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Person of the Year 2006

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William Crawley | 17:52 UK time, Sunday, 31 December 2006

062703-DawkinsB.jpgThis has been a big year for so many people across many fields, but in the field of religion, ethics and ideas, this is one man's year. Like him or loathe him, people are talking about him and his ideas. We recognise Richard Dawkins, the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, as our Person of the Year 2006. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the publication of his book The Selfish Gene. To some he's "Darwin's rottweiller" (echoing TH Huxley's nickname, "Darwin's bulldog"); to others he's "A Devil's Chaplain" (Darwin's phrase, now the title of one of Dawkins's books). You have voted overwhelmingly for Dawkins, and for many conflicting reasons:

For being everywhere this year, with the publication of his global bestseller, The God Delusion.
For proving that scientists can still change the way people think.
For writing a book (The God Delusion) which enabled Terry Eagleton to write the most negative review ever published.
For thinking clearly in a world that doesn't much value clear thinking anymore.
For saying what he thinks.
For defending the delusion that science and religious faith are incompatible.
For creating the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science.
For writing the most overrated book of the year (in the judgment of Prospect magazine).
For making people talk about the dangers of religious fundamentalism.
For lobbying atheism and humanism into the headlines more than anyone else has done before.
For being the face of science on television across the western world.
For not having been given an honour by the Queen, while being a recipient of the Medal of the Presidency of the Italian Republic and many scientific and literary prizes.
For marrying the actress who played Romana in Doctor Who.
For raising questions that need to be answered by any intelligent religious believer wishing to develop a coherent worldview.
For being a scientific fundamentalist and the worst advert for atheism currently doing a book tour.
For raising a debate about the nature of "science" and how future generations of schoolchildren should be pretected from "pseudo-science".
For being rude and getting away with it.

For these, and many other reasons, Richard Dawkins is our Person of the Year 2006.

Comments

Dawkins being voted man of the year is wonderful news. This should carry atheists (and rational thinking people in general) into the new year with a very happy feeling. I hope Dawkins keeps up the good work in 2007. The world sure needs it. Forwards rationalism, down with religion.

And how are you feeling, prof. McIntosh?

  • 2.
  • At 06:57 PM on 31 Dec 2006,
  • James Lee wrote:

As a Creationist, I agree with the selection of Dawkins. This has been a year of deceits by international atheism and Dawkins, as the patron saint of "new atheism" has had a field day in the media. He has twisted the nature of science and the nature of religious faith out of all recognition. He has abused the public's respect for scientists and public thinkers. While agreeing with the blog's selection of him as the man of the year I pray that 2007 will show a different picture and that Dawkins' delusions will become even more widely reported.

  • 3.
  • At 07:27 PM on 31 Dec 2006,
  • Christine French wrote:

Congratulations Richard Dawkins. I htink you are wrong, but you are very entertaining and you've had me yelling at the television all year!

  • 4.
  • At 07:50 PM on 31 Dec 2006,
  • alan watson wrote:

William -I presume you didn't just judge this on a numbers basis?
He is YOUR person of the year?
And I do love magnanimous believers!

  • 5.
  • At 07:54 PM on 31 Dec 2006,
  • Dan Allen wrote:

This is wonderful news.
It helps to explode the myth that religious belief is in some sort of overwhelming majority.
Let's hope this is a sign of the corner being finally turned on mysticism and unreason.

  • 6.
  • At 09:37 PM on 31 Dec 2006,
  • Andrew wrote:

Well Done Richard! Because of you I had 4 children instead of none... they are quite pleased as well! May my gene pool go on forever.

And as for the mentaly ill (irrational belief is a form of mental illness; RD) who choose to believe in a fantasy friend who can do magic - then please keep your ideas to yourself and stop inflicting your twisted sense of morality on everyone else.

Happy New Year

Wow what a show of atheism in response to this announcement! Unlike Dawkins I am not an atheist and reject much of the reasoning above; yet I was the first to nominate Darwin's Rottweiler, because I believe the man makes a lot of sense and for all the reasons presented by William above. I think it's clearly the right choice for this blog at least. Happy New Year William et al.

  • 8.
  • At 11:47 PM on 31 Dec 2006,
  • Billy wrote:

SIN affects the way one thinks, SIN is the motive for the way that Darwin’s nodding dog thinks, the father of all lies.

The deceitful pen of shrewd men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what knowledge is in them? None, For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, with their sinful itching ears they will turn away from listening to the truth and turn aside to the myths and lies of evolution.

Richard Dawkins and his blasphemy is hardly worthy of the distinction of the person of the year, there are others who art more worthy.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Hmmmm.....what do the religious people think of a comment like the one Billy makes in post #8? I think Alan Watson in post #4 was right to be critical of William Crawley for leaving out quite a few of the positive reasons why people nominated Dawkins (e. g. rationality, telling people not to live by religious dogma), focusing much more attention on the negatives. But Billy pushes the concept of being a poor loser quite a bit further. I'm an atheist, so I don't care anything for Billy's drivel. But do the religious people on this list find his comments very useful? Or would some of them even think that he is just rambling on in this silly English which is supposed to make it sound important? Honestly, I'm interested in the opinion of the religious people in this thread. Do you think that a comment like Billy's is really useful in stimulating any intelligent discusion?
Btw, I will freely admit that my own reply in post #1 was not a nucleus for much intelligent discussioon either and that I succumbed to the temptation of taking a swipe at prof. McIntosh (if I might do so again: have you figured out how old the Earth is yet?). Still, I feel that my post was less silly in tone then Billy's.

Yes, Billy- Is there any particular reason for your use of Olde English, such as the word "art" instead of "are"? Art thou yet dwelling in the Year Two-Thousand and Six?

Yes, Billy- Is there any particular reason for your use of Olde English, such as the word "art" instead of "are"? Art thou yet dwelling in the Year Two-Thousand and Six?

  • 12.
  • At 06:44 AM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • Randy Ping wrote:

Hat's off to ya' for naming RD for your man of the year.
As for the people who continue to hold onto the dangerous delusions of imaginary dieties:
Please stop. You are killing the human race, a genocide wrought of willfull ignorance.

  • 13.
  • At 07:21 AM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • David (Oxford) wrote:

Peter, I thought Will included the positive reasons you hoped to see: he compliments his clear thinking challenging fundamentalism etc. I wouldn't say that Dawkins's rationlity is beyond dispute. He's an old fashioned positivist. Not many of those around, since that position was mortally wounded in the 1930s!

  • 14.
  • At 09:54 AM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • Tas Walker wrote:

Dawkins is so quotable:

“It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”

[Depends what he means by ‘evolution’. See variation and natural selection vs evolution. And I wonder how an evolved chemical reaction can be wicked.]

“Evolution has been observed. It's just that it hasn't been observed while it's happening.”

“… we live in a universe which has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference”

[Does that rule out 'wicked'?]

“I’m a passionate Darwinian when it comes to science, when it comes to explaining the world, but I’m a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to morality and politics.”

[Does that rule in 'wicked'?]

Thank you, Richard, for raising the profile of creationism worldwide.

  • 15.
  • At 11:07 AM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • Stephen G wrote:

Dawkins...really? I have never heard him say a single word worth listening to on politics, ethics or religion (which on occassions he seems barely to understand).

And I'm an evolutionist.

SG

  • 16.
  • At 11:10 AM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • alan watson wrote:

I know this will only encourage Billy to post more Olde English but...

Religion will die as information becomes more accessible and a theory of everything gets closer, top thinkers say.

check out
http://edge.org/

The Edge Annual Question — 2007

WHAT ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT? WHY?

As an activity, as a state of mind, science is fundamentally optimistic. Science figures out how things work and thus can make them work better. Much of the news is either good news or news that can be made good, thanks to ever deepening knowledge and ever more efficient and powerful tools and techniques. Science, on its frontiers, poses more and ever better questions, ever better put.

What are you optimistic about? Why? Surprise us!

Quote from Dennet

The Evaporation of the Powerful Mystique of Religion

I’m so optimistic that I expect to live to see the evaporation of the powerful mystique of religion. I think that in about twenty-five years almost all religions will have evolved into very different phenomena, so much so that in most quarters religion will no longer command the awe it does today.
Why am I confident that this will happen? Mainly because of the asymmetry in the information explosion. With the worldwide spread of information technology (not just the internet, but cell phones and portable radios and television), it is no longer feasible for guardians of religious traditions to protect their young from exposure to the kinds of facts (and, yes, of course, misinformation and junk of every genre) that gently, irresistibly undermine the mindsets requisite for religious fanaticism and intolerance. The religious fervor of today is a last, desperate attempt by our generation to block the eyes and ears of the coming generations

quote from Dawkins
The Final Scientific Enlightenment

I am optimistic that the physicists of our species will complete Einstein's dream and discover the final theory of everything before superior creatures, evolved on another world, make contact and tell us the answer. I am optimistic that, although the theory of everything will bring fundamental physics to a convincing closure, the enterprise of physics itself will continue to flourish, just as biology went on growing after Darwin solved its deep problem. I am optimistic that the two theories together will furnish a totally satisfying naturalistic explanation for the existence of the universe and everything that's in it including ourselves. And I am optimistic that this final scientific enlightenment will deal an overdue deathblow to religion and other juvenile superstitions.

  • 17.
  • At 12:50 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • pb wrote:


Peter Klaver

ref post 9

You claim to be interested in the views of religious people on this blog, but are you really now Peter?

;-)


In the past few days one of your riposts to me was "take that PB" very much in the tone of a petulant schoolboy debate.

Your field is Phd maths/physics but really why get so agitated about religion and God?

Have you really been able to prove to yourself using maths and physics he doesnt exist?

Or is this an irrational religious view of your own?

Nobody today would get away with your attitude to people on grounds of sexuality, so why is it acceptable on grounds of faith?

Your attitude to Billy is very represtenative of this whole debate.

I mean, settle down, so Dawkins won this award. Like, an athiest never got on his high horse before?

Voltaire promised to overthrow Christianity but his home was later used as a distribution point for bibles.

A little humour and tolerance would season this whole debate well guys...

PB

  • 18.
  • At 01:22 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • rubberduckie wrote:

Richard Dawkins?

Now is it the RD who lives in our universe or is it another one who lives in one of the billions of universes he believes in?

  • 19.
  • At 01:24 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • Curious wrote:

I will be very interested to see how many of you had the courage to accept Crawley’s challenge - What I Believe in 272 Words.

Many of you speak so dogmatically (both atheists and theists) and you are quick to knock each other down and to hold up your idols (both secular and religious) as representative of your thought.

But do you have any thoughts that are your own?

Which of you has had the courage to send your statement of belief to Crawley for publication on this blog and subsequent discussion?

Waiting to see.

Curious

Ps: Just in case you are curious too – the answer is 'Yes'.

  • 20.
  • At 02:29 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • alan watson wrote:

PB- Of course most of us atheists are interested in the views of believers - We are fascinated by them but we don't want Olde Engilsh quotes from ancient books. Most of us have had more than enough of that in our cildhood and rejected the idea that they can tell us anything useful in this modern world.
What we want to know from believers is how they can reject their inquisiveness and accept that these books can tell them all they need to know.
And we want to know why one religion is more true than another.
Most of us think that belivers put thier theology first and try to fit the science to it.
Most of us are still delighting in the freedom we have now to express our atheist views without the dire consequences there would have been even just fifty or a hundred years ago esp in Ireland.
Believers have had it all their way for a long time.

  • 21.
  • At 02:48 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • alan watson wrote:

some great videos here

http://edge.org/3rd_culture/venice06/venice06_index.html


THE FUTURE OF SCIENCE [10.12.06]

Edge was recently in Venice for the 2nd World Conference on the Future of Science which was held on September 20th-23rd 2006, at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini on the Isle of San Giorgio Maggiore. The Isle of San Giorgio lies in the St.Mark’s Basin, facing the Doges’ Palace (Palazzo Ducale, Opening Ceremony), the main city’s monument. A number of the members of the Edge community were in attendance including Lisa Randall, Steven Pinker, Marc D. Hauser, Michael Gazzaniga, Antonio Damasio, and Daniel C. Dennett. The participated in the three day program that covered Evolution of Matter: The Universe from the Big Bang to the Future; Evolution of Life: Darwinism in the Light of Modern Genetics; and Evolution of Mind: A Natural History of Culture. The videotaped talks are now available online.

  • 22.
  • At 03:31 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • Maureen McNeill wrote:

Re 20 and 21

Hi Alan:

I had a look at the site:

The following was interesting:

Thursday, September 21, 2006
Evolution of Matter
The Universe from the Big Bang to the Future

"Theories of the birth of the Universe, the formation of the first galaxies, stars and black holes, and their evolution to the present will be presented and discussed in the light of the latest observations.

Most of the Universe seems to consist of mysterious dark matter and even more mysterious dark energy. A major challenge of present cosmological research is to understand the origin and roles of these invisible players in cosmic evolution, and how they determine the structure of the visible Universe.

As in living organisms, the evolution of the Universe is determined by a continuous feedback from cosmological to star-size structures.

Gamma-ray bursts, detected throughout the Universe at rates of about one a day and lasting form a few milliseconds to several minutes, are incredibly violent signals of other mysterious events - perhaps the merger of neutron stars, the collapse of a massive star or neutron star-black hole binary. Metals, essential constituents of life on Earth, are ejected by exploding stars at the end of their lifetimes and provide raw material for the next generation of stars. New telescopes in space and on Earth are revealing ever more about the most distant and oldest parts of Universe and are scanning near stars for other solar systems."

Please get back to me when you figure out “the MYSTERIOUS dark matter and even more MYSTERIOUS dark energy and the roles of these INVISIBLE players in cosmic evolution”. By the way I understand that we need to pay attention to “incredibly violent SIGNALS of other MYSTERIOUS events”.

‘Dark Energy’ sounds like one of Hull’s metaphors being applied to the scientific realm if you ask me! According to him that’s a no no! You need a model and then maybe things won’t be so mysterious ;-)

Curious: Good Point, Curious. And if you are curious too – the answer is ‘No’. But then I don’t have any opinions of my own, I parrot someone else’s opinion.

MNH: Too late a night last night?

Peace,
Maureen

  • 23.
  • At 04:20 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Maureen, have you caught anything interesting yet in that web you are weaving? If you haven't maybe you should try using better bait.

  • 24.
  • At 04:44 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • Maureen McNeill wrote:

Post 23 Mark wrote: "Maureen, have you caught anything interesting yet in that web you are weaving? If you haven't maybe you should try using better bait."

Ahh Mark, the bait is just fine. Why I catch you on my hook everytime despite all your promises never to swim to me again!

Now here is a piece of tasty bait - just for you and you alone.

Did you submit your 272 word "What I Believe" statement?

McIntosh at least made an attempt and for that I give him credit.

Will I be able to give you credit too, Mark, or should I just keep throwing some breadcrumbs in the water for you?

Peace,
Maureen

  • 25.
  • At 04:46 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • Jack wrote:

The brilliant Richard Dawkins is the 21st century's equivalent to Col. Robert G. Ingersoll. Long live Professor Dawkins!

