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There's Nobody Up There
What does it means if you're told god's all knowing and all powerful, and you're suffering terribly, and you pray and pray, and your suffering continues?

While the religious tend to claim believing in god brings them great comfort, to believe there's a god and to have all evidence point to god not giving a shit about your excruciating pain or horrible disability can't feel good. (I'm reminded of the site Why Does God Hate Amputees?) Gia Cortina writes of the now-late Tammy Faye Messner in the Post/Chronicle:

It was a little over two months ago that Tammy Faye said on her web site, "The doctors have stopped trying to treat the cancer and so now it's up to God and my faith. Please continue to pray for the pain and sick stomach."

Faith doesn't cure cancer, catching it in time and getting the appropriate medical care does. That's something I'm guessing William Lobdell learned. He was the religion reporter for the LA Times. He had a long but compelling piece I read from word one to the end in Saturday's LA Times about his journey in the religiosphere:

WHEN Times editors assigned me to the religion beat, I believed God had answered my prayers.

As a serious Christian, I had cringed at some of the coverage in the mainstream media. Faith frequently was treated like a circus, even a freak show.

I wanted to report objectively and respectfully about how belief shapes people's lives. Along the way, I believed, my own faith would grow deeper and sturdier.

But during the eight years I covered religion, something very different happened.

I won't go all Harry Potter reviewer on you and give away the ending. Read the whole thing. It's worth it.

My take, of course: Religion is a business, and one that has to perpetuate itself by perpetuating nonthink in its members. It's an insinuating mental parasite. And this while we all have so much information available to us, on so many subjects, and it's easy enough to look into the merits of rationality and see that believing, without evidence, in god, really doesn't make any sense.

P.S. Carnival of the Godless is now up. I forgot to enter a blog item in this one, but there's some good stuff there. Here's a piece from Atheist Revolution, "Religious Intolerance: Atheist Pot, Christian Kettle":

What is Religious Intolerance?

Religious intolerance is the failure to respect "the fundamental right of other people to hold religious beliefs that are different from your own." It has nothing to do with religious practices or behavior motivated by religion. The focus rests squarely on respecting the right of others to hold religious beliefs.

I think it is fair to say that I have never met an atheist (nor am I such an atheist) who does agree that others have a fundamental right to hold any religious belief they select. It is your absolute right to maintain your Christian beliefs even if they are false and even if they cause harm to you. I hope you will outgrow them. I think they are laughably absurd. I have not one shred of respect for the beliefs themselves. However, I respect and defend your right to hold them.

Accordingly, I've been meaning to recommend a terrific book Lena recommended to me, The Trouble With Diversity: How We Learned To Love Identity And Ignore Inequality, by Walter Benn Michaels. Michaels clarifies the difference between prejudice and disagreement:

p178Michaels2.jpgp179Michaels2.jpg

Posted by aalkon at July 23, 2007 11:46 AM

Comments

Personally, I believe it is the fear of death that is the main lure of the religious rackets. Death is nothing more than an objective fact of reality, but a subjective impossibility.

Here is Pat Condell's take: "Why does faith deserve respect?"

http://tinyurl.com/2t95ol

Posted by: Joe at July 23, 2007 7:48 AM

I'm a little disturbed by Walter Ben Michaels's: "Although it's no doubt true that we shouldn't hate anyone," as a run-up to his statement that hating someone for thinking something stupid is not so bad as hating someone for being who they are. The proposition "We shouldn't hate anyone" should not be relegated to a subordinate clause. It's the exceptions that should be subordinated.

I can understand how parents could hate a priest who had abused their child, or dispossessed homeowners could hate a televangelist who had impoverished them, or maimed victims of a suicide bomber could hate the Imam who egged him on. But I don't see how an atheist could hate the religious just because they believe, or believers could hate atheists just because they don't. Neither belief nor doubt, purely as a mind-set, aggrieves anyone but the person who holds it.

I say give them all the same bemused tolerance we accord to golfers and bungee-jumpers.

Posted by: Axman at July 23, 2007 7:54 AM

Hate in general, no. Religion is fine, for those who want it or need it.

On the other hand, hate is just fine for televangelists and the like. I watch my grandmother send far more money than she could afford to one tear-jerking televangelist after another. She was complete immune to tales of their abuses and over-the-top lifestyles.

