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First in line

I don’t know, believing there’s an invisible man in the sky watching what you do with your vagina and that he needs appeasing through ceremony seems like a good reason to make fun of someone. Everyone needs to be mocked once in a while and this seems like as good a reason as any.

It is a commitment, though. Praising that in spite of its silliness seems like the same sort of logic that leads people to praise Bush’s stubborn commitment to the failing course in Iraq.

Jeez, and Craig thought it was bad that people would blame Bush for North Korea’s recent exploits. I should get a medal for turning this into an anti-Bush post.

Categories: Silliness
  1. October 10, 2006 at 2:06 pm

    Here is you medal.

    *

    Take it, you done good son.

  2. Colby N.
    October 10, 2006 at 5:31 pm

    Are you seriously drawing parallels between a war that has killed tens of thousands and a woman deciding to stay chaiste?????

    That is crazy, even for you. Do you have some specialy religious-radar that guides you to the most unintrusive religious facts to mock?

    So maybe she is silly, as you put it. I hardly think Iraq is silly. I hardly think N. Korea is silly. And even if she is silly, she apparently has more balls than you or I ever will, so I don’t see how you can even point that finger.

  3. October 10, 2006 at 6:31 pm

    I was joking, but whatever:

    Are you seriously drawing parallels between a war that has killed tens of thousands and a woman deciding to stay chaiste?????

    No, I was comparing two instances of praising nonsensical commitments: Bush’s commitment to his failed policies and her commitment to remaining chaste for a god. The consequences of either commitment are irrelevant.

    That is crazy, even for you. Do you have some specialy religious-radar that guides you to the most unintrusive religious facts to mock?

    Even for me, eh? If it’s stupid, it deserves to be mocked. It seems quite stupid, unintrusive or not.

    So maybe she is silly, as you put it. I hardly think Iraq is silly. I hardly think N. Korea is silly. And even if she is silly, she apparently has more balls than you or I ever will, so I don’t see how you can even point that finger.

    Fantastic! I don’t think Iraq and North Korea are silly either. I don’t care if is she has more balls or dedication or whatever you want to call it. There are plenty of people dedicated to stupid causes. Rationality seems a little more important.

  4. Colby N.
    October 10, 2006 at 7:51 pm

    I was joking, but whatever

    Sometimes it is really hard to know with you. You go back and forth between the most insightful commentary on the overstepping of religious boundaries, and then make fun of thigns that I don’t follow you on. This might be easier to believe if you didn’t say:

    Everyone needs to be mocked once in a while and this seems like as good a reason as any.

    Explain to me, using that oh-so-wonderful rationality, what this woman did that deserves to be mocked. I would love to hear you elaborate here.

    I was comparing two instances of praising nonsensical commitments: Bush’s commitment to his failed policies and her commitment to remaining chaste for a god. The consequences of either commitment are irrelevant.

    Compare means to explore the similarities of something; to see how they are the same. It is pretty cheap to say you are talking only about how the actions are similiar and not the outcomes. Americans shot people in WWII, Americans shot people in Iraq; the actions are the same, there are obviously very different outcomes. Outcomes matter.

    There are plenty of people dedicated to stupid causes. Rationality seems a little more important.

    What is the point of rationality if it doesn’t make a contribution? There are plenty of people dedicated to stupid things, but often that dedication inspires others as well. How does inactive rationality make any meaningful contribution to the world? That is like saying honesty is the best thing. Sounds good, but if there is nothing to be hoenst about, and no one to be honest with; what is the point?

  5. October 10, 2006 at 8:34 pm

    I was joking in that the comparison to the war in Iraq wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. Shane seems to have realized it was a joke. I do really think her reasons are rather silly, however.

    Explain to me, using that oh-so-wonderful rationality, what this woman did that deserves to be mocked. I would love to hear you elaborate here.

