wondering, what it would be like to be released from the decision of mental conformity to a doctrine and then be forced to think.”Or maybe she and other believers are wondering how anyone could give up the promise of eternal life.easier to believe and not think about it.

  • A. Kafir

    Daniel in the Lion’s Den,Idols are a no no in Islam. Pictorial representation of living forms is not acceptable as Art. Islamic art revolves aroud calligraphy and geometrical patterns. Birds, animals, human representation as art or statues are not accepted. The exception is a few hundred years among the Iranians and the Indians, and a little less time among the turks. The objection is not THE picture of Muhammad but to the pictorial representation of Muhammad. J,Humans really do not know the source of morals, ethics, and source. It is very possible that these are part of our evolutionary brain just as the grammar of human language is, and there may be something to the notion of the moral “instinct” as well. Religion has been around for a long time, as long as our recorded history, and it must have been useful and needed. It would be stupid to suggest that everything about religion is useless just because the religions have been used by the unscruplous to gain and extend power and suppress others. As humans probe our neurophysiological and neuropsychological structures to understand the basis of morals and ethics, they will have to study religions of the past and present carefully because that is what humans have been using to “cataloging” their moral and ethical laws. Hopefully, as humans gain better understanding and knowledge they will strip the superstition away from the religions and deal with the core values and the natural variety with which humans represent them. It may be similar to that humans have very similar language centres in the brain, and the “natural grammar” is very similar across the languages, and that similarity can be expressed with amazing variety. Our morals, eithics and values might be similar to that. Fortunately, humans are starting to address these issues and very smart and intelligent people are starting to think about these issues.

  • Drew

    E.Favorite;Re your comments on Jihadist,you say;I’m inclined to agree with you that Jihadist is becoming more and more desperate as her Jihad amongst us atheists is getting her nowhere. Except for other religionists like DiTLD, and T.Moses Baum, she is influencing no-one, and is looking increasingly foolish as the logic of the nonbelievers becomes ever more difficult to deal with,or escape.But, as others have said, it is in the nature of indoctrination that logic and common sense cannot penetrate the hard shell of forced belief.

  • John Stephens

    I don’t understand the combative and occasionally vitriolic attitude some folks have regarding all religion.I recall bleeding-heart liberals bemoaning the fate of those poor, poor Indians. I’d ask which Indians they were referring to, and I’d get the deer-in-the-headlights looks.The American Indian tribes were as different from one another as the Irish are from the Italians, or the Russians from the Spaniards, having distinctly different languages, cultures, and beliefs. Some Indian tribes were sophisticated and noble; some were ruthless savages. In the 1800’s, the Dog Rib Indians slaughtered every man, woman, and child of the Yellowknife tribe up in Northwest Territories, Canada, rendering them extinct as a people. Lumping all Indians together is as patronizing and insulting and ignorant as despising them for being aborigines.Religions are distinctly different, as well. The doorbell pushers are a nuisance, militant missionaries are a pain in the butt, and we all know about the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition, the crusades, and so forth, but how do you hate Quakers or Amish? How about the gentle Jains, who literally wouldn’t hurt a fly? Were Jesus and Gautama Buddha such bad guys?It is a persistent vanity expressed by many of the nonreligious that they are smarter than those who believe in God. Wiser than Solomon? Wiser than Jesus, who was wiser than Solomon? More intelligent than Moses, who was a successful military commander for Pharoah? Smarter than Gandhi, who freed India from British Rule without firing a shot? Superior to the Dalai Lama?What atheists and so-called secularists cannot accept is the fact that some persons have had experiential reality confirm their faith, which is to say, some men have seen and heard God personally, and witnessed miracles.The fact that atheists and secularists have not had such remarkable life experiences is simply due to the fact that they weren’t invited to the party, or refused to accept the invitation. It’s okay if one doesn’t wish to dance, but there’s no reason to hate everyone who attended the ball.

  • E Favorite

    Eboo Patel -You sure have a way with words and you sure used a lot of them in this essay, but your argument still stinks.

  • John Stephens

    In the United States, a person half white and half black is generally considered to be a Negro.In Brazil, that same person is considered to be a Caucasian.Either way, what does it matter? It is character, not color, that determines the man.

  • yoyo

    Drew;…”it is in the nature of indoctrination that logic and common sense cannot penetrate the hard shell of forced belief”.I think it’s the hard shell of superstition that’s impossible to penetrate with good sense.

  • Craig

    Jihadist – I have no problem discussing my positions with you. However, you obviously did not read my post. Here is what you quote me as saying – “However, I find it outrageously offensive when a religious person tries to convince me that my worldview is empty and soulless and I should accept whoever as my personal saviour.”.I did indeed write this. Here is the very next sentence in that very same post – “I expect that any religious person would find it just as offensive if I were to say their worldview is based on lies, bloodshed, and totalitarian control of humanity in the name of their god.”If you are going to quote me, I would appreciate it if you would at least read my entire post.Thanks,

  • Mr Mark

    John Stephens writes:”It is a persistent vanity expressed by many of the nonreligious that they are smarter than those who believe in God. Wiser than Solomon? Wiser than Jesus, who was wiser than Solomon? More intelligent than Moses, who was a successful military commander for Pharoah? Smarter than Gandhi, who freed India from British Rule without firing a shot? Superior to the Dalai Lama”Give me a break. Setting aside the fact that Solomon, Moses and Jesus were fictional literary figures and not actual people, yes – there are many people who exhibit far greater wisdom than these barbaric mental midgets. You know – real people. And there are many people alive today who are wiser than Gandhi and the Dali Lama as well.Take a quick look at American history. It’s fairly littered with people who make Jesus and Solomon look like grade-school wannabees. Check out the work of scientists, philosophers and authors available at any local bookstore and you can do much better than the pathetic “wisdom” of the so-called holy men.Vanity? The vanity is imagining that unabashed ignorance, racism, misogyny and hatred born of our barbaric past qualifies as wisdom in a contemporary world. How does one arrive at such a deluded position? Certainly not by reading the very words themselves, but rather, with a very large assist from the guilt and fear that religion and its practitioners depend on to convince themselves that up is down and black is white.

  • Uncle Joe

    Comrades,I hate religion too, especially Christianity. I tried to end their freedoms, suppress their message, raze their buildings of worship, and purge them from my utopian society. Make sure you crush any dissenting points of view. You are always right, they are always wrong. Talk down to them since they are fools. Do not quibble amongst yourselves but keep your eyes fixed on the higher prize, freedom from religion, the end of religion itself. Suppressing freedom is the baby step towards real freedom. I see you are well on your way to accomplishing our goal, on an “On Faith” blog no less! Continue this fight at all costs. Show no mercy! Impose our will! Do not let dissenters have a voice!Like I always say, “Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach.”-Uncle Joe

  • yoyo

    Mr Patel;You say…” I suggested substituting racial or ethnic categories for the religion references in their writing, and pointed out that we would never let anybody get away with making broad negative generalizations about blacks or Indians, so why is it okay to do it about Muslims, Christians or Jews?”A black man cannot do anything about being black.After all,as far as we know,gods are simply make believe,and not actual entities.

  • Anna Mahler

    Look. After 2000 years of religion we are still arguing about God,or gods. That should tell us a lot about how unlikely it is that a god ever existed.

  • Chip

    John Stephens wrote “I was kind of hoping this web site would prove to be fertile ground for understanding, not rancor.”I think it does. It’s far more interesting and illuminating than a mutual appreciation society would be, don’t you think? I’m not sure why people have such thin skins when confronted by strong disagreement with what they believe. What Mr. Patel considers bile, I consider honesty free of any candy coating. Certainly some people go too far, both atheists and believers, and some people are just plain crazy. All of it is interesting and entertaining.I found your last post about your personal disposition towards organized religion to be quite fascinating and not boring at all. Thank you for sharing it. What I found most interesting about it is that I agreed with pretty much all of it. It seems but a small step away from disbelief, which makes me curious as to why you seem to find the atheist position so unpalatable, and why you still hold Jesus in such high regard since when stripped of the his supernatural aspects he’s pretty much just your garden variety humanist and revolutionary. Atheists in this day and age do tend to argue their positions rather stridently, but I think that’s pretty easy to understand given that every culture in the world is dominated by religion (those self same organized religions you don’t seem to be a fan of either), which makes being an atheist a pretty frustrating thing over the last hundred years or so. Robert Ingersol, “The Great Agnostic” was the most popular orator of his day and he was just as hard on superstition as Hitchens or Harris. Since the Enlightenment it’s really been the period between the 1920’s and now that’s been so militantly anti-atheist where atheist voices didn’t have much of a foothold, at least in the west. There’s a whole lot of bottled up frustration being expressed. How else would you expect societal pariahs to express their opinions? Apologetically? People who feel backed into a corner tend to lash out. It’s simply human nature. I think a great many atheists feel like the character Howard Beale in the movie “Network”…”I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth; banks are going bust; shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter; punks are running wild in the street, and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it.We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat. And we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be!We all know things are bad — worse than bad — they’re crazy.It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out any more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, “Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials, and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.Well, I’m not going to leave you alone.I want you to get mad!I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you to write to your Congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.All I know is that first, you’ve got to get mad.You’ve gotta say, “I’m a human being, goddammit! My life has value!”So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell,”I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!!”Perhaps if such a large percentage of the population didn’t spend so much of its time reading the same outdated books over and over again (books that contain a great deal of barbarism and ignorance) or engage in so much meaningless ritual, and disavowed superstition and myth, we might actually start to make the world a better place for everyone, not just those of a particular tribe at the expense of those of different tribes. As far as I can see, religions haven’t brought us any new ideas in a few thousand years. That’s not to say they haven’t done many good works around the world. They certainly have. It just seems to me that every real advancement in the human condition has come from secular knowledge, science, and human compassion and ingenuity, not from prophets or miracle workers. How much more numerous might those advancements be if so many people weren’t so distracted by gazing at their own metaphysical navels?

