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Does religion make you fat?

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William Crawley | 09:49 UK time, Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Is it the summer barbecues on the church lawn? Or the pizza nights at the youth club? Perhaps it's simply a consequence of sedentary activities such as Bible-reading? Or maybe it's that over-eating is an acceptable "vice" within religious circles?

Whatever the reason, a major new study concludes that "young adults who frequently attend religious activities are 50 percent more likely to become obese by middle age as young adults with no religious involvement." The research carried out by Northwestern University's medical school tracked 2,433 men and women for 18 years and adjusted for differences in age, race, sex, education, income and baseline body mass index -- which makes this the first longitudinal study to examine the relationship between obesity and religious involvement.

Let's be clear. The study does not suggest that religious belief leads to obesity. Instead, it raises questions about the kinds of physical activities young people in churches typically engage in and recommends that church leaders carefully reflect on how to encourage young people to establish healthier patterns of behaviour. Matthew Feinstein, the study's lead investigator, says: "It's possible that getting together once a week and associating good works and happiness with eating unhealthy foods could lead to the development of habits that are associated with greater body weight and obesity."

It may be that this study applies particularly to American churches; no similar study has been carried out in Britain and Ireland. In which case, one needs to factor in the backdrop of a massive obesity crisis within American society generally and ask to what extent America's churches have played a role in generating that crisis.

Read the official press release from Northwestern University.


  • Comment number 1.

    Not according to Conservapedia!

    Seriously, they have an 'article' on how atheism is linked to obesity.

    I'd link it, but for some reason can't access the site (I suspect it's either down or they're blocking me because they have a habit of blocking wide ranges of IP addresses for perceived vandalisms (ie, whole countries).

    Having said all that, I think with regards the USA, they could link obesity to anything.

  • Comment number 2.

    A good reminder for Lent.(Fasting.)

  • Comment number 3.

    Natman, "Conservapedia" isn't exactly a scientific journal, and their interpretation of some Gallup polling has been widely challenged.

  • Comment number 4.


    I think all their interpretations, including that of reality, needs challenged.

    Don't for one second believe I consider it a valid source of information ;-)

  • Comment number 5.

    Many of the people who attend the church close to me are elderly and walk from their cars to the church with the help of walking sticks. They do not participate in sporting activities.

    Many years ago the BBC screened a children's programme called "Why Don't You" (Why don't you stop watching TV and go and do something less boring instead) that sought to get children away from the TV and to have them doing interesting things. Perhaps, for the sake of their health, young regular churchgoers should be encouraged in a similar way to become more active?

    If churchgoers are rapidly becoming like the person in the photo it will not be too long before the pews are again full!


  • Comment number 6.

    I dont see too many Bishops who look as if they have missed many dinners.

  • Comment number 7.

    The religious in the US are particularly prone to be salad dodgers, eh?

    Religion and food are very closely associated with one another, if you think about it. Most Christian and Jewish festivals involve consuming vast quantities of food and wine (optional).

    Think of it: Easter, Passover, Christmas, Thanksgiving... all marked by huge consumption of largely unhealthy foods. What about weddings and funerals? You can't leave a wake until you've demolished a plate of sandwiches and a slice of cake at least.

    Religious events are often followed by a 'high tea' of sweet buns, and yet more biscuits and cakes. You hardly ever see a salad bowl at those sort of things, and it would probably be ignored anyway.

    Perhaps a straw poll of our own is in order here? Why not post our own BMIs and we'll see who the fatties are among this blog's readership, the faithful or the heathen.

    I'm not religious and my BMI is 27.1, which is overweight but not obese.

    (Calculate BMI here:https://www.bbc.co.uk/health/tools/bmi_calculator/bmi.shtml%29

    No cheating!

  • Comment number 8.

    21.1. Porridge every morning, at least an hour's walk - usually two - daily with the dug, seems to be working ok, despite the over indulgence in booze and fegs.

    Last night before getting slaughtered I cooked the best fish I've ever done. Great big 900g sea bass basked in 2kg course sea salt with rosemary, thyme, lemon zest and served up with a nicoise. I know the salt content sounds horrific but you mix a little whipped egg white through it to dampen it and it sort of sets hard around the fish and seals it in the very high oven. You crack it all off and disgard at the end and youre left with fish fit for the gods. Ahem. Divine!

    I'm off for my constitutional.

  • Comment number 9.

    AboutFace wrote,

    Sounds like you're outside the 'obese' range too. That's two godless posters, neither of whom are obese. Landslide.

    There must be something to this.

  • Comment number 10.

    "Only if you believe in the naturalistic philosophy of bllleuggghhh blubb blether..."

    And the sea bass was baked the the salt was coarse, of course... :)

  • Comment number 11.


    The WBC are scrawny, maybe screeching at the unbelievers makes you thin, or maybe making lots of money in your church makes you thin, or maybe it just covers all sorts of sins

  • Comment number 12.

