the dude on religion

In case you missed them, our friend the Dude, left a few good comments this weekend in the last thread on Creationism. I thought that I’d move them up here, for those of you who don’t bother to read the comments (which, if you can believe it, are quite often much more brilliant than the posts themselves). I’m not saying that I agree with him 100%, but I find his perspective on Christianity interesting.

When I was a kid, my parents made me go to Catholic Sunday school where they would teach us about all the magical things that happened in the Bible, people living 900 years, pillars of fire, raising the dead, walking on water, plagues of frogs (well, that one might be real), etc. One day I raised my hand and asked why all of these things seemed to happen all the time in antiquity, yet in the past 2000 years nothing magical seems to happen at all. I was told that “God reveals himself in mysterious ways now” and to truly believe in God, I had to accept that these things truly happened the way the Bible said they did. Bullshit, I thought. This crap never happened. An awesome movie it may make, but this is just entertainment and nothing more. This was a great way to make an atheist of a 9 year old kid.

When I was 12 I got drafted into an Episcopalian school that taught the Old Testament as literature and not fact, and the New Testament as a book with the very deep, basic and profound human lessons that Christ left for everyone minus all of the hocus pocus nonsense that even Christ himself would have likely said was bunk. The Resurrection was a great metaphor for forgiveness and rebirth of the human and moral soul, rather than having me believe that the cheap wine we drank in Communion was that ACTUAL blood of Christ and that somehow, by cannibalizing the Son of God, we were to magically achieve everlasting life.

In short, Christianity became something much more deep than parting of waters and wars between angels and demons and turned into something extremely deep and human. I no longer had to subscribe to some egotistical, anthropomorphized version of a deity and religion became about ME and what I could become. So when I say that believing the nonsense in the Old (and New) Testament is shallow, I mean just that. If all there is to your faith is Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy, then you don’t have much to stand on. God should have no need to impress us or perform magic tricks to get us to stick to religion. If that’s what he thinks he needs to do, then he’s as cheap as Robert Tilton. Subscribing to any religion takes a lot more than just believing, it takes a willingness to change the deepest parts of your being for the greater good.

Unfortunately, I don’t see much of that in the type of Christianity that seeks to pollute our politics….

Nature itself proclaims the glory of God.

If things like malaria, HIV and Guinea Worm proclaim the glory of God, then I want no part of it. Creationists love to go on about the beauty of nature, but the truth is that nature is a complex system of individual species all fighting for survival. Basically, it wants to eat itself.

And before you start proclaiming that things like malaria, HIV and Guinea Worm are punishments for God for the sins of man, remember that malaria disproportionately strikes children under 5, most people with HIV are not gay and live in Christian countries and Guinea Worm was the scourge of the Mediterranean even when Christ walked the earth.

I want you to tell me, in a straight face, that a fatherless anemic 2 year old in a household that makes $2.00 a month, shaking and writhing in pain from acute malaria infection, that has only a 50% chance of making it to age 5, somehow proclaims the glory of God.

I’m certain of very little, but I know for a fact that Jesus, were he to come back today, preaching of turning the other cheek and taking care of the poor, would, at best, be mocked and ridiculed by these very people who, from the comfort of their plush mega-churches, claim to be “saved” by him today. Christ to them is a small government, tough as nails, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of guy – a swaggering cowboy Christ with a death wish, who, instead of fighting to promote peace on this planet, is just counting the days until he can pull the plug on the whole damned thing, leaving it to burn. I hope they’re right, and that Jesus does return one day. I’d love to see their faces when, instead of being whisked away to a celestial party because of a magic phrase they’ve repeated, they’re asked by Christ what they’ve done to make the world a better place. I disagree with some of what the Dude says above, but I agree that it’s shameful what we’ve allowed to happen in the name of Christianity.

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  1. Posted September 23, 2008 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Wow! Do I get a free dinner at Haab’s?

  2. mark
    Posted September 23, 2008 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Sorry. I’m out of those. I can give you a milk crate, a copy of “Swank,” a bottle of Bud light, and bus ticket to Ann Arbor though.