  • 26.
  • At 04:58 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • Kevin Manley wrote:

Having been brought up a Catholic and then being exposed to evolution and science in general, I can only say "good riddance God".

The sooner we get rid of superstition the sooner we'll all realise that the future of this little speck of dust we call Earth is in our hands, no one else's.

The artificial hope of prayer and salvation leads many people to drift on aimlessly on the assumption that this life is a temporary blip in an otherwise perfect existence.

Congratulations to Dawkins and may we see more of him in 2007.

  • 27.
  • At 05:06 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • Dylan Dog wrote:

The post by Billy confirms why Dawkins should be Man of the Year!

Congrats to RD for raising conciousness about the dangers of fundamentalism and the absoulute lunacy of creationism.

  • 28.
  • At 05:15 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • alan watson wrote:

Not sure what you're getting at Maureen?
I think it was Lisa Randall who was talking about dark matter and energy and the possibilities for resolution of the problem. She's the expert - It's quite legitimate to leave it to the experts. Earthlike planets are beening looked for at the moment and experiments re dark matter will start next year. Would you or I have been able to sus out evolution if Darwin hadn't already shown us the way?
BTW I would also recommend Dennett's video about religious memes.

  • 29.
  • At 05:51 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • Jack wrote:

I was reminded of an old quote in reading Maureen's obvious difficulty in understanding the complex workings of science, which of course, so often leads lazy people to adopt a god-of-the-gaps mindset because it's so darn simple to just proclaim, "God did it."

"Faith is an absolutely marvelous tool. With faith there is no question too big for even the smallest mind." -Rev. Donald Morgan (b. 1933)

  • 30.
  • At 06:47 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • alan watson wrote:

post 25 Jack
thanks for reminding me of Ingersoll
Robert Green Ingersoll
(1833-1899)
http://www.positiveatheism.org/tochingr.htm

What a brilliant atheist and he lived 100 yrs ago

The most absurd stories, the most laughable miracles, read in a solemn, stately way, sound to the ears of ignorance and awe like truth. It has been the object of the church for eighteen hundred years to prevent laughter.

  • 31.
  • At 08:40 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • Michael Hull wrote:

Re Post 28 alan watson wrote:

"Not sure what you're getting at Maureen? I think it was Lisa Randall who was talking about dark matter and energy and the possibilities for resolution of the problem."

Alan: Until we 'know' what we 'don't know' everything is a mystery. All of our beliefs, whether scientific or philosophical, should be held in an attitude of doubt.

I don't know if 'God' created the universe, or 'something' created the universe, or the universe never was created at all. I don't know if it always existed.

Scientists don't know all of this either, theologians don't, philosophers don't, you don't, I don't (and maybe Maureen doesn't know too?)

I object to opinion being expressed as certainty. In post 16 Dawkins was quoted as saying:

"I am optimistic that the physicists of our species will complete Einstein's dream and discover the final theory of everything before superior creatures, evolved on another world, make contact and tell us the answer. I am optimistic that, although the theory of everything will bring fundamental physics to a convincing closure, the enterprise of physics itself will continue to flourish, just as biology went on growing after Darwin solved its deep problem. I am optimistic that the two theories together will furnish a totally satisfying naturalistic explanation for the existence of the universe and everything that's in it including ourselves. And I am optimistic that this final scientific enlightenment will deal an overdue deathblow to religion and other juvenile superstitions."

The word ‘optimistic’ is a wonderful statement of his ‘faith’!

You won't get an argument from me about this statement. I just wish he wouldn't get into the ad hominem bits ('juvenile' as an example). It's demeaning to others but mostly to him because it is not the language of reason but the language of the street fighter. I should know, I grew up in North Belfast :-)

When others begin to use the word ‘certain’ instead of words like 'optimistic' then fundamentalism, both scientific and theological, rears its ugly head. Ad hominem attacks are usually added in to the mix and fruitful discussion ends.

There is a wonderful power in possessing doubt and humility in one's thought and speech.

Regards,
Michael

  • 32.
  • At 09:07 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • Maureen McNeill wrote:

In post 29 Jack wrote:

"I was reminded of an old quote in reading Maureen's obvious difficulty in understanding the complex workings of science, which of course, so often leads lazy people...Blah blah etc....no question too big for even the smallest mind."

Jack:

Thank you for your comment.

Have you been introduced to Mark?

You should get to know him better and discuss the quote: 'birds of a feather .....'

Mark will inform you that you know nothing about me and should not therefore assume that I am not schooled in 'understanding the complex workings of science'. He is learning this lesson, although a little slowly I must confess.

Anyway, I'm glad, Jack, that you were able to "recall" something of putative utilitiy for this thread even if it was only a well worn quote about 'small minds'.

By the way does it require one to recognise one or can't you recall?

Back to my knitting!

Peace to All (and to you too, Jack!)

  • 33.
  • At 11:01 PM on 01 Jan 2007,
  • alan watson wrote:

Michael said
I object to opinion being expressed as certainty. In post 16 Dawkins was quoted as saying:
"I am optimistic that the physicists of our species will complete Einstein's dream

He was answering a question re optimism

Optimism isn't certainty so that's OK with you then?
I was an optimist when I was 10 that we'd get to the moon - I was right then too!
Science and tech have a track record and I have reasonable confidence that the billions of our tax pounds being spent will get answers - but I am not optimistic they'll find that a god did it!

Atheists have to put up with a lot of stereotyping too
here are some atheist myths debunked
http://edge.org/3rd_culture/harris06/harris06_index.html


  • 34.
  • At 12:01 AM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Si wrote:

This is excellent news. Richard Dawkins has indeed done a lot this year in delivering a voice of reason in what may be considered the dawn of the New Dark Age.

With "intelligent" design looming over our schools, the discouraged uses of condoms in AIDS regions, the discrimination and suppression of human rights of homosexuals, and religion extremists who want to blow us up, it is high time for rational people to organize and combat against absurd superstitions that have no place in modern 21st century.

  • 35.
  • At 01:01 AM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Michael N. Hull wrote:

In post 33 alan watson wrote:

“Atheists have to put up with a lot of stereotyping too here are some atheist myths debunked http://edge.org/3rd_culture/harris06/harris06_index.html%E2%80%9D

Alan: I am very familiar with edge.org but I thought I would do you the courtesy of going through Harris’s 10 myths and giving you my own opinion (incidentally he uses the modern usage of ‘myth’ as ‘something not true' and I will deal with them under that definition)

1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless.

I don’t agree. Dawkins, as an example, is certainly not pursuing a meaningless life. However, I think that ‘atheists’ should state more positively what it is that they believe philosophically rather than concentrating on stating what they don’t believe. Also, I have never understood why they define themselves with the word ‘atheist’. It places them against something (in the common vernacular) rather than standing for something.

I really hope some of you who characterize yourselves as ‘atheists’ have responded to Crawley’s Credo challenge because I think one needs a positive statement of ‘faith’ or ‘belief’ from ‘atheists’.

2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history.

I disagree. The inquisition - I need go no further.

3) Atheism is dogmatic.

To a certain extent this is true but then to the same extent it is true also of ‘theists’. Dogmatism is wrong in science and philosophy.

4) Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance.

I don’t think anyone regardless of their philosophical orientation has any idea how the universe arose. Some metaphorize it, others model it, but neither party knows.

5) Atheism has no connection to science.

I believe that non fundamentalist atheists and non fundamentalist theists both contribute equally well to the advancement of both scientific and philosophical thought. The fundamentalists are the problem.

6) Atheists are arrogant.

Yes, some are arrogant as are some ‘believers’. Its mostly the fundamentalist ones that act this way. In my opinion Dawkins is arrogant as is Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Harris I don’t see as arrogant from my reading his books but then he is not as exiting a read as Dawkins so maybe arrogance has its place.

7) Atheists are closed to spiritual experience.

Wrong. I have never met a person who could defend the statement to me “I have never had a spiritual experience”.

8) Atheists believe that there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding

Disagree but they allow the believers to hog the whole ground on this issue by not putting forward a more positive belief system (I mean not just telling believers why they are wrong or crazy or Idiots etc. Atheists should concentrate on presenting their position with positivism and optimism).

9) Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society.

I’m not sure about this one. Religion is indeed very beneficial to some parts of society and I’ve seen what it can do in alleviating suffering. However, it definitely is not beneficial in other aspects of society e.g. the RC church’s position on the use of condoms in Africa. Incidentally, I like Richard Holloway’s talk on this in his interpretation of the metaphor about the Good Samaritan. (Will provide reference if interested)

10) Atheism provides no basis for morality.

Disagree. Morality is independent of one’s religious views. One's religious perspective may influence how one views moral issues but that is another question.

Not looking for a fight over any of this – they are just opinions.

Regards,
Michael

  • 36.
  • At 02:56 AM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Maureen McNeill #24
I see hope still springs eternal. Don't confuse pity with enfatuation. You wouldn't be the first to have made that mistake and been disappointed.

As for my submittal...you will just have to wait and see....

Did I submit anything at all?

Dems what's takin' don't know...

And....

(So far) Dems what knows....ain't talikin'.

  • 37.
  • At 03:32 AM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Michael, and here I thought you were unconfused and making such fine progress. Here's my take on it;

1 Atheists belive life is meaingless

This one does.

2. Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in history.

Hitler and Mussolinii were believers. So were the perpetrators of the Crusades and European colonial imperialism. Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot weren't. Osama Bin Laden is. So was Saddam Hussein. There is no correlation between believers or non believers and criminals.

3 Atheism is dogmatic

Not really. Mere absence of a belief in something isn't a dogma. Science is dogmatic. It insists on observation, testing, and provable hypothesis. It unconditionally rejects the irrational and unprovable.

4 Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance.

Quite the opposite. At least this atheist who believes unconditionally in scientific logic is a fatalist who believes implicitly in cause and effect. Nothing which ever happened or ever will happen wasn't predetermined at the instant of the big bang by the consistancies called natural laws. Nothing and no one can change any of it despite their delusions to the contrary. The notion of randomness is a human concept which has no basis in scientific understanding.

5 Atheism has no connection to science.

Atheism for some is the logical result of science's failure to prove the existance of god. If people who believed in science like I do saw convincing evidence for god's existance, we wouldn't be atheists. So called creation scientists and Intelligent design advocates haven't even come close. Quite the opposite, all they have done with their clumsy pretense of science is to discredit themselves among real scienists.

6 Atheists are arrogant

Some are, some aren't. Some believers in god are arrogant, some are not. There is no correlation.

7 Atheists are closed to spiritual experience.

This one isn't closed to it but has never had one. This one also never experimented with marajuana or LSD. This one dismisses "spiritual experiences" as hallucinations, delusions, and other mental abberations. "A mind is a terrible thing to lose."

8 Atheists believe there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding.

That's not true. But most atheists I've met do NOT believe in the supernatural. Those I've met who believe in science think there is a rational explanation for everything even if we don't know it yet. Science's job is to investigate the unknown and find out the facts.

9 Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society.

How? By collecting crumbs and table scraps from the wealthy and giving them to the starving? Of the 40,000 wars it is believed mankind has fought, how many of them were over religion? How much slavery was justified by religion? Has Northern Ireland benefitted from religion? Some people think inhabitants of Northern Ireland would have killed each other under one pretext or another if Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism never existed. Maybe so but those are the pretexts they chose.

10 Athiesm provides no basis for morality.

True. Ethics which is the substitute for morality is based on the need to get along with other people to maintain civilization through civil order as the greatest good for the greatest number. Athiesm provides no basis for ethics either. Why should it since in cannot find meaning or purpose in the existance of life and refuses to invent one the way believers do.

  • 38.
  • At 04:10 AM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Maureen McNeill wrote:

Re 36 Mark wrote: "Maureen McNeill #24 I see hope still springs eternal. Don't confuse pity with ENFATUATION. As for my submittal...you will just have to wait and see.... Did I submit anything at all? Dems what's TAKIN' don't know... And....(So far) Dems what knows....ain't TALIKIN'."

Dear, Dear, Mark - was your new year's celebration a very long night? Things in Bermuda were very dull!

As to a submittal you can relax. Since I didn't pay the price of admission I am not going to criticise (British) the show.

On second thoughts, the above statement has got too much certainty attached to it - Hull wouldn't approve - so just for you, Michael, after the word 'show' lets add the word 'maybe' in brackets (parentheses to you, Mark).

Billy: I've got my bet on you!

Good luck to everyone and I hope Will signs the book!

Peace,
Maureen

  • 39.
  • At 04:19 AM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Michael N. Hull wrote:

Re Post 37 Mark wrote:

"Michael, and here I thought you were unconfused and making such fine progress. Here's my take on it;"

Thanks - it was good. I enjoyed reading it and accept it as your opinion.

Would have been excellent had you been able to drop the ad hominem opening sentence.

But given I believe I have free will and you believe that you don't, I will exercise it and forgive you!

;-)

Cordially,
Michael

  • 40.
  • At 04:37 AM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • MIchael N. Hull wrote:

Re Post 35 Hull wrote:

1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless.

I don’t agree. Dawkins, as an example, is certainly not pursuing a meaningless life. However, I think that ‘atheists’ should state more positively what it is that they believe philosophically rather than concentrating on stating what they don’t believe. Also, I have never understood why they define themselves with the word ‘atheist’. It places them against something (in the common vernacular) rather than standing for something.

Re Post 37 Mark wrote:

1 Atheists believe life is meaningless

This one does.
----------------------
Anyone Else:
What do the rest of you who would classify yourselves as 'atheists' feel about these positions?

I'm particularly interested in how many of you would say that 'life is meaningless' and if you could flesh out some details on your position.

I don't have any hidden agenda with this question so I'm not laying any traps. But, what is the atheistic worldview on the meaning of life as you experience it?

Regards,
Michael

  • 41.
  • At 06:07 AM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • MemeGardener wrote:

Congrats Richard!

  • 42.
  • At 06:23 AM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Steven wrote:

I agree with this choice. Dawkins would get my vote.

  • 43.
  • At 12:49 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Michael Hull #39;
"would have been excellent had you been able to drop the ad hominem opening sentence."

Was that attack ad hominem? I must be slipping.

Maureen McNeill #38
As usual, I disagree with you...whatever it was that you said.

Did you like Bermuda? I've been there four times. Funny thing for me about Bermuda was, before I ever went there I expected to dislike it...BUT... I fell in love with it the first time I laid eyes on it. IMO it's one of the best spots in the world. Why wouldn't I move there? I'd probably die of boredom within two weeks. Besides, the cost of living there is too high.

  • 44.
  • At 12:51 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Scoff wrote:

Hooray! God is dead, long live reason! (well, not quite, but we live in hope, and this is a positive sign)

Well done Richard Dawkins, give the man the knighthood he so obviously deserves

  • 45.
  • At 01:07 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Helen Hays wrote:

Maybe Richard Dawkins has been offered a knighthood and has turned it down. He'd win my applause for doing so. Titled honours entrench the class system (another example of the "un-reason" Dawkins should oppose, I'd have thought).

