the tyranny of lazy-mindedness

I cannot abide lazy-mindedness. This makes me a really, really lousy tech support person (or really good, depending on how you look at it.) I tend to answer questions by alluding vaguely to how such a thing might be figured out, rather than, you know, give an actual answer. Godlizard helps those who help themselves, in other words. If questions persist after I’ve suggested a number of avenues for figuring it out, I generally refer the asker to this, or possibly this, because the only reason I would know the answer would be from doing those things and figuring it out, so I can’t help but think you’d be better off if you also figured it out.

But figuring it out isn’t immediate, and it does not carry with it the same air of authority as knowledge that you receive from asking someone you consider an expert (whether they are or not). In order to believe something you are told without figuring at least some of it out yourself, you must invest a significant amount of mental energy in that belief in order to own the knowledge, thereby making it your own. The price of not engaging in any search for knowledge beyond accepting what you’re told can be quite high; lazy-mindedness doesn’t relieve you of the need to think, it just changes the nature of those thoughts from a search for rational answers to a search for rationalizations.

Humankind is by nature fiercely curious, and terribly impatient. In a discussion not too long ago, this argument in support of religion was put forth:

Throughout all history, through every age, as long as we know of, people have believed in something supernatural, and in almost every culture, tribe and group apart from in the West, people still do. They even claim to talk to their gods, their spirits and their deities. So I ask the question; may our “enlightened” scientific mentality prevent us from understanding something other people always have understood? A world without the people believing in the supernatural has never existed, so how is it possible to imagine one? You don’t know what it is!

My answer to that has to do with curiosity, and impatience. The variety of supernatural beliefs is as diverse as the cultures who embrace them, but the source is always the same: the desire to know why, and the need to know it right now. The intensity of this desire is, for the most part, unbearable. It drives the quest for knowledge, but it also drives the blind acceptance of answers presented as absolute, unassailable, and derived from a higher authority. It creates a willingness which religion was designed to exploit in order to satiate this curiosity and, in doing so, establish itself as that authority.

In order to achieve this blind acceptance, it is necessary to accept on principle that absolute knowledge is somehow a requirement, and that anything less is unacceptable. You hear this again and again in creationists’ arguments, the petulant (and ultimately impossible) demand that science provide definitive, complete answers that wrap everything up in a neat little package. Once an impossible standard like this has been accepted as a reasonable thing to demand, the only acceptable response must include a degree of certainty which is impossible. Once relieved of the burden of existing with in the realm of possibility, this opens up a limitless array of potential answers, each of which represents an end to exploration. Once an absolute solution is presented, one can safely stop wondering and do whatever it is one does when one stops wondering. One can, for instance, take up the hobby of interpreting everyday events as evidence of the correctness of one’s beliefs, which, in spite of the certainty with which they are presented, cause most people who accept them to engage in a constant search for reinforcement. I suppose this search is what takes the place of wonder; rather than trying to find answers to questions, one must search for questions to which their beliefs are at least one possible answer.

In the above-quoted discussion, another argument was presented which claimed that blind faith was not necessarily blind, since it often came out of life experiences that were identified as miracles:

Of course there might be a high probability that the miracle is just a trick, but shouldn’t he also be open to the possibility that it actually is from God? If a person actually takes his religion seriously he usually doesn’t do this in blind faith. Take the situation in Nepal for example where I work. Approximately 60% of those who become Christians choose this new belief because either they themselves or somebody close to them get healed (or so it is claimed).

When humans experience an improbable event or outcome of a situation, there is an overwhelming tendency to interpret it as a miracle, and call it evidence of the supernatural. This tendency tends to annoy me greatly, and by way of explanation I will offer this video, because it explains things so much better than I could:

Between 1914 and 1998, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences showed a marked decline in the percentage of members believed in a personal god, or in immortality. So, any time you cite the predominance of religion throughout ancient history, you need to consider that modern science has only had a small fraction of that time to dispel the primitive superstitions and myths. Looking at the progress of science in the past century, it’s obvious the pace of the advancement of knowledge is picking up, and among those who are paying the most attention to this, religous beliefs are becoming more and more rare.

    BELIEF IN PERSONAL GOD          1914   1933    1998
    Personal belief                 27.7    15       7.0
    Personal disbelief              52.7    68      72.2
    Doubt or agnosticism            20.9    17      20.8
    BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY           1914    1933    1998
    Personal belief                 35.2    18       7.9
    Personal disbelief              25.4    53      76.7
    Doubt or agnosticism            43.7    29      23.3

It’s about patience, and not being lazy-minded. It’s about not making irrational demands that an answer be provided right now, or that it must be absolutely 100% complete with no margin for error. But mostly, it’s about not being lazy-minded.