  3. Paw
    Posted September 24, 2008 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Christ was a tall Chuck Norris.

  4. Castor
    Posted September 24, 2008 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    It all started back in the wake of WWII when it was decided that Jesus would have hated Communism.

  5. js
    Posted September 24, 2008 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Couple points here—First, Dude’s largely coming back to the Problem of Evil, which has a much more nuanced theological backstory than he’s giving it credit for.

    Second, while Hobbes’s Leviathan is known primarily for its first part, where Hobbes argues for the necessity of a compact with an overlord in order to keep people from murdering each other all the goddamned time, the last third of the book is a weird delving into post-miraculous theology. He kind of addresses this in his first section, where he dismisses God’s control over men (saying something to the effect of, “there was a time when miracles happened regularly, but that doesn’t seem to be true anymore, so we have to govern ourselves”), but gets much more into it in the second and third parts.

  6. Brackache
    Posted September 24, 2008 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Seems to me in scripture that miracles usually accompany God’s having some new revelation to impart, to validate his giving authority to whoever he chose to be his spokesperson/people. The good news of Jesus being the messiah needed miracles to back it up at its advent, which helped it spread, but now that it’s been spread around the world for 2000 years it doesn’t. I fail to see what’s scripturally inconsistant about that.

    By the way, I’m a toothfairyist and I think the toothfairy is crap and everyone who believes in her is stupid. But don’t you ever question my being a toothfairyist.

  7. Posted September 24, 2008 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    “Most people think,
    Great God will come from the sky.
    Take away everything,
    And make everybody feel high.
    But if you knew what life was worth,
    You would look for yours on earth.
    And now you’ve seen the light,
    You’ve got to stand up for your right…”

    -Bob Marley

  8. applejack
    Posted September 24, 2008 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    let me just say, dude, that if you’re on the fence about whether to stay catholic or not you should really consider taking the plunge and converting to atheism whole-heartedly. in my view agnosticism is more intellectually dishonest than the most hardcore evangelicism.

    either there is a god and you should go to church and worship him, or there isn’t and you can yell goddammit and jesus-fucking-christ without a twinge of guilt. trust me, it is an intellectual breath of fresh air to finally decide that religion is bunk and to discard it for good. it was as if a great mental burden had been lifted. honestly the scales fell from my eyes and everything became so much clearer.

    being devoutly religious and unquestioning is easy. being an unquestioning atheist is easy too (which i don’t advocate either). but being religious and intelligent at the same time is difficult because you have to hold multiple conflicting and inconsistent ideas in your head at the same time. how can i sit in church and look at a piece of bread, and eat a piece of bread, and then at the same time believe that it is not bread at all but rather the actual, literal flesh of jesus christ? it’s difficult. and protestant churches were smart to drop that bit to make it intellectually easier on their members.

    my point is that atheism is a worldview that is so consistent, so simple in it’s elegance, and so mentally soothing with its correctness that there’s no reason not to go full out and embrace it. things look different when you’re on the outside looking in.

  9. auntie ypsilanti
    Posted September 24, 2008 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of Christianity (and Sarah Palin) you really should watch this…

  10. Posted September 24, 2008 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Applejack, your idea is just too reasonable. Agnosticism is totally cheap, I admit. You should sit on one side of the fence or the other and live with your choice. However, I feel that believing in something (whatever that something may be) bigger than ones self helps to balance the scales somewhat.One needs a big of irrationality to be the reality check on your own capacity to understand the world. It keeps you from getting too big for your britches, so to speak. I’ve made my choice and it makes my life a little more interesting, plus it keeps me from being a total asshole. Notice I said “total”.

    Your view is correct. I am absolutely positive that life without the constant constradictory itellectual banter of reconciling mutually exclusive views is liberating. However, I don’t think it would be that interesting. The struggle makes it worth it.

    The world being 6000 years old,nature “speaking to the glory of God” and all of us suffering because of one dumb ass eating a piece of fruit for a hot piece of ass is just dumb. That’s where I draw the line. Considering the human condition and asking questions of the metaphysical is healthy. Believing fairy tales unquestionably makes one, as they say, a chump.