    I think things must be getting a bit desperate in the nullifidian camp, if they are now having to resort to the 'argumentum ex obesitate'.

    Is this the final death rattle, I wonder?

  • Comment number 13.

    "bllleuggghhh blubb blether...
    the sea bass was baked the the salt was coarse, of course... :)"

    Nice to see you've held on to your faculties lol

  • Comment number 14.

    Maybe atheists are really lizard people, planted many moons ago by evil aliens, and naturally slender. Peel the skin off an atheist and find yourself a serpent. And we all know what they're like don't we, cussed to crawl on their bellies and eat dust forever by the very Lord himself.

    Except, umm, they crawled on their bellies anyway. Unless the one in the garden had legs or something. The artists never show him that way. I suppose, if the one in the garden could talk, why not have him walk too. Such joyful mysteries!

    But what if - and I know this takes a stretch of the imagination, but if we can believe the Bible we must be capable of some stretching, even if we signally fail to do so in almost every other area - what if the lizard people atheists are really friends of humanity, trying desperately to lead us from the error we've been led into by the established religions.

    Hey! Maybe they're working at the behest of the Great Deceiver! That would add up!

    I'm sure there's a prophecy in the Bible about something like that somewhere. I'll go and have a look. Hey, maybe there's something to this Bible stuff. Is this the same as L. Ron Hubbard or do I have something new here? I gotta tell ya, I could sure do with looking into this. Even if it's a bit, you know, unlikely, I could sure do with the insurance policy of a bit of legal fraud. Even if the money doesn't start rolling in till I'm old. I think I can muddle through till then, and leave a letter stating that it was all nonsense, and donate all my earnings to a *good* cause.

    How dastardly! Ohhh it's delicious. I'll set to work right now.



    Actually, I think I'll just pour myself a drink first. That should get the juices flowing.

  • Comment number 15.

    AboutFace -

    "I think I'll just pour myself a drink first"

    Don't you mean: "I think I'll just pour myself ANOTHER drink first"?

    It looks like you need to get between the sheets m'lad, and sleep it off. Certainly your last post will look just a tad embarrassing once you've sobered up.

  • Comment number 16.

    Well I just read it again and I still think I'm onto something. Are you aquainted with the work of L. Ron Hubbard? I'd hate to plagiarise in the Mosaic tradition. Well maybe I could plagiarise as well as defraud. If I am to be a new prophet, I need to have an historic line I can draw on. Slap my thigh! Plagiarism and fraud it is. And riches! Riches beyond my wildest! I will personally teach my toga-clad ephebes how to cook my fish. We'll travel together in the lizard jet to the Maldon Sea and they will dry it for me by hand. I'll feed 40,000 with a loaf! No, no. No. That's been done. I'll just feed some people and then put the word out that I fed 40,000? Or was it 5,000?

    Oh darn it LSV! You've done whooped me. I'll get back to the drawing board on the party. But it'll be good.


    I know! It's all become clear! Aren't there some tribes in the Amazon or somewhere that are still living unsullied by any outsiders? I'll go and teach the Savages my way! That always worked before!

    Logica! I'll make you a saint! No, an angel! You can be the one that falls. Then we'll have someone to blame when the cake doesn't rise. And kill any inconvenient people because they are obviously under your evil influence. Get over it man! We all want to be happy!

  • Comment number 17.

    I've just found this topical entry from the sage folks over at Religious Forums ("I came across it by accident").

    This is just brilliant stuff! The thread is called "Fat Fetishism: Worse than Homosexuality?"


    Well it gave me a good belly laugh from top to (supersize) bottom. And at the bottom, there's a link to another thread: "Necrophilia: Worse than Homosexuality?"

    I'll look at that one another time.

  • Comment number 18.

  • Comment number 19.

    It must be much more than religion that makes a person fat.

    "Approximately a quarter of adults in the UK are thought to be clinically obese, which means they have a Body Mass Index greater than 30."


    Unless obese people are weighed at supermarket checkouts and prevented from buying many products that are high in fat I do not see how the problem can be solved.

  • Comment number 20.

    Joking aside and on-topic, has it been intentionally missed that obesity is the new scourge of the poor in the West? There's your encompassing correlate. Low income, socially disadvantaged, uneducated people are more likely to be both religious and obese.

    This is particularly true of American society, where 34% of adults over 20 are obese https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/overwt.htm and the same trend is exhibiting in the UK, which can't seem to help but trip along adopting the worst detritus of American culture available to it. "Special relationship" etc.

    That figure coincidentally corresponds exactly to the proportion of evangelicals in the US whose income is less than $30,000. https://religions.pewforum.org/portraits

    The match in the figures is chance, obviously. But hardline religious belief flourishes in low income, socially disadvantaged, poorly educated areas - the same ones where people used to suffer malnourishment, but these days are more likely to be overweight due to an abundance of low quality, cheap, junk food.

