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Enlighten Up Already!
Will Hutton writes in The Observer that "only by rebutting fundamentalism in all its forms can we stop ourselves being plunged into a new Dark Age." Fundamentalism, contends Hutton, is the opiate of the empty:

(Religion) offers a moral compass by which to live - the world's great religions have a very similar moral message - and so forms a key underpinning of good behaviour. But it also offers the answer to the ontological question: why? Everybody seeks a purpose; to make a difference; to be part of something; to belong.

Purpose within a social context allows us to make sense of being alive. For the secular, that purpose can be building a great society, a great work of art, a great business or a great family, against which religious values may or may not be an important backdrop.

But for the religious, the pursuit of their faith is their purpose, with the everpresent danger that because their religion answers the 'why?' question, they are compelled to impose it on others as crucial to their own purpose.

American society, where reformist social and political movements are undermined by its sheer continental scale, along with a deeply felt, faith-based individualism, is particularly prone to throwing up individuals who see no other way to give their lives purpose than by evangelising others.

For them, it is not enough to live by a religious code. They want others to live by it, too, and conversion is part of their purpose. Gibson is a classic of the genre - and so we are invited to put the clock back and live as if we were third-century Christians who believe in the reality of spirits and kingdoms of the faithful in paradise.

What is needed, he says: a rediscovery of politics and a belief that purpose is best attempted in a secular guise underpinned by universal values, and that religion is a moral code to live by, rather than a purpose in its own right that gives believers the right to deny rationality and humanity.

This is a tall order. It won't be helped this Easter by following Gibson's interpretation of the Passion. The values we need are inclusion and love, not exclusion and irrationality. There's too much of that around, enough, if we let it, to usher in a new Dark Age. Values, yes; religious fundamentalism, no.

Come one, come all...join the modern age! There's plenty of science and reason to go around...really there is.

Posted by aalkon at April 12, 2004 8:41 AM


The only bones I would pick here are one:
he is using the term fundamentalism. I would propose that all religion, fundamentalist or otherwise, is poison to humanity. Two, his what is needed, is rather insufficient, something like giving a baid aid to Marie Antoinette, but, oh well, perhaps I will post what is actually needed later. But as the author mentions the great Mel Gibson, i thought my own take on his movie might be in order. So without any further ado:
Dum de de dum:
I proudly present from Hollywood:

The Passion of the Chris

Hi. Chris here. Chris Volkay. Chris being short for
Christopher. Christopher from the Greek meaning Christ
carrier. Yes, I was named Chris to be in the same ballpark
as Christ. Perhaps if I had been some Hispanic derivation I
would have wound up a Jesus, but alas, I wasnt and didnt.
It improves. My middle name is John which I got because John
was one of Jesus favorite disciples. Volkay Im not sure
about really, but I do know that Volk is from the German
Volkish, for the people. So, loosely translated Im a
disciple carrying the Christ for the people. So how did a
nice guy like me end up being a member of, what people like
Bill Oreilly might call, the secularist cabal?

Just lucky I guess. And in the light of Mel Gibsons The
Passion of the Christ, and the resultant controversy it has
spawned, I wanted to proffer a few words on the subject from
one who was born and raised in religious faith, but now
finds himself on the other side of the great American
Religionist/Secularist Divide.

We, secularist cabalists are your brothers, your cousins,
your bosses, your neighbors, your friends, we are, in fact,
you. Whenever I hear terms like secular cabal tossed around,
I wonder what and who they are talking about. It sounds like
some group of dissidents, who knows, maybe some kind of
terrorists, that were bussed in to cause trouble for the
good folk of the town. Maybe the bus driver is some
jack-booted fiend who is wearing red arm bands and carries a
picture of Joseph Stalin in his wallet.

No, no, no. We are people just like you who sat next to you
in Sunday school and listened to the sermons well. We went
to the dances in high school and maybe even did a few
science projects along the way. We played football, cruised
on Friday and Saturday nights and lied about all the girls
or boys that were smitten with us.

We took jobs right here in the USA and some of us have
fought to defend our country. We are not part of any grand
conspiracy, any cabal, any terrorist group, in fact, just
the antithesis, we actively oppose terrorist groups and
their religiously based brands of hatred and mayhem.

One of the hardest things in life to give up is ones
religious faith. I know from personal experience. It becomes
an old trusty friend that is always there for us. Our faith
can become our shield, our protector against a seemingly
steely, uncaring world. It is our secret place, our own
garden of Eden, that no man can plunder, no hatred can
penetrate, no pain can withstand. The rest of the world can
crumble, but this secret place sustains and lifts our
spirits and maintains us through the worst of times. Within
the walls of this fortress, this Jericho, no arrows or
slings can harm us. We are safe, we are serene, we are at

And then here I come, saying the things that secularists
say, and you want to hit me with a frying pan. I know. It
was tough for me too. Very tough.

But when I finally began to realize that there was an
alternate theory of life and an alternate worldview (a
naturalistic, not a supernatural one) it was like a great
weight had been lifted from my shoulders. It was liberating,
it was invigorating, I felt passionate about life again. No
longer did I feel small, weak, always sinning, always wrong.
I felt strong, took the reins of my own life, never leaving
it up to anybody or anything else again. Instead of dreaming
of other lives to come in the future, I began focusing on
this life here and now, the one I had always been told was
just a dress rehearsal for other better lives. I began to
look around me and see the terrible harm and hurt these
religious beliefs were causing throughout the human race.
What I had once seen as a soothing balm to my troubles, I
now saw as the principal causation of many of peoples
troubles and pains.

So I set about writing and becoming passionate in the
movement to, in my opinion, begin giving and bestowing real
peace and serenity to humanity, empowering and emboldening
people to live here and now, think for themselves and honor
this life that we have here in front of us. Passion for this
life. It beckons us, its waiting to be reborn within all of
us. Our lives are waiting for us here. But theyre shy, they
need coaxing to come out into the light. Be kind to them. Be
passionate with them.