If there were only a hell, televangelists ought to be the first inhabitants, right along with bishops who protect child-molesting priests, and other slimeballs who abuse people's naivety.

Posted by: bradley13 at July 23, 2007 8:16 AM

I believe in both a higher power and an after life. However my belief is based around the hope (not the knowledge of) that these types of people like televangelists, pedophile priests etc. find a special place in hell for their actions.

I can sleep at night hoping that these bastards get it in the end. There's no way to prove that they do and maybe I am naive to a certain extent.

One of the powerful effects of faith is hope, which is why I cling to it without any objective evidence. I will of course abandon this last bit of years of religious indoctrination it if I am actually shown evidence to the contrary.

Posted by: vlad at July 23, 2007 9:16 AM

Vlad,

Your little confession here has filled in the blanks along with your past comments. Thank you.

Posted by: Joe at July 23, 2007 9:21 AM

Once God gave us free will or we took free will via the bighting of the apple, he was no longer able to interfere with individual matters. To intercede in someone’s behalf would be the same as removing free will.
There are two views basically. One that God has a plan. Everything has been figured out and we are living that plan. The other is that we have free will and there is no plan.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 9:28 AM

I dont believe in either free will or the Almighty.

Posted by: PurplePen at July 23, 2007 9:39 AM

"I will of course abandon this last bit of years of religious indoctrination it if I am actually shown evidence to the contrary."

Never heard of the burden of proof is on the person making the greater claim of the existence of a supernatural being and not the person taking the default position?

Also, I'm wondering if believers actually read Amy's blog entry or just skim it so they can provide their personal interpretation of mistaking highly charge emotional metaphors as some form of reality?

Posted by: Joe at July 23, 2007 10:05 AM

"Once God gave us free will or we took free will via the bighting of the apple, he was no longer able to interfere with individual matters"

And you know there's a god how?

Hey, how come you're what, a Christian, instead of a Jew or a Muslim, a Wiccan, or a Zeus-believer?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 23, 2007 10:12 AM

Lobdell's piece is moving. Particularly when sums up a long piece of advice from his pastor that amounts to "don't question God's will."

This refrain strikes close to home. My own experiences growing up Jewish are littered with Hebrew school teachers, rabbis, and youth leaders who would often parrot the notion that Judaism was the ONLY religion in the world which encouraged its congregants to question its precepts. Unless, of course, if you questioned too hard - in which case you were told it was a matter of faith. You either had it or you didn't. This wasn't lengthy Talmudic study either. I was just a junior high student asking why the dietary kosher laws were still adhered to when their suspected historical underpinnings had become long ago antiquated. Challenge your teachings - but not too much.

Later in life, I met a really amazing person who grew up in orthodox jewish Brooklyn in such an insular community that he couldn't even carry on a conversation with an outsider. When the particular "Messiah" of his sect died of cancer without ushering in the promised Messianic age, he (in his early 30's with wife and kids) got out, finally went to college and then law school - and promptly left religion behind him. He later told me of long elaborate Torah study sessions that (like my own Hebrew school sessions) ended simply with: hey, its a matter of faith.

Of course, I discovered in later life from a Moslom neighbor that - lo and behold - Islam was the ONLY religion where questioning was encouraged! Riiiiiiight.

Why do I suspect that you'll find this double-thought in every sect in the world? Our fairytales are right because we're taught to examine them . . . but only under a cloudy old microscope.

Posted by: snakeman99 at July 23, 2007 10:13 AM

Its the same with the incompatibility of omniscience and free will. Only through the faith of the individual believer does the incompatible concepts make sense.

One of my biology professors would say: "If you don't have any physical evidence. Please don't waste my time." Now wasting one's time can be interpreted when a Jesus freak must share their personal testimony that Christ got them off of meth during a coffee break at work with co-workers or the faith based politics of a Pat Robertson.

Posted by: Joe at July 23, 2007 10:55 AM

"Once God gave us free will or we took free will via the bighting of the apple, he was no longer able to interfere with individual matters" - rusty

And this EXACTLY is why atheists dont like the religious, most of the time they have no fucking clue as to their own religions history, dogma, literature, or overall message and just make up whatever ever shit they feel like to score points in an argument

rusty there was no fucking apple, the bible said fruit,
and if god could no longer interfere expalin - noah, soloman, jesus, soddom and gamorah, the ten plauges, moses, every single profit, prophecy of said profits, the wall of jerico, abraham, his previously barren wife, joseph, and all teh other time god interfered according to the bible

Posted by: lujlp at July 23, 2007 11:14 AM

Honestly, I do not think atheists take time to even try to understand Christianity. I wouldn't know exactly how atheist's thoughts are though because I know no atheists nor am I one. When you actually get into it and try to believe, it all begins to make sence.