    William writes, helpfully, that we should be clear that belief doesn't make you fat. If you were to become a monk and sit in a mountain cave without food you won't put on any weight because of the strength of belief you arrive at when your starved body and compassionate brain start giving you hallucinations to alleviate the stress you're putting yourself under by your asceticism. Then you're more likely to become skinny.

    But, there is evidence to suggest that adopting belief as a coping mechanism under severe stress is a double-edged sword because while it gives you relief, by its nature it's also more likely to make you indolent with regard to proactively changing your situation. So if you're poor, have a bad diet, and you believe, it's not your believing that's making you fat directly, but it's probably contributing heavily to your staying that way.

  • Comment number 21.

    Fat BBC man, Stephen Nolan, has made a programme to be broadcast this Monday on the subject of obesity.

    He observed the autopsy of an obese person and learned that fat is yellow - a bit like custard. He also visited Huntington, West Virginia, and spoke to a doctor who works in an area where 43 per cent of 10-year-olds are obese. If things do not change dramatically in Northern Ireland the obesity crisis here could mirror that in the United States.


  • Comment number 22.

    I always thought TV watching & weight had a strong link. A sedentry, passive activity and lots of adverts enticing you to eat things.Then you have popular programmes where you have a lovable, but flawed character, like Homer in the Simpsons. Those kinda characters seem to have a lineage as far as my childhood is concerned. Fred Flintstone,Garfield, ALF, Homer,Peter in Family Guy- all quite similar and all quite fat :p

  • Comment number 23.

    Do you think watching TV makes you fat? Hmmm... Today, I've been revelling in being slim. I had eggs benedict for breakfast in bed, but with Parma ham, not bacon. Even better, it was made by someone else. Early morning walk in the woods took care of that. Back home and back to bed. Lunch (also made by someone else): moulles marinere. I am "evil". I can feel it in my bones. Dinner (yet to come, when I get my finger out): roast belly of pork. On the oven rack with the spuds underneath. Devilish. And not a hint of overhang. Or hangover. I must be one of the lizard people. Satan loves me.

  • Comment number 24.

    good girl x

  • Comment number 25.

    But, there is evidence to suggest that adopting belief as a coping mechanism under severe stress is a double-edged sword because while it gives you relief, by its nature it's also more likely to make you indolent with regard to proactively changing your situation.

    I'd like to check out that evidence if you could point me to it. Does it distinguish between adopting belief as a coping mechanism and other reasons for adopting belief?

  • Comment number 26.

    I think it's interesting you were only person to respond to Paulr's comment in this weeks top stories. The excerpt you copy & pasted is rather telling ;)

  • Comment number 27.

    As long as you're on & commenting About Face I'll be here for ya xxx :) Helping you

  • Comment number 28.

    Big strong masculine About Face beating his chest and marking his territory- a religious blog lolll You're so butch and manly it's great ;)

  • Comment number 29.

    It's interesting you said you're slim, because no offence i thought you'd look like jabba the hutt and have about 20 cats

  • Comment number 30.

    Have HTML tags been removed?

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    Oh let it through Mod. What kind of Mod are you anyway?

  • Comment number 33.

    Why has no God-botherer yet mentioned their BMI?

    Very suspicious.

    AboutFace and I have acknowledged that we are both relatively svelte, if not exactly Olympic athletes. We both have BMI expected of the godless in this study.

    None of the faithful has yet come clean about their height to weight ratio: is it because you *know* that it will only show that what the study says is true?

    Must be.

  • Comment number 34.

    I don't think the religious have a history of being fat do they? It's certainly not 2 concepts I'd married together. Btw, I'm between a 30- 32" waist, abs- but not quite a 6pack unfortunately :s

  • Comment number 35.


    I'm no God-botherer, but I'm on the right side of the index. This surprised me a little because I know that people who are athletic and muscular can be classified as fat when they are not.

  • Comment number 36.


    "Why has no God-botherer yet mentioned their BMI?"

    I'm waiting until I grow in faith before I do. I clearly don't have enough faith at the moment, in fact I've been loosing a bit of weight, do you think this means I'll be an atheist before Christmas?

  • Comment number 37.


    I wonder what sort of person this is? Someone who *bothers* God?

    I presume it must refer to someone who is in rebellion against God. It certainly doesn't describe anyone who is not.

    Or perhaps it refers to modern day 'prophets of Baal', since that is the only reference I can find in the Bible concerning 'god-botherers'? :

    'And so it was at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, "Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened."' 1 Kings 18:27

    In other words, Elijah was urging the prophets of Baal to be 'god-botherers' and wake up their sleepy or busy god and 'bother' him!

    So... are there any prophets of Baal on W&T who would like to give us their BMI? C'mon you 'god-botherers', let's find out how fat you all are.

    Don't all shout at once...

  • Comment number 38.

    Still waiting on my post to appear :(

  • Comment number 39.

    LSV (37)

    There are many varieties of God-botherer.