    There’s no evidence for any part of the belief that motivated her to do this. There’s no evidence that there’s a god, that there’s a god who cares about human affairs, that there’s a god who cares about human sexual practices, that there’s a god who thinks human’s should refrain from sex, nor that there’s a god who thinks his belief that humans should refrain from certain sexual practices deserves ceremonial dedication. There’s not really a justification for any part of what she apparently believes. It’s absurd to take that kind of leap of logic.

    Compare means to explore the similarities of something; to see how they are the same. It is pretty cheap to say you are talking only about how the actions are similiar and not the outcomes. Americans shot people in WWII, Americans shot people in Iraq; the actions are the same, there are obviously very different outcomes. Outcomes matter.

    I wasn’t comparing the two events. I was comparing statements made about those events and the logic supporting such statements. You can use similar arguments to make similar statements about completely different events. I can make an argument from popularity that leads me to drive a car and I can make an argument from popularity that leads me to take drugs. Objecting to my calling both arguments arguments from popularity by saying taking drugs is nothing like driving a car is nonsensical.

    What is the point of rationality if it doesn’t make a contribution? There are plenty of people dedicated to stupid things, but often that dedication inspires others as well. How does inactive rationality make any meaningful contribution to the world? That is like saying honesty is the best thing. Sounds good, but if there is nothing to be hoenst about, and no one to be honest with; what is the point?

    Now that you’ve demolished that strawman, do you have any objection to what I actually said? 🙂

    I was saying dedication without rationality is not praiseworthy. I didn’t say rationality without action is praiseworthy. I said rationality is more important than dedication, not that it should be pursued exclusively.

  6. Colby N.
    October 10, 2006 at 9:14 pm

    There’s no evidence for any part of the belief that motivated her to do this. There’s no evidence that there’s a god, that there’s a god who cares about human affairs, that there’s a god who cares about human sexual practices, that there’s a god who thinks human’s should refrain from sex, nor that there’s a god who thinks his belief that humans should refrain from certain sexual practices deserves ceremonial dedication. There’s not really a justification for any part of what she apparently believes. It’s absurd to take that kind of leap of logic.

    This is really where this centers for me. Why does it bother you so much if someone has faith? I can see that there is no place for that kind of thing for you, and I can respect that. But what seems funny to me is another person who has reasons and their own justificaton for doing something extreme with their life seems to bother you in some way.

    So she doesn’t need evidence, or perhaps she has it and you can’t see it. I think there is evidence there is a God, just not some stone cold obviously unmmistakeable evidence that even a blind drunk could identify. Isn’t it possible that evidence is everywhere and you are incapable of seeing it? I think there is evidence all around, in music, art, children, emotion, forgiveness, hope, optomisim. There is no reason for any of these things to have evolved from something else, and for me, these things are evidence of a God. So what now? I see the evidence for why she believes in God and why she would do this. What do you say to that? Either I am lying, or I am insane, or you are going to try and refute my evidence with some rationality. Which is it going to be?

  7. October 10, 2006 at 10:47 pm

    But what seems funny to me is another person who has reasons and their own justificaton for doing something extreme with their life seems to bother you in some way.

    It bothers me when people believe things without justification. It just does. I don’t typically care unless it starts harming other people, but it bugs me either way.

    So she doesn’t need evidence, or perhaps she has it and you can’t see it.

    Not needing evidence is a big problem, isn’t it? We don’t take people seriously in any other area of life when they say they don’t need evidence for their opinions. Why is religion the exception?

    We’re all human beings and we all have the same essential mental abilities. That I’m somehow incapable of seeing her evidence is a claim you’ll have to present an argument for.

    I think there is evidence all around, in music, art, children, emotion, forgiveness, hope, optomisim. There is no reason for any of these things to have evolved from something else, and for me, these things are evidence of a God. So what now? I see the evidence for why she believes in God and why she would do this. What do you say to that? Either I am lying, or I am insane, or you are going to try and refute my evidence with some rationality. Which is it going to be?

