April 7th 2009

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Topic: "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything"...or does it?  Thom spars with author/journalist/pundit Christopher Hitchens www.hitchensweb.com

Topic: Clean Coal - Lesson or Perils?  Thom mixes it up with Carrie Lukas on shutting down the coal industry www.iwf.org

Topic: "When Atheism Becomes Religion: America's New Fundamentalists" Thom challenges author Chris Hedges, Senior Fellow at the Nation Institute www.thenation.com 


Richard Thraves (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

Here's the link to the story about the Socialist Mayors in Milwaukee:


Jared Allaway (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

Christopher Hitchens is the best. I had a sense ever since I was young that religion was bulls***. I told my family that Church was boring and we stopped going. I always kind of thought religion was okay. I mean, I liked Christmas. When I finally started finding some information on atheism, I felt like I finally knew why my childhood never seemed right. Anything that can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence, truer words were never spoken.

Carolyne K (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

You know, Thom....

I've always felt that religion or spiritual practice is a bit like a good cloak. Therefore, like any well-worn item of clothing, it's gonna get a little frayed with wear. This explains "radical fringe" - (gentle hugs and warm smiles)

Nicolette (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

I've wondered who Atheists believe should govern, what philosophers should be followed, who makes the rules, because if you look at the diversity of humanity, the cultural differences, religion tempers men. If we're the tribe of man, what rules do we follow and who proscribes those rules?

DRichards (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

Thom, You asked how one can reform a religion re the fundamentalist. As a former Christian, (now a Deist) I submit to you that perhaps you can't. When the liberal/moderate acknowledges the book to be the word of God (in any shape or form) the fundamentalist says " Yes, and this is what it says..."

B Roll (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

Here's what Carrie Lukas is talking about.


DRichards (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

re: who should govern?
It seems to me that we do indeed create "God" in our own image. If you are a liberal, you see a loving. tolerant God, Where as a fundamentalist sees a judgmental, "tuff love" God. Therefor, it is us, who determines how we are governed.

Carolyne K (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

Having tons of kids doesn't mean happiness....in addition, I am not a brood sow. Having a family should be a well-thought out process, and yes - sometimes 'accidents' happen.
Europeans are not having kids at the rate American are because they don't give their heart and soul to a dysfunctional religious system that requires "more soldiers for an Army for Christ." Most of my Italian friends (non-Catholic) state that they prefer to give a child a quality life experience, versus scrapping for crumbs - of food, attention, etc.

Francis.Moss (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

Tsk-tsk Thom!
Your comments on Unitarians was that we:"sit around and sing hymns."
Do you know what religion led the abolitionist movement in the early 19th century?
Do you know what religion was in the forefront of the Civil Rights movement?
The Unitarian religion.
And both events at a time when many -- if not most -- other mainstream religions were urging black Americans to "wait a while longer."

Just so you know I don't have a rod up my butt, my favorite Unitarian joke is that the reason we're such bad hymn singers is that we're always reading ahead in the hymn book to see if we agree with it.

You think the good core of religion is the spiritual, the mystical. I think the essential part is how we behave toward one another.

I'm sure you didn't mean to diss Unitarians, but you sure did.

Dave Griswold (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

Carrie Lukas always strikes me as someone who would argue the advantages of continuing to sail the Titanic into the iceberg, and then giggle if you just didn't see the advantage to helping her into a lifeboat (you stay on the ship, of course).

Carolyne K (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

I have to disagree with you, Francis. Religion is the broad brush definition given to describe spiritual practice with others in mind. Quite frankly, I think the human race would be better served if there were no religions. Personal spiritual practice is instead such a private matter that public discussion should be considered a faux pas of the highest magnitude.
Remember, actions speak far louder than words. I would prefer if people expressed their adoration of the sacred by feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and helping the ill become healthy again. No need to brag about whatever philosophy-of-the-moment you espouse.

Just me.....

