– Comment: Just as (as Jerry points out in the OP) religious believers aspire to square their beliefs with science, they similarly seek to comport religious morality with the principles of humanism. This is why we hear blather such as democracy being God’s gift to humanity and slavery offending God’s law — notwithstanding abundant evidence in the primary source of Scripture itself, and millennia of human history, demonstrating that long did the Lord blithely abide both the divine right of rulers and the subjugation of vanquished peoples.

– Theology is largely a matter of finding reasons for a priori assumptions.

– All debates are more about persuasion than reason.

(Stuff on the internet)


You’re challenging his in-group belief system and right wing authoritarians don’t cope well with that, particularly when they’re an evangelical fundamentalist right wing authoritarian. They deal with such challenges by denying the factual assertions, undermining the people who make the assertions and redoubling their belief statements, whilst trying to rally fellow in-group RWAs to reinforce their own messages. / incidents like this just constantly reinforce the RWAs fear (persecution) complex, thus further convincing them of the truth. / Dehumanising the opposition is a common trait of fanatics; In fact the first thing you do, if you’re a despot, is getting your people to regard other people as disposable (Jews, gays, blacks… whatever scapegoats best suit your purposes). The Nazis, for instance, compared Jews to cockroaches and so justified their extermination. In this case, a special set of ‘Christians’ have decided that people who don’t agree with them (ie ‘Atheists’) are not really human and so therefore don’t count in the general admonishments to love your enemy and be kind to people that most Christians are more familiar with in the Bible. Difficult to know how to argue out of that one, given that they also won’t listen to arguments from nonhumans either. / I’ve read a few books that touched on this idea over the years. One very effective dehumanization technique is to create an irrational fear in people (emphasis on irrational fear vs. rational fear) and give them an enemy to pin it on … and they will start all the loathing and dehumanizing on their own after that. I know how easy it is to fall into that way of thinking, where someone else becomes an idiot not even worthy of respectful dialog as a human. / at least here in the States, there’s a meme embedded in conservatism (religious or political) that says all criticism of conservative points is equivalent to a personal attack by evil people. Criticize one part of capitalism (i.e. the Pope pointing out there’s no evidence supporting trickle-down theory), and you’re an evil communist. Criticize how some churches spend tax-free money on political activities, and you’re an evil Satanist. (Or an evil secular humanist, which is the same in their minds.) /

My husband left Christianity a year and a half ago. It has been a tough road. It is hard in the beginning to hear someone who was so devout in Christianity call themself an atheist. I think the reason some Christians are defensive, (and yes, hateful at times) is because deep down, where they don’t want to look, they are AFRAID to admit that parts of Christianity or perhaps even the whole of Christianity might be wrong. That is where I am at right now. I AM afraid to let it all go. I still have lots of questions and continue to seek for answers, even if I don’t like them. I am moving away from fundamentalism at a pretty steady clip, but I haven’t given up on God or some of the teachings of Christ. /

The doctrine of hell is a massive problem. God is all-loving and perfectly moral, we are told, yet he is going to send some people to eternal torture.
It is therefore reasonable to conclude:
1) Torture is justified in some circumstances. In fact, not just some; we are told that this is what we all deserve. It is only because of Jesus that some of us will escape the default position of eternal damnation.
2) Physical punishment can be a loving act. This is the really poisonous part of the theology.

And furthermore:
3) With punishment that evil on the horizon, almost anything you do to save a child from hell is worth it in the long run. If you have to break their spine so they can’t sin anymore, well, you’ve still done them a favour if they make it to heaven.

The problem is I find Christianity an appalling religion. Even the most liberal denominations still posit a fallen creation that needs to be saved or corrected by a supposedly perfect Father-God. In other words, the flawed, contingent creation is blamed for the massive error of the Creator. That seems appalling unfair, even EVIL to me. So…as a resident Misotheist, I sometimes rant a bit.