46 thoughts on “the tyranny of lazy-mindedness

  1. “Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman” was required reading in one of my classes–I don't recall which one although I do recall it was an entertaining read. I can see from reading this (and other things) that those arguing for theism are very predictable. It starts with Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, and others and when that doesn't work you switch to “well maybe there are ghosts”. When the person you quoted shared with me his desire to debate atheists I recommended that he should at the very least take an intro to philosophy course. He doesn't generally listen to me.

    1. Hey, I'm completely new at this theism/atheism debating thing myself – and have never taken a philosophy course (hey, I was busy). So that's why I defer to the folks who say it better than I can so often.

      But I'm learning. It's a pleasure to have spirited conversation with people who actually want to debate, as opposed to people who just troll around the internet pooping on things.

      So if you ever want me to cross-post these on lizard.la, I can do that. I have no particular qualifications or background to debate (other than the fact I like to argue, but i'm sure you know that about me already :) In fact, I often feel ill-prepared and spectacularly under-educated. I have a bunch of books in my shopping list but so far I've bought exactly one of them — Victor Stenger's book, Quantum Gods, and I have gotten through the first chapter, yay me! Aside from that, my debate prep consists of — well, reading blogs, and, all this stuff i've been thinking about for years but not saying out loud. And there's a lot of that.

      You see, mostly I'm just saying now what I spent years biting my tongue and keeping quiet about, lest I offend anyone's delicate faith-based sensibilities. No, really. But then I got, I don't know, old? And crotchety? Get off my lawn! Wait, I don't have a lawn?

      1. My suggestion about taking a philosophy course was directed at my friend (not to you) mainly because in my experience atheists are highly intelligent people and if you're going to engage in a philosophical debate you need to have at least a rudimentary familiarity with some of the arguments that have already taken place not to mention logic. There are rules. If a = b and b = c it doesn't always necessarily follow that c = a. I haven't read Victor Stenger's, Quantum Gods but I am familiar with some of his work and admire him as a great thinker. All that tongue biting helps explain the prolific writing that has occurred after deciding not to worry too much about delicate sensibilities. BTW–from what I've been able to observe you are neither old nor crotchety.

        1. Oh, I didn't think you meant me — :) It's just that, if someone who hasn't studied decides to debate someone, probably better that it's someone like me, who hasn't studied anything either. Practice, you know?

  2. Throughout all history, through every age, as long as we know of, people have believed in something supernatural, and in almost every culture, tribe and group apart from in the West, people still do.

    Interpreted broadly, this just reflects the obvious fact that humans everywhere have a tendency to believe things without adequate evidence. This is partly because, as you say, we have a tendency to want definite knowledge of things which are, in fact, beyond our power to definitely know; it's also partly because we're not inherently very rational creatures. Rational thought is rather like driving a car; any human of normal intelligence can be taught to do it, but it doesn't come naturally to anyone, and we don't generally do it outside the range of situations that obviously call for it.

    Interpreting the quote more narrowly, to refer to just religion, it's not true that religion remains near-universal in all non-Western cultures. Some non-Western countries have populations roughly as religion-free as western Europe — Russia and Japan are major examples. Perhaps it's no coincidence that those are also the two biggest non-Western nations which have reached similar levels to the West in science and technology.

    You hear this again and again in creationists’ arguments, the petulant (and ultimately impossible) demand that science provide definitive, complete answers that wrap everything up in a neat little package.

    And not only is this an irrational demand, but the claimed default position when it's not met is even more irrational. If the scientific explanation of reality is not supported by evidence so perfect that it leave no room for doubt whatsoever, then that explanation must be rejected in favor of a religious explanation which is supported by no convincing evidence at all.

    I can accept lazy-mindedness, in the sense that I realize that logical thinking is hard work and acquainting oneself with the evidence relevant to these kinds of questions is even harder work. I can accept some people just deciding not to bother. What I can't accept is those same people insisting that the beliefs they cling to instead of doing that hard work nevertheless deserve respect and consideration. I've never studied, say, electrical engineering; presented with a question on that subject, I'd just say I don't know the answer, and defer to those who have studied it. People who can't be bothered to really understand the evidence for modern biology and cosmology should be humble enough to do the same.

    1. Well, they're fed talking points by pseudo-experts, so when they blather on about the phony science they actually think they're getting it from experts. The thing about deferring to experts, is making sure you defer to the correct ones — and that takes some effort. In the case of an electrical engineer, you'd verify that he was in good standing within his professional organization and was recognized as competent by other engineers before you deferred to him, because you're not lazy-minded, and it matters to you that the people you get your information from are qualified.

