Science and fundamentalism are killing religion

Science is playing a steadily larger and more personal role in helping us tell the difference between what is and what ain’t. In that capacity it has undermined what many of us once expected religion to provide, inspiring an increasingly angry and violent reaction from those who feel their very understanding of reality to be in jeopardy.

It would be wise to develop a more subtle and flexible understanding of the continuing role of religion in a civilization that relies on science to define the natural world. Human beings cannot readily preserve their sanity without some sense of meaning. To jettison religions that have sustained us for hundreds of generations because they fail to accurately record history or reliably describe the natural world would be a monumental mistake, a mistake that both religious fundamentalists and some scientists are pushing us to make. We need religion as much as we ever have, but our religion needs to evolve.

We carry on our lives inside a shell of metaphors. Reality is a model we carry around in our heads, a simulation we use to predict what will result from different courses of action. Those metaphors inform our decision whether to touch that stove or launch that business.

Much of our success or failure in life hinges on the accuracy of our model of reality. None of us is so brilliant as to be capable of assimilating all of the information in the world into a perfectly accurate mental representation. Every day we learn more, refining that model in ways that help us adapt to what we discover in the world around us.

Death cuts off this process incomplete, but our ability to share information with each other not just in the present, but across generations means our lives in some sense carry on. Our work can form the building blocks of future humans’ even more reliable reality, just as those before us improved our own.

The greater the fidelity of our internal reality with the reality we experience on the outside, the better our capacity for making decisions. However, there is always some level of dissonance between that model and the external world. Our ability to cope with those ambiguities is critical to mental health.

That dissonance is larger when we live in dense, complex communities. Farm life allows us to live fairly successfully with a less complete, less dynamic model of reality. Demands of survival and success in an urban, information-driven economy mean living inside a collection of metaphors in constant, dizzying flux.

Gaps or inconsistencies in that model create painful psychological discomfort. For hundreds, even thousands of generations we filled those gaps with myths about the personality of the Sun, or the moods of the Earth. Those myths are no longer very helpful in understanding some aspects of our reality, but they remain essential to wrestling with certain others.

Science is far better than religion at defining what is and is not real, but it still tells us nothing about what our lives mean. Religion as a method of understanding the “what” of reality has been utterly superseded. Religion as a means of understanding the “why” of reality is perhaps more vital than ever. For many people, separating religion’s discredited “why” value from its still-critical “what” value is excruciatingly painful.

From head-lopping jihadists in the chaotic failed states of the Middle East to terrified Christian fundamentalists in the American South, many people cannot find the answers they need in a religion that only exists as metaphor and does not dictate the “what” of our reality. They will oppress, harass, and even kill anyone who threatens to undermine the comforting, comprehensive reality provided by a religious understanding that is already half-dead and decaying around them.

We are living through the long death spasms of a version of religion that claimed to explain everything about life, stripping our lives of uncomfortable dissonance and mystery. Those who still revere that model are losing influence because they face competition from people with far better-refined understandings of the external world. To avoid adopting those more complex, more uncomfortable realities, they are resorting to violence and oppression on an escalating scale.

Civilization will outlast them, but the toll they will exact in misery and premature death remains to be tallied. Most importantly, their valued role in creating a religious understanding that can continue to deliver meaning in a world where the “what” of life is defined by science remains unmet. Science is no closer to telling us why we should get out of bed in the morning than it ever has been.  We still need metaphors that help us find love and joy and meaning in our existence. Art, poetry and music help, but without a shared structure around which to build some meaning they fall short. We still need religion, but to serve its mission a religion must remain relevant.

Science, whether intentionally or incidentally, has undermined religion by discrediting it as a means of defining reality. At the other end of the spectrum, fundamentalists are strangling religion by insisting that legitimate, authentic religious faith can only be found by remaining chained to the elements of our religious heritage which science has thoroughly discredited. Trapped in between, too many people are left with the conviction that one can only sustain religious faith through a process of deliberate, forceful self-deception.

The greatest irony of the information age is that the religions it crippled have grown more vital to our future than they have ever been. We must find ways to adapt older religious understandings to a new, sharper vision of reality if we are going to protect our collective sanity in a world of exponentially accelerating complexity.

If we cannot accomplish this feat then some new religious faith(s) will fill the gap. The birth of a new religion is like the birth of a new volcano. It is not something we want to experience. Better to accept some flexibility in our old understandings and adapt rather than letting the ground open up.

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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Posted in Evolution, Religion
305 comments on “Science and fundamentalism are killing religion
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  3. noloveinfear says:

    Science is an exercise in empiricism, an epistemology that determines truth based on observing experiments and collecting evidence. It has nothing to do with religion until religion disagree with science, in which case religion should use science to form a hypothesis, conduct rigorous experiments, collect data, and see if the data supports the hypothesis.

    Intelligent design is not science. It starts with the premise that a creator exists and works backwards attempting to find evidence that affirms the conclusion and distorting and/or ignoring evidence that negates the conclusion.

    “We must find ways to adapt older religious understandings to a new, sharper vision of reality if we are going to protect our collective sanity in a world of exponentially accelerating complexity.”

    Yep – we no longer believe Thor casts down bolts of lightning or that Ra hauls the sun across the sky in his chariot. If we are going to protect our collective sanity, we need to collectively remain sane by treating myths as what they are – interesting parables and lessons wrapped in fiction for the purpose of relating information deemed important to our society.

  4. Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

    This has been a remarkably civil discussion of religion. I think I’ve learned a bit about most folks here, in a very positive way.

    The Deist/deist/Christian/christian discussion is interesting.

    What beliefs does it take to be a “capital C” Christian?
    What can’t you believe in and be a Deist?

    Even the most religious here seem to agree that much of the Bible is allegorical (or parabolic). How much do you have to believe really really happened versus how much is a good story to help shape behavior?

    Do you have to believe in a virgin birth?
    Do you have to believe that Jesus was/is the literal son of god?
    Do you have to believe in the actual resurrection from the dead?

    Those would seem to be pretty much required, but I think of many of the “really religious” folks I know, and at least some of them would go with, “ehh…there probably wasn’t a resurrection from the dead”…and “I’m sure Mary was a lovely woman, but she may have had sex somewhere in there”.

    I certainly know self-proclaimed Christians who do not believe in life after death.

    Obviously, and interventionist god would rule you out as a Deist.

    • Anse says:

      Christians have been arguing and fighting and killing each other for 2,000 years over these questions.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Well…for us here…lets go with gentle arguing, very little fighting, and I’m just going to go on record to oppose anyone killing anyone else here on his board.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Come on, HT. Tradition demands it.

      • lomamonster says:

        Truly monstrous…

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Yes, Loma, just in time for Halloween, aka All Hallows’ Eve.

      • fiftyohm says:

        As he noted below, JG and I were regulars on an old Chron Christian blog years ago. Owl was there, as was Tracy when he was tthor with the cannon. And Big, too. If I’ve missed anyone, forgive me as I’ve slept since then.

        As a point of fact, it was usually less civil that this. Maybe because one couldn’t say ‘asshole’ or such things, and had to spend a bunch of time devising more subtle insults. Either way, I second the emotion this is better. Sorry Gerard.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        I’ve been on the Chron myself, but not on any religion blogs, just the op-ed pages and out in the general population where it can definitely get ugly.

      • texan5142 says:

        Yup!

      • texan5142 says:

        It is a beautifulI thing to a certain extent, cyber hugs for everyone.

      • texan5142 says:

        What, have you not heard of the agnostic wars? I think it could be a survival mechanism, power in numbers , religion is just a means to and end . Humans tend to rally around a central core, that is not necessarily a bad thing. What matters is, the heart and soul of that coalition .Shall we treat each other as equal partners in are shared interest of survival, or shall keep on the current path of repeating history? I don’t know…………………………..

      • lomamonster says:

        Life guided by parable can turn quite parabolic at times, eh?

      • CaptSternn says:

        Texan, wars and killing are often done over resources, like water, oil or territory, as well as religion. Ever hear of the 20 million killed for atheism? Stalin of the USSR, for example?

      • fiftyohm says:

        Wow! I never knew Stalin killed 20 million people for atheism! I’ll have to spread that around.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Fifty, where do you think the term “Godless communists” comes from? Communists outlaw religion and demand people accept the government as their god. Even in China now it is a serious crime to import Bibles or other religious materials, and a crime to distribute them.

      • fiftyohm says:

        *Patience, Fifty. Patience*

        The Soviet Communists banned all sorts of things; art, literature, history, pretty much anything inconsistent with the leadership’s ideological model. From this you extrapolate that ‘Stalin killed 20 million for atheism’. I’ll let the group judge the accuracy of this statement.

        China does not ban bibles. The Chicoms restrict the import of about everything, and require it go through government channels. You can bring your Bible with you as a tourist. You can buy Bibles at the bookstores. What you cannot do is stuff 300 of them in your suitcase, and not expect them to be confiscated in customs. I’d guess 300 copies of “Atlas Shrugged” would be treated the same way.

      • goplifer says:

        Try smuggling 1000 copies of Das Kapital through the airport in Beijing. That would be a pretty amusing stunt. “Comrade arrested in attempt to spread Communism in China”

      • johngalt says:

        The Stalin/atheism bit is a tired canard trotted out by those seeking to deflect attention away from the bloody history of their particular religion (any of them really).

        Wars are fought over power. Sometimes the proxy is resources or land or it’s done in the name of religion, but it’s always about one group of people attempting to subjugate another.

      • CaptSternn says:

        When a government is attempting to crush religion and religious beliefs, it is doing so in the name of atheism. And no, that does not excuse the violence and evil done in the name of religion. My comment was a reply to the idea that all or most violence and evil is done in the name of God or religion.

      • fiftyohm says:

        I dunno, Bud. My comment responded to exactly what you posted. And what you posted was demonstrably untrue. I wish you wouldn’t do that.

      • johngalt says:

        When a government attempts to crush religion, it does so on the basis of totalitarianism. As 50 said, they attempted to crush a lot of other things too. Suppressing literature in the USSR was not done to promote illiteracy.

    • CaptSternn says:

      HT, yes to all three of your questions. Those are the core beliefs of Christianity.

      And it has been mostly civil, which is a good thing.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Stern…I’m not sure how to convey the sincerity of my questions without simply saying, “I’m sincere here”, but I’m sincere here.

        How does one determine what is parable and what actually happened. Adam and Eve seems parabolic (and maybe I’m wrong there too), but Adam and Eve would seem as feasible as the virgin birth of the son of God.

        is it the “life of Jesus” that becomes literal and the other somewhat far-fetched stuff is allegory?

        I have a Baptist deacon brother-in-law that would interpret such questions as an attack on his religion, so in his stead, I ask you these questions.

        My brother in law and I get along well, but we had a bit of a dueling Bibles showdown one day many years ago after I spent a weekend with him at a Promise Keepers convention in the Astrodome. After that duel, we’ve decided not to get too religious with each other (or at least I decided that).

        Incidentally, Promise Keepers was an eye opening experience for me, and not one I’m likely to partake again.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        The Old Testament is a shadow of the New Testament. Every book in the Bible has a part in Jesus death and resurrection. He conquered death. The ultimate and perfect sacrifice for all men and women. Without the resurrection, it is merely a story.

        I do remember a comedian saying after 2000 years do we need to say New Testament. How about really Old Testament and Younger Testament.

      • CaptSternn says:

        HT, it is easy if a person sits down and reads the Bible. The Creation story, yes, God did Create everything, but nobody was there to witness it and evolution is part of it. Jesus spoke and taught with many parables, but there are actual events recorded.

        The virgin birth, the death and resurrection of Jesus, Lazarus, the miracles of healing, turning water into wine, Sermon on the Mount, feeding people with fish and bread, the Last Supper, the woman at the well, King David … There are events recorded in the Bible that are not recorded anywhere else, but have been proven to be true.