  11. Mark H.
    Posted September 24, 2008 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    God is great. God is not petty. Humans impose our pettiness onto God as we create concepts of God. Since God is great, in my opinion, God is little concerned with the ideas mere humans devise to describe God — but I do believe God is concerned with how we live our lives and how we treat one another and whether we are truthful. If prayer helps make us better, I am sure God approves. God has inspired humans to create great literatures and great stories that can inspire or terrify. But God is greater than we can imagine — we humans tend to be petty, and we often impose our pettiness on our ideas of God. God cares how we live, not what we might imagine God to be.

    That’s my story and i’m sticking to it. OK by me if your story is entirely different. Thanks for sharing Dude!

    Neil Young’s recent great song “When God Made Me” is an expression of a faithful, deeply tolerant point of view that I like. Did you see the bumper sticker that says “When Jesus said love your enemies I think he probably meant ‘don’t kill them.'”

    Thanks again Dude!

  12. Ol' E Cross
    Posted September 25, 2008 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Okay, I’m back for a bit…

    First off, referring to the previous post, I don’t think faith is automatically irrational. I think faith can be either irrational or rational, blind or thoughtful. Personally, I think rational thought can reasonably lead folks to opposing views. I never meant to suggest that rationality isn’t important or measurable, just that it doesn’t always lead to an irrefutable conclusions. I think rationality can dispel some beliefs, but cannot confirm any one belief. (There is such a thing as crazy.)

    Along those lines, I like every rational thought that has been given thus far. Nicely put, all.

    I’ll add that certain expressions of atheism I find to be rationally consistent. However, I find atheists who retain certain assumptions of morality based entirely on religious traditions to be less honest than agnostics who proclaim “you cannot know” rather than a lazy “I don’t care to inquire.”

    True agnostics defend the impossibility of knowing. I’m not an agnostic, currently, but just want to give a shout-out that you can be a more rational (thoughtful) agnostic than some athiests or theists I’ve met. I think those of us still talking would agree that intellectual integrity doesn’t involve espousing any one view but continuing to think and question our view. I have met atheists as stupid and unthinking as the worst of fundamentalists and vice versa.

    Which gets me to self-evident truths…

    “All men where created equal.”

    or replace with the less provocative…

    “All people where born equal.”

    Please explain how either statement is non-religious and rational. What is its underlying philosophy? Where did it originate? What is the basis for its assumptions?

    I really don’t want creationism taught in public schools. I’m just mindful of how much we think of as “self-evident” is actually constructed by religious views.


  13. Ol' E Cross
    Posted September 25, 2008 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    Since I’m not sure when I’ll be back, I’ll clarify my respectful challenge. Rationally explain how what I consider to be a religiously based moral assertion that:

    “All people are born equal”

    jives with the scientific observation of:

    “Survival of the fittest.”

  14. Posted September 25, 2008 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    “All people born equal” is philosophical fluff. In reality, American society is not so. the statement may be informed by religion, but the divide between what is and what you may want to believe is vast.

  15. nammeroo
    Posted September 25, 2008 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    “All people are born equal” is not the same as “…all men are created equal…”

    People are physically born into widely varying economic, social, medical, and familial circumstances, which are most definitely NOT equal. By cutting off the rest of the sentence from the Declaration of Independence, you have removed the real meaning of this clause:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    It is the creation of the human soul (or spirit essence or whatever term you prefer) by God that this sentence refers to, not the creation of our physical body. Our souls are all equal before God. God gave us life, and granted us free will (the liberty to make choices for ourselves) and the ability to improve ourselves. That is the point that underlies all of what Jefferson wrote in the Declaration.

  16. Posted September 25, 2008 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Too bad they didn’t qualify the sentence.

    “All white people are created equal” or even better,

    “Within their particular socio-economic class, all men are create equal”

    I love the free will argument. In wealthy democratic nations this may be true, but in nations that are not so monetarily blessed, the concept of “free will” takes a back seat to survival.

  17. Brackache
    Posted September 25, 2008 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Out of curiosity, does anyone here personally know dude, away from the blog? I’m not interested in finding out who he is as much as in verifying that he is as he presents himself.