Posted by: chris at April 12, 2004 6:24 AM

"I began focusing on
this life here and now, the one I had always been told was
just a dress rehearsal for other better lives."

Exactly. Once you give up believing in the unproven notion that there's something after this life, you start living in the now. My motto: live as if a piano could fall on your head at any moment, but with the understanding that it's likely you'll make it to tomorrow without a bunch of piano keys sticking out of your head.

If there were a god, which, as Kurtz below notes -- how ridiculous to call it a "he"...when I hear people calling god "he," and anthropomorphizing him into The Great Uncle Bob, as if they've met him at a cocktail party, I'm always flabbergasted. Anyway, if there were a god, considering how pretty amazing life is, do you think god would want people to be so idiotic as to waste it sitting in church mumbling "you're so groovy, dude" in Latin 400 times. (Or Hebrew, Farsi, or Arabic?) The view so many so-called "modern" people have of god - it's as primitive as that of people who get their medical advice from witch doctors in the jungle -- just a different flavor. I never understand why people who consider themselves modern, and would never think of going to a witch doctor when their appendix is making them double over in pain aren't embarrassed to believe in something that they've just been told exists; that they have no evidence of -- then again, maybe Hutton's explanation above makes a lot of sense.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 12, 2004 7:04 AM

way to go! you found someone who can say the exact same thing as you! or is this where you get your favorite words from "deny rationality and humanity". you tell use to think for ourselves, well it seems like maybe you should take a look in the mirror! happy easter, He is risen, He is risen indeed!

Posted by: lauren at April 12, 2004 7:42 AM

No, Lauren, that must be your unemployed boyfriend you see behind you in the mirror. When you get a photo of god doing jumping jacks, send it to me and I'll post it on my blog.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 12, 2004 7:44 AM

i'm sorry, are you pretending to know me? i'm sure that was supposed to be a joke, but it made no sense at all. and if you know anything about the Bible you would know that anyone who sees God while alive die, because we cannot comprehend His holiness, but you'll find that out soon enough. i just pray you do before it's too late. and we want to evagelize people because we don't want anyone to go to hell. call it what you want, but it's out of love.

Posted by: lauren at April 12, 2004 8:03 AM

For the sake of refraining from indiscriminate bashing of people of faith, maybe we could make some distinctions here.

"Purpose within a social context allows us to make sense of being alive. For the secular, that purpose can be building a great society, a great work of art, a great business or a great family, against which religious values may or may not be an important backdrop."


"But for the religious, the pursuit of their faith is their purpose, with the everpresent danger that because their religion answers the 'why?' question, they are compelled to impose it on others as crucial to their own purpose."


While probably all religions have fundamentalist branches, not all religious or spiritual people are fundamentalists. Here are some notes toward a definition of fundamentalism, from a book by Roger W. Stump:

"[...] all expressions of fundamentalism involve interactions between traditional religious beliefs and broad forces of social change, but the causes and consequences of those interactions vary significantly from place to place, as local conditions change."

"[...] fundamentalists fear that indigenous patterns of social change threaten the continuing status and legitimacy of their religion."

"Colonialism and imperialism relate to fundamentalist concerns through their extensive impacts on society and culture. Both processes involve the subordination of an indigenous society to a foreign power.[...] Fundamentalists may also see the social transformations associated with colonialism and imperialism as part of a global trend that has relegated their culture to a position of inferiority as the hegemony of a few world powers has spread. A specific concern in this context is that the global dominance of Western ideologies in politics and economics may subvert non-Western ideologies in other realms, such as religion and cultural values."

"[...] the central concerns of religious fundamentalism possess an inherent spatial dimension expressed through assertions of territoriality: that is, through attempts to exert control over the meaning and uses of particular portions of geographical space."

Whaddya think?

Posted by: Lena at April 12, 2004 8:26 AM

Chris--It's good to see you posting again without all the drama of the previous exchange. I always enjoy your perspective.

Amy--Unfortunately, English does not have a gender neutral pronoun, and saying "he/she" gets to be a bore after a while.

For both of you--I know that religion (especially Christianity) gets a bad rap on the evangelizing front. But look at it from our perspective briefly. We see evil (which we believe exists objectively) as a cancer on humanity. If I have a cure for cancer, how horrible would it be to have it and keep it to myself? Christians believe they have the cure for the cancer of evil, and rather than hoard it they try to share it.

The unfortunate side is that it is often not done with any grace, which is wrong on the part of the person sharing. It doesn't automatically negate the message, but it will lose the audience. Just like Amy commented one time about being a vegetarian--making a reasonable argument for not eating animals is going to win me more hearers than pouring a bucket of blood on the fashion editor of Vogue. Likewise, Christians need to hear from your camp to know what exactly is causing us to lose the right to discuss the issue with you.

And on a personal note, I enjoy the freedom to debate here. Thank you for allowing me to post my perspective. Getting the opposite viewpoint and feedback helps me see errors in my logic and in my presentation, giving me an opportunity to learn to articulate my position better.

Lauren--In love you need to hear this: You are not helping the cause of Christ with your attitude. Paul said "To the Jews I became as a Jew, to the slave, a slave....I have become all things to all men so that I might by all means win some." Your arguments here are not reasonable and will not only not win you an audience, but they simply cement their conviction that Christians are basing their faith on emotions rather than reason.

I suggest you go to and read some of Greg Koukl's material, or spend some time with C.S. Lewis. Getting angry because someone disagrees with you is not going to help you 'prove yourself a workman...who correctly handles the word of truth.' Your time would be better spent understanding apologetics than getting offended by an opposing viewpoint.