    Option 3, I suppose. Of course, you’ll have to explain how the things you listed are evidence for the existence of a god. That there’s no reason for those things to have evolved is not a good reason nor is it correct. You’re not actually presenting an argument for why those things are evidence for a god, you’re saying that because we don’t know why they evolved, they didn’t. That’s a logical fallacy.

    Secondly, a god is not a good explanation for any of those traits. Explaining a mystery with an even bigger mystery simply gives us more we need to explain. In short, it decreases our knowledge of how the world works. So by saying God is responsible for such traits, you’re actually making things worse in terms of explaining why we possess such traits.

    Thirdly, it’s not hard to see why some of them could have evolved. Music could be an offshoot of our language abilities and/or useful as a tool of social cohesion (drawing people together, etc). Art could be similar, playing on our brain’s processing of color and shapes and being useful in communicating with others in a social group. Note that those two don’t really need to actually have a benefit. They could simply be side-effects of other adaptations, like our auditory and visual abilities. I’m going to assume when you say children you mean the joy they bring their parents, as children themselves are obviously explainable as the furthering of your own genes. That love you feel is explained the same way; that connection you feel is useful in forcing you to sacrifice as much as possible to protect the transmission of your genes to the next generation. Emotion has been suggested to be a remnant of older urges, which were there for creatures with weaker mental abilities to function. Others have suggested it’s useful to us in setting priorities, to be able to make choices at any moment between equally rational goals. Forgiveness specifically seems useful in encouraging social harmony. Hope and optimism seem required to some degree; if you’re overly pessimisitic it seems like you’re not going to be all that dedicated to replicating your genetic material.

    The point of such explanations is not that they’re necessarily what really happened. They’re simply reasonable and coherent explanations using processes we have lots of evidence for. They’re to be preferred over “God did it” because they explain the traits mentioned without positing additional unexplained entities or processes.

  8. Colby N.
    October 10, 2006 at 11:10 pm

    We’re all human beings and we all have the same essential mental abilities. That I’m somehow incapable of seeing her evidence is a claim you’ll have to present an argument for.

    I was meaning that your eyes don’t work right and you cannot see it. I merely meant that perhaps your definition of evidence is not the same as teh next person’s. Why do you presume to have the correct definition of evidence? Do you have any evidence to prove that you know waht evidence is? See, there is a problem with that assumption.

    Option 3, I suppose. Of course, you’ll have to explain how the things you listed are evidence for the existence of a god.

    See, that is the really cool part. I don’t have to explain it. I mean, you might want me to, but what I am saying is that I see them and I believe that it proves something to me. You can punch holes in that effectiveness of that all day, but then again, that is the same hole-punching that many people would do with your evidence as well, so it doesn’t get us anywhere. It is enough to say that when I hear music, I fully believe that something so beautiful would not originate in the random chaos of the rational world; that it could only come from something intelligent enough to create it. Simply put, they are evidence of god because when I look at them or listen to them, I believe they came from God. I would really like to know, how is that different from a lawyer looking at a gun, some blood, some fingerprints and believing that the accused did the crime?

    Secondly, a god is not a good explanation for any of those traits. Explaining a mystery with an even bigger mystery simply gives us more we need to explain.

    You’re assuming that explaining things is humanities best goal. Not just that, but you’re also presuming to have the true definition of explaining anyhow.

    The point of such explanations is not that they’re necessarily what really happened. They’re simply reasonable and coherent explanations using processes we have lots of evidence for. They’re to be preferred over “God did it” because they explain the traits mentioned without positing additional unexplained entities or processes.

    And the point of my explanations is that I have coherent explanations using what I consider to be evidence. I am willing to concede every specific evidence I gave, but I still contend that you have no intelligent way or refuting “evidence” as I use it while still defending “evidence” as you use it. We both define our evidence the same way, yet you don’t agree that my evidence is evidence. I still ask why not?

    That love you feel is explained the same way; that connection you feel is useful in forcing you to sacrifice as much as possible to protect the transmission of your genes to the next generation.