  18. applejack
    Posted September 25, 2008 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Ol’ E: yeah i agree that many atheists are as dumb and unquestioning in their beliefs as anyone else. this is one reason i would probably still want my children to attend catholic school and maybe even go to church. because raising your kids to be hard-core atheists may not allow much soul-searching to decide for themselves what is true and what is not. having thoroughly read the bible from cover-to-cover is the reason i can decide that it is bogus.

    also you mention the classic ‘if god didn’t create morality then who did?’ argument. which put a different way is saying ‘without god and religion what is to keep us from just doing whatever we want to whomever we want?’

    the counter to that argument is that human survival kinda depends on us not all killing each other without reason. human society is a complex web of relationships, but survival of the fittest can explain how it works, more or less. if you think of evolution as merely every individual fighting against every other individual for domination, you can’t expect to see morality or any sort of society develop. but evolution really has to do with passing along your genes to future generations.

    humans who were able to work together in tribes were more fit for survival than those who stayed on their own. humans who could organize into complex societies were more successful than those still operating in tribes, etc, etc.

    this can even be applied religious groupings as well. humans who have a religion telling them how to behave are more cohesive as a group, and can survive better than those going it alone (especially when a religion tells you not to use birth-control and to have as many babies as possible). as the famously acerbic atheist christopher hitchens put it: it’s not as if people thought killing and stealing were fine things to do up until moses came down from the mountain with the ten commandments saying oh actually we shouldn’t be doing that.

    you don’t need god to explain morality — or to explain religion itself even. but can religion explain the results of evolution? can it explain dinosaurs? not without some highly specious readings of a vaguely written ancient text.

  19. applejack
    Posted September 25, 2008 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    to be more pointed in my response, the American sense of morality found in the declaration of independence and the constitution, including the belief that “all men are created equal”, is an enlightened approach to the age-old question of what makes a society successful.

    you can believe it comes from the christian god, but that’s merely a reflection of the historical accident of our founders happening to be christians when they wrote it. you can’t attribute the good stuff like this to god without giving him credit for the spanish inquisition and the kkk and all the rest.

  20. EoS
    Posted September 26, 2008 at 1:06 pm | Permalink


    Can you explain how compassion would evolve? I’m not talking about altruistic behavior, where sacrifice for offspring or related individuals would increase chances of genes surviving and propagating in future generations, but real compassion for weak, unrelated individuals. A care and love for another that offers absolutely no possibility of benefit to the one who exhibits the compassion.

    What is the evolutionary pressure that would cause humans to have a shared sense of appreciation for art or music?

    Dinosaurs are explained very easily by Christianity. God created them on the sixth day. Micro-Evolution, or slight modifications that increase in frequency in succeeding populations which better adapt them to their immediate environment, is not at all in dispute with Christianity.

  21. Posted September 26, 2008 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Many mammalian species are compassionate to their own and I’ve had dogs that have sat and watched TV with me. It has nothing to do with God.

  22. Posted September 26, 2008 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    “Dinosaurs are explained very easily by Christianity. God created them on the sixth day.”

    What some bozo in 2000 BC wrote doesn’t explain shit! And if you have “micro-evolution”, whatever that is, well, then there you have it. You have evolution and the creationist framework is gone. You take enough instances of “micro-evolution” and you get so far away from where you started observing that you have something new. Like if I start taking steps toward California one day. After these many steps, I’m not in Michigan anymore.

    If you don’t want to believe in it, don’t use it in your arguments. That’s like being a little bit pregnant.

  23. Posted September 26, 2008 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    “Many mammalian species are compassionate to their own and I’ve had dogs that have sat and watched TV with me. It has nothing to do with God. “

    I had to think about this one. Perhaps only humans are truly compassionate. But then all living things have their specialties. Just because we have one that we deem important, does not imply that there is a creator. If I decide that that sitting on the toilet and reading Hustler is an amazing human trait, does that imply that God exists? No.

  24. js
    Posted September 26, 2008 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    let me just say, dude, that if you’re on the fence about whether to stay catholic or not you should really consider taking the plunge and converting to atheism whole-heartedly. in my view agnosticism is more intellectually dishonest than the most hardcore evangelicism.

