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Did "God" Create Homer Simpson?
On MSNBC, in a little debate with all-too-rare rational human being Sam Harris, silly author and pastor Rick Warren just knows there's a god! Why? Because he sees "the finger prints of God everywhere" (hmmm...or does Matt Groening have really big hands?). About those fingerprints, supposedly of god:

WARREN: I see them in culture. I see them in law. I see them in literature. I see them in nature. I see them in my own life. Trying to understand where God came from is like an ant trying to understand the Internet.

Um...I see no actual proof there is a god, so I don't really worry about where "god" "came from." When I see evidence there's a god, I'll start trying to trace the trail back to its source. Until then, I'll leave the arrogance of certainty and the idiocy of "faith" to the business of relgion.

Warren continues:

...Even the most brilliant scientist would agree that we only know a fraction of a percent of the knowledge of the universe.

Yes, which doesn't mean we get to just make the rest of the shit up.

Warren's a real smart guy. Check this out:

WARREN: If you're asking me do I believe in evolution, the answer is no, I don't.

Yo, genius, listen to Harris:

HARRIS: I'm doing my Ph.D. in neuroscience; I'm very close to the literature on evolutionary biology. And the basic point is that evolution by natural selection is random genetic mutation over millions of years in the context of environmental pressure that selects for fitness.

WARREN: Who's doing the selecting?

HARRIS: The environment. You don't have to invoke an intelligent designer to explain the complexity we see.

WARREN: Sam makes all kinds of assertions based on his presuppositions. I'm willing to admit my presuppositions: there are clues to God. I talk to God every day. He talks to me.

HARRIS: What does that actually mean?

WARREN: One of the great evidences of God is answered prayer. I have a friend, a Canadian friend, who has an immigration issue. He's an intern at this church, and so I said, "God, I need you to help me with this," as I went out for my evening walk. As I was walking I met a woman. She said, "I'm an immigration attorney; I'd be happy to take this case." Now, if that happened once in my life I'd say, "That is a coincidence." If it happened tens of thousands of times, that is not a coincidence.

HARRIS: There must have been times in your ministry when you've prayed for someone to be delivered from disease who is not—say, a little girl with cancer.

WARREN: Oh, absolutely.

HARRIS: So, parse that. God gave you an immigration attorney, but God killed a little girl.

WARREN: Well, I do believe in the goodness of God, and I do believe that he knows better than I do. God sometimes says yes, God sometimes says no and God sometimes says wait. I've had to learn the difference between no and not yet. The issue here really does come down to surrender. A lot of atheists hide behind rationalism; when you start probing, you find their reactions are quite emotional.

Yeah, I'm emotional: I find it tragic so many people believe in what is, essentially, witchdoctory, but with better architecture.

Eeeeuw! A few webpages later, Warren shows what a creepy little person he is. Now, all the evidence I can see points to the fact that I'll die, then I'll become worms. There's no evidence of anything beyond. So, I live hard, as this appears to be the only life I've got, and I try to "leave the campground better than I found it." Good for good's sake, basically. Not because it's my ticket to "heaven" -- a place there's no proof of whatsoever.

Here's creepy Rick Warren's take on it:

WARREN: ...If death is the end, shoot, I'm not going to waste another minute being altruistic.

Lucky thing, we have irrational thought to thank for keeping primitive Rick Warren moral.

Posted by aalkon at April 2, 2007 10:05 AM

Comments

Unselfishness is a characteristic of altruism

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/altruism

If he's doing whatever he thinks of as altruistic actions just to kiss his imaginary friend's ass, they're just selfish actions.

Posted by: Machida at April 2, 2007 6:04 AM

Exactly, Amy.

> WARREN: ...If death is the end,
> shoot, I'm not going to waste
> another minute being altruistic.

Isn't that wonderfully telling? In Amelie, there's a scene where the naive girl decides to try to return some lost property to its rightful owner. If she succeeds, she'll give her lifetime to righteous works and self-sacrifice; If not, "Too Bad." It's cute when it's a joke from a radiant beauty in a brilliantly crafted comedy, as if a lifetime of moral challenges could be reduced to a single toss of the dice. This isn't Christian faith; it's voodoo practice.