    At the lower end of the scale there are those irritants who with sandwich boards proclaim the end of the world and who get in your way. There are also those who come in pairs to your door and do their best to give indigestion to those who answer their knock. I would also include church bell-ringers who contribute to noise pollution, but they aren't a patch on the howls of muezzins. Also, there are those who look like they abuse happy pills and who shove tracts on you while you are going about your own business.

    Finally, I could not omit those who preach in public and through the media. The ones who bang on and on about homosexuality are obviously at the upper end.

  • Comment number 40.


    Is that the same Elijah who got god to maul some kids with bears because they called him bald? Or was that Elisha? I forget which drug-tripping OT prophet is which.

    Still, good to see god doing his 'loving' thing.

    I wouldn't call them 'god-botherers', more 'people-botherers'.

  • Comment number 41.

    Newlach # 35

    BMI is a rather crude measurement. The BMI of many fit muscular people will be higher than average because their mass has a greater muscle to fat ratio in its composition than that of less active people. Body fat percentage is a better gauge for health than BMI.

    I suspect different people may place me on different sides of the atheist/non-atheist divide but this self-confessed Christian is blessed with a very acceptable body fat percentage.

  • Comment number 42.


    I’ve felt moved to cobble together a little manifesto, mostly in response to badgering by one of the barmier contributors to this blog, who seems to think all I harbour is blind hatred of religion and the religious. What follows is by no means exhaustive, but a flavour of the reasons for my hostility to religion, with reference to recent studies to back up my main bone of contention with it - that being that it is harmful.

    It’s also the first time I’ve contributed anything to this board that I’ve proofread. It’ll probably be the last for some time to come.

    I wasn’t sure where to put it but here seems good enough. Andrew - I said I’d get back to you about religion making you fat. That was conjecture, but considering the following, I think it’s fair.

    It is the oft-sung lament of the religious that we would be in a very bad state altogether if it weren't for religion in our lives. It springs - I am convinced - in part from the wholly odious idea of original sin which is bound to sew distrust among people, inclined to look upward for the source of goodness instead of into the eye of human benefactors, and partly from the more immediate tyranny religion inflicts, which is to say that if one leaves this flock or that, if one “abandons God”, then one is bound for hell.

    Given that even St Paul agrees it is ethical - something of a moral duty - to take into account and appreciate the fruits of reason: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things” - then the fact that the mainstream of religion has become so insuperably addled with the folly of the lowest common denominator of humanity in the past two centuries is alone reason enough to hate it.

    But by every standard, secularisation brings with it correlative goods in things like education, health, infant mortality and life expectancy.

  • Comment number 43.


    The following is from a meta analysis of studies of between 55 and 67 different countries.

    (Find it here: https://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2009/2009-17.html )


    [38] This analysis shows that, across a broad multinational panel, those countries with shorter life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher violent crime, more corruption, higher abortion rates, and less peace also tend to have higher average levels of personal religiosity, as measured by the frequency of prayer. Furthermore, these indicators of personal insecurity also correlate with income inequality, allowing inequality to serve as a widely available proxy for personal insecurity as it pertains to religiosity. Using this proxy, personal insecurity is shown to be at least as important in the determination of national average religiosity as the factors that are conventionally considered important, such as wealth, urbanization, and governmental regulation of religion (and indeed personal insecurity appears to be the most important determinant)."

    Not only does this suggest that there is a solid basis for what is often taken as a slight - the idea of religion-as-security blanket - it also seems to suggest that if you’re a believer, the more people, under extreme stress, who feel the need to pray and actually do it, the less God listens. He seems to prefer the less craven people who aren't bugging him the whole time. In fact, a study by the Templeton Foundation found prayer actually had a detrimental effect on sick people. https://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html

    If he’s there, and he can do everything, he isn’t all good, because plainly, he doesn’t want to know. The Princess and the Pea. Or he loves us and hates us at the same time. But I suppose, he can do everything. Except make a triangle a square. Does this equate to love and hate? Or are love and hate human matters?

    The above also sheds light on the anomalous situation in the US - easily the wealthiest and most outwardly religious of the developed countries. Income inequality increases personal insecurity. Income inequality is more pronounced in the US than in any other developed country. The interplay between conservative religiosity and income inequality in the US is interesting.

    For instance, this study has found the same pattern as the above, but also that religiosity actually makes it harder for the down-at-heel to eke out better lives.

  • Comment number 44.


    (Find it here - link to original pdf at this page: https://richarddawkins.net/articles/4720 )

    “…conservative religious ideology apparently contributes to societal dysfunction, and religious prosociality and charity are less effective at improving societal conditions than are secular government programs. The antagonistic relationship between better socioeconomic conditions and intense popular faith may prevent the existence of nations that combine the two factors. The nonuniversality of strong religious devotion, and the ease with large populations abandon serious theism when conditions are sufficiently benign, refute hypotheses that religious belief and practice are the normal, deeply set human mental state, whether they are superficial or natural in nature. Instead popular religion is usually a superficial and flexible psychological mechanism for coping with the high levels of stress and anxiety produced by sufficiently dysfunctional social and especially economic environments."