B Roll (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago


You're squinting when you talk about oil or other fossil fuels as the reason for American wars. What fossil fuels did the United States seek in Cuba, Panama, Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Mexico? What fossil fuels did the United States seek when the CIA had Patrice Lumumba overthrown in the Congo and when the CIA helped the apartheid South African government capture Nelson Mandela? What fossil fuel did does the U.S. want in Haiti when they kidnapped Jean Bertrand Aristide and flew him to the Central African Republic (a dictatorship)?

Oil isn't the only resource that this country goes to war for or subverts the governments and peoples of other countries for.

But I guess it's like you apparently believe and sometimes say, "We're supposed to be the good guys."

And I ask, is this the modern world you want to bring the Islamic world into?

KMH (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

Lets not forget there are over one billion people in Europe living in about the same space as 300 million here in the USA. Of course, their homes will be smaller as they have more people sharing the same resources. Imagine what our country will look like with over one billion people?

West (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

I'm sure you know, but I think it needs to be pointed out, that the reason cap and trade systems are so effective, in theory, is that they lower the total cost of abatement. They accomplish this by allowing the firms with a lower marginal cost of mitigation to reduce their GHG emissions beyond the necessary level and sell the "extras" to the firms with a higher cost. We all know the righties like economics, and this is theoretically the most economically efficient way of accomplishing this, assuming no corruption.
Keep talking.

John Landis (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

There is some value in the openness and appreciation of things that may transcend our limited tools of language, reason and empiricism.

I am a Unitarian Universalist, and I think there is value in communities that permit the sharing of ideas and possibly transforming interactions and bonds between people that may help individuals gain insights into possibly transcendant, spiritual, mystical realms. Undoubtedly, a belief in a loving "central force" helps people in Alcoholics Anonymous gain the resolve to overcome crippling and seemingly intractable addictions. Same with athletes who seem to perform well beyond expectations due to their belief in a God. We can say that their beliefs are a crutch, and that it is really their own determination that yields success in their endeavors, but we CANNOT PROVE that they have NOT tapped into something beyond the things that are observable or comprehensible in our material world.

So we cannot deny the spiritual significance of another person's perspective. However, that does not mean that that person's claim of divine connection should add any value to that person's claims about reality or real-life decision making. Anytime an individual chooses to relay the results of his or her "divinely-inspired" insights to others, he or she must then be limited to the tools that are COMMONLY ACCESSIBLE to all people: language, reason and empiricism. These tools have their limitations, but given the limited nature of human condition, these are the best tools we have available to all of us.

We must resist the urge to believe things because we deeply desire to have the gratification of knowing: this leads to delusion as well as abuses resulting from asserting beliefs via power rather than through respectful, rational discourse. This can lead to unnecessary errors and conflicts--some with major consequences (e.g., creating unnecessary rifts between people or, at the extreme, killing other people or groups who have the "wrong" beliefs...)

We can commit to beliefs for which we have sound justification from the tools of language, reason and empiricism--always acknowledging that we may encounter new evidence or our collective understandings might be changed via a paradigm shift sometime later. Thus, instead of promoting intellectually impure and possibly corrosive dogmatism, a person can make useful and gratifying intellectual commitments WHILE RETAINING an openness to revisit and perhaps revise or reject such beliefs later on.

Thus a person remains intellectually humble and on a path of continual growth. This growth is enabled by a willingness and perhaps commitment to take in information and perspectives continually via reading and dialogue. This has the added benefit of deepening our connections with others, which can benefit us not only intellectually, but perhaps spiritually as well.

Randy Winn (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

I wish someone would tell Carrie Lukas, who seems like a nice person, that it is not at all persuasive to pick out a few cases in which there are environmental objections to wind power and to claim that they are universal.

Any time you have hundreds or thousands of potential building sites, at least some will have objectors. Maybe those objections are well founded, maybe they are not, but it is simply poor logic to conclude from them that environmentalists (...or anyone else...) objects to wind power.

