Thom is a liberal, but has a screw loose when it comes to religion

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I agree with 90-95 percent of everything thom says, but about every other week it feels like hannitty or rush switched placs with him.. Thom is careful to treat seemingly every other minority with respect, but apparently not atheists.. I am sick and tired of trying to label the OK city bomber as an atheist (when he appeared confused on religious ideas /this is not even remotely close to what an atheist is, and so I do not appreciate thom;s linking this murderer to atheism).. Apparently Ayn rand was an atheist, but obviously crazy too.. Would it be appropriate to mention that a crazy person was black, almost as if to imply there is the cause (thats how it sounded to me).. He mentioned Sadam was secular.. Sadam was a believer, but not a fundamentalist like Osama..

Sorry to keep bringing this up, but thom please stop alienating your atheist allies..

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bobbler
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I agree. Thom plays right into the hands of the fundies who can't conceive of anyone being moral without being subject to the wrath of some sky-daddy or another. It really pi**es me off to hear him imply that morality is somehow dependent on, or even bolstered by, spirituality. Anyone who needs external threats, either temporal or spiritual, to behave morally is, by definition, immoral. If you find it necessary to consult a book or spiritual counselor to find out what is or is not moral, you are no more moral than the person who takes Spanish lessons is Spanish.

I'm especially offended by his contention that atheism is a religion. To call atheism a religion is like saying bald is a hair color. In practical and selfish terms though, I'd like to see it classified as a religion. That way, I can start a church, get tax exemptions, and enjoy all the other subsidies and perks enjoyed by theists.

Expat Wannabe
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Do you feel Thom alienates atheists more by just not respecting their minority status or because he uses the Bible as a reference.

Being an atheist is not a sufficient reason to be ignorant of the most popular book of all time.

Perhaps Thom is more generous to the Biblically illiterate than he should be. That probably comes from actually reading that old relic.

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Studies have shown that atheists tend to know more about that book of fairy tales than your average Protestant and your average Catholic.

I, too, am annoyed by the "there's no morality without religion" idea, as if we atheists are all out committing heinous crimes. http://bluejaysway.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/are-atheists-less-moral/

At the end of the day, when all is said and done, there's no more evidence for "God" than there is for the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And religious belief is almost entirely the result of where you're born and who you're raised by (not unlike being a fan of a particular sports franchise).

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I don't think he alienate atheists because of their minority status or by using the Bible as a reference. As an atheist, I respect certain concepts contained in the Bible, as well as older philosophical tomes.

I'm not Biblically illiterate. I'm pretty sure that most atheists are not Biblically illiterate. In fact, I'd say that most atheists are better versed in religion than believers. Many are atheists precisely because they are all too familiar with the Bible as well as other religions' tenets. A recent study backs this up in its findings that atheists know more about the central tenets of Christianity and other religions than do believers.

In my personal case, I spent 12 years in a Catholic school. My family was very Catholic. My father taught Catechism classes and personally helped build the church we attended. It is not easy to decide to reject all that. It's certainly not something you do out of convenience.

I think Thom alienates atheists by implying that they are atheists because either they are religiously ignorant, or because they are immoral/amoral and decided to become atheists out of convenience. The latter is a common belief among Christians and is particularly insulting.

I think Thom is a little too "woo-woo" New-Ageish and metaphysically inclined overall. I also think that he is among those who believe that religion, or at least some degree of spirituality, is necessary to be a decent and moral person. He cannot understand how people cannot bring themselves to believe all that metaphysical claptrap and take things on faith. I've heard him deny religious belief is necessary for someone to behave morally, but when he's not explicitly discussing this issue, his other statements and attitudes belie his true belief that atheists are immoral at worst, and incomplete people at best.

Expat Wannabe
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I have worked for 7 different employers since my 20's. (I'm old now). All were small to medium sized organizations. Three of them made an issue of their Christianity. One actually expected employees to engage in group prayer and sanctioned those who didn't go along with it. Two of them even had fish on their business cards. All three of these Xtian businessmen were the most cheating, conniving, abusive people I ever had the misfortune of knowing, and I've known some unsavory characters in my time. All three regularly cheated and abused customers and employees alike. They cheated their vendors and on their taxes. One fired me simply because I repeatedly refused to price gouge customers who were naive enough to let it be known that they were in dire need of our services.

Of the four remaining employers, three were undeclared as to their religious bent and one was an avowed atheist. The atheist and one of the others were the two most honest in their dealings. The other two were just typical opportunists, but not too bad. They were definitely better than the Xtians.

Take home lesson is that I will never work for, or patronize, a blatant Xtian again, and I would NEVER do any kind of business with anyone who prints a fish on their business card.

Expat Wannabe
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I'm an atheist who pre enlightenment taught comparative religion at a Christian college for a spell and can recite and recall verses with the best of them. I occasionaly become annoyed when Thom goes off on atheism...but it is a small matter...these days.

What has always intriqued me is how people of different religions accept one another...even when said religions and beliefs are diametrically oppossed and anathema to one another...before they will accept an atheist. It seems that, much like the Masons...what matters most is that if a person shares in the same myth of a super deity...they are welcome. If they are an atheist...not so much.

Of course atheism isn't a religion like not collecting stamps doesn't make one a stamp collector. But I see definitions as in the eye of the beholder...it makes no difference to me how a person chooses to define something...even when they're wrong.

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Quote Garrett78:

Studies have shown that atheists tend to know more about that book of fairy tales than your average Protestant and your average Catholic.

I, too, am annoyed by the "there's no morality without religion" idea, as if we atheists are all out committing heinous crimes. http://bluejaysway.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/are-atheists-less-moral/

At the end of the day, when all is said and done, there's no more evidence for "God" than there is for the Flying Spaghetti Monster. And religious belief is almost entirely the result of where you're born and who you're raised by (not unlike being a fan of a particular sports franchise).

Another fun fact: The countries with the lowest rate of religious participation also have the lowest rate of crime, divorce, teenage pregnancies, and a number of other societal ills.