  • E Favorite

    Thank you Daniel ITLDHow could I have ever thought you were the other Daniel?

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Knock, Knock Jist (formerly The Jihadist), Anybody Home??, Come on now, you can do it, what about those “wingie thingies” in your children’s education, those hallucinations by the long-time dead, “cartoon- worthy” Arab, the inherent sins of Islam, your Sunni superior class status, terror and torture theocracies, Islamic plagiarizing of the good books, and Jay Smith’s anti-koran study???

  • A. Kafir

    PAM:I agree with mostly what you have written. The saddest moment on nature shows that I ever experienced was a show on Chimps or Gorillas on public TV. The show showed the depth of grief a mother great ape went through when her child had died. She could not bring to part herself from the corpse of her child and carried it around, and how her social group tried to comfort her and ease her out of her grief. It was truly heart breaking. We are born with a moral sense and a sense of empathy, but it is likely that we need an appropriate environment during our childhood for it develop and be expressed healthily. We do know that if a child is raised without language for the first 8 to 10 years of their lives they will lose the ability to learn and speak any language for the rest of their lives. We do learn our accents during the first 12 years or so of our lives. It is very difficult to acquire a new accent after the age of 15 or 16 years. Given that it is very likely that our moral sense needs to be nurtured properly and carefully during our childhood. It maybe that religions have been used to transmit and nurture this moral sense during our childhood. The human child might not be equipped to deal with subtle and complicated intellectual reasoning, and delivering the community’s “moral” knowledge might require the use of stories, myths, and rituals. This is ofcourse all a conjecture, and scientist will be entangling a lot of this in the future. However, what is clear is that lack of understanding our ethics and morality structures properly does end up getting the function of religion confused with a lot of superstition and injurious to the us. The “organized” part of spirituality might the result of having to function with massive ignorance. In short, it is a little too early to say that humans do not need “religion”. The religion of the future may not resemble anything like the religion of the present, just as the religions of the present do not resemble much to the religions of the past.

  • Chris Everett

    DITLD,You write: “I also believe that there are no ‘laws’ of physics nor any ‘laws’ of nature, but that they only exist in the mind of man. And therefore, there is no use in an atheist putting his faith in these laws, and there is no use in relgious people using these laws to prove the existence of God, nor to promote Intelligent Design.”I think of the “laws” of nature as being man’s model of nature’s order. That order is apparent, but our exposure to it is incomplete and our “laws” are constantly subject to improvement, by way of revision in light of new evidence or in a more accurate model of existing information.Philosophically, I have heard science described as “methodological naturalism.” As I understand it, this means that science is metaphysically neutral, but it assumes a posture of naturalism as a defining attribute of its method. In other words, the scientific method is simply a tactic, whose use is justified only on the basis of past success. One can quibble about what constitutes success, but it is apparent to me that science is a whopping success of a sort that no other explanatory method has been.But of course, there could always be aspects of nature for which the scientific method is useless. Indeed, one could argue that the APPEARANCE of naturalism (i.e. describability via unambiguous, well defined rules applied to observable phenomena) is due in part to our reliance on the scientific method – sort of like shining a red flashlight into the woods and declaring that the woods are red. I personally don’t ascribe much to this point of view, given the absence of some similarly successful alternative method, but it seems philosophicall sound.The elephant in the room is, of course, consciousness. Empirically, individual consciousnesses seem inextricably linked to individual brains, which are islands of intricate, dynamic complexity and order unto themselves. This correlation seems hard to deny, and leads to the idea that consciousness is itself the physical manifestation of order. Of course, this raises other issues. Order seems manifest everywhere, so is there some meta-consciousness that is contributed to FROM everywhere? What is the nature of our sense of individual consciousness? If it arises from our being “islands of complexity”, what level of connectivity between us would ameliorate the isolation and give rise to a meta-consciousness at the level of the connected individuals?On an earlier post, I described morality as being rooted in empathy, and suggested that empathy can be thought of as a refinement of the senses – instead of saying “That’s me!” when we get hit on the head, we say “That’s me!” when we see someone else get hit on the head. In both all we are experiencing are sensory phenomena – in the one case from the skin on the top of the head – in the other case from the retinae of the eyes. The difference is really in the brain response – in the first case the response seems to cascade up. In the second case, for a non-empathetic person the brain response is attenuated – for an empathetic person the brain response seems to cascade up, as if the experience were personal. Maybe it is. Is this a pathway towards collective consciousness? I don’t know. Are our individual cells conscious?Victoria (what happened to her – we were so responsive!) wondered what could replace religion. For me, these sorts of questions would constitute foundational “religious inquiry,” not that I would use the term. Of course, humanity is back in the infancy of understanding – the infancy that we never really left when we went in the direction of religion.It seems clear that humanity has had abrupt leaps of understanding in the past. My understanding of the archeological evidence is that mankind spent on the order of a million years making the same simple stone tools over and over again, and that sometime around 40,000 years or so ago a creative element took off and kicked progress into high gear (I could be wrong on the dates. Help?). I’m not sure if it was the beginnings of language, if it was genetic or memetic, but it indicates to me that consciousness is in flux and that we are just one point on a continuum. This may be a form of bigotry, but I often see the superstition/reason debate along evolutionary lines. The superstitious can’t explain either, whereas the reasonable can explain both.

  • Anonymous

    “Yes, I don’t think there’s any meaning in it at all. I think the word “universe” is a handy word in some connections, but I don’t think it stands for anything that has a meaning.”BERTRAND RUSSELL

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Sometimes, the light in my basement burns out, and then I am on my last pair of clean underwear, and it is night time, and dark, and I have to do laundry, and I go down into the bssement, and it is dark, and I must feel my way around, to the washing machine, without tripping over all that stuff that is stored down there, and I have to work the washing machine controls in the dark, and hope I am doing it right. To me, that is what science is like. We are in a dark room filled with many wonderful things, but we cannot see them. These things are all over the place, all around us, but to find out about them, we must slowly feel our way around the room, and touch each thing, and examine each thing, and after awhile, we have a pretty good idea of all the things that are in the dark room, which were not readily apparent to us.We have impressions of order, and science is the examination of these impressions of order. Scientific truth is not any kind of “objective” truth, but scientific truth is the consensus of scientists, regarding their studies. Science does not depend upon an assumption of a set of natural laws; this idea comes after we notice patterns in our impressions of order. The idea that the world is governed by laws of nature is an eighteenth century idea, a philosophical speculation on the contemporary advances of science which seemed wondrous to the people of that time. But science neither postulates nor proves the existence of such laws; they are our imaginings. Scientists do their work, they examine the impressions of order that they derive from their investigations, and they come to a consensus on what patterns may be noticable; they do all this without a any kind of valid philosopy of science or theory of knowledge; they just do it; and it works; that is, science has great utility to us, because it causes us to be aware of all the many wonderful things in the world, which are not readily apparent to us.How do we get these impressions of order? Through our senses. But why do we have these 5 senses? We have them because they were passed on to us by the animals from which we have evolved. But why did they have their senses? They had them to navigate the order of the world. And so, we have our senses, also, to navigate the order of the world. Each of the senses is a reflection of order, by which impressions are conveyed. Or again, each of the senses is a template, that fits an aspect of order, by which a sense of this order is then conveyed. And in our evolution, and with our senses by which we nagivate the order of the world by forming impressions of it, we also, then are able to form impressions of ourselves; this is consiousness.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Chris Everett said:”Of course, this raises other issues. Order seems manifest everywhere, so is there some meta-consciousness that is contributed to FROM everywhere?”To me, this does not seem so. The prospect of such a belief might be the God that some people are hoping to find proof of. But this does not seem practically knowable. For, me, God is more mysterious, still, even than that. Even the word “God” is to me, both insufficient, and, trite. Some people use the word “providence” as another word for God. I say, good, just so long as it is another word. I like that word “providence” because it has within it the implication of “provide.” Where does this order come from that we know exists? Is it somehow provided? I can imagine this could be. As I said previously, we have our senses to navigate the order of the world. These senses and the perceptions which they enable, must be very finely tuned to the order of the world, and synchronized with this order in the world, in order for them to be reliable navigational tools; perhaps when they are so well and finely tuned enough, then that is when consiousness begins.

  • E Favorite

    Daniel ITLD – I’ve been thinking about what you said to Chris earlier about your Christianity and wanted to know more about it. I don’t mean to over-simplify and please tell me whether or not I’m on the right track. It sounds like when you were suffering so much physical pain, that you identified with the suffering of Jesus. Do you think, Daniel, that if you had known about someone else, perhaps a well-known person, but not a religious figure, who had also suffered greatly, that you could have identified with that person instead of Jesus? For example, what if you knew of someone who had suffered longer and was in greater pain than Jesus was in his three hours on a cross?