        It comes down to what are you really asking about. What part of the Bible, What Book, what chapter, what story, what verse, what lesson? And it is wise to remember that the Bibles written in English are translations, and there are quite a few different translations. Languages don’t always translate directly and sometimes the words used are not exactly accurate. The Commandment, “Thou shall not kill” is more accurately, “Thou shall not murder”.

        My dad, a very Godly man and deacon in our church, always taught me to go to the source. If somebody quotes a verse, read the verse, read the verses around it, read the chapter, even read the entire Book of the Bible to understand what was written. The translations may not be right word for word, but the meaning is still there, the intent behind the words.

        Look at this way, if the Bible says, “Then Jesus spoke of the worker in the field …” It would be fact that Jesus spoke of the worker in the field, but He was using a parable to teach, not necessarily a specific worker, field, employer or actual event. The event is His speaking, not the story He tells.

      • CaptSternn says:

        I don’t know anything about the Promise Keepers other than it helped a person I once knew to be a better person and deal with some issues he had.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        HT, something to ponder: I think it’s possible to accept something as truth without actually believing it.

      • goplifer says:

        They became core beliefs of Christianity as it developed, but some of those ideas weren’t present in the original.

        It’s clear that the Apostle Paul had never heard of a virgin birth. His explanation for Jesus’ deity is based on the route to divinity already understood in the Greco-Roman world and he describes it in the opening segment of Romans. Paul’s Jesus wasn’t literally a child born of god, but elevated to godhood just like Augustus. The term you’ll see used in some English translations is “adopted” or “declared.”

        There were few enough of the original disciples who believed in the resurrection that the author of Matthew, when he wrote fifty or sixty years later, felt compelled to record the fact that even at the end many of the disciples “did not believe.” And he just left that hanging in the final few verses of his text.

        The idea of a messiah being divine, just like a Roman emperor, would have been the kind of heresy worthy of an execution. That concept started outside of the Jewish world of the first disciples, out in the Greek and Roman cities of the empire. It didn’t become a core element of the faith until after Jerusalem was destroyed, cutting off the authority of the original Jewish core of the organization and setting the organization loose under mostly Greek control.

  5. Mason Page says:

    As a traditional Catholic and therefore religious, with an appreciation of science, but NOT a fundamentalist, I found Mr Chris Ladd’s piece interesting. I have no way of knowing what Mr Ladd’ religion is, but what he describes as fundamentalism is all around me, who still live in Texas, among contemporary Evangelical Christians. I am content to leave them to practice their religion as they please, if they are similarly content to let me practice mine; if they come to realize what Mr Ladd says in essentially true, they do NOT have to abandon religion—there are other religions like mainline Protestantism and Catholicism that do NOT require a person to take untenable scientific positions in order to be religious.

    • Anse says:

      Fundamentalism—Bible literalism–is a pox on the nation. They can worship and believe as they wish, but they must be met in the public sphere with the strongest opposition. It is one thing to have a different opinion; it is quite another to insist that night is really day and up is down. It’s kind of shocking the way the very idea of the scientific method is threatened by politically powerful ignoramouses in this, the 21st century. We should not be arguing over things like teaching evolution in schools at this point.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Without a literal interpretation of at least a few key parts of the Bible, it would seem that one cannot claim to be a Christian (with a capital C).

      • Anse says:

        I don’t think it’s impossible for a Christian to embrace scientific truth as we discover it. The miracles that make up the core of Christian doctrine contradict what we know about how life operates; you can’t come back from the dead. You can’t give birth when you’re a virgin, etc. But that’s what makes them miracles, I suppose. But I’ll leave it to Christians to hash those things out.

      • “I don’t think it’s impossible for a Christian to embrace scientific truth as we discover it.”

        Hear, hear! It’s not only possible, it’s EASY. It’s actually more difficult to do the opposite. This is what I don’t understand about fundamentalism. I think some folks – good, intelligent folks – believe that they’re somehow sinning if they if they don’t profess the Bible to be literal. In many (most?) cases, it’s not an intelligence issue, it’s more of a emotional/mental disorder issue. Guilt, betrayal, maybe fear.

  6. tuttabellamia says:

    I’ve really enjoyed this discussion, even though I have not made a major contribution.

    Much has been made of whether this is about “religion” or other variations of the word, but as Chris mentioned several times in his blog entry, it’s about defining reality, and metaphysics is a topic that interests me very much, if only from an amateur perspective.

    This thread has been thoughtful, civil, and unifying.

    • kabuzz61 says:

      Religion is a label put on by men and women. If you hear the word Jew you think Hebrew, synagogue, Talmud, etc. but it isn’t right. Their are Jews that don’t believe, Jews that are orthodox, Jews that are transformative and Jews that are Christian.

      Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, what have you are only labels. The relationship with God is between the individual and God. There is no longer any need for an intercessor. Even the word fundamentalist has different meanings. It all gets down to faith and relationship. On Sunday’s people should just gather in a building a worship God together. The building is not a mystical, magical place.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Buzz – We label everything. Dog, cat, meathead. We do this because that is a good part of what language is. If there are Christian Jews, you must be referring to both an ethnicity and a religion, otherwise the entire concept makes absolutely no sense at all. It’s an oxymoron. (That’s a label we made up to describe two contradictory terms that appear in conjunction.)

      • Owl of Bellaire says:

        kabuzz61 claims, “There is no longer any need for an intercessor.”

        Why did a supposedly perfect God change His (or Her) mind?

      • Anse says:

        Kabuzz, a religion without doctrine is little better than a bunch of stoned hippies dancing to the music of the Earth Mother. Every “non-denominational” Christian church in America is very much a sect of its own, and many are really Pentacostal churches who have decided to shed the label in an effort to pack the pews.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Anse – An excellent observation. What happened to The Summit again?

      • lomamonster says:

        There are a bunch of sect addicts out there, that’s for sure!

      • texan5142 says:

        What exactly do you have against stoned hippies who dance to music of the earth mother?

    • sbonasso says:

      Would that the whole world approached religious discussion, debate, and differences this way, tutt.

  7. Anse says:

    Humans crave the aesthetic experience, that moment when your hair stands up and that wave of awareness and completeness comes over you. It can come from a moving symphony, a passionate performance of an opera or a play, a great film, a profound work of art, or in a religious service. I don’t know if such an experience is sought after among other animals, but it seems uniquely human. That is the thing that fills us up, makes us feel more complete and more connected to the world around us.

    There is nothing wrong with seeking that experience in religion. But it is foolish to think that the religious experience is something more than the sum total of a biological process, of neurons firing and hormones rifling through your body. Acknowledging this does not undermine the experience in the least. In some ways it makes it even more mysterious. Whatever it means for us a species in evolutionary terms, there’s no doubt that it is a large part of who we are.

    • Owl of Bellaire says:

      Yes. This is why I sometimes mourn the decline of the respectful ceremony in civic life. (Admittedly, some of the regret also comes from my own love for “theatre”.)

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Well, Owl, you’re on stage here with the rest of us.

      • Owl of Bellaire says:

        In an asynchronous medium. Meaningful ritual requires synchrony.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Theatre of the absurd.

      • Owl of Bellaire says:

        Okay. Βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ !

      • Anse says:

        “Theater” is exactly how I think of a religious service, except the congregation is not merely observing but participating in it. I am not religious, but I find the ancient rites of the Catholic church occasionally transfixing, or those of any of the oldest sects. Just that idea of going through motions that countless millions have gone through before is especially moving. As absurd as religion really is–and it truly is ridiculous–it is nevertheless profound in the way it has united whole civilizations, and divided them to the point of vicious brutality. So much blood shed for figments of the imagination. It’s stunning to think about it.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Anse, I think it’s cool how I can walk into any Catholic church in the world and the Mass liturgy will be the same everywhere, so I would fit right in.

        A bit of that was lost when the vernacular replaced Latin, but at least we understand what’s being said now.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Rrribbittt…

      • tuttabellamia says:

        50, that’s Greek to me.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Funny! My business partner is Greek. When he sees something that makes no sense, he says, “It’s Chinese to me.” Between our long association and my technical background, I can actually sorta read Greek, at least phonetically).(Most of the letters are constants and coefficients in various fields of the sciences.) Of course Ancient Greek, the language in which Βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ was written, is Chinese to my partner too!

      • geoff1968 says:

        Aristophanes…McGowan.

  8. BigWilly says:

    My parents divorced when I was 5. That was the end of childhood for me. Any religion I discovered I did so on my own. There was no attempt to raise me in any particular fashion. My upbringing was largely through the public school.

    I’ve tried the church thing a couple of times. Jesus, these people talk about you a lot, but their hearts are far from you. I did not like church.

    Religion doesn’t work for me. The participants forget the purpose of ceremony and focus on the ceremony itself. Spilling the wine becomes spilling the blood of Jesus. Don’t let a crumb fall to the floor, that’s the literal body of Christ. So Communion becomes a sick joke. More like cannibalism than I’m comfortable with.

    Then you got these extra commandments that forbid a man from studying numerology while the Bible itself is loaded with numerical symbolism. Huh?

    Oh, that’s right, only the priest can know these things. And me.

    Like I said I don’t want no religion, not as far as I can tell.

    • CaptSternn says:

      BW, sounds like you had a bad experience. One church is not all churches. I remember when my parents would great and welcome visitors. They told the visitors that they were happy to have them as guests, but if our church wasn’t right or comfortable with them, there are many more churches in the area. Please visit them as well and find a home church.

      I can give examples of good churches, and examples of bad ones. Westboro bring up any idea of a bad one? I have a cousin that got into a church that claimed to be Baptist that was more like a cult. Not the kind of Baptist church I was raised in.

      Even if you reject organized religion, God does love you and He did send His only Son to be the sacrifice for our redemption.

    • BigWilly says:

      Bad experience? I don’t mix well with the crowd. Calvin was right about a lot of things human.

      Religion-two words. Latin’s cool like that. Re-to do again and ligo-to bind or fasten. So at some point our ties to God were broken and religion is supposed to tie us back to him.

      I agree with the Gospels. It just seems to me that many churches are not adhering to them, and perhaps they may be worshiping the wrong dude.

    • lomamonster says:

      Yep, for all we know The Tome may have been written by a bunch of bookies!

  9. fiftyohm says:

    So – I note that Chris, Tracy, Turtles, and others, while admitting to being church-goers and Christians, seem to actually be deists. For Tracy’s part, while he does not completely discount the possibility of an interventionist god, he finds the concept unlikely. In my experience, most thoughtful people who claim Christianity as their religion, actually hold the deistic view.

    Now this is really very far from simply being a non-fundamentalist. It has about nothing specifically to do with Christianity at all, or in fact, any other organized religion. Yet so many people who attend Christian services and refer to themselves as
    Christians are simple deists. Why is this?

    (By the way, and as I said to Turtles below, there is a long history of deism in America. It is a belief held by many of the greatest minds in history, and is in fact, a quite rational worldview.)

    • sbonasso says:

      Family traditions; familiarity; friends at church. I’ve said before that I’m a woefully skeptical Christian. I subscribe to Christian values but waffle between the truth of Christianity and simple Deism. Deism comes easy to me; it has always just seemed evident.

      I attend the church I do for several reasons:
      1) The pastor is a very intelligent, inspiring Christian philosopher. He does not shy away from the tough issues and espouses a Christian worldview that is consistent with changing times and scientific discovery. His sermons are incredibly thought-provoking.
      2) They have a thriving children’s ministry for my kids.
      3) It is a warm, welcoming, caring community of people.
      4) We have good friends that are members.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Got it. So it’s a social, rather than a religious thing, right?

      • sbonasso says:

        Not entirely. I think familiarity plays a big part. I was raised in the Christian church so I’m very comfortable in that kind of setting. That’s part of what I meant by “family traditions.”