  • 46.
  • At 01:12 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Kat Kit wrote:

Are you serious Helen? There's no way Dawkins would turn down a knighthod! He'd walk around permanently wearing the gong on his lapel to impress Americans. A man that vain would never turn down an honour. Incidentally, I think he's certainly done enough to deserve an honour. Not a knighthood. I'd give him a CBE.

  • 47.
  • At 01:14 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Billy wrote:

It is not surprising the attitude that my post #8, has created, there is nothing new under the sun, since Creation-Satan the deceiver has been attacking the truth of God, from the Creation of the Universe until the present time, first it was Satan talking as a serpent, today it comes in all shapes and forms of philosophies and theories, some from within the church and some from outside the church, why does the Adversary attack God’s Word? The simple reason being, that Satan is exposed as the enemy of the truth and of God, the father of all lies.

Genesis takes a stand against atheism because God created the universe, Genesis refutes humanism, for God not man is the ultimate reality, and Genesis also refutes evolution because God created all things.

God’s word has always been under attack, God says, “My words shall not pass away”.

Voltaire said that in a generation the Bible would be outdated, but after his death what happened, his house was purchased by the Geneva Bible Society to spread the Bible throughout Europe.

The words on the Huguenot monument in France read,
Hammer away, ye unregenerate hands
Your hammer breaks, God’s anvil stands.

“Post Tenebras Lux”

  • 48.
  • At 02:06 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Morning Star wrote:

Just to underline and support Billy, I'd like to admit that yes, I certainly have been attacking the Truth of God since the dawn of time. As you mortals understand it, that is. And what a tractable bunch you are.

  • 49.
  • At 02:37 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Dan Diplo wrote:

This is really great news! It's about time Britain valued it's eminent scientists and intellectuals. If stating the truth is seen as 'controversial' nowadays then I say we need more people like Dawkins with the integrity and honesty to speak up.

  • 50.
  • At 02:39 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • yogi-one wrote:

There is no God except No God.

And Dawkins is His Prophet.

  • 51.
  • At 02:41 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Gemma wrote:

Well done Richard!!! Hoping you'll be offered next years Person of the Year award too!

  • 52.
  • At 02:44 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

#37 (Mark) Wrote this about chance:

"Quite the opposite. At least this atheist who believes unconditionally in scientific logic is a fatalist who believes implicitly in cause and effect. Nothing which ever happened or ever will happen wasn't predetermined at the instant of the big bang by the consistancies called natural laws. Nothing and no one can change any of it despite their delusions to the contrary. The notion of randomness is a human concept which has no basis in scientific understanding."

Mark, I thought this for a long time, and yes, under Newtonian (classic) physics this is exactly how it is. But then I discovered quantum mechanics, an essentially unpredictable foundation to the fabric of this world, where events can only be described probabilistically - exactly the opposite of what you describe here!

Seriously, go and read some quantum physics - it changed my worldview (which was identical to yours). Isn't it amazing how physics can have such powerful philosophical impact!

Re: Post # 48.

Ominous, Billy. Ominous.

  • 54.
  • At 03:19 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Bhupendra wrote:

@Stephen G
Plz search Google, Google video or You tube.
and richarddawkins.net

  • 55.
  • At 03:36 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

Good work Dawkins, even if you often seem to be impatient while engaging people in discussion.

Furthermore, why do atheists bare the label while theists don’t? For instance, “Richard Dawkins is promoting atheism” rather than “Richard Dawkins is diminishing theism”. It is those that believe in a supernatural deity or a higher purpose that are going out on a limb and should be labelled as such.

  • 56.
  • At 03:48 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • ainelivia wrote:

Congratulations Richard Dawkins.

another issue that Dawkins argues for that is very important, and seems not to have been touched on is the right of people not to believe in a "God", and that like race, gender, and sexuality, their atheist/agnosticism should not be any impediment to their being elected, holidng public office.

In fact what he is arguing for, is that we end the discrimination of the Theist groups against others.

In fact, if anything, any form of fundamentalism and those who hold those views, really, should be the ones barred from holding public office.

Long Live Separation of Church and State.

  • 57.
  • At 04:20 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Peter #52;
I have read some quantum mechanics and I'm aware of such laws as the Heisenburg uncertainty principle, of Planck's constant, and of the fact that computers are now being designed at the sub atomic level exploiting the fact that electrons can paradoxically have both positive and negative spin numbers at the same time. I don't see that this changes what I said. Whether human beings can successfully discover, analyze, or even understand the consistancies we call natural laws, they still exist and their applicability is still universal in a rational universe which does not and is not Newtonian. The concept of "randomness" is a human one created to deal with large numbers of seemingly indistinguishable objects which each have their own particular history and destiny.

  • 58.
  • At 04:21 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Adam Sifounakis wrote:

@Michael N. Hull #40 regarding the an atheists take on the meaninglessness of life.

That really depends on how far you take the idea of meaninglessness. People comfort themselves by thinking that they are all-important and that they will live forever (in some way, shape, or form). There's no reason to believe that there is anything after death and, as such, I believe that there is nothing after death. Other than what's left of your body (depending on the means of death), of course.

Does that make life meaningless? I think not. Would you say that Newton's life was meaningless? Einstein's life? The level of influence that they have had on the world has changed the way others have lived their lives after them. Each person influences the people around them, only to varying degrees.

This doesn't mean that to make your life meaningful you have to make a difference on the same scale as they did. Each and every difference has the possibility to lead to something greater. While I despise the ideology that each and every idea counts and there is never a wrong answer to something (etc.), I do believe that everything has the possibility to inspire something greater. Even ridiculous ideas can spark reactionary thoughts that can lead to revolutions.

An individual's life is meaningless in, and of, itself. But for the life of the group, the individual's life defines the group's progress.

Hello Peter in thread post #52 and others,

First let's clear up any potential confusion. There are two Peters here. Both scientists (and apparently also both atheists, rationalists?). One is the person who made the above mentioned entry. The other is me, Peter Klaver, I've made some entries in this thread as well as in the ones concerning Andy McIntosh.

Peter, as one atheist scientist to another, I think I'll question your post #52 a bit. I'm not that much of a theoretician, so much of my post will be of the questioning kind, not asserting. Mark, Tony, other Peter, any knowlegdeable theoreticians, feel free to correct me at any stage.

Quantum mechanic is excellent for describing anything on small length scales, like electrons. But it runs into trouble on larger scales. Much larger ones, like galaxies. Quantum machaniscs doesn't yet predict things like gravity. As far as I know, qunatum gravity is not a fully done deal yet, right? So for describing larger scale phenomena we have the theory of relativity. The two don't mix too well. Since quantum mechanics (QM) runs into trouble at larger length scales, the non-determinism of QM might not hold for the whole universe. Does anyone know what relativity has to say about determinism?
Alan Watson made a post that mentioned the development of a theory that would cover everything. I haven't looked at the link he posted yet, but I assume it would involve string theory. Now, unlike evolution that is really a THEORY, as it has made little to no testable predictions sofar. I know that a number of concepts of QM are also part of string theory. I don't know if determinism is one of them. String theory is way beyond me anyway. Extending the world to no less than 11 dimensions, instead of the three spatial ones + time that we observe, huh? Is there anyone here who knows what string theory has to say about determinism?

Then the philosophical impact on your world view. Did it really matter that much? In practical terms it would seem to me to make little difference. If you think about some decision but then change your mind, that change would have been predetermined under the Newtonian view. As would changing your mind back again. While your final decision would be pre-determined, you don't know in advance what it would be. So in the end it is just what you decide to do. Will that scenario become very different if you bring QM into it?

Good point ainelivia, Dawkins has a lot more to say than what he is usually attacked for by the religious crowd. Another thing he sometimes mentions is our planet becoming overcrowded and nature suffering as a result of it. Sometimes he very carefully argues that this place could do with a lower population number and that people deciding to have smaller families to achieve that, would be a good thing. As someone who is interested in nature, I wish that debate would feature in the media as prominently as the religion vs. science debate.

  • 61.
  • At 04:59 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Larkin Ruuz wrote:

For thinking clearly in a world that doesn't much value cear thinking anymore.

Emphasis mine... I just thought it humorous that a statement about undervaluing clear thinking included a mis-spelling.

  • 62.
  • At 05:04 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Adam Sifounakis wrote:

To start up another discussion I find interesting on the topic, here goes.

People claim that without religion (and therefore the existence of god), there would be chaos because people would have no reason to live. People would, therefore, do all sorts of crazy things which would lead to an end to all life.

Simply because many people are afraid of being just a spec of dust in the universe does not mean there must be some greater reason or importance. Fear does, however, make it much easier to believe something is true when it tells you what you want to hear. That is a fact. The scientific method acts as a guide to truth devoid of such fears and prejudices.

The fact that people find their lives meaningless because they don't know how the universe began is simply a weakness of character. To illustrate an example of what I mean.

Does it bother you that you will never know exactly what I did yesterday? No matter how much knowledge you have today, or how much science advances tomorrow, you can never know exactly what I did yesterday because I did not document anything and nobody was with me for every single second of the day to witness my actions. Does that plague your thoughts? Does it make your life useless? To know that you will never know?

Of course it does not. Because what I did yesterday does not influence your life in the least bit (unless you happen to be one of the people I saw yesterday, in which case, it does). So does it make sense that it would plague your thoughts and make your life useless that you do not know how the universe came to be? Will your life be useless if there is not enough evidence in existence to prove how existence came to be?

I would love to know how everything came to be. I would love to know the intricate details of it all. Does that mean that because one theory provides an answer to that question (even though it seems to violate almost everything we have proven true) it is better that not having an answer at all? No. But judging from what we have tested, and retested, and proven to be true about how the world works, the idea of the universe being created does not hold.

The problem I find with arguing with people promoting religion is that they argue from assumed positions, even though those positions violate many things in life that we have proven. Simply defining conditions that make something unknowable (as in the being cannot be seen, cannot be felt, and so forth) is not a defense because there is no proof for those assumptions. A reasonable argument can be made, however, that those assumptions were derived to "counter" attacks on religions and the existence of their deities.

And one last point to bring up is the following. Looking back into history, we see that earthquakes, storms, volcanic eruptions, and the like, were all once attributed to deities. Until science came along and proved how those things actually work. They were no longer acts of gods. Furthermore, supporters of religion argue that because people back then did not have the technology to understand those things, they wrongly attributed those phenomena to a god. Taking it one step further, however, provies an argument against religion itself. Since religions and the existence of deities were created (or at least documented) by the people of those times (with their limited understanding of things), is it not reasonable that they could have assessed everything they knew about the world and wrongly derived the idea of a deity? Something to think on because that is, regardless of what people fear or hope to believe, a very real possibility to how it all began.

I'd love to hear some thoughts on some (or all) of what I've mentioned. Either side welcome. I find so much of this interesting and would love some input. Maybe I'll write up something to submit sometime. Until then, take care!

  • 63.
  • At 05:16 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Jack wrote:

It's so absolutely frightening how the very gullible, like Billy (#8, #47), can become so hopelessly deluded in this modern day and age, and spew such utter nonsense and hate in regard to others. How can one ever live a pleasant and content life with this type of weakened mind? One that's stuck so firmly in the horrific muck of ancient and ignorant fiction -- always judging, and then convicting this person, or that person, as being "related" to his most feared imaginary fiend that's right out of the mind of ignorant and superstitious cavemen. Makes you wonder how such a person can even function in reality -- if he even does.

Just more hard evidence that this world so sorely needs the likes of Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and other reasoned and rational minds to steer humankind back on an enlightened path to a future of peace, discovery, and advancement, rather than retreating to the dark middle ages.

  • 64.
  • At 05:25 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Machine Operator wrote:

How sensible, ainelivia!

According to your world, then, we bar the "Theists" from public office and elevate the "Atheists."

In fact, if anything, you should grasp your contradictions.

  • 65.
  • At 05:43 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Aiste wrote:

Richard Dawkins didn't change the way i think but confirmed and "put in place" everything i knew. If there were more such bright people like Dawkins, the world would be much better.

  • 66.
  • At 05:52 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Joe wrote:

Well put, Aiste...(#65)

  • 67.
  • At 05:53 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Joe wrote:

Is it any surprise that the world's two most wealthiest and arguably intelligent men are not only atheists, but HUGE philanthropists? That's right I'm talking about Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. Buffet as most know donated nearly all of his 35+ Billion Dollar estate to the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation this past year. That's more than any religious group in history.

Is it also a suprise that historically some of the world's most intelligent thinkers and philosophers were also atheists? Check Spinoza, Nietzsche, and even Einstein..

Historically, intelligentsia "trickles down" from the most intelligent to the rest of the masses over hundreds of years (e.g. the ability to read is no longer limited to a small percentage of people). The realization of religion being invented by human beings will "soon" be apparent to the masses as it already is to the most rational of thinkers...As Nietzsche said in the late 1800s, "God is dead."

  • 68.
  • At 05:55 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Scott wrote:

As one of the fence sitters that Dawkins' book is targeted at, Dawkins has been a huge influence on clarifying and my position on God. (I'm a 6 on Dawkin's Theist-Atheist scale)

In my opinion, Dawkins highlights up one of the most important difference between science and religion. Scientific theories are often proven wrong or updated based on new evidence. Religion is absolute, intolerant and not open for discussion. To do so is blasphemy. (Many great minds have been exiled or killed due conflicting theories which were later proven to be true.)

Yet the Bible condones outdated notions such as slavery and indicates that those who work on the Sabbath should be put to death.

How do you decide what part of the Bible to believe? As with slavery, could God's "ban" on homosexuality be just as outdated due to the 90% drop in the infant mortality rate during the 20th century?

  • 69.
  • At 06:20 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Peter Klavier #59
The disconnect between quantum mechanics and relativity is the way I understand it as well. Einstein was searching for what he called a unified field theory which would tie the whole thing together but never found it. Nor has anyone else so far.

The issue of determinism isn't dependent on whether or not the universe is Newtonian or non Newtonian, whether string theory is right or it isn't, whether what is right is even comprehensible to humans or not. All that matters is that it is consistant, that whatever its rules, they cannot be changed or circumvented capriciously by a willful god. In the absense of god, with no hell or devil to avoid, no heaven to get into, priests, ministers, rabiis, imams, and other assorted witchdoctors lose all of their power. Their power to control people's lives by telling them what they must do to avoid eternal damnation and enjoy eternal salvation is lost, gone forever. Whatever god is about, religon is about power, the power of some people over others. Today it is purely psychological in Western civilization at least. It's been a few hundred years since we took the rack and other physical toys away from the clergy. I think we're all better off for it.

  • 70.
  • At 06:24 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Richard Lee wrote:

It is good that Dawkins is being recognised for his achievements although recognition from the UK is less impressive than if it where from the USA where religion has really sunk its claws into the populace.

It's about time we stopped respecting religion just because it’s someone’s opinion. If I believed the world was made of cheese you shouldn't need to respect me or my opinion.

I'd like to think that rationality and logic could win this war of ideas but looking back through history shows it’s never that simple.

@Joe: Nietzsche was wrong when he said God was dead. You can't die if you never existed.