    How might conservative religiosity contribute to societal dysfunction? Well, it is also often said that religion is divisive.

    Hey presto, the study "Why Don't We Practice What We Preach?" suggests that conservative religiosity increases racism, for example.

    (Abstract here: https://psr.sagepub.com/content/early/2009/12/16/1088868309352179.abstract )

    "In addition, religious racism is tied to basic life values of social conformity and respect for tradition. In support, individuals who were religious for reasons of conformity and tradition expressed racism that declined in recent years with the decreased societal acceptance of overt racial discrimination. The authors failed to find that racial tolerance arises from humanitarian values, consistent with the idea that religious humanitarianism is largely expressed to in-group members. Only religious agnostics were racially tolerant."

    Hmm. Why was it that young, uneducated Protestants from the Village were the ones who drove the Romani out of Northern Ireland? I personally helped them hold a door that was being kicked in on Belgravia Avenue shut when those teenage boys, full of God and Ulster, were trying to kick it in. Does anyone remember the picture of the 4-year-old girl peering out through the broken pane on the first floor? Well it was that day.

    It hardly seems necessary, but I'm going to drive another nail in this coffin. Racism is one thing - and undoubtedly harmful. It would be hard to argue that increased racism makes for better functioning societies.

    But tolerance of other kinds are deficient among the religious too. Homophobia springs to mind

  • Comment number 45.


    Research for the Department for Children, Schools and Families in the UK ( dcsf.gov.uk School Report, Stonewall) shows that in faith schools, gay pupils are more than twice as likely to experience homophobic bullying, and teachers are less than half as likely to report it as a problem compared with other schools. That research covered England and Wales. Young gay people here have it much, much, worse. There are also striking figures to be found on suicide among gay youth, but because young people are still largely given to understand that homosexuality is indecent (where does that come from?) it is difficult to ascertain quite how much impact the cultural bias is having on desperate young people taught to hate themselves.

    So it would seem that, as societies in difficulty increase in religiosity, religious observance makes it less likely that their members will be able to pull themselves out of the doldrums. Is now a good time to point to Northern Ireland as a suicide capital in the West?

    What is undeniable is that religious people tend to fair better in scales which measure "happiness". But in light of the above, this begins to look like religion at the individual level, as I suspect, is rather more a self-serving drug, a security blanket, a coping mechanism. On the macro level, it keeps people down. What is strongly suggested by each of these studies is that religion quickly institutes a downward spiral of negative circumstances which it simultaneously feeds off and feeds into, all the while making the worsening situation that it is helping to foster and perpetuate easier for the individuals suffering from it to cope with it. It is the illness that prescribes itself as its cure. Bring on Mother Teresa.

    I could have cited much, much, much more here. You don't have to look hard to see the damage that religion does. But what must be asked then is why exactly it gets such an easy ride. Why is it so often misconstrued as to the good? Why is it getting the advantages it does in the law?

  • Comment number 46.

    5) To finish, the basis for the religious exclusion from equality law recently is that it is a "deeply held belief".

    Religious belief is supposed to be "special" - most religious people will tell you it is anyway. By this barminess inserted as a sop into the law, we’ve now got green campaigners winning legal suits on the grounds that their attachment to their cause can be considered on a par with religious belief. Which makes a mockery of the law.

    But investigation by neuroscientists suggests that religious belief is simply belief like any other - for instance: when religious believers and non-believers were asked if they believe the planets orbit the Sun, certain parts of their brain lit up in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans.

    When the religious were asked about the resurrection, for example, the same "belief centres" in the brain lit up, whereas those of the non-believers in the study exhibited different behaviour.

    (See here: https://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/the-neural-correlates-of-religious-and-nonreligious-belief/ )

    "While religious and nonreligious thinking differentially engage broad regions of the frontal, parietal, and medial temporal lobes, the difference between belief and disbelief appears to be content-independent. Our study compares religious thinking with ordinary cognition and, as such, constitutes a step toward developing a neuropsychology of religion. However, these findings may also further our understanding of how the brain accepts statements of all kinds to be valid descriptions of the world."

    Belief being belief, as this study suggests, should we be making decisions about justice to protect that vulnerable, but all the same happy group of infantilised people who "deeply hold" a belief that wheels work better when they're square?

    I'll leave that up to you.

    Now can someone please tell me what it is I‘m supposed to like about this stuff?

  • Comment number 47.

    Professor Antony Grayling, on Darwin, Humanism and Science.


  • Comment number 48.

    So does religion make you fat?

  • Comment number 49.

    I would say that correlation does not imply causation. Or in other words, that other factors associated with religion are the cause of the obesity, not the religion itself.

  • Comment number 50.

    There's a bit of logic above for LSV to grapple with. I'd love to see what he makes of it through his looking glass.