For a reality check, look at Klickitat County http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008905693_windenergy23m... where wind is boosting the local economy. Likewise, in Eastern Washington State, farmers are eager to have windmills as a sort of 2nd crop, which smooths out the fluctuations in the farm economy.

But the main point: Lucas needs better logic if she wants to be persuasive. I mean this in a friendly spirit; America needs a broad range of views and I think it's great Thom has her, and other conservatives, regularly.

moonbat666 (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

The only reason religion exists, is for a few men to control mankind. The fear of death as final is the driving force behind all made up religion. It is all man made and any reference to divine inspiration is nonsense. Main stream, more tolerable religions are losing ground to fundamentalist religions, that are growing fast. These men who lead these religions are in the business of making fortunes off the fear of death. Atheism is not a religion. Study the origins of religion and any rational person should conclude that all faith is a belief in a belief. Atheism is rational study of natural selection and evolution. Morality is not the result of a belief in any god. The god of the bible was an insecure entity who was jealous and hatefull and encouraged genocide of all who opposed it. This invisable entity is something I would certainly not worship or ever want to meet. Love your fellow man and make the world better for everyone. I also believe that Religion Poisens Everthing

ejcrist (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

Isn't it amazing that the gift of language allows us to elequently defend a belief in a talking snake.

Man created gods out of fear of the unknown. (What's that light in the sky?)
Man created religion to control other men. (You will burn in hell)
God hates amputees. (Why don't we see the miracle of limb regrowth?)

C'mon....quit living in the 1st century. We should be able to say "I don't know" without relying on "faith".

nora (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

RE: The head-to-head between Hitchens and Hartmann

This discussion was simultaneously interesting and frustrating. Thanks to the callers afterward, it was brought closer to being understandable.

I think what causes my frustration when I've heard Thom plunge into these discussions (he had one a while back with Chris Hedges on atheism), he seems unaware of all the threads involved in the topic.

For instance, today there was use of the word religion without a definition of religion clarified. Also, there was acknowledgement that TOXIC religions have developed, yet there was no definition/clarification of that toxicity or how it came about.

Here's my submission: Religions take beliefs, spiritual practices and mystical experience and turn those into a commodity/business. Religions are 1/ contained, 2/ hierarchy-fied (priesthood and followers and unbelievers (heretics)), 3/ politicized, 4/ money-fied, 5/ dogma-fied beliefs, spiritual practices, and human propensity for the mystical.

Once the priesthood steps into the realm of concretizing these into dogma (including those dangerous 'fundamentals' which lie at the heart of fundamentalism), they give birth to INTOLERANCE and the TOXICITY is endemic.

Some religions get there in baby steps: Christianity was a cult, a seed of a religion until the Roman Empire Oligarchs decided to adopt and use it to make their empire HOLY as in The Holy Roman Empire! And we must give Mohammed credit for his initial attempt to create a tolerant religion, one that brought tolerance of diverse peoples and religions, tribal rivalries and protections for women; however those aspects came to be quickly eclipsed by Mohammed's challenge to survive rather than be martyred by the Arab Oligarchy and (quite a mirroring the Holy Roman Empire) Mohammedism embraced the goal of EMPIRE, overlayed EMPIRE on Mohammedism and created Islam. As Empires are authoritarian, their religions become tools of EMPIRE and the authoritarianism EMPIRE requires. For a religion born wholly intolerant, I think an example would be Mormonism, with its chauvinism against women, racism, economic authority born whole as initial dogma -- with changes in the direction of greater tolerance coming only when necessary to protect the wealth and EMPIRE of the Mormon Church's interests.

Even the Dalai Lama has acknowledged that Tibetan Buddhism ran Tibet in a manner that was FEUDAL. Was that Empire frozen in feudelism run by monks a weak system prime for collapse from ANY pressure from the outside world -- whether from well-intentioned, appreciative tourists or aggressors? That Tibet closed itself off from the world for some time seems to indicate the controlling monks realized INTOLERANCE of others, preventing new ideas to enter, was necessary for Tibet's survival.