  • 71.
  • At 06:31 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Michael N. Hull wrote:

Re Post 40 and my question on what is the meaning of your life?

The subsequent postings have been interesting but I’m still looking for a couple of simple sentences expressing a worldview about ‘my life’s meaning’ from the perspective of the Dawkins’ supporters.

Mark has stated that from his perspective it is 'meaningless'. That is very clear and unambiguous but are there any other positions out there?

Philosophy has proposed some potential answers such as the pursuit of happiness, the pursuit of a moral life, and the pursuit of knowledge etc?

Do you hold one of these positions or something different?

Leave the quantum mechanics, string theory, and attacks on each other’s POVs aside for a moment and throw out a couple of sentences that present your worldview.

The reason I ask this question is that I have asked it numerous times to young people that I work with (mostly in the USA but I have also posed the question to the same group in the UK) who would define themselves as ‘atheists’. I rarely get more than an embarrassed look for an answer. On the other hand if I ask the question of any of the fundamentalist Muslims or Christians the answer comes out bang, bang, bang!

If I were a young teenager in your presence who asked you: Mr/Ms Atheist, what is the meaning of life? How will you answer the question for them?

Regards,
Michael


  • 72.
  • At 07:11 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Michael N. Hull wrote:

Re 68: "Yet the Bible condones outdated notions such as slavery and indicates that those who work on the Sabbath should be put to death. How do you decide what part of the Bible to believe? As with slavery, could God's "ban" on homosexuality be just as outdated due to the 90% drop in the infant mortality rate during the 20th century?"

Scott: I agree with your statement as it applies to fundamentalist thinkers. But Christianity (mostly in the protestant area) is fast moving away from these historical positions.

You asked how does one decide what part of the bible to 'believe'. I assume this is not a rhetorical question and that you want to seek the answer. It lies in understanding the difference between historical factual truth and historical metaphorical truth. Unfortunately many fundamentalists continue to read metaphorical truth as factual truth.

As symbol utilizing intelligences we can only describe concepts with the use of a model or a metaphor. The problem comes when a group proclaims that metaphor is model and then tries to apply the tools used to study models to their metaphors. This in a nutshell is the Creationists' problem.

On the other hand fundamental atheists make the same mistake when they declare that the world is all 'model' and there is nothing that can be learned from 'metaphor'.

If you want to explore these thoughts further here is a very short speech by Richard Holloway that is directly on the topic you raised.

http://homepages.which.net/%7Eradical.faith/holloway/gresham%202%20pt%201.htm

In the link you will find this:

"The modern Christian 'fundamentalist' who bravely continues to 'believe' in a real star of Bethlehem or an actual Garden Tomb in Jerusalem from which Jesus rose from the dead is making the same unimaginative mistake as Heinrich Schliemann when he dug in the sands of Hissarlik and thought he was finding Homer's Troy. Troy is in the Iliad, not in the sand. And because of Homer, not because of the sand, Troy exists in the collective consciousness of the human race".

You see the Greeks viewed things from both the logos and the muthos perspective (model and metaphor). Literalists and fundamentalists have unfortunately conjoined the muthos parts of the bible into the logos parts and now the Creationists and the Dawkinists are arguing over a conjoined piece of nonsense that is neither model nor metaphor.

I could go into more depth on this topic but this is not the place.

John Wright: Anything you would like to add to this comment? You generally have other ways of expressing this thought.

Mark: Do me a favor, please. You know what I am asking.

Regards,
Michael

ps: Muthos is the Greek word meaning story, tale. When we translate it "myth" in modern English we should not understand this word with its modern connotations but in its Greek usage. I would prefer it to be translated "metaphor" as I think the modern mind would understand "muthos" better.

  • 73.
  • At 08:10 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Michael Hull #71, 72
"Mark: do me a favor please, you know what I am asking."

Do I? How could I? You don't seem to know what you are asking yourself? You want someone to help you find meaning in your life in the context of a psyche which was trained early on that there is a god and the bible says all existance is this and that and then later when your intellect was developed, you were trained to question, to test, to reason from observations, and not to draw any conclusions which were not justified by this rational process? I don't know how to reconcile this for you, I don't think anyone really does no matter what they say. It's something you will have to work out for yourself, good luck at it. For me, I don't have this dilemma. I realized a long time ago just how absurd life really is and I've come to accept it. I understand your anguish because I've known many other people I've liked and respected who grappled with the same problem. The problem with being an atheist is that there is nobody to tell you what to believe in, you are completely free and on your own. Do you have the emotional maturity to take on that responsibility for yourself? Some people never have. If you have decided to belive in God and the bible as a metaphor, then it's up to you to decide where that metaphor ends and what it means. Every nut out there with a collar, a pulpit, and a TV camera will be perfectly happy to take your money in return for telling you what they think you should believe. Those that don't want your money want your time and energy, or they want you to go out and fight some war for them. Some people spend their entire lives bouncing around from one religion to another endlessly giving away their money to find out the real truth of life. If I told it to you, how much would you pay me for it? No need to answer, I've already given you this bitter pill for free. It's up to you to decide whether or not you are going to swallow it.

  • 74.
  • At 08:17 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Peter Keens wrote:

I am a materialist at heart, and although I do not agree with everything that RD says (I believe he is a bit of a fundamentalist himself), I applaud the attention that he is bringing to the bright/atheist movement in today's media, and am very happy to hear of this news!

There is nothing wrong with having information from both sides available so people may inform themselves of the current theories and ideas. But we should all take heart to let both sides speak, as irritating as it may be to us at times. Don't close off too quickly or easily to the other side.

Michael- I think you did a good job of explaining it. The question "How do you decide what part of the Bible to believe?" in this context is born out of several presuppositions.

For example, the bible is not a single book. This seems an obvious fact, but it appears to lead to the above kind of questioning. The bible is 66 books that were compiled in different periods throughout history for different reasons. It contains many genres: poetry, history, eyewitness accounts, songs, prophecy, letters, etc. There are many like it. We don't know who many of the authors were. We don't have original manuscripts: just copies of copies. There is much evidence of interventions to add or subtract parts of it for reasons of historical context.

So once one discovers what the bible actually IS, the question becomes not "How do you decide what part of the bible to believe?", but "How do you decide what to believe in general?" Unfortunately the bible is not what most evangelicals want it to be: The Answer. The bible is one witness, one testament, to truth; but not more. Would that one could turn to a book and be told what exactly to believe. Unfortunately the bible is not such a book, and a philosophical process of discovery is necessary instead. That is messy, complex, and subjective, and at the same time entirely neccessary in order to form good, rational opinions.

The short answer for those who didn't wish to wade through my above reply is this: Read the bible as you would any manuscript. Who is it written to? What is the genre? What is it about? Then decide what you believe and why.

  • 76.
  • At 08:42 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Me2 wrote:

RE Post 71.

I am a young person who lives in the U.S. and I'll give it a shot as far as what I think the "meaning of life is" from an atheists perspective. People make the automatic assumption that if you don't believe in a higher power, or in an after life that you couldn't possibly care the future of the earth or moral values.

I disagree on both those suppositions. I arguably have more a concern about these factors than most religious people. Largly in the face of the fact that 44% of americans believe that Jesus will return someday soon and provide us all a new planet on which to dwell. They might therefor not mind polluting, but I do.

Even though when I die I might just blink out of existance, that doesnt mean you do, my family will, or the earth does. Therefor I too have much invested in seeing that I do my best to further improve the conditions in which we live.

Besides, in the same vein, I could just as easily as you what the "meaning of watching a football game" is. Techniqually after the game is over, its over. With largely no consiquence to your everyday life, you still have to go to work, you still have to pay the bills.

Heck if it isn't fun though.

So without rambling too much to me the meaning of life is to make this planet a suitable place to exist in while we are here. A place free of violence, hate, & prejudice for us and our future generations. Oh and by the way, while your here, try and enjoy it.

To what end do we try and advance mankind...thats a whole other question.

Disclaimer: I don't really consider myself to be an athiest in its purest form. I am just very anti-orginized religion. I have seen little good come of it.

  • 77.
  • At 08:47 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Jayesh Sharma wrote:

Hi... been reading the debate with increasing amusement & frustration. I believe i'm the first person of Hindu origins to comment on this platform. See the problem with Hindu religion is the rejection of all dogmas, or rather a place for all dogmas... there is no theory of creation & no one set of rules to live by. The whole religion has been a system of a lot of rituals & a lot of philosophical discussions. No evangelism, not even a single holy war against another religion, & no conversions to faith either. Just a way of life hundreds of millions follow. Having been brought up in this relatively free environment, i still grew up an atheist, because i have never believed anything else is possible, & if there is a god who'se happy when we sing about him, & wants or even rewards blind faith, i'd rather take my chances with nirvana (not the band)than submit to this stupidity.

This is the basis of rationalism as i understand it... the courage to take decisions & to face even the fires of hell if u're wrong. Dr Dawkins, (& before him, Ayn Rand, sadly forgotten) articulate these beliefs & propagate them. Dr Dawkins is not the first rationalist, & we'll need several more leaders & billions more no-believers before the evils of religions are even addressed without being assaulted verbally and/or physically.

But a move away from faith is scientific destiny of humans, because we are ultimately human, & no longer need supernatural for most observable phenomena. hope this change is fast, & cheers for Dr Dawkins.

  • 78.
  • At 08:55 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Ted Silverman wrote:

I'd love to see a debate between Dawkins and the deluded, hate mongering Shirley Phelps.

  • 79.
  • At 08:59 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Jayesh Sharma wrote:

Re: 71

The meaning of my life is to live it to the fullest. I am convinced that there is no purpose to it to anyone except myself, & as such it is to be spent in what i consider worth my while. It happens to be giving & deriving maximum happiness in my relationships, a pursuit to excellence in my profession (surgery), attempt to continuous intellectual growth & an attempt to contribute to the world with my ideas which i seem to think will benefit the world (this post being one)... not because they are groundbreaking or anything, just honest & sincere. I'll die content if i achieve reasonable success in these areas.

  • 80.
  • At 09:03 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • J. Arrunategui wrote:

Richard is good looking, obviously highly intelligent and his rhetoric chest is filled with a rich armamentarium. What “natural selection” would locate in the highest rank? I am short, ugly, my intelligence is mediocre at best I can barely understand some of his intellectual propositions. I am also kind of nuts, “ready to be extinguished” “highest in the scale of the survival of the un - fittest” Oxford and impossible in my life. I was an abortionist and an atheist. I don have the sense that some smart and balanced guy like Richard and others proclaim. I was not able to stop my urges and I was an A + hedonist. Fifteen years ago I put my trust in the one who died for me. It was God’s grace that offered me hope and now I am free of most of the old bondages. Whenever I am to relapse His grace brings me back to being sane. Could you tell me what is my hope in a system in which as he has suggested; to teach my children about my Savior is to abuse them?. By the way, my oldest son tried to kill himself 4 times until I and others introduce him to Jesus. After 8 years he has become a great loving and gracious kid. I pray for a miracle in Richards life

Re: #80

Dawkins: Darwinian sex symbol?

  • 82.
  • At 10:13 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • John Phillips wrote:

Michael N Hull: Why do you need meaning beyond living your life as best as you can by your standards. Assuming I get the quoted three score years and ten I will have simply tried to live it to the fullest while treating others as I would like them to treat me. For myself, that is enough, for others, apparently not.

  • 83.
  • At 11:13 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • pb wrote:


You know I suppose I should not be surprised Dawkins brings out so many bitter athiests here.

Maybe you had bad experiences with religious leaders or people, but the God being dismissed by Dawkins is not the God that salvaged this life in post 80.

I just dont understand why there has to be such a nasty edge to all this. I dont see how it advances his arguments or wins over people. I would certainly never belittle an athiest using the attitude displayed by so many here. What does it really say about those doing it?

Alan

If you really interested in religious believers and how they understand science, perhaps an obvious place to start would be with the secular website you often link to.

There are numerous very basic errors regarding basic Christian doctrines on it, as I have outlined previously.

If you could show some interest in amending this, then maybe your claims would carry more weight.

Congrats to Dawkins, he won the prize.
I have no problem saying that, I dont think God is angry at him.

I can see gracious Jesus Christ holding out the hand of eternal friendship to Dawkins... how do you Dawkins would respond?

PB

Hi Mark,
I think that with your post #73 you not only have a good grasp of things scientific, but also in other areas. But of course I'm not going to let you off 100% free on post #69. I think I follow your reasoning, but does it not include an assumtion that there is no element of chance in nature? Let me give a QM example to explain my question. Take a potential energy landscape with two equally deep potential energy minima, separated by a small potential energy barrier. A particle can tunnel between the two positions. It will do so, with a certain average frequency. I believe this is what highly accurate clocks rely on. But on a very fine time scale, the transitions happen separated by different time intervals. Are these different times determined by things like influences from the outside world, or is there some level of randomness involved that causes the variations? If not, then I think I agree with the irrelevance of Newtonian/QM/relatavistic nature of our world that you suggest. But are you sure there is no such randomness at any level?

  • 85.
  • At 11:43 PM on 02 Jan 2007,
  • Michael N. Hull wrote:

Re 73: Mark I am saddened by your apparent anger and I mean that sincerely.

Re 75: Thanks, John, and as I thought it was a better articulated perspective than mine. Hope this is of help to you, Scott.

Re 76: I would be proud to call you my son - you are a serious thinker.

Re 77: I have the utmost respect for the Hindu religion and believe it or not, Ayn Rand. She was my favorite author in my youth. Atlas Shrugged was a bit too much like a 'reverse bible' for me but The Fountainhead is a book I still admire. There is a lot of good stuff in it!

Re 79: Hope I don't ever need your services but if I do I hope your are around. We had an interesting discussion on this blog a while back about the difference between pain and suffering, especially in the care of terminally ill patients. Any thoughts?

Re 82: I think most people today and in the past eventually ask this 'meaning of life' question. You know what it means to you and that is basically all I was enquiring about. I subscribe to your philosophy as stated i.e. do unto others ....

Incidentally, we had a discussion on this blog some time ago about free will. There is an interesting article in today’s NY times entitled “Free Will: Now You Have It, Now You Don’t”. It’s written from a scientific perspective

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/02/science/02free.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Finally, apart from Post 73 I applaud the tone and level of the responses to my question.

Thank you Peter Keens in post 74 for saying:

“There is nothing wrong with having information from both sides available so people may inform themselves of the current theories and ideas. But we should all take heart to let both sides speak, as irritating as it may be to us at times. Don't close off too quickly or easily to the other side.”

Cordially,
Michael


And then a reply to post #71, what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything to an atheist. The answer is 42.....ok, forget that.