      • tuttabellamia says:

        I am anti-social, so for me, my Catholic faith is more personal, sitting in a church with no one else around, rather monkish, complete with prayer, meditation, austerity, and vows of silence.

      • fiftyohm says:

        So Tutt – kidding aside, do you buy into the whole son ‘o god thing, or are you pretty much a deist too?

      • tuttabellamia says:

        50: I believe in the Son of God/Son of Man, but I guess I don’t focus so much on that aspect of God. I am a Deist in that I focus my worship on the totally divine God.

        In my culture (Hispanic), much is made of the Virgin Mary, but I don’t focus much on her, either, nor in other intermediaries.

        I greatly admire the clergy, especially the Pope, mostly from an intellectual perspective. I’m into philosophy, so I admire the clergy for their knowledge of theology, metaphysics, etc, plus I love the nuns and other clergy who go down into the trenches to help the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        I struggle with pessimism and melancholy on a daily basis, and then suddenly I will hear a group of little kids engaged in serious but innocent conversation, or I see my cat contentedly grooming herself, or I witness the talent and creativity within my own brain, or Cap and his mom receive me warmly into their latest family gathering, and that’s when I smile and say, wow, this is really cool, there IS a God after all.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        I believe the downfall of church’s are the religions. When it comes down to it, it is faith/belief. Religions are believers that make up rules or dogma to follow in their way. Example: Work to prove your faith. Or are we saved by the grace of God alone?

        I have had many conversations with ministers who spiritually weep for society and our skewed priorities but I also remind them that there are church buildings everywhere so maybe that is where the failures lie?

        We the people are the body of Christ. We are the church. The building is where we choose to worship God. But some seem to forget that there is also Mon-Sat. that still needs to be lived in a Christian manner.

        Scott, I like how your church is. Mine is very similar. Small church gatherings are the best. Everything is more personal especially when it comes to prayer. Children church ministers are a gift.

        I have read all the comments and the usual ‘there is no God’. All I know is I was not a believer by any sense of the word for the first 25 years of my life. Then I pursued the whys and before long I became absolutely certain there is a God. So I lived on both sides of the debate, but am now a very committed Christian going on 35 years. I just really hope one day I will be able to describe the faith journey. But the peace and joy you feel is indescribable.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Kabuzz, you say you feel peace and joy on your faith journey. For me, it’s more a sense of childlike wonder and delight that I feel in the presence of God.

      • sbonasso, 50o suggests that it’s a social rather than religious thing, but what you have described is in fact a typical Christian church community – so it’s a religious thing after all.

        It seems to me that a lot of the un-churched have trouble grasping that the community of Christ is a *community*.

      • sbonasso says:

        Tracy: Matthew 18:20

    • fiftyohm says:

      This really is a ‘calling all deists’ question here. Chris’ post suggested that fundamentalism and science are killing religion, but if a significant percentage of ‘the religious’ are really deists, it throws the concept into a cocked hat. Deism is really not a religion.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Nor can science argue against, nor ‘threaten’ even the tiniest part of it.

      • flypusher says:

        I’d classify myself as agnostic/ deist (if that makes sense to anyone), and I think it’s “that ol’ time religion” that’s in danger. Which to me is not a bad thing.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Fly, you make perfect sense. In fact, that forward slash between agnostic and deist was unnecessary.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Fifty, if I understand correctly, deism is a belief in a supreme being, a Creator, a separate force that controls things to a certain extent.

        So, in response to your 1:29pm post . . . it would seem that science contradicts that belief, so yes, science (aka John Galt) argues against, threatens, and “kills” deism, in addition to “religion.”

        As for your 1:27pm post, that deism is not technically a religion, so therefore Chris’s blog title is inaccurate, you sound a lot like Captain Sternn.

      • fiftyohm says:

        No Tutt – Deism is an intellectual position that does not accept the existence of an interventionist creator. Google it please.

        BTW: Was the Sternn thing a compliment?

      • tuttabellamia says:

        50, i did google it. You cant trust the internet. Or maybe i just misunderstood it. I am in the half that doesnt know what deism is, i guess.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        The knows and the know nots.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        50, so creator but not interventionist?

        Doesnt science take issue with the idea of a creator as well?

        If i’m still wrong i will take a vow of silence, effective immediately.

      • sbonasso says:

        fifty: The definition of “deism” that you cite is news to me. I thought it meant a general belief in a divine creator, not specific to any religious denomination.

      • Owl of Bellaire says:

        sbonasso — My understanding of Deism also involves a non-interventionist divinity, more the nineteenth-century Clock-Maker God than the religious-revival Loving Savior.

      • sbonasso says:

        “…more the nineteenth-century Clock-Maker God than the religious-revival Loving Savior.”

        Well said, Owl.

        Btw, I apologize for flying off the handle the other day. You do know how to push my buttons.

      • Owl of Bellaire says:

        No problem, and I apologize as well. I do tend to indiscriminately mash buttons from time to time. 🙂

    • texan5142 says:

      I am a pastafarian myself, May his noodly appendage reach out and touch you.

      Ramen!

    • johngalt says:

      “there is a long history of deism in America. It is a belief held by many of the greatest minds in history, and is in fact, a quite rational worldview.”

      Indeed. Including the minds that wrote most of our founding documents, despite what we hear from fundamentalist adherents today.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Sadly, you aren’t going to get elected in the US right now if you say, “…and I’m a deist”.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Sad, but nevertheless true. Though it should be pointed out here that well fewer than half of the population even knows what deism is.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Clever, John, going from claiming most of the founding fathers were not actual practicing Christians to just those that did most of the actual writing. But it still doesn’t work out because while most didn’t do the actual writing, they were all together discussing what would be written and how it was worded, what would be included and what would not.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Stern…this is a moderately unknowable thing (although it seems like some folks really believe they seem to know), but dollars to donuts, most of those “practicing christian” founding fathers were deists.

        Heck, the “practicing Christians” on this board are essentially deists.

      • goplifer says:

        “Deism is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a Creator, accompanied with the rejection of authority as a source of religious knowledge.”

        Most of the Founders from the Northern states except for the ones who were German or Dutch would have been considered Deists. It was the big thing at the time.

        It is the foundation of Unitarianism, but over time it was absorbed pretty deeply into most of the mainline denominations. Scratch an Episcopalian and you’ll probably find a Deist underneath.

        The farther you get from the denominations with specific English roots, like Episcopal, Congregationalist/United Church of Christ, Methodist, the less you encounter it.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism

      • johngalt says:

        Sternn, how many of the first six Presidents would be considered a mainstream Christian as we understand it today? Would Franklin be? Hamilton? Paine? Hancock?

        Posting a link to an explicitly religious site to identify the religious leanings of the founders is a bit optimistic.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Lifer, those doctrines accept Christ as the Savior, accept the Holy Trinity, and that means they are not Deists.

        John, there ya go, the founders were not Christian if you donlt count the hundreds that were. Senators, congressmen, governors, etc.. Just don’t count those Christians and only count those that arent, even if it is only a few.

      • johngalt says:

        Some of the Founders were “more equal” than others. Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Hancock – these individuals made a bit more of an impact on the framing of the Declaration and Constitution than, say, Elbridge Gerry or Button Gwinnett. It is notable that the only references to religion in the original constitution are negative (religious tests shall not be required). Tells you something.

    • goplifer says:

      You’re right. I’m closer to a Deist. That only really extends to a definition of God. Still see lots of value in organized religion.

    • CaptSternn says:

      A deist would be a person that believes in God, but not the Holy Trinity. Jews, Muslims and some others would fall into that category. Christians believe that Jesus the Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God and the Son of Man, that he was crucified and resurrected three days later.

      Christians worship God the Father directly, and we are saved and God listens to us because we invoke the name of and believe in His Son (I once had a friend and business partner that had a Jewish father and Christian mother, and we had many long discussions over that). We will get one of three answers, yes, no or wait (in due time).

      I know God is real, that He exists and will sometimes intervene. That is why, in discussions like this, I will sometimes quote John 20:29 (that is not John Galt nor John of Gaunt, just fyi 🙂 ). But even though I know, I am human and will sometimes still doubt. Doubting Thomas.

      • johngalt says:

        A capital D Deist is someone who believes there was a creator, a god who set in motion the universe in which we live. Here is the important part, as 50 has tried to explain, Deists do not believe that this god intervenes in his creation. Deism is utterly incompatible with Christianity (or Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, etc.). “Deist” in historical context is not a catch-all term for someone who believes in a god. Sternn is NOT a Deist, based on his above post.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Funny, people that want to capitalize certain words and not others. God, with a capital “G, Creation witha capital “C”. And I spell democrats, republicans and constitution with lower case letters. But if I say Republican Party, Democratic Party, U.S. Constitution, or Libertarian Party I use upper case letters. If I say libertarians I use lower case. Same with conservatives or liberals, leftists or rightists.

        No, I am not a Deist or a deist, I am a Christian.

      • Owl of Bellaire says:

        Proper nouns are supposed to be capitalized, Sternn. And it does make a difference.

        A “democrat” is anyone, in any time or nation, who believes in allowing popular control over government.

        A “Democrat” is someone who specifically belongs to the Democratic Party.

        A “republican” is anyone, in any time or nation, who believes in supreme governmental power belonging to the people and their elected representatives, with an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.

        A “Republican” is someone who specifically belongs to the Republican Party.

        A “libertarian” is anyone, in any time or nation, who holds extreme laissez-faire attitudes about minimizing state intervention in the lives of citizens.

        A “Libertarian” is someone who specifically belongs to the Libertarian Party.

        “Christian” is always capitalized, much as “Jew”, “Muslim”, “Zoroastrian”, or “Wiccan”, but not the more generic “animist”, “atheist”, or “pagan” — or “deist”.

        So your usage appears to be rather idiosyncratic. As I suppose, one would expect.

    • 50o, as I’ve noted elsewhere, I’m a pretty poor specimen of a Christian. My views on the Creator could be construed as Deist, but that is not to imply that I am not a Christian. I might take issue with a couple of tenets of the Nicene Creed, but I do my best to follow the Christ.

      Faith is an odd thing. Actually, it’s not unlike love itself. I’m not talking about the passionate madness that most of us have experienced at one time or another, but rather about the kind of love that supports a family, raises children, keeps spouses together until death do they part. The kind of love that causes a man to lay down his life for others, either in one fell swoop, or in the countless mundane tasks of daily living. The kind of love that binds communities together, and makes us more together than we are apart. Every day I get up and *choose* to love my wife, and all the others in my life I hold dear. It’s a *conscious* choice, and to me, the highest possible expression of free will.

      Faith is something you *choose*, too. It’s something you work at, each day, just a little bit, to manifest it in the world in thought, word and deed. I must admit I’m not very good at it, but if life has taught me anything at all, it’s that persistence counts for a great deal.

      Faith is a living, breathing, thinking thing. You seem to have this cartoonish view of Christianity in which Christians run around proclaiming a cartoon God out of a Cecil B. DeMille epic. Those aren’t the Christians I know; that isn’t the kind of Christian I am.

      No, I do not believe in a cartoon God who intervenes in our daily lives based on our pleas or good/bad behavior. IMHO, that’s a God for children and simpletons. But I do very much believe that Creation is ordered as the Creator intends. (And if that thought does not give you pause, you probably would not survive the Gom Jabbar test, either.) I do not believe that the evolution of self awareness is an accident, or that creatures like us are not intended to fulfill some ultimate purpose. I believe it is our duty to learn *everything* we can about the Creation we inhabit, because in doing so we come closer to understanding the will and intent of the Creator. I don’t expect necessarily to make any significant progress on this task in the course of my puny lifetime, or even in the lifetime of our species. But I will do what I can to advance the ball, out of love for the Creator that created me and everything else in this absolutely magnificent, fabulous, beautiful, scary universe. Q.E.D.

    • fiftyohm says:

      First, thank you all for your frank responses.