I think any system that relies on its DOGMA and INTOLERANCE becomes TOXIC -- and that goes for SCIENCE as well, which has become a kind of religion of the secular world.

And we must investigate the existence of OCCULT religions in the form of Secret Societies. As dangerous as the out-in-the-open TOXIC religions are, it seems possible that the secret religions may be even more TOXIC and dangerous.

nora (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

Question I'd Ask Chris Hedges:

Do you find nihilistic worldview and atheisim are cut of the same cloth?

Brendan4816 (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

I just arrived here on what I believe is the "Live Blog." The times of other comments seem off a bit...
At any rate, can someone tell me how to get to the chat room! I have tried so many times to get into the old chat, but my old username and password aren't working.
I clearly have a "new" account as well...but I CANNOT find the "new" chat room that is supposed to be in Thom's Community!!!
I beg that someone patient, kind, and knowledgable on this matter may assist me - please! :-)
I may be e-mailed at Brendan4816@yahoo.com. Thank you for any suggestions you may have!

Cassandra (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

I would argue atheism as an "ism", as a philosophical belief, and therefor a religion, even if it is a belief in "nothing". While there seems to be a lot of distaste for religion and the result of the misuse of its power, a person should still be able to choose whatever belief system they need to figure out their existance as best they can.

Its not the people who practice the religions who are (generally) responsible for the misuse of this power, its the charasmatic leaders who take advantage of the people who have caused the most damage in our history. There is a fundamental intolerance in the bridge of modern societies' religion that we have to "heal" if we are to get over our bad selves and get beyond getting so angry and righteous over something no one can prove or disprove.

Stop saying what I believe is stupid and flawed, and I'll stop telling you how wrong you are. Its this arguing that is so damaging.

Also. . .
Anyone who has had a spiritual experience would understand that religion has nothing to do with it. God is too big to put in a religious box, religion should be seen as a metaphorical way of trying to understand what we would think God as being, and definitely not literal.

What is the defintion of "Faith"? In Jesus? Or a particular kind of "God"? Just curious as I don't beleive I experience faith. I'm more spiritual and just can't get into the structure of religion. So I suppose I am misguided?

deist_raconteur (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

Deists do not worship nature. They believe observing and studying nature one can infer certain things about "God" [powerful, intelligent, etc.]. Furthermore, deist believe that this "God" has not and does not intervene in human affairs. After the creation of humans, animals, etc., this creator left us to our own devices. Therefore, holy books, prophets, etc are all things of human construct and not "divine".

Brendan4816 (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

I don't think people understand why atheism is not a religion. If one grew up in a society where god was not a concept that had been fathomed (there have been a few in history) then there would be no word to describe this anyway. Many atheists do not like to describe themselves as such (such as Richard Dawkins) simply BECAUSE to be in a state of disbelief should not carry a label because it is NOT a religion.
Atheism is a simple word that comes from the following: 1) A - a prefix meaning "without" (among other things, look up in the dictionary, too many people don't believe me when I say this. asexual is another example, "without sex" such as bacteria) and
2) theo, meaning god. Atheist literally means "person without god"

nora (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago


Thom said we need more religious REFORMATION.

I don't think Reformation would prove that effective. Look at the intolerant, fundamentalist off-shoots of Protestantism resulting from the Catholic Reformation. Reformation seems only to fragment the original toxic religion into splinters. Reformation is like corporate restructuring; the corporate structure is still there -- the business aspect, the dogmatic base, the "believe-us-because-we-have-the-answer" marketing message still exist but merely are repackaged into more versions of religious dogma.

How many more intolerant factions do we need?