Another fun fact: The highest concentration of Christians, outside of church on Sunday, can be found in prison. Some would argue that these inmates just found God after their incarceration, but that has been proven not to be the case. The vast majority of them were already Christians. It is also argued that these inmates who were already Christian wouldn't be where they are had they not strayed from their religious upbringing. But that is irrelevant. If a religion, upon whom one depends for his moral compass, is subject to being abandoned, then it is worse than never having religion in the first place. A person who never learned a non-religious sense of ethics must be chained to his religion lest he lose it, and therefore his sense of morality. When these Christians stray, they behave badly and end up in prison where they belatedly rediscover their christianity. It makes no sense to argue that they wouldn't have turned to crime had they not strayed. The fact is that they do. When they do, they are worse than a person who doesn't rely on an external source for his morality.

Expat Wannabe
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Perhaps Biblical illiteracy is not the root cause of the issue at hand? Perhaps being overly sensitive is.

I've been listening to Thom for several years and I also find him a bit too "New-Ageish" for me, but he absolutely does NOT tie morality solely to religion at all. So you can't pin that rap on Thom.

I'm always amazed at the overly sensitive atheists/agnostics/secular humanists (or whatever) that crawl out of the woodwork every time Thom actually says something nice about a Pope or quotes some scripture to make his point. Don't be so sensitive.

We're all God's children. Whether you believe it or not.

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Quote norske:

..... But I see definitions as in the eye of the beholder...it makes no difference to me how a person chooses to define something...even when they're wrong.

But it should. Perhaps it makes no difference to you how just one person chooses to define something, but that person is rarely alone. When a large number of people start defining your lack of belief as evidence of immorality, a rationalization for oppression is created.

OTOH, if they choose to define atheism as a religion, then a rationalization for tax breaks and government grants is created.

Basically though, I'm offended by those who define atheism as a religion because by defining it as such, they are asserting that it is a belief adopted without the benefit of rational thought. They are asserting that atheism is a product of faith, just like their own religion. They are creating a false equivalency that they believe gives them the right to impose their religious practices and prohibition upon society at large.

Havent you noticed that whenever believers try to define atheism as a religion, they do it in the context of equal treatment under the law? In other words, NOT having school prayer is a concession to the atheist religion and if religions are to be treated equally, then you must allow school prayer. If atheists advocate the teaching of evolution, then you must treat the OTHER RELIGIONS the same and teach creationism.

For that reason, if none other, it certainly does make a difference how people define atheism.

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Quote Laborisgood:

...I've been listening to Thom for several years and I also find him a bit too "New-Ageish" for me, but he absolutely does NOT tie morality solely to religion at all. So you can't pin that rap on Thom.

I'm always amazed at the overly sensitive atheists/agnostics/secular humanists (or whatever) that crawl out of the woodwork every time Thom actually says something nice about a Pope or quotes some scripture to make his point. Don't be so sensitive.

We're all God's children. Whether you believe it or not.

I'm not going to accuse him of tying morality solely to religion. I'm sure he believes that people can be moral without being religious. In that respect he's not like some. That said, I've listened to him for years also and I get the distinct impression that he believes morality has its origins in religion or spirituality. It is a subtle but very real distinction. I would contend that religion is merely an attempt to codify morality in a formal way. Thom seems to believe that without religion, or at least spirituality, morality would not be possible in the first place. In other words, morality and ethics spring from religion rather than religion being a byproduct of humanity's inherent sense of ethics and morality. He seems to believe that to the extent atheists are moral, it is due to some spiritual or religious exposure.

I'm not particularly sensitive about it. However, I don't particularly appreciate being told, in so many words, that if it werent' for the existence of some external influence of which I may or may not be aware, I'd likely revert to barbarism.

Expat Wannabe
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There are entire web sites devoted to the discussion of whether atheism is a religion or not...the mental gymnastics required for some to justify...the sheer amount of circular reasoning which takes place...the endless disection and debate of minutia...is enough to drive one to drink or to the Thorazine closet.

I really don't care.

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Atheism is not a religion, it IS a religious belief, however. We believe that all the religions that claim knowledge of the super natural are wrong. We could be wrong too. Maybe Zeus does exist. I'm not betting my life on it, though.

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Quote bobbler:

I agree with 90-95 percent of everything thom says, but about every other week it feels like hannitty or rush switched placs with him.. Thom is careful to treat seemingly every other minority with respect, but apparently not atheists.. I am sick and tired of trying to label the OK city bomber as an atheist (when he appeared confused on religious ideas /this is not even remotely close to what an atheist is, and so I do not appreciate thom;s linking this murderer to atheism).. Apparently Ayn rand was an atheist, but obviously crazy too.. Would it be appropriate to mention that a crazy person was black, almost as if to imply there is the cause (thats how it sounded to me).. He mentioned Sadam was secular.. Sadam was a believer, but not a fundamentalist like Osama..

Sorry to keep bringing this up, but thom please stop alienating your atheist allies..

I can definitely agree with you.

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I accept atheists and other religions all the same, not so much as a spiritual matter, but as an American accepting all at face value.

Thom tries really hard to unite and not divide (which is his nature), but is 100% unification ever possible with us flawed creatures? Dividing is more what we humans prefer.

I find Thom's theology to be a little mild for my tastes and find his bending over backwards to placate atheists into his pantheon of "belief systems" off putting. But, then again I don't tune him in too hear him regurgitate my beliefs .... I can listen to myself talk if that's what I wanted to hear.

If Thom can simultaneously irritate both the extremely religious as well as the irreligious, he must be doing something right. It's kind of like the way Obama pisses off the conservatives as well as the uber-liberals.

Thom’s ability to not only use the Bible to point out hypocrisy on the Right, but also to point the Left on the right path is inspirational. God bless Thom!

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Amen!

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WTF is what I thought when I listened to the top of hour three yesterday. Thom wouldn't or couldn't seem to understand or refused to acknowledge the point his guest (Rand Simberg?) was trying to make....it made him appear to be rather close-minded. I do hope that Thom will take some time to review his position....perhaps in the new light of what is to follow....

There is an important distinction that is emerging in culture that has profound implications, yet remains difficult to comprehend due to the subtle nature...it's a subtle distinction like natural and artificial personhood that Thom should have little problem grasping, but I digress...

The distinction is the difference between religious and spiritual. I love to ask people the following question; --- will you, can you, fill in the blank? -- if religion is the opiate of the masses (as Marx insinuated), than spirituality is the ___________ to society.