Posted by: Peggy C at April 12, 2004 8:46 AM

Lena-between weenas?
One point I wanted to pick up on and clairfy
You make a distiction between fundamentalism and religion in the effort to spare bashing of the non-fundamentalist. Good for you but I don't agree.
I bash them all, as they need bashing. All religious thought has been absolute poison to humanity through-out time, I make no distinctions. But it's very PC to espouse your view.
One of the tenets of secular humanism is to preserve the separation of church and state. As if one actually existed. These idiot congressmen form their worldviews from religion, just as surely as some idiot waving a gun over his head does. We here in the west are just more subtle, more serpentine about it. Me, I say it plainly. People can obviously like it or not. I'm not for the separation of church and state-whatever that canard is supposed to entail. I'm for the state and no church. And I'm against the church for the same reason I'm against cancer.
We are still obviously in a transitional period as human beings. The great story of man, in my view, is his ascent from complete and total superstition to one that now embraces science and reason to some extent.
When people look back on our period 10,000 years from now they will remark that this was a pivotal time for the human race. We are just beginning to see a partial freedom from the dogma and theology that has dominated much of human history. Historians will remark that the 21st century was important in this battle.
Because this is really the great story of humanity. How we went, and are trying to go, from grunting superstitious creatures to enlightened, rational people. The great ongoing story.

Posted by: chris at April 12, 2004 10:44 AM


Mankind has existed for how many years? And 'religious superstition' has been a part of mankind for that entire time. And you think it'll only take another 10,000 years to weed it out? How do you figure that is going to speed up so dramatically when it hasn't happened in millions of years?

Education has not tended to make people leave behind their religious beliefs. So how do you account for the proposed mass exodus in the future?

Posted by: Peggy C at April 12, 2004 11:24 AM

*Chris*: "I would propose that all religion, fundamentalist or otherwise, is poison to humanity."

Locke's (and Jefferson's) theory of inalienable individual rights is predicated squarely on religion propositions. Remove the religious premises and the theory collapses.

Even though I don't subscribe to those religious premises, I like the influence Locke's theory has had on our society. "Religion is poison" is absurdly overbroad.

*Chris*: "One of the tenets of secular humanism is to preserve the separation of church and state. .... We are just beginning to see a partial freedom from the dogma ..."

Could you expand on what you mean by "secular humanism"? Not asking for a link to a definition, I'm wondering what you have in mind. Is it completely dogma-free?

*Amy Alkon*: "Anyway, if there were a god, considering how pretty amazing life is, do you think god would want people to be so idiotic as to waste it sitting in church mumbling 'you're so groovy, dude' in Latin 400 times."

You are certain both that:

1) Anyone who asserts something about the nature of God without evidence is an idiot.

2) If God exists, his nature is such that he would never want people to waste time praising him.

So much for "reason".

(No html tags? Were you hit by comment spammers?)

Posted by: Michael at April 12, 2004 11:39 AM


No, Lauren, that must be your unemployed boyfriend you see behind you in the mirror.

--> huh? can you please explain this insult to me? call me dense, but i don't get it. i need a break-down.

Posted by: dazed & confused at April 12, 2004 12:13 PM

The idea that god has "risen" -- apparently lame joke incorporating rise and shine type things -- Lauren THINKING she saw god, when it was probably just Virgil or Clem or whatever his name is making that long trip from the bed to the couch for the day.

PS And how convenient (and childish) an explanation that you see god and you die. Please. Lauren, I have a bridge to sell you. I can't show you my title to it, or you'll evaporate. Jeez. Aren't you embarrassed to be so publicly gullible every other day?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 12, 2004 12:37 PM

"I'm against the church for the same reason I'm against cancer."

... Another ray of medieval light bursting from the densely clogged pipe known as Chris's head. The church is like cancer, and cancer (the illness, I presume) is something that one is "for" or "against." It's time to crawl back into your hole again, Chris.

Posted by: Lena at April 12, 2004 2:17 PM

peggy, i appreciate the advise, but i am not angry with them. i could care less that people make fun of be for my beliefs, it has happened before and will continue to happen. and whether i use emotions or reason, there is no getting thru to them anyway. so why not make myself laugh in their ignorance?
and amy, i never said i saw God, i'm not sure where you got that from, so again you are making no sense.

Posted by: lauren at April 12, 2004 3:25 PM

Why Lena, so nice of you to write.
The lead monkey in Amy's flying monkey cult.
(I'm holding the backof my hand to my forehead, "the horror, the horror.")But I really am glad you wrote.
Lena is the perfect example of something I've written about before and lauren touched on it a while back. Lena is, apparently, by her own words, an academic who spent most of his/her whatever, 30's back in school.
To many this conveys a certain amount of knowledge or wisdom. My observations are that these prideful academics are among the most stupid people I have ever met in my life. The problem with them is they are the exact antithesis of actual thinkers. They sit in a class and absorb the words of their beloved professors and then end up regurgitating it back to them. They are great at memorization. But they generally lack the ability to actually think. But the questions then arises, what do they actually know? Do they learn how to inquire, to think, to extrapolate, to infer, to deduce, or are they merely compliant sponges that sap up the opinions of others without ever thinking for themselves?
From your writing Lena, you seem to me to simply be a sponge. have you actually had any thoughts of your own, on any subject? Like the emperor with no clothes, they don't see their own intellectual emptiness.

Posted by: chris at April 12, 2004 5:09 PM

Clearly we all hate each other.

Posted by: Lena at April 12, 2004 8:30 PM

The fundamentalist mindset is not unique to religion. There are plenty of people who have zealous, unquestioning belief in something else, like, say, "the invisible hand of the market."

If God exists, it seems to me it's an insult not to use the intelligence he/she/it has granted you. Question, question, question, and draw conclusion. If that conclusion leads you to believe there is or isn't a deity, fine by me.

But if you believe something unthinkingly just because you were told it, or just because it's in a book (whether it's the Bible or Michael Moore's latest), then I'm gonna consider you a fundamentalist and we're gonna have to avoid that topic in cordial situations.

I'm still in the questioning process. I don't foresee a way out of it any time soon.

Posted by: LYT at April 13, 2004 2:26 AM

Here's a NY Times article with anecdotes that exemplify the fundamentalism-territoriality connection.

Ala Muhammad is a 24-year-old mechanic in Baghdad[...] The other day, when trouble broke out in the predominantly Shiite neighborhood of Khadamiya, he dashed home from work, grabbed a clip for his Kalashnikov and took it out front.

