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Some Observations and a question.

 
Andrey
 
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Andrey
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07 December 2005 19:31
 

My name is Andrey (as my username suggests) I just bought The End of Faith a few days back and began reading. Then I began absentmindedly reading the dust-jacket and discovered and address for this site. I imagined a desolate corner at the far reaches of cyberspace with a few .gifs of Charlie pissing on jesus, or, at best, a pathetic attempt at a forum with one post dated 400 years back, asking, in vain, if there is any other intelligent life in the universe. I decided to humor myself and see. What I found was an active community of people who I never thought existed, people who… think. (may the good lord forgive us for that heresy!) I found people who are not to be classified as clinically insane (except for your pet Fundamentalist "The Champion," who I see has kept hounding you long enough to adopt as your mascot for the psychos, and affectionately name "TC".)

I've been going between reading things on this forum, and reading Harris's book, in which I made it to page roughly 100. It is really difficult to read. After a few pages sometimes even a paragraph the blood just starts pumping in my temples and I have to put it down, for if I don't I feel that I just might lose it, go out, find the nearst Christian and crucify him on a telephone pole for the sins of his bretheren across two millenia.

I haven't even made it to the Muslim section yet.

So you're probably thinking, "shut up and get to the observation you proclaimed in the subject line." Righteously. The fact is is that I have always seen religion for what it is - the single greatest destructive force ever concieved by mankind - so my observation is that here, like elsewhere I find, when I find this sort of thing (atheists vs. lunatics in a debate), it is always the same thing. Lunatics quote scripture. Atheists counterquote to show how ridiculous it is. Lunatics pick out some more passages they like at the moment. And so on. Atheists curse in frustration, lunatics smile and proclaim themselves victors because atheists have failed and believers have won the game. Then the atheists stand back a moment, shake their head, think that they must have explained something unclearly, and proceed to reattempt waving the obvious in front of the eyes of the delusional. Why are we so surprised? This outcome is inevitable. You don't bring a mind to a faith-fight. In a game where there are no rules, no sanity, where reason is abandoned and anything goes the mind will always lose. The dice are loaded so why are we playing?

We have no choice you will say, if we want to save this world. But the reality is that nothing is accomplished. You can't argue with the TCs as you must have realised, yet I read post after post of scripture quoting and inane back-and-forths, on and on and on. You can't defeat it this way. You can not stop insanity by the application of arguments based on reason. Furthermore you cannot help those who wish to remain insane. They have blinded themselves to reason intentionally because this is what they want to believe. What must be done is make them wish to desire apostasy. Once this is achieved, the rest, I think, will be akin all the jigsaw puzzle pieces falling into place. Reason, unlike religion, truly welcomes everyone, and you dont need to eat crackers, drink blood, wear a towel on your head, or stupid little hats.

So the point is not to disprove religion, or point out its myriad inconsistencies. This is as pointless as it is easy. The insane mind will continue to accept its warped reality for as long as it wants to. The goal, then, is to make it stop wanting to. How?

-Andrey

 
psiconoclast
 
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psiconoclast
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07 December 2005 20:32
 

Welcome to our little corner of cyberspace, Andrey.

[quote author=“Andrey”]I’ve been going between reading things on this forum, and reading Harris’s book, in which I made it to page roughly 100. It is really difficult to read. After a few pages sometimes even a paragraph the blood just starts pumping in my temples and I have to put it down, for if I don’t I feel that I just might lose it, go out, find the nearst Christian and crucify him on a telephone pole for the sins of his bretheren across two millenia.

I haven’t even made it to the Muslim section yet.

Oh dear.

So you’re probably thinking, “shut up and get to the observation you proclaimed in the subject line.” Righteously. The fact is is that I have always seen religion for what it is - the single greatest destructive force ever concieved by mankind - so my observation is that here, like elsewhere I find, when I find this sort of thing (atheists vs. lunatics in a debate), it is always the same thing. Lunatics quote scripture. Atheists counterquote to show how ridiculous it is. Lunatics pick out some more passages they like at the moment. And so on. Atheists curse in frustration, lunatics smile and proclaim themselves victors because atheists have failed and believers have won the game. Then the atheists stand back a moment, shake their head, think that they must have explained something unclearly, and proceed to reattempt waving the obvious in front of the eyes of the delusional. Why are we so surprised? This outcome is inevitable. You don’t bring a mind to a faith-fight. In a game where there are no rules, no sanity, where reason is abandoned and anything goes the mind will always lose. The dice are loaded so why are we playing?