  • Moody

    I would totally agree with Victoria’s advise that one should not decend in tit for tat way.I was carried away due to the recent Palestine Gaze border Muslims agony.Though my way of addressing ON RECORD non Muslim bios and atrocities was not exemplary and up to the Muslims standards BUT mentioning them purposely also felt necessary, enabling every one to see the both side of picture here on blogs.I personally felt ONLY showing and explaining the Muslim concepts correctly was not influencing the IRRATIONAL ATTACKS on Islam, therefore I also felt it important to HIGHLIGHT world events and in practice malicious theories for COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS only!

  • Thomas Baum

    TO CHRIS EVERETT: You asked, “I’d be very interested if you could describe, in detail, what the experience of “meeting God” was like.”, I will try. On 28 Jan 2000 I picked up one of my brothers to go visit our Mom on the first anniversary of our Dad’s death, I thought it was important to be with our Mom and he agreed to go. That morning it was like I had a feeling inside that was quite different and everything was falling into place just right for the trip, which wasn’t really far only a little over a hundred miles and after I picked him up probably in the early afternoon we were on our way. I can’t really describe the feeling but it just kind of got more and more intense and then in an instant, I knew, just knew, that it was God the Father, there is no way that I can tell you how but I just knew. There was no sensory things such as sight or sound, actually to the contrary, God didn’t say a word but I do remember that I said out loud but quietly, “It is all true”, I was taught in second grade that God is Love but I had no idea that that statement was literal. When I realized that It was God the Father, I thought about pulling over and letting my brother drive but then I thought, well he can’t see real well and he also doesn’t have a license so I didn’t. I could think fine but I was just, to put it very mildly, overwhelmed. This is just part of the experience of the day that God the Father came into my heart. I would like to say something, if this sounds like someone that others would classify as, well pick your term, I wouldn’t blame anyone one bit because it is either true or I am the most delusional person that has ever been on the planet. You also wrote, “The experience you refer to is totally alien to me and I can’t even begin to imagine it.”, I understand, believe me I understand, there was a before meeting and knowing that God is real to my life also. I don’t know if this is of any help but I tried. I have also met the Holy Spirit and satan and experienced hell and spiritual death and other things have happened to me but the thing is, I needed to know and not just to believe that God is real, for the job that God chose me for. What happened to me is important to me for various reasons and one of them is that God chose me for a speaking part in His Plan and thru the ways and the things that God has communicated with me, He let me know this. How God works in and/or thru other people or how He may get their attention, so to speak, really is none of my business. I am just a messenger, I have my job to do. Take care, be ready, see you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Chris Everett

    Jihadist,I probably overspoke when I said, “religions are merely attempts to codify ethics.” Of course there is more to religion than this, and of course different religions address ethics differently. I like the Bhagavad Gita despite the supernatural charrioteer Krishna and the warfare. We are all Arjuna. My intention was just to argue against the notion that religion is the source of morality. Perhaps its the Christian “background” that I live in, but that seems to be a common belief, with the corralary that athiests can’t possibly be moral. I take issue with your assertion that the ten commandments are considered “man-formulated codification of moral, ethics and values.” Not in this country.I also hope you don’t think I said that morals, ethics and values are themselves superstitions. All I intended to say is that it is a superstition to believe that morals, ethics and values have their origins in god or religion. Their origins are evolutionary.As for the various moral philosophies, I tend to see morality as more organic than that, and I heartily second Pam’s posts on the issue. Codification itself has its limitations, kind of along the same lines as the limitations of science that DITLD has been talking about. Rules are finite in number, whereas the set of possible circumstances is infinite. That’s why strict, rule based justice is unjust. Context matters.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Regarding the religious beliefs of others, I think my personal policy is “live and let live.” I know it is futile, anyway, to try and change the beliefs of others. But when I am met with relgious aggression, which is directed at me in a mean and spiteful way, then I see no particular reason to be respectful of such a person; merely their appeal to God does not grant them a special entitlement.I do not think I believe as Thomas Baum does. I did not have the experience of meeting God as he says he has. But I have noticed that when he posts, he is usually measured and respectful in all that he says, and so I cannot find much to argue about with him. So I would say God bless him, and I wait to see what addiitonal things he might have to say in the future.

  • Chris Everett+

    Thanks, Thomas. I can’t say I know what to make of it, but I appreciate the response.”Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be… All you need is love” – John Lennon

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Jist, Jist, Jist, (formerly The Jihadist),Updating your road to Reality via gleaning your commentaries about atheists, anti-theists, music and now ethics and morality in religion brings us again to the previous observation and questions:The echoes of your mind still need a bit of sound adjustment as to what you hold true:1. the existence of “pretty and ugly flying thingies” (a required tenet of Islam)??? 2. the koran being based on the hallucinations of one long dead Arab????-still no response- another tough one since the if you agree there would be no foundation for Islam3. the correct side of the Sunni-Shiite 800 year old blood feud???It appears you take no sides although you are a Sunni and have the upper Islamic economic hammer in most Islamic countries.4. theocracies, good or bad???-You apparently dislike theocracies but you live in Malaysia which is fast becoming a theocracy. Have you sent letters of complaint to your government officials and clerics??5. the sins of being Islamic??? (false prophets/profits, greed, anger, lust, polygamy, warmongering, suicide)??- I guess if you cannot see the problems of Islam, there is no sin but the koran’s passages ooze of said sins.6. Islamic scribes plagiarizing the codes, passages and ways of the ancients even the anti-female passages of “Prude Paul”?????- Again, you still adhere to the “Islam is perfect” mantra so this is a problem for you to grasp. Some courses in ancient history should help you come to grips with Reality.P.S. And no commentary on Jay Smith’s conclusions about the koran???

  • Thomas Baum

    TO MR MARK: You wrote, “I hope you will forgive we non-believers for feeling uneasy when you say, “God will somehow see me thru on the job He has given to me and no one human, demonic or satan himself is going to keep God’s Plan from coming to Fruition,” as the last, oh, 3,000 people who said something similar ended their thought by adding, “even if I have to kill every last one of the infidels in the process.””. Have you ever actually read anything that I have written beyond the fact that I have met God and see what it is I am trying to say. Can you get past your all-knowing bias as in you know that God doesn’t exist, well you are wrong, I have met God and I know for a fact that I don’t know everything and you know what, that is quite freeing, even tho I never did have the need or desire to know everything. I tell you and the rest of the world so many of the people, but not all of the people, on these posts that call themselves christian know absolutely nothing about God except for His Name. Oh and by the way why should you or anyone else feel uneasy about what I say, because ultimately it is the best news, [“Good News” as opposed to good enough news], that mankind could possibly ever receive. I have no worldly power, don’t want any, I have no followers, I would be the first to say, don’t follow me, but I am a messenger and I do have a speaking part in God’s Plan for the Salvation of Humanity. And for those of you that say you don’t need a Saviour, don’t you care about those of us who do, we are all in this together, like it or not, we are all brothers and sisters, like it or not. God wins, satan loses, a tie is unacceptable. Take care, be ready, see you all in the Kingdom. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Jihadist

    Yo! Concerned The Christian Now Liberated:)Got a term paper or research project due or what? Judging by you frenetic knockings. I am certainly not going to provide answers to your questions for your research. Go to the library.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Knock, Knock -Jist (formerly The Jihadist), Eboo, John Esposito, Zudhi Jasser, Moody, Victoria, Pamela, Ahmen from Bahrain, et al- Anybody Home??, Come on now, you can do it, what about those “wingie thingies” in your children’s education, those hallucinations by the long-time dead, “cartoon- worthy” Arab, the inherent sins of Islam, terror and torture theocracies, Islamic plagiarizing of the good books, and Jay Smith’s anti-koran study???

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    For E FavoriteI was born into a very religious Christian family, but we were not fundamentalists, far from it. I do not think that I was brain-washed, but I will admit to your term, that maybe I was indoctrinated. In a way, everyone is indoctrinated. I think I am attached to Jesus because of my childhood indoctrination. And if I had been born into some other family, in some other country, then I would not have this attachment. And that is not to say that I believe all religions are equally valid, and one is just as good as the other. (That is the accusation that I am always defending against). It is just that we are all born into different settings, to make and find our own ways, with what we given to work with. When I think of “Jesus,” I know it is not in the same way that fundamentalist people think of Jesus. But it is the word that I use, because it is the way I have been taught to understand.You are right, that there are alot of complications that I did not go into. And there were alot of weird psychological states that I expereinced, that are not easy to describe. I had a series of cataclysmic experiences, one followed by another, each, taking my breath away, with no time to think and no way to analyze it while it was happening. When I was in high school, I wrote in a friend’s year book, that I hoped to escape my drab and boring life, and have adventures, like people in novels do. I got my wish.I wrote something to myself, awhile back, about people whose experiences and origins are very different, but how it is possible for their thoughts and beliefs to converge. I will try and find it and post it, hopefully, in a day or two.