      However, people who eagerly parrot everything that (for example) the Discovery Institute spews out don't make any effort to verify that the self-proclaimed experts they're listening to have any standing in the scientific community. The experts could have a biology degree from Joe Bob's Academy of Dentistry and Air Conditioning Repair, and the ignorant little idiots who cite them as experts would have no idea, because they either didn't check, or didn't care.

      Of course, didn't check is one thing (lazy-minded), and didn't care is the other thing (more like the kind of folks you described, the willfully ignorant) – and yes, that's worse. Chances are most of them would find it admirable that the person feeding them talking points was a joke amongst reputable scientists.

      Oh, but the driving thing? I was just thinking about that the other day as I was driving to work — from the opposite perspective, i think. I was remembering how the first time I drove (I was 12, I convinced my parents to let me drive a few blocks), I just got behind the wheel and knew what all the stuff did, and how to make it work. I am sure this only applies to children who are raised by adults who drive, but it's one of those things you will absorb from a very, very young age — because when you think about it, it's a fairly complex skill that involves considerable danger, yet if we're immersed in it from our earliest memory, we can at some point just get behind the wheel and make the car go.

      I suppose if we were all raised in an atmosphere in which critical thinking and reason were done as often as driving, we'd find that a lot more natural as well. That's why it scares me whenever these pseudo-scientists fight to get their garbage into the schools – we need to instill a respect for science and teach the skills of verifying sources before accepting expertise.

      1. The thing about deferring to experts, is making sure you defer to the correct ones — and that takes some effort.

        Well, that's certainly true. I'm reminded of how recently someone finally fact-checked the arch-global-warming-denialist “expert” Bjørn Lombord, with predictable results. Not only did credulous denialists never do so, I doubt most of them will pay any attention now that someone has. There's a strong tendency to choose beliefs on the basis of what's convenient rather than what's supported by evidence or expertise. The creationists are they extreme case. They're just looking for anything they can find to affirm their religious beliefs against the challenge posed by evolution.

        We can't educate everyone in the population to an expert level in every science, but it ought to be possible to educate them to the point where they can distinguish real experts from fake ones.

        The “Open-Mindedness” video is quite impressive. I've found that analogy of a court of law to be useful. People who don't grasp the importance of judging claims by evidence can see it much better when they're offered the scenario of being on trial for something they didn't do.

        1. Isn't it an awesome video? The graphics are extremely well-done, both illustrating the concepts and reinforcing the narrative so you are reading along, but not completely.

          My son got me watching that guy's channel, it was back in '08 during the whole atheist / theist kerfuffle on YouTube, with the bots and the protests against YouTube censoring unjustly, which he was following it pretty closely.

          It's wonderful when you find cool stuff like this because your tweenager is into it :)

  3. Well, they're fed talking points by pseudo-experts, so when they blather on about the phony science they actually think they're getting it from experts. The thing about deferring to experts, is making sure you defer to the correct ones — and that takes some effort. In the case of an electrical engineer, you'd verify that he was in good standing within his professional organization and was recognized as competent by other engineers before you deferred to him, because you're not lazy-minded, and it matters to you that the people you get your information from are qualified.

    However, people who eagerly parrot everything that (for example) the Discovery Institute spews out don't make any effort to verify that the self-proclaimed experts they're listening to have any standing in the scientific community. The experts could have a biology degree from Joe Bob's Academy of Dentistry and Air Conditioning Repair, and the ignorant little idiots who cite them as experts would have no idea, because they either didn't check, or didn't care.

    Of course, didn't check is one thing (lazy-minded), and didn't care is the other thing (more like the kind of folks you described, the willfully ignorant) – and yes, that's worse. Chances are most of them would find it admirable that the person feeding them talking points was a joke amongst reputable scientists.

    Oh, but the driving thing? I was just thinking about that the other day as I was driving to work — from the opposite perspective, i think. I was remembering how the first time I drove (I was 12, I convinced my parents to let me drive a few blocks), I just got behind the wheel and knew what all the stuff did, and how to make it work. I am sure this only applies to children who are raised by adults who drive, but it's one of those things you will absorb from a very, very young age — because when you think about it, it's a fairly complex skill that involves considerable danger, yet if we're immersed in it from our earliest memory, we can at some point just get behind the wheel and make the car go.

    I suppose if we were all raised in an atmosphere in which critical thinking and reason were done as often as driving, we'd find that a lot more natural as well. That's why it scares me whenever these pseudo-scientists fight to get their garbage into the schools – we need to instill a respect for science and teach the skills of verifying sources before accepting expertise.

  4. Hey, interesting that you should quote me in your blog. Anyway, my point wasn’t necessary to suggest that miracles prove the existence of a god. The point I was trying to make is that even if we saw dead men raised and limbs grow out, an atheist would still think it is a natural explanation behind (just that we haven’t discovered it) Yes, even if God himself came down and stood in front of them, I've meet atheists who says they would just think they were mentally insane.