    Not just this quote, but that whole paragraph, makes me sad. This one in particular almost bothers me, because you have no direct experience to explain parental connections; having never been a parent. Even so, it seems you have a need to find the most remote explanation possible as long as it fits your very specific (and as I contend, not correct) definition of logicla or rational. I just feel sad that you seem to need to take everything down to that level. Its unfortunate.

    As far as this evidence thing goes, I would still say that when I listen to music, I see it as evidence that there is a God. Specifically, how would youa rgue that one? It doesn’t do you much good to say it isn’t evidence, because another person of relatively competent intellect such as yourself has already claimed it to be evidence. If it is not evidence, please differentiate between what I call evidence and what you call evidence. If it is evidence, please explain why that evidence I have is somehow inferior or insufficient?

  9. October 11, 2006 at 9:37 am

    You guys should get a room.

  10. Colby N.
    October 11, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    Hmm, no response from Jeff…
    Maybe he finally gave up on this one?

    I do feel the need to point out how weird it feels to defend this particular standpoint. Normally I agree with Jeff’s sentiments reagarding the overreaching of organized religion into society and politics (especially in America). I consider msyelf spiritual, but find more problems than benefits from organized Christianity. I stress organized, because it is largely church politics and fundamentalists Christian political groups that perpetrate these things. I have a lot of sympathy for Athiests (even though I am not among them), because I do see many problems in the world that are direct resulst of religion more than anything. As far as personal faith and Belief, I think that is awesome and can contribute a lot to the world by inspiring others and perpetrating acts of kindness in and of itself.

    I say all of this because it is important for me to backup why I am so motivated to take issue with this particular post of Jeff’s. It is not a post about any organized religious institution, political action group, or politican; it is about one woman who did something for herself.

  11. October 11, 2006 at 7:18 pm

    I was meaning that your eyes don’t work right and you cannot see it. I merely meant that perhaps your definition of evidence is not the same as teh next person’s. Why do you presume to have the correct definition of evidence? Do you have any evidence to prove that you know waht evidence is? See, there is a problem with that assumption.

    There isn’t a correct definition of evidence because human beings came up with the concept. This is my definition: facts about the natural world the existence of which can be used to logically infer other facts about the natural world. To answer a question you ask later, your evidence isn’t evidence because you can’t logically infer your conclusion using it as a starting point. Even if you could, there are simpler chains of inference, which are to be preferred. It’s simply a definition, which is not something you can have evidence for. My evidence for it being useful – as in this kind of logical inference from physical facts is actually an indicator of truth – is simply that it works. Science works on this principle and you and I wouldn’t be having this discussion here if science didn’t work. Furthermore, everyone uses it and couldn’t function without it. Imagine how hard your job would be if you couldn’t rely on our conceptions of the laws of physics. Maybe every once in a while a random bit would flip and a calculation would come out different.

    See, that is the really cool part. I don’t have to explain it. I mean, you might want me to, but what I am saying is that I see them and I believe that it proves something to me.

    I don’t doubt that proves it to you. I’m saying that your reasoning is wrong and irrational. If you want to claim you’re not being irrational, then you have to make a rational argument. It’s really that simple. You’re perfectly welcome to believe whatever you want for whatever reason you want. You just can’t claim you’re being rational when you aren’t.

    You can punch holes in that effectiveness of that all day, but then again, that is the same hole-punching that many people would do with your evidence as well, so it doesn’t get us anywhere.

    What a ridiculous statement. Oh, we’ll never agree, so we must both be right! What the hell?

    It is enough to say that when I hear music, I fully believe that something so beautiful would not originate in the random chaos of the rational world; that it could only come from something intelligent enough to create it.

    This is something a creationist would say. I’m quite disappointed. Natural selection is not random. It is nowhere near random.

    As I said before, I’m sure you believe that. It’s simply not rational. The fact that you believe it doesn’t make it rational.

    Simply put, they are evidence of god because when I look at them or listen to them, I believe they came from God. I would really like to know, how is that different from a lawyer looking at a gun, some blood, some fingerprints and believing that the accused did the crime?