      I have no intention here to tell you (deists) what to call yourselves. As I said in the beginning, deism is a principled intellectual position. (Mrs. Ohm is a deist.), But the subject of this blog was ‘religion’. We are all supposed to speak a common language so that when we discuss complex topics and exchange ideas, we can start from common ground. According to any definition you can find, deism is not a religion. Christianity is a religion. Followers of Christianity believe in an interventional God who sent his ‘son’ to earth to save man from his sins. This is fundamental. If one does not believe this, one cannot be a Christian by any definition of the term of which I am aware.

      Tracy mentions a good list of attributes of what we would call a ‘good person’. I agree. I also humbly submit that Tracy would seek to practice those things even if he’d never seen a Christian Bible. I do, and I’m not a theist at all. Hell, we see these same behaviors in other species! They are anything but uniquely Christian. These far predate the Christian era. Yes, there is, in spite of the violence, greed, and dishonesty we seem to mostly talk about here on these pages, great nobility in Man. A deist would say that is part of the creator’s plan. So be it. That is not a position science can challenge. Ever. I would suggest that most of these are evolutionary in origin, and had survival value for the species. But a deist might say that’s how the game was constructed in the first place. Only a fool would attempt to ‘disprove’ that.

      Is religion – real religion then – for those who take a different view, a nonspecific amalgam of social behavior, fellowship, family tradition, being ‘spiritual’, trying to move the ball forward, or generally trying to be a good person? Well lemme tell ya, none of that faces any threat from science either.

      To sum up, and without telling any of you what to call yourselves, many here are not Christians, and in fact are deists. Deism is not a religion. If deism is not a religion, it faces no challenge from science. Fundamentalism faces huge challenges from science. Do Christians who see most of the biblical stories as allegory, (but accept the son of god thing of course), face any challenges from science? I doubt it.

      BTW: I think you’re good people all, whatever you (mis)name yourselves.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        50 and tthor, I take issue with deism being described as an “intellectual position,” and interventionists being called simpletons. Faith by definition is supposed to be simple. Asking questions and doubting are also good, of course. I keep seeing intellectual snobbery here. “Oh, some of us believe in something we can’t prove, either, but ours is an ‘intellectual position.'” What makes your faith better than others’? It’s just another form of faith, more complex, maybe, but still faith.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Bingo, Tutt.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Nonsense. No one implied, inferred, or otherwise intoned interventionists were simpletons. The no interventionist creator of deism is a purely intellectual – I.e.of the mind – construct. The various interventionist gods, in all their various flavors are far more elaborate, and nothing one could come up with on ones own.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Fifty, don’t “nonsense” me. I was referring to tthor’s comment above from yesterday at 6:04pm, which contains the following:

        “No, I do not believe in a cartoon God who intervenes in our daily lives based on our pleas or good/bad behavior. IMHO, that’s a God for children and simpletons.”

      • fiftyohm says:

        Tutt – Read what Tracy said again. He was speaking of a “gonna watch out for who’s naughty or nice” kind of god whose actions are directed by people. I don’t think that’s your god, now is it? And furthermore, I never said anything even that judgmental. Don’t be so cotton pickin’ sensitive.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        I define God as “goodness.” Goodness is the default position of everything and everyone, everything starts out as good, and then is often corrupted into hate due to weakness, a flaw. Everything is intrinsically good, even those who are hateful. Hate is a deviation from the norm, an anomaly.

        I don’t believe in “evil,” as if it were a separate force. I prefer “hate,” which is a very human flaw.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        No matter how much hate and destruction there is in a particular place or person, goodness always manages to come to the forefront.

        You could have a group of 999 hateful, destructive people Just 1 good person within that group will stand out and turn that group into a “good” group.

        On the other hand, you could have a group of 999 good people, but the 1 hateful person will be neutralized by the 999 good people.

        Goodness always wins.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Goodness is more powerful than hate.

      • johngalt says:

        One hopes so, Tutt. The Nobel Peace Prize committee recognized that today in the form of a 17 year old girl with more guts than any of us can dream about.

  10. Turtles Run says:

    I have a question for the science types here. Many Christians claim that we should not drink alcohol. When I have pointed out that Jesus created wine for his followers to drink. The response I get is that the wine at that time was really like grape juice (unfermented). Now I am not a scientist or even familiar with the creation of alcoholic beverages but I do not believe the knowledge existed at that time to create unfermented wine.

    Can someone tell me if the wine in the time of Christ was fermented?

    • texan5142 says:

      Most likely, the fermentation would have kept the grape juice storable

    • johngalt says:

      Yes, of course it was fermented. Alcoholic beverages made from various fruits or grains predate recorded history. In fact, given the technology of the time it is unlikely they could have stopped fermentation. Until recently, most wines were fermented by whatever happened to be on the grapes at harvest – without means to sanitize (other than boiling) or refrigerate, the little Saccharomyces cerevisiae we wrote about in the previous blog post, would happily go to town converting grape juice to alcoholic wine. It may not have had quite the alcohol content of a Napa cab (13-15%) but it certainly would have had plenty of alcohol in it.

      • Turtles Run says:

        JG

        Thank you I just could not wrap my head around the logic used by many of these faux scientists.

        Personally I see nothing wrong with a drink now and then. Lord knows a lot of Christians need a good drink.

        Personally

      • sbonasso says:

        A cold beer, a glass of red wine, a stiff cocktail – talk about the meaning of life…

      • Turtles Run says:

        Fifty – Unfortunately, I am a vegetarian. I only eat beef 3 or 4 times a week. That is practically a vegetarian in Texas.

        One side note:

        Even though I do not drink I was a bartender in my college years. Wrap your head around that one.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Turtles – Three or four times a week. Lemme think…

        OK then. You just squeaked under the wire. Seafood and poultry on the off days? 😉

    • CaptSternn says:

      It was fermented, Turtles. When the wine was brought to the person in charge, he tasted it, then complained that it was the best wine and should have been brought out first. That is when people are sober and will enjoy the best wine. Later, after they had a bit to drink and were getting intoxicated, bring out the lesser quality because nobody will notice the lesser quality.

      • fiftyohm says:

        What amazes me is that some people *start* with Bud Lite, or some other horse wee. Lite beer is a sin against all that is holy!

      • CaptSternn says:

        Beer is nasty stuff. I have never tasted “horse wee”, but I have tasted beer and I imagine that if I were to taste “horse wee”, that is what it would taste like. 🙂

      • fiftyohm says:

        And you call yourself a religious man, yet you blaspheme so! Hah!

      • CaptSternn says:

        I am part Irish, so I prefer whiskey.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Also part American Indian, so the “firewater”.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Racist, Mick, Redskin bastard.

        😉

      • Turtles Run says:

        Fifty -forgive me. I do not drink but at the he times in my life that I did I would start off and end with Bud Lite or maker’s mark. But frankly in my drinking days I would drink quite a bit. I would actually drank 6 beers, i know I was out of control.

        Alcohol and drugs have never appealed to me. So I do not use them, religious reasons have never been the reason. But it does help being part of a church that promotes abstinence from those things.

      • Turtles Run says:

        6 beers in a year I meant to say

      • CaptSternn says:

        LOL Fifty.

      • fiftyohm says:

        OK Turtles – just tell me you’re not a vegetarian. Please tell me. A tea-totaler and a veg would be too much for me to bear. One, or the other is OK, I guess. Both, I cannot countenance!

      • johngalt says:

        TR – choosing not to drink, for whatever reason, is a personal decision and if you abstain, then so be it. A person need not twist history and scripture beyond any semblance of the truth to justify that decision, yet that seems to be what some conservative Christians do, despite abundant Biblical evidence that our forebears drank routinely. The Seder, after all, mandates consumption of wine.

      • johngalt says:

        Sternn – the first stages of making beer and most whiskeys are essentially identical. The whiskey is then distilled and aged (of course a big difference). There are some fantastic beers out there with far more character than the horse piss that is Corona or Bud Light.

        50 – I went Monday to a place near your old abode – the Little Woodrows near the tracks. I was surprised to find that their Monday “Texas Beer Special” applied to Karbach as well. A night of good beer with a tab of $11? I can live with that!

      • fiftyohm says:

        JG – Whoa! There’s a Little Wood’s right around the corner from the new place downtown. I’ll check it out. Went there a few times during crawfish season, but the bugs were bad, and the hipsters thick. But for the price, I might suck it up when we get back next month.

        The Front Porch has Karbach too. How I love the Clown!

    • goplifer says:

      There is a little more to the story. Wine could not be preserved very effectively. As a result it went to vinegar quickly. There are a few references in the Bible to “new” wine. Basically that was wine in its early form when it still tasted good. If you were going to get drunk accidentally it would probably happen by getting carried away drinking new wine.

      At least some wine (nearly or mostly vinegar) would have been mixed into almost any water you drank. Lots of references to this in classical literature and also in the Bible. Without the alcohol content (to make the water safe) this practice would not have made sense.

      The most important servant at a high-end party was the wine steward. He presided over the mixing of the wine. Rarely would anyone serve guests unmixed wine. First of all it would probably taste like crap, but it would also have been fabulously expensive. Party hosts were judged in part on how strong they mixed the wine they served guests (usually cut it with water) and what they put in it, cloves, herbs, fruit, so on to make it palatable.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        I’m guessing that the moral of the Christian story is not about prohibiting the consumption of alcohol — it’s about controlling one’s consumption of alcohol, not drinking to excess, or doing anything that can cause you to act stupidly or violently, to act immorally.

      • fiftyohm says:

        “doing anything that can cause you to act stupidly or violently, to act immorally.”

        You are speaking of sex?

      • kabuzz61 says:

        Ripple comes to mind. 🙂

      • geoff1968 says:

        Purple vomit in the snow-or green vomit if it’s St. Pat’s. Cherished memories of living on the East Side of Milwaukee back in the day.

        Vinegar is a compound of two words; vin and agre-wine that’s acrid, or in our understanding stale.

      • fiftyohm says:

        What a stunning and troubling visual that was, Big.

    • johnofgaunt75 says:

      I think plain water was almost undrinkable before modern sanitation. This is why naval crew drank beer and other forms of alcohol like rum, mixed with water, rather than just plain water. Plain water would have probably killed you.

  11. Bobo Amerigo says:

    It’s an indifferent universe.

    I see the hardships of individuals more like probabilities floating in the sky over us than decisions by a god.

    Probabilities have to fall on somebody, or they wouldn’t be probable.

    So they do. You over there, you get ulcers. You, diabetes. You, you get beat by your parents before you can walk. You, spend your whole life in a war zone

    I think it’s the indifference that makes some people find meaning in religion.

    Me, I’m with those who think we need a new God.

    • dowripple says:

      “We can rebuild [Her]. We have the technology. We can make [Her] better than [She] was. Better, stronger, faster.”

      Richard Anderson (Oscar) was right! (Apologies if a 6-million dollar man quote was used here recently)

      • texan5142 says:

        If God was a her the world would be a much better place,, only a man God would let things get this bad with her first child the planet earth.

      • johngalt says:

        How do you know we’re the first child? Maybe god has been busy making all kinds of universes, and we’re like the fifth child. You know how much attention fifth children get!

      • CaptSternn says:

        John, that is an interesting point, something I have been thinking about recently. In the space fiction show Babylon 5, there are ancient races, and the “First Ones”. I have been reading about the death of the universe as we know it, usually by entropy, and how long that will be from now. So, if that is correct, or even close, then the universe as we know it is very, very young, almost still a newborn.

        There is also the idea that in all the universe, there are planets as habital to life as our own, and the chances of other life is mathematically pretty much certain, and I agree with that. But, since the universe is still so very young, what are the chances that those other forms of life on other planets in our galaxy or in the entire universe have not yet come into being? What is to say that the math doesn’t apply to now, at this moment, but over trillions of years, and we are the fist to eveolve into sentience?.