    If this is true, it also means that some atheist WILL not, and CAN not believe in a personal God, no matter what arguments are put forth and no matter what circumstances they might go through. Is this a good way to figure out if something is true or not?

    1. I don't believe in a god or gods, but I do not believe there's no god — though the evidence is strong against a deity's existence, and, having examined it, I find that it is proof enough for me. That doesn't mean I know everything, or that I would refuse to re-evaluate my opinions if new and compelling evidence came to light.

      Compelling evidence, for the record, would not consist of argument, nor of the testimony of unverifiable personal experiences. No series of odd, inexplicable events would do it, not even if they happened to me. I am talking about clear, unambiguous proof that would consist of, say, everyone in the world reporting the same exact experience, understanding the same exact message, and then, perhaps some demonstrations — for instance, cleaning the oceans of toxins and garbage. Disarming every nuclear state and turning every gun in the world into a squirrel. Immediately fixing all the damage done by all those squirrels. Reinstating the rainforests as if they'd never been touched by man. You know, god stuff. Stuff that someone who created the whole universe in a week could do. Omnipotent stuff. And of course, measurable and independently verifiable.

      However if this newly revealed super-being was the same one from the bible, I doubt his demonstrations would be that benevolent, and I can't say I'd worship him. In fact, I'd be depressed beyond words, because of all the executions of people I hold dear, and probably me as well. If my family and I weren't stoned to death by an angry mob, I would pretty much go mad with grief and despair if a god made his existence undeniable, and it turned out to be that guy. I can imagine things that are as bad as that, but I can't imagine worse.

      But that is not why I do not believe in a god or gods — that's based on evidence. My contempt for the alleged deity portrayed in the bible, however, is based in the fact I have a personal distaste for genocide, persecution of women, slavery, and stoning people to death. That bit is just my opinion.

      1. First of all, theoretically, why would it not be possible for supernatural beings to exist without the capacity or power to clean the ocean, turn guns into squirrels and save the rain forest? I assume you will answer that you don’t believe in these things because there is no evidence for it, but this also means you would never believe in lesser supernatural beings no matter how real they are!

        Still, if we are to believe in the Bible the compelling evidence you are speaking off WILL come eventually. There will be a new heaven and a new earth according the scripture, but it seems like you would still reject him because you disagree with his justice, right? Well, first off, why do you blame that god for what other people have done in his name? Secondly, why don’t you try to research the culture and the circumstances around the events you are describing to figure out why it happened the way it happened? Yes, the Judeo-Christian god is definitely a god of justice and wrath, but does that make him evil?

        1. I gave examples of what a god or omnipotent being could do to prove him or herself; the standards of proof for lesser supernatural beings would be less, of course, but as no supernatural occurrence has ever been proved scientifically, I think the likelihood of that happening in the future is quite slim. As Infidel753 said, if I were to see a ghost or a unicorn or a leprechaun, my first reaction would be to suspect I was hallucinating, and I would not accept the experience as fact without independent verification.

          **If** we are to believe the bible is the word of a supreme being, yes, I disagree quite vehemently with “his justice”. Why do I “blame that god for what other people have done in his name”. Well, I blame the people who committed those heinous acts, too, however that blame is shared by the people who professed to be conveying the word of god and used fear and manipulation to intimidate people in to carrying out the acts. It's like war crimes – certainly the individual soldiers can be prosecuted for their acts, even if they were “just following orders”, but the officers who directed these acts face more severe punishment. Just as the ringleader of a criminal gang is prosecuted for his or her influence and management, even if they themselves did not participate in the actual “dirty work.”

          My personal opinion of the acts carried out by people who claimed to be carrying out the will of the Judeo-Christian god is that they were horrendous acts, and yes, I disagree. I find killing sprees and torture campaigns personally distasteful.

          If you

        2. Oh, and if you did these things, whom should I blame? You, for being psychotic, or organized religion, for planting the idea in your head that it was some form of divine justice?

          1. I am copying this from the other thread, since I believe it deals with the same issues;

            I can easily understand your frustration, as it seems not everybody understand that we can’t use laws written 4000 years ago to a people wandering around in a dessert people the same way today. Still, before condemning the law as a whole, you should try to figure out why it was written!