"Once God gave us free will or we took free will via the bighting of the apple, he was no longer able to interfere with individual matters"

And about this statment... God is still able to interfere with individual matters. He controls the whole earth so no one can tell him he can't do this or that. That is just my beliefs.

If you read the book of Revelations, it tell what is to come to past in the last days of the earth. Well, if you read it, all the things it says is happening in today's world. That's what gets me.

Posted by: Kendra at July 23, 2007 11:41 AM

Once on this site I was told by a poster (can't remember who) that the burden of proof is on the believer. This was in response to my point that it isn't possible to prove either the existence or non-existence of a higher power/god/whatever.

I disagreed but didn't respond. I don't feel it's irrational to think "hey, we just don't know..."

It is a ludicrous, in my opinion, to believe that Zeus is on the top of a mountain w/ lightening bolts in a backpack to strike down people who piss him off. It is a rational conclusion that there isn't a group of gods and goddesses (aside from Amy, of course) on the top of Mt. Olympus. To me, the bible is just a nice little story book that wastes no time by discussing how women are inferior to men...but still tries to present moral and ethical ideas through tale telling.

Ultimately, I don't rule out the possibility that I might be wrong. There is no burden of proof required to say "hey, maybe there is something out there but I don't know what it is." To say "this is it" or "nothing greater than us exists" is just as baseless and narrow minded as people who believe in their religion.

Ok, let it rip.

Posted by: Gretchen at July 23, 2007 11:46 AM

PurplePen,
Then you are a straight cause and effect guy? Are lives have already been written? So you don’t believe in Chaos?
Amy,
And you know there's a god how?
I just can’t see any other solution.
Hey, how come you're what, a Christian, instead of a Jew or a Muslim, a Wiccan, or a Zeus-believer?
Most folks are what they are due to birth. I don’t practice any religion, but I was born Christian. Christianity seems as good as any.
Of course, I am in total agreement with this;
My take, of course: Religion is a business, and one that has to perpetuate itself by perpetuating nonthink in its members. It's an insinuating mental parasite. And this while we all have so much information available to us, on so many subjects, and it's easy enough to look into the merits of rationality and see that believing, without evidence, in god, really doesn't make any sense.
But if you want to turn this in to an Atheist debate, I more than ready.
Lujlp,
Are all of your posts laced with profanity or do you just lake the ability to write English?
rusty there was no fucking apple, the bible said fruit,
and if god could no longer interfere expalin - noah, soloman, jesus, soddom and gamorah, the ten plauges, moses, every single profit, prophecy of said profits, the wall of jerico, abraham, his previously barren wife, joseph, and all teh other time god interfered according to the bible
The bible tells the story of a God that picks favorites, intervenes in those favorites’ lives, and grants favors for his favorites. In short, a storty about a God that is not very Godly, (in my definition of god). The Old Testament, other than Genesis, is best read as a history of the Jewish tribe and their efforts to understand their place and relationship with God.
As far as the Fruit comment, well I put the tree of life into terms that most folks know. I am sorry that the actual fruit type is so important to you. What is important is what knowledge was passed. That knowledge, most theologians agree, was free will. Free will had been held back since unlike the other powers God gave us in his likeness it could not be limited. God could give us limited sight, hearing, feeling, etcetera, but when it came to free will he had to give the whole enchilada. Thus, once we had free will, we could no longer be perfected. Thus we had to leave the Garden of Eden.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 11:48 AM

"If you read the book of Revelations, it tell what is to come to past in the last days of the earth. Well, if you read it, all the things it says is happening in today's world. That's what gets me."

Sorry, Kendra. People have been preaching "the End is Night" for generations. The book of Revelations is no more a harbinger of doom than Haley's comet, Nostradamus' couplets, or Britney's cameltoe.