We'll need a little background now. Sam Harris has demonstrated the bane of religion quite well so I use him as an example of sound reason on that front. Another insight that we should bear in mind is developmentalism or developmental psychology which has been taken to sociological extreams by the Spiral Dynamics people and their like. What is missing from the developmental models is the phases within stages, or so I think.

Within each stage of development (or at least in the latter stages) there are roughly three phases of growth: 1 - an initial fundamentalist learning curve, 2 - an intermediate competentcy, 3 - a mastery of the subject/stage/context that understands the limits

to put it another way - 1, learning the rules - 2, competency of rules - 3, bending and breaking the rules..............preconventional, conventional, post-conventional or pre-rational, rational, hyper(post)-rational, etc.

The important point is that the initial and/or intermediate phases are fundamentalistic. One must learn the complexities before one transcends. The religious right are fundamentalists and tend to be the most disfunctional of the religious. Hardcore atheists are fundamentalists who toss the baby with the bathwater and tend to be the Ayn Randian sociopaths. New-agers are fundamentalists that are prone to aperspectival madness....

Religion is institutionalized, spirituality is personal. Religion is politicized and prone to political corruption, spirituality is not. Spirituality is organic, religion is monoculture. Spirituality existed prior to religion (animism) and can transcend religion.

Both fighting religion and defending religion is subtly misplacing effort. No adult would take such stances on the existence of Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. Religiousness is a childish condition, atheism is adolesent rebelliousness. Mythology cannot be destroyed. What we can do is shine brighter light on these matters so we more quickly and easily transcend them....then we might discover that our ideas of gods came from ancient aliens and the idea of one true god is the result of political one-ups-man-ship.

Sorry that that was all poorly presented. I hope ya'll get the point anyway.

Anybody care to fill in that blank?

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It is interesting to listen in on why atheists feel put down by Thom and how they regard those who participate in religions as well as those who claim to be "spiritual." As a practicing post-theistic, post-secular 'theologian,' I think the issue of the existence of "God" has attained a symbolic status far beyond any meaning the question itself can embrace. How any metaphysical or metaphorical "reality" exists is not addressed in the rush to prove that religion is childish superstition or a crutch needed by those who are not up to the reality of human life.

I think Sam Harris is far better at indicting what is wrong than in posing any substantial alternative. Liberal spirituality suffers from individualism and a fuzzy attempt at social realism. Questions of power, authority and reality are not worked out with any mental cosmology or metaphysics.

I prefer to recover the integrity of the term, "faith," and I treat it as the universally human need to figure out who we are and the implications. Religion is the organized community of doctrine and ritual, but also the metaphysical and mythic story of meaning and purpose inherited in belonging. At its best, religion provides a path for a faith journey where human development is nurtured and supported. At its worst, religion becomes a barrier to the faith journey and provides arrested development stopping points that provide atheists with great reasons for hating religion.

I would change the idea of religiosity being childish and atheism being adolescent by making the issues Belief and Doubt. They are the first two stages of a developmental model, and they lead to Imagination, and if all goes well, to a mutuality where self and otherness relate happily. Because Belief is about belonging more than intellectual honesty or acuity, the challenge that comes with late adolescence in Doubt is the natural growing up need to challenge what our parents have told us. Where belonging is part of a healthy support system, adolescents are helped in their coming of age and questioning.

This may make rebelling more complicated, but the varying stories of atheist departures from religion rarely have the nurture of doubt component. Few churches are any good at it. The nature of churches is to encourage affiliation over dissent and individual agendas. If everyone who had a question about the liturgy spoke out about it in worship, it would not go well. And the same becomes true about mission goals and favorite projects. Suggesting new ways to go means those invested in the routine may lose their support. Go along to get along.

Nonetheless, I have known too many really smart and wise people who participate in religion fully to join the critics' chorus. It is not childish unless one makes it so. Nor is it magic thinking and a less than honest wrestling with reality. What connects us to others in a We consciousness and what leaves us adrift in the Me is the issue, and I think a "community of faith" is critical to cultural success in human maturity.

"Spirituality" has no reason to be seen as pure while the "religion" of a community be seen as corrupt. Dividing us in individual/social either/ors never gets us right. We are both/and, individual and social, all the time. What matters is the healthy process of growth and development, and its continuation in adulthood as "revisiting" the stages of life. Individual development is helped by a nurturing community and by mentor examples. It is harmed by regression and fear-based authority.

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bobbler, maybe you are offended by his views on atheism because you don't agree with them. I suspect there are plenty of people out there who are just as offended by Thom's political views, because they don't agree with them.

I consider myself an atheist, and I personally don't mind Thom's views on atheism. It is not like he bans people from posting here (or being a moderator) because he doesn't understand why they don't believe in God.

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It all comes down to "love your neighbor as yourself" regardless of your personal views on the Bible, scripture, religion, spirituality, God or lack thereof.

"Can't we all just get along?" Rodney King

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I think the alternative proposed by Sam Harris is as simple as not believing in things for which there is zero evidence.

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I just got done reading Sam Harris' "The Moral Landscape" where he argues that morality can be based on science and reason. So I think it is inaccurate to say that atheists do not provide alternatives to religion in respect to morality.

Thom was influenced greatly by a mentor, whose name unfortunately I cannot recall at the moment. This person inspired him to do his work with the Salem Village which he mentions from time to time. Also, Thom has stated that without some sense of the sacred or some sense of wonder something vital is missing in a person's life. This absence, Thom argues, leads to a lack of reverence for the Earth and the kind of problems we have seen with the connection between environmental degradation and a corrupt economic system and dysfunctional culture. I don't think Thom requires that a person believe in God or be religious to have this sense of reverence which he thinks, correctly, as so important.

Harris, pg. 165: "I should say at this point that I see nothing irrational about seeking the states of mind that lie at the core of many of the world's religions. Compassion, awe, devotion, and feelings of oneness are surely among the most valuable experiences a person can have."