  • Moody

    Anonymous,”Western Enlightenment and respect for the individual, we cannot win this war”Rightly said by you Anonymous “You cannot win the WAR” because as you admitted your self,Instead of reasoning YOU ALL are raging WAR.And muslims can’t be convienced by your deceiving, bias polices and practices. Muslims see following common problems in the ENLIGHTED WEST which hardly exist OR stands out as very little in the muslim masses and 1- Chaos and Conspiracy theory practice towards muslims to grab, still, occupy there lands and wealth and destroying there properties, lands and countriesAnd non conviencing list is very long…………

  • Thomas Baum

    TO CHRIS EVERETT: You wrote, “”Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be… All you need is love” – John Lennon” another thing that John wrote was, by the way I might not get the words exactly right, “Imagine all the people living for today, hey hey you may say I’m a dreamer but I’m not the only one”. It is kind of amazing when you can look at God in your heart the way Jesus actually tried to teach us, as a Loving Dad, and see that God speaks to us in many, many ways. “living for today”, the seventh day will get here even tho night is coming first, be ready. By the way thanks for the reply to my posting, also I would like to say that I can’t explain God to anyone except to say that He is Pure Love, we think of Love as many things but I know, at least for me, I cannot conceive of Love as a Being, I had to experience it. Jesus spoke of new heavens and a new earth and I don’t know just what they will be, but it will be betterer than anything that anyone of us could ever possibly conceive of. One of the things about living in an imperfect world is that we have the opportunity to do things for others, big and small, in the mundane everyday experience of life there are always opportunities presenting themselves, has anyone ever thought that God maybe has many reasons for how He made this place but that that could be one of them. Take care, see you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • melissa

    Dear Thomas: you are not alone in having an encounter with the LIVING LORD of All Things. Pascal- the French mathematician and physicist documented his encounter by writing:”From about half-past ten in the evening until about half-past midnight. Fire. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Not of the philosophers and intellectuals. Certitude, certitude, feeling, joy, peace. The God of Jesus Christ. My God and your God. Forgetfulness of the world and everything except God. One finds oneself only by way of the directions taught in the gospel. The grandeur of the human soul. Oh just Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you. Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy..”Its not an experience that is easily translated or understood in this fallen world. But it is a valid experience that has been noted and documented through the generations.

  • Thomas Baum

    TO MELISSA: Thank you very much for your post, it means a lot to me. By the way, the Fire that He speaks of is the Pure Love of God. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    The Jihadist, The Jihadist, The Jihadist,You lost your way to Reality so we had to downgrade you from Jist to The Jihadist again as it is apparent from your refusal to answer basic questions about Islam that you:1. Believe in “pretty/ugly wingie” thingies and teach your children that such things really exist (strange though that you laugh at those who believe in Santa Clause and tinkerbells). 2. Believe that the long-dead Arab did actually talk to the “pretty Gabriel” in the “Gabe” cave and therein received the good words now listed in the koran.3. That Sunnis are superior to Shiites in all aspects of life.4. That Islam is perfect and the koran inherently condones no sin even though the 24/7 800 year-old feud between Sunnis and Shiites give significant credence that suicides, assassinations, maiming, and murder are condoned by the koran. Having multiple wives also gives significant credence to the sins of lust and polygamy. The condoned treatment of these wives gives credence that the koran allows the sins of anger and greed. With such beliefs, your words of “wisdom” about other religions and worldly matters mutes anything you might have to offer and explains again your constant obfuscating.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Moody, Moody, Moody,The “sins” of the West pale in comparison to the contemporary sins inherent in the koran i.e. false “prophets, greed, anger, lust, polygamy, warmongering, murder, assassinations, maiming and suicide as demonstrated by the 24/7 Sunni-Shiite blood feud. Once again that famous quote is validated:No one is safe until the koran is “deflawed”!!!!!

  • Chris Everett

    Jihadist,You write, “Interesting to see atheists coming up with some principles and ethics here on life that seem to be updated revisions, editions and modifications on morals, ethics and values found in religions.”Yes and no. Religion is NOT the source of ethics, so it would be wrong to think that atheists begin with religious moral prescriptions and then “update” them to suit themselves. Instead, a “moral sense” is part of our natural inheritance, just as an intellectual faculty is. This is just beginning to be understood by biologists, anthropologists, etc. It comports with observation of altruistic behavior over a broad range of species, and correlates with what one would predict from the evolutionary tendency to evolve organisms that sustain their genetic information (e.g. kin selection).The question of the nature of “the good,” and its relationship to gods, has been around for a long time. It is the subject of Plato’s dialogue “Euthyphro,” which I’ve heard is still considered central today. As I remember it, the conclusion is that if a thing is good because God declares it to be good, then there’s no inherent goodness, just “might makes right.” But if God is just SHOWING us what is good by its own nature, then God is just a middleman and is not the source of the good.It’s interesting stuff, but for me, as I’ve said before, morality is basically empathy. One way to describe empathy is as the identification of the self with the other. Another is the extension and refinement of the pleasure/pain response to include the perception of pleasure/pain in others.Anyway, as far as I can tell, religions are merely attempts to codify ethics, mainly in terms of rules and regulations, and usually within the context of political consolidation of power. The idea that they are a SOURCE of ethics is part of the SUPERSTITIOUS aspect of religion.

  • A. Kafir

    Thomas and Melissa,Experiencing God is not very novel anymore.Please see: I have actually seen people whose brains are exposed to focused magnetic fields (which essentially produce large currents within the brain that are something the person had never ever experienced before in their lives) and then listened to them try to make sense of what “they” experienced. It is fascinating. However, please be very careful with some of the circuitry that is being sold online from barely half started research area that is not very well understood, and it is not known how safe they really are. We understand the world via our brains and when one starts interfering with it, the self report of what is being experienced becomes very very interesting to disentangle. In short there are many many people who now have reported meeting God at the flick of a switch.

  • Jihadist

    Yo! Concerned the Christian Now Liberated!:)There is a GodSo, how’s the Crossanization of Muslims and other stubborn ones project in On Faith coming along pussycat? lol

  • E Favorite

    Jihadist: “Small catch – believers are personally less into stringent observation of their religions’ stated codes and injunctions on morals, ethics and values than non-believers assume and presume”On the contrary, many non-believers know from their own past experience as believers just how lax believers can be. Such insouciance can also be easily observed, as believers say one thing and do another.

  • Ibrahim Mahfouz

    Moody:

  • E Favorite

    Daniel ITLD – thanks for getting back to me and I look forward seeing your writings. I notice, though, that you didn’t directly address my questions: “Do you think, Daniel, that if you had known about someone else, perhaps a well-known person, but not a religious figure, who had also suffered greatly, that you could have identified with that person instead of Jesus? For example, what if you knew of someone who had suffered longer and was in greater pain than Jesus was in his three hours on a cross?”Of course, you don’t have to. Could you just tell me if you plan to or not?

  • seattledodger

    moody: “Muslims see following common problems in the ENLIGHTED WEST . . .”actually i tend to agree with you, moody, if not in detail, at least in spirit. the western world for two hundred years has been cynically exploiting the areas of the world that are largely muslim for the resources and influence.there’s little to be proud of when you examine the deceit, death, and destruction that has inevitably accompanied the good christians that supplanted the ottomans and continue to play their colonial games.that’s why islam is both a religion as well as an ideology of resistence. poor and traditional societies are under great stress from both economic and political turmoil. the states are weak and religious institutions are all that stand between many and starvation. hamas and hezbollah are vital sources of aid and comfort.at the same time, islam provides an identity that is flexible and really gets under the skin of western conservatives, many of whom are quite close in dogma and ideology to those they seem to detest (see the muslim bashing common here).religion is a functional institution and is extremely adaptable. it is strongest where hunger, disease, and oppression are strongest.that’s why many euro muslims have held onto the ‘resistence’ and the ‘identity’ aspects of islam, but are in the process of dumping the mumbo-jumbo. they are political muslims, and that’s a whole different thing.religion in the twenty-first century is epiphenomenal to larger political and social movements, such as economic globalization and the rise of asia. note the decline of the relgious right’s political influence in the american republican prez nomination process.like i said, religion dies when you build schools and hospitals instead of prisons. it’s quite simple, really, and entirely our own choice.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    A. Kafir said:”The objection is not THE picture of Muhammad but to the pictorial representation of Muhammad.”But what is the difference? I do not see any. These are purely imaginary things, surely more imaginary than the atheists suppose God to be. And what is the nature of the “objecton?” Is it written in the Koran, or some other Islamic Canon Law? Is it codified in Civil Law? The only thing I know about Islamic writings is a Koran that I scanned through, briefly, so I know almost nothing. But what is the bais for objecting to something that is so utterly abstract? If Western people find such an abstract interdiction so difficult to comprehend, isn’t that understandable?

  • E Favorite

    Jihadist: Aye Aye Aye – Are you being purposely provocative in your narrow and simplistic interpretation of my words or are you just looking for an excuse to launch into your vast knowledge of religious ethics?