    Well, that’s a bullshit view.

    Regarding both the rational/irrational views of faith, and whether agnosticism is supportable, a good book is Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac.

    Agnosticism is, frankly, the only rational choice—with the obvious observational problems that God presents, there’s no way to prove or disprove God’s existence (if God can even be thought to have an articulable existence). Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    I have nothing against atheists, and largely blame Christians for their own PR problems, but so much of what gets tossed around when discussing theology is, like, sub-undergrad angry high school rebellion clichés.

    Look, I don’t have an opinion, really, about whether string theory is the “best” way to unify forces in physics. The theory appeals to me on an emotional level, and I like the metaphors that come with it, but it’s not something that I can prove one way or another, or even really side with one camp or another.

    Which means that I don’t tell people who do study it that they’re idiots because they do or don’t believe the same things that I do.

  25. applejack
    Posted September 26, 2008 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    js: you start your post by calling my views bullshit, and then complain that the discussion is on a high school level. well welcome to the discussion.

    what you’re saying is that the idea of there being a god “appeals to you on an emotional level” and that you like the metaphors, but you don’t actually want to worship god and save your place in heaven. i just don’t see the point.

    it’s true that the existence or non-existence of god is unprovable, but what you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt – imho – is that religion is man-made. and that there is nothing outside of religion to suggest that a supreme being is out there making planets and shit. there is no evidence to make me presuppose the existence of something that is unobservable and untestable and unknowable.

    it’s like assuming there are ghosts in your house because you like the idea of it. well i can’t prove that there aren’t ghosts here, and the lights flicker on and off sometimes, so i’ll just throw up my hands and say yeah maybe there are.

    also i’m guessing your concept of this maybe-god is basically the judeo-christian version of god minus any specifics. because, surprise, you grew up with a judeo-christian background. you’re not sitting around wondering if zeus and hera are really up in the clouds throwing down lightning bolts. no of course not. roman gods are silly, and science has proven this isn’t the case.

    the christian god prevails because it’s so damn vague. that’s the genius of it. he does everything, yet he does it in just such a way that it appears like he wasn’t even here. what is the value of believing in that possibility? especially since you’ll still burn in a fiery hell like me if he does exist

  26. js
    Posted September 26, 2008 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    js: you start your post by calling my views bullshit, and then complain that the discussion is on a high school level. well welcome to the discussion.

    That your views are bullshit is pretty much tied to the fact that this is high-school level theology. If you don’t want your views to be bullshit, you can work to gain some sophistication.

    what you’re saying is that the idea of there being a god “appeals to you on an emotional level” and that you like the metaphors, but you don’t actually want to worship god and save your place in heaven. i just don’t see the point.

    No, I was saying that string theory appeals to me on an emotional level, but that I don’t have the expertise to argue for it or against it on any substantive level.

    But you’re confusing theism with teleos—there’s no goal necessary to believing in God.

    it’s true that the existence or non-existence of god is unprovable, but what you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt – imho – is that religion is man-made.

    You can prove that in your opinion religion is man-made? Of course religion is man-made. Duh.

    and that there is nothing outside of religion to suggest that a supreme being is out there making planets and shit.

    Uh, prime mover problem, for one. The ol’ “Why is there something instead of nothing?”

    there is no evidence to make me presuppose the existence of something that is unobservable and untestable and unknowable.

    Bringing it back to physics, just this week there was observed a movement of mass that has to be caused by forces outside the observable universe. I’m not arguing that this is evidence of God, but rather pointing out that there’s a lot that’s actually untestable, unobservable and unknowable.

    also i’m guessing your concept of this maybe-god is basically the judeo-christian version of god minus any specifics. because, surprise, you grew up with a judeo-christian background. you’re not sitting around wondering if zeus and hera are really up in the clouds throwing down lightning bolts. no of course not. roman gods are silly, and science has proven this isn’t the case.