      • johngalt says:

        The universe is around 13 billion years old. The earth is about 4.6 billion, but we have pretty good evidence of simple life forms within about 1-1.5 billion years of Earth forming. That’s pretty quick, astronomically speaking. Given estimates of 10^24 stars, if even a small percent have planetary systems, I’d say your mathematical certainty is on the mark.

      • CaptSternn says:

        John, does that include the part that we may be the first to evolve to this point? Or that life may not have even formed anywhere else? That is the part that I have been thinking about, not that is there other sentient life or if there ever will be.

        This is the part I will lose you, but maybe you can bear with me on it, I don’t think God Created all this, and in the absolute vastness of the entire universe, we are or will be the only life ever Created.

      • johngalt says:

        We may be the first civilization to evolve to sentience. I doubt it, and it’s mathematically improbably, but it’s possible.

  12. tuttabellamia says:

    The message I keep seeing here from the scientific types is:

    “There’s no God after all. Get over it.”

    Were it that simple!

    • texan5142 says:

      Visit a childrens cancer ward at any hospital and you will find the answer .

      • rightonrush says:

        Hold an 8 yr old girl that’s bleeding out after a drunk driver hit her and we will talk God (BTW, she died in my arms, sure wish God had stopped the bleeding). Take a good hard look at the dismembered bodies of a village that happen to get in the way of a totally useless war and we will talk God.

      • Turtles Run says:

        You can believe in God without having to believe he is an interventionist being. I believe in God and that he formed the basis of this universe. People love to attribute a person that overcomes the odds of surviving cancer or how someone received a promotion as the work of our Lord. As RoR and othes have pointed bad stuff also happens but often times it is written of as God works in mysterious ways. I view God as a noninterventionist. He created the universe and allows us to live our lives, good or bad. We control our destiny as a species on this planet to an extent.

      • fiftyohm says:

        OK Turtles, so you’re a deist. We’ve a very long history of that here in America!

    • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

      That hasn’t been my interpretation at all.

      I’m reading it more as, “I don’t believe in god, and I don’t feel the need to figure it all out, but hey, good luck giving it a shot.”

    • flypusher says:

      I’d say the idea of the actively interventionist deity “counting the fall of every sparrow” is sorely lacking in evidence.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        I have no idea if there is a God or greater being or whatever you want to call it or not. I have not seen any hard evidence in my lifetime but, hey, I am only one person. There may be such a power.

        But I can say this with almost completely certainty, if there is a God and that God is the traditional, Christian concept of an all-knowing, all-powerful being that can freely interact with the world…well then then such a “God” is an immoral and evil being because far too many cruel, violent and horrific things happen in this world to completely innocent people. No moral and just being that could stop such an actions would allow them to happen….unless they are evil. Period.

      • rightonrush says:

        Amen JG75, Amen

      • tuttabellamia says:

        The agnostic says “Amen?” I know it’s not necessarily a religious term, but it’s still ironic, considering the subject.

      • rightonrush says:

        You know Tutt, you can make fun or look for shit that’s not there until the cows come home. I just consider the source of someone that had not been outside of Texas until last year. It becomes tiresome after a while.

      • flypusher says:

        Most of the bad things that happen to us is from self inflicted evil. If we do indeed have free will, then even an omniscient, omnipotent deity would have to follow a kind of prime directive. Therefore I don’t blame God for the civil war in Syria, or any other example of people being rotten bastards to other people, because that is all on us. OTOH I don’t give God any credit either if a kidnapped child is rescued or doctors cure someone of a serious illness or injury. The credit and blame go together.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Just for the record, it’s true that I’m not a major traveler and only recently visited states which border Texas, but I have been to several states back East and out West, and Mexico, plus I attended college out of state.

        My apologies for being flippant.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        Fly,

        If you want a perfect example, look at the earthquake and resulting tsunami that affected Japan a couple of years ago. I understand the natural workings of the earth and that earthquakes are part of a planet that can support life. If there were not earthquakes (and many other natural “disasters”), then we would likely have a dead planet that could not support life.

        But that earthquake and tsunami killed thousands of people. Many who were COMPLETELY innocent. Young children; babies; drowned or were crushed by collapsing buildings or other items swept up in the deluge.

        Now, if there truly was an all-powerful God that could interact with the world and stop things whenever it wanted, then that means that it let that happen and kill thousands of people. This has happened countless times throughout human civilization (volcanoes, floods, etc.). Sorry but if a deity is truly all powerful, it doesn’t have to follow the same natural laws that we have to follow and thus it allowed these things to happen and for completely innocent people to suffer. Such a deity would be evil. Period.

      • texan5142 says:

        I second that RoR.

      • texan5142 says:

        Free will is one sorry excuse for a child stricken with cancer.

      • RightonRush says:

        “Free will is one sorry excuse for a child stricken with cancer”.

        Exactly Tex.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Well…I think you folks are being a bit unfair to god. She/he/it may not be stopping cancer, tsunamis, and earthquakes, but she/he/it is apparently actively involved in scoring touchdowns or helping people win Grammys.

      • flypusher says:

        “Free will is one sorry excuse for a child stricken with cancer.”

        That wouldn’t be in my list of man-made evils explained by free will, unless it was caused by some scumbag dumping toxic waste in the kid’s neighborhood for the sake of an unethical business model.

      • flypusher says:

        JG75, to play deity’s advocate, I could answer that those deaths were preventable, because 21st Century humans have studied the earth and now know which places are most prone to such disasters. Yet you still choose to live in such places. Yes, I realize that is far, far easier said than actually moving people out to safer places, but our ability to reason and pass down information and to act on it can be the means to save ourselves from dying like that. We might someday even be capable of deflecting incoming asteroids. I could see the deity saying if I kept doing all that for you, would you ever even try to do that for yourselves. Yeah, I think that would be a very harsh way to teach a lesson, but the arguments from evil do make for a compelling thought exercise. Whether there is a higher power or not, whether that power would be good or bad, we’re on our own while we are here in this universe, that’s my conclusion. So let us save ourselves.

      • texan5142 says:

        I hear you Fly, cancer falls under God’s plan, that is one mean nasty plan I would say.

      • flypusher says:

        Hey Texan, if little kids getting cancer isn’t the most unfair thing on earth, it’s in the top 2 or 3, I would think.

      • johngalt says:

        Like JG75, I find the “original sin” concept from the OT to be one of the most horrifically evil stories ever put on paper. Think about it for a minute. Eve was duped by evil into disobedience and the price of this was pain and suffering inflicted on her and all her descendants forever. For any father (as god is supposed to be) to mete out such retribution for anything is abhorrent beyond belief.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        I don’t think a newborn infant in a hospital that is destroyed by an earthquake, flood, tornado or what ever natural disaster you want to pick really had any “free will” to choose where they wanted to be born. And even if you say that the parents should have made a better decision on where to live, killing an innocent child to punish the parents is still immoral and evil. If I did something like that, I would probably see myself on death row.

        I realize you are playing devil’s advocate but I think you’re stretching here. Anyway, just a thought exercise but, still, in my mind logic states that “God” is either not all powerful (and thus really can’t get around the same natural laws we have to deal with) or is an evil, manipulative, demented being.

        Or there is no “God” and all this is just a mental exercise.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        Galt,

        It’s collective punishment taken to the ultimate extreme.
        And collective punishment is something we hung Nazis for after WWII.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Fly is correct on this one, people choose to live in dangerous places. God did not order them to do so. In fact, He gave us the ability to know better, yet we still do it, then people like 75 want to blame God for those things happening. If a drunk driver kills somebody, they are the cause, not God. God allows things to happen.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        Capt,

        So you think it is moral to run over a child that wanders into the road, even if you can pull out of the way, because….you know…the parents knew that this was a busy street? “Sorry your two year old is now road kill but you should have known better. Ah well. You’re learn next time. Not the driver’s problem.”

        I can assure you. That is not how current law works. That driver better have made every attempt to stop and swerve, at least within reason.

      • CaptSternn says:

        75, um … what? Where on God’s green Earth did you pull that from? Or maybe I don’t want to know that answer because it seems obvious where you pulled that from, a very smelly place where the sun doesn’t shine.

      • johngalt says:

        Is there a place on Earth not dangerous in which to live? Hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, malaria, tuberculosis, influenza, lions, tigers and bears (oh my). Your God made this a pretty dangerous neighborhood.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Life isn’t safe.

      • johnofgaunt75 says:

        It’s called a logical comparison Capt.

        In one situation, we have a deity with the power to stop a tsunami before it approaches a coastline and kills a young, innocent child but chooses not to. In this situation, you seem to suggest that the deity is not at fault and it is actually the fault of the innocent child’s parents who chose to live in a dangerous area.

        In another situation, we have a driver with the power to stop the vehicle in which he is driving before it runs into and kills a young, innocent child but chooses not to. In this situation, you seem to suggest that the driver is at fault, at least partially, despite the innocent child’s parents who allowed their child to play near a dangerous street.

        Are the deity and the driver not governed by the same moral rules Capt? If I am missing something in your thinking, please explain.

      • CaptSternn says:

        People choose to live in dangerous areas. People choose to kill. Free will, not God’s doing. God allows it, and sometimes it really, really stinks.

    • As a card carrying scientific type, it’s more proper to state that the tools in my science toolbox afford me no opinion on the matter. I think it might *probably* be safe to rule out the traditional “interventionist”-style deity, but modern physics affords enough wiggle room that we might *never* be aware of more subtle forms of intervention. (It’s all about the entanglement, baby.) And on the time frame over which we’ve been practicing the scientific method, it’s quite possible that we simply haven’t had the opportunity to observe an example of less subtle intervention.

      I also take issue with the modern “loving” God portrayed in so many suburban houses of worship. Even the most casual observer of Creation must quickly be forced to the conclusion that if there is indeed a God, then that God is one *awfully* scary entity. Our universe is awesomely beautiful, but it’s also horrifically violent. This juxtaposition of beauty and violence can be readily observed at *any* scale. Only the willfully blind can fail to acknowledge that the potter is careless of the clay.

      Nothing is simple. The tiny circle of light cast by our puny lamp of knowledge is all but swallowed up in the vast darkness of the unknown. It’s a measure of human hubris that so many are so smug about proclaiming what is and is not possible, as we stumble and fumble about in the shadows of our own ignorance.

  13. fiftyohm says:

    I forget who wrote this, but it is more thoughtful than it may first seem, and relates pretty directly to this post and the previous.

    “A mud puddle suddenly developed sentience. It looked around and exclaimed, “There must be a God! This world looks to be designed especially for me!”

    • Owl of Bellaire says:

      Houston-area author Daniel Quinn, in his book *Ishmael* about human beings and our perceived place in the universe (see http://www.ishmael.org/Origins/Ishmael/ ), has a great parable about just such a situation. An imaginary anthropologist interviews a group of jellyfish about their creation story — which has, as its climactic final sentence, “And finally *jellyfish* appeared!” There’s no more reason for humans to consider themselves as an ultimate and final creation than there would have been for jellyfish to do so.

      Actually, I think Tutt would get a real charge out of reading *Ishmael*, and I’d be interested to hear what she thought of it.

  14. sbonasso says:

    “From head-lopping jihadists in the chaotic failed states of the Middle East to terrified Christian fundamentalists in the American South, many people cannot find the answers they need in a religion that only exists as metaphor and does not dictate the “what” of our reality. They will oppress, harass, and even kill anyone who threatens to undermine the comforting, comprehensive reality provided by a religious understanding that is already half-dead and decaying around them.”

    I asked about this part of Chris’ post earlier in this thread but got no response. Surely Chris is not comparing Southern Christian Fundamentalists to Radical Islamic Jihadists.

    Even Bill Maher says that this sort of comparison is fallacious (as well as atheism-advocate, Sam Harris).