Echoing an earlier atheist response, I care about beautiful nature, in real life or on tv. On tv I absolutely adore e. g. documentaries by David Attenborough like The Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Life of Mammals, Life in the Undergrowth. Dawkins 'Selfish Gene' is not only interesting for its atheistic tone, that is actually just a small part of it. Chapters like those on genetics in insects are just fascinating. Holidays are the time to see the beauty in real life. Last years holiday destinations included East Africa (Serengeti, Samburu, etc), Iceland and Australia, this years plan is the Galapagos Islands. So the common theme is places with vary un-European, varied nature and few people around. Such things should be preserved I feel. It's so fascinating, dreadful to see it threatened or destroyed. So I care about preserving the environment. I drive collegues/neighbours mad by trying to persuade them to live environmentally aware too. This is something I care enough about to 'evangelise'.
I live a pretty non-materialist life style. Not purely motivated by eco-awarenes, but part of it is. I don't drive a car, don't care a dam about wearing fancy clothes or living in a big fancy house. I'm not living in a cave though. I certainly enjoy practical things of modern life like cable, home broadband, etc.
I'm definately not a party animal. I don't even drink. Not out of principle, I just don't enjoy it. Rather than spending a night in the pub, I prefer to go to a lecture or debating evening on something. And I enjoy reading history. So I guess I care about some (duh, here comes the word) intellectual activity. Participating in discussion such as these can be a way of doing that (no, I don't have the illusion that all of it was intellectual these last few days, most of it, including mine, wasn't). For most of 2006 I dated a zealously religious girl who was also interested in discussions about science, religion, history, local politics etc. That was very interesting, although in the end deeply disappointing.
For my work I do physics research. Although it is academic and pretty much non-applied, I won't be winning any Nobel prizes. I have published a few things that were new insights in the field I work in and are likely to be of some small use to others in the scientific community and in the long term maybe of practical use, but the latter may never happen. I have quite a fews years of research to go, and I hope to discover more things that would let me have led a useful life when it's about to end.

The things above provide meaning to my life. For me at least. I don't know if others would find such a life gratifying. The general thing is persuit of interesting things. A bit of running now and then is helpful in cleansing the mind.

  • 87.
  • At 12:44 AM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Liron wrote:

I am thrilled by this selection.

  • 88.
  • At 12:45 AM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

Great choice! And thanks, Richard, for giving us a voice. Maybe someday all this religious insanity will seem like a bad dream. Here's to hope!

  • 89.
  • At 12:57 AM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

Congratulations Richard, thanks for all your work and for standing up to the violently unreasonable for us all.

  • 90.
  • At 01:17 AM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Michael Hull #85
Did you think I was angry? (then you don't want to know me when I really am.) Not in the least. I just wanted to let you know that I really have no advice for you. In fact, I don't have any advice for anyone except not to take anything here too seriously. I know I won't. "Are we having fun yet?"

  • 91.
  • At 02:27 AM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • brent wrote:

5 years after his death, no one will care OR remember him. 3000 years after His death pretty much all the world will know of Him same as today.

Still waiting for scientists to create life from lifeless primordial ooze...

Or explain how all those 'things' got there to big bang together...

Or to explain life...

Or to explain any reason that humans should exist or that life should even exist...

I'll be out back relaxing. Let me know when you have the above done.

  • 92.
  • At 02:54 AM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • azryan wrote:

First off we need to remember that words mean nothing when their meanings keep changing.

What the word 'God' means to billions of assorted people is pretty much billions of diff defs.

The word 'Atheist' means one thing -'a person who is not a Theist' That's it.

It's a 'not a belief' so this whole list about what 'Atheists' do/don't believe is off-track right off the bat but I've seen several distortions of answers so I wanted to post my answers...

1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless.

Atheist doesn't siginfy a person believes this or that about anything other than 'don't believe in a God/relgion'.

Most atheiests use rationality and reason to form beliefs. It's better to attack these people as Rationalist since it's their actual belief on these questions.

I (as a 'rationalist' to give it a name) believe life is 'inherently' meaningless. We weren't born with a meaning. So life's meaningless? No way.
You have as much freedom as humanly possible to choose what is meaningful in your life. That's what most religious people do anyway. Rationalist just don't thank any magic God for it. We'd rather thank actual humans who lived and died to get us this freedom.

2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history.

False. There's just so much war and hate to this day based on religion there's no way to tag atheists with this. Most criminals are religious.
Those who were atheiest in history who did horrible sick things did them because they wanted power and force their way onto others.

There's nothing about 'not believeing in any God' that causes this or all atheists would be deranged killers.


3) Atheism is dogmatic.

No. I means 'I don't believe in any def of God that's ever been presented to me.' That's it. To disagree is to just not know what the word means.

4) Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance.

Yet again... the questioner really means something like 'scientist' or 'humanist' or 'rationalist'.

'Atheist' says nothing about what that person does beleive which is why it's also a big myth that there's any kind of 'atheist' movement -other than rational people all agreeing that we wish everyone else would stop with these assorted supremesist supernatural beliefs.

5) Atheism has no connection to science.

We are all born 'atheist' as no one can understand any concept of 'God' as a newborn baby.

Many of us are forced into this or that religion as children and when we get older and smarter realizes the flaws in what we were told to beleive and revert back to being atheist.

It's usually/typically the mountains of scientific knowledge we have access to that shows us the flaws in these religions.

6) Atheists are arrogant.

That's just plain stereotyping and shows how 'faith' in a 'God' doesn't keep these people from lying about and damning people they never met. I believe religion promots this behavior actually.

Dawkins NEVER calls for the murder of any other human while so many religious leaders do just that all the time.

7) Atheists are closed to spiritual experience.

What does the word 'spiritual' mean?? That's the problem with this question (along with the original prob of misusing the word atheist to imply a belief).

If it means 'emotional' then that's something perfectly reasonable.

If it's some nebulous un-definable supernatual mess then that's another matter. One without evidence or rationality and goes nowhere with a rationalist or one of a scientific mindset.

8) Atheists believe that there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding

Athiest is the wrong word as always. What a scientific mind typically believes in are things with evidence. Ideas about the 'after-life' have zero evidence to support them and the ideas are so wild (heaven/hell/underword/reincarnation etc..) that they need a great deal of evidence to support a reasonable belief in them.

Rationalists simply 'don't know' what happens after you die other than the massive amount of evidence that shows your brain stops working and your body decays away.

That makes me want to live this one life to it's fullest 'cuz when it's over 'it certainly appears' it's over.

9) Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society.

This is not a 'fact' because the question says so. I submit that anything beneficial any religon does can be done in a secular way -and more effi/directly/more advanced understanding of a given problem to be dealt with.

See modern thought on ethics/morality/ secualr charity/phychology for religion trumping words/actions that help society.

Religion on the other hand has restricted so much human progress to this day that there is no way I could ever support it for any benefits if it even had any exclusive to it. It doesn't though.

10) Atheism provides no basis for morality.

True. That's got nothing to do with the word.

Religion is an utter mess of random interpretation of whatever religion you happen to have been raised in. That's no way to form stable society and solid ethics.

Hence my last answer -see also modern laws along with ethics. We don't need ancient insipid 'rules of God' to be moral. If damn hard to be moral most of the time with those 'God rules' -see jails full of the religious.

  • 93.
  • At 03:46 AM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Michael N. Hull wrote:

Thanks again everyone for your thoughts on the 'meaning of life'.

Anyone have any reaction to the NY Times article on Free Will that I mentioned before?

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/02/science/02free.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Here is a quote from the article which is relevant to some of the discussion on quantum mechanics earlier in this thread between Mark et al.

"A vote in favor of free will comes from some physicists, who say it is a prerequisite for inventing theories and planning experiments. That is especially true when it comes to quantum mechanics, the strange paradoxical theory that ascribes a microscopic randomness to the foundation of reality. Anton Zeilinger, a quantum physicist at the University of Vienna, said recently that quantum randomness was “not a proof, just a hint, telling us we have free will."

Regards,
Michael

  • 94.
  • At 04:12 AM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Scott wrote:

Michael & John,

Thanks for your replies. It's refreshing to see the Bible interpreted in a more modern context.

Using a movie as a example, your saying that it's the overarching plot that's important, not the fragmented, 2,000 year old screen play that contradicts itself? Unfortunately, I find it difficult to separate the two.

For example, I don't believe that a loving God would be willing to let men and women suffer eternal torture in hell just so he can truly know we love and believe in him. To quote Einstein, "God does not play dice with the universe." Either God was aware and is responsible for the consequences of giving man free will, or he isn't all knowing, all seeing and all powerful.

How do you separate the model and myth from this core concept in the Bible?

Is Hell is a myth? God really isn't not all seeing and all knowing since he can create a circumstance were not even he knows the results? (can God create a stone so immutable that even he can't change it?) God makes mistakes or we shouldn't hold him responsible for his actions? I could go on, but I think you get the point.

If any of this is a myth, it seems to contradict the very core of a Biblical God and puts him in the same category as the numerous mythical Gods created by man to explain and personify the behavior of humanity and nature.

  • 95.
  • At 11:48 AM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Peter Jakobs wrote:

Richard Dawkins is a wonderful choice for person of the year. His writing over the last decade and more is among the most accessible "high biology" available. I have "the god dilusion" here on my shelf, but I've got some other reading to do before I can get to it. However, having read most of his books, I have to say that he's best when he writes about things, not agaist. I found "the blind watchmaker" little insightful. How much better were "the selfish gene" and "the extended phenotype". Among the most enjoyable of his books I think is "the ancestor's tale".
"Climbing mount improbable" is a little gem, shedding light on a single but important concept.
I don't blame the religious for fighting him just as they've always fought science (and just like even the pope continues to do). Life is wonderfully simple if you just dream up solutions. It's wonderfully complex and beautiful to think about when you learn about it's inner workings.

pj

  • 96.
  • At 12:01 PM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Peter Jakobs wrote:

@92: excellent post. To bring it down to the simplest point:

This debate uses the terms "Atheist" and "Religion" to create polarity. In this context, I'd rather use "Scientist" and "Believer", as this, to me, more clearly describes the difference in concept.

Then it all comes down to two different basic aproaches to the unknown:

Scientist: I don't know, I'll try to find out
Believer: I don't know, I'll believe

I'm just very glad to see that today, where the world is mainly dominated by the scientist approach, the Believers do not suffer the same fate as the Scientists did many years ago, when the world was dominated by the Believers.
This, I think, should tell us something about those two thought schools.

pj

  • 97.
  • At 02:59 PM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Michael N. Hull wrote:

Re post 93 Scott wrote:
“I don't believe that a loving God would be willing to let men and women suffer eternal torture in hell just so he can truly know we love and believe in him. To quote Einstein, "God does not play dice with the universe." Either God was aware and is responsible for the consequences of giving man free will, or he isn't all knowing, all seeing and all powerful.”

Scott:

Thank you for your response and for the additional questions that you asked. You have of course asked THE classical theological problem for which I have no answer but let me add the following.


You may have followed earlier threads in which you will have noticed that I describe myself as both an agnostic Christian and an agnostic Scientist. What I mean is that in my search for knowledge I take two approaches – a scientific one and a philosophical one. Sometimes I can use both together as I will indicate below.


For example, on the issue of pain I approach it scientifically (medications such as morphine etc) and on the issue of suffering I approach it philosophically (spiritually might be a better word, or metaphorically). You may have seen that in an earlier thread I made a distinction between pain and suffering – we sometimes have pain but don’t suffer, we sometimes suffer but don’t have pain, and sometimes we have both. On the question of pain science is helping us to overcome this but we don’t have all the answers. On the question of suffering philosophy is helping us to overcome this but we don’t have all the answers.


Now to the specific question you raised about ‘God’ and then the question about suffering.


I have no concept in philosophy of what God ‘is’ other than what I can develop through a metaphor. I have no concept in physics of what a Singularity ‘is’ other than what I can develop through a model. That’s the best we can do. So with pain I think through models and with suffering I think through metaphor.


Job offers one metaphorical look at suffering but it basically concludes that ‘it’s there, and that’s that! (In science you will find similar conclusions from models of various theories). There is a great book “Why Bad Things Happen to Some People” but it has not provided a satisfactory answer to me yet. So where does this leave me?


If I go back to science and think in terms of plus infinity and minus infinity I think one might metaphorize suffering as somewhere in between the two infinities of ‘ecstasy’ and ‘agony’. Joy and suffering are two points, different for each one of us, somewhere between these two extremes. i.e. joy and suffering are not ‘either/or’ concepts they are ‘both/and’ concepts. In the physical world I might equate ‘ecstasy’ with ‘light’ and ‘agony’ with ‘darkness’ and I think you can see that I am still talking about the presence of light which can have various levels of intensity. So maybe suffering is just less joy i.e. one is only known as relative to the other. I don’t know but I am somewhere seeking an answer to your question in this thinking.


We come to why “God” would permit one to suffer. Couldn’t “God” have given one joy without suffering? Well could we have ‘light’ without ‘light’?


Then there comes the question of Free Will. My opinion is that we do not have free will in the physical world (the world of pain for example) but we do have free will in the philosophical world (spiritual world – the world of suffering for example). I think one has to accept ‘pain’ (no free will) but one can choose not to accept ‘suffering’. Again, that is not a fact it is just my own personal position in my thinking. But this then brings me to the question of tackling the problem of Free Will from both the scientific and philosophical question. I posted a reference to an article on this subject that was in the NY Times. Here it is again

“Free Will: Now You Have It, Now You Don’t”.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/02/science/02free.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Free will is one of those areas that both model and metaphor may help us to get a handle working from both perspectives. As I understand the article, we scientists are having as much trouble with it as the philosophers i.e. if everything is determined then Saddam Hussein’s crimes were determined and why hang him? (There was a philosopher who held that all things were predetermined and he was beating his slave for some infraction when the slave asked him why in his master’s view was he beating him for things which his master acknowledged he could not be responsible for. The master replied that the slave was indeed predetermined to commit the offence and he, the master, was predetermined to beat him for it. – I forget who the philospher was at the moment.)


I’ll stop at this point and await John’s response to your answer. Hope these thoughts are helpful in your own thinking.


Ever in doubt.

Michael

Scott- The question of suffering and the problem of evil is a timeless theological conundrum. As Michael points out, the question is asked in the bible itself, by Job; an example, in the context of a people exploring the concept of God, of those same people asking the same question that you are today.

There are various forms of the argument that no God exists because of evil or suffering in the world. This is one of the simplest:

----------------------
1. Gratuitous evil exists.

2. Gratuitous evil is incompatible with the existence of a god (omnipotent, omniscient, all-good).

3. Therefore, no god exists.
----------------------

There are various responses, and Michael is right to say that there are problems with all of them. But I've often thought about it thus:

If we were all ants living in an anthill in the backyard of a gardener, we would not be aware of the reasons that certain things happen; for example when the gardener turns on the hose to clean the yard, many of us are washed away. We have many ideas as to why this is, but no empirical evidence, because we're simply not in a position of knowledge. It's information that's on a need-to-know basis, and we don't need to know!

If God exists, then he is in a better position to know whether or not our suffering is worthwhile or not, and necessary for some greater purpose or not. This is not an argument for the existence of God; it is a response to the problem of evil. It seems a tad arrogant to say that if we're not kept updated on exactly why certain things are occuring in our little world, then no supreme being can exist. From our perspective, the worst thing that can happen to us is to die. Perhaps that isn't a bad thing? Basically, the problem of evil is a problem for us, but if there is a higher form of existence (which is what the problem attempts to deny), then there is a higher form of knowledge, and that higher form of knowledge may yield a different perspective.