    You guess wrong. First off, you can’t have a Judeo-Christian God without the specifics. Second, if you’re going to argue for atheism, then you’ve got the Judeo-Christian baggage here, not me. (Yes, I know the quip about believing in one fewer god.) Third, it’s easy to have conceptions of God, Judeo-Christian or otherwise, that are consistent with agnosticism.

    I’m gonna not bother responding to the rest of your comment, since parsing every little bit of wrongness is like trying to make sense of Palin’s support for the bail-out.

  27. Posted September 26, 2008 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    I believe in Horus.

  28. Posted September 26, 2008 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    BTW I’m all for teaching creationism in public schools. It should be taught in mythology classes, right next to Thor and Zeus where it belongs.

  29. Posted September 26, 2008 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Also Ra and Set are real. Everything else is mythology, including Joe Garagiola.

  30. EoS
    Posted September 26, 2008 at 11:43 pm | Permalink


    Why not teach the Darwinian origin of life stories, or abiogenesis, in the same mythology classes?

  31. js
    Posted September 27, 2008 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    Because abiogenesis is a field of study and not a creation myth?

  32. Mark H.
    Posted September 27, 2008 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Edweird advocates teaching creationism in mythology classes, but unlike stories of Zeus and similar ancient figures, creationism and all its variants are modern ideas; they have not shaped human experience or belief systems for many people over any long period of history. It was only a little more than a century ago that the idea developed that the Bible was ‘literally’ true in all respects and unerring. From that arose efforts to use the Bible to explain the natural world and critique modern science, which it had not been used for previously. Hence creationism more deliberately constructed modern ideology than true mythology.

  33. Posted September 27, 2008 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    What js said.

    Good point Professor.

    Now back to our regularly scheduled sarcasm.

    You people need to smoke more weed.

  34. Posted September 27, 2008 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Also, besides there being no unified historical precedent, people cannot agree on what creationism is. It seems that everyone you talk to has a modified version of it to fit the evolution debate in order to use science against itself. Like the “micro-evolution” EoS described.

    Like I said, that’s like being a little bit pregnant.

  35. EoS
    Posted September 27, 2008 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    You advocate a “scientific” viewpoint, but your comments display minimal comprehension of science. Micro-evolution is science. It has been observed repeatedly, it can be tested under controlled experiments in the laboratory, and it is accepted fact. Evidence of small changes within a limited range does not mean enormous change over billions of billions of years is likely or even possible.

    Speculation about how life first formed on earth, or how the diversity of species came about has not been observed. Even though bacteria have 30 minute generations, and we have observed an enormous amount of generations, the offspring of bacteria are always bacteria. Some are slightly mutated, some acquire antibiotic resistence, but all remain bacteria. Nothing has ever been observed to crawl out of the petri dish and become a worm, or an insect, or any other form of life besides a bacteria. Macro-evolution, which supposes one kind of animal suddenly changes into a completely different kind with an accompanying increase in complexity and information has never been observed nor is it possible to explain through completely natural mechanisms. And even though we can’t explain how it may happen, we could show that it did occur if we found evidence of transitional fossils that show the progression from one type to another. Their is nothing in the fossil record that shows the enormous amount of transitional forms necessary either.

    So the mechanism for macro-evolution has never been observed and can’t be explained scientifically and the evidence for macro-evolution is not found in the fossil record. Yet we have a large group of scientists who state that it is the unifying concept of modern biology only because they have defined science as naturalism and thereby excluded the consideration of a creator, however true it may turn out to be.

    Contrary to your suppositions, those who believe in creation are not uneducated persons who disbelieve the scientific method.

  36. Posted September 27, 2008 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Maybe this will help:

  37. Posted September 27, 2008 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    “You advocate a “scientific” viewpoint, but your comments display minimal comprehension of science. Micro-evolution is science. It has been observed repeatedly, it can be tested under controlled experiments in the laboratory, and it is accepted fact. Evidence of small changes within a limited range does not mean enormous change over billions of billions of years is likely or even possible.”

    Exactly my point. You can’t use science to prove that you are right when you claim that it’s fundamentals are inherently inapplicable to religious belief. I base that on one of your previous posts.