Though I obviously don’t hate God, I was raised to regard the doctrine of “Original Sin” as a medieval heresy. The fact that it’s dominant in Christianity annoys the living crap out of me, and I believe it leads to bad stuff. If I believed that God blamed me for the sins of some guy 6000 years ago, I’d be pretty upset. Fortunately, (And ironically) my childhood fundamentalism insulated me from that particular kind of craziness.

if you are a Christian and claim to ‘love’ me, despite my being a gay, Buddhist, atheist or whatever, just remember that words are cheap. You can *say* all the nice, loving and non-judgmental things (“love the sinner not the sin” etc) but if you act like I’m something disgusting that has crawled out from under a rug, don’t be surprised if I don’t believe you.

I’ve had a lot of pretty unpleasant encounters with fundamentalist Christians over the years, and I didn’t even have the misfortune to go to an ACE school. I tend to agree with Gandhi when he said “I like your Christ but I’m not sure I like you Christians”

everyone knows that morality comes from god and religious belief gives one access to it. Atheists, it is presumed incorrectly, cannot be equivalently moral people to those who are by religious membership. Atheists are widely despised for their rejection of faith-based belief while still being far more moral as a group statistically than any equivalent religious group. Uh oh. How can this be?

Ah yes, the equivalent argument… except the stats don’t bear this out.

Atheists on ‘this’ side of the ocean are the most distrusted group out of them all. And the reason? It ain’t because the group contains some dicks; it’s because, firstly, atheists are the out group, the minority, those who refuse to join the herd. Can’t trust such folk; they refuse to submit to god, for crying out loud. Bunch of nihilists ready to rape, pillage, and loot the faithful because they’ve no reason not to unless they fear the wrath of the Lord.

And secondly, after all, everyone knows that morality comes from god and religious belief gives one access to it. Atheists, it is presumed incorrectly, cannot be equivalently moral people to those who are by religious membership. Ipso facto.

Atheists are widely despised for their rejection of faith-based belief while still being far more moral as a group statistically than any equivalent religious group. Uh oh. How can this be?

This cognitive dissonance is the problem from the theistic view, and it’s brought about by those darned atheists. We can’t get away from them. This brings us to the third reason: they are to blame for the discomfort of the religious. No atheists, no discomfort.

Fourthly, atheists seem to be articulate, intelligent, reasonable, and nice people who also as a group seem to know a very great deal more about all kinds of religious stuff than the average believer. Again, this causes more cognitive dissonance. Surely, the reasoning goes, a believer should know more about his or her religious beliefs than someone who rejects them and offers pretty good arguments why. But religion is good. Uh oh.

Faced with more cognitive discomfort, the believer retreats into their biases and prejudices because at least everyone knows that these are morally acceptable! And nothing is more acceptable than holding disdain for atheists; everyone does.

Well, we haven’t spoken before, so I don’t know which side of the Atlantic you’re talking about, but there’s some truth to what you say. I think you’re unnaturally limiting it by making it a ‘shirts versus skins’ conflict, though. Humans evolved from predatory pack hunters. Clan identity is very important for animals like that, it was important to our ancient ancestors, and hence there’s some legacy of it in our own psychology. Our own sense of self is in large part dependent upon the group we belong to. To some extent we’re wired to distinguish “Us” from “That bunch over there” simply as a means of ego defense. This is a legacy of 3 million years of evolution, and we can’t just wish it away because it’s inconvenient. Nor can we pretend it’s the purview of only ONE group of humans.

So to that extent I agree with you: the presense of “Other” is always going to discomfit one group or another. The part where I disagree is that our definition of “Other” is generally rather random, and if there isn’t an immediately obvious distinction within a group, we’ll CREATE one just so we can exclude people. Case in point: Racism is deplorable. Racism is generally thought of along racial lines. But if you’re in a situation that’s only got caucasians in it, you’ll just pick one group and decide they’re not caucasian enough (Italians) or the wrong KIND of caucasians (Irish) or whatever, and it’s all just basically a capricious distinction to pump up whatever group YOU happen to belong to. (I don’t mean “You” specifically, obviously, just too tired really dicker with my grammar. Sorry.)