  • Comment number 51.

    Jerome described Pelagius as a "fat man weighed down by Irish porridge". It would therefore appear that fat Christians have been around for a long time. This particular fat man was an ascetic (with an obvious fondness for pies!).

    Just to attract the religionists - it comes with free cookies and popcorn!


  • Comment number 52.

    AboutFace -

    I'll have a look at your 'manifesto' in the next few days.

    And I'll try not to quote anything from Alice's surreal journey (although it might be difficult for me to resist the temptation!).

  • Comment number 53.

    Baited breath.

  • Comment number 54.

    AboutFace -

    I've just had a read of your 'manifesto', and I am not quite sure what I am supposed to respond to. All it consists of is a fairly disjointed series of observations, correlations and research conducted on the assumption that the philosophy of materialism is true (hence the neurological study).

    What I am interested in is something called 'truth' (which I believe is objectively valid, and its validity only makes sense within a universe based on intelligence). You can make whatever correlations you like, and we can all do that, and interpret statistics in a way that fits our own agenda. You clearly have an axe to grind, but I fail to see that you have made any case for the truth of the philosophy of materialism.

    In fact, you appeal to morality (hence your reference to racism, dysfunction and social justice) while, at the same time, assuming that ideas of morality can be derived from materialism. How do you manage that? Where in the movement of atoms and molecules do we see 'morality'? You base your whole argument on an appeal to something that can only exist in the worldview that you reject!

    Of course, you also conveniently ignore the horrors perpetrated by atheists. Should I mention some of the nightmare regimes? The USSR, Albania under Hoxha, The Cultural Revolution under Mao, the Khmer Rouge, North Korea?

    to be continued...

  • Comment number 55.

    AboutFace - continued...

    Furthermore, you have failed to show how "a belief in the existence of an intelligent personal creator" is a necessary and / or sufficient condition for evil. I fail to see the connection. What you are criticising is the behaviour of certain religious people. So what? I doubt that there is any Christian who would deny that there are professing theists who are downright evil.

    Your understanding of social justice is exceedingly poor. The Labour movement was not all secular, and had strong Methodist roots. Also, Social Darwinism wasn't exactly a philosophy that was conducive to helping the poor - in fact, better to let the poor and the weak die, since that was apparently 'the law of nature'. One only needs to look at an atheist writer like Ayn Rand to see that a secular view of reality does not presuppose a commitment to social justice.

    You bring up the issue of 'original sin'. If you would like to associate me with this idea, then go ahead. But just be aware that you will be seriously deluding yourself in so doing. I am probably more an enemy of the idea of 'inherited guilt' than you are. It is a nauseating doctrine and I thoroughly condemn it. I have never believed that "the whole human race is, by default, under the condemnation of God because of the sin of Adam", and I can argue my case from the Bible (but I doubt that would interest you).

    Finally, you get to what I suspect is the heart of the issue: homosexuality. You may perhaps have noticed that I take a rather less strident position on this issue than many other Christians. I am deeply uncomfortable with the anti-gay bandwagon in certain parts of the Church, and I remain unconvinced by some of the arguments that are claimed by some to be "the clear biblical position". However, your antics on this blog are liable to strain my more 'liberal' position. If you carry on like this you will only alienate Christians who take a more nuanced and moderate view of homosexuality.

    Therefore on the basis of your 'manifesto', I'm afraid you won't be getting my vote!

  • Comment number 56.

    What is a "nuanced and moderate view"?

    In my opinion anything less than accepting those of a different sexual orientation as exactly the same as everyone else is not 'moderate' in any way. You're still discriminating against others for a difference to yourself.

    You can't attempt to deflect attention away from mild bigotry by claiming there's others who are worse.

    But, having said that, I'd be a happier man if LSV represented the religious and not some others who I'm not going to mention.

  • Comment number 57.

    Natman -

    "You can't attempt to deflect attention away from mild bigotry by claiming there's others who are worse."

    Yeah, I do tend to get a bit annoyed with atheists who try to ignore the Gulag, and claim that "we are not as bad as those bigots".

    Sorry, Natman. Couldn't resist!

  • Comment number 58.

    You're still discriminating against others for a difference to yourself

    But you seem to be here in just that capacity-Alot of people just use Lsv to feel good about themselves- just so happens Lsv has a pretty moderate take on religion. Reality is, many Athiests are as extreme as some of the fundies. You take out the content and it's just extremists ranting- the message fades
  • Comment number 59.


    There's a big, big difference between discrimination and open debate about different opinions. I would not treat LSV differently for his views, but I have no hesitation in debating with him over them. In decades past, atheists were not given as much recognition to do so, unlike the oppressive nature of crusading religiousity.

    If you can't see that then I worry for you.

  • Comment number 60.

    Well Nat, I don't take offence to a moderate religious view that subjugates itself to a secular rule of law. Peope are entitled to their personal whatever it is, but in the other thread you were discrimating against Lsv for finding meaning in his spirituality

  • Comment number 61.