I find the assumption that religion is equivalent to spirituality to be fallacious. Also, I find that it is religion that blocks a persons mind from spirituality and reverence. Atheism frees the mind to engage in direct perception, unfiltered by dogmatic structures of concepts. But when you say things like that to some of the people on this website who are non-atheists they immediately caricature you into the role that they have set up for you in the drama they have manufactured in their own minds where they are the hero. Everything you say which does not flatter their pretensions is dismissed without their being able to respond with a cogent argument. They deliberately misconstrue what you have said as though you were somehow unaware of what you were actually saying, which they somehow have discerned as your "true" statement- one which simply substitutes the argument which they are having with themselves for an actual conversation. This is typical in my opinion of a lot of people who identify as being religious. They actually can't handle anyone who engages in any kind of discussion which they don't recognize as matching their preconceived notions of the truth. That goes whether or not I am saying something which is critical or simply germane to the conversation.

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How would you all define the terms "religious" and "spiritual?"

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I agree with you, Expat..

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Religion is more horizontal. Meaning earthly groups of people gathered together in a formal setting with set doctrine, liturgy and common beliefs about the Creator usually in a set building or organization which has many buildings under it's religious umbrella.

Spiritual is more vertical. Meaning more of a direct commune with the Creator and less "churchy".

However, religions have spiritual components and spiritual people can go to church. I tend to use the words as a means of differentiating between church goers and non-church goers that still have a belief in a higher power, but the 2 are not mutually exclusive by any means.

Many anti-religious people, I find have pre-conceived notions and prejudices against church goers or believers in a higher power much like racial or ethnic prejudice. But others have reached their conclusions through their own experiences and journey through life. I have no ill feelings towards non-religious people and respect their beliefs as well as we all should of others.

The spiritual realm and the physical world are connected, but not to be measured by the same set of criteria. You don't use a geiger counter to cut you grass. I see the physical and spiritual as a mesh which is tightly intertwined, but neither is necessarily completely dependent upon the other.

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Okay folks, I think this is one of those things Thom is commonly misunderstood about and to some degree, I believed it is because he often overstates his position simply to make a point. In doing so, he comes off like he is attacking atheism but I don't think that is really his intention. To clear a few things up:

Anerican Heritage Dictionary:

re·li·gion
NOUN:
1.a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.

b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.

2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.

3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.

4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

You can find similar definitions at Merriam Webster and other dictionaries: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion

When atheists think of religion (at least as indicated by their statements here and on the show), they tend to think in terms of only defitions 1-3 above. When Thom calls aethism a "religion" he is referring to defition 4.

So, one of the issues here is taking a unitary defition of a very slippery word and people attempting to claim that to be the only truth (sounds like dogma right? hmm...)

Additionally, this is complicated further by where the morality of atheism comes from. I do indeed believe atheism has a morality but this, by and large, is born out of (post)enlightenment humanism. This particular set of doctrines is a type of secularized protestanism. This has been well documented in sociology and was probably done first by Max Weber in "The Protesant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism."

Now atheists can come up with a bunch of alternative rationales for their moral positions but, I think, if you often dig deep enough, you will find two things 1) their rationales are often based of some of the same or similar ontological assumptions. 2) They are merely coming up with alternative rationales of values that have been imbedded in our social ethic by our collective, complex, and sometimes contradictory religious heritages.

Anyway, the other part of his point is that atheists often accuse those who believe in religions as being the source of all immorality in the world (for example, the prison comment above which really is just a bullshit concept to begin with). Thoms point is often that atheists also often believe dogmatically in their own set of values and beliefs and also use them as justifications to do horrible things. Translation = ones ideology or religion (or lack there of - however you want to frame that) is not a predictory of their propensity to engage in violence. Period.

ah2
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Dec. 13, 2010 10:00 pm

Its about thoms attitude towards atheists.. It feels like it angers him when we speak up to defend ourselves.. As previously mentioned likes to tie the atheist moniker to mass murderers just like conservative fundies like to do.. Likes to strongly assert atheism is a religion, just like conservative fundies like to do..

I use bible quotes myself "(thou shalt not kill, lie steal, etc)" when debating fundie conservatives that support killing (war) or obviously lying about something (which they frequently do).. No problem whatsoever using the bible.. There is a common saying among atheists, that actually reading the bible is one of the things that made us atheists.. Atheists are as a demographic much more biblically literate than the average believer ..

Quote Laborisgood:

Do you feel Thom alienates atheists more by just not respecting their minority status or because he uses the Bible as a reference.

Being an atheist is not a sufficient reason to be ignorant of the most popular book of all time.

Perhaps Thom is more generous to the Biblically illiterate than he should be. That probably comes from actually reading that old relic.

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I dont care that thom has metaphysical beliefs.. He does support religious freedom for everyone including atheists.. My beef here is how he directs every fundamentalist trick in the book against atheists, Pat Robertson style..

Quote Expat Wannabe: <SNIP>-woo" New-Ageish and metaphysically inclined overall. I also think that he is among those who believe that religion, or at least some degree of spirituality, is necessary to be a decent and moral person. He cannot understand how people cannot bring themselves to believe all that metaphysical claptrap and take things on faith. I've heard him deny religious belief is necessary for someone to behave morally, but when he's not explicitly discussing this issue, his other statements and attitudes belie his true belief that atheists are immoral at worst, and incomplete people at best.

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if religion is the opiate of the masses (as Marx insinuated), than spirituality is the ___________ to society.

The blank should be filled with the word "glue". I say that because I define spirituality as rising above ones own needs and desires for someone else's benefit. Without that type of spirituality, there is no community. We'd all be libertarian cannibals.

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Oct. 20, 2010 8:47 pm

This is hard to prove, but my personal experience goes this way as well.. But I draw the line at declaring them all bad.. So, I will not go so far as to not do business with them, but I do not trust them, and I will try to do business elsewhere whenever possible.. An argument can be made that churches bring the imoral element together with truly good people, so they can possible be made better people, or at least "watched."

Quote Expat Wannabe:

I have worked for 7 different employers since my 20's. (I'm old now). All were small to medium sized organizations. Three of them made an issue of their Christianity. One actually expected employees to engage in group prayer and sanctioned those who didn't go along with it. Two of them even had fish on their business cards. All three of these Xtian businessmen were the most cheating, conniving, abusive people I ever had the misfortune of knowing, and I've known some unsavory characters in my time. All three regularly cheated and abused customers and employees alike. They cheated their vendors and on their taxes. One fired me simply because I repeatedly refused to price gouge customers who were naive enough to let it be known that they were in dire need of our services.