    Enormous changes can occur over any span of time. I suppose to you, everything is all about mammalian species, or, basically, things that are big enough for you to see and be bitten by. Go to a micro, I mean small, not your distinction of “micro” and “macro-evolution” (where do you draw the line?), and you can see large changes over small amounts of time. This is the reason that many diseases are so difficult to tackle but, I do not comprehend science so I can’t make any claims here.

    You can believe in a creator all you like. However, believing that the earth was created in six days and the earth is 6000 years old and that living things were created in distinct unchanging forms is simply uneducated and wrong. You produce “evidence” to support you points from ancient books that you deem believable. What keeps me from making a theology out of Homer’s Odyssey?

    In no way, have I claimed that there is no God nor that believing in a creator is useless or wrong. I merely claim that Young Earth “theory” is bunk akin to believing the world is flat. Aside from science, creationist “theory” is inherently racist and culture-centric since it’s basis rests on the belief that your culture is right and everyone else is wrong.

  38. Ol' E Cross
    Posted September 28, 2008 at 12:23 am | Permalink


    I think we have a lot of agreement and thank you for your thoughtful response to my actual question.

    I think you make a fair assumption, but my question isn’t “if god didn’t create morality than who did?” You’re right in pointing out that much that passes for morality can be attributed to instincts for species survival. Most people wouldn’t call ants “moral” but they arguably behave far more “morally” (aka socially) than humans.

    I think you’ll agree that, as far as we can tell, we have a fairly unique capacity to rationally evaluate the value of our instincts.

    My question isn’t why we do what we do, but if it makes sense to do it. (A caution on survival equals morality. Even ants can get rather territorial with other ants. It’s likely we’re naturally programmed to define our species much more narrowly than our ideals would admit. Is invading Iraq a moral war from the ants’ point of view?)

    If the ultimate goal is survival, isn’t following a uniform moral code the most rational course? If our goal is to look at our brief existence rationally…

    There is either morality or instinct. If it is our instinct to believe in morality, however irrational, how is believing in one morality more rational than another? That’s my question.

    I think you follow my point, but again, I’m not trying to argue that religious belief is the best. I’m suggesting that if we look at it from a pure, rational point of view, we’re ants. And, we should either admit as much and live as such or stop roasting others for their irrational beliefs. Glass houses and stones.

  39. The Exterminator
    Posted September 28, 2008 at 12:49 am | Permalink

    I’ve been arguing for all of us to be sterile females in a matriarchal society whose behavior is regulated by chemical scents from our mom’s fat ass for years.

    Now that an economic crisis is upon us, folks are finally coming around to my point of view.

    But do I get any credit? Hell no.

  40. applejack
    Posted September 28, 2008 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Ol’ E Cross: I’m pretty sure i see what you’re saying. partly you’re saying that our morals are different than the do-what’s-good-for-the-hive instincts of ants because we are rational creatures and can reflect on our own behavior and choose between good or bad options. and secondly if mere survival is the driver of this morality then wouldn’t a stricter sense morality be more effective? or a more uniform set of morals at least.

    i’m no expert, but my view is that morals are evolving the same as anything else, the same way an insect wing evolves over time, for instance. there’s no one right way to do it, in fact insects have independently evolved the ability to fly quite a number of distinct times.

    i don’t know whether they developed truly independently, but clearly american christian morality is very different than that of papua new guiniea cannibals. cannibalism may seem like a dead-end strategy for a culture, but similarly the human appendix seems to have been a dead-end idea for an organ. or at least it has outlived its usefulness.

    i’ll take a bigger-picture approach: for billions of years single-celled organisms were the only thing out there. you were successful if you could keep your innards separated from the environment and pass along your genetic info.

    some cells were better at cooperating with each other, and over time they tended to survive longer than the rest. as more and more cells joined together we started to get plants and animals and all the rest. from there gravity and air pressure and things like that put a limit on the size of a single organism, but the selective pressure never lets up, and it is still the case that cooperation can be a good strategy for genetic success.

    this is not to say that it is the best strategy; the eyeball is a pretty brilliant tool for survival, so it very rarely gets selected out of a population; I’d argue that cooperation is more like horns or hooves: very useful in some times/places, but not always.