"If the Americans come this way, we will fight them," Mr. Muhammad said. "I'm going to defend my house, my street, my land, my religion."

Posted by: Lena at April 13, 2004 9:45 AM

Lauren --

Amy was referring to some words you typed: "and if you know anything about the Bible you would know that anyone who sees God while alive die, because we cannot comprehend His holiness,"
Don't know how I followed her line of thinking while she clearly confused you.

Posted by: A.Ho at April 13, 2004 7:17 PM

Did you really think she thought you saw God?

Posted by: A.Ho at April 13, 2004 7:17 PM

Picking up on something Michael said:

He quotes Locke's theory and influence, and then based on this he says your qoute about "religion is poison" is absurdly overboard.

This is somewhat like what I was saying to Lena.

Michael, I don't care what Locke's theory is on anything. I know what they are, but here's the point, I have my own theories. When I say religion is poison, that's my own belief. Whether glorious Locke, or Jefferson or the current president, or I don't know, Buddha or jesus or the pope would agree with me, I honestly don't care. What I am giving when I say "religion is poison" is my belief, my theory, my perspective.
But what happens in these debates is, someone trots out somebody, and says based on his writing or her theories you are wrong. I don't care whether Locke's theories agree with my thinking. Locke is not a god, he is not the final word on anything. What Locke was, is the same thing we all are, men and women with opinions.

To mention only a few, I know what Aristotle said, I know what Newton said, I know what Einstein said, I know what Marx said, I know what Freud said. Without opening another lengthy debate, let me simply say this, these men all were brilliant, seminal, but mostly wrong, except Einstein, and that still remains to be seen.

My point? Great men all, and I can and have learned from them, but I don't consider them gods,
they are not the final word on anything. In the end they were brilliant but often wrong, fallible men. When I need an opinion on something, I look to myself, the one place we should all be looking for our opinions. Not my doctor, not some long dead philospher, not my psychologist, not my priest, not my guru, not my politician not my advice columnist, me and only me. This, in my view is what true humanism is about. Strenghtening and emboldening people to think and do for themselves.

Posted by: Chris at April 13, 2004 8:15 PM

As far as "having" opinions, that's fine. But you don't live in a vacuum--you live and interact with other people, and there has to be some sort of consensus of all the diverse opinions in order for civilization to function. If we all absolutely hold to our own opinions without taking into consideration the opinions of others, we will return to anarchy, since we will be completely self-absorbed and unable/unwilling to concede anything to anyone else.

Chris--you say we shouldn't be giving heed to the opinions of others and instead should be concerned about our own opinions. But that's just your opinion, so why should we care? You spend time stating your opinions, which seems to be inviting us to give heed to them. But if there's not something outside of your opinions and the opinions of others for us to use in evaluating the worth of said opinions, then they are entirely subjective and none have any weight, including yours.

Posted by: Peggy C at April 14, 2004 11:32 AM

"But if there's not something outside of your opinions and the opinions of others for us to use in evaluating the worth of said opinions, then they are entirely subjective and none have any weight"

You rock, Peggy. Other than common sense or gut reactions that tell me things sound correct, I usually try to evaluate opinions as arguments, and I look for the claim, and the support for the claim, and the warrant that says the support is relevant to the claim, and any qualifiers that address the potential lack of relevance of the support for the claim. It might sound simplistic, but hey, I'm a busy guy.

Here's a book that lays out that framework so clearly that I bought it for my 19-year-old niece (who's currently pulling her hair out with term papers, the poor baby!):

"The Craft of Research" by Wayne C. Booth, Joseph M. Williams, Gregory G. Colomb

Posted by: Lena at April 14, 2004 12:12 PM

peggy two things
first you say there must be a consensus
why is a consensus necessary for anything? there is general consensus amongst the mass of dolts generally, but there is always dissenting opinion, which happens to be mine. There need be no consensus at all, that's simply ridiculous.

Two, you say if we shouldn't heed opinions then we shouldn't heed mine. True, but i am speaking of the way things ShOULD be, not the way they are.
The fact of the matter is that 99% of the people on this planet are simply idiots, fools, morons.
They have been weakened, de-empowered and turned sniveling. If and when people are able to strenghten themselves, then by all means the ideal would be to have then think and stand on their own. But that world doesn't exist at present. Until then,I will write what I write and try to educate the imbecillic masses.
(So many imbeciles, so little time)

And as you enter the game of trying to pick apart some portion of my writing(which is fine) let me return the favor. In a debate we had a while back I posed a question to you. I said that we, non-believers, need not prove the negative, that something doesn't exist, it is only the person making the claim, theists, that need to prove their position. Well your answer was off point Peg. Again I say, if someone says there are werewolves, I don't need to prove there aren't, only the person making the claim needs to prove that they do exist. Your answer was something like, well i can't prove god exists, but you can't prove he doesn't so-I forget exactly what you said, but you implied that it was something like a tie- or even. No absolutely not. you're the one making the ridiculous supernatural claim-so prove it. All you can come back with is your claim to faith, and there the debate breaks down into nonsense.
someone once said- I don't debate the existence of god for the same reason I don't debate the existence of werewolves. I know Richard Dawkins has stated publically that he will no longer debate creationsists. Why? Because he's afraid to debate them. No, it just becomes such a tedious exercise debating irrational, childish boys and girls that have invented beings up in the sky because, in the end, they are just too gutless, and weak to face life without these non-existent big daddies watching over them and comforting all their endless sorrows. Disgustingly weak, selfish and childish.
So if I feel that way, why do I do it? I'm a saint.

Posted by: chris at April 14, 2004 3:44 PM

I am perfectly willing to debate the 'proofs' for God. I am not going to claim any sort of empirical proof, since it does not exist. Just like empirical proof for thoughts themselves does not exist, and yet we all agree that there are rational reasons to believe that our thoughts exist, as well as many other non-empirical realities that we all agree exist. That's the kind of consensus I refer to--agreeing to certain 'facts' without having to debate everything. That doesn't mean we don't have differing opinons, but at least there are SOME shared thoughts that we are agreed on.