Andrey, there are myriad reasons, in my opinion, to engage in this debate, even if neither participant is likely to persuade the other.  First and foremost, we must remember that public debates (and that is what we have here) are not for those engaged in the debate, so much as for the audience.

I know that Champ (and other devoted faithful) is, most likely, not going to be convinced by anything that I say.  Champ and his ilk are not my targets, though.  I am after the fence sitters.  The quasi religious.  The tolerant secularists who think that the faithful are quaint but harmless.  It is these people “on the fence” that can and must be reached.  This is what the culture war is all about.  It is a question of what the future looks like.  Would the average person rather live in the sort of world that Sam, and myself, and most of the people here on this forum would want, or the sort of world that Champ and his ilk want?

We have no choice you will say, if we want to save this world. But the reality is that nothing is accomplished. You can’t argue with the TCs as you must have realised, yet I read post after post of scripture quoting and inane back-and-forths, on and on and on. You can’t defeat it this way. You can not stop insanity by the application of arguments based on reason.

I must respectfully disagree with you here.  If the insanity cannot be stopped by arguments based on reason, then all hope is lost.  Again, Champ will not be persuaded, but others will.  It is critically important that, when someone honestly questions their inherited beliefs, that they have someplace like this to come to, in order to read these sorts of debates.

Furthermore you cannot help those who wish to remain insane. They have blinded themselves to reason intentionally because this is what they want to believe. What must be done is make them wish to desire apostasy.

Ok, so how does one make them wish to desire apostasy without appeal to reason?  The answer is to stop being polite, and coddling these stupid beliefs.  By subjecting them to the public ridicule that they deserve, we can halt the spread of these dangerous beliefs to others.  Eventually, as these beliefs lose public respectability, some of the people who hold them will abandon them.

Once this is achieved, the rest, I think, will be akin all the jigsaw puzzle pieces falling into place. Reason, unlike religion, truly welcomes everyone, and you dont need to eat crackers, drink blood, wear a towel on your head, or stupid little hats.

Reason welcomes all people, but not all people welcome reason.  Reason is hard work, and logic is a harsh mistress.  Sometimes, reason generates answers that people don’t like.  When reason tells a man that he is dying, and religion tells him that a few vaguely silly ceremonies can save his life, what compels him not to give it a try?

So the point is not to disprove religion, or point out its myriad inconsistencies. This is as pointless as it is easy. The insane mind will continue to accept its warped reality for as long as it wants to. The goal, then, is to make it stop wanting to. How?

A lot of education seems, to people who already get it, remedial.  This does not mean that it is not needed, however.  It is quite clear that people are, to some degree, predisposed to irrational flights of fancy.  Consider the disproving of religion to be a basic lesson, like gravity.  It seems obvious once you get it, but if nobody had ever described gravity to you, you might believe all sorts of odd things about why stuff falls.

-Matt

PS:  Don’t take this as a stiff rebuke or anything, I believe that our positions are, like everything else, improved by natural selection, so, a little bit of selection pressure is a good thing.

 
Cody
 
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Cody
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07 December 2005 22:55
 

Andrey, welcome to the forum.

I’m with Psi here… Zeus knows, venting on an obscure discussion forum is not exactly firing the torpedo that will destroy the Death Star.  But it is a good start nonetheless.

For one thing, it IS cathartic to vent, and to share the company of other freethinkers.  (Esp for those of us in Red states.)  And of course it is a learning experience to read the posts of others. 

And not just the rational and intelligent posts, mind you.  It’s also educational to learn how the irrational thought process works.  Arguing with the Champs makes us better and stronger at arguing in general.

You’re absolutely right, in my opinion, that we will never get through to the Champs.  But there probably are tens of millions of moderates in this country alone, who are perfectly rational people in all other aspects of their lives, but never thought about turning their powers of scrutiny on the religious beliefs they were taught as children. 

If only Sam could get on Oprah’s book list….