This guy's plainly arguing that his every move is calculated for his own benefit; If he'll not be received by a loving God at the end of the trip, he sees no reason to care for others. This is the kind of logic that teenagers take to heart, and it's fun to imagine his teenage daughters lashing out (sexing black boys at summer camp, lezzing out in the dorm at Oral Roberts, etc).

But keep going! Give him the highest possible credit, and assume that he was playing to the room. This is the sort of logic he thinks will appeal to the Godless animals in the tv studio and its audience. Not very flattering, is it? Just like the peanut butter boy, he's giving you a lot of information about how he thinks other people's souls work.

Posted by: Crid at April 2, 2007 6:17 AM

The biggest common denominator in the righteous is ego. They never admit that it is man, not an outside force, which determines what is "holy". Whenever you see an expression of faith, you are looking at ego, not piety.

These are the people so needy, and in need of some kind of guidance - apparently never provided by their parents - that they attribute a water stain on an overpass to be the image of Jesus, despite the absence of an authentic portrait of Jesus. We should not be surprised that they are willing to lie, lie big, and lie repeatedly in order to remain comfortable. Reality is their biggest phobia, and a phobia is an unreasoning fear. Thus, they will not accept that the same pattern recognition we use to identify safe foods and familiar faces is distorted to produce the :hand of God" or some other such strangeness.

Posted by: Radwaste at April 2, 2007 6:28 AM

My personal favorite of the religious idiocies is how people credit good stuff to god, and when bad stuff happens, it's just one of those things.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at April 2, 2007 6:39 AM

Rad, I agree with you completely, but am going to niggle anyway. It's not just "unreasoning" fear that terrorizes these people. The most straightforward, rational, proportionate appraisal of what's going on with this planet will terrify any sane person. Always has, always will.

I just with people would acknowledge this truth in a matter-of-fact, non-manipulative way. Life is fucking dark, and you ought to be at peace with that before you make babies.

Posted by: Crid at April 2, 2007 6:49 AM

> God sometimes says yes, God sometimes says no and God sometimes says wait.


Hilarious. That's just a long-winded way of saying PRAYER IS USELESS.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at April 2, 2007 7:02 AM

Pointing out that belief in God is irrational is like pointing out that water isn't dry...the whole point of religious faith is that Reason does not apply.

Believe or don't believe in God, it shouln't make any difference. On the other hand, there always seems to be a whiff of "evangelical atheism" about this blog. The whole point of atheism seemed to be that atheists just didn't have to worry about this sort of thing.

Speedy

Posted by: Speedy at April 2, 2007 7:18 AM

Oh, Brother Warren does make it so easy. These moments of self honesty that creep to the surface are sometimes the hidden pay off when interacting with the religious. It is also a sign of the poor divinity scholarship among the strip mall Protestant brethren. More like a combination of memorized Bible verses, get rich schemes and lame analogies.

Give me a debate against a closeted agnostic Jesuit priest who has replaced his religious faith with anti-colonial liberation philosophy any day.

Posted by: Joe at April 2, 2007 7:20 AM


>Hilarious. That's just a long-winded way of saying PRAYER IS USELESS.

Yes.

My favorite parody of "'Thy will be done": "Do whatever you want to, God. Go ahead. You will anyway."

Posted by: Axman at April 2, 2007 8:27 AM

"Pointing out that belief in God is irrational is like pointing out that water isn't dry...the whole point of religious faith is that Reason does not apply."

Fair enough, Speedy.

But the pious always "reasonably" claim they caught God winking at them when prayers "work".

The ludicrously selective rational argument is from their bag of tricks.

(Superb post, Amy).

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at April 2, 2007 8:44 AM

"I talk to God every day. He talks to me."

I think that is a symptom of schizophrenia.

Also, using something as unprovable as that as proof of god's existence is pretty funny.

If god does whatever he wants anyways, it means his actions are completely random, incomprehensible and uncontrollable. How is this any different than what happens without the existence of god?

Posted by: Chrissy at April 2, 2007 9:21 AM

It goes back to the concept on interpreting an experience in the brain as some sort of divine intervention and creating a religious bureaucracy behind it.

Posted by: Joe at April 2, 2007 9:54 AM

On the other hand, there always seems to be a whiff of "evangelical atheism" about this blog.