Of the four remaining employers, three were undeclared as to their religious bent and one was an avowed atheist. The atheist and one of the others were the two most honest in their dealings. The other two were just typical opportunists, but not too bad. They were definitely better than the Xtians.

Take home lesson is that I will never work for, or patronize, a blatant Xtian again, and I would NEVER do any kind of business with anyone who prints a fish on their business card.

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Quote "Laborisgood":Spiritual is more vertical. Meaning more of a direct commune with the Creator and less "churchy".

I disagree. There needn't be a creator myth for spirituality to exist. We can still be spiritual beings who evolved from lower life forms through the course of history and who gained our accute spiritual sense as a result of our big brains. No super nature is required for people to be better than they are right now. Your idea pre-supposes something that is unnecessary.

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Again, this has been my experience as well. And my observations (hatred for atheists) were confirmed with the poll that showed Christian parents would rather their daughter marry a Muslim, than an atheist.. This poll "after" 911 speaks is a volume to great to ignore; atheists are clearly the most hated miniority in America..

I strongly believe this is because of demonization by fundies.. Demonization is a strong and successful meme of Christianity.. It worked so well against the Jews in Nazi Germany, and against witches in America.. The same probably happeend to put fire into the old time wars..

LOL. "not" collecting stamps (dbl negative, but I know what you mean)..

Quote norske:

I'm an atheist who pre enlightenment taught comparative religion at a Christian college for a spell and can recite and recall verses with the best of them. I occasionaly become annoyed when Thom goes off on atheism...but it is a small matter...these days.

What has always intriqued me is how people of different religions accept one another...even when said religions and beliefs are diametrically oppossed and anathema to one another...before they will accept an atheist. It seems that, much like the Masons...what matters most is that if a person shares in the same myth of a super deity...they are welcome. If they are an atheist...not so much.

Of course atheism isn't a religion like not collecting stamps doesn't make one a stamp collector. But I see definitions as in the eye of the beholder...it makes no difference to me how a person chooses to define something...even when they're wrong.

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bobbler
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

On faith and doubt....I'll take doubt nearly every time. Doubt opens a mind, faith accepts without evidence. Skepticism is necessary for science and faith can diminish reason. It's those persons of faith that scare me. It's those nuts who think there'll be 72 virgins waiting for them in heaven that strap on the bombs. Wait till they discover that it's 72 Virginians and that it was just a typo......God save us from your followers.

The social components of religion can be valuable, but worldcentrism is more developed than ethnocentrism.

Definition 4 above seems more suited to spirit - the spirit of capitalism, the spirit of 76, spirit rallies, etc. - it the essence or attitude.....but I think my point about fundamentalism is still valid. It can be dangerous coming from religious or non religious alike.

As for that morality thing....group selection vs individual selection is where morality can be found in nature, the development of compassion and empathy. An individual or individuals will sometimes put themself(selves) at risk protecting others. It is contrary to individual selection but serves a greater purpose. Do you think that all of those unlikely animal friends are unnatural? Perhaps the Darwin Project will help.

Nice answer D-Natured...in that sense spirituality lends itself to a definition of highest levels of development. It's the concentric widening rings of compassion and growth from selfishness to selflessness.

I'm way wary of the "Christian businesses" too, Bobbler and Expat. I'm okay with the Unitarians though, on the whole.

I tend to think that the Buddhists are the best of the bunch though, but it's not really a religion.

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MEJ
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

See Laborisgood, we agreed on every issue, until now.. I hope you will try to see what is making all of us angry so we can put this distraction behind us.. Also my email is bobbler (at the earth link dot net), if you want to discuss anything off line..

Quote Laborisgood:

Perhaps Biblical illiteracy is not the root cause of the issue at hand? Perhaps being overly sensitive is.

I've been listening to Thom for several years and I also find him a bit too "New-Ageish" for me, but he absolutely does NOT tie morality solely to religion at all. So you can't pin that rap on Thom.

I'm always amazed at the overly sensitive atheists/agnostics/secular humanists (or whatever) that crawl out of the woodwork every time Thom actually says something nice about a Pope or quotes some scripture to make his point. Don't be so sensitive.

We're all God's children. Whether you believe it or not.

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bobbler
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Yes, Christians do not believe in literally hundreds of other religions.. So the only difference between an atheist and a believer, is that atheists simply believe is one less religion..

Quote D_NATURED:

Atheism is not a religion, it IS a religious belief, however. We believe that all the religions that claim knowledge of the super natural are wrong. We could be wrong too. Maybe Zeus does exist. I'm not betting my life on it, though.

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bobbler
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Atheism a religion was a play on words created by fundies (I think it was Pat Robertson).. I caught on big time because of a semantics issue.. You can rearrange the sentence slightly and make it mean the opposite.. For example "Atheists do not believe," is the at all the same thing as saying "atheists believe there is no god." The very defining thing about athism is lack of belief in the first place, so it is just plain wrong and annoying to say we believe either way.. This being said, there is another level to the semantics confusion. Most atheists will tell you they believe there is no god, LOL. But this statement is the weak sense of the belief word (directly comparable to "I believe I will have another beer)." This is not the same belief that religuious adherents will literally kill or die for.. This crap has indeed caused whole chat forums debating the difference bt atheism and agnosticism.. I still like the old definitions (before fundies messed up the meanings of the terms)..

(1) Atheists do not believe (period).. (2) Agnostics are not sure what to believe.. Although after this pat robertsom atheist=religion thing, now many atheists use the agnostic label to avoid the confusion..

Quote norske:

There are entire web sites devoted to the discussion of whether atheism is a religion or not...the mental gymnastics required for some to justify...the sheer amount of circular reasoning which takes place...the endless disection and debate of minutia...is enough to drive one to drink or to the Thorazine closet.

I really don't care.

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bobbler
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Quote D_NATURED:
Quote "Laborisgood":Spiritual is more vertical. Meaning more of a direct commune with the Creator and less "churchy".