I was not trying to 'join in' with picking your writing apart, Chris. I wanted a rational reason from you because I like what you write and I want to better understand your position. You may dissent all you want from every opinion held by men, but if you think anyone should respect your opinions (and I think it's safe to say that you hold your opinions to be valid and worth sharing) then please tell me why I shouldn't respect the opinions of others as well?

I really have no expectation that you or anyone else will agree with my position on the existence of God, but I am willing to explain it nonetheless. What I hope for is the courtesy of admitting, once I rationally defend my position, that there are rational reasons for my position, even if in the end you disagree with me. However, it's a long discussion and will bore most people.

Also, please don't call me Peg. I dislike that nickname. Yes, I'm hypersensitive about it, but it's just like me to have opinions!

Posted by: Peggy C at April 14, 2004 4:12 PM

No peggy wrong
there is no rational defense, or rational proofs, none. All of what you refer to as "proofs" are nonsense. Just wishful thinking sophistry to invent a god because you want one. Period. And there is no debate. Until you have real proof, real evidence, there is nothing to concern myself with. Remember you're the one making the claim. So again I say, you're making the claim, let's see the evidence.

Posted by: chris at April 14, 2004 4:25 PM

As I expected, you wouldn't be interested in the discussion. Which is fine, but I also pointed out to you that you cannot prove that your thoughts exist with any sort of empirical proof, so please don't tell me that I have to prove anything else, since even your thoughts can't be proven empirically.

Posted by: Peggy C at April 14, 2004 5:04 PM

you've made a claim, prove it. not religious notions(creationism, to name only one) masquerading as science, let's see real evidence. Let's see the proof. Hard tangible real proof.
The world awaits, Proof on the barrelhead.
I'm W....A...I...T...I...N..G.....

the clock keeps ticking....tick...tick..tick

Posted by: Chris at April 14, 2004 5:12 PM

I already told you there is no empirical proof, just as there is no empirical proof for your thoughts. If you allow that your thoughts are to be accepted based on logical inferences, then you must also allow me to use logical inferences in my argument. If your logical inferences are valid, so are mine. If not, then we can have no discussion because thought does not exist since it can't be proven empirically, and if there is no such thing as thoughts, no discussion can be had that has any value.

You demand that I prove something (God) exists empirically. I cannot, and I have stated so many times. However, I request that you prove something (your thoughts) exist empirically in order for me to consider any of your opinions as valid. If you can't prove your thoughts exist (a positive proof for the existence of something you claim exists) then you cannot expect me to accept your opinions as valid.

And, by the way, I appreciate that you honored my request not to use the nickname. Thank you.

Posted by: Peggy C at April 14, 2004 8:22 PM

Peggy and Chris --

How about thinking about spirituality in the way that some people think about aesthetics? The standards for what constitute "fine art" are really arbitrary -- ie, there's no good LOGIC or strong EVIDENCE for granting privilege to one style over another. But I think the really good art history professors of the world can listen to young, naive students talk effusively about art or music because they honor the artistic experience. It feels great to get wrapped up emotionally in a painting (even a religious one), or a Marvin Gaye song, or whatever. Who cares if there's really no good REASON to think that some particular thing is so BEAUTIFUL that it makes your toes tingle?

Only the half-wise would despise those sensations.

Posted by: Lena at April 14, 2004 11:10 PM

Oh peggy
that's simply a diversion.
i made no claims about my thoughts, you did.
you're the one that made claims about god, so i again ask for proof. No matter how you try to change the subject or use diversion, it's a ploy.
back to your claim, present proof.

When you press theists on their god, they invent all manner of sophistry and diversion to get off the subject, because of course, they're trapped
without any proof what-so-ever. Bring me proof that your god exists, or, I know that's a hard one, so I'll let you off the hook. Forget god, just bring me proof that, oh say, angels or devils or ghosts exist. or how about bigfeet(plural) or, yes how about good old werewolves. These things, not being supreme beings should be infinetly easier to prove. Or how about a leprechaun? At some point in your life peggy, I predict that you will start to realize that all of these things I have just mentioned are exactly the same. And i mean exactly. gods, leprechauns, ghosts, bigfoot, ufo's are all inventions of the human race. Invented out if thin air, to help ameliorate and assuage humanities emotional traumas, or to give meaning or excitement. they are all the same, practially interchangeable. god, santa claus, the easter bunny, leprechauns. None of them exist in the real world, only in the minds of the people who invent these illusions for themselves.
And I do predict, quite seriously, that one day you will come to realize this. You may already be realizing it to some extent. You're to bright not to.
I like Twain's quote: "Faith is what people believe that they know just ain't so."

Posted by: chris at April 14, 2004 11:21 PM

"Invented out if thin air, to help ameliorate and assuage humanities emotional traumas, or to give meaning or excitement."

What? The ideal of pure reason?

Posted by: Lena at April 14, 2004 11:27 PM

let me tell you how the Romans did it
(At least some of them)
they would sit in a warm steamy bath and drink lots of wine. when the moment struck them they would slit their wrists, and slowly watch their lives drain away. And that was then! you have the added benefit of also being able to open the gas jets to make sure the job is done properly.
Is this really too much to ask?

Posted by: chris at April 15, 2004 8:34 AM

No, Chris, I'm not trying to create a diversion. I'm trying to find out if you will allow me to use 'proofs' that are not empirical. If not, then I agree--I cannot 'prove' God's existence. Likewise, I cannot prove to you empirically that love, honor, thoughts, happiness or friendship exist, yet I believe in them, too. Such a fool am I!

Frankly, no matter what 'proof' I produce, I don't think you would accept it, because you have already got it all figured out. You know with absolute certainty that you are right and I am wrong, and no amount of argument or proof from me will sway you. The fact that you are completely set in your opinion and will not allow reasonable, logical evidence to enter into the discussion shows that you will not be rational about this topic. If anyone else is interested in the discussion, you can e-mail me and we'll talk.