Funny, I didn't see anyone here standing on streetcorners or going door-to-door to convert everyone to the ways of being rational. I think "evangelical" is a pretty extreme exaggeration. I just thought it was a bunch of bloggers gettin' chatty. My mistake, it's a cult! Well, she is a goddess, after all.



The whole point of atheism seemed to be that atheists just didn't have to worry about this sort of thing.



I can worry about this sort of thing when there are people that make policy decisions that affect me, based on spiritual dogma, rather than facts or logical observations that can be debated. "I did it because God said so" doesn't leave much room for debate.

(sorry if I am being especially heavy handed (only meaning to be slightly snarky)...spent most of the night hours in a hospital...everything's fine, but extreme lack of sleep.)

Posted by: Jamie at April 2, 2007 10:49 AM

Stem cell research was stopped in the US by religious people. Now Europe is getting ahead of the US in this lucrative area.

Nothing makes people madder than losing out on making some bucks, just because other people want to put everyone back into the Middle Ages.

Posted by: Chrissy at April 2, 2007 11:48 AM

> Stem cell research was stopped
> in the US by religious people

I thought that testing supported by the federal government had been confined to a few existing lines, whereas the private sector could go apeshit, and has. Anybody know anything about this?

Posted by: Crid at April 2, 2007 11:58 AM

First of all, I was against the ban on stem cell research. But there are more issues on the ban and added benefits.

First of all, the religious reason behind the ban was quite stupid. There is a great deal of research that embryonic stem cells may cause tumors and increase the risk of various cancers. Now if the POTUS used the medical reason for the ban, I would have respected the decision, but what was his excuse? These embryonic cells possess souls.

Also, there have been some benefits to the ban. It has increased alternative research methods through the use of adult stem cells.

Personally, the leading indicator on the value of certain forms of research is usually the free market and not government. The government's role in R/D is not funding or the banning of research, but in the issuing of patents. The Founders made it perfectly clear in the Constitution.

Posted by: Joe at April 2, 2007 12:07 PM

Stem Cell Business News Guide to Stem Cell Companies of Feb. 2003: 61 US and international companies are pursuing some form of stem cell research.

US Health and Human Services 2002 Study: private sector research involved 30 US companies, 1,000 scientists and about 208 million dollars in research. The leading company is Geron, with an estimate of 70 million dollars in stem cell research.

Even with the ban... there is still some active forms of US oriented research in stem cells. Also, the ban may last as long as Bush is in the White House. I can see a the next POTUS signing an E.O. on 1/21/09 lifting the ban.

Posted by: Joe at April 2, 2007 12:25 PM

Crid said: "I thought that testing supported by the federal government had been confined to a few existing lines, whereas the private sector could go apeshit, and has. Anybody know anything about this?"



My understanding is that this is technically correct - private sector researchers may do research on embryonic stem cells.



However, there's a "gotcha": If any part of an organization is doing embryonic stem cell research outside of the small number of pre-existing lines, then all of that organization is ineligible for any type of federally funded research. So a team that researchs embyronic stems cells cuts off govt funding of all other teams in the organization. In practice, this means very few organizations can "afford" to do the embryonic stem cell research - UC Berkeley, say, is not going to risk losing all it's other types of research funding to do it.



I'm not a researcher, but this is my understanding of how the law works.

Posted by: Bruce at April 2, 2007 12:40 PM

"WARREN: ...If death is the end, shoot, I'm not going to waste another minute being altruistic.
"

Typical of these freaks.

I met a guy once who said "If I didn't believe in a HELL, why shouldn't become a serial killer?"

I don't know... JAIL maybe? I asked him why he wants to kill people with only the threat of hell stopping him...

Posted by: Morbideus at April 2, 2007 12:58 PM

That is my understanding too Bruce.

Yeah, the ban is disgusting. For the record, I'm against all state sponsored research.
But singling out one specific line of what will clearly be a fruitful field based on religious dogma is worse than immoral.

Mystical nutbags...