    All of those things have logical connections to the world that we’ve observed over and over again. Fingerprints happen with someone puts their finger on a surface, which means they had to be in the area at one time or another, for example. The connection has been demonstrated. You can demonstrate it to anyone you choose to. Do that with your feeling that God is responsible for music and the existence of such a being. Demonstrate that your feeling of God is an indicator that he actually exists. You can’t. It’s never been done. It’s completely incoherent. You won’t accept it in any other area in intellectual argument. If you believe what you say you believe then you believe that the Iraq war is justified because someone out there surely “feels” it’s the right thing to do. You believe that everything people feel to be true is actually true. You believe people who hear voices from God telling them to kill people are actually hearing God, because those people really believe it’s God (which, considering that a God who tells people to kill others is not the kind of God that you think your feelings are evidence for makes your position internally contradictory, and therefore wrong). You have two choices: admit that feelings are not a reliable indicator of truth about the outside world or believe that there is no reality, that it is completely mentally constructed based on our feelings.

    You’re assuming that explaining things is humanities best goal. Not just that, but you’re also presuming to have the true definition of explaining anyhow.

    No, I’m not assuming that. Scientific reasoning (which is the only reasoning from natural facts we’ve found to actually work and be an indicator of truth) shows us that which explains more of existence is a better indicator of truth. I can explain gravity in several coherent ways: general relativity, God pulling us down, tiny invisible leprechauns linking every group of particles, etc. We use relativity because it’s simpler and doesn’t raise more questions than it solves, like the other two examples.

    And the point of my explanations is that I have coherent explanations using what I consider to be evidence. I am willing to concede every specific evidence I gave, but I still contend that you have no intelligent way or refuting “evidence” as I use it while still defending “evidence” as you use it. We both define our evidence the same way, yet you don’t agree that my evidence is evidence. I still ask why not?

    Because you haven’t demonstrated that it meets our defintion. It doesn’t matter that you think it does; people are pefectly capable of holding internally contradictory beliefs (“Behead those who say Islam is violent,” anyone?). The fact that you hold them doesn’t make them compatible. You have to demonstrate that.

    Not just this quote, but that whole paragraph, makes me sad. This one in particular almost bothers me, because you have no direct experience to explain parental connections; having never been a parent. Even so, it seems you have a need to find the most remote explanation possible as long as it fits your very specific (and as I contend, not correct) definition of logicla or rational. I just feel sad that you seem to need to take everything down to that level. Its unfortunate.

    It’s taking a lot of willpower not to write something nasty about your comment here. You know perfectly well there are atheist parents who believe exactly what I just said. So knock off your shit about if I were a parent, I wouldn’t believe that. I don’t need direct experience. I was giving a scientific explanation of the existence of a feeling not describing the feeling itself. And remote? Every reputable biologist in the damn world believes exactly what I just said. Do you not know what kin selection is? Have you read anything about evolution? If parents didn’t care for their kids, they wouldn’t survive. If we didn’t evolve such connections, evolution would have a hole you could drive a truck through. It would have been discarded long ago.

    What’s sad is that you’re too narrow-minded to understand that I didn’t do anything to diminish whatever feelings parents have for their children. I explained why the exist. How can that possibly make them less powerful?

    it is about one woman who did something for herself

    It’s a bit beyond that, I’d say.

  12. Colby N.
    October 11, 2006 at 10:26 pm

    My sincerest apologies if you took my last comment to mean that you would change your views if/when you became a parent. It was truly not my intent to say that. What I meant was that since you are currently not a parent, it seems difficult for you to speak to the functions of parental feelings; having never felt them. I in no way meant to imply that when you become a parent (if you want to) that you would find your opinion to change. It is highly probalby that you would find you opinion validated with your own child, but that I think it take a direct experience with something to state why you think it happens.