I disagree. There needn't be a creator myth for spirituality to exist. We can still be spiritual beings who evolved from lower life forms through the course of history and who gained our accute spiritual sense as a result of our big brains. No super nature is required for people to be better than they are right now. Your idea pre-supposes something that is unnecessary.

I was merely giving my thumbnail opinion of the "difference" between religion and spiritual as asked by somebody earlier. Anybody's opinion obviously contains presuppositions. Clearly, rattling off a couple of short paragraphs on that subject does not do it justice.

More importantly, we all need to heed the Golden Rule and try to understand each other without getting angry at someone whose beliefs are not in line with your own. Which brings me back to Bobbler and others who are angry at Thom for perhaps not just having beliefs different than theirs, but they feel he is not respecting their beliefs in his addressing of atheism. I understand and respect your views. I may not agree, but I respect them all the same.

However, from my perspective, I don't really ever sense Thom is disrespecting atheism, but feel he tries real hard to bring us all together. Obviously, some things are difficult to reconcile. It seems to me that some people who are anti-religious, get way too bent out of shape if somebody (i.e. Thom) says anything that are not in synch with their anti-religious views just as some religious/spiritual people may with anti-religious comments.

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Laborisgood
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

I respect differences. I have a really hard time respecting a belief in fairy tales or a "Creator," and I worry that a willingness to believe religious nonsense will spill over into other matters.

I don't have a problem with spirituality, or incorporeality, per se. It just depends on how you define it. Too often terms, such as "conservative" and "liberal," are tossed around without clear definitions.

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Garrett78
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Quote ah2:

... 2) They are merely coming up with alternative rationales of values that have been imbedded in our social ethic by our collective, complex, and sometimes contradictory religious heritages.

You make some good points in clarifying Thom's tack, and you are probably right about the character of atheist morality hostorically. I pick the above out of your quote because I don't think that it is precisely correct to imply that religion is the origin of moral belief. The similarities and differences between religions and philosophies can both be understood by referring to them as products of human beings and understanding the nature of human beings in a scientific manner. The Mahabarrata (sp?), Ramayana, Epic of Gilgamesh, Holy Bible, etc. all add to a universal heritage. They should be valued for what they contribute to our understanding, by understanding them not by viewing them as "divine". The "divine", if that word has applicability, is what is present to our understanding. A purely rational means of understanding divorced from the complete set of faculties or ways of knowing is not what reason necessarilly implies. But respect between peoples of different faiths and those of no religion subsists on a common basis of communication, an ongoing present-centered process. The scientific understanding of human beings as natural creatures informs our understanding of the development of culture and civilization, and the evolution of our ethical disposition and moral progress.

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nimblecivet
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Can you provide specific links to these studies or any other resource of proof?

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Oz Fox
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Quote bobbler:

Yes, Christians do not believe in literally hundreds of other religions.. So the only difference between an atheist and a believer, is that atheists simply believe is one less religion..

I have never been into religions. In my younger days and a fan of Sartre I fancied myself an atheist. Then I started practicing yoga and meditation and began perceiving an overall structure and force to everything. One could call that "God" I guess but it is not "a man in the sky" who micromanages everything. To me it is everything that was, is and will be. Of course that means that you, me, everyone else and everything else is a part of "God" if you want to use that for a "name." And that goes against the duality that many religions preach basically to suck some money out of you. I sometimes think that atheism is the step right before coming to this reality.

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captbebops
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

LOL; it was the other way around for me.. From my teens to about 35 years old, I pondered they might be some meta physical stuff going on.. Then settled on not believing in anything magical for the last 20 years or so.. I fugure if there is some magic somewhere, I was unable to find it..

Exactly what we individuals believe on a personal level I feel is a distraction to getting on helping us liberals come together.. I like to think we liberals can peacefully, better cooperatively co-exist with each other.. I hated to start this thread on Thoms apparent hostility towards atheists, but he was really chapping me (and apparently a lot of other "ally" atheists on this list)..

I also like to think that atheists tend to be liberal because we are more likely to think for ourselves, than follow.. Conservatives like to make "liberal atheist" one word like they do "liberal democrat." But go figure; I get in trouble on atheists message boards too; expecting atheists to not be conservatives, and to be more vegetarians (having compassion for the food animals)..

Quote captbebops:
Quote bobbler:

Yes, Christians do not believe in literally hundreds of other religions.. So the only difference between an atheist and a believer, is that atheists simply believe is one less religion..

I have never been into religions. In my younger days and a fan of Sartre I fancied myself an atheist. Then I started practicing yoga and meditation and began perceiving an overall structure and force to everything. One could call that "God" I guess but it is not "a man in the sky" who micromanages everything. To me it is everything that was, is and will be. Of course that means that you, me, everyone else and everything else is a part of "God" if you want to use that for a "name." And that goes against the duality that many religions preach basically to suck some money out of you. I sometimes think that atheism is the step right before coming to this reality.

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bobbler
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

There really isn't a right answer to the question about the difference between religion and spirituality....it's why I use the fill in the blank. My point about that was that the distinction is a relatively new phenomenon and that the distinction is important (imo) because it can help us all to find unity in good functional principles and practices of authentic spirituality (how's that for loaded?, hehe) from the dysfunctional dogmatism of religion with all of it's dysfunctional baggage.

We are just beginning to even be able to make such a distinction. Go back and review some of Albert Einstein's quotes and you might find that he used words like religion and religiosity where he would have choosen to utilize spiritual or spirituality, but that wasn't part of the venacular of his day. maybe I'll dig it up later

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MEJ
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Quote Laborisgood:
Quote D_NATURED:
Quote "Laborisgood":Spiritual is more vertical. Meaning more of a direct commune with the Creator and less "churchy".

I disagree. There needn't be a creator myth for spirituality to exist. We can still be spiritual beings who evolved from lower life forms through the course of history and who gained our accute spiritual sense as a result of our big brains. No super nature is required for people to be better than they are right now. Your idea pre-supposes something that is unnecessary.

I was merely giving my thumbnail opinion of the "difference" between religion and spiritual as asked by somebody earlier. Anybody's opinion obviously contains presuppositions.

My opinion on spirituality doesn't. It only recognizes that human beings are capable of great selflessness, when they want to.

More importantly, we all need to heed the Golden Rule...