I have a lot of aesthetic pleasure in my faith, but the debate here is not about aesthetics. What Chris and Amy state is that there is no logical, rational reason to believe that a god exists. I am trying to show that logical, rational people have logical, rational reasons for their religious faith. I am not claiming 100% proof--little in our lives that we accept as factual and act on is based on 100% proof, so religious people are not alone in that.

But Chris will not allow a level playing field. He demands empirical proof for god, but cannot provide empirical proof for anything else that is 'extra sensory' but is accepted to be real. If those things are accepted as real based on logical inference, I should be allowed to use logical inference to deduce the existence of god, but Chris has already stated that he wants 100% proof, which, of course, does not exist. Likewise, we can quit reading his posts, since he cannot prove empirically that his thoughts and opinions exist. And if it's not empirical proof, then it's no proof at all.

Posted by: Peggy C at April 15, 2004 8:43 AM

Happiness is a feeling. Its existence or lack needn't be proved. Moreover, nobody's trying to stop stem cell research because they're happy. There is so much despair caused by people's irrational faith in god and their lock-step belief in everything his land-sergeants, the clergy, tell them to believe...and in the bible, etc.

It is a rational disconnect to believe in god. Arguing that this is an intelligent thing to do -- believe in god -- simply doesn't wash. Why do you not have faith that there is a tooth fairy, and that little green men are sitting on your roof playing bridge? There is as much evidence for all of them as there is for god.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 15, 2004 8:53 AM

Oh, and excuse me for using "his" above -- the silly anthropomorphizing of god so god is easily digestible by the masses. I'll try not to do it again.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 15, 2004 9:06 AM

As i always endeavor to be fair and infinetly magnanimous, I'm making you the offer of a lifetime. oh really i am. Proving supreme beings can be tough. so I'm letting you start at the bottom and work your way up. Just produce one stinking little leprechaun. They don't eat much. How about one werewolf? I don't need a big ferocious one that will, "rip your lungs out Jim" just a little baby one. A newborn, maybe an autistic one. That's not too hard. How about a Mojo? I'm not even sure what a mojo is, but I like the Doors song, L.A. Woman, "Mr. Mojo risen, da da dah da, Mr. Mojo risen...da da dah da...
One stinking elf..not the leader of the pack, a loser elf, a drunken elf, a drunken loser elf. How much easier can it be?

Posted by: chris at April 15, 2004 9:16 AM


The real existence of an abstract concept is an important step in the logical discussion of the possible existence of god. That's why I started with thoughts, emotions, etc. No one argues that they exist because they are self-evident. But you don't require empirical proof for them, yet you require empirical proof for other concepts. I'm just saying it's not rational to allow for the logical inferences as 'proof' of the reality of thoughts but not to allow logical inferences as part of the 'proof' for god.


I don't claim any of the other creatures exist, so I won't bother responding to your baiting. However, what really amuses me is that if I produced 100% empirical evidence for god, your statement would then be "What kind of a god is that? A localized, temporal deity is what you worship? How pathetic! Worship yourself instead--you're just as good as your pathetic little idol." So, of course, I'm in a Catch-22--you will only accept empirical proof, and if I could provide it, you'd discount the god it proved.

Posted by: Peggy C at April 15, 2004 11:06 AM

Nonsense peggy
produce your 100% empirical evidence of god,
then we'll talk. Until then...

Posted by: chris at April 15, 2004 11:42 AM

Sorry, Chris, you already know I don't believe in that kind of a god, so there's no further discussion. You can think I'm an idiot if you want to--I'm sure you already do.

Posted by: Peggy C at April 15, 2004 12:53 PM

Chris you are, as you say of Peggy, quite bright. So I hope this doesn't explode into some ridiculousness. Peggy's approach seems quite appropriate to me. You have repeatedly asked for evidence of God and she admits she cannot provide the evidence you desire. You claim Santa, werewolves, elves, leprechauns are all interchangeable with God, that they only exist in the mind. In previous posts you say there is no burden of evidence on you because you are not claiming anything to be true or not true. You do claim, however, that Santa, werewolves, leprechauns, and The Easter Bunny (is nothing sacred) do not exist. You claim that they only exist in the minds of people who invent these illusions for themselves. I am willing to bet you can't prove that any of those things don't exist or that they do exist in anyones mind.

Posted by: A.Ho at April 15, 2004 4:38 PM

sometimes my madness has a method
here is where i endeavor to pull it all together
i like to try to contrast things in order to make a point. okay
i chose the leprechaun and the elf and the werewolf-these are beings that at least we can agree don't exist-these things are thought of as paranormal. but here's my point. you see clearly that these things don't exist-that they are stories and fictions made up by mankind-but when we move over into the religious category-suddenly you lose your keen insight. Because, the gods and the devils and the angels are exactly the same things as the elves and leprechauns. Perhaps if we started listing them altogehter, instead of in separate categories, it would be clearer to people. There's not the paranormal-full of bogus beings and then the religious-which is completely different-it's all the same thing. ExACTLY THE SAME THING. Their origins are identical-just stories made up by human beings-that's all they've ever been.

Or let's try another contrast. Take your current spate of gods(take my gods please...)now let's go back to ancient greece. They had gods we all know, Zeus hera aphrodite etc. Now could we agree that those gods we just inventions of the greeks. that they didn't really exist. I'm guessing we can. You don't believe in Zeus. Okay so we agree these ancient gods of the greeks were just inventions of theirs. Okay? But what if somebody were to step forward and say he believed in Zeus?
Most people of today would think him wacky, but why? Zeus is absolutely no different than your god. they are identical. They were born in the same place, the fertile imagination of man. Your god and Zeus are in fact brothers, the exact same things. The only difference is one has fallen out of fashion and the other one is currently in fashion.
but there were other factors. the greeks made the mistake of inventing their gods to exist on the plateau of muses on the top of mt. olympus. sure they were invisible but still, you could hike up there and no one would ever see them. So....subsequent god inventors learned from this mistake...lets call it god inventing 101.
They learned that when you invent your gods you need to have them living up in the sky,so they can never be seen or found, or more accurately found out. so the later gods that people invented all began living up in the sky, so no one could ever visit their digs and find out that there was nothing there. See how it works? Instead of automatically rejecting what I'm saying, at least consider what I've just said. think about it.