Posted by: snakeman99 at July 23, 2007 11:51 AM

Kendra,
And about this statment... God is still able to interfere with individual matters. He controls the whole earth so no one can tell him he can't do this or that. That is just my beliefs.
If you read the book of Revelations, it tell what is to come to past in the last days of the earth. Well, if you read it, all the things it says is happening in today's world. That's what gets me.
God is still able to interfere, but he dose not. Otherwise you could not explain the horrible things that happen to undeserving folks. If God interfered, we would not have free will. If we don’t have free will our lives have been pre decided. If our lives are pre decided, we shouldn’t be accountable for our actions.
Revelations is not part of Jesus gospel. It almost didn’t make it to the Canon, but at the last minute it was added. I would hardly consider apocalyptic visions that a mortal had as part of Gods word.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 11:55 AM

Kendra, the end of the world has been predicted to happen dozens of times by now.

The Mayans "made predictions" about things that some people seem to prove already came true. The Mayan calender ends in 2012.

Maybe that's when the United States will crumble.
Maybe we're all going to spontaneously combust for absolutely no reason.
Maybe that's when the aliens are gonna come and save us from global warming. Who the fuck knows.

Let's all be cool, calm and collected about this and have an orgy then chug Kool-Aid. Or I could just hope that the Mayans all got carpal tunnel syndrome and couldn't bear the pain of chiseling another damned thing into a rock.

Posted by: Gretchen at July 23, 2007 11:56 AM

"To say "this is it" or "nothing greater than us exists" is just as baseless and narrow minded as people who believe in their religion."

Gretchen, thank you for pointing out the sense of humility and anti-hubris that is one of religion's best by-products. To the extent that religion inspires people to think outside of themselves and to charitable actions, you'll get no argument from me.

Personally though, I'd rather just replace God with humanity as my inspiration.

Posted by: snakeman99 at July 23, 2007 11:56 AM

Hummm,
Well let us see what science has taught us;
Creation point? Check, big bang
Earth created in seven days? Check, Einstein time dilation
Creatures created in a certain time line? Check, fossil record, evolution
Strange unseen powerful force? Check, dark energy accounting for most of the missing mass.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 12:02 PM

> When you actually get into
> it and try to believe, it
> all begins to make sence.

Science makes sense whether you "actually get into it" or not. Science is never an attitude problem. We love that about it.

Posted by: Crid at July 23, 2007 12:17 PM

Hmmm,

Let see: Someone claiming that science validates the bible passages without any present technical references in a book advertised as the word of an omniscient being. Check.

Try harder next time, Rust.

Posted by: Joe at July 23, 2007 12:23 PM

"And about this statment... God is still able to interfere with individual matters. He controls the whole earth so no one can tell him he can't do this or that. That is just my beliefs."

Well, if I tell you I believe there's a giant Turkey who looks like Colonel Sanders who is able to interfere with individual matters, would you respect my beliefs? And think I have good reason for believing this?

And yes, to the person above, those with extraordinary claims have the burden of proving them. If I say there's a giant Turkey/Colonel, it's upon me to prove the thing exists, the burden is not upon to prove its non-existence.

Because you "don't see any other solution" doesn't mean you can just deem the answer god -- not rationally anyway.

I was born and raised Jewish. I was also born with a brain and the capacity to think rationally. I used that, from a young age on, saw that there was no evidence that god exists, and thus do not believe in god.

PS Speaking of fruit, I believe there's some debate as to whether the Muslim nutwads who blow the rest of us up get 72 virgins in heaven or 72 raisins. Heh heh. I don't believe in this crap, but I do find the thought hilarious that some asshat suicide bomber would get there and get a box of Sunmaid and get told to go to the bathroom to wank off to the white lady holding the basket.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 23, 2007 12:25 PM

rusty, let me get this straight, god does not interfere, except for when he does

Incedentally the type of fruit was never mentioned so that kinda does make it important it is supposed to be an unknow, not an apple - and if you cant be bothered to rememer the details of your religion why should anything you say on the subject be considered valid?

Also energy does not acount for mass, it think you were thinking of dark matter

As for my swearing, is swear when pissed and people spouting off religious crap is one thing, but people spouting off religious crap that contradicts the religion they are discussing is just plain stupid, and stupidity pisses my off to no end.

So while I may be difficent when it comes to my writing skills I can with all honesty you are far more LAKE-ing than I in history, theology, and astro physics, and given your spelling of lack I'd say we have the same problem with spelling.