  • seattledodger

    daniel, etc.: “But what is the bais for objecting to something that is so utterly abstract?”are you just trying to bait people or do you really not know?the act of creating an image of divinity (for example) may be seen as a act of human hubris and prohibited. the object, however, is not inherently ‘sinful’ nor indeed of any importance at all.i like discussing religious dogma. what about that trinity thing, eh? three is one and one is three. sounds like microsoft coding to me.and what to you think about the ritual cannibalism that xtians are into. i hear they get together each week and literally (for catholics, anyway) eat their god’s flesh and drink his blood.whoa, those are hard-core nut cases, dude. better keep an eye on that lot. muslims are teddy bears compared to them, seeing how well-armed most of them seem to be.

  • Jihadist

    E Favorite,Aiyoyo! Lighten up. Only one paragraph related to you in my post I double addressed to you and Chris Everett and reposted here:E Favorite : On the contrary, many non-believers know from their own past experience as believers just how lax believers can be. Such insouciance can also be easily observed, as believers say one thing and do another.Moi : I take it E Favorite is talking about hypocrites who spoke or preach on ethics, morals and values but don’t practice them. I am not disagreeing with you if you reread what I wrote. Hypocrites are everywhere, but I hope atheists would not make a virtue of being immoral, unethical and with shifting values just not to be hypocrites. ————————————————–The rest of my post on ethics is for Chris Everett as he discusssed it at length in his posts to me. He’s interesting to talk with.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    seattledodger”are you just trying to bait people or do you really not know?”I am curious, but it is not necessary for you to try and answer my question. I was hoping for someone like Victoria or Jihadist to answer, since I assume they would not derail my curiosity with hostility. I was just trying to point out that people invest an awful lot of emotion in what is actually abstract to the point of meaninglessness. Scribbling some pencil marks on a piece of paper only forms an image of a face in our minds, but there is no face there, much less any particular person’s face. It is only a particular person’s face if you say it. But if you do not say it, then it is not there. And if you say it, you can always take it back, if you think you will be punished for saying it, all the while, inwardly believing that the image is of the person whom you named. But if you did not name it, but others named it, and then attributed the scribbles to you and your intention, in error, what of that?Isn’t this really about mental conformity, without reason or thought, to a fundamentalist doctrine? It is better to think. So, I guess I am a bad person for saying that.

  • E Favorite

    Chris Everett: “The idea that [religions] are a SOURCE of ethics is part of the SUPERSTITIOUS aspect of religion.” Excellent point, Chris, that I don’t think I’ve heard before. Religion as a source of ethics is as much superstition as Thor is the source of thunder and the risen Christ is the source of salvation.

  • Chris Everett

    SEATTLEDODGER,You’d better be careful referring to muslims as teddy bears. That could get you into a lot of trouble!That said, I agree that the examples you cite are just as superstitious as the images of Mohammad thing. But at least they’re not (currently) being used as excuses for murder.By the way, DITLD, your posts are among the most observant on this blog. What makes you a Christian? If you don’t mind my asking, do you believe in any particular non-emperical (dare I say superstitious) doctrine (e.g. immortal soul, heaven/hell, salvation through belief in Jesus, god)? Or is it that you see Jesus as someone worth emulating? If the latter, what are the core ‘practices’ of your faith that charactize you as Christian?

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    For VictoriaIn a previous post that I wrote about fundamentalism, I took a couple of quotes from you, to use in my argument, implying that you are a fundamentalist.Just for the record, I think of you as a religious person, but not really a fundamentalist, and I am sorry for using your quotes to make my anti-fundamentalist arguements.(Sometimes, a person just get carried away).

  • Chris Everett

    DITLD,What about the man in the moon, the old man of the mountain, or the occasional virgin Mary on a piece of toast? To someone who ascribes to the image prohibition these must be very challenging, for they surely must show that god is engaged in idol worship! Or maybe they’re proof of the existence of Satan, who is luring all those silly Catholics and Evangelicals to burn, like the Mary toast itself, in the heating coils of hell!

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    For Chris EverettI have had some very hard life experiences at a young age, as a young man. In a previous thread, I told Canyon Shearer that I knew what suffering Jesus experienced on the cross. And then, he had a fit because he thought that I was being blasephemous. But I do know, through my own personal experience of suffering. Maybe that is the main thing that motivates my Christianity. When you go through your dark night, and you know you will die, and you only wish it would hurry up and happen quickly, you think through alot of things which are very difficult to express in words. But then, I did not die. I had everything imaginable go wrong; I had the most radical medical treatments that fouled up disastrously, but I did not die. And I do not know why. Even though these things happened to me long,long ago, I think about them alot, everyday.I do not think I have any specific thing to say, or insights to offer you that you have not already thought of yourself, or heard from other people.I have suffered alot. But I am assuming that as much physical suffering as I have experienced, that it is not unique to me, but everyone gets their turn, sooner or later. I do not know that I will have “life after death” but I hope so. I do not know that there is a Heaven, but I hope that there is. What could it possibly be like? I cannot even guess. But when I think of it sometimes, I get a little worried, because I hope it is alot like physical life on earth, and I think it may not be.I am not concerned with the Jesus of atonement; I think that many Christians, likewise, are not. But I hope the suffering Jesus is there, and will help me along, when I need his help, because he suffered, too, as I have.Faith means, believing in something that you cannot prove. So, mostly, I do not try to prove the existence of God; I know and am well aware that there cannot be a scientific proof of such a thing. Hope means, the wish that your belief may be true. So, I do not hold up my beliefs as immutable “truth” that I must force on other people.The only thing that I can know for sure, is that I have impressions of order. I think this is good insight, but almost no one whome I mention this to understands or agrees.

  • Cecil

    At the time I am writing this post there have already been over 200 previous posts. It would seem, then, that everything that could be said (both good and bad) has been said. Never the less, I will add my two cents.I appreciate the thought and effort that you, Eboo Patel, put into this post. It is well written and thought provoking. You are absolutely right that race, religion, culture, etc are all extremely complex concepts, and you are right in suggesting that it is wrong to make sweeping generalizations about these things or about the people identified by such terms.I am not a religious person, but I am certainly not and “aggressive athiest”, and I do not wish to see any large or small tents burned down because of categorical classification. However, there are people within most tents, including many religious rings within the religious tent who are dangerous to life and liberty. Burning such people (figuratively) is a bit too strong, but I am infavor of some kind of restraint on their teachings and practices.I wish you a good day, and if your religious work promotes virtuous and spiritual living, I wish you much success.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Oh, Obfuscating Jihadist (formerly Jist),Well you have come full circle. You recently indicated a liberal leaning and deletion of the more offensive ways and passages in the koran. However, whereas you continue to get excellent feedback from commentators on their basic beliefs, never do you provide the specific basics of your own. We therefore have to assume that you actually follow and adhere to the hallucinogenic-based, plagiarized, militaristic and anti-feminine rules of Islam and the sins inherent in such.e.g. 1. Believe in “pretty/ugly wingie” thingies and teach your children that such things really exist.2. Believe that the long-dead Arab did actually talk to the “pretty Gabriel” in the “Gabe” cave and therein received the good words now listed in the koran.3. That Sunnis are superior to Shiites in all aspects of life.4. That Islam is perfect and the koran inherently condones no sin even though the 24/7 800 year-old blood feud between Sunnis and Shiites give significant credence that suicides, assassinations, maiming, and murder are condoned by the koran. Having multiple wives also gives significant credence to the sins of lust and polygamy. The condoned treatment of these wives gives credence that the koran allows the sins of anger and greed. We will issue this advisory after each of your future commentaries so those “newbies” understand your obfuscating ways.

  • Craig

    A. Kafir writes: “It is not clear let alone certain that we are free to define the purpose of life.”I would have to disagree. I understand your point, but I speak of my personal life, not of human life in general. Humanity, I agree, is only starting to understand our “role” in the web of life. When I write about being free to define our own purpose, it is on an individual level, not necessarily as a species. If you ask me, we don’t have any particular purpose as a species…in fact, it’s (in my opinion) pure luck we even exist at all. We have a role to play, certainly, but we define that role…for good or ill.Thanks,

  • Chris Everett

    DITLD,Thanks for you honest reply. I too think that knowledge derives from “impressions of order,” and I have vague notions of order being the essence of existence and at the seat of consciousness. More than that I cannot say.

  • A. Kafir

    J,An example of the kind of research that is taking place in the area of morals and brain structure: ……Imagine the following scenario. A woman is brought to the emergency room after

  • A. Kafir

    Craig,I do not disagree with you about “freedom” at an individual level. However, we need to be aware that we do not know exactly how much freedom we can truly exert even at that level, and how much of it is that our “brains” invent so we can function. This eventually reduces to the very difficult subject of how free is “free will” and exactly what is free will, but it is clear that individuals do need to feel that they are free as individuals to make free choices if we are not to be utterly debilitated by a sense of helplessness of fatalism. However, the more we learn about we actually make “choices” and what drives us to make those choices and how much does our biology influences it, and to what extent the chemical interaction within our brains influence those free choices, the harder it gets to define that “free” in the “free will”.