    Discriminating? How so? A mockery of an opinion that I consider based on false premise is not discrimination. If I was to actively deny LSV something because of said opinion then your accusation would be valid. As it is, freedom of speech allows me to say whatever I like about his opinions, much in the same way it protects his right to say it.

  • Comment number 62.

    Ultimately,It's all about compromise. If someone has a set of values in relation to other people, society, the planet that's pretty inclusive & caring- then whatever spiritual dimension they have should be treated with a bit of respect, even if we can't associate that outlook easily with our own. Dave said something a while back, along the lines of "people can believe what they want as long as they don't force that on me".Where religious views conflict with human rights- then there's a real need to engage with that, but on the whole whether people argue for atheism or theism, there's a balance to be achieved where neither encroach on an individuals freedom of expression. It's like a transexual going into a bar- we might not decide that kinda night for ourselves, but if that's what someone wants to do and it's not hurting anyone else, they should be free from mockery

  • Comment number 63.

    Natman (@ 61) -

    "A mockery of an opinion that I consider based on false premise is not discrimination."

    False premise?

    Do explain.

    Also... what does the word 'false' mean if truth is subjective, i.e. merely a human construct? You may also like to explain that as well.

  • Comment number 64.

    *I meant transvestite

  • Comment number 65.

    Where religious views conflict with human rights- then there's a real need to engage with that, but on the whole whether people argue for atheism or theism, there's a balance to be achieved where neither encroach on an individuals freedom of expression.

    This doesn't make much sense to me. People coming at things from different perspectives are going to disagree, and whether they use heavy handed sarcasm or hedge everything they say with, "With the greatest respect, I beg to differ," doesn't matter in the slightest.

    Where religious views conflict with human rights- then there's a real need to engage with that, but on the whole whether people argue for atheism or theism, there's a balance to be achieved where neither encroach on an individuals freedom of expression.

    Well, with the greatest possible respect, that is just passive aggressive posturing. It may be important to you that "a balance is achieved", but who are you to the lay down the rules for everyone else about what is acceptable and what isn't, and why should you get to say what should be engaged and what shouldn't? We are not exactly talking hate crime - and anyway there are, if you haven't noticed, moderators on here - who you fall foul of as much as anyone, btw.
  • Comment number 66.

    A compromise isn't always the best option. When you have two opposing views, the best alternative isn't halfway between them. Sometimes one opinion is just wrong, and no 'respect' of each other's views will change that.

    The false premise that LSV seems to object to is that god is needed for the universe to function. There is no recognisable evidence to support that, despite his incredulity of it, and to compromise by crowbarring the divine into subject that neither require it nor need it is wrong. Respect all you like, but there's no god needed in science.

  • Comment number 67.

    Im talking about Atheists who have a blanket approach to everything with a religious or spiritual tag on it. Hardly surprising then, if Atheists on a religious blog are gonna rail against everything they see. So if there's no subtlety or differentiation in approach, everyone is fairgame even if they uphold the same values re human rights. Doesn't make much sense to be that tribal. If having faith or spirituality inspires mockery then somethings wrong. If a particular faith or mindset threatens other peoples humans rights then those aspects need to be challenged. Fair enough that you're here to put forward a scientific approach, but to then venture out of that and try & dismantle spirituality or suppress it with mockery is a bit much. Outside of human rights issues,this blog is pretty easy prey for athiests to have a laugh at others expense. If living in a multicultural society means that the only way everyones rights can be accommodated is with secular law then why quibble about points that are already moot. Atheists might find Christians are an easy option to look down, but that tactic isn't gonna work so well engaging with Muslim communities in the UK

  • Comment number 68.

    Natman -

    "The false premise that LSV seems to object to is that god is needed for the universe to function."

    Therefore I conclude that the word 'false' is defined as follows:

    Anything that happens not to take Natman's fancy.

    It certainly doesn't have anything to do with 'untruth', since we know (thanks to Natman's great intellect) that truth is just subjective, and therefore a humanly generated illusion.

    "There is no recognisable evidence to support that"

    Hey! I disagree. That's OK then, because my opinion is worth just as much as yours. You have your 'cup of tea' and I'll have mine.

    It's great that we can express our opinions to one another, isn't it?! (Although I am not sure what you mean by the word 'evidence'. Wouldn't happen to be another one of your 'illusions', would it?)

    (Oh, and if you really want to know - not that it will make any difference - but I happen to think that the existence and the complexity of the universe, and especially life within it, is impossible without God. But that's just my 'cup of tea', eh? I'm sure you're very happy with your lucky lottery 'chancedidit' brew!)

  • Comment number 69.


    "I happen to think that the existence and the complexity of the universe, and especially life within it, is impossible without God."

    AKA; I can't conceive of it happening, therefore it didn't happen.

    Keep up that fine, fine scientific mindset and let me know when it actually achieves something of worth.