            Let us take two million people and place them in the middle of a dessert without no access to modern medicine and with limited access to clean water; how would you go about to make this people group survive? This was the problem Moses had after he had lead the Israelites out of Egypt. “The Law” isn’t written so that God should have some “sinners” to punish, but it is full of practical steps to solve most of the problems the Israelites would have before entering into the Promised Land. I will be brave and take homosexuality and sex outside of marriage as examples (since this is really hot topics, and I feel I need to express my view on this once and for all). What would be the best way to prevent sexual transmittal diseases to spread, if there is no access to condoms or medicines of any kind? Exactly, you stay faithful to your spouse, and totally avoid having anal sex. “The Law” is full of similar commands and forbids everything that can make you “unclean”, like sex with animals, incest and so on… If you read “The Law” with this in the back of your mind, you will finally look at it through a totally different perspective. Pre-marital sex (as well as anal sex) is still some of the easiest ways to catch a sexual transmittal disease so I would still discourage it.

            The only way for me to defend death penalty I guess would be to say lack of prisons, but I simply have no idea. Still, a law without a consequence for breaking that law isn’t really a law, but more of a recommendation. And when you are in charge of the survival of two million people, you need to have laws.

            I hope I did not offend anyone with my views, and if I did, please explain why so that I can learn and hopefully not do it again.

          2. Yes, buggery is unhealthy, but Leviticus does not forbid buggery; it forbids sex between males. Some homosexual males do not engage in buggery, while some heterosexual males do (with women). If buggery is the problem, why not forbid that, instead of homosexuality?

          3. Wait … what is the specific problem with anal sex? I mean, I know there's poop in there and all, but, didn't these people wipe up after poo-ing with their HANDS?

            Somebody made the rule because they were creeped out by the thought of two dudes going at it — not because it was more fraught with disease (AIDS was thousands of years in the future, you know).

          4. Lack of natural lubrication and less resilient skin cells in the lining, basically. The vaginal lining is “designed” (you know what I mean) by evolution to withstand the physical stresses caused by sex — the anal lining isn't. Internal skin abrasions allow the partner's bodily fluids, and traces of excrement which are present, direct access to the bloodstream. That's why it's a high-risk behavior for AIDS and hepatitis transmission, but for a lot of other things as well (Randy Shilts has some discussion of this in And the Band Played On.

            Again, this is a completely separate issue from homosexuality — a man doing the same thing with a woman would pose the same problems. It's true that anal sex is more associated with homosexuality today, but that wasn't always the case — I don't think it was true in Classical Greece, for example.

            GL: didn't these people wipe up after poo-ing with their HANDS?

            I really doubt that. Even chimpanzees avoid touching excrement with their hands (remember, they're primarily fruit-eaters, so they often hold their food in their hands, so natural selection would have favored such an aversion) — wild chimpanzees who step in excrement or otherwise get it on themselves wipe it off with a leaf instead of bare-handed, for example. I'm sure the human aversion to contact with excrement is an inherited trait. Even very primitive societies have ways of “wiping themselves” without touching the stuff, and often have taboos which enforce doing so.

          5. The word homosexuality does not apear in the Bible… but what the bible strongly recomends against is for men to have sex with other men. Because of this draw the conclution that it is talking about anal sex, not homosexuality!

          6. Also, Jesus specifically said that all these barbaric laws continue to be in force as long as the Earth itself lasts (Matthew 5:17-19) — they are not just intended for people wandering around in a desert, but forever.

          7. They were written with the purpose to preventing diseases to spread and to keep order. I assume diseases still spread…

          8. but what the bible strongly recomends against is for men to have sex with other men. Because of this draw the conclution that it is talking about anal sex, not homosexuality!

            No, “men having sex with other men” is the definition of homosexuality. It does not necessarily involve anal sex. There are homosexual men who never have anal sex, but they are having sex with other men.

            The Bible requires murdering people for homosexuality. The language is plain. It even requires murdering people for gathering sticks on the sabbath.

            They were written with the purpose to preventing diseases to spread and to keep order. I assume diseases still spread

            If Leviticus 20:13 were to be enforced today, as Jesus said it should be, we would have to kill every man who has ever had sex with another man, even once, including people who experimented in college or did it when they were in prison or in the Navy or whatever. This would be mass murder on a larger scale than the Holocaust, far worse than any epidemic we are likely to face.

            The reality is that the Bible is a collection of superstitious, murderous, barbaric garbage from a primitive tribe, whose deity is as petulant and bloodthirsty as he is imaginary. It promotes a fake morality based on taboo which is an outrage against real morality. It has absolutely nothing of value to offer modern civilization.

          9. PS: Men can have anal sex with women, too, which is also unhealthy and which is certainly not covered by Leviticus 20:13. If it was about anal sex instead of homosexuality, it would have just said so.

          10. Ehem, I assume you understand perfectly well what I am trying to say… The most common way for men to have sex with other men IS anal sex, and anal sex IS unclean, and if you are living in a society where unhealthy living can threaten to wipe out your whole nation, braking a law HAS to have consevences! And please dont continue to argue just for the arguments sake!