We need tolerant, open-minded, live-and-let-live attitudes alot more than we need reform into more offshoots of the toxic religious commerce.

adultsneeded (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

We all get our "pants in a wad" over definitions and discussions about GD and religion. As a Unitarian and a mystic, I spend less time arguing points that cannot be proven and let in the light of connection on a human level with a big dose of joy in the beauty of the natural world. No drugs needed.

Neil Clark (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

Thom -
I am surprised that a man of your wisdom would make such a naive "if / therefore" mistake in reasoning, i.e.: `since every culture has some form(s) of religion, this must mean that the supernatural exists'. A caller crystallized these thoughts, because he presumed that there “must be a `why’” for everything that happens – thus requiring a force which sets the rules…if only we mere mortals could figure them out.

As pattern-recognizing creatures, humans create mythologies to impose “TRUE if/therefore rules on nature, in the understandable attempt to comprehend – and even influence - events in a cause-&-effect manner. But True Believers must either meekly explain away every instance where the `agreement’ between themselves and their god(s) breaks down (i.e.: the “why bad things happen to good people” rationalizations) – or at worst, they must aggressively engage in a `witch-hunt’ to locate & scapegoat the “unbeliever” in their midst who has caused their god(s) to show his/her/its displeasure by punishing them all.

Of course, what is lacking in any religion is an honest effort to keep track of the “success-to-failure” ratios of their various tenants; if done, I expect this would demonstrate that their premises are at least flawed – if not totally invalid.

Remember the Cheech & Chong line: “I used to be messed up on drugs until I found the Lord…now I’m messed up on the Lord.”? Every known human culture (and not a few animal species) have found- and/or developed intoxicating substances which are actively sought out to mute stress, produce relaxation, or even alter / heighten the user's sense of reality (this latter substance class often becomes the core of mystical religious practices). Is there “The ONE TRUE intoxicant”? Of course not. They all work pretty much the same across all populations (something which cannot be said for the thousands of variants of “The ONE TRUE religion”).

All that this means is that the function of the animal brain is susceptible to alteration by the administration of certain internal or external substances - and since no animals appear to practice `religion’, one could argue that the human brain has merely developed internal mechanisms to release intoxicating substances that we misinterpret as “proof” of supernatural forces.

There is no ethically-weighted “TRUE why” in the functioning of the universe, only the “ACTUAL is” of how things function.

Sheridan (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

Thom, Thom, Thom. Atheism is NOT a religion. Saying that it IS a religion is like saying that not collecting stamps is a hobby!

DRichards (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

It seems to me that Deism has many differant flavors (beliefs, opinions, ect.)What we Deist share, is the belief in/of a "God", prime mover, first cause, what ever you want to name it. We all have our own opinions beyond that; many Deist, such as George Washington believed in divine providence. Thomas Paine believed in an after life. What Deism is; is a philosophy (belief in "God" based on (the evidence of) nature & (using God's gift ) of reason. For those interested, a very good book regarding Deism would be Thomas Paine's "Modern Age of Reason".

nora (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

I agree with Sheridan. Atheism is NOT a religion. Where is its dogma? Where is its business structure/hierarchy?

And neither is Deism a religion. I agree with DRichards that Deism is a philosophy. A philosophical filter helps one deal with life and transcendence but it does not pass the plate or build infrastructure or design colorful vestments!

nora (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

The religious institution is somewhat like the corporation. They are both entities with self-serving, self-promoting, self-enriching goals, except the corporation might possibly give more to its members (stock dividends to stockholders) while taking money from consumers for product/servicecs. A religious institution is limited to taking money from its members/congregation(consumers) in return for providing them with the product/service of telling them what to dogmatically believe and which rituals to observe.

Now with the government breakdown of separation of church and state in the USA and the so-called health and human services delivery through religious institutions, we are seeing even more of this business-style operation of religious institutions via Faith-Based Initiatives stuff....