  • Comment number 70.

    Natman -

    "Keep up that fine, fine scientific mindset and let me know when it actually achieves something of worth."

    What does the word 'worth' mean in your worldview? Is the concept of 'worth' subjective or objective, an illusion or a truth?

    "Scientific mindset"? What does that mean in your worldview, in which truth is subjective?

    You wouldn't happen to be implying that something called 'science' is the only way of discovering 'truth'? (Well, of course, you can't mean that, because you don't believe in truth). But let's suppose 'science' is the only way of discovering 'truth'. If that's the case then it wouldn't be too much to ask you to provide the experimental scientific proof (based firmly on the method of reproducibility and repeatability) that an intelligent creator is not needed.

    I am very pleased that I have a proper scientific mindset, which is based firmly on these presuppositions:

    1. The universe is intelligible.
    2. Objective truth exists.
    3. Reason is objectively valid.
    4. The universe operates according to ordered laws.
    5. The universe exhibits complexity.

    All these factors make perfect sense within a theistic worldview, and make no sense at all within the 'chancedidit / truth is an illusion' worldview.

    So perhaps when your 'fine fine scientific mindset' comes up with something of worth (rather than wild philosophically driven speculation about something unprovable and scientifically irrelevant from the distant past) then please give me a call.

    As for atheism being a necessary condition for *proper* experimental science - i.e. building bridges, performing cataract operations and sending a man to the moon - please feel free to dream on. It's good to have a vivid imagination.

    (Oh, I nearly forgot. The theistic worldview has produced something of real worth to scientists, namely, science itself. Take a course in the history of science; you might learn something.)

  • Comment number 71.


    Since when was atheism a necessary condition for 'proper' science?

    Twisting words. Creating strawmen. Arguing from incredulity.

    Same ol', same ol'.

  • Comment number 72.

    Here's a piece of advice for any young, up-and-coming debaters out there:

    When your opponent has snookered you, there is one tried and tested way to get out of it (or at least look as though you've escaped), and it is this...

    Nonchalantly - and with the minimum number of words - dismiss your opponent's argument with the phrase *straw man*. (But do make sure that you do NOT, under any circumstances, try to explain why exactly your opponent's argument is a straw man. That would leave you vulnerable to further embarrassing enquiry.)

    It's great. It really does work. It makes you look terribly clever, and the most convenient part of it is that you don't actually need to attempt to refute your opponent's argument (which is rather useful when you find yourself in the situation where you can't anyway - hence the need to employ this cunning device).

    It also enhances your position if you can throw into the mix an unsubstantiated accusation that your opponent is twisting your words (play the poor persecuted role - it always helps to curry sympathy) - but again remember: do NOT attempt to explain how your opponent is twisting your words. Play the strong silent 'mature' condescending type and everyone will imagine you must be some kind of expert.

  • Comment number 73.

    Twisting words. Creating strawmen. Arguing from incredulity.

    How can you create strawmen from twisting words? Do you mean twisting straw with words printed on it?

  • Comment number 74.

    LSV, it's very simple, your argument, eventually, boils down to "I don't believe that it could happen that way, therefore goddit."

    I get tired of rehashing the same responce;

    Denying the evidence and poo-pooing the science based on an assumption that because materialisitic methodology was used, materialistic philosophy must have been used, is not proof that your opinions are valid.

    Mainstream science, based on the consensus of those who spend a lot of time researching and studying the subject fields involved, has determined that a god is not needed for the universe to function and trying to test for the supernatural is impossible. Therefore, science doesn't and cannot invoke the divine.

    Aside from personal incredulity, you've provided nothing to counter this; no experiments to show that gods can be included in the scientific method, no reliable technique to include the divine into science and, possibly worst of all, taken your own assumptions of the universe and demanded that those who don't subscribe to them use those assumptions to prove you wrong!

    And in case you're about to refute that last point, quite a few times you've asked us to disprove god, as if god was a certainly that needed eliminated, instead of a variable that has yet to be proven.

    I'm done here and will, unless you start straying from the subject again, refrain from encouraging off-subject topics again.

  • Comment number 75.

    Natman -

    I have actually been talking about something called 'truth', which is far bigger than the scientific method (which only deals with one aspect of reality). I have put forward plenty of arguments and evidence for the truth of the existence and necessity of God - i.e. an intelligent creator, as well as showing that scientific experiments require the input of intelligence. Furthermore, where is the evidence that intelligence is NOT needed in the synthesis of complex systems? You have never supplied any evidence to prove 'chance of the gaps'.

    This may perhaps be off topic, but I will still continue to put my point of view for as long as theistic views are treated with disrespect on this blog. If you don't like that, then hard luck, mate. You've said that you are out to mock these views (and, according to the principle of freedom of speech, you have the right to express your view), so don't be surprised, tired, weary or frustrated if your opinions also come under attack.

    "If you can't take the heat of the kitchen..."


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