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/05/bill-maher-1-ben-affleck-0.html

    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/can-liberalism-be-saved-from-itself

    • goplifer says:

      That is absolutely what I am doing and Bill Maher is utterly deluded. The people I grew up with in East Texas and Arkansas and elsewhere in the South, if their way of life were threatened, would take a knife (or rope) to him just as easily as anyone in the Mid East. How do I know? Because their parents did it before, praising Jesus all the way.

      More than that, they used the YouTube of their time to make sure as many people as possible saw what they did. The murders were photographed and circulated on post cards – so many of them in fact that the postal service had to make new rules to shut down the practice.

      There is nothing uniquely Islamic about the violence we are getting from Islamic terrorists. They are borrowing proven tactics from elsewhere (most recently perfected by Christians fighting for a Catholic Northern Ireland).

      Good Christian folk will murder you in gruesome fashion if the circumstances are right. People are people. Religion is just the metaphor we wrap around whatever we intend to do.

      Here’s a nice photo album taken by good Southern Christian fundamentalists and defended, militantly, from good Southern fundamentalist pulpits:

      http://withoutsanctuary.org/main.html

      And don’t start in about “a long time ago.” These murders were still happening on a regular basis in some of our lifetimes. All that’s changed is a power shift. Christianity did absolutely nothing to stop this form of terrorism and was used quite successfully to aid it.

      • RightonRush says:

        Chris nailed it!

      • sbonasso says:

        But you are on record now as saying that “Bill Maher is utterly deluded.” 😉

      • goplifer says:

        Yes, I dislike that guy intensely. He is the poster-child for left wing bigots. Religulous was a polemical hit job that placed him solidly in a category with Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin.

      • flypusher says:

        Maher’s comments on women are definitely based on the worst sexist stereotypes too.

        I think he’s a jerk, but often he will say thought provoking things, and I see a need for that. I liked the old Politically Incorrect show, although often it fell short of the potential I saw in it.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        Thanks Chris. I now have a good handle on the nexus of your hate for Christians although Christians, really practicing Christians would not use God or Jesus for such things. Real Christians would be on the side of abololishinists.

        But all those democratically controlled lynch mobs over the years has created deep hatred to people of faith.

      • dowripple says:

        “Nexus of Hate” would be a sweet name for a punk rock band, nicely done Buzz.

        “really practicing Christians would not use God or Jesus for such things.”

        So what do we call the ones that do? Faux-Christianistas? Scotsmen?

        “But all those democratically controlled lynch mobs over the years has created deep hatred to people of faith.”

        Not all people of faith (or even all Christians), just the a-holes that Chris was refering to (which, ironically used lynch mobs).

      • Chris, could you please provide some links detailing support by southern white religious leaders for lynchings? (It’s not that I doubt your veracity; I’m just woefully ignorant on the subject. One would have *hoped* that most southern white religious leaders would have spoken out *against* lynchings, but there I go hoping again.)

      • johngalt says:

        I don’t like Maher either. I used to occasionally watch whatever late night show he had 10 years ago and remember his incredulity at the “Swift Boating” of John Kerry. “Why,” he wondered, “would veterans support the draft dodging Bush rather than the war hero?” Ummm, because the “war hero” came home and pissed all over his fellow vets. The “draft dodger” did exactly what most of them would have done if they had the connections Bush had. I stopped watching him after that, figuring he was too partisan delusional to say anything useful.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Volunteering for military service is not being a draft dodger.

      • kabuzz61 says:

        Dowripple, they are called sinners and if unrepented, they continue to live in sin. Christian or no. You cannot approach God living in sin.

        I can sit in a garage for twenty years straight but it won’t make me a car. You are what you are. You shall know them by their fruits. If you are hanging and/or killing people, that is not the fruit of the Holy Spirit no matter what is said.

      • fencitter says:

        Amazing… just Amazing GOPlifer…

        when I dropped from the chron, I was expecting a total flame war… but

        a reasonable discussion about beliefs and views and overall a really good read.

        can we continue this in other areas (cringe)?

        thank you all for your well thought out ideas and lack of name calling.

    • Gag says:

      They share the same desire to establish a theocracy and their were some Southern Baptist preachers in support of Uganda’s death penalty for homosexuality.

  15. lomamonster says:

    The human intellect is the most dangerous enemy of Creationism. It carries the battle flag of ultimate obedience to some perceived and invented gods which can be called upon to give blanket approval to the most ghastly campaigns of genocide. Man plainly cannot be God’s great gift to the world… – Rather a scourge upon this planet that possibly crawled out from under some alien space trash dumped out by a passing star ship eons ago. To glorify any aspect of human existence is pure insanity brought upon us by legions of deranged beings disguised as mouthpieces of universal knowledge with nothing but power in mind.

    I will forgo the brainwash offered up by the “popular masses” and deny their religions.

  16. CaptSternn says:

    “None of us is so brilliant as to be capable of assimilating all of the information in the world into a perfectly accurate mental representation.”

    Speak for yourself, Lifer. 😉

    Ok, seriously, interesting entry. From my point of view, science is basicaly taking things apart to see how they work and trying to understand the workings, but not something that would explain why those things were Created in the first place. If a person found a watch and did not know what it was, they would take it apart and study it, and that would be science. But why was it made? The Antikythera Mechanism is an exmaple. We didn’t even know that kind of technology existed at that time. But we do know steam engines existed some 2000 years ago. What happened?

    Scientists are now trying to figure out what makes gravity. They may figure it out, but that doesn’t explain why gravity exists. Science can’t explain why anything exists. Or that anything exists at all other than one’s self, Solipsism (yes, I had to look that up as my reference comes from a cheesy movie called Dark Star when one guy is talking a bomb into not exploding. If you want some humor, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luaRtGn2tsI And if you want the real humor in regards to your entry, watch until the part of “Let there be light.” The first 90 seconds or so, then skip to about the 3:45 mark.).

    Anyway, back to being serious, science works to explain how things work, but not why. At times the Bible is literal and there is some verified history that can only be found in the Torah and the Bible (Torah being the Old Testament), but most times it is not. Christ speaks in parables, and like TThor, I don’t take the story of Creation in the literal sense. There are Books of the Bible of Catholics that are not found in the Bible of Protestants, and even then many Books were discarded by the Romans when they decided on what the Christian Bible would contain.

    It was never meant to be a history book. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, but written by Man, and like a pen can be imperfect, maybe the writings can be imperfect. But the overall message is still there.

    Why do we exist? We exist to make a free choice, to believe in and walk with God or to reject God. We exist for the free will to choose. Did God Create evil? Yes, He did. Why did He do that? Maybe some kind of bet with Lucifer, would we choose God or reject God?

    Your points about evil being done in God’s name? Yes, great evil will be done in God’s name, but that is part of our free will, our free choice. That is what sets us apart, knowing and understanding the difference between good and evil. Evil has been done in God’s name, is being done in God’s name and will be done in God’s name, but that is not following God’s word nor following God’s will or teachings.

    Meh, this got a lot longer than I had intended. The proof of Creation is the Creation, and that is proof of God.

    • fiftyohm says:

      Actually, the gravity thing was pretty well explained with the General Theory.. It’s a result of space-time curvature.. Why should it be flat, as that’s just a special case of curvature.

      None of it requires “God”. Children ask ‘why’ without pause or real reason. Y’know, there is no reason there has to be a ‘why’, save for our own desire for there to be one.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Why does gravity exist? What causes it? Why is gravty the weakest force in nature? Why does al this exist to begin with?

      • johngalt says:

        Why does gravity exist? Because it does. 50 is right. No why is needed for this. If gravity did not exist, the universe as we know it would not exist.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        JG, you sound like the parent who replies to the kid who asks Why? Because I say so. Or Why? Just because. 🙂

        It dismisses the importance of the question of Why for many people. Why? Because I want to know, that’s Why.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Cap – I answered the question specifically. We observe gravity as a force due to the curvature of space-time around massive objects. It turns out this is in fact the simplest topology. Were this not the case, we’d not be having this discussion.

        When our daughter was young, she asked me why the sky was blue. I told her that is due to preferential scattering of light at shorter wavelengths. What followed was a series of questions, progressively drifting further and further from the original question. You know about gravity now. It’s really pretty simple, and not some big mystery. Oh there are mysteries, all right! The universe is like an onion. (Or ogre.) Solve one, and there’s another layer. But we seem to be getting ever closer to the core. That’s essentially what Chris’ piece is about. His thesis is that even if science gets to the core, some will require mystic explanations for other stuff it cannot, and in fact was never intended to address.

        I’m reminded of an old Bill Cosby album entitled, “Why is there air?”. When Cosby asked his PE teacher the question, he replied, “Why, to fill up volley balls and basketballs!” The ultimate answer you seem to be seeking is ’42’. Trust me on this.

      • CaptSternn says:

        What a strage group of people we have here. Some even claiming to be sciengtists and biologists. What kind of work would a biologist do when they get to the office and are tasked to do research, then simply say there is no point in it, it just is the way it is, no reason to even attempt to understand it.

    • GG says:

      “The proof of Creation is the Creation, and that is proof of God.”

      Or the Big Bang.

      • CaptSternn says:

        And God said, “Let there be light”, and then the big bang happened.

      • GG says:

        You believe in god, I believe in a chemical reaction or maybe, per Sheldon, a little man with a flashlight looking for a switch.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Where did the chemicals come from?

        God was once approached by a scientist who said, “Listen God, we’ve decided we don’t need you anymore. These days we can clone people, transplant organs and do all sorts of things that used to be considered miraculous.”

        God replied, “Don’t need me huh? How about we put your theory to the test. Why don’t we have a competition to see who can make a human being, say, a male human being.”

        The scientist agrees, so God declares they should do it like he did in the good old days when he created Adam.

        “Fine” says the scientist as he bends down to scoop up a handful of dirt.”

        “Whoa!” says God, shaking his head in disapproval. “Not so fast. You get your own dirt.” – Source: unknown

      • GG says:

        That may never be known but I do believe that the more science advances the more proof we will have that god is a man-made invention molded in our image. I don’t think that the unknown is proof of a supernatural deity. I think some take comfort in the belief that the universe is an orderly creation of some god but I have no problem with a chaotic universe full of mysteries. Actually it’s more exciting.

      • johngalt says:

        I believe in quantum mechanics.

      • Gag says:

        I wish I understood quantum mechanics but I can’t wrap my brain around it. I’m geared towards art, history and literature.

      • Gag says:

        The above was GG. I really hate auto correct though some mornings I do feel like gagging.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        We’re placing a gag order on you, young lady.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Cap – If you met this god of yours and asked him, “Why do you exist?”, what do you reckon he’d say?

      • tuttabellamia says:

        God would say, “That’s for me to know and you to find out.”

      • flypusher says:

        ‘God would say, “That’s for me to know and you to find out.” ‘

        I could respect a deity with a sense of humor.

  17. Very thoughtful post, Chris.

    Due to the peculiarities of my upbringing I was not introduced to organized religion in general, and Christianity in particular, until adulthood. It would be entirely accurate to state that science was my first religion, and Christianity my second. Interestingly, I find that this state of affairs deepens my faith, rather than lessens it. At the same time, exposure to a faith life has made me keenly aware of some of the blind-spots of science to which I would almost certainly otherwise pay scant attention.

    Although I consider myself Christian, I’m a poor specimen. I’ll never have the simple faith of a child. I make doubting Thomas seem a credulous simpleton. The Creation story as presented in the Bible is for me an allegory, a parable. It’s a parochial tale authored by people with the scientific understanding of a child, however wise they were in the ways of the spirit. The idea that I should take it as literal truth is ludicrous to me. But I look out upon the vastness of Creation in space and time with the extended senses of scientist, at beauty and grandeur and terrifying violence on scale that makes the mortal mind simply quail, and I see God in a setting far, far, beyond anything our forbears could have hoped to contemplate. Fear of the Lord, indeed.