    The issue of rationality has come up many times here, and when I sought to find a good definition for it, I found it to be very circularly defined. What I ended up with was some vague notion of an explanation that depends on good judgement and good sense. That is pretty hard to nail down. Normally I too am a huge fan in logical explanations, and I tend not to follow anything that cannot be help up with a good solid explanation; I don’t like things that don’t make sense. I think for the most part I tend to agree with you in that arena. I believe that I know what you are trying to get at when you define rationality, but I also see problems with it, and I am trying to rectify them as much for myself as for you.

    Take the aforementioned legal example of fingerprints, blood, the gun, etc. You said:

    All of those things have logical connections to the world that we’ve observed over and over again. Fingerprints happen with someone puts their finger on a surface, which means they had to be in the area at one time or another, for example. The connection has been demonstrated. You can demonstrate it to anyone you choose to.

    I am not disputing this at all. But what often occurs, and I don’t think you would disagree, is that the prosecutor will observe the evidence, evaluate it, and decide whether or not it is enough to believe that the accussed committed the crime. Most the time, the prosecutr doesn’t KNOW the person is guilty; they just saw enough evidence to make themselves believe it. It is quite possible, and often the case, that despite the evidence, the prosecutor was wrong to believe what he believed. Evidence as we know it, hard evidence along with explanations that would pass any rationality test, doesn’t do anything more than make sense to people enough to convince them. Sure there are counterexamples, like if we walked into the room just as the man was pulling the trigger 9 times adn we watch the victim fall over dead. There is some evidence that cannot be refuted, but the majority of the time evidence merely persuades us that something happened; it doesn’t prove it.

    If you believe what you say you believe then you believe that the Iraq war is justified because someone out there surely “feels” it’s the right thing to do. You believe that everything people feel to be true is actually true. You believe people who hear voices from God telling them to kill people are actually hearing God, because those people really believe it’s God (which, considering that a God who tells people to kill others is not the kind of God that you think your feelings are evidence for makes your position internally contradictory, and therefore wrong).

    As far as Iraq goes, I do believe that there are people who feel it is the right thing to do. I also would contend there is no evidence in the world that proves (in the way you like) that is was or was not the right thing to do, because right is always relative (unless you are going to argue for moral absolutes, which would surprise me).

    You have two choices: admit that feelings are not a reliable indicator of truth about the outside world or believe that there is no reality, that it is completely mentally constructed based on our feelings.

    I guess in large part is comes down to what we value in the notion of truth. It may be true that thousands of people have died in Iraq. It may be true that the President is acting in violation of the law. It may be true that hope is a developed survival trait instead of proof of God. But at the end of the day, what is the point of all that truth if at the same time the truth is that no one cares? Let’s say you convince the world that there is no evidence for God, and thus that there is no god, and so everyone who is currently spiritual or religious stops believing and becomes Athiest. Would this be desirable? Sure, we wouldn’t have Islamic terrorists anymore, except I tend to think they would be terrorists either way and they just use Islam as an excuse. Sure we wouldn’t have the fundamentalist groups trying to rewrite the constitution anymore, except that I think they are self-serving assclowns who feel a need to try and tell us all how to live either way. Sure, you wouldn’t have single women betrothing themselves to god in an obscure ceremony, although I bet that lady is going to find some way to fill the void she feels in her life. A lot of bad stuff would go away. Bud what about the good stuff? What do you say to the truth that religion helps people cope? What woudl you say to the truth that religion makes people try to be better people? What would you say to the truth that religion has helped many people give up some bad traits? How about those truths? I think I could produce a lot of evidence to support those truths.

    I guess I don’t have much time for truth that doesn’t accomplish anything. What is the point of pursuing a truth that doesn’t have an impact? There is this movie called The Emperor’s Club about a teacher who says something to the effect of “greatness without contribution is without significance”. I guess I feel the same way about truth, that without contribution it is without signifiance.

    So if evidence and rationality are good because they lead us to truth, then tell me why the truth, as you see it Jeff, is so good in and of itself.