            And by the way, where does Jesus say that Leviticus 20:13 should be enforced today? (he is saying the law is still valid, and he is right. Anal sex is still unhealthy).

          11. I am not arguing just for argument's sake. You said that “men having sex with men” does not refer to homosexuality but to anal sex. I was explaining why you are wrong.

            In Matthew 5:17-19 Jesus says that all the Old Testament laws remain in force (trying to make some specious distinction between that and “still enforced today” is dishonest).

          12. No, in spirited debate, offending people is part of the process — if you do not express your opinion honestly and in full, then what's the point? As long as ad-hominem attacks are avoided and no one threatens to slap anyone (or worse) it's all good.

            And when you debate from the christian apologetics perspective, you must expect to encounter objections to your efforts to justify the horrors of the biblical god vs. a modern-day moderate version of christianity. If christianity (and indeed, all ancient religions that have persisted into modern times) was practiced peacefully, without overt aggression against any other groups, and if it stayed the hell out of politics, that would be one thing. But the fundamentalists are growing more and more violent. Explaining away past atrocities just doesn't fly when you look around at all the modern-day atrocities.

            There is an ever-growing contingent of fundamentalists who wish to see the entire, literal interpretation of the KJV implemented as law. They are, right now, trying to enact death penalty legislation against homosexuals (or at the very least, life in prison) in Uganda. This follows a long campaign (supported by US fundies), who started by attacking sex education, complete with condom-burning, which increased the spread of AIDS. The fundies in question are “the Family”, a right-wing extremist groups in the US with vast and disturbing political influence (see “C Street” and the list of affiliated Reps and Senators). This group would like to turn the US into a theocracy.

            I'm not ok with that. Do you think that muslims, hindus, buddhists, sikhs, etc, should be completely disregarded, and christians put in control of the government of a country founded on the separation of church and state?

            But that's the high-powered, corporate side of things. In Texas, a group calling itself Repent Amarillo has taken it upon itself to form an angry mob and “Kick the shit out of people who are not like you”. They are christian right version of Al Qaeda, planning terrorist attacks within their own country.

            So the problem with being an apologist for the atrocities in the bible, even if you live a peaceful life and refrain from joining any angry mobs, is that others who identify as followers of the same exact god you follow are out there right now trying to make the modern day a lot more biblical. And by biblical, you know I mean — horrifying.

            And I am not saying that religion is the ONLY cause of atrocities — just that if we removed it as a source of atrocities, we'd have fewer atrocities.

          13. The horrifying things described in the bible have very little to do with religion, and during that era of human history horrifying things were a daily occurence (and I am sure this is something you already know). I am personally very against taking a law written to totally different culture in a totally different age, and apply it to the socitity today LITERALLY. I belive there is a lot of good stuff in there that might be applied, but I am totally against that extremism you are talking about. I believe that if you are to call yourself a Christian, you should live like Christ (and sadly very few “Christians do that).

            Yeah, I guess what I am trying to say is that I agree with you to some degree.

          14. But that stuff is in the book. It's there. The Old Testament is a chronicle of barbaric injustice being sanctified or even ordered by God, from beginning to end. Even if you don't say all those laws should still apply today, Jesus does, and there are people who want to apply them.

            I'm not really concerned with the authenticity of the thing — it's pretty much established that the Old Testament is simply a forgery, and as far as I know there's no evidence suggesting that Jesus actually existed. I'm concerned about what the book actually says, and the concrete effect this has (and potentially might have) in the present.

          15. I am not saying that the law does not apply today! It deffinitly does, as there are still a much higher risk to get a sexual transmittable disease if you sleep around, have sex with animals and so on! Oh yes, the law is definitly still valid, but where doesn he say it should be enforced like it used to be during the Old Covenant? Didnt Jesus also say; “If anyone of you is without sin, let him throw the the first stone” (John 8:7)?

            And I would very much like to see you backing up the fact that “it is pretty much established that the Old Testament is simply a forgery”. And about lacking evidence of the existence of Christ? No comment!

          16. Leviticus 20:13 does not prohibit “sleeping around, having sex with animals and so on”, nor does it mention anal sex as you seem to think. It bans homosexuality.

            This attempt to make a distinction between “valid” and “should be enforced” is just a word game. Look at the plain meaning of Matthew 5:17-19.

            On the Old Testament being a forgery, this has been known by actual scholars for a long time. You might read this book, for example.

            And no, there is no evidence that Jesus actually existed.