Posted by: Jon at April 2, 2007 1:01 PM

It's kinda sad when people truly believe that the only thing preventing them from being serial killers or keeps them being good is the threat of hell, or the promise of heaven. That means that they don't recognize any inherent benefit to respecting others are respecting laws for its own sake. Selfish, eh?
I wax philosophical:

A concept in Taoism is that the more people try to enforce morality, or dictate it, the less it is observed. If children are taught early the whole golden rule thing, and live it...that sort of simple concept is usually all the need. But that wouldn't fill the donation coffers in church, would it?

Posted by: Jamie at April 2, 2007 1:10 PM

Posted by: Crid at April 2, 2007 1:28 PM

No problem, Crid.

There have been US companies and universities that have grown sections/pieces of the human heart. My guess it would take about 7 to 8 years to grow a whole human heart through stem cells.

The UK article mentioned it took 10 years of research. I would like to know the specifics, but will wait until their research appears in the usual peer journals.

Also, what would be the long term storage capabilities for 7 to 10 years of development? In vitro would be out of the question. My guess would be certain animals that share similar genetic material with humans. Pigs would be the ideal choice.

Posted by: Joe at April 2, 2007 2:21 PM

Switching gears: I'm agnostic / atheist / undecided; I don't believe in a JudeoChrIstlamic god but I think this wonderful universe, which is really the sum of our perceptions of it, deserves a purpose. We have granted ourselves the authority to define that purpose, scientifically or otherwise, and who could deny us that? Given that authority, the Bible is hardly the best hypothesis mankind can advance (insert your criticism here). I give it two thumbs down.

If someone or something is judging our fitness to be Masters Of The Universe, I think we may have the potential, but we're doing a pretty shitty job so far.

Posted by: Dave at April 2, 2007 3:19 PM

Well, we are doing a better job than the dinosaurs. Also, our survival rate is much higher for a species much smaller than our competitors. It isn't the strongest of the fittest, but who can adapt the quickest.

I always use the Vegas Bookie analogy. If there was a calamity awaiting to happen to the planet... who would have the highest odds in surviving? Saving the planet or both? But as a whole... we are still a pretty dumb species.

Getting rid of or reducing the influence of the ultimate parenting figures (gods, religious institutions and certain forms of government) would be a start in my book.

Posted by: Joe at April 2, 2007 4:06 PM

I like Joe's comment because he understands what makes clever people do things on this planet: The get rewarded.

I hate Dave's comment because it's pretentious: If we're doing such a shitty job, why don't you get out of the way?

Posted by: Crid at April 2, 2007 4:14 PM

'Religion' has been specifically designed for 'mind control' purposes. Check the old recruitment techniques used in the 'Flower Power' era and you will find reduction of protein intake has serious effects on the ability of a mind to resist indoctrination.
The 'old school' religions had some sort of assimilation into society and did not completely overwhelm judgment. For a few decades now more 'virulent strains' have been at work in society. Cancer would not be an unreasonable analogue.

Posted by: opit at April 2, 2007 5:02 PM

Crid,

I don't mean to sound pretentious, and I don't understand your critique. "We" means all of us. Whose way should I get out of?

Clarification: I was wondering how a spacefaring extrasolar race would judge our fitness to be galactic citizens. Surely we should demonstrate good stewardship of the Earth and have abandoned limiting philosophies. The apparent lack of previous contact by such a race suggests that one of the following is true: a) They are on their way to greet us, b) They exist, know about us and think we're immature, c) They exist but don't know about us, most likely due to the inconvenient scale of the galaxy, d) Life is out there, but not yet at that level, or e) We Are Alone. Whatever the case, our race should act as if it is worthy of great responsibility.

Posted by: Dave at April 2, 2007 6:08 PM

Religions (both folk and the centralized) should be seen as a natural phenomenon.

Most of the dietary restrictions had more reasons besides the obvious. Many of the prohibitions listed were designed for living in very harsh environments. Precarious periods of human history. Controlling food supplies. The number of sexual partners and the quantities of offspring. It wasn't a perfect system, but they had to do the best they had under a limited body of knowledge. No matter how brutal our past was… we are still here. Thriving in some way.

The question is whether these practices or texts are applicable or not in a modern age?

The funny thing is when we have a modern prophet in our midst... there are willing volunteers to live under these pointless restrictions.

Remember, we are still primates, but we can connect the dots unlike our cousins.