Which is an idea that does not at all rely on or pre-suppose any god existing. Yet, it is a very logical and, in my opinion, spiritual idea.

...and try to understand each other without getting angry at someone whose beliefs are not in line with your own. Which brings me back to Bobbler and others who are angry at Thom for perhaps not just having beliefs different than theirs, but they feel he is not respecting their beliefs in his addressing of atheism. I understand and respect your views. I may not agree, but I respect them all the same.

This is not about whether yours or Thom's beliefs are in line with mine. This is about people making up shit, whole cloth, and asking me to act like that fantasy is as respectable as our shared reality. I'm sorry but I can't treat all ideas with equal respect. The whole "toleration" thing that theists advocate toward each other is just an enabling exercise. You don't point out that my god is invisible and I'll do the same for yours. I'll wear a feather hat at your god's hut and you kill a chicken in mine, etc...Actually, though, I really don't care what you or anyone else believes up until the point where my life is threatened by your self indulgent believing. That's the point we're at now and that's the source of the "anger".

However, from my perspective, I don't really ever sense Thom is disrespecting atheism, but feel he tries real hard to bring us all together. Obviously, some things are difficult to reconcile. It seems to me that some people who are anti-religious, get way too bent out of shape if somebody (i.e. Thom) says anything that are not in synch with their anti-religious views just as some religious/spiritual people may with anti-religious comments.

Again, it is we angry atheists who are going around angrily pointing fingers at the empty spaces where others gods, apparently, reside. Sure, that's the problem.

If I live to be a million I will never understand how people who concoct complex creator myths are treated as inherently morally superior to those who don't. Where is the honesty to say, I don't know? How can so many be so sure of somthing that so many others are completely unaware of. Nothing else in nature works that way. If you see a mountain, so will I and we can discuss the features thereof. If I see a god, though, and you see nothing, we cannot agree on anything except that we are different.

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D_NATURED
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Quote nimblecivet:
Quote ah2:

... 2) They are merely coming up with alternative rationales of values that have been imbedded in our social ethic by our collective, complex, and sometimes contradictory religious heritages.

You make some good points in clarifying Thom's tack, and you are probably right about the character of atheist morality hostorically. I pick the above out of your quote because I don't think that it is precisely correct to imply that religion is the origin of moral belief. The similarities and differences between religions and philosophies can both be understood by referring to them as products of human beings and understanding the nature of human beings in a scientific manner. The Mahabarrata (sp?), Ramayana, Epic of Gilgamesh, Holy Bible, etc. all add to a universal heritage. They should be valued for what they contribute to our understanding, by understanding them not by viewing them as "divine". The "divine", if that word has applicability, is what is present to our understanding. A purely rational means of understanding divorced from the complete set of faculties or ways of knowing is not what reason necessarilly implies. But respect between peoples of different faiths and those of no religion subsists on a common basis of communication, an ongoing present-centered process. The scientific understanding of human beings as natural creatures informs our understanding of the development of culture and civilization, and the evolution of our ethical disposition and moral progress.

I never said origin. I merely traced it one step in its obviously long and complicated geneaology. I am too tired at the moment to address the other stuff here. Maybe I will come back in a day or so.

ah2
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Dec. 13, 2010 10:00 pm

I find it interesting those non-believers that claim to know the Bible so well don't understand why so many acts committed by 'believers' seem to be less moral than those that claim no belief in a God when Paul's letter to the Romans explains it rather clearly... the law insights sin.

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goslonez
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Apr. 1, 2011 10:16 am

This is the point that has me bothered..

How can this not be obvious to everyone, that when thom uses BULL SH** straight from Pat Robertsons A**, that it PISSES off atheists (Thom is not a pat ropbertson style fundy, so this makes no sense).. It is directly comparable to white people using the words of the KKK when talking about black/white issues.. If you wonder why why atheists get angry, go back and read the last sentence again.. I cant make it more simple than that..

Again, I would dearly love to get together with other liberals, no matter what their religious beliefs.. So please try to understand..

Atheists are the most hated minority, very likely due to memes passed down thru the centuries.. I hate it when this crap spills over to regular people that have no reason to hate atheists, and this is where we are now.. Actually I rememeber when I spent 20+ years in libmo thinking I was the only person on the planet who did not believe (until I started reading Carl Sagans books).. Looking back I find it very odd that I was still viewing the world thru Christian eyes because of how I was raised (and I hated atheists too, even though I was one; IE when I would occasionaly read atheist material I found it offensive and unvelievable.. again, even though I was for all practical purposes, an atheist)..

So what I am saying is never doubt the power of hatred towards a group of people that comes from memes passed down thuu the centuries, and from your parents into your mind (during that impressionabkle age thom mentions when kids get more or less "programmed" for life)..

However, from my perspective, I don't really ever sense Thom is disrespecting atheism, but feel he tries real hard to bring us all together. Obviously, some things are difficult to reconcile. It seems to me that some people who are anti-religious, get way too bent out of shape if somebody (i.e. Thom) says anything that are not in synch with their anti-religious views just as some religious/spiritual people may with anti-religious comments.

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bobbler
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Bobbler, I don't give a fig for anything Pat Robertson has to say about atheism, so if I make a technical, theological case for atheism as a religious idea and for those who identify deeply as atheists to have a formally religious approach albeit unconscious to them, please do not get Robertson pissed. Try to hear the point.

The thread reveals, once again, how difficult it is to talk about religion, spirituality and faith with any cohesion and coherence. The words are used without any technical precision and are often substituted for each other in very misleading manners. If you think you understand all this, you are really confused.

So bear with me, if you will. I think one of the serious problems for American religion and spirituality is how individualistically "belief" and "faith" are treated. In a healthy developmental process, the nurture of a community is essential to the process of individual growth. Doubt is encouraged in the service of "truth" and honesty, and when Belief is about Trust and Belonging, challenging the "fairy stories" and myths of religion and culture is part of integrating their metaphorical meanings and finding the reality to which the point.

Where religion is being sold, the challenge to the metaphysics and metaphors are not welcomed, and the "faithful" are drawn back into dogma. Literal belief in the Revelation has a strong market in places where lives are not fulfilling. It hits the poor, but it also hits the soul starved rich. The idea that Jesus wants you to be rich is all some need.