 
Noggin
 
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Noggin
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08 December 2005 02:04
 

[quote author=“Andrey”]My name is Andrey (as my username suggests) I just bought The End of Faith a few days back and began reading. Then I began absentmindedly reading the dust-jacket and discovered and address for this site. I imagined a desolate corner at the far reaches of cyberspace with a few .gifs of Charlie pissing on jesus, or, at best, a pathetic attempt at a forum with one post dated 400 years back, asking, in vain, if there is any other intelligent life in the universe. I decided to humor myself and see.

Hey there.  Thanks for stopping by.  It’s been a month for me here and I enjoy the comraderie.

Sam Harris wrote:

Pg. 26:  Give people divergent, irreconcilable, and untestable notions about what happens after death, and then oblige them to live together with limited resources.  The result is just what we see:  an unending cycle of murder and cease-fire.  If history reveals any categorical truth, it is that an insufficient taste for evidence regularly brings out the worst in us.  Add weapons of mass destruction to this diabolical clockwork, and you have found a recipe for the fall of civilization

So how can I possibly sit idly by with an observation like that?  I agree with it so I must do something.  And this forum is the “what” behind that.  I have already learned a few things from the forum.  I have actually felt my own levels of intolerance for the fundie right come down a few notches.

Sigh.  I just wish for reciprocation and don’t see it.

Noggin

 
Andrey
 
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Andrey
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08 December 2005 03:36
 

I certainly agree that something must be done to stave off what is, albeit deservedly, coming to this world. But is playing a tennis match with scripture on a court of delirium the answer? What is the point of using reason to attack them if they refuse to aknowledge it as a conduit for achieving truth. Is it even the truth they are after? I don’t think so. They are after maintaining a delusion that they find comforting. What must be done to make them see that as an evil in itself. You will probably say ‘thats exactly what I’m doing,” but that is not what I mean… I’m not sure that I know what I mean, because any way you look at it, the application of reason seems an indispensible prerequisite, but they must be proven wrong without reason.. or perhaps by looking at the bigger picture somehow. By looking at the goals of religion. I am bound to be, what is it called in the forums these days, flamed? for asserting that reason must be abandoned to destroy the reasonless, but that is not entirely what I mean. My point, ultimately, is that it’s not working. Harris’s book points out that which is readily obvious, and puts it in concise, well written, temple pounding prose. But ultimately it is the motivation for action not a solution. Why not? Because its not working. Some other approach is needed. What?

-Andrey

 
nv
 
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nv
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08 December 2005 04:52
 

Andrey:

My point, ultimately, is that it’s not working. Harris’s book points out that which is readily obvious, and puts it in concise, well written, temple pounding prose. But ultimately it is the motivation for action not a solution. Why not? Because its not working.

Welcome to the looney bin, Andrey. Positive results sometimes comes quickly and sometimes they take billions of years. Let’s hope our goals are achieved sometime before humanity destroys itself completely. However long it takes—if it ever “takes”—I can guarantee you that participation by any one individual in the cause of spreading reason will seem futile. String enough vocal warriors together for a long enough time and we might ultimately have something. I’m foolishly optimistic enough to feel that a massive changeover to reason is entirely possible within the next millennium.

 
 
psiconoclast
 
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08 December 2005 04:54
 

Consider this:

For a long time, the prevailing secular opinion, in the US, has been to respect those with irrational religious beliefs, because they have a right to believe whatever they want to believe.  Thus a taboo has developed regarding the public assault on the underpinnings of religion amongst polite society.

These people don’t believe in this religious nonsense, so that isn’t what they need to be convinced of.  What they need to be convinced of is the danger that the devout actually pose.  What is the best way to demonstrate someone’s insanity?  I think that asking them questions within the scope of their delusions is a pretty good start.

-Matt

 
AaronB
 
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08 December 2005 05:12
 

Audrey,

I’m a newbie too! I’m following just a handful of pages behind you in your reading.

I agree with your observations of the debate between Christian irrationality and secular thought, and I had an experience similar to yours, but on the opposite end. A Seattle area church offered a discussion abaout fundamentalism. I was interested and went. I got frustrated when the Q&A session turned into “How do we convince the fundamentalists that they’re wrong.” I was frustrated because, to me, it’s hopeless, just like you said. I can’t convince a fundamentalist that they’re wrong anymore than they can convince me that I’m wrong. We are all heros in our own story, so we can’t be wrong. But I think the conversation is still important, for the participants and the audience. What I think we often have trouble with is how to make the conversation meaningful. And even as I try to articulate what that would look like, I confess I see an image of grabbing a bible and smacking it over a fundy’s head several times. I see the problem, but I just don’t have the solution.
I guess the best I can do is say to someone “This is who I am, these are my beliefs, this is why I believe this and these beliefs are important to me. I can’t believe what you believe, and here is why.”