Posted by: Joe at April 2, 2007 6:24 PM

Jamie said:

>

Never claimed anyone was, and if I exaggerated I'm sorry. All I meant is that an awful lot of posts here are of the "religious beliefs and/or believers are stupid" variety. And yes, I realize if it bugs me I don't have to read the blog...it doesn't bug me. Just an observation.

>

For what it's worth, I agree with you 100% that religion and public policy should be kept completely separate, and when they are not I also get worried about it. But the original issue wasn't about separation of church and state. It was about the belief in God in the first place.

Speedy


Posted by: Speedy at April 2, 2007 6:44 PM

> "We" means all of us.

I think you should speak for yourself. Most people work hard to behave well every day. Your best critique of our efforts is your example. What have you got to show us? Whip it out, big boy.

> Whose way should I
> get out of?

Those who accept long odds and get out of bed in the morning without suicide. There are six billion of us, and we don't like you.

I realize your comment was meant light-heartedly, but I hate, hate, hate that kind of chatter. A few shabby expressions like that and you've convinced yourself that you really do speak for a higher level of humanity than you happen to be able to express through your own life. Soon enough, you're voting for Al Gore, as if he could handle these matters for you.

This became consciously apparent to me at the end of a Rolling Stone interview with Robin Williams many years ago, when they wrapped up the conversation by considering the Big Themes. Robin looked at the world from his Bel-Air palace and said "We're fucking it up." And I thought, how wealthy and successful does a guy have to be in order to be pleased with a human outcome?

> a spacefaring extrasolar race

There is no such animal. Between the Scientologists and the milder sorts of liberal assholes, I'm starting to think that science fiction writers did more damage to humanity than any religious figures did in the 20th century. The imagery is too appealing; it seems always to involve a Shatner-like champion mumbling things about a 'prime directive' while being fellated by a young woman with green skin in a halter top.

I think you're wrong. Human nature sucks. But more people, and a greater percentage of them, are living better than at any earlier time.

Posted by: Crid at April 2, 2007 7:23 PM

Dave,

I'm more concern with solving practical problems with practical solutions. The last thing on my mind would be trying to win a hypothetical inter-galactic or even a global popularity contest.

A strong and stable USA means a strong and stable world. What really matters is the quality of the leadership of the nation. We are in an age of dangerous mediocrity and lowered expectations. George W. Bush is not the only guilty party.

Posted by: Joe at April 2, 2007 7:34 PM

Alleluia!

If you are searching for the guilty parties just turn over a couple slimey rocks at the Universities, no?

Get your shots updated first though.

Posted by: Jon at April 2, 2007 7:58 PM

Jon,

Absolutely. All the Estates are responsible.

What shots in particular???

Posted by: Joe at April 2, 2007 8:23 PM

It's the non-random part of evolution - selection - that needs to be emphasized more often. Too many people think that evolution is simply "random" and therefore rationally (but ignorantly) dispute it.

Selection by environment is kind of hard to explain, especially to people pre-disposed to a top-down understanding of nature. This difficulty of explanation is why it needs to be explained more often, and better.

Lucky thing, we have irrational thought to thank for keeping primitive Rick Warren moral.

I suspect you mean this ironically, but I fully endorse that logic. Without the fear of divine punishment and the yearning for heavenly reward, idiots would be even more dangerous.

Posted by: Steven J at April 2, 2007 8:31 PM

Speedy... You quoted me and responded...But didn't actually INCLUDE what you were quoting.
Unless you were quoting my thoughts or something...in which case, cut it out. My thoughts are tangled enough as it is...someone else in here might tie it in knots.

So while I'm not sure of what specific thing I said you're replying to, I can take a pretty good guess. Just thought I'd point that out. :p

Posted by: Jamie at April 3, 2007 8:10 AM

Jamie--

sorry about that. Used triagular brackets...the computer must have thought I was putting in an HTML comment or something.

Let's try again:

Jamie said: "Funny, I didn't see anyone here standing on streetcorners or going door-to-door to convert everyone to the ways of being rational. I think "evangelical" is a pretty extreme exaggeration."

My response was: Never claimed anyone was, and if I exaggerated I'm sorry. All I meant is that an awful lot of posts here are of the "religious beliefs and/or believers are stupid" variety. And yes, I realize if it bugs me I don't have to read the blog...it doesn't bug me. Just an observation.