    it often works best between individuals of the same species, but not always (i’d say dogs and domestic corn are two examples of inter-species cooperation with humans that have greatly benefited both parties). but anyway ants have a certain method of group cooperation that works really well for them, and humans have evolved a very different kind.

    and genetic diversity in humans leads to different kinds of cooperation/society/morality. cannibalism is rare these days, but so is polygamy, and for all we know in a hundred thousand years polygamists will have the upper hand. or cannibals? who knows?

    so i guess my view is that the fact that we can look at ourselves and our behavior rationally does not change the fundamental truth that morality is an evolved instinct, but i would say that it makes things much more complex, and perhaps our rational brains will be able to act as an evolutionary shortcut.

    what i mean is that it took millions of years for dumb evolutionary processes to come up with a leg-like appendage for moving around on land, whereas human thought found the wheel to be much more efficient in a lot of ways and it only took a few thousand years. our technological advancements can sometimes beat nature to the punch … i’m rambling now and i don’t know where this will lead. except maybe robots taking over the earth.

  41. Ol' E Cross
    Posted September 28, 2008 at 10:45 pm | Permalink


    That’s what I’m getting at. Thanks.

    As I think on it, what I was getting at in my original comments is when the robots take over they will think Obama is as crazy for believing in the resurrection as Palin is for believing in creationism.

    Which is why we can never let the robots take over.

  42. jmj
    Posted December 2, 2008 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Interesting discussion.

    A few notes. First, Dude in his first post, may not realize the extent to which his age, level of understanding, the teacher’s (lack of) expertise, etc. all were involved in the events which led him to “unbelieve”. There are also problem in teaching to children, then being able to mature their understanding of religion. He swung from experiencing one extreme, to the other.

    I can only speak from a Catholic perspective. I know that Biblical literalists represent a small fraction of Christians as a whole, who perhaps are magnifying their influence. For Catholics, the method of creation is not specified or important. Some distinct events are – including that at some point God created a soul and put it into man, giving him part of God’s own character (image and likeness), there was a fall caused by man, a Redeemer was promised and fulfilled in Christ, etc.

    I think teacher’s sometimes assume too much as fact when they should explore theology in more detail. It is important to understand the types of writing in the Bible, as well as its historical and cultural context. But, you can go too far in thinking it is all literal device, and ignore actual events.

    A big problem is not that we cannot reason well, but that in some areas, we don’t apply the right method of inquiry, and quite possibly don’t have enough evidence for some things.

    As far as evolution, bear in mind it is a theory. Anything that attempts to describe billions of years of change, in my view, cannot be proved. There are problems. For example, something like 50,000 tries in the last 50 years have attempted to cause life from the supposed primordial soup; without positive results. Plus, there is the previously stated problem that even with organisms which go through generations quickly, we have not seen new species evolve.

    I don’t think the sheer magnitude of changes needed to represent current species in their current state can be accomplished within the timeframes we discuss in evolution. Each part, and the whole had to evolve, selecting the best survival tools AND methods of operation and physiology, and must be doing this in conjunction with neighboring organisms and the surrounding environment. Sorry but it takes a lot of belief to propose that.

    God does create miracles. I would postulate that part of God’s problem is that he made his work so common. Miracles still do happen. From saints whose bodies do not corrupt/break down, to even personal miracles, medical or otherwise, there is more out there than materialists or skeptics can “prove”.

    Both sides base their ideas on beliefs.

    More soon …

  43. jmj
    Posted December 2, 2008 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t there also a problem with accidental evolution being inferred as cognizant or “preferred”? The fact that one amoeba was next to another one and did something that helped the other, doesn’t necessarily translate into having the next 20,000,000 amoebas (amoebi?) learn it. It would rather be random, and random over time. I know the theory says that some traits are “selected” because of the advantages they afford, but that still should be accidental, and not able to be trained or learned, by amoebas, which do not have much of a consciousness.

    I think we sometimes get stuck thinking that nature thinks like us, with all our hopes, dreams, capabilities, etc., which is a tragic mistake.

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