 
Noggin
 
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08 December 2005 05:50
 

[quote author=“psiconoclast”]
These people don’t believe in this religious nonsense, so that isn’t what they need to be convinced of.  What they need to be convinced of is the danger that the devout actually pose.  What is the best way to demonstrate someone’s insanity?  I think that asking them questions within the scope of their delusions is a pretty good start.

-Matt

Matt, Andrey and homunculus

Someone ought to start a thread about Thomas Nash parallels with respect to what we are trying to grapple with.  That movie, “A Brilliant Mind” where Nash’s character is played by R. Crowe a stunning observance is taken in that Nash was a schizophrenic, and was convinced that his delusions were real to the point that it cost him his job, career, credibility and marriage.  Eventually, he fought his demons and under medication was able to cope.

There are 5 or so really good parallels right there.

How do we know that religious folk are not experiencing a mild form of schizophrenia?  They feel powerful emotions and some even hear voices (read: revelations visions etc)

Some how doctors do break through to their schizophrenic patients and convince them that the voices are not real… but not always

Many of us used to belong to cults or had strong faith in a god, yet we live outside of that structure now.  How did we break away?  Is a complete break necessary to accomplish what Sam Harris is suggesting in The End of Faith?

Schizophrenics suffer chemical imbalances that produce these “real” voices etc.  Medicine fixes that imbalance and oddly, when things are balanced in the brain as per the rest of the non schizophrenic world, the voices NEVER appear.

Oh it is ripe with parallels.  I am just not smart enough to get them all.

Noggin

 
Andrey
 
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Andrey
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08 December 2005 07:07
 

Firstly to reply to psi: I can’t agree with you. There is no way 95% of the planet are suffering from “a mild form of schizophrenia.” Most of them don’t know squat about what they profess to worship, havent read the Bible, were dragged to church by mommy and daddy and now accept it as given and defend it because they want their mouth to feel important. A great deal of others believe because simply because they want to believe. They want their delusion. They want to love god.

An above poster whose username eludes me, in fact two I think, said that conversation with the lunatics is important. Yes, I agree, to be sure. Its the nature of what we are saying in those conversations that I am talking about. To cavil about idiocies in scripture is not the answer. If they want to believe in god they will. The goal is to make them hate it, to make them see that worship is evil. Ayn Rand, I think, took a step in the right direction. I’m not a Randist, I’ve read three of ther books including Atlas and Fountainhead. By the time she wrote Atlas I think she pretty much lost her mind. The book was discussed in another thread here, and the verdic was in accord with my own. Particularly her treatment of sex in that book and certain characters, and the whole puerile fairy tale utopian novel business… yeah, not her finest hour. But the Fountainhead is brilliant. She focuses on the concept of servitude to anything higher as evil in itself. (For those who read it, Roarks and speech and Toohey’s speech to Keating are particularly telling). I think perspectives such as that, fresh angles are what we need to focus on.

-Andrey

 
psiconoclast
 
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08 December 2005 09:49
 

[quote author=“Andrey”]Firstly to reply to psi: I can’t agree with you. There is no way 95% of the planet are suffering from “a mild form of schizophrenia.” Most of them don’t know squat about what they profess to worship, havent read the Bible, were dragged to church by mommy and daddy and now accept it as given and defend it because they want their mouth to feel important. A great deal of others believe because simply because they want to believe. They want their delusion. They want to love god.

As a point of clarification, I did not suggest that religion is the result of schizophrenia, that was Noggin.  (What is it with people confusing other people’s posts with mine?  If you go back and look at how often P. Exeter did that, you’ll know what I am talking about.  It is enought to give me a complex.)

I don’t think that most religious people are schizophrenic, but some of them obviously are.  Furthermore, I think that, in some cases, religion can probably induce schizophrenia, or similar mental dysfunction.