So, elves, devils, Zeus, leprechauns, gods, werewolves. See a pattern forming here. Peggy they really all are the same things. Just different times, different faces, different powers, but in the end, they really all are just the same thing.

Posted by: chris at April 15, 2004 4:43 PM

Dear A ho
my response is this
I don't logically have to prove the negative when the positive is unproven. Meaning: the person making the claim has the burden of proof. If someone posits tha the moon is made of green cheese is it up to me to prove the negative? to prove that the moon isnt made out of green cheese. Certainly I can do that if i choose to, but it's patently ridiculous. Again I say, and stand by and will not be shaken from this position. the asserter, the claimer is the one with the burden of proof in these matters. it's not up to me to disprove other people's claims. it's up to them to prove their claims. Until someone proves that leprechauns and elves exist, i need not concern myself with disproving them. To my mind, this is a prudent and logical M.O.
If someone tomorrow said that Camry automobiles had witches inside their trunks, need I run out and disprove that? or is it up to the person making the claim to offer proof of their claims.

Posted by: chris at April 15, 2004 8:39 PM

I want to add one other example to what i just said. i was going to use a courtroom to illustrate my point but let's use another example.
I work at a disability claims office.(let's say) someone comes in and says they want disbility for a bad neck, they want a thousand dollars a month.
I say ok lets see the doctors report
"Don't have one."
I say to them,well what proof do you have that you are in fact injured. they say to me
"absolutely none", "but that doesn't matter, you can't prove that I'm not injured, so I want my money." of course these people would be laughed out of the disability office. They need to prove their claim before they receive their money. The disabilty adjuster doesnt have to prove that they're not injured. the BURDEN OF PROOF rests with the potential claimant. is this not logical. is this not clearer than crystal?

Posted by: chris at April 15, 2004 9:18 PM

I'm not saying that it's unfair to ask for proof. I'm saying it's unfair that you allow logical inferences for other non-material facts (thoughts, emotions, etc.) as 'proof' of those facts, but for my claim of the existence of a non-material fact (god) you do not allow logical inference and rational arguments into the equation. And similar to the proof for the reality of thoughts, the proof for god is not empirical, but can be rationally 'proved'. You just won't allow the argument to be made because you've already ruled that it is impossible. And, in a previous discussion that we had, I stated that if you know without a doubt that there is no god, then that places you into the position of god (all-knowing). However, I'm not willing to elevate you to that position, so I won't be sending you my tithes.

I've already conceded that I don't believe in a temporal god. As far as what you believe in, I have this observation. You are just an accident in the universe--everything started on the bizarre whim of a 'bang' (or insert your choice of belief in how the universe started), and we have evolved up to this presumed higher state of being. Our thoughts, such as they are, are products of those same capricious whims of evolution. If such are our thoughts, then your thoughts are just as accidental as mine, and I don't care to give your opinions any weight. Reason and rationality are just by-products of a chemical process in our brains, and maybe your chemistry is off? Who knows? There is no Absolute in your system against which we can judge your thoughts to be 'real' or 'accurate'.

Posted by: Peggy C at April 16, 2004 8:31 AM

as i previously stated, when people have no evidence for something, they immediately endeavor to change the subject. All of your feelings about thoughts and emotions, seem at least to me, to simply be off point and not germane.

Posted by: chris at April 16, 2004 9:18 AM

And, as I said, I've already conceded your point that I don't have 'proof' of a temporal god. I have 'proof' that you won't accept because you've already decided against my case. I am not changing the topic to discuss logical inferences--acceptance of those is necessary to any 'proof' of a non-temporal fact. If you do not allow them into the argument for/against god, then there is no issue of changing the topic, for there can be no further discussion whatsoever.

Posted by: Peggy C at April 16, 2004 12:19 PM

Chris, I understand your point of view, and as I'm sure that we are all familiar with mythology, we all understand that humans have spent millenia making things up to explain the world around them. This does not mean by proxy that religion should be negated, that God simply cannot be. In a world where 2/3+ of the population believe in a God I contend that it would behoove your cause if you could prove that God doesn't exist. It seems to me that the majority of the world sees the burden of proof as yours.
This is just my take on the discussion at hand, I'm not arguing either side.

Posted by: A.Ho at April 16, 2004 9:13 PM

A Ho
no problem i understand what you're saying
i just dont agree.
obviously everybody has different perspectives.
it seems the heart of your argument is that because the majority of the world has religious views(which they certainly do) that this means that they are the majority and i am the minority and as such it would behoove me to prove them wrong. But that approcah simply isn't rational.
for they have made baseless claims to begin with. How or why should one refute a baseless claim.
And as to the majority argument-
how can i say this without sounding more arrogant than I already do? The numbers to me have always been meaningless. If all 6 billion people on this planet believed and i was the only one on this planet that didn't- It really wouldn't sway me in the least. This isn't a popularity contest or a poll. One of the shames of our society, is that in the media, polls are taken,and then imbecile talking heads act as if the shear numbers actually mean something.Which is to say if 80% of the population polls a certain way, there is a tacit acceptance in the media that this must be right, because apparently the media has great faith in the intelligence of the American public.
Well I don't share that faith. Because in my honest opinion, the vast majority of people in this world are absolute imbeciles. Now, whether true or not, that is my honest opinion. So can you see how the numbers really mean nothing to me? This notion that might makes right is absolutely wrong. The vast majority of people knew some 510 years ago that the earth was flat.
the vast majority of the world knew that the earth was the center of the universe. That the majority of people believe in god, in no way lends any credence to their position.

And finally all i can do is be a broken record. how can one disprove something that has never been proven to begin with? How or why should i set about disproving werewolves when no one has ever proven they exist? The same is true of these illusionary floating gods. Peggy and i have ended our discourse on this topic and all I can do is repeat it to you as well: THE BURDEN OF PROOF IS ALWAYS ON THE PERSON(S) MAKING THE CLAIMS-(here, in a court of law, at a disabilty office, anywhere)not on me. we may never agree on this, but this is my position-it seems very logical and sound to me. The god people are the ones making the claims.