  • A. Kafir

    here is a bit more cut and paste from the same link to try to entice you to actually read it:********************************

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Ehris EverettI like to read the comments here and gather up interesting phrases that express something I could not say myself; you said:”…vague notions of order being the essence of existence”I like that very much. Something I have thought of: our consciousness is a reflection of the order that is impressing us.For without this order, there could be no impressions; order is the essence of existence and impressions are the essence of consciousness. And our impressions of order constitute this world or ours. I have the feeling that we were set here, for some pre-figured purpose, though it is just my feeling. And I have more than a feeling that there is more order than we can get impressions of, that we are in a confinement, and there is much more, to which we are forever, and irrevocalby excluded access. That is my feeling.I also believe that there are no “laws” of physics nor any “laws” of nature, but that they only exist in the mind of man. And therefore, there is no use in an atheist putting his faith in these laws, and there is no use in relgious people using these laws to prove the existence of God, nor to promote Intelligent Design.

  • A. Kafir

    I agree with a lot what Dr. Jasser writes in his article posted by Anonymous. However, Dr. Jasser ends his paper with:”We have to remember the ideas America stands for, that there are millions of Muslims who came here because of those ideas, and if we tell them that Islam is the problem, we will not win the war.”Now this final statement does not follow from what he writes in his paper. What is the problme is Islam? The point is that we have to maintain our right to “absolute” freedom to speech and expression. That means those who examine the situation and conclude that Islam is the problem should be able to state that freely, openly and without fear. Muslims need to accept that Islam will be examined, will be questioned, and there will be many that will consider it to be the worst thing that ever happened to humanity. That does not mean that those people are correct or incorrect. The important thing is the open and free exchange of ideas. Islam does and must not get a free pass. If we are “intimidated” into not telling the muslims that Islam is problem then we might have lost the war that Dr. Jasser is trying to win in the first place. Dr. Jasser wants to reform many things within the Islamic community and I fully support his efforts and wish him success in it. However, he does not deal with the touchy issue that many of the things he wants to reform within the community are part of Islam itself. In that sense, even his examples are clearly stating that there are problems with Islam, but he apparently does not want to say it that way. I understand the reasons why he would wish to state things the way he does, but that does not mean that everyone else should as well. A direct and forthright examination of Islam, and pointing of the problems with it and with the Sunnah of Muhammad has its place and uses and it also benefits the muslims around the world.

  • Jihadist

    Hello A Kafir,Re your post to Daniel in the Lion’s Den on representation on the Prophet, yes, and any pictorial representation of the Prophet is feared by the ulema will be deified by Muslims. Thanks for your elaboration on humans and morals and ethics, and its source in your posts. Organised religions, with its morals and ethics, as you stated, are the first “cataloging” of moral and ethical laws in a community, a society, a state. I find what you wrote on the brain, and the “natural grammar” as very similar across the languages that similarity can be expressed with amazing variety fascinating. I can attest to that even by my casual observations in my travels here and there. I would not be too surprised if the people thinking and looking into morals, ethics and values find them to be similar to natural grammar – a natural “instinct” perhaps, blunted or reiforced by community, society, state as institutionalised religion. It is not only neurophysiological and neuropsychological, but also anthropological and sociological.J”

  • Pam

    “Humans really do not know the source of morals, ethics, and source. It is very possible that these are part of our evolutionary brain just as the grammar of human language is, and there may be something to the notion of the moral ‘instinct’ as well. “Precisely. Many religions have “rules” about specific things like playing cards, dancing, wearing red, dietary restrictions, etc., but the morals seem to be more basic, more general, and to be found in almost every religion. These, I think, are our basic animal instincts, evolved through millions of years as social animals. These come from empathy – the ability to project our own feelings onto another individual, and are the basis of the “golden rule.” Further, we share them with many other social animals.In “Our Inner Ape”, Frans de Waal relates two stories that particularly resonated with me. One was about a chimpanzee at the Yerkes Primate Center that had a new baby. Chimps are very protective with their young when they’re first born, and it can be very difficult for researchers to get a look at them. De Waal knew this particular new mother well, and had a good relationship with her, so he felt safe in approaching her. He indicated to her that he would like to see the infant. Instead of simply holding the baby up, back to de Waal, she crossed her arms over her chest, taking the baby’s right hand in her right hand, and its left in her left, so that when she lifted it up to de Waal’s gaze, the baby was turned to face him. Through empathy, she realized that the face would be a more interesting view than the baby’s back.He tells also of a chimp that discovers a bird in the compound that was apparently stunned by having flown into something. The chimp picked up the bird and tossed it into the air. The bird fell back to the ground and just sat there. After several tries, the chimp gathered up the bird and climbed to the top of the compound’s tallest tree, took the bird by its wingtips, stretching the wings out, and sailed it into the air. The bird fluttered to the compound wall, recovered, and flew away.The latter chimp not only had empathy for the injured bird, but understood that it had a different lifestyle from her own, and different needs. Empathy is the starting point, behaviors that facilitate the smooth functioning of society are the necessary next step. When two wolves have a dispute with one another, the first step is to walk stiff-legged, hair bristling, each one trying to intimidate the other with his superior size. Sometimes attitude is sufficient, and one backs down. If they feel themselves to be evenly matched, an actual fight may ensue, but typically one or the other quickly discovers that he doesn’t have what it takes, and he submits by rolling over and exposing his throat. Rarely is there bloodshed. Predator animals are too well armed to have true knock-down, drag-outs – soon there would be nothing left of the pack, and without the pack, kills are too hard to come by.We are born with a moral sense. Born with empathy. No religion necessary. We would have it even if we were raised by wolves. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    misguided mr mark-well then. according to you all believers in any religious tradition are deluded and you feel it is your burden to send each one of them to a psychiatrist. you have a serious job ahead of you. better get out your walking shoes.

  • Louie Lamont

    Mr Patel;I hope you read all these comments here.This is not a church or a mosque where the deluded gather to hear your voice,or the voices of others like you. This is the real world where a lot of people think believing in supernatural gods and demons and angels and fairies and other mythological magical nonsense is outrageous.You should be ashamed of yourself encouraging people to believe that God’s in the sky,and they’re never going to die.Bet you make a good living feeding people that claptrap. If anything’s disgusting,that is.

  • VICTORIA

    i dont have time to read any posts- but glanced and it still seems pretty reasonable in here- ive noticed in the past- (not necessarily here) that sometimes believers in the god and humanity and believers in humanity without the god talk past each other- it occurs to me that if believers respect and recognize the goodness and innate value of differently believing folk, instead of having a condescending “pity” while simultaneously scrutinizing the ’emptiness’ of their souls- and beleivers in other than the god regard believers with the – well- same recognition of the goodness within them- minus the equally condescending surety of their questionable grasp on reality, and delusion…whilel simutaneously scrutinizing the emptiness of their brains- well a girl can dream, can’t she? someone mentioned pascal- if i remember correctly, didnt he sacrifice science for theology? luckily we dont have to make that choice- ( i mean muslims, as im one of the we) i dont know how far he could have gone as a scientist- i will come back at least to read the posts- im unusually busy busy this week-

  • VICTORIA

    ive deliberately not read any posts so i can share without being influenced- i justfinished praying- its my habit- 5 times a day you know- i pray (as do all muslims) with my eyes open- ive done many meditations, closed eye prayers etc- but this is different in this way- most of the time i spend expectant- and needy- and wanting- it is very very difficult to give- i have to keep refocusing when it wanders into asking again-ask ask ask-i think one of the things that gets in the craw of not god believers is that it seems believer types are trying to exertsome control over them in their very private spaces of the conscience and consciousness that are not really a believers business- its not a believers business to judge, even another believers heart condition let alone another non-believers whose thought processes may be working along another line that is leading them to their own destiny- but if my prayer leads me to enter out into the world, which im about todo- and want to be looking for people to enhance (although im not saying its within my power to do so) at least – at the very least- the intenton to give is, for me, superior and i think humanists in general share this idea- it think it better to feel small than large- once in a daydream reverie (which i elapse into more frequently than is practical) i imagined like a public sculpture type thing that was an endless series of forearms and hands- they kind of make little “S” shapes- well, i didnt describe it very well- butthat is how i look at it- (i got kicked out of bible study at about 12 when i suggested that i was going to petition god and not go into heaven until he forgave everyone including hitler- i guess i thought that god wanted me badly enough- pretty arrogant for a kid- but i took them at their word when they said god is all-forgiving) nothing seems to p**s some people off more than absolute forgiveness but i digress as ususal- o mercy there lib- O – i see mr mark has some concern for the delusional state of mind of believers-

  • VICTORIA

    mr mark- im not picking on you so much as – well- maybe i am a bit- BUT- in order for you to maintain your status as a CHOSEN one, it means that the rest of us remain UNCHOSEN- ive recommended st john of the cross’s ‘dark night of the soul’ to you before- your goal must be to include all in your vision equally precious and valuable- it worked for its formation, but had to be let go for all of mankind to benefit