    (again, sorry if I offended earlier)

  13. October 11, 2006 at 11:07 pm

    Just to point out, I was offended and it was mainly by the condescension that I read the post as containing, which seemed very misplaced. Sorry I called you narrow-minded.

    It is highly probalby that you would find you opinion validated with your own child, but that I think it take a direct experience with something to state why you think it happens.

    Again, I don’t think so. We explain things all the time we don’t have direct experience with. We observe them and then try to explain them. We’ve never experience the desires that cause, say, the behavior of a mouse, but we can explain them (to some degree).

    I am not disputing this at all. But what often occurs, and I don’t think you would disagree, is that the prosecutor will observe the evidence, evaluate it, and decide whether or not it is enough to believe that the accussed committed the crime. Most the time, the prosecutr doesn’t KNOW the person is guilty; they just saw enough evidence to make themselves believe it. It is quite possible, and often the case, that despite the evidence, the prosecutor was wrong to believe what he believed. Evidence as we know it, hard evidence along with explanations that would pass any rationality test, doesn’t do anything more than make sense to people enough to convince them. Sure there are counterexamples, like if we walked into the room just as the man was pulling the trigger 9 times adn we watch the victim fall over dead. There is some evidence that cannot be refuted, but the majority of the time evidence merely persuades us that something happened; it doesn’t prove it.

    I’m not asking for proof. I don’t think we can prove much of anything. Some logical arguments and mathematics are the only circumstances where things are proved. You’re talking about inductive arguments. Given this evidence, is the likelihood of this person committing a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s a much higher standard than I’m looking for. I’m not asking you to prove God exists. I’m looking for reasoning that leads to a conclusion of “this means there’s a better chance that God exists than that he doesn’t.” Something along those lines. What I’m seeing is a failure to offer even a weak connection here. The idea that a feeling is an indicator of a fact about the outside world is incomprehensible to me.

    As far as the good of religion. Honestly, I think you’re giving too much to me in the way of the bad effects. It certainly does cause a lot of terrible things, but I think a lot of it is making existing problems worse. People will always fight and they will always try to control one another. Religion is probably the best justification for such things, but there are others. The flip side to that is I don’t think a lot of the good people do is really because of their religion. They say so, but they’d probably do most of it anyway. We’re naturally wired for a lot of moral behavior. When I was writing back and forth about religion with my grandma this came up. Without religion we’d degenerate into moral chaos (I know that’s not what you’re saying). I did some rudimentary checking and compared nations by religiosity. I can’t call it statistically significant, but nations that were mostly secular (Sweden, Norway, a lot of European countries) had lower crime rates, citizens who said they were happier, etc. They gave more to charity, too. It was such a basic check that I’m not going to draw much of a conclusion from it, but it looked to me like it was at least a wash. Secular or religious, societies seemed fine. People were still fairly happy. Seems like the reduced death and destruction would be worth it.

    I don’t know that I can explain very well why I value truth in and of itself. I don’t like the idea of believing something that isn’t true (of course, I’m sure I do). I’m just curious. I want to know how the universe works, what’s in it, etc. Still, truth is valuable because it allows us to live our lives to the fullest. For example, you (I mean this in general, not you specifically) devote your life to God. You go to church every Sunday. You read the Bible for hours a day. If all of that is meaningless because God doesn’t exist, you’ve wasted a lot of your life. You could have been doing something else. Surely there are things that bring you greater joy. What about using faulty reasoning to reach an incorrect conclusion about medicine? Christian scientists have killed their children because they believe in prayer over modern medicine.

    I think a lack of respect for the truth is dangerous in general. You can be convinced to do just about anything without a respect for truth. That might be the main reason for me. I mean, suicide bombing isn’t that irrational, given the beliefs of these people. If they thought in the way that we know leads to truth, their beliefs would no longer be supportable and they would abandon them and they wouldn’t be killing people for virgins. Natural moral inclinations and desires can be a check against this, but they clearly aren’t overpowering.

  14. October 12, 2006 at 9:23 am

    Holy cripes. I SAID get a room.

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