John Hagermna (not verified) 15 years 11 weeks ago

Thom, I am surprised that neither you, nor your guest, mentioned Process Theology in your discussion. Process Theology is based on the process philosophy developed by Alfred North Whitehead in the late 1800s. Process philosophy has been hugely influential in almost all the sciences because it lays out the foundation of all things being in dynamic relationship -- chaos theory, fractal geometry, quantum physics, and even the social sciences.

Process Theology says that we are in a dynamic relationship with God, and that GOD IS NOT SUPERNATURAL. (Supernaturalism is defined as God being able to interfere with or ignore the physical laws of the universe). It states that God is the author of the original intent, and is affected by human behavior, but that God cannot step in -- ala the "magician in the sky" -- and disrupt the physical laws of the universe. God created the cosmic epoch we are currently in, but is also bound by the laws of that epoch.

David Ray Griffin, of Claremont College (www.ctr4process.com -- Center for Process) explains it in great detail in his book "Reenchantment Without Supernaturalism: A Process Philosophy of Religion." He explains that atheists, be they scientific atheist, or otherwise, have it wrong when they state there is no such thing as God. If you examine the universe using their own definition, scientific thought is irrational because it asks us to ignore what our own "radical common sense" says exists as reality. Scientific thought would have us believe that if it can't been observed and measured, then it doesn't exist. Taken to the extreme, it would deny time and experience as being realities -- how do you measure experience? Yet we know it exists. Where did this moment, and this one, and this one, come from until they existed? Scientific thought says that everything occurs because a decision somewhere in nature, yet it would ask that we simply ignore what it can't explain. Another good example would be mathematical formulas -- we don't invent them, we discover them. Those formulas exist, and our common sense acknowledges their existence, but they can't be scientifically measured.

The fundamentalists of the world also have it wrong because they ask that we believe in a God who can, on a whim, do anything it wants to the world -- create it, destroy it, interrupt physics -- anything. If that's the case, then they are asking us to believe in an incredibly cruel and capricious God -- a God that allows the holocaust and refuses to lift a finger to stop it, a God that allows millions of children to die of starvation, and refuses to stop it. The fundamentalist will say that God is all powerful and omnipotent, and that we have free will. They say God has chosen not to intervene, but that fails because if God is indeed all powerful, then God, in reality, would dictate all of our actions and no free will really exists -- only that cruel God.

Process Theology creates a philosophy that embraces all the physical laws that science has said exists, and expands the foundational philosophy of religions, thereby creating a philosophy that embraces both. It makes more sense that current scientific thought, or current religious doctrines. It is becoming hugely influential across almost all religions, even gaining advocates among evangelicals.

Let's face it, if it takes believing in an anthropomorphic magician floating in the sky, my common sense says "no way." Likewise, when I feel awe and wonder that goes way beyond any arguable benefit to the survival of the species, my common sense tells me it exists beyond scientific explanation. When I look at the irrationality of both extremes, my common sense tells me there's got to be a better explanation. Process Theology is that explanation. You owe it to yourself to check it out.

talos72 (not verified) 15 years 10 weeks ago

I was surprised at Chris Hedges assertions about atheists. He claims they externalize "evil" and that they place humans above all with regards to moral standing while retaining a linear sense of time. I don't know which atheists Hedges references but none seem to be part and parcel of what atheism is. Atheism (speaking as one) to put crudely means a lack of belief in any form of higher power/ consciousness that somehow overseas, controls or affects the whole of existence. Any notions of the supernatural, religion or mysticism becomes moot as the result.

With that, the notion of externalization of evil, as Hedges claims, becomes meaningless in true atheistic terms. People are capable of committing horrible acts and are able to cause much misery and destruction. Is Hedges somehow claiming atheists believe in some ultimate force out there in space named "evil"? Hedges' claim makes no sense here.

Also, I doubt most atheists make any claim with regards to human being's moral superiority. Again, humans are capable of constructive or destructive actions, as with any other animal species. If anyone wants to frame or label these actions in specific terms such as "morality", then so be it. What does this have to do with atheism?