Or take the subject of religion: you say religion is bad. I say religion is good. You say my group pillories your group. No doubt we have. I can also point to plenty of examples of the opposite being true. And yet what are we fighting about here? What is the basis of exclusion and “Otherness?” Is it race? Social status? Language? Nationality? Nope, it’s just an idea that may or may not be true. If that ain’t arbitrary, I don’t know what is.

Majority/Minority conflict and discomfort is…only questionably universal. My dad grew up in Canada in the 1930s/40s. There was no anti-black racism to speak of not because there were no Canadian black folk, but rather because their numbers were small enough and concentrated enough that majority society didn’t feel any threat. And it was much easier to hate the French. Or take American Indians like my wife: back in the day, they were hated and oppressed. I personally hung around with the A.I.M. for years, so I’m pretty well aware of their plight. But they exist in such trivially small numbers now that they pose no threat at all to majority society, so the Majority isn’t discomfited. In fact, they think the minority is kinda’ cool, despite knowing nothing about ‘em, and the minority frequently having politics that are radically opposed to the majority.

Likewise, very large minorities (Like, say, Germans in the US in the 19th century, or Hispanics and Blacks now) don’t trouble the majority much. So there’s thresholds involved on both ends. I don’t think you can simply say “We make them feel bad so they hate us” or “We make them question their stupid beliefs, so they hate us,” or “They’re dumb and we’re smart, so they hate us.” I think it’s more like you said, a case of simply refusing to belong and hence being excluded.

“Hate” and “Exclusion” are not entirely the same thing, by the way. There are plenty of groups that are designated “Other” but aren’t hated. Hate is more often attributed to behavior or rhetoric, such as Mr. Hitchens dickish “Everyone’s an idiot except for me” aggression. He doesn’t speak for all atheists, nor even all antitheists, but he kinda’ pretended to, and Theists kinda’ believed him.

I don’t trust people who believe their morality is a result of their religion. Anyone who only does the right thing because they believe someone is watching requires constant watching, you know? -castille360 (blog commenter)

But that bit about not exposing children to religion. I was thinking on that. I feel the opposite. I never hesitate to take my kids to religious events or services, and have brief discussions about the core beliefs of different faiths and what differentiates them from others. Understanding what a group believes exactly, before getting pulled in by their welcome, I think is especially important. The kids should be well versed in the faiths of our culture, since these things are going to come up again and again in politics, literature and social interaction. I want them to be wholly literate in this way. We talk about what we agree with in a particular faith and what we don’t. I stopped being a ‘believer’ when I was in middle school, and I’ll tell you why. I actually read the bible during those long during Sunday services. The whole thing. And it was eye opening. I’d like my own kids to have the same opportunity to really see and examine critically what these faiths are and why people might participate in them in order to find their own paths.

Look, as a general rule, Fundamentalism doesn’t work. We all agree with that, right? I’m a Christian and a former fundamentalist, and fundamentalism drove me out of Christianity altogether for a long white. For some people – we’ve all met ‘em – it might be the only thing holding them together psychologically, but for most it’s needlessly strict and its worldview is often at right angles to observable reality. There’s no argument there.

“Indoctrination” has a much more negative connotation than what I think is going on in most houselholds, though. Granted, I’m probably more of a free-thinker than most Christians, owing to my years of wandering, but in most of the households I grew up around, the basic teaching was more along the lines of “You are special because God loves you,” not “God’s going to send you to hell for not putting the cap back on the toothpaste tube.” “Indoctrination” makes it sound so fascist, and with (obvious) exceptions, it’s really not.