-Matt

 
Cody
 
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08 December 2005 09:59
 

Andrey,

The elusive poster was me.  I’m with Psi; if 95% of the world’s pop “believe” in a god, then that’s 95% that have an irrational notion in their minds.  Many of these people, maybe most, are otherwise sensible people who, as you say, had these notions programmed into their heads before they could think—hence the schizoprenia. 

(My Jesus training started from the day they dunked my infant form in the holy tapwater so that… well, for whatever reason they do it.)

Whether these people actually read the Bible themselves, or have others read it to them every Sunday (or every night on Fox News), the problem is still the same—people have irrational beliefs hardwired in, and use all their intelligence (which is often formidable) to rationalize them instead of challenging them.  And as Sam illustrates, they act on these beliefs… and vote on them.

But it’s not hopeless.  Noggin mentioned Beautiful Mind.  Remember how Nash took the first step to getting help?  He used his powers of rationality.  He realized that the people ‘talking’ to him were not aging over the decades, and logically deduced that they were hallucinations.

Remember 12 ANGRY MEN.  There will always be idiots and lunatics that can’t be reasoned with.  But one guy in that jury managed to turn an ‘open-and-shut’ case into a reasonable discussion, just by patiently and rationally and firmly sticking to the evidence.  The racist loon was eventually outed and shunned by the rest, because they were united in their empirical search for the truth.

 
3-D Scrabble
 
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3-D Scrabble
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08 December 2005 15:03
 

Consider me a lunatic if you will for saying this, but I think that it is possible to argue about the irrationality of someone’s beliefs by using the book upon which he bases his faith.

A while back, I had an interesting experience. Every time Jehovah’s
Witnesses come to my door, I welcome a good gab session. At one time I went to their meetings (one hot chick in particular bolstered my interest in attending the meetings). So when they come to my door, in exchange for welcoming them I require of them to listen to MY ranting for a while. The same fellow keeps dropping by, and we get along quite well (I think!) but once in a while he brings in reenforcement. It make for lively discussions. One day he showed up with another guy and they start in on me. After listening to them politely I countered with my standard attributes of God argument, God being only a concept of the mind , the concept being essentially a concept of love and not of judgement etc etc.
As usual my regular preacher tries to bring up some scripture as counterargument. This time, however, the new guy backs me up. I can tell that something has “clicked” for him. He tell the other that He should really listen to my rant,because what I am saying makes sense. When they leave, he shakes my hand and thanks me. Never saw him again. The regular guy keeps coming back, trying to save me. Or maybe it’s a change to engage in any argument instead of having another door slammed in his face? In any case I have gotten to like the guy, and when I haven’t seen him for a while I wonder about him.
I do not believe in a tangible god. God is a concept in the mind. The same as Satan is also a concept. The bible is a book of legends.

LEGEND:n. A story coming down from the past, which has been widely accepted as true;....
                            legend applies particularly to a story associated with some period in the history of a people, a nation, often containing an element of fact but sometimes wholly untrue.Legends are intended to glorify a hero, saint, object, etc. and tell marvelous deeds he or it supposedly performed.
                            myth applies particularly to a story connected with the religion of a primitive civilization.Myths are told about gods or superhumans beings and are invented to explain certain beliefs or some aspect of nature.
                                            Gage Canadian Dictionary

Personally, I think it is possible to isolate the truth behind the legends. But first we have to possess an insatiable curiosity, and a love for the miraculous beauty of this universe into which we are born. And second, and just as important in my opinion, seek a higher state of consciousness.
Call me crazy or deluded,but I think that by engaging in earnest argument with believers, we can sometimes ignite a spark of recognition. I think that a lot of believers deep down have not come to term with the rationality of their concept of “God”, so they believe what they are thought because they cannot resolve the dilemma on their own until some missing piece of the puzzle is presented to them.
That day with the JWs, instead of both leaving my house with mistrust and resignation in their eyes, as usual, it seemed to me that one of them had a new sparkle and joy in his. And perhaps I am only deluding myself. All we can do is keep speaking of what is in OUR heart. SOMETHING sparked our awakening into freedom.

 
Noggin
 
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09 December 2005 03:57
 

[quote author=“Cody”]Andrey,
The elusive poster was me.  I’m with Psi; if 95% of the world’s pop “believe” in a god, then that’s 95% that have an irrational notion in their minds.  Many of these people, maybe most, are otherwise sensible people who, as you say, had these notions programmed into their heads before they could think—hence the schizoprenia. 