It's not perfect, but I think it's the best we've got.

  • 99.
  • At 06:28 PM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Scott wrote:

Michael,

In my quest to take responsibility for my own life I've become what many would call a rationalist. While I can see how it can give peace to others, I no longer feel there must be a reason for everything or that something or someone is in control of the universe. Nor do I need to believe that my spirit will live on after I die to feel peace.

In my opinion, an all knowing, all seeing God who created the universe contradicts itself and just doesn't make sense given what we know about the world today. The very existence of God, Satan, Heaven and Hell is an elaborate, convenient myth to explain the "evil" behavior of humanity. To quote an unusual source...

"The world is neither fair nor unfair
The idea is just a way for us to understand
But the world is neither fair nor unfair
So one survives
The others die
And you always want a reason why"

I believe it's in our nature to want an explanation of physical events, such as why people die, but I also believe we can use consciousness to step back and see how we personify death, life and the world in an attempt to make sense of it. In fact, I think it is our responsibility to do so.

However, I see a similarity between our thoughts on pain and suffering. Things happen in the physical word that we can't control. But we are free to control how we react and interpret these events.

As for finding meaning in a life without God, In his book "The Evolving Self", Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes how humanity can - and must - become conscious participants in directing evolution. Through our actions, we can make a better world for ourselves, future generations and humanity as a whole.

Here's a link to an interview with Csikszentmihalyi, which goes into more detail on directing evolution.

http://www.wie.org/j21/csiksz.asp?page=1

  • 100.
  • At 08:03 PM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Gerald Bishop wrote:


Surely, in all the world there has to be a more deserving individual to be Man of the Year. How about someone who has actually done something positive for the world? I know several peple who prepared meals for shutins and very sick people. More that stayed with sick people in the hospital. They will be remembered my those they served long after Mr. Dawkin's book. Just my humble thoughts.

His book doesn't deserve the time that has already been wasted talking about it.

  • 101.
  • At 08:33 PM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • TW wrote:

Annoying though he may be, Richard is certainly a Media Personality of the Year if ever there was one. Nickname him "Scourge of the Insane" or something (although I do like Darwins Rotwiller...)

  • 102.
  • At 09:25 PM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Scott

REF SLAVERY AND THE BIBLE

In post 68 you say the bible condones slavery but this is contrary to the New Testamanet teaching for the church.

Most people do not realise it is totally contradicted by an entire book of the New Testament which is actually dedicated to establishing the church's position on slavery.


Paul wrote a one chapter letter dedicated to the subject in the NT which was distributed around all the churches, the Epistle to Philemon (included below).

It was also published as a stand alone booklet enmasse in the US as part of the campaign to abolish slavery.

In it Paul writes to the owner of a runaway slave appealing to him to accept his slave back on five conditions. He was to be taken back...

1) Not as a servant/slave
2) As more than a servant/slave
3) As a brother in the flesh
4) As a brother in the Lord
5) He was to be treated just the same as if he was the honoured apostle Paul himself.


As there was no other topic in the epistle, it is only one chapter long, it is clear that this was the central theme and teaching which Paul was conveying to the church.

The teaching of Philemon, which was for the church, superceded the Old Testament Law, which was for the state of Israel.

Under the OT law anyone who forced another person into slavery was to be punished by death (Ex21:16, Deut 24:7). Paul also condemns outright those forcing others into slavery in 1 Timothy 1:10.

In fact the slaves in the OT were people who sold themselves into servitude to save themselves from destitution or POWs or those working off debt or theft. Some also sold themselves into servitude because they were happy to have their needs met in this way.
Slaves had numerous legal protections under OT law and had to be freed if abused.
Jewish slaves had to be freed by law in the seventh year and set up in business by their owner or they could decide to stay on with their family, if they were happy there. The foriegn POWs were not freed after seven years though.

Apart from the comment about the US campaign to abolish slavery, this is all right there in the bible, if you want to look it up.

I'm not saying I like or approve of all this but that is a fair representation of what it acutally says. So at least it helps us understand what we are really talking about before we condemn it.

PB

Paul's Epistle to Philemon

1 Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,
2 And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:
3 Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers,
5 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;
6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
7 For we have great joy and consolation in thy love, because the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother.
8 Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient,
9 Yet for love's sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ.
10 I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:
11 Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:
12 Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:
13 Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:
14 But without thy mind would I do nothing; that thy benefit should not be as it were of necessity, but willingly.
15 For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;
16 Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?
17 If thou count me therefore a partner, receive him as myself.
18 If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;
19 I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.
20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.
21 Having confidence in thy obedience I wrote unto thee, knowing that thou wilt also do more than I say.
22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.
23 There salute thee Epaphras, my fellowprisoner in Christ Jesus;
24 Marcus, Aristarchus, Demas, Lucas, my fellowlabourers.
25 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

  • 103.
  • At 09:34 PM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Michael N. Hull wrote:

Scott and John:

Thanks for the replies in posts 98 and 99.

Scott: You have a very well reasoned and well articulated position and of course I have no objection to anything you say.

Everyone has things in common if one looks carefully enough i.e. pain vs suffering in our case. We also agree on evolution and I think it is true to say that John is in the same camp too.

I'll sign off this thread at this point (once the thread gets over about 100 posts the scrolling becomes a nuisance) so I will see you on one of the other (shorter) threads.

BTW: Anyone out there got any comments on the NY Times free will article? I am really interested in hearing some of the physicists comment. If so put out some ideas on one of the newer threads (maybe the new one on Nevin). I have some thoughts on emergent properties that I would like to toss at you and this is one of the discussion topics in the article.

Cordially,
Michael

  • 104.
  • At 10:07 PM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Peter Joe wrote:

As an atheist I cannot argue with Richard Dawkins as "Person of the Year." I don't know if the criteria requires the person to be British but if being British isn't required a more fitting person would have been Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Aside from all that and even though i am ana theist I do not admire Richard Dawkins. His opinions regarding science are certainly well spoken but his opinions of religion are mere opinions. I'm not even sure he has ever stated a reasonable definition of religion except a preconceived one that was designed to further his already decided views.

What atheism doesn't need is a self appointed spokesman who is the equivalent to Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson (which indeed Dawkins is.) What atheism needs is someone who fosters tolerance and understanding; that is, someone who is akin to Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Jr.

PJ

  • 105.
  • At 10:22 PM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • pb wrote:


PJ


ref 104, I am a Christian and sceptical of evolution but I would meet you right there and shake your hand.

A little mutual respect and graciousness is not going to cost anyone anything.

cheers
PB

  • 106.
  • At 11:21 PM on 03 Jan 2007,
  • Scott wrote:

John,

While the question of why evil exists in our physical world is an interesting dilemma, my question was why God created us with free will to accept or reject him, but punishes us eternally in the next world if he doesn't like the choice we make.

By declaring God as an all knowing entity who created everything implies he would be aware of (and is ultimately responsible for) the consequences of his actions. If God deserves the glory for my creation, how is he not responsible for the choice I make as well?

Scott- Good question. I'm not sure that God should be defined as omniscient. Who are we to decide that he is? Perhaps there is an order of being greater than he, and he is the BFG of his world? In short, my position is the opposite of dogmatic on these issues. It comes from a lack of knowledge and an abundance of philosophical thought. I'm also not in the camp of Christians who believe that God will damn us for eternity (or any number of other ways to say the same) if we fail to do certain things. I am, in some measure, a universalist, and in some measure a pluralist.

  • 108.
  • At 01:56 AM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • David (Oxford) wrote:

Ref (80):

Well said, PJ.

  • 109.
  • At 03:48 AM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • Michael N. Hull wrote:

Scott wrote:

"As for finding meaning in a life without God, In his book "The Evolving Self", Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes how humanity can - and must - become conscious participants in directing evolution. Through our actions, we can make a better world for ourselves, future generations and humanity as a whole. Here's a link to an interview with Csikszentmihalyi, which goes into more detail on directing evolution.

http://www.wie.org/j21/csiksz.asp?page=1"


Scott: Interesting article. I guess we know where he fits in the list from WIE that I placed (post 15) in the 'Nevin Defends Truth in Science' blog.

Regards,
Michael

  • 110.
  • At 10:05 AM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • Justin wrote:

The vote was clearly rigged to my mind. 1 vote in 23 for Dawkins then about 18 of the last 20 for Dawkins.
There is evidence a supporter trolled sites for votes and entered multiple votes. He polled almost half the 43 votes. It's not a credible result.

  • 111.
  • At 10:49 AM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • pb wrote:


Justin

Noooooooo......

I just dont cant believe that a *minority* of science honouring evolutionists would rig statistics in this manner in order to politicise their science.

That would go against every standard of truth, objectivity and integrity.

Therefore you must be mistaken.

PB

  • 112.
  • At 11:03 AM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • James Lee wrote:

Justin, calm down! It's only a bit of fun you know. Dawkins got more votes than anyone else - get over it. It was open to any of us to vote multiply by your argument. Just accept it!

  • 113.
  • At 11:11 AM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • Creation Scientist wrote:

Dawkins deserves the recognition. He's been lugging that new book round all around the world, the least you can do is give him a pat on the back. As a Christian, and a convinced creation scientist, I regard this recognition as a good thing because Dawkins has done more than most to call attention to creationism. He's a biggotted anti-religious person, but his comments just encourage more to talk about Christianity. I know people who have come to faith after reading a Dawkins book then talking to a Christian friend. I also know that the ID theorist Bill Dembski wrote to Dawkins THANKING him for his extremism: Bill told him that many are recognising that evolution = atheism as a result of Dawkins' comments. Bill's right. Darwinism and Christianity are impossible to reconcile and Dawkins agrees. What Dawkins doesn't realise is that belief in God is so ingrained in our humanity, because God made us in His likeness, that people will reject Darwin before they will reject God (and their own nature). So, I agree with choosing Dawkins as the man of the year. Well done, Richard. Keep spouting your atheism. One day, I hope you will also choose God over your bogus science and come to a living faith in him. Salvation is a greater prize than any human accolade.

  • 114.
  • At 04:51 PM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • justin wrote:

James Lee, Atheists by their very nature believe they can behave immorally and get away with it, hence they alone have no disincentive to rig polls.
For an atheist to speak of truth and integrity is laughable, those words have no meaning in their selfish world, anything goes for the selfish gene. Never trust an atheist, by their own definition they are not trust worthy.

  • 115.
  • At 06:09 PM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

"-What Dawkins doesn't realise is that belief in God is so ingrained in our humanity, because God made us in His likeness,-"

That's exactly the delusion his book points out and urges people to reconsider. And it's 'your God' that's true not those other 'fake Gods' of the infidels. We should convert or kill those guys right??

Yeah... religion's good for the world and science should be rejected. Good way to destroy civilization that.

Try reading 'Breaking the Spell' a book not by Dawkins that he noted in his own book -not that you'd ever read Dawkins book either.

That book's great at explaining why we inherently want to 'beleive' in assorted 'gods' from so many civilizations throughout history.

We don't need that false belief anymore though.

One of the reasons he wants religion to end is that it leads to things this...

"-I hope you will also choose God over your bogus science-"

Reject science and just trust someone else's imagination from thousands of years ago and brainwash your children to do the same. Please do NOT do this.

Then look at all the different sets of ancient religions and the hate/supremasist/seperatist nature of them and see the horrors of so many wars in the name of assorted Gods.

Then look at all the asounding facts we know about the world through what this guy calls 'bogus science'.
Medicine, electronics, cars, airplanes, tv, space travel, genetics/DNA... a countless list of life improving things based on our 'bogus' scientific knowledge.

  • 116.
  • At 06:40 PM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • Scott wrote:

PM,

While I don't claim to be a scholar, the passage I'm referring to regarding slavery is Exodus 21:20-21

And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.

As mentioned in your previous post, the word 'money' in Exodus 21:21 indicates the servant was bound to his master based on some form of currency, barter or debt. Regardless of how the servant was acquired, this seems to indicate a master can beat his servant, as long as he does not die within 2 days, because he is property.

Exodus 21:32 If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

Again, humans are property and have even been assigned a value of thirty shekels of silver!

Leviticus 25:44-46 As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you. You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property. You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.

This clearly allows men to own other men and women as property. It also indicates that servants that are brethren of the children of Israel should not be treated ruthlessly. However, slaves in conquered lands are omitted from this protection.

How are theses passages not based on cultural and temporal bias? This sort of thinking has been abolished by humanity as barbaric nearly 300 years ago.

Exodus 21:16 And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.

This verse speaks only about how a servant or slave is acquired, and does not abolish men owning other men as property or demand that they should be treated humanly.

Deuteronomy 24:7 If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh merchandise of him, or selleth him; then that thief shall die; and thou shalt put evil away from among you.

Again, this speaks of sale after stolen acquisition and is clearly limited to the children of Israel. As I am not a child of Israel, I guess I'm not protected by this passage?

1 Timothy 9-11: We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

While this indicates that slave traders behave contrary to the gospel of God, it does not indicate which behavior is contradictory. However, it's quite reasonable to assume the reference is to acquiring slaves by stealing since it is clearly prohibited in other parts of the Bible. Again, there is no specific mention of slaves not being property or how they should be treated.

Again, I don't claim to be a scholar, but In Paul's Epistle to Philemon, it appears that Paul is asking Philemon to transfer the debts of his student, Onesimus, to Paul. This includes the additional debt incurred when Onesimus stole from Philemon as his slave. By Paul taking on all of his student's debt, Onesimus would no longer owe anything to Philemon and would no longer be his property.

Is there a particular reason why you left out the fact that Onesimus stole from Philemon?

  • 117.
  • At 10:20 PM on 04 Jan 2007,
  • Dylan Dog wrote:

James Lee, Atheists by their very nature believe they can behave immorally and get away with it, hence they alone have no disincentive to rig polls.
For an atheist to speak of truth and integrity is laughable, those words have no meaning in their selfish world, anything goes for the selfish gene. Never trust an atheist, by their own definition they are not trust worthy.


Had a tremendous laugh at this one!

Whatever rocks your boat!

Ps. could you tell me why creationists who have been caught lying on numerous occasions are such good egs?

  • 118.
  • At 12:22 AM on 05 Jan 2007,
  • pb wrote:


Peter

For you it is a struggle to accept that the church had phased out slavery by the time of the NT. For me it is a struggle to accept that ancient Israel allowed it in the OT. OK.

The book of Philemon nowhere says that the slave stole from his master. Where did you get this from?

1) Yes slave owners could beat their slaves under the OT law but dont get it into your mind that the law was inhumane, it wasnt. It was fair and just throughout and breathes mercy so you have to read this in context. Nowhere are slave owners encouraged to be brutal to slaves.


2) Now I am not an expert but if we understand that slaves were expensive, it would not make sense that an owner would deliberately hurt his own property.
But if you imagine someone who agreed to because another's slave in return for food and lodgings but found skiving, stealing or attacking his master then you can understand why he might be beaten. And if it was a fierce fight and the slave died days later, well, that might put it in context. The owner did not intend to murder his property.