  • E Favorite

    Thank you, Daniel ITLD – you certainly did answer as best you could. I appreciate it.Mr Mark – I think Thomas’ situation is different from many of the Christian believers you interact with here and I think he has received the kind of assistance you suggest he could benefit from.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Victoria, Victoria, Victoria,When you return, please address the koranic-pure reference you cited last week:The conclusions thereof: “In conclusion, while we can concede that the Qur’an is a fascinating book to study, it simply cannot maintain its status as the final Word of God it claims to be. The declaration of textual perfection by the Muslims simply do not stand up to any critical analysis of their content. As we have seen, the Qur’an carries numerous inconsistencies with the former scriptures, while its narratives and stories help to discredit its claim to be the true Word of God. Popular sentiment and unquestioning fanatical devotion by Muslims are simply not adequate as a proof for the Qur’an’s authenticity. When we take a sober analysis of the sources of the Qur’an, we find conclusive evidence that the confidence of the Muslims for their scripture is simply unfounded. It stands to reason that those whose responsibility it was to compile a “holy book” which could compete with the existing scriptures, would naturally turn to the myths and legends of the surrounding civilizations and borrow many of their stories. Due to the predominance of oral tradition in the 7th-9th centuries one can understand how many of the stories became embellished and distorted over time. It is these corrupted stories that we find all through the Qur’an, many of which were adapted from 2nd century Talmudic literature, which was popular amongst the Jews of that area. Consequently it is the glaring similarities which we find between the Qur’an and these errant sources which nullifies the claim that the Qur’an could hope to be the true Word of God. “That looks a lot like:Mohammed was an illiterate, lusting, greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added “angels” and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

  • Mr Mark

    ANONYMOUS writes:”well then. according to you all believers in any religious tradition are deluded…”Agreed. “…and you feel it is your burden to send each one of them to a psychiatrist.”Disagree. Thomas is a unique case on this blog. Most religious people could be disabused of their delusion by simply reading a few books and letting loose of the fear and guilt that binds them to their superstitions. Thomas is beyond such self-help.Thanks for the chat.

  • Mr Mark

    Victoria -Please take the time to compose your posts in something approaching standard formatting – you know what I mean. I’m just not going to plow through your posts when their formatting cries out against being read.ee cummings you ain’t…

  • Anonymous

    “Most religious people could be disabused of their delusion by simply reading a few books and letting loose of the fear and guilt that binds them to their superstitions.”really mr mark? you think?really.. you can’t tell the deluded from the delusional on this board. anyway- you better get busy unburdening yourself by passing out a few books.buh-bye..

  • VICTORIA

    actually it’s more of an homage to don marquis

  • Pam

    Victoria says:Well it’s damned annoying, whatever it is. I too have quit reading your long posts – I just don’t want to have to pause mid-sentence and try to decide whether you actually meant “ill” or I’ll.”

  • Anonymous

    sheesh people-victoria says to mr mark:”as your own bible tells you”she thinks he’s christian..get me outta here..

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Previously, I wrote this””How do we get these impressions of order? Through our senses. But why do we have these 5 senses? We have them because they were passed on to us by the animals from which we have evolved. But why did they have their senses? They had them to navigate the order of the world. And so, we have our senses, also, to navigate the order of the world. Each of the senses is a reflection of order, by which impressions are conveyed. Or again, each of the senses is a template, that fits an aspect of order, by which a sense of this order is then conveyed. And in our evolution, and with our senses by which we nagivate the order of the world by forming impressions of it, we also, then are able to form impressions of ourselves; this is consiousness.”Are these just my philosophical musings, a tangent, that really does not relate to anything on this forum? No. I think about these things because I wonder “why don’t we know anything?”All of the religious people make their appearances here, and proclaim their truth about God and Jesus and Mohammed, and prayer, and Heaven, but they do not know. The Atheists say they do not believe in God, and the religious people reply, well then how did all this get here, and the atheist says, I don’t know, but I still don’t believe in God. I have my beliefs, which I hope are true, which are based more on the many contingencies of my life, that filled my brain up with “stuff” more than with my true impressions of what the world is really like.So, why don’t we know anything? We know how to build all kinds of machines and connect everything up with comminications systems, and we read and wrtie and talk, talk, talk, but still, how come no one knows anything?It is because we are navigting the order of the world with the 5 senses that we inherited from the animals, but we are thinking with a brain that has morphed beyond their brains. Our senses evolved to navigate the order of the world that animals inhabit, and we are animals too.But we think about things that are not apart of that order. We think about quantum physics, and relativity, and we think about the infinite future, and the antiquity of past epochs, which we imagine may have been any number of different ways. We think of Heaven and Hell and God and the human spirit and soul; we wonder what is consciousness and what is cosmic order. But we are anchored to the world of order that that animals inhabit, and they don’t think any of these things. They live naively, in a small corner of the universe, oblivious to anything else that might be.

  • VICTORIA

    I DID post that to Mr. Mark, didn’t I? Daniel also always provides his deep thoughts, and without hypocrisy.There is an innate kindness in both of their posts. Mr Mark, when he isn’t assailing us with his acerbic wit, often elevates us to reason. but pam- you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Anon -Delusion – “something that is falsely or delusively believed or propagated b: a persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary; also : the abnormal state marked by such beliefs.”Source: Sounds like religious belief to me.Keep on smilin’!

  • MOONMAN

    This post has set!!!This post has dimmed!!!Behold the rising MOON!!!Behold the night of MAN!!!Daniel, rest thy moonlit soul!!!Mark, cease thy stinging wit!!!Seek now the MOON!!!Be now the MAN!!!Praise be MOONMAN!!!Praise be MOONMAN!!!Praise be MOONMAN!!!MOONMAN!!!MOONMAN!!!MOONMAN!!!

  • mike

    Wow. I thought Pascal was an early computer language. So I looked it up-“The Pascal language was named for Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician who was a pioneer in computer development history. In 1641, at the age of eighteen, Pascal constructed the first arithmetical machine, arguably the first computer.”What an incredible life- a genius with amazing prescience and forethought. We are still learning from him.

  • Chris Everett

    Victoria,Pascal was a mathematical genius who was instrumental in the development of statistics, among other things. He was a little batty, and went more so as he got older, as mathematical geniuses are wont to do (c.f. Kurt Godel, Georg Cantor, Paul Erdos).In religious circles he is famous for “Pascal’s wager,” an obviously flawed argument that basically says that its worth giving up any finite length of time in return for an infinite duration of bliss, even for a vanishingly small probability of bliss. Therefore, it is a rational decision to believe in the Christian god because of the promise of bliss in return for belief. This argument is reinforced on the flipside via the threat of eternal torture for those who don’t believe.One obvious problem with this argument is that it is subject to hijacking – whoever promises the most pleasure and threatens the most pain can induce whatever belief they want in Pascal’s “rational” man.

  • mike

    Another Pascal quote that is gaining meaning in today’s global world:”The highest order of mind is accused of folly, as well as the lowest. Nothing is thoroughly approved but mediocrity. The majority has established this, and it fixes its fangs on whatever gets beyond it either way.”

  • E Favorite

    “One obvious problem with this argument [Pascal’s Wager] is that it is subject to hijacking – whoever promises the most pleasure and threatens the most pain can induce whatever belief they want in Pascal’s “rational” man.”Indeed, imagine a religion that promises more than a vague notion of eternal life or eternal damnation. Instead, it gives you specifics that make your choice even more obvious and onerous.Let’s say, in heaven you get an eternal vacation with your loved ones in a big house where each person’s idea of paradise is fulfilled. If you like the beach, you have a magnificent view of the ocean from your room. Your previously deceased favorite uncle is already ensconced in the house in his preferred environment – the woods. And so on.However, if you exercise your free will to choose not to believe, not only do you go to hell, but God pulls one of your deceased loved ones from heaven to suffer eternally with you. It saddens God to have to do this, but he is God after all and this is the deal he offers. The choice is yours.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Thomas Baum -I must admit that I’m growing quite tired of religionists like yourself averring that people like me, “Can[‘t]…get past your all-knowing bias…”If you or anyone else reads through my posts, you will never see an all-knowing attitude on display, let alone a bias. In fact, I rarely express an opinion on this blog, at least not in the “I just KNOW” way of the religionists. No, I cite the words, research and work of others to make my case against belief in god. YOUR problem is that you aren’t used to having your delusions about god challenged, and challenged repeatedly in a public forum. In fact, YOU are the one who revels in the smugness of an all-knowing attitude. It is YOU, not me, who wrote the following in the same post where you claimed I had an all-knowing bias: “you are wrong, I have met God and I know for a fact…” It is inconsequential that you go on to say you don’t know everything, because you have said that you have met god and you know things for a fact. Apparently, you know these “facts” because you have met god and he has imparted divine wisdom to you. God has spoken directly and individually to you, picking you among the 6-billion people on earth to speak with. Amazing!And yet, this special and divine knowledge imparted to you by god follows the Xian Bible to a tee! There isn’t a thing he has told you that anybody on Earth couldn’t learn for themselves by consulting the Gideon on their motel night stand. Worse, your god couldn’t even be bothered to correct a few of the myriad idiocies he foisted on the world a few thousand years ago. Not for Yahweh a correction on the mustard seed NOT being the smallest of seeds and NOT growing into a tree. Not for him a revision to the flat-earth concept. Not for him an admission that bats aren’t birds after all. No updating-for-21st-century believers a corrective on the universe being created in a week nor the Adam & Eve fable. Nope, old Yahweh appears to be the same idiot he was centuries ago, and YOU buy it whole hog.Go figure.You are truly delusion, Mr Baum. I urge you to seek psychiatric help ASAP.Good luck to you.

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Old time devils are now known as “demons of the demented”. And Thomas, The Moses of the NT, Baum, you are possessed by said demon posing as god. Report to your local church for an exorcism.