Posted by: chris at April 16, 2004 10:18 PM

The flat earth comparison is a perfect one. In fact, you might even substitute the words "flat earth" for "god" in the arguments above -- and it might become clear how, well, ridiculous it is to believe in something you've been told exists, but have no proof whatsoever of.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 17, 2004 12:05 AM

I would dispute the notion that belief in God is equivalent to belief in a flat earth. The flat earth theory can objectively be disproven, by sailors, astronauts, and any viewer who sees things disappear over the horizon. God does not disappear as easily.

As for God being equivalent to leprechauns, werewolves, etc. -- this is only the case if one assumes a theistic, anthropomorphic concept of God. What if God is simply another name for the forces of nature? Or for the good that exists in every human being, when added up collectively? Or the forces that keep the electrons in an atom spinning? Or the collective consciousness, for which there is some evidence (see the hundredth monkey principle)? Believe it or not, there are theologians and even religious leaders who believe exactly that.

The fact that the notion of God is often reduced to simplistic concepts does not mean that there couldn't be something that exists beyond such terms of debate. As I cannot know for sure, I call myself agnostic.

Posted by: LYT at April 17, 2004 4:07 AM

WhY i think agnosticism is intellectually bogus.
There is certainly a view in the world that goes like this: well we can't really know so i'll just call myself agnostic.
What's wrong with that seemingly prudent position?
in my view the following, why not be agnostic on the easter bunny? no one can prove beyond all doubt that the easte bunny isn't hopping around somewhere. But here I think the standard of the law becomes useful. it talks about reasonable doubt, not all possible doubt. So while one cannot disprove the easter bunny beyond all possible doubt, we can, using our reason, infer that the easter bunny doesn't exist beyond all reasonable doubt. So agnosticism on bunny matters is possible, but in my view, simply intellectually weak. The same applies to the god believers.
The god squad has posited something that has no evidence, no proof, no nothing. in the history of civilization not one scintilla of evidence, other than the wishful thinking stories people make up. based on this, is agnosticism really intellectually sound, or can we apply the same standards of the easter bunny and say no wait a minute, this isn't really a debate at all, no easter bunny, no gods.

The only difference in the werewolf and god is that god has a lot more supporters and therefore, that by itself lends credence to the argument. which is to say. lots of people believe it, so that, in and of itself, becomes the proof of the assertion. it's backward logic, but here in crazy world, that's the way it is.
One other thing in passing
A writer, James Branch Cabell, about 80 years ago had a silver stallion charging through the sky with the banner, Mundis Vult Decipi(The world wants to be deceived) on his side. This is the aspect that we don't talk about enough in these discussions. this is not merely a debate about intellect,but one of emotions as well. the entire world wishes to be deceived in most aspects of their lives, because reality is just to hard to accept. so virtually all humans beings construct various illsuions and canards around themselves,so they can make it through their days. Religion, the paranormal, love relationships, talking cure psychologies, the materialism brings happiness fiction to name only a few.
Each person you see walking down the street has an invisible dustcloud swirling wildly around them, full of illusions, fictions, wishful thinking bedtime stories, to keep themselves from blowing their brains out. it is their shield of armor, their safe place from a hostile world. it has nothing to do with logic or reason. they simply want it and so they have it. One of the benefits of living in crazy world. if you want it, you got it, nothing else matters.

Posted by: chris at April 17, 2004 7:54 AM


Another way I look at this: I figure there's the possiblitity that there are 'things' (spirits, gremlins, unknown this or that or who knows what) that I may not have the senses to percieve or comprehend. It doesn't mean they're not there following me or you around whispering evil or good thoughts into our minds, making us stumble or otherwise distracting us somehow. It's not reasonable or rational but I figure I can't say for sure.

It's the same, to me, with God. I'm not going to blindly and unquestioningly believe and evangelize but I'm also not going to discount it just because it's scientifically unprovable and seems improbable.

Posted by: A.Ho at April 17, 2004 4:30 PM

More thoughts:

RE: Religious Majority

I definitely agree that just because most people have a religion/God that it doens't make it true, that's obvious. However since God can't be proven or unproven it is a matter of who can sway the thinking of the people. Religion has atheism beat hands down when it comes to this. It provides ready made answers, citing its own sources. To sway the thinking athiesm would need to figure how to give man greater faith in himself and extreme faith in his fellow man.

Posted by: A.Ho at April 17, 2004 4:43 PM

We are in agreement
religion has got atheism beaten hands down.
this is the dilemma people such as myself face. How can reality ever compete with fantasy? People don't want reality or truth, they want fantasy and lies. i tell them the truth and this salesman over here tells then that they've got rivers of wine and gold and 72 virgins waiting for them. The only way I can compete with that nonsense is promise that if they'll become atheists that rivers of 12 year old scotch and diamonds and 73 virgins await. Then they'd come back and so no, we checked out arithmetic, we were wrong , you actaully get 87 virgins.
The folks that market Islam aren't dumb, at least in the marketing sense. Why do you think Islam is the fastest growing religion in the western world.It offers all the goodies. What do judaism and christianity offer their followers? Nada, bupkes, bloody saviors and bagels, maybe you get an old hag sitting in the clouds playing an organ. How can that compete with wine and 72 virgins? The fact is that truth and reality never do compete, that is one of the main reasons the world is in the shape it's in.

Posted by: chris at April 17, 2004 5:36 PM

The only problem I have with Islam is that whole 72 virgin thing.

Where do they get the virgins? Is there a factory? And why do Islamic men want 72 young women they have to teach? Or are they all women...what about gay Islamic guys? Do women get virgins too, and in that case, female or male? And finally, if one dies a virgin, do they automatically end up in some harem?

Really off topic, but I've been pondering this for a little bit now.

Posted by: keito at April 18, 2004 7:58 PM