Posted by: lujlp at July 23, 2007 12:25 PM

Joe,
Are you saying there is not a creation point? Are you saying there isn’t time dilation? What are you saying?
any present technical references in a book advertised as the word of an omniscient being.... What dose this have to do with comparing current scientific understanding to Genesis? I can’t compare the two with out a technical references in a book advertised as the word of an omniscient being? WHAT??????????

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 12:32 PM

Thanks for writing about this and linking to Mr. Lobdell's piece. This is probably the most moving piece I have read in quite a while, with profound parallels to my own life journey.

The thing that I think many non-theists fail to grasp, is how intense the journey out of absolute faith so often is. It's not easy, to realize that something that was so real, so integral, so much a part of what defines you, is false. The realization that the dogma and fundamental Truth, that one has accepted so fervently, has no basis in reality, is unbelievably painful.

Even when one gets past that, there is more pain to come. That comes in the loss of one's church family. The loss of a community that has offered profound support and unconditional love. To be sure, in many cases the love and support is still there, but in the context that the church loves and supports an outsider, based in the sadness of what they feel you have lost. In many other cases, the love and support evaporates entirely - which in all honesty, would probably make the process that much easier. It is painful to know that the community you have been a part of, actually feels pain, in the combination of their fear for your soul and the love they feel for you.

To be clear, it's not all doom and gloom. There is an awe and wonder to be found in the natural world and the universe around us, that is, in itself transcendent. I would just ask that you keep in mind that many of us are giving up ideas and communities that are integral, even defining characteristics of our lives, when we reject revealed religion (as I have) or even the entire notion of god/s (which I have not). Faith, is not an easy addiction to overcome.

Posted by: DuWayne at July 23, 2007 12:40 PM

Amy,
I suppose this was to me;
Because you "don't see any other solution" doesn't mean you can just deem the answer god -- not rationally anyway.
Well then, how do you believe the universe was created? Do you think you have some irrefutable solution? Or are you just so intellectually lazy that you only have to yell bull? It is not enough to proclaim you don’t believe. Now you have to provide the alternative.
Because you don’t see how it is possible for God to exist doesn’t mean that you can conclude there id s no God-- not rationally anyway.
Please elaborate on this evidence that god dose not exist and if he dose not, how all of this got here?
Also, how in the heck dose the discussion of the tree of life lead to 72 virgins as a reward for murder? How perverse can you get Amy? Totally uncalled for.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 12:40 PM

Lujlp,
Nor dose it say that a snake gave it to them, but I usually don’t try to argue such blather.
Also energy does not account for mass, it think you were thinking of dark matter...clearly you don’t study physics. Yes I meant dark energy.
As far as the swearing, where dose your religion come down on that?
No, I am a physicist. No comment on your skills, but I am not a typists or a speller.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 12:45 PM

Free will plays a key role in Christian theology. I don't know about other religions. PurplePen has come out against it, and I'll add my vote too. I don't think there's any such thing as free will. I think we are marvelously complex machines which react to a combination of built-in forces, a record of past events, and the like.

Free will just doesn't make sense. It's an illusion. Where is it? My muscles don't have free will; my digestive tract behaves in a regular, mindless fashion, my skin doesn't go off and do its own thing. My brain is too complex for me to understand - and that is probably a tautology for any finite machine. Why should it follow different natural laws from the rest of my body?

Simpler animals like insects are relatively easy to see as little machines. Marvelously complex, but just machines.

It's actually quite easy to make things which are too hard to understand. This is the basis of children's counting schemes that they use to choose one of their number at random for a game of tig (US catch?). The scheme is simple to perform, but too hard to predict. If something that simple is too hard to predict, what chance is there of predicting a person's behaviour? And of course there's Alan Turing's Halting Problem, which puts the whole thing on a sound theoretical basis that is rather stronger than "God gave us free will." The HP comes down to saying that you can't in general predict what a computer program is going to do. The only way to find out is to let it run.

In short, if you want me to believe in free will, try to think of a way to demonstrate it, and I'll change my mind. (Because the facts will force me to change my mind. Because that's the kind of mind I have.) You might try looking at some twin studies to see if they as much free will as the God model predicts - though it's rather hard to measure.

As for Free will had been held back since unlike the other powers God gave us in his likeness it could not be limited. - what the heck does that mean? It's rubbish. Do you have unlimited free will? Let's see it in action, then. Put your money where your mouth is. Will me a cup of coffee tomorrow at 11am BST. Use your will to decide whether I take sugar.

Next topic: what are the social implications of not having free will?