          17. Okay, so why do you think Leviticus 20:13 was written? And I do not disagree with Christ when it comes to Matthew 5:17-19, but you can deffinitly see through the rest of his life that he wasnt a head-hunter and that he did not want his diciples to be that either. With this you can not argue…

            Also, I can give you links too books that claims the world was flat, but it doesnt make it more true, and that there is no evidence that Christ existed… uhm… please!

            Seriously, you are not debating on a very high level here…

          18. Oyvind, please try to pry open your mind just a little bit, and imagine how you might look at this if you were not determined to witness for the god you choose to believe in. It's not like doubts as to the existence of Jesus are unheard of. Consider this: http://www.nobeliefs.com/exist.htm: No one has the slightest physical evidence to support a historical Jesus; no artifacts, dwelling, works of carpentry, or self-written manuscripts. All claims about Jesus derive from writings of other people. There occurs no contemporary Roman record that shows Pontius Pilate executing a man named Jesus. Devastating to historians, there occurs not a single contemporary writing that mentions Jesus. All documents about Jesus came well after the life of the alleged Jesus from either: unknown authors, people who had never met an earthly Jesus, or from fraudulent, mythical or allegorical writings. Although one can argue that many of these writings come from fraud or interpolations, I will use the information and dates to show that even if these sources did not come from interpolations, they could still not serve as reliable evidence for a historical Jesus, simply because all sources about Jesus derive from hearsay accounts.

            Hearsay means information derived from other people rather than on a witness' own knowledge.

            Courts of law do not generally allow hearsay as testimony, and nor does honest modern scholarship. Hearsay provides no proof or good evidence, and therefore, we should dismiss it.

            It's an excellent resource, that page. It would help if you would approach it without prejudice and consider the logic and facts.

          19. I guess my whole point is that there is a big difference between God (and Christ) and the people who are representing him… I wount blame you for having something against his fan club, but I would recoment you to make up your mind about him!

          20. I will share with you a quote from C.S. Lewis, about Christ:

            I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus Christ]: “I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God.”

            That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

            You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is,the Son of God,: or else a madman or something worse …. You can shut him up for fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.

            Since I'm not willing to stipulate that he is a god of any sort, my admiration for him as a historical figure is somewhat tainted by some of the problems with his teachings, especially when he is reported to have said that nothing he did was meant to supersede the old testament laws. That one passage continues to inspire no end of horrible behavior in the likes of “The Family” and other fundamentalist groups. As in the above analogy about war crimes and organized crime syndicates, the individual soldiers who follow the leader's orders are held responsible for their actions, but the leaders are held to a higher level of responsibility for their role in directing these actions.

            So those who crafted the bible's message with the intent that it become the defining and central source of christian doctrine must be held at least partially responsible for the atrocities committed by its fan club, as you put it. And if they recorded Jesus' teachings with any accuracy, he's on the hook for it too. And, if the message was meant to spread peace and love, it really should have been more clear on that, don't you think? Coming right out and saying, look, don't beat your kids or your spouse, work hard, pay your bills, save for a rainy day, etc? Specific instructions on how to be a responsible member of society and contribute to the well-being of family first and community second, that would have been good moral teaching at any point in human existence — that's pretty timeless stuff there.

          21. Well, I dont think Christ ever intended his church to be the religious institution it has become today. If you look at his teachings and study the ways of life in the early church there is nothing to suggest anything else (but if you have evidence suggesting anything else, please bring it forth).

            The institution we today know as the church started with Constantine making Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire in 312. He started to build “christian” versions of the heathen temples, and the small house fellowships of Christians that had existed until then slowly started to vanish. I seriously doesnt think he read the bible much thou, and if he did he ignored what was written there, cause he deffinitly did not follow it.

            So, as you can see, you cant blame Christ, or the Bible for the terrible things done by his fan club. And Jesus never said that his followers should be head-hunters and enforce the laws. Instead he dines with prostitutes and thieves and considers them his friends (frustrating the hell out of the religious leaders at that time)! Sounds familiar?. He does say thou, that they should go and sin no more (John 8:11), but thats because sin is not good for you!

            So, I challenge you to distinguish between Jesus Christ himself and his fan club (the church). Try to figure out what he was like by reading the Gospels yourself!

          22. Of course we can't blame Jesus — Jesus is a fictional character — but because the behavior of the “fan club” is our immediate problem, what the Bible actually says is very important. That's the point I've been trying to make. The Dominionist lunatics who want to enforce all this rubbish and start stoning people to death again in the 21st century aren't misinterpreting the book. They're going by what's actually there.

            I seriously doesnt think he read the bible much thou,

            He or somebody like him probably wrote it, or rather, decided what texts would be included in it.