    Biblical tales of miracles and faith highlight the limitations of science for those who will but see. The scientific method is founded on reproducibility; an experimental result that cannot be duplicated is of no value. Yet miracles are by definition singular events. So blindered am I by the force of a lifetime of scientific habit of thought that I have very little doubt that I could witness a miracle in person, and fail to credit it for what it was.

    Built in experimental bias aside, I must also note that all of science addresses only the observable universe. Science has literally nothing to say about anything beyond the bounds of spacetime, let alone the existence or lack thereof of some ultimate causative agent. All of our scientific laws are ultimately determined via the heuristic method, and only endure until the next unexplained observation confronts the scientific status quo. We make broad, sweeping assumptions about the universality of our hard-won scientific laws in space and time, despite having only the narrowest, briefest and murkiest of windows on to the same (and from the bottom of a tiny, deep gravity well, to boot). And yet some of us think we have it all figured out. How droll.

    There is no doubt that science provides us with the best set of tools ever devised for understanding the physical world, but we do ourselves a grave disservice if we apply *only* science to our understanding of the Creation and our place in it.

    • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

      TT…nice write up, and some of my favorite people find their personal balance with science and religion. I generally love those people. If for no other reason, they tend to allow for fabulous conversations that can drift to all points along the map.

      However, I’m not feeling the “grave disservice” as I view the wonder and majesty of the universe through mere mortal, scientific eyes rather than attempting to understand my place in that universe.

      My place in the universe is in a house in Texas. Sometimes on a golf course, but too rarely with that now.

      I just don’t have the need to figure it all out. I doubt that means I’m better than everyone else. I may very well mean that my mind is too simple to contemplate something so vast.

      Either way, I’ll be fat and happy just doing me.

      • HH, it would appear you take issue with Socrates’ comment regarding the unexamined life, and hew rather more to the Epicurean school. Good on ya! Lucretius probably had way more fun than Socrates, anyway. As for the golf course, I wish you great joy in introducing your young’uns to the dimpled ball when the time comes. Enjoy those days; you’ll miss ’em like crazy when they’re done. 🙂

  18. GG says:

    Good Sheldon reference.

  19. tuttabellamia says:

    But the way, Chris, that was an excellent blog entry. You really hit the nail on the head, describing the emptiness and uncertainty many people may be feeling during what is perhaps a transition period, and you did it with respect and understanding.

  20. Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

    As I plow through my 5th decade on the planet, I’ve not been struck by this need to find “meaning” in my life or the world. Maybe I am still too young to be struck by that desire.

    Do good. Work hard. Play well with others. Enjoy loved ones. Don’t hurt other people.

    I see great wonder and joy in the eyes of my three boys, and I love them dearly, but other than propagating the species, I’m not sure there is great meaning in that either.

    Tutt talks about JG looking down on those with religion. Maybe there is some of that, but the opposite happens here pretty regularly. Folks have been told they are pitied for not having religion and it has been suggested that the faithless just cannot understand certain things.

    In the US in 2014, you are on the wrong side of popular if you disavow Christianity.

    • tuttabellamia says:

      HT wrote: “Do good. Work hard. Play well with others. Enjoy loved ones. Don’t hurt other people. I see great wonder and joy in the eyes of my three boys, and I love them dearly.”
      **********************
      HT, in spite of yourself, you just posted your “meaning” right there.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Tutt…nah…there is no great cosmic meaning to that. There is no searching for a greater understanding. There is no longing to know “why” we are all here and what it all means.

      • fiftyohm says:

        HT – Agreed.

        And if you’d permit me an observation: you’re way to freaking old to have an infant! I couldn’t imagine doing that again, meaning or no!

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        50…brother, I completely agree with you. It isn’t just the infant. It is the two-year old twins on top of the infant (figuratively and literally at times). Three boys under the age of 26 months when you are in your mid- to late-40s will wear your ass out.

        Some folks would suggest that kids will keep you young. I am firmly on the opposite side of that argument and fully understand that my children are aging me at an astonishingly fast rate.

        Both through grad school, both with careers, meet and marry later in life, and then wait a long time after that to start having kids. It all adds up. My wife is a bit younger than me, so her window was still open.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Well, my dad was in his mid ’50s when I was born, plus he was prematurely silver, so people thought he was my grandfather. He had no other kids besides me. He passed away when I was 10.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        And no, I was not responsible for his early death.

      • flypusher says:

        Homer, if it makes you feel any better, I’ve witnessed just one baby wearing out parents in their late 20s- early 30s. I keep thinking of one line from a friend of mine (uttered half jokingly- half seriously in a very plaintive tone): “WHAT DO BABIES WAAAANNTTT?????!!?!?!?!?!?! “

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Tutt…that is one thing that does give me pause. My parents both died when I was in my 20s.

        Given the speed with which I’m aging now, the speed with which my waist line is expanding, and the moderately early demise of my parents, I’m going to be doing good to last that long for my kids.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        I would say in my case, my parents “aged” me. As I said, my dad was in his mid ’50s and my mom in her late ’30s when I was born, plus I was an only child, so I grew up around adults, spent more time conversing with adults than playing with kids my own age, plus my parents were not the youthful type. My mom was matronly, my dad distant. They were not the type to “play” with me. Since my mom didn’t know English very well, I was the little interpreter/translator. At age 10 I was the interpreter between my mom and the doctor who told her my dad was terminally ill.

      • flypusher says:

        ” At age 10 I was the interpreter between my mom and the doctor who told her my dad was terminally ill.”

        Yikes! That is very heavy stuff for do young a child.

        I didn’t have to deal with the death of someone who had been a regular part of my life until my mid-30s.

      • johngalt says:

        My two are seven and five, and I’m mid-40s. I get to coach soccer practice for both of them back-to-back this evening. I am happy to do it, but often need a stiff drink when it’s over.

        My mother, who nagged me to provide some grandchildren for years, asked in a snarky way what my experience of being an “older” parent was. The best parts of it are a maturity I didn’t have in my 20s combined with the financial security to raise kids however we want. The worst part of it is that my back hurts more than it did back then.

      • sbonasso says:

        John:

        Funny how these blogs can play mind tricks: I always pictured you as your old avatar. Forty-something with a seven and five-year old? That’s me! (although mine are seven and four). And I also coach their soccer. Hell, I could be standing on the opposite sideline from you on the weekends.

        Some people don’t feel a need to search for meaning in life, nor do they feel some kind of innate sense of a “spiritual” plane beyond the physical. To each his own. What puzzles me is the reflexive disparagement that seems to occur between these two groups.

        What do you make of NDE’s? I was very skeptical at first, but have read some very compelling case studies, ones not presented with an agenda or by afterlife-apologists (sorry–don’t have links at the ready).

      • flypusher says:

        Sbonasso, with regards to why the disparagement, I think Bertrand Russel nailed it:

        “Conventional people are roused to fury by departure from convention, largely because they regard such departure as a criticism of themselves.”

        Also add to that for some ambitious, unscrupulous people, religion was a means to exert control over other people. Suffer a heretic to live, and they just might undermine your justification for ruling. Human civilization is fortunately evolving away from that. Freedom of religion for all really is a very new and very radical concept. We have come further than any previous civization with that concept, and we still haven’t got it completely right. The loosening of the grip of fundamentalist Christians on so many aspects of our society is a necessary step towards that freedom for all, but growing pains by definition are going to be unpleasant at times. But snarking is far better than inquisitions!

      • johngalt says:

        Scott – maybe we will face off on the sidelines! My avatar, before wordpress stopped importing the Google+ ones, was a very old Darwin. I fall short of Darwin in many ways, including the age he was in that image.

        I’m not what anyone would call spiritual, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find meaning in life, have a moral code, or hope to live on after death, or any of the things religious people get from their faith. My legacy comes in my work, if anyone considers it worthwhile, and my family, and that’s good enough for me.

        I don’t think much of NDEs. The brain is a fantastically complex organ and I think when stressed by fear, illness, or trauma neurons fire in some strange ways.

    • GG says:

      Yes, the faux pity from some is tiresome because I doubt they really pity us and we could say we pity them for not escaping their indoctrination and never questioning it.

    • HH, you don’t have to understand the ball game to move the ball forward. Doing your best to leave it a little better than you found it is a fine ambition, indeed.

      My dad was fond of saying that the only difference between us and the ancients is that we build a better nut and bolt. Perhaps one day our remote descendants, be they biological or mechanical, *will* figure out the ball game, and build the ultimate nut and bolt. It’s comforting to know that some of us will have played some small part in bringing that about. Immanentize the eschaton!

    • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

      I have good friends that were sending their last kid off to college a month after my twins were born.

      It really flips around how life is structured. Many people look to the time when the kids go off to college to then travel and retire and do things. My wife and I traveled, and did things in our 20s, 30,s and in my early 40s, when not “burdened” by kids.

      Now, with decent paying jobs, we will still be able to do some stuff even while “burdened” with kids. The twins had a passport and had been to Belize and Maui before they turned two, where as I wasn’t on an airplane until I was 24 and didn’t have a passport until I was 26.

      Like you, my back hurts more and my knees hurt while rolling around on the floor, but I don’t think I would flip it around to have kids at 24 rather than 44.

      Ask me that question in 10 years, and I hope I give you the same answer.

      • HH, my wife and I are the couple that had the kids at 24. Honestly, we’d have been better parents with a few more years of life experience under our belts. (The kids turned out plenty good, though, so all’s well that ends well). On the plus side, I’ll soon be rolling around on the floor with my grandkids, sore back and all.

  21. rightonrush says:

    IMHO religion was invented because humans have a fear of the unknown. Death needs to be a glorious experience and we will “All” be together in Heaven….except for those that are sent to Hell. However, we will not miss those loved one that were sent into Hell because….because….okay let’s skip that part.

  22. GG says:

    Only 3 comments?

  23. fiftyohm says:

    There are, and always have been nut balls. Religion has been a pretty traditional internal justification for them. Mysticism requires no rational justification for anything by definition.

    Presented as fact here is that we all require “meaning” in our lives, and religion must fill that void; as if reason is incapable of doing so. It is precisely this notion that should be rejected. It seem everyone is struggling to ‘save’ any part of the mystic model from the onslaught of objective reality. The “meaning” thing is pretty much all that’s left.

    Humans seem to be hard-wired for superstition and mysticism. We are also hard-wired for violence and a host of other behaviors successful cultures suppress. It seems to me that before we charge off trying to mold a mystic model of reality for the purpose of providing “meaning”, we’d better start with defining just what that is.

    (By the way, I hold no deep-seated desire to search for “meaning”. I have no reason to believe that ‘meaning’ in the classical sense need exist at all. Why should it? Contemplating that question will drive you nuts.)

    • GG says:

      Agree 100%. Life, my bf says, “is what it is” and, I believe, what you make of it in the here and now. I don’t worry about death or what happens after. I do admit I hate missing out on all the tech advances I will miss.

  24. johngalt says:

    It appears the thesis of this post is that most of us are moving to a reality-based worldview for facts of life but to make sense of reality we need to keep one foot planted in mysticism. This is nonsense. This makes religion a lazy offshoot of philosophy, providing canned answers to life’s questions that provide nothing more than a superficial reassurance.

    • tuttabellamia says:

      JohnGalt, you may not believe in or NEED religion, but most of the world does, right or wrong. You can dismiss it as “lazy” and “canned,” but your contempt for what you perceive to be other people’s weaknesses, the search for meaning in life, just shows that you believe that you are somehow above the rest of us mortals, just because you have a better understanding of reality, and if we don’t bow down to you we are beneath you.

      People in general have a very human need to believe in fairy tales, mysticism, make believe. There is nothing wrong with that in itself.

    • goplifer says:

      “to make sense of reality we need to keep one foot planted in mysticism? – this is nonsense”

      Guess what, so long as you remain a human being you will never pry that foot loose.