Posted by: Norman at July 23, 2007 12:46 PM

Lujlp,
Also, I never said this; rusty, let me get this straight, god does not interfere, except for when he does. I said, after he gave us free will, he no longer interferes. I never said he interferes when he dose.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 12:47 PM

What you see above are great examples of non-prejudicial disagreement. Power to the bloggers!

Posted by: Lena at July 23, 2007 12:50 PM

Norman,
I think you are right on the money here. I am a free will guy, which science would argue otherwise.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 12:50 PM

That makes you an atheist doesn’t it Norman?

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 12:54 PM

"Well let us see what science has taught us;
Creation point? Check, big bang
Earth created in seven days? Check, Einstein time dilation
Creatures created in a certain time line? Check, fossil record, evolution
Strange unseen powerful force? Check, dark energy accounting for most of the missing mass."

This is an excellent example of the argumentum ad ignorantiam. (an appeal to ignorance) It is claimed that a premise is true only because it has not been proved false or that a premise is false only because it has not been proved true.

It is one of the many different forms of logical fallacy arguments that many theists claim proves their Imaginary Friends. Here is a list of other popular fallacies used by theists:

1. Ad hominem (against the man)
2. Ad populum (appeal to people)
3. Argument of authority
4. Confusing association with causation.
5. False continuum.
6. False dichotomy.
7. Argument from final consequences.
8. Special pleading.
9. Tautology
10. Personal incredulity
11. False reductio ab absurdum. (reduction to the absurd.
12. Moving the goalposts.
13. Slippery slope.
14. Shifting the burden of proof.
15. Inconsistency.
16. Tu quoque. (you too)
17. Straw man.
18. Non sequitur.
19. The house of cards.
20. Unstated major premises.
21. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. (afther this, therefore because of this)

Which one will you pick next, Rusty?

Posted by: Joe at July 23, 2007 12:57 PM

Rusty- I am a free will guy

I guess you don't have any choice about it.

When you start looking for counter examples to free will, they're not hard to find. You can't change your mind about lots of things, of which having free will and having a certain faith are just two examples. You are not different to anyone else. We are all forced to certain positions by a combination of experience and personality. So where's the free will? Why can't we believe whatever we want to believe?

It has come up in Amy's column before, in a different context: two people who would like to love each other, but don't. They can't do a damn thing about it. If they had unlimited free will, what ever that is, it might be different, but they don't.

Can you choose who you're going to fall in love with, Rusty?

Posted by: Norman at July 23, 2007 1:00 PM

Rusty- That makes you an atheist doesn’t it Norman?

I am an atheist, but I don't think that my opinion on free will allows you to draw that conclusion. I could (but I don't) for example, believe in a god that created everything including me and who knows what I will do before I do it. If there's no free will, there's no logical difficulty with an omniscient being.

Posted by: Norman at July 23, 2007 1:06 PM

Joe,
Are you saying the big bang dose not represent a creation point?
Please stop the straw man stuff. It is one question.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 1:08 PM

Norman I free willed you to say exactly what was on my mind.

Posted by: PurplePen at July 23, 2007 1:10 PM

And let's not forget quantum uncertainty. At the heart of the matter of the universe, we find that sub atomic particles have statistically random behaviour. Unpredictablility is built into the fabric of the universe. Not because god made us in his image and gave us free will and we are just a teensy bit short of being gods ourselves. No, it's in the lowest of the low: subatomic particles.

Memo to self: learn something about QM.

Posted by: Norman at July 23, 2007 1:13 PM

Norman,
I am an atheist, but I don't think that my opinion on free will allows you to draw that conclusion.
Well, I think it dose Norman. If you were not a free will guy, and you are not, then how could you reconcile with bad stuff happening to good people? So, it would be hard for anyone that believes in God to also believe we do not have free will.
The only reason I brought free will up was to supply the excuse for Amy’s original premise,
What does it means if you're told god's all knowing and all powerful, and you're suffering terribly, and you pray and pray, and your suffering continues?

That is why I drew the conclusion from your free will opinion.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 1:13 PM

PurplePen -

So it was you all along!

Posted by: Norman at July 23, 2007 1:14 PM

Norman,
What? How can there be uncertainty! I thought everything was laid out in your world? Just one big predictable machine? Now you are becoming a free wilier like me.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 1:15 PM

And Amy,
There is your answer;
And let's not forget quantum uncertainty. At the heart of the matter of the universe, we find that sub atomic particles have statistically random behaviour. Unpredictablility is built into the fabric of the universe.
God proved, the universe is not predictable.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 1:17 PM

JOE?