          23. “Jesus is a fictional character”

            *sight* – and the holocost never happened (and that was irony btw)

          24. There is overwhelming physical and photographic evidence, not to mention verifiable historical documentation from independent sources, to prove the holocaust happened. It's been proven in courts of law and war criminals have been prosecuted.

            Jesus? Not so much.

    2. When a theory has been tested and confirmed by a vast range of observations and experiments, it would not be rational to abandon it on the basis of one or two data points. To take a more neutral example, if a fossilized vertebrate skeleton were discovered in pre-Cambrian strata, that would certainly conflict with the theory of evolution as we know it. However, we would not abandon the entire theory of evolution on the basis of that one data point. It would be a phenomenon that needed to be studied to find the explanation. That explanation might turn out to be that our ideas about evolution were fundamentally wrong. Given how strongly supported those ideas are by other evidence, however, it's far more likely that it would be something else.

      The view that the world is governed by natural law and that there are no supernatural phenomena has proven very robust. Over the years a great many phenomena have been observed which at first appeared to be supernatural, but in the end, they turned out to have natural explanations. It is therefor rational to start with the same presumption when evaluating a new pehnomenon which appears to be supernatural.

      If I saw a corpse return to life, or if a very impressive entity of some sort descended from the sky and claimed to be God, I would reserve judgment about what it meant. Either of those phenomena could be produced by technology more advanced than what we are familiar with (possibly of extraterrestrial origin). The possibility that I was insane or hallucinating would also have to be seriously considered. There is no verifiable case on record of a human observing a corpse come to life, but there are many documented cases of hallucinations. Objectively, the latter explanation would be more plausible.

      As GodLizard says, we wouldn't entirely rule out the possibility of a supernatural explanation, but far more corroborating evidence would be needed to establish that that explanation, rather than any of the several more plauible possibilities, was the correct one.

    3. To Oyvind: Consider it this way. If you saw some very impressive and powerful entity descend from the sky, stand in front of you, and declare itself to be God, would you uncritically believe it? Even if you believe in the existence of God in the abstract, the number of documented cases of people hallucinating that they see or hear God is much larger than the number of documented cases of God actually appearing to people (the latter, in fact, being zero). The number of cases of people claiming to represent God, or even to be a god, in order to manipulate other humans for selfish purposes, is also non-trivial. Wouldn't such explanations seem worth considering?

      By analogy, I believe that President Obama exists, but if he walked through my front door right now, I would require at least some corroborating evidence before I accepted that it was really him, and not a hallucination, somebody trying to trick me for some reason, etc.

      The same logic applies in the corpse-coming-to-life case.

      1. I get your point, and I agree with you that we should be sceptical to some degree. That's just healthy. My point is just that if there is evidence to support something supernatural, we should not just dismiss it just because it is supernatural. Then we will never figure out if there is something supernatural or not.

  5. Okay, so why do you think Leviticus 20:13 was written? And I do not disagree with Christ when it comes to Matthew 5:17-19, but you can deffinitly see through the rest of his life that he wasnt a head-hunter and that he did not want his diciples to be that either. With this you can not argue…

    Also, I can give you links too books that claims the world was flat, but it doesnt make it more true, and that there is no evidence that Christ existed… uhm… please!

    Seriously, you are not debating on a very high level here…

  6. Oyvind, please try to pry open your mind just a little bit, and imagine how you might look at this if you were not determined to witness for the god you choose to believe in. It's not like doubts as to the existence of Jesus are unheard of. Consider this: http://www.nobeliefs.com/exist…: No one has the slightest physical evidence to support a historical Jesus; no artifacts, dwelling, works of carpentry, or self-written manuscripts. All claims about Jesus derive from writings of other people. There occurs no contemporary Roman record that shows Pontius Pilate executing a man named Jesus. Devastating to historians, there occurs not a single contemporary writing that mentions Jesus. All documents about Jesus came well after the life of the alleged Jesus from either: unknown authors, people who had never met an earthly Jesus, or from fraudulent, mythical or allegorical writings. Although one can argue that many of these writings come from fraud or interpolations, I will use the information and dates to show that even if these sources did not come from interpolations, they could still not serve as reliable evidence for a historical Jesus, simply because all sources about Jesus derive from hearsay accounts.

    Hearsay means information derived from other people rather than on a witness' own knowledge.

    Courts of law do not generally allow hearsay as testimony, and nor does honest modern scholarship. Hearsay provides no proof or good evidence, and therefore, we should dismiss it.

    It's an excellent resource, that page. It would help if you would approach it without prejudice and consider the logic and facts.

  7. There is overwhelming physical and photographic evidence, not to mention verifiable historical documentation from independent sources, to prove the holocaust happened. It's been proven in courts of law and war criminals have been prosecuted.

    Jesus? Not so much.

  8. Pingback: M.O.O.I.

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