Jamie said: "I can worry about this sort of thing when there are people that make policy decisions that affect me, based on spiritual dogma, rather than facts or logical observations that can be debated."

My reponse was: For what it's worth, I agree with you 100% that religion and public policy should be kept completely separate, and when they are not I also get worried about it. But the original issue wasn't about separation of church and state. It was about the belief in God in the first place.

Hope that clarifies things...and I'll quit poking around in your thoughts as soon as I get your credit card number and ATM code. :)

Speedy


Posted by: Speedy at April 3, 2007 9:19 AM

I agree with both of you that government should not be run by faith, but we should want and expect that faithful people will participate in government and public life using whatever principles they have in their heads, wherever they come from.

Dave hasn't come back for another round, but let me take more more swing: The best, strongest, most decent judgment in all the cosmos is human judgment, and there's zero evidence to the contrary.

And not only that, the best human judgment is probably alive today! (The person may or may not have a blog.) With modern education and communications, it's easier to learn the best lessons from the best minds than ever before.

Of course there's plenty to do, but this may be about as good as life gets. There are no Spocks or Yodas out there who know things we don't know.

Posted by: crid at April 3, 2007 9:37 AM

//The best, strongest, most decent judgment in all the cosmos is human judgment, and there's zero evidence to the contrary.//

Which completes the circularity of the argument. We agree 100% on the role of faith in public policy. But as to the separate of question of God's existence, "evidence" as such is meaningless...the whole _point_ of faith is that there is no evidence.

I'll concede that religious questions should be left entirely in the private sphere if you'll concede that believing in God doesn't make me an idiot. Come to that, I'll concede that leaving religion out of public life is a good idea even if you still think I'm an idiot.

Speedy

Speedy

Posted by: Speedy at April 3, 2007 8:06 PM

Speedy, I musta missed something, which happens here a lot when I see a chance to be snotty and move on it quickly...

I like religious people! Some of my best friends, dearest family, I was named for my minister grandfather, blah blah etc. If we agree that churchy control of government is bad, we have no disagreement!

The way it usually works here is that Amy ridicules the faithful as all being extremists, and I chide her for it while secretly enjoying the snotstorm.

Posted by: Crid at April 3, 2007 9:01 PM

An Argument for atheism and a question for fellow atheists.

If God exists than he must be omnipotent. Anything that exists which is not omnipotent is not god. If I look at an object and I identify it correctly, for example a chair, than that object (1) exists (a long subject but existence existing is provable) and (2) has characteristics and features that fit under the definition of chair. It could just be a raised platform which would accommodate someone sitting on it. We could have debates over whether or not it was a recliner or a bench, but those would be resolved if we could agree on a precise definition of chair. The object itself would never change, only our definition of what it is. If there is a God (omnipotent being) than he would have the power make any object fit into any definition and concept. So the chair may not be a chair at all, but a dolphin as well. Omnipotence would allow any object to be one, or more, or even no other object simultaneously. That would mean that the chair I’m looking at may or may not exist according to God’s will. My dog could be simultaneously a supernova. My entire epistemology (the way I think and understand things) is a roll of the dice. So I have to choose between reality existing or everything I see around me being fraudulent. I choose to believe my rationality.

Why do so many atheists believe in altruism and helping your fellow man? These are religiously based ideologies. If you go so far as to say there is no God, than shouldn’t all the morals and philosophies associated with that belief be re-evaluated as well? I see intelligent atheists reject a God concept yet hold onto all the ideological things that go along with those religions. Perhaps I just haven’t heard of a good argument for altruism outside of a religious context, so if you’re an altruistic atheist I’d like to hear from you.

Posted by: Obvious Rand fan at April 4, 2007 12:38 PM

Crid said:

// If we agree that churchy control of government is bad, we have no disagreement!//

All the better, then! :-)

//The way it usually works here is that Amy ridicules the faithful as all being extremists, and I chide her for it while secretly enjoying the snotstorm.//

Yeah, that's pretty much what I was getting at-- one shouldn't paint all believers with a single brush.

Speedy

Posted by: Speedy at April 5, 2007 6:22 AM

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