We all have plenty of examples of bad religion, and examples of mature communities of faith are harder to find. It is easier to find mature and spiritually integrated individuals than to find churches or other religious communities that have reached an integrated mutuality beyond the focus on self.

As I have posted several times, the actual question of the existence of God is questionable. How does a metaphor exist? What is the truth value of metaphysics and how can it be authenticated? I think ontology fails as the answer. Therefor, the "beingness" of God is not at issue. It is the reality of the image and the usefulness of the stories that stands after the cosmology debate is finished.

There is no Divine Being hovering over the earth just behind the firmament. That metaphysics worked fine before we could see into space. The idea of "the soul" as an organ of the body worked before we could do good autopsy and physiology work. We also don't find the soul in the brain. It turns out to be a word for "human" in the moral sense. In the sacred sense.

Here I just want a bit of linguistic precision. If we want reality to be "secular," we have to deal with the other part of that division of reality, the "sacred." It does not have to be theistic, but it does have to be more than some good feelings individuals have. At some point, it becomes the shift from "me" to "we" in a very adult manner. I don't think Sam Harris or the other academic atheists have answered the human question of community and "faith" as a profound sense of what it takes to make and keep human life human in this world. I think they are working out their own issues with their churches rather than finding truly mature answers.

There is some truth in the idea that atheism is an adolescent issue developmentally. Killing God and killing "the Father" are part of becoming an independent adult. Getting out from under a stultifying religious ideology and conformity is to be encouraged. Finding religious people with a passion for doubt and imagination is hard because religious organizations tend to appeal to people who want to affiliate and conform more than dissent and criticize. The latter tend to leave.

But, where do they go? We provide a lot of support for individualism and individuality, but where do we find and build communities? Where do we become salt, yeast and light to the world rather than just grains of sand rubbing against the system? OK atheists, I believe you have every ability to be "spiritual" and "moral" and unburdened by dogma, so where is the social impact? Just laughing about some parody of religion is not enough.

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DRC
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Well said and good question.

I think part of the answer is the way spirituality is integrated into new stories, i.e. literature. Literature allows us to explore the relationship between the individual and the world from many perspectives and in consideration and demonstration of various elements and aspects. Thus including or revealing the difficulties and problems inherent in understanding morality within life. I won't try to go into detail about that.

Also, although I use the word "spirituality" I usually prefer "philosophy". Philosophy is not what it used to be. Literature is great, but to speak directly about the truth is perhaps superior. At least there have been some attempts to create moral philosophies such as "situationism", etc. but these are of little value abstracted out of life, although to analyze the subject of morality in this way can help clarify things.

Harris I think relies rather exclusively on neuroscience in limiting his purview to the individual mind. There may be some validity to this, but I would also agree that a morality has to include an attitude towards the world at-large as well as society in general. His idea in "The Moral Landscape" is that moral injunctions may not be absolute but are nonetheless valid. That is, I cannot follow each of the Ten Commandments for example literally all the time but I nonetheless view them as moral "truths" in some sense.

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nimblecivet
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Bobbler: You said atheists are the "most hated minority through the centuries". Perhaps there are a few Jews or Blacks who might take issue with that one. Have I (or Thom for that matter) shown hatred towards atheists or is it implied that our religious views are fostering that hatred. Any person espousing hatred towards atheists (or anyone) in the name of religion are not being true to their religion.

D-Natured: You said "Actually, though, I really don't care what you or anyone else believes up until the point where my life is threatened by your self indulgent believing." I'm not quite sure how my personal "self indulgent beliefs" are threatening your life. If there is someone harming or threatening you in the name of religion, you and me likely have some common ground and perhaps the person abusing religion should be called out for it. However, automatically lumping me in with that person is kind of like condemning all blacks for the actions of one. Avoidance of that simple type of prejudice is usually an easy sell for any self proclaimed liberal, but lumping all religious people into one basket seems to be so easy for you.

There seems to be a common concern with previous comments about affixing morality to religion. I have not placed one jot or tittle in the name of morality being tied to religion and can't remember Thom doing so either. If he has, take that up with him. I firmly believe morality can exist without religion and by no means feel that religion guarantees morality.

Why do certain self proclaimed liberals find it so easy to treat Muslims, Jews and Atheists with respect yet so difficult to do the same for Christians? This question is rhetorical. But, if you must tie me and all current day Christians to the Crusades and Salem Witch Trials, have at it.

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Laborisgood
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Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm
Quote bobbler:

This is the point that has me bothered..

How can this not be obvious to everyone, that when thom uses BULL SH** straight from Pat Robertsons A**, that it PISSES off atheists (Thom is not a pat ropbertson style fundy, so this makes no sense).. It is directly comparable to white people using the words of the KKK when talking about black/white issues.. If you wonder why why atheists get angry, go back and read the last sentence again.. I cant make it more simple than that..

Again, I would dearly love to get together with other liberals, no matter what their religious beliefs.. So please try to understand..

Atheists are the most hated minority, very likely due to memes passed down thru the centuries.. I hate it when this crap spills over to regular people that have no reason to hate atheists, and this is where we are now.. Actually I rememeber when I spent 20+ years in libmo thinking I was the only person on the planet who did not believe (until I started reading Carl Sagans books).. Looking back I find it very odd that I was still viewing the world thru Christian eyes because of how I was raised (and I hated atheists too, even though I was one; IE when I would occasionaly read atheist material I found it offensive and unvelievable.. again, even though I was for all practical purposes, an atheist)..

So what I am saying is never doubt the power of hatred towards a group of people that comes from memes passed down thuu the centuries, and from your parents into your mind (during that impressionabkle age thom mentions when kids get more or less "programmed" for life)..

However, from my perspective, I don't really ever sense Thom is disrespecting atheism, but feel he tries real hard to bring us all together. Obviously, some things are difficult to reconcile. It seems to me that some people who are anti-religious, get way too bent out of shape if somebody (i.e. Thom) says anything that are not in synch with their anti-religious views just as some religious/spiritual people may with anti-religious comments.

bobbler, I generally respect your opinions but don't position yourself as a martyr. Aethists are no where even close to the "most hated minority." That is just blatantly dishonest.

ah2
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