Lemme give you an example: most Americans grow up believing America is the greatest country in the history of the world. That may not be true, but it’s a harmless belief most of the time, it makes us feel good, so where’s the harm? Most Americans grow up thinking a sense of social justice is really important. Now, from an evolutionary concept, there is absolutely NO basis in “Social Justice.” We all agree it’s a good thing, of course, but it’s something we humans made up, which doesn’t exist in nature. We all believe in love, though love has no observable reality, and is just a bunch of hormones, mating behaviors, social programming, and eventual conditioned response. It ain’t real. And yet it’s the only thing that makes life worth living, isn’t it? We all grow up with a favorite baseball team, and love ‘em or hate ‘em, few people change affiliation. These are harmless, and in some cases (Social Justice and Love) they’re beneficial. We’re not “Indoctrinated” into these, we pick ‘em up by osmosis. It’s human nature. We instinctively build communities, and communities are based around certain shared basic assumptions and codes of behavior. Many of these are admittedly arbitrary, but so what? If you’re fighting against that, you’re fighting against a behavior that evolved over millions of years and has some obvious suvival value.

IE: a community is more likely to survive than an individual, and a community is more likely to protect one of its own members than it is someone who doesn’t belong.

Look, I couldn’t give two shits about (American) football. I just don’t care. Never did, never will. My folks never attempted to “Indoctrinate” me in it. I found out on my own, however, that people talk about football a lot, and expect me to be able to talk about it too, as I’m a guy, and if I can’t, I’m weird. So eventually I realized that I had to feign interest. I check the scores, try to remember who won what, and leaned to repeat some frequently-heard sports mating calls like “[name] is a lousy coach” or “is the best quarterback in the NFL.” I can fake my way through conversation. Should I HAVE to do this? No. But it’s a social lubricant. It gives you something to bond over and talk about (Or pretend to talk about in my case), and gets me invited to parties. Granted, they’re boring football parties, but, hey, free hamburgers.

Likewise, most people in America are at least nominally religious, and perhaps a third are more than nominally so. Being conversant is a social lubricant, it avoids conflicts, it helps you spot a fanatic from a more normal believer, and gets you invited to parties. Again they’re pretty boring parties, but, hey: free hamburgers.

The overwhelming majority of ex-Christians on this site is testament to the fact that regardless of their “Indoctrination,” people are free to leave Christianity at any time. People do it all the time. *I* did it. So I don’t really understand the concept of Christianity as Though Police.

Now then: off to church…

Like you, reading the bible was a real eye-opener, especially when people presumed it was a doctrine of moral behaviour; later comparing and contrasting various versions another popping eye-opener. I always found it remarkable that the most pious believers generally seemed to know the least about these source documents. This was a clue I thought important…

What could be more important than finding out if this god or that were actually true, actually real, that these scriptural rules from this one but not from that one were essential to living with divine sanction? If god were an active interventionist causal agency in the world then I wanted to know something about it, but all my studies kept providing me with more and more clues that something was rotten in the state of Denmark: no religious source could provide me with an independent way to determine if a claim were actually true. I couldn’t honestly and satisfactorily answer the question, “How do I know if this claim is true?” In the span of a single year I had seen faith in action in apartheid South Africa and seen faith in action at Auschwitz and seen faith in action in the Six Days War and seen faith in action in Soviet Russia and seen faith in action during the fall of Prague and knew without a doubt that faith of any kind acted upon as a means to justify an action was a guaranteed way to fool one’s self into believing stuff that interfered with coping well with reality.

So my criticism against indoctrinating children has to do with teaching them how to be gullible and credulous: by learning that belief alone can justify action and that this is a supposedly a virtue when all of reality stands contrary to this assertion. In addition, acting on faith-based beliefs causes real victims, causes harm to real people in real life. Teaching children to think this way, to empower respect for faith-based beliefs, I think isn’t just a travesty about how to function well in this world but actively supports a way of thinking that causes harm to everyone it touches. And I call that kind of teaching child abuse.