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 1:18 PM

Rusty-

You are assuming that Jehovah/Jahweh/whatever is the only god. I might (but I don't) believe in a god that likes to torture people, or a god that is not in the least bit interested in people and doesn't care whether they are doing good or evil or what happens to them. Plenty of people have believed in gods ike that, and these gods would answer Amy's question perfectly.

I don't just disbelieve your god, Rusty. I also disbelieve in all the other gods that you disbelieve too.

Posted by: Norman at July 23, 2007 1:20 PM

Rusty-What? How can there be uncertainty! I thought everything was laid out in your world? Just one big predictable machine? Now you are becoming a free wilier like me.

Rusty, for goodness' sake use your brain. If QM uncertainty is the source of free will, then it also gives every other animal, plant and stone free will.

I know you believe in free will, but for stones?

Posted by: Norman at July 23, 2007 1:23 PM

Hey, Rusty. Some of us work for a living and post comments as a secondary pursuit.

Are you saying that God of the Bible caused the Big Bang? Remember the whole burden of proof or are you going to flip from deist to theist, then theist to deist perspectives at your own convenience?

Also, it is called the Big Bang Cosmology. Please specify creation point. The creation of life on planet Earth?

Could you at least attempt to be specific, Rusty? Its called maintaining standards within a debate.

Posted by: Joe at July 23, 2007 1:25 PM

"bad stuff happening to good people?"

Life is random.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 23, 2007 1:33 PM

Rusty-

There's a difference between predictability and determinism. We can't predict what a complex system like a computer is going to do, but it's totally deterministic. Otherwise computers wouldn't be much use to us.

Think back to the children choosing someone to be 'it'. In the UK we have a counting game where the children all hold out two fists and they chant a rhyme one potato, two potato - I expect you either know it, or someting like it. At the end of the rhyme, one child is left to be 'it' for the game. This rhyme is completely deterministic, but unpredictable. (At least, children can't predict the outcome. Perhaps it could be analysed mathematically. Perhaps not.)

QM unpredictability is different again.

Posted by: Norman at July 23, 2007 1:37 PM

Joe,
Fair enough
No I am saying science provided a creation point. I am saying science provided time dilation. I am saying science provided a succession of fossils in the rock record. And finally I am saying these things are in perfect agreement with the creation account in Genesis. Isn’t that interesting?
But yea, I will say God caused the big bang.
Please specify creation point. The creation point of the Universe is what we call the big bang.
Could you at least attempt to be specific, Rusty? Its called maintaining standards within a debate. I am trying

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 1:37 PM

Amy,
Then you believe in free will? I am just saying one can explain Gods actions with free will, which is the answer to your question; How can there be a God if all this happens?

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 1:39 PM

Thank you, Rusty. I rest my case on the comments referenced in the argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy.

Also, could specify which verses in Genesis?

Posted by: Joe at July 23, 2007 1:44 PM

Rusty-

You haven't ever said clearly what free will is. I don't think you can.

See Dogbert use the Socratic method on Dilbert.

Posted by: Norman at July 23, 2007 1:47 PM

Norman,
There are plenty of things which are not predictable. Predictability happens to be a choice of scale, kind of like why Newton’s laws are not correct, but we still use them.
If we are not in a predictable system then our out comes are not pre determined. If our outcomes are not pre determined, then we have free will.
A rock dose not have free will, since a rock has no ability to act. A better argument might be dose a rabbit have free will. (and yes I remember all of those arguments in Philosophy about a rock having free will.)
Computers are predictable. They run on code.
If things are predictable, then we can right laws to govern them. One argues that we can not predict the weather because the system is to complicated, but if we had all of the variables and understood all of the physics we could. The same argument goes for a person so then there is your proof of predetermination.
But oh the Chaos.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 1:47 PM

Rusty,

Minor topic, I've read peer review papers in different languages. Creation point can be used in biological references in Italian. Its called: punto di creazione. Just getting languages and meanings mixed up for a moment. Sometimes it is referenced as formation point too. (punto di formazione)

Posted by: Joe at July 23, 2007 1:50 PM

Joe,
I believe it is chapter one that refers to creation
So will you now answer at least one of my questions? Are you saying the big bang dose not represent a creation point?