  • Thomas Baum

    TO MR MARK: I have no idea how God is working in other people’s lives, but I too find it amazing that He has chosen me. I sometimes wonder what you mean by “religionist” do you have a definition that you can write out. When I write that I don’t know everything, one of the things I mean is, I also don’t know what everything in the bible means. There are some things in the bible that I do know what they mean and some of the absolutely utter hatred being spewed out by some so-called “christians” is sickening. Before I met God, I never spoke up about Him even tho I believed in Him but since meeting God, the whole Trinity, I have come to see that there are plenty of people that claim to be speaking in His Name but know nothing about God except for His Name. I saw an interesting quote on one of these posts recently and it went something like this: “the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence”. I have met God whether anyone believes or not and I am not trying to shove anything down anyone’s throat. In fact, it is not about religion, it is not about spirituality, it is not about telling others how they should live their lives, It Is About Love. Whether anyone believes it or not God is a Being of Pure Love. Take care, be ready, see you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Anonymous

    uh oh. mr mark has his panties in a twist again. i understand if you sit down and place a paper bag over your head- you will stop hyperventilating.and btw- thomas’ posts tell us he is a kind soul and not attempting to proselytize. so don’t worry- i feel sure he will forgive your nasty comments.

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    For E FavoriteI know that this thread is about done, but maybe you will take a look at it.I do not really know what I believe, that is, it is hard for me to say. It is alot easier to reject that which seems false and say “I do not believe in that” than it is to say positively what I do believe. There are 2 me’s. One “me” is cool and calm and rational. That “me” can say that I understand suffering, that everyone suffers, that it is only by the contrasting experiences that we can know anything at all, that we experience pleasure and pain, and cannot know either without the other, that we experience them, mingled in sunshine and rain; it is almost poetry, isn’t? and kind of pretty?But the other “me” is emotional and angst-ridden, and worried, about “things” and experiences weird psychological states, and “gets in the zone” or “in a funk” and is just trying to get through each day.I am coming to realize that I do not believe in any theology, that the whole practice of theology is a waste and for naught, and I do not even resepcte arguments based on theology. But I do have postions of belief, and I do respect other people’s postion’s of belief. And I am intereste in philosophical speculation, since that is about all I do. If you say that you do not believe in God, then that is your position of belief, which I can respect.I cannot answer your question about if I would feel attached to some other famous person if they had suffered as much as Jesus. I know that Jesus is fixed, specially in my mind, and I cannot get him out of it. So it is hard for to answer the question.

  • Mr Mark

    Dear Anon -Thomas’ posts tell us he is delusional. I am entirely serous in urging him to seek psychiatric help for his problem which is all-too common, has been long-diagnosed and is quite treatable.Your post simply enables his delusion. That’s not the action of a friend, whoever you are.

  • Pam

    “Je n’ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse”For those who don’t speak French, it translates as “I had no need of that hypothesis.”

  • Thomas Baum

    TO LIL OLEMETU: You wrote, “everyone has a story and who are we to judge?”, I don’t know if you are implying that I am judging but I am not. I agree that all of us do have a story and just because some people go thru things that others just can not believe doesn’t mean that their stories aren’t true. I am just trying to do the job that God chose me for. One thing that I would like to repeat is: It doesn’t matter whether anyone believes in God or not, but God is a lot nicer than some that know His Name could even conceive of. Take care, be ready, see you and the rest of Humanity in the Kingdom. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Thomas Baum

    TO DANIEL IN THE LION’S DEN: You wrote, “”Calling yourself a “Christian” does not mean that you are one.”But there is no standard by which to measure and define a true Christian; there is no Bureau of Standards for religious correctness or purity; you are what you call yourself, and if someone does not measure up to your standard, then that is just how it is.”. As someone once said, “If I go into a garage and call myself a car, does that mean that I am a car”. What I am trying to say so plainly is that God looks into the heart, in other words, people are not going to fool God. When you wrote, “I know you will say the Bible is the standard.”, no, Love is the standard. Even tho it is spoken of so in your face, so to speak, in the bible, so many don’t seem to see it. As the saying goes, “The blind leading the blind and the deaf speaking to the deaf”. I have a job to do and God will see me thru. Take care, be ready, see you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Thomas Baum

    TO DANIEL IN THE LION”S DEN: You wrote, “”Please think about this: do you think that God has had a Plan since before Creation if He had one at all or do you think that God has to keep changing His Plan?”Why would you ask a question like that?” The reason that I ask a question like that is because if someone believes in God I think that it is a very good question. By the way just because someone would answer that they thought that He had a Plan does not mean that they would know the Plan. And another thing is that if someone doesn’t believe in God it just might get them to thinking; ‘how’ this all came about is one thing but maybe there is a ‘why’ did all this come about. I would think that sometimes the interconnectedness of the physical world just might get some people to wondering. Quite a while back I remember thinking the question, “Is this all there is?”. Just because it was quite a bit of time and different things of life I had to live thru, God in His Way answered that question. Take care, be ready, see you and the rest of humanity in the Kingdom. Sincerely, Thomas Paul Moses Baum.

  • Pam

    Mr. Mark writes:Sadly, you are very likely correct.

  • Moody

    Ibrahim Mahfouz:saidWhat I listed in NOT MARELY A BELIEVE, IT WAS THE FIRST HAND OBSERVATION. AND YOUR SOCIETIES ON RECORD FACTS!!!And there is nothing immoral in migrating and traveling the world. Or now further, are you ALSO trying to tell that it is only the right of superiour white monkey (in your opinion) race?

  • Concerned The Christian Now Liberated

    Moody, Moody, Moody,The sins of the koran and Islam go with you no matter where you go. As a reminder:Islam is not perfect and the koran inherently condones sin as shown 24/7 in the 800 year-old blood feud between Sunnis and Shiites. Their actions give significant credence that greed, suicides, assassinations, maiming, and murder are condoned by the koran. Having multiple wives also gives significant credence to the sins of lust and polygamy. The condoned treatment of these wives gives credence that the koran allows the sins of anger and greed.

  • Mr Mark

    DITLD wrote:It all comes down to what one demands as proof, doesn’t it?In a debate with Christopher Hitchens, religious apologist Dinesh D’Souza said, “science offers a guess at how the universe came into being. Religion gives us an answer,” to which Hitchens replied, “fine, if you accept whole-cloth answers.” (paraphrasing this exchange). A more accurate rejoinder from the atheistsis, “I don’t know, YET, but everything we’re learning argues even more strongly against the existence of any the gods described in all of mankind’s religious texts.”As Pierre-Simon de Laplace remarked to Napoleon concerning the role of god in Laplace’s calculations that proved the existence of black holes, “Je n’ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse.”

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    Thomas BaumYou said:”Calling yourself a “Christian” does not mean that you are one.”But there is no standard by which to measure and define a true Christian; there is no Bureau of Standards for religious correctness or purity; you are what you call yourself, and if someone does not measure up to your standard, then that is just how it is. I know you will say the Bible is the standard. But it is not clear; there is much disagreement on what it means; if it were clear there would be no disagreement, but since there is, then it is not clear. And then, who is to have the last word for explaining it? Each of us would like to, but none of us can. Because no matter what you tell another how to believe, still they will believe as they do, and not as you do, until you must use force against them to force their belief, but still they will outwardly pretend to comply with your force, but inwardly, they will continue to believe as they do.Then you said, “Please think about this: do you think that God has had a Plan since before Creation if He had one at all or do you think that God has to keep changing His Plan?”Why would you ask a question like that? How could anyone know the answer? You might say you know the answer, but you cannot prove your answer persuasively to other people, for all the reasons given above that you cannot persuade anyone to believe what they do not believe. And you cannot hold them guilty of some transgressions because they believe according to their own inner will and not yours, because each person is, in fact, defined by the mystery of his inner will, which is really another word for inner mechanism, or spiritual mechanism, and there is no predictable or planned way to modify the spirtiual mechanism of another person, only they can do that themselves.

  • Pam

    “but pam- you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”It’s Pam, not “pam”, and I’m not interested in catching flies.

  • Pam

    DITLD wrote:For me, this isn’t quite true. I *do* know how most of this got here. There are a few ultimate questions that we have yet to answer, like “why is there something instead of nothing?”, “what existed before the Big Bang?”, and “how did life begin?”Creationists pounce on science’s inability to answer these, and claim that it proves the existence of God. It doesn’t.The beginning of life is something that we’re getting ever closer to. It seems likely that DNA evolved from RNA. The Miller-Urey experiment replicated Earth’s early atmosphere and an energy source (like lightning) and produced 14 of the 20 amino acids necessary for life. New experiments are showing that RNA can spontaneously organize in sea ice. To read more about this, see the February issue of Discover magazine, on newstands now. I fully expect this question to be answered in the not-too-distant future.The other two questions may never be answered. It may not be possible for us to know. But postulating God as an answer simply ends all inquiry. If we’d let that stop us in the past, we’d still be living lives as primitive as those of Biblical people. We might ask and never have the answer, but if we don’t ask, we surely never will.We do know that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, and that matter is ultimately energy. Maybe that’s all we need to know.

  • Moody

    Audited & RevisedAnonymous,

  • Ibrahim Mahfouz

    Moody:(revised)