But it’s not hopeless.  Noggin mentioned Beautiful Mind.  Remember how Nash took the first step to getting help?  He used his powers of rationality.  He realized that the people ‘talking’ to him were not aging over the decades, and logically deduced that they were hallucinations.

And that is the beauty of the movie.  His intellect failed him yet it was his ability to think that provided a saving grace back to reality.  That is powerful imagery for the topic of this thread.

Dr. Michael Neilson addresses a connection between shizophrenics and religious delusion here:

http://www.psywww.com/psyrelig/mental.htm

“Why do people with schizophrenia in some cases have a religious theme to their delusional belief system?”

And here’s [Dr. Neilson’s] response, in part:

[snip]
Schizophrenia is a set of very dramatic disorders which sometimes involve vivid delusional systems. Consequently, some schizophrenics “see” or “hear” things that no one else sees or hears. People who have schizophrenia may believe that they are deity figures, or they may claim some special ability to communicate with deity. Why might this be?

I, for one, would be surprised if schizophrenic delusions never involved religious themes…

Regardless, it is a well known fact that religion and schizophrenia share common themes in hearing voices, seeing people or things, and paranoid delusions.  The article points out how Jehovah’s Witnesses have a higher percentile of scizophrenic members than normal.  I find that very interesting. 

Neurotheology is now mapping the chemicals and flowof a religious brain and the findings are fascinating.  Sam Harris is immersed in this field which is one of the reasons I picked up his book.

Religious folk hear voices, see the virgin mary on toast, trees, icicles, and feel powerful emotions that lead them to follow an ideology with absolute conviction.

My poke at this pile was to introduce that religious fervor could be tied to a lesser form or type of the same mechanics found in the head of a schizophrenic.  It is completely plausible!  I am not suggesting that 95% of the world is schizophrenic per se.  I am however, suggesting that as our understanding continues to unfold with respect to schizophrenia and then neurotheology we should not be surprised to find startling observations that religious experiences are more closely related to schizophrenia than we thought.

And besides, when a theological discussion starts to get me hot under the collar, it helps me to take a deep breath and picture the theist I am debating as a sufferer of a mental disease.  Sometimes that provides some compassion.

and do check out the link I posted to that article… it is a great read.

Noggin

 
Iisbliss
 
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Iisbliss
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09 December 2005 04:19
 

Well, I been thinking.

Years ago I lived with a 70 year old woman, long dead.

She was a Southern Baptist, raised on a farm.  She could kill a chicken and dress a pig,  even at 70.  At 72 she built a brick wall around her flower garden, by herself.

She was religous, staunchly so, but she was also kind, tolerant, generous and lived a very simple life by choice.
She had a great sense of humor, but wasn’t well read and had about a 8th grade education.

She once told me, “well most people act like monkeys, so evolution must be true”

I think the problem we see here in the world with fundamentalism and fanatiscm is a political misuse of religion and dogma for power.
The people that support this kind of use of their religion are mentally ill, or in a state of neurotic fear.  The people that have a true spirituality, and understand compassion and tolerance and stand by while their “religions” are used for power are wrong, and weak.  Dogma itself destroys spirituality, which is the best part of what all religions have to offer. 

I don’t necessarily think religion, or a set of beliefs about that which is unknowable, is necessarily a bad thing.  It’s the political application of the dogma that is the crime and has always been. 

We can beat that.
We can beat that with their own books.

As an aside, I recently saw on TV (National Geographic or Discovery) a study where 64 male college students were unknowingly divided into two groups, homophobes, those that had a real hatred of gay people, and those that had an acceptance.  They were then hooked up with a monitor around their male member, that would measure tumenesence, and shown various straight and gay porn, and asked questions about it afterwards.

The homophobic men experienced arousal while watching gay porn, and yet almost to a man, denied they did in the later questioning, despite the fact they had been measured.

This serves to demonstrate what we all know instinctively anyway, those that fear, fear what is inside themselves.  People protesting their faith loudly probably really have no faith.

 
3-D Scrabble
 
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3-D Scrabble
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09 December 2005 05:24
 

Thanks Noggin.
Going now to the library to pick up some books I ordered from your previous recommendations.I now have quite a few more to add.Books,books, books everywhere in this house. And so little time to take it all in. Life is good.
Again, thanks.

 
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