Finally, Hedges claims that atheists have a linear notion of time. How so? This is a bit of logic trap. If one says well religious belief systems have a very linear notion of time, then Hedges could claim "see atheism is a religion". What a weak link! Many belief systems, regardless of religiosity, have linear notions of time. This fact makes for a soft argument for atheism as a religion. Many physicists don't believe time as a straight line: time and space as a loop, the string theory, quantum physics, etc.

Atheists don't claim to know everything, neither does science. The problem begins when people try to fill the gaps of knowledge with notions of the supernatural.

NoGods (not verified) 15 years 10 weeks ago

Thom resorted to the phantasmal tactic of defining god as a tree or as the sky. Ok, if that is how you define god than I am a believer. Thom has diluted the definition of god so much, he renders it useless. Having a sense of transcendence is not proof of god.

Schizophrenics were once thought to be demonic and now we understand it is due to a brain disorder caused by increased dopamine activity in the mesolimbic pathway of the brain, nothing supernatural about it. And we can now alter the mind with medications, we treat schizophrenia with antipsychotic drugs and for centuries humans have been using natural drugs to alter the brain to have a “spiritual” experience. How then Thom do you attribute a feeling in your brain to the supernatural? I think (we are getting close) we will understand spiritual experiences at the level of the brain much like we are coming closer to understanding schizophrenia and drug use at the level of the brain. It is a fantasy, nothing more, get over it. Just because you are afraid of death and you want to see your dad again is not justification of belief in things unproven.

According to wikipedia:
Recent studies in neuroscience have indicated that as people fall in love, the brain consistently releases a certain set of chemicals, including pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which act in a manner similar to amphetamines, stimulating the brain's pleasure center and leading to side effects such as increased heart rate, loss of appetite and sleep, and an intense feeling of excitement.

Does this make love somehow less special? No. The fact that we evolved such a trait is astonishing, it makes it so much more amazing, the feeling is real and it has a natural cause, not some transcendent cause. When Bronze Age societies saw the sun as a magical entity and in many cases an actual god they looked at it with awe and spirituality. Now understanding that the sun is a giant nuclear reactor made up of not angels but rather hydrogen and helium and other elements, ask yourself, do you feel the sun is less awe inspiring? Does this knowledge reduce our amazement or enrich it. I prefer the latter.

Now on to Thom’s other tactic: Calling Atheism a religion.

This is blatantly dishonest, attacking your opponent as being the very thing they are against to shut them up doesn’t win you the debate. It is simple, Theists make a claim, i.e. god exists and an Atheist simply denies the claim. Hey Thom, free marketers make a claim, i.e. "The free market will solve everything" and you deny that claim and speak out against it regularly. Does that make your denial a religion? Aren’t you being fundamental with your disbelief? Aren’t you evangelizing? Once again you are diluting the definition of religion so much as to rendering it useless. If people explain why they do not believe, and you call that a religion, than we really have a lot more religions on our hands than we ever realized and we should be teaching those “religions” in comparative religions classes. In Thom’s world, any philosophy or argument becomes a religion.

Definitions are important and religion is an organized approach to human spirituality which usually encompasses a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices, often with a supernatural or transcendent quality, that give meaning to the practitioner's experiences of life through reference to a higher power or truth.

Atheists deny the spirit world, they deny the supernatural, they do not have practices of atheism or beliefs, it is a non belief. Raelians claim to be atheists and technically they are right as they do not believe in a supernatural god, they believe aliens made us through cloning and advanced technology. I am pointing this out to show that an atheist can believe anything, even crazy irrational things unsupported by evidence, just not in a god.

People who deny that Bigfoot exists could be called abigfootists and believe in a load of different things just not in Bigfoot. Atheism is no different. We do not call Bigfoot deniers a religion and Thom should know better.

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