      Those who believe empirical measures can tell us everything we need to know about the world and those who feel that theological revelation tells us everything we need to know about the world are pulling us like a wishbone. Both approaches leave us facing unresolved ambiguities and both approaches insist that we resolve those ambiguities by stubbornly insisting that they don’t exist. On a personal level that’s a fairly unsatisfying and unstable though perhaps sustainable approach. At a cultural level this is volatile.

      Cultures outlive individuals. Tensions that a large number of individuals can successfully sustain across the limited span of a human life may be too much for a culture to support.

      Call it a weakness. Call it a flaw. Call it an evolutionary glitch. Or accept it is a fundamental element of our nature. We exist in a manner that is naggingly inconsistent with purely empirical explanations. We need methods of explaining our place in world that are more than mathematical or technological. If religion as we know it collapses, we will rebuild something like it – because we have to.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Chris- Religion is defined and interpreted so broadly, just what would that ‘thing’ be? Are you in reference specifically to ‘organized’ religion here?

      • flypusher says:

        “Call it a weakness. Call it a flaw. Call it an evolutionary glitch. Or accept it is a fundamental element of our nature. ”

        I suspect spiritually is a trait just like analytical ability, or distinguishing between the intervals of different musical pitches, or visualizing objects in your mind- something that different people have in differing degrees, ranging from not at all to some to a lot to extremely gifted. I personally cannot grok the religious experiences some people say they have. It could be they are deluding themselves to cope with the knowledge of their mortality (humans beings are very good at self delusion). But it is also possible that I am just spiritually “tone deaf”. I agree with Chris here in the sense that most people do have some sort of “spirituality center” in their brains, and even if you could snap your fingers and make all existing religions go POOF out of existence, these people would just invent new ones because for them it is a need. Far better for everyone just to pledge to a live and let live rule on this matter.

      • fiftyohm says:

        FP – What, in your mind, is ‘spirituality’?

      • sbonasso says:

        Good answer, Chris. As you said in your original post, simply put, science tells us what and how, but not why. Human beings will always search for a why. (Unless you’re a nihilist, I guess.)

        By the way, in your original post, were you actually comparing Southern Christian Fundamentalism to Radical Muslim Jihad, or were you trying to demonstrate the range of religious fundamentalism in the world?

      • flypusher says:

        “FP – What, in your mind, is ‘spirituality’?”

        Hey 50, I can’t give a super-detailed answer (I’m very limited as I’m using an iPhone while tending other things), but I’ll give a partial answer. Spirituality is a multi-layered thing in my mind but here are 2 aspects- 1st there are people who have a connection (or claim to have a connectlon) to some Horace outside themselves. They go to Church and they feel the presence if God, and they are 100% certain in that. As I’ve said, I can’t grok that. There’s also the idea that spiritually (defined as belief in an afterlife or some super-natural realm) evolved as a coping mechanism for the consequence of the sentient mind being able to comprehend its own inevitable death. Trying to test that via experiment may not be possible, but it is interesting to note how many times the notion has independently come into existence in pretty much every human society that existed. Even the Neanderthals seemed to have a sense of it, given the evidence of their burial rituals.

        Of course another mechanism of coping can be some of the sentiments already voiced here- live your life and find joy in what you have and don’t worry about the end, because that is pointless. Evolution often takes multiple paths.

      • flypusher says:

        OMG I hate auto-correct! “Horace” is supposed to be “force”.

        Geez!

      • easyfortytwo says:

        I think “Horace” works just fine in the context.

      • geoff1968 says:

        The force of Horace, or is it Horus, Horatio?

      • tuttabellamia says:

        I’m enjoying the Horace-play here.

      • geoff1968 says:

        A chorus of Horace, of course.

      • Fly, your comments in this thread are quite thoughtful. Regarding the innate need for religion (or something like it), it’s interesting to note that some are prone to turning science (and particularly politically correct pop sci dogma) into religion. Much of the verbiage of our friendly neighborhood climate alarmists has less to do with science than with quasi-religious belief.

        James Taranto points this out in his usual snarky fashion in the 10/3 edition of his “Best of the Web Today” WSJ column article, “The Climate Couch.” http://online.wsj.com/articles/the-climate-couch-1412366906

        (Google “James Taranto The Climate Couch” to find versions not behind the WSJ pay wall, and also the related Jesse Singal piece, not to mention the Slate piece by Eric Holthaus that Taranto skewers so deftly: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2014/10/plane_carbon_footprint_i_went_a_year_without_flying_to_fight_climate_change.html)

      • fiftyohm says:

        Damn, FP! That was a pretty impressive demonstration of thumb-typing! I understand your meaning now. Thank you.

    • fiftyohm says:

      Hey JG – This feels like the old days, doesn’t it? (Well, save perhaps for the lack of whack-jobs…)

      • johngalt says:

        I do miss carpenter sometimes.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        You know Carpenter, too??

      • johngalt says:

        I don’t know him. Fifty, he, and I participated in a now-defunct blog on the chron.com called “Christ and Culture”. I was not always carpenter’s biggest fan, nor he mine.

      • fiftyohm says:

        I never actually met Carpenter either. While JG and I disagreed with him, he was literate and rational, as most here are.

        What I learned most from that blog is how to blog; that those with the temerity to disagree aren’t necessarily stupid. I went from sniping to participating. I really enjoy the process now.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Fifty, what I’ve learned from blogging is that my opinion is just as worthy as any other out there, even though my nature and style are introverted. For too long I thought that the loudmouths and bullies were right, and I must be wrong, just because they said so.

    • johngalt says:

      Tutt, my language was more incendiary than I intended, but that’s a tough line to walk when talking about religion. Call it less contempt than confusion. Contrary to Chris’s assertion, I do not have a mystical bone in my body. I don’t get why people think themselves jinxed by black cats or the number 13. I have never experienced anything that remotely resembles a supernatural event. Nothing in my 40-something years on this planet has ever indicated that there is a benevolent deity running the show; indeed, it provides daily evidence to the contrary.

      ROR posted above that religion is a response to the unknown and to the fear of death. I understand those fears but what I do not understand is why people are comforted by make-believe answers. All religious people believe that their faith is the one true way, and so their answers are right. But at the very best most of you are wrong. I recall an quote to the effect that an atheist is someone who believes in one less religion than you do. There are many, many things that we do not know but I would rather be honest and say “I don’t know,” than live in the false certainty that religion seems to provide. Some people claim that being an atheist is harder than being religious because you are forced to confront the ugly truths of life without this security blanket. It is true that I can’t resort to invoking God’s will to explain tragedies, but I would not find that of any comfort, and so doing that would not be of any use.

      Chris and Tutt both think we need this to find meaning. HT posted the meaning of life above. It was not empirical or mathematic, nor was it an elaborate social construct of communal suspension of disbelief, it was simple feelings. It’s really not any harder than that. Humans do seem to make things more difficult than they really are.

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Thanks, JG. As as a scientist, you are usually objective and reasonable, and therefore not emotional or petty.

    • JG, in all respect, I suggest that you spend the next six years at seminary (after you complete the undergraduate degree of your choice), and *then* make a pronouncement on whether those years of intensive study constituted “a lazy offshoot of philosophy.” I believe you’d reach the exact opposite conclusion. Much of what we refer to as western “philosophy” was born under the auspices of the very institution you seemingly disparage. The priests and pastors in my life have invariably been highly intelligent, incredibly well educated, remarkably thoughtful individuals.

      In fact, it was my respect for the sheer intellectual capacity of these individuals that drew me towards serious contemplation of Christianity in the first place. It occurred to me that if men and women as bright as these folks were deeply religious, perhaps the concept deserved something more than my (at the time) casual dismissal. Faith ignorance or stupidity.

      • johngalt says:

        Tracy, in all respect, I suggest that you spend the next six years in graduate school studying biology. You will spend that time surrounded by intelligent people who are obsessed with the natural world and how it works, virtually none of whom have even an instant’s time for supernatural mythology. At the end of it, you will come to the conclusion, as most of them do, that the utter chaos of the biological world cannot possibly be the outcome of anything involving “intelligence”. And if we, the pinnacle “creation”, are not the product of intelligent action, then what would be?

        I have read the works of many theologians. Though they all claim the contrary, most of them begin with, “assume there is a God, now prove there is a God.” And, contrary to your claim, most of what we call Western philosophy comes from the BCE Greeks and when you name more modern philosophers who helped frame our way of thinking, people like Kant, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Descartes, and others, they were decidedly outside the theological realm, often quite hostile to it. Even those who were not, like Pascal, botched their proofs of God so thoroughly, that one questions their sincerity. Seriously, is there a dumber attempt to convince people to be religious than Pascal’s Wager?

      • JG, I’ve already spent multiple years in grad school studying stable isotope geochemistry, surrounded by intelligent people who are obsessed with the natural world and how it works; I’m one of them. There’s no need for a repeat.

        I’m merely suggesting your world view makes you susceptible to a casual, disdainful bigotry that caricatures religious people (not to mention gun owners, constitutionalists, etc.) as a bunch of paste eating mouth breathers. You might want to reconsider your prejudices.

      • flypusher says:

        Tracy, to be fair, JG’s opinions have merit. As a follow biologist, I can tell you that usually we are not encountering the high end Thomas Aquinis caliber of religious thought. No, we are dealing with the most ignorant end of the spectrum- the NJs who can’t deal with evolution. If they were content to just keep their ignorance to themselves we would be just as content to ignore them, but they can’t stop attacking the teaching of science in the public schools. That isn’t about teaching their children, as they are free to homeschool or pick a religious private school. No, it’s about spreading the ignorance to other people’s children, and we scientists absolutely cannot let that go unopposed.

      • johngalt says:

        I absolutely disdain people with fundamentalist religious view, whatever their stripe. I’m not going to bother denying it, nor will I apologize for it. If you (not you personally, Tracy) believe the earth is 6,000 years old and dinosaurs and humans coexisted on Noah’s Ark, then you are guilty of the most willful ignorance possible and deserve nothing but disdain for these beliefs. Most religious people do not fall into this category.

        But, most people do not arrive at their religious beliefs through rational introspection. They arrive at a destination that is very close to where they started, which is the belief system imparted to them by their families. You may be an exception, but Catholics becoming Protestants, Agnostics becoming Baptists, or Jews becoming Buddhists, are fairly infrequent. Few people arrive at religious beliefs through a careful thought process in which they examine the evidence, rituals, dogma, etc., and determine what is the most probable belief system. Rather, they build their arguments on top of pre-existing beliefs. You may not have done this, but Aquinas did.

      • Fly and JG, I share your opposition to those fundamentalists who would teach religion (creationism) under the guise of science, and I understand your sensitivity on the topic, given your field of interest. I also appreciate your ability to distinguish between the fundamentalist crowd and those of a more, ahem, enlightened bent. (That wasn’t clear to me in the initial comments in the thread.)

  25. tuttabellamia says:

    So, GOD IS DEAD?

    • dowripple says:

      No, just evolving.

      • rightonrush says:

        Bazinga!

      • tuttabellamia says:

        Well, we do see the evolution of the harsh God of the Old Testament to the kinder one of the New Testament.

      • dowripple says:

        More than that Tutt, compare the 17th century God of Europe to today’s. When people stubbed their toe in the 1600’s, God willed it. Now, not so much! We are constantly redefining God and what religion needs to be. Karen Armstrong explains it much better than I can in her book ‘History of God’.

    • You know, Tutta, the whole nihilistic, Nietzschean ‘God is dead’ shtick stemmed largely from the deterministic, clockwork view of the universe implied by Newtonian physics during the 18th and 19th centuries. Throughout the 20th and into the 21st century, the universe has become a progressively stranger and more mysterious place, at least to the extent that modern physics casts any light on it. God has a whole lot more wiggle room these days than He did back in Nietzsche’s heyday.

      It funny how we carry the baggage of the past along with us so long past the time it serves any purpose.

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