(Imagine a thief doing his community service and slacking and giving his master cheek perhaps?) I'm not pretending this is all easy to take in or swallow, it aint. Im not a scholar either. I can imagine a slacking crook like this having to work off his debt squaring up to his owner and it getting violent. The owner didnt mean to kill him but that is what happened! Not a total answer, but it is very plausible scenario.
Perhaps you can imagine a few lazy criminals today who refuse to work today and yet sponge off your taxes???

2) Yes slaves are property owned by another. For Jews six years for POWs this was not temporary although they could marry out of slavery or be freed if they were abused.
You talk about cultural and temporal bias. How do we today deal with perpetual thieves who break into people's homes, beat the elderly and cause havoc? reckless bankrupts who leave numerous others in spiralling debt? Terrorists? The unemployable?

You assume your cultural and temporal bias is superior but by what standard?

I dont think it takes too much imagination to see that the OT system may have been pretty good for the above categories of people or at least the best solution available.

3) The non-Jewish slaves did have laws protecting them but Jews were to be treated especially well by fellow Jews. All slaves were freed if injured or sexuall abused. All slaves had holidays and a day off a week. Nowhere is there instruction to be harsh or inhuman.

4) Please note that the Old Testament Law is not intended for the church as you will read in Galations and Hebrews. Philemon is the church's position on slavery.

6) Paul says "if" the slave owes his master money, you are in error here and have misread the text when you state he had stolen. Paul does not state that theft happened. So you cant go further and presume Paul was buying the slave's freedom. Otherwise why wouldnt he have done that and kept the slave with him, as he wished to do - verse 13?

7) Why send the slave back to his master and appeal to him not to treat him as a slave any longer but as an honoured and beloved brother?

8) And why write an open letter about it to the whole church unless this was to be a lesson to all?

9) Correct, the greek word in Timothy means menstealers, so this underlines the point I was making; people sold themselves to become the property of another for lifestyle reasons, or because they had to work off debt or theft. THEY WERE NOT PRESSED INTO IT or kidnapped en masse as in some cultures.

11) So to make my point again, all the OT verses above speak for themselves, yours and mine. Although to be fair to the subject, you should read all the passages in totality.

12) The OT ownership of slaves for the state of Israel was superceded by the clear teaching of the book of Philemon. The church's position according to Paul was laid out in his appeal for the treatment of the slave Oneismus.

13) While the bible was shamefully abused by some slave traders (see how easy it is to get it wrong, ref your reading of debt above?) slavery was not tackled despite the church, it was tackled *by* the church. Careful bible students were key in abolishing slavery. As I said, Philemon was published widely in the US campaign against slavery. And the Christian MP William Wilberforce spearheaded its abolition in Britain.

14) Lastly *enforced* slavery by deception or force is still big business today and the fight against it, I can assure you, is once again being led by bible believing Christians.

http://www.stopthetraffik.org/language.aspx

sincerely
PB

PB, post #118,
Why adress #118 to me? Did I ever even mention slavery anywhere?

  • 120.
  • At 05:20 PM on 05 Jan 2007,
  • Scott wrote:

PB,

I don't deny that the OT prohibits forced slavery. My point is that the OT clearly states than man can own other men and women as property and even assigns a monetary value of thirty shekels of silver to their life.

For me, this is obviously an instance of cultural and period bias in the Bible. What other parts of the Bible were influenced by the culture and circumstances of the authors at that time?

01. "...but don't get it into your mind that the law was inhumane, it wasn't. It was fair and just throughout and breathes mercy so you have to read this in context."

You mean the context of a culture and period that approved of servants and owning people as property? If God thought it was wrong, and the Bible truly is the word of God, why didn't he clearly indicated it was wrong? Perhaps God compromised his position due to man's traditions and laws at the time?

02. Men and women kill their wives, husbands and lovers in moments of blind rage or jealousy and regret it. If they die after 2 days, are they excused of their actions by God? Why should servants be any different?

02.5 Our current culture does not permit us to own people as property, nor are we free to physically punish people because they do not follow our instructions, steal from us, etc. All actions of violence or death are limited to self defense or punishment after due process. By cultural bias, I'm referring to the author's culture and time period influencing the contents of the Bible, not asserting that today's culture is without it's own problems and inhumane behavior.

03. Slaves were freed if physically disfigured, such as loosing an eye or a tooth. This is hardly what I would call humane protection. Why did God leave this loophole regarding servants, yet explicitly ban homosexual behavior?

04. So, as long as we have faith in Jesus, we can throw out the OT, including Genesis and the 10 commandments?

06. In his Epistle to Philemon, Paul indicates that Onesimus ran away from Philemon and was no longer of use to him. While it's not explicitly stated in his letter, it is implied that Onesimus 'wronged' Philemon and owes him a debt.

Since runaway slaves often stole from their masters, many sources attribute this debt as stealing property from Philemon. While there are different interpretations on this point, servants were considered property and running away from Philemon was considered an act of theft.

07. Both Paul and Philemon wanted to spread the Gospel. Onesimus, due to his conversion, was now useful to them both.

By Paul returning Onesimus to Philemon, Paul upheld the concept of owning men and women as property. Paul could have simply kept Onesimus for himself - but without Philemon agreeing to the transfer or forgiveness of Onesimus' debt, Paul would have been stealing from Philemon.

08. Since the church met at Philemon's house, there's a good chance it was aware that Onesimus was a runaway slave. Paul informed them of Onesimus' conversion so he would be accepted by the church he would actually be attending. But that's beside the point. The real question is - why didn't Paul come right out and denounce the concept of owning persons as property?

09. Please see my opening remark regarding human life as property, regardless of how it was acquired.

11-14. I fail to see how his is relevant to the lack of clear denouncement of owning human life as property in the Bible.

You don't have to be a Christian to believe that people should not be owned and treated like as property - regardless of how they were acquired - nor have Christians been the only groups fighting for human rights throughout time and in the present day world.

  • 121.
  • At 12:30 AM on 06 Jan 2007,
  • Creationist Apologist wrote:

Here's something to ponder:

"As I thumbed my way through the pages of 'The God Delusion', a question dropped into my head. Does Richard Dawkins really exist?

"Being a scientific and rational person, I decided that I wasn't going to just accept any old theory on this question. If Richard Dawkins exists, then I would need to be shown the proper evidence for it. Others can have their own superstitious beliefs, based on who-knows-what, but I would only be convinced by empirical science. If there is a Dawkins, why hasn't he shown himself to me? ..."

  • 122.
  • At 04:16 AM on 06 Jan 2007,
  • pb wrote:

Scott (sorry Peter I did not mean to drag you into this).

In fact there is a strong body of scholarly opinion, this is edcuation interpretation, along these lines;-

Slavery was not God's idea, it was common throughout the world at that time. The OT laws acknowledged this but regulated it and gave protections to the slaves. This MAY have been analogous to the treatment of women. In NT times they were treated like second class citizens but Christ really shocked his culture by treating them as fully human. But that does not mean Christ would have supported all aspects of modern feminism, not at all.

What I am saying is that God lifted both categories of people up above the culture of their time; not sure we can easily judge God for not meeting our personal standards on these matters though.

You talk about God compromising his standards. This did happen.
God gave in to Israel and allowed them to have a human king like the surrounding nations. God wanted to be their one and only King but Israel insisted and God gave in even though he warned them it would cause them serious problems, which it did.

Yes I dont dispute for a second that people were owned as property. It is somewhat beyond me, but I dont contest this.

If you really want me to explain the intricacies of ancient Israeli jurisprudence I am going to have to bow out. I am not qualified and cant do it. But I can say that time and again I have seen some very strange rules in the OT eventually make clear sense.

Why would you only be allowed to eat with one hand for example and it be forbidden with another? Because the other was for wiping your behind...etc

I think it perfectly sensible that the time and place of the author influenced what was written in the bible. ok. I dont think that proves anything.

But why is freeing a slave if he lost a tooth NOT humane? None of this actually provides a cogent argument to undermine God's reasons for outlawing homosexuality.

It is not as simple as saying as long as we have faith in Jesus we can bin the OT. This is twisting truth to suit an agenda and it is not interpretation.

The Old Testament was the civil and religious law for the state of Israel. The New Testament is the guidance for the "New" Testament or Covenant which replaced the "Old". The New Testament was for all believers around the world regardless of what state or faith background they came from.

While some of the laws were restated in the NT (eg homosexuality), there was never (even in the OT) any command to engage in slavery.

I think you probably realise you are stretching very thinly the unstated remote chance about theft by Onesimus, but let us accept it had been a fair point to test my case, though now failed. In fact it was illegal for slaves to run away and that was the main problem.

Your original contention was that Paul had bought Onesimus's freedom and not that he appealed to Philemon to grant it out of love, nor that this was a lesson for the church at large.

"There's a good chance" that the church met at Philemon's house and that the letter was to ensure the slave was accepted by the church, you suggest. The letter does not in any way warrant these assumptions; if it was such a letter there would have been no lesson for the wider church anyway and it would not have been distributed to them. There would have been no point.
But your assertion that Paul bought the slave's freedom and told the local church to accept him as a freeman after that do not have a shred of evidence from the text, as you must know.

I think if you are honest you have very clearly failed to demonstrate this is the case. It was worth extending the argument to see it it worked, but it didnt.

It appears you would like all the bible to endorse slavery because this would suit your argument that it is not a reliable rule on homosexuality.

The New Testament explicity forbids homosexuality in a number of places but nowhere urges people to keep slaves, on the contrary Philemon urges the church to free them.

In reality the bible does not please either of us 100% on what it says of slavery. Though I suspect my problem is my mainly my imperfect understanding of the OT. Not proven.

Another point worth noting is the NT and revolution; it was hotly against it.
Jesus discouraged his followers from protesting or resisting Rome, but to focus on the gospel. Paul urged believers to submit to the authorities.
The Pharisees tried to trick Jesus into confronting occupying Rome by asking him whether he should pay taxes to it. Jesus said they should pay the taxes; but this was a brutal occupying colonial power!

Lesson? Slave revolts were already common and condemning the laws of slavery directly could have linked the church to political revolution and brought swift retribution.

A better way, perhaps, was to teach that church members should free their own slaves within the church. So the church was to free the slaves within, set an example for others to follow, but not engage in bloody revolution.

Paul also taught that slaves should take any opportunity to become free, but not to feel they could not serve God while still slaves.

If it is relevant, I would contend that Christians have been and are always the prime movers against slavery.

I can tell you as a matter of fact that this is absolutely the case today in Northern Ireland regarding foriegn sex slaves being run by eastern european mafia; Christians are the ones leading the way and pushing for action, from personal experience, I know this is the case.

Wilberforce had a worldwide impact and was THE key mover in Parliament, so please dont minimise the faith angle on this.

PB

PS "Amazing Grace" was a hymn written by a brutal slave trader who became a Christian and changed his ways. He was amazed that God could forgive him.

  • 123.
  • At 04:25 AM on 06 Jan 2007,
  • pb wrote:

nb The two leading people in NI today against people trafficking are (Rev) Rebecca Dudley and Esmond Birnie MLA.

Greg Carlin is another one.

I can assure they are all primarility motivated by their faith and are VERY concerned for the welfare of foriegn trafficked prostitutes in NI.

Just google a bit and you will see for yourself.

PB

PS I did say Christians were "always" the prime movers. Of course I cant assert that, there are always compassionate non-believers who care for others, but I contend that Christians are mainly the ones leading the way on this today.

EG...During the world cup in Germany the Salvation Army and CARE spearheaded a campaign to make sure men who visited the huge official brothels (with trafficked girls from poor countries) knew they were committing rape. I never heard another word of protest about this from any other group.

  • 124.
  • At 01:45 PM on 06 Jan 2007,
  • Anonymous wrote:

Scott (sorry Peter I did not mean to drag you into this).

In fact there is a strong body of scholarly opinion, this is edcuation interpretation, along these lines;-

Slavery was not God's idea, it was common throughout the world at that time. The OT laws acknowledged this but regulated it and gave protections to the slaves. This MAY have been analogous to the treatment of women. In NT times they were treated like second class citizens but Christ really shocked his culture by treating them as fully human. But that does not mean Christ would have supported all aspects of modern feminism, not at all.

You talk about God compromising his standards. This did happen.
God gave in to Israel and allowed them to have a human king like the surrounding nations. God wanted to be their one and only King but Israel insisted and God gave in even though he warned them it would cause them serious problems, which it did.

Yes I dont dispute for a second that people were owned as property. It is somewhat beyond me, but I dont contest this.

If you really want me to explain the intricacies of ancient Israeli jurisprudence I am going to have to bow out. I am not qualified and cant do it. But I can say that time and again I have seen some very strange rules in the OT eventually make clear sense.

Why would you only be allowed to eat with one hand for example and it be forbidden with another? Because the other was for wiping your behind...etc

I think it perfectly sensible that the time and place of the author influenced what was written in the bible. ok. I dont think that proves anything.

But why is freeing a slave if he lost a tooth NOT humane? None of this actually provides a cogent argument to undermine God's reasons for outlawing homosexuality.

It is not as simple as saying as long as we have faith in Jesus we can bin the OT. This is not twisting truth to suit an agenda and it is not interpretation.

The Old Testament was the civil and religious law for the state of Israel. The New Testament is the guidance for the "New" Testament or Covenant which replaced the "Old". The New Testament was for all believers around the world regardless of what state or faith background they came from.

While some of the laws were restated in the NT, there was never (even in the OT) any command to engage in slavery.

I think you probably realise you are stretching very thinly the unstated remote chance about theft by Onesimus, but let us accept it had been a fair point to test my case, though now failed. In fact it was illegal for slaves to run away and that was the main problem.

Your original contention was that Paul had bought Onesimus's freedom and not that he appealed to Philemon to grant it out of love, nor that this was a lesson for the church at large.

"There's a good chance" that the church met at Philemon's house and that the letter was to ensure the slave was accepted by the church, you suggest. The letter does not in any way warrant these assumptions; if it was such a letter there would have been no lesson for the wider church anyway and it would not have been distributed to them. There would have been no point.
But your assertion that Paul bought the slave's freedom and told the local church to accept him as a freeman after that do not have a shred of evidence from the text, as you must know.

I think if you are honest you have very clearly failed to demonstrate this is the case. It was worth extending the argument to see it it worked, but it didnt.

It appears you would like all the bible to endorse slavery because this would suit your argument that it is not a reliable rule on homosexuality.

The New Testament explicity forbids homosexuality in a number of places but nowhere urges people to keep slaves, on the contrary Philemon urges the church to free them.

In reality the bible does not please either of us 100% on what it says of slavery. Though I suspect my problem is my mainly my imperfect understanding of the OT. Not proven.

Another point worth noting is the NT and revolution; it was hotly against it.
Jesus discouraged his followers from protesting or resisting Rome, but to focus on the gospel. Paul urged believers to submit to the authorities.
The Pharisees tried to trick Jesus into confronting occupying Rome by asking him whether he should pay taxes to it. Jesus said they should pay the taxes; but this was a brutal occupying colonial power!

Lesson? Slave revolts were already common and condemning the laws of slavery directly could have linked the church to political revolution and brought swift retribution.

A better way, perhaps, was to teach that church members should free their own slaves within the church. So the church was to free the slaves within, set an example for others to follow, but not engage in bloody revolution.

Paul also taught that slaves should take any opportunity to become free, but not to feel they could not serve God while still slaves.

If it is relevant, I would contend that Christians have been and most usually are the prime movers against slavery.

I can tell you as a matter of fact that this is absolutely the case today in Northern Ireland regarding foriegn sex slaves being run by eastern european mafia; Christians are the ones leading the way and pushing for action, from personal experience, I know this is the case.

Wilberforce had a worldwide impact and was THE key mover in Parliament, so please dont minimise the faith angle on this.

PB

PS "Amazing Grace" was a hymn written by a brutal slave trader who became a Christian and changed his ways. He was amazed that God could forgive him.

  • 125.
  • At 11:49 PM on 06 Jan 2007,
  • Jayesh Sharma wrote:

all the arguments by religionists to support this or that aspect of scrpture seems slightly ridiculous to me. i think its pretty clear to any unbiased observer that all scriptures are a reflection of the views of either the rulers at the time of riting, or the rulers later who believed in the religion (eg romans about new testament) the "good" things are all generalities which are basically common-sense.

the course of history os inexorably rational, & religion evolved as a very rational answr to the questions in ancient times, but they are nowincreasingly being answered by science, & the conflict of religion & science is new (gallileo was only i think 400 years ago, darwin is ultramodern) in another 200 years i believe religion will be as mainstream as voodoo is today (& voodoo was real to a majority of people only several decades ago) all this debate will be looked upon as funny.

  • 126.
  • At 12:28 AM on 07 Jan 2007,
  • Scott wrote:

PB,

Actually, the letter does imply that the church met at Philemon's home.

[1:1] Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy [our] brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,
[1:2] And to [our] beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house:

And Colossians hints that Archippus is the paster of the church.

[4:17] And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.

The message here is that: In love we Christians will forgive those who sin against us as God forgives our sins against him for Jesus' sake.

http://www.christianinconnect.com/philemon.htm

Yes, it's possible to interpret this in a different way, which is my point. Why is this not spelled out clearly in the NT?

"Jesus said they should pay the taxes; but this was a brutal occupying colonial power!"

Paying taxes to a government is not wrong. Governments who use the tax money they collected to do harm and oppress their people *is* wrong. It appears that even Jesus realized this.

There are several truths that I would conceder universal, such as do not kill, do not steal, etc. As you indicated, the Bible even suggests people keep good personal hygiene. Yet one seems to be missing in the Bible, do not own people as property.

On the other hand, the Bible forbids homosexual behavior and non-reproductive sexual acts. At the time, this makes sense since a same sex couples could not conceive and it's estimated that the infant mortally rate was nearly 400 out of every thousand at the time of the Roman Empire.

Just as being forbidden to eat with one hand has been antiquated by modern day medicine and education, is it not possible that the ban on homosexuality is no longer valid due to the dramatic drop in the infant mortality rate in the 20th century?

Again, I'm using homosexuality and servants as an example of how the literal interpretation of the Bible no longer makes sense in today's world. To this day, many fundamentalists still believe contraception is wrong since God killed Onan because he spilled his seed in Genesis 38. Do you?

While I don't believe in God, I think you have the right to do so. All I want is for people to wake up and see how they are passing laws, jugging, abusing and killing each other based on blind literal interpretations of religious texts written thousands of years ago - written by human hands.

  • 127.
  • At 08:09 AM on 07 Jan 2007,
  • pb wrote:


Scott

Good to hear from you again.

sorry for being unclear. yes the letter clearly states a church met in Philemons home but that does not prove your point.

You suggest that in the letter that Paul was buying Onesimus' freedom and asking the church to accept him as a member.

IN actual fact I would contend there is not even a hint of both these points in the letter (post 102). I'm not going to debate this point much longer because the text is plain and people can make up their own minds.

Paul does not say anthing like: "Philemon, please let me pay for Onesimus's freedom"

or

"Please have the church in your house accept him as a brother."

It was a given that slavery was not a bar to church membership. Christ dealt with slaves in his ministry with no problems and there was never a suggestion either in OT or NT that slaves could not fully partake in faith communities, on the contrary. In the OT they were involved in all the religiou feasts and holidays as everyone else, by law.

Gal 3:28:
"There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus."

The commentary you link to says Paul does not "command" Philemon to free his slave. But he does appeal to him to do it. See my five points in post 102 again and then read the letter itself below that.

You are suggesting the message is that Christians are to forgive one another but you give no rational explanation for rejecting the plain reading of the text; a verse taken out of context is a pretext.

Paying taxes to a govt is not wrong but that does not contradict my point.
When you lay it alongside the other points I raised it is very clear the NT is opposed to political revolution. The book of acts recorded that the church "turned the world upside down" but that was spiritual revolution, there were no coup d'etats.

Yes neither of us are comfortable that the bible does not outlaw owning one another, but it does urge the church not to do it.

As I said, neither of us are 100% comfortable with this, but it does undermine your original point and a very common misconception; that the bible condones slavery so how can it be a reliable guide on homosexuality?

The bible has stood as the most effective cultural and legal foundation for the most advanced societies that exist today. That is not a coincidence and in my view if you cut off the root the bough will wither.

If you like democracy you must fully support people having the freedom to base their legislative preferences on whatever they like. Likewise such people must respect your view that this is rubbish.

By the way, another common misconception is about Onan. He was not killed because he spilled his sperm on the ground, God killed him because he rebelled against God and refused to fulfill his statutory duty to his deceased brother and raise up children in his brorther's name by his widow. There were inheritance issues at stake in Onan's eyes.

The passage actually has nothing to do with contraception.

I am not going to get into the debate on homosexuality as it is well rehearsed.


Yes alot of OT laws are redundant in your society by technology, but a lot of them are still very relevant in the rest of the more primative world.

I would argue that the points explicitly highlighted in the new testament are the ones that God considers important for the church today. The others in the OT can be studied and give valuable moral and yes scientific insight.

But you need to understand the Mosiac law is not binding on the church. Skim thrugh Galations (and if you have time Romans and Hebrews) and you will see.

If you are against blind literal interpretations of the bible I would suggest you could support that argument better by not ignoring the plain reading of scripture with no reasonable arugment.

I sympathise with people being "abused" with scripture. I know gay people rarely experience God's unconditional love through Christians.

But that is not a good enough reason in my mind to deliberately misread the bible on slavery.

PB

  • 128.
  • At 11:55 PM on 07 Jan 2007,
  • Scott wrote:

PB,

"You are suggesting the message is that Christians are to forgive one another but you give no rational explanation for rejecting the plain reading of the text; a verse taken out of context is a pretext."

A search on Google regarding Paul's letter to Philemon will find several interpretations, many of which is that the letter's intention was clearly about forgiveness, not denouncing owning people as property. Some even observe how Paul *does not* use his letter as a vehicle for opposing slavery. Are these Christian's taking the plain reading of the text out of context?

http://www.joyfulministry.com/philemon.htm

This is just one of many examples...

Other interpretations state that Paul's letter does undermine slavery, as you suggest. It seems that this is not such as obvious interpretation, after all.

I'm not saying that the Bible condones slavery, I'm saying that the Bible clearly calls homosexuality a sin, but beats around the bush when it comes to owing people as property. Paul could have easily made this point without suggesting Christians run around breaking the law by freeing Roman slaves.

"Yes alot of OT laws are redundant in your society by technology, but a lot of them are still very relevant in the rest of the more primative world."

So who or what defines this relevancy for us today - common sense? As with Onan and Paul's letter to Philemon, people pick and choose what they want to believe in the Bible. Only in the last year has The Catholic Church even hinted a lift their ban on contraceptives. Other than the fact that same sex couples can't produce children, which is no longer critical (and possibly beneficial) to the survival of the human race, what is the common sense behind banning homosexuality?

And if not common sense is not our guide, then how do we separate cultural and period bias from God's will?

"If you are against blind literal interpretations of the bible I would suggest you could support that argument better by not ignoring the plain reading of scripture with no reasonable arugment."

Again, it's not that I dont' think you have the right to believe in God and Jesus, I'm pointing out there is no "plain reading of scripture", as I have clearly demonstrated above, and question why it should be the basis of morality and religious conflicts.

"If you like democracy you must fully support people having the freedom to base their legislative preferences on whatever they like. Likewise such people must respect your view that this is rubbish."

To some extent, I agree. However, many governments are founded in the separation of church and state. Just because Christian officials are elected to office, doesn't give them the power to change the very foundation of government during their term.

In addition, Christian's are commanded to spread the gospel, where as non-theists don't feel the need to impose their moral beliefs on others. I think that Dawkins' high-visibility and aggressive stance will help galvanize non-theists, such as myself, together into a vocal group that can cause political change.

  • 129.
  • At 01:42 PM on 08 Jan 2007,
  • pb wrote:

Scott

good to hear from you again.

I agree that Christian officials should not abuse the democratic process in their favour - not saying I have ever seen it done though.

I think it is very naive to suggest that atheists are not seeking to impose their views on others.

Look at the re-interpretation of US law that had religion banned from public property. Let's be honest there is a culture war between Christians and secularists to see who can control legislation. They are mirror images of each other, so you cant say atheists arent "ramming values" down the throats of others too. Any pro-secular legislation does it.

Lastly, and this is very important.

It is just rubbish to pull up what someone said on the internet and say it justifies your numerous arguments abouts Philemon and slavery.

Anyone can post on the internet regardless of their expertise or integrity.

And for me this appears to be your last desperate attempt to salvage your argument.

It is significant that you have resorted to this tactic after I have visibly demonstrated for all to see how your reading of the text simply does not stand up at all.

I will not debate this point with you, it is enough for me that our exchanges are on public record above for others to draw their own conclusions from.

If the authorities you refer to have such insight, though, then do feel free to summarise them here and see what credence they have.

OT health and sanitary laws for example may be very important for societies without soap and proper sewage systems, for example.

If it is not restated in the NT it is not binding on the church (see Galations).

I think you are unjustifiably minimising the dangers in Roman Palestine of coming out publicly and denouncing the Roman Empire's law and practise of slavery. I think that would have been suicide and there are other examples in the NT where the empire was referred to in veiled language eg "Babylon" because of the dangers. Amnesty Internation was not around to put brakes on Rome's treatment of street protestors.

The examples I have already referred to show from several NT sources that political revolution was contrary to God's will.

You have played a good game as a devil's advocate, but the game is up.

The real issue here is not slavery or hompsexuality, the real issue is that you are from a post-Christian (neo-pagan) worldview where the bible is no longer respected as the divine authority. That is your ouvert agenda.

You have clearly no interest in any circumstances in taking biblical guidance to heart, you have your own beliefs and agenda. Therefore any tactic will be used to dismiss what the bible plainly says.

To prove me wrong you would have to show where in your life you ever chose biblical guidance when it came into conflict with your own personal views.

No harm in that, free country etc, just means we all know where we stand.

Not a personal attack by the way, that is the way things in general are now.

Thanks for the chat
PB

  • 130.
  • At 05:40 AM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • Scott wrote:

"Look at the re-interpretation of US law that had religion banned from public property. "

Public property is paid for everyone's tax dollars. You're free to donate your money to any church you like, but I object to having my tax dollars spent supporting any religion, including the philosophy of Zen Buddhism (which is about as close as I get to religion) I believe that children in public schools should be taught the basic beliefs of all religions, from a sociological perspective, without giving favored status to any of them.

"It is just rubbish to pull up what someone said on the internet and say it justifies your numerous arguments abouts Philemon and slavery."

Yet it's Ok to use Google to justify your position?

"I can assure they are all primarility motivated by their faith and are VERY concerned for the welfare of foriegn trafficked prostitutes in NI. Just google a bit and you will see for yourself."

The link I provided was one of many Christian sources that interpreted Paul's letter as one of forgiveness, not to undermine slavery. I can post them all if you like.

"The real issue here is not slavery or hompsexuality, the real issue is that you are from a post-Christian (neo-pagan) worldview where the bible is no longer respected as the divine authority. That is your ouvert agenda."

My world-view is that one's core beliefs, be it cultural, political or religious can be heavily biased by on one's place of birth, culture, social status and genetic instructions handed down by their ancestors - many of which are outdated and even downright harmful to humanity as a whole.

Had I been born in a Muslim country, I would have been raised to believe that Islam, not Christianity, was the "true" way. Children born just miles apart on opposite sides of the Israeli - Palestinian border are raised to believe that *they* are the true, favored children of Abraham.

I believe that we, as a species, have the capacity and responsibility to use consciousness to reflect on our beliefs, culture, religions, etc. If you've truly looked at the Bible in this light and still believe it's the literal divine authority, than this has been a very worthwhile dialog. However, after my own reflection, I can no longer honestly say that I believe the Bible is literally the world of God.

  • 131.
  • At 11:17 PM on 09 Jan 2007,
  • pb wrote:

Scott

Peace. Sorry, I think I may have been too harsh with you.

I dont think I have anything more to give at my current stage of understanding.

Thanks for the debate, useful "workout"

sincerely
PB

  • 132.
  • At 05:54 AM on 13 Jan 2007,
  • pb wrote:

isnt Dawkins' dress sense just so.....

  • 133.
  • At 10:20 PM on 13 Jan 2007,
  • pb wrote:

There is a VERY interesting discussion about this award going on at;-


http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2007/01/the_thermodynamics_of_andy_mci.html

A theist's take on this (a parable - "Does Richard Dawkins exist?"):

http://david.dw-perspective.org.uk/does-richard-dawkins-exist.html

(Presently 28th if you Google "Dawkins").

David

  • 135.
  • At 04:48 PM on 22 Mar 2007,
  • Wolf wrote:

I just have to laugh at post #8's use of the word "art" in the 15th Century King James Bible sense. When people think that words have more power or "righteousness" when you say them in a style 400 years old--THAT is brainwashing!

  • 136.
  • At 07:59 PM on 16 Apr 2007,
  • Lewis Gordon wrote:

Wonderful choice! A closed-minded man so full of prejudices and hostility that he will be easily recognizable to fundamentalists of all stripes. If this is the best spokesman that atheism can deliver, then religion need not feel threatened. Though I must admit, it must be wonderful to possess such absolute certainty . . .

  • 137.
  • At 12:00 AM on 19 Apr 2007,
  • Mexxuc wrote:

test

  • 138.
  • At 05:06 PM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Caroline B wrote:

Channel 4's traditional counterpoint to the Queen's Christmas Day 3pm broadcast has presented us with celebrities such as Quentin Crisp, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Doreen and Neville Lawrence, Ali G, Sharon Osbourne and The Simpsons. Now is the time for the Atheists, Scientists and Secular Humanists to have their say and to let this be the first truly alternative Christmas message. One that is thought provoking, enlightening, entertaining and conscious raising. A true alternative!

Richard Dawkins For An Alternative Christmas Message

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