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 1:51 PM

Agreed, I should have been more specific and stated the Universes creation point!

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 1:52 PM

But I did say big bang. I just assumed everyone had heard of that. I guess I was wrong.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 1:54 PM

Norman,
By the way, I love Dilbert. I have all the books. Great stuff. Probably more profound than the bible.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 2:03 PM

Yes, I believe it happened roughly 13.6 billion years ago. But making the leap that the God of the book of Genesis caused it to occur, needs more physical evidence besides a few vague lines of poorly written poetry.

A past comment made by me:

"Someone claiming that science validates the bible passages without any present technical references in a book advertised as the word of an omniscient being."

Now if a God placed the various equations that supply the actual details of the Big Bang in the book of Genesis. Now that would be proof, especially if he/she/it was an omniscient being as the book advertises.

Posted by: Joe at July 23, 2007 2:04 PM

Rusty-

Let me clarify what I mean by "unpredictable." I mean that there is no short cut to saying what the outcome will be. You have to wait and see.

Example of a predictable system: Newton's mechanics, with two bodies. We can work out the future positions of the bodies quite easily as they follow elliptical orbits around the common centre of mass.

Example of an unpredictable system: Newton again, but with three bodies. We can't solve the maths for this. I don't know if it's just too hard for today's mathematicians, or if it it's insoluble in principle and can never be solved.

How does Nasa cope? They simulate the planetary motion in a computer. This lets us "predict" but only by building a model of the system and letting it run - so it's not "prediction" as I defined it above. And the chaos begins to creep in, so the results get worse the longer the model runs. And if you have more than three bodies, the results get worse faster.

All of these examples are deterministic. You can have determinism with or without predictability.

If god exists and has infinite (or even just extremely large) resources, he could simulate the entire finite universe on his PC and know our future before we do. Unless QM uncertainty prevents that. QM introduces non-determinism, so that the universe is only statistically predictable.

Posted by: Norman at July 23, 2007 2:08 PM

Anyway, I have determined that it's time for bed. Or I predict I'll have trouble at work tomorrow. I'd appreciate it if you could sort this out by then.

G'night all!

Posted by: Norman at July 23, 2007 2:13 PM

Joe,
I never said God of the book of Genesis caused it to occur, so please don’t put words in my mouth. I said yes, I believe God did it. Also, I pointed out some scientific evidence that goes hand in hand with what is written in Genesis.
Furthermore, for the time that it was written, the books of the old testament represent the best writings of their period. So this statement is totally false;
few vague lines of poorly written poetry. The are not vague, nor or they poorly written. The are in fact, quite a literary accomplishment for their time, whatever we may believe about what was written.
As far as all this stuff that you have been pounding goes;
A past comment made by me:
"Someone claiming that science validates the bible passages without any present technical references in a book advertised as the word of an omniscient being."
Now if a God placed the various equations that supply the actual details of the Big Bang in the book of Genesis. Now that would be proof, especially if he/she/it was an omniscient being as the book advertises.
I never said that God proved anything in the Bible. I merely offered up that current science strangely agrees. If you would like to have detailed arguments on Time dilation and how the current time scale of the universe fits perfectly with the time line of the new testament, then that would be fine. But I doubt many would follow and this is Amy’s web page. (thank you Amy). Why don’t we have that discussion via email another day?

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 2:17 PM

To answer the question posed by Amy, regarding Tammy Faye's lack of recovery, despite her (supposed) prayerful efforts, perhaps the Almighty was Almighty perturbed about a certain lavish lifestyle, including gold-plated faucets and air-conditioned doghouses, thanks to careful planning of coordinated "crises." Strange how these dire emergenciens managed to coincide with the releasing of welfare checks. Well, I'm sure the little old ladies were content to live on catfood for another month, for the "privilege" of giving their checks to God.

And before only blows a gasket about how I suggested that Tammy Faye's cancer might be some divine retribution, it was intended to be a mean-spirited joke.

Posted by: Patrick at July 23, 2007 2:22 PM

Norman,
Sure we can do three bodies. The problem is Newton law fails at distance and scale. So Newton’s law can not predict future positions of the bodies...even over a short distances. It is just that the error is so small over short distances that it doesn’t need to be more accurate.
There is currently a new gravity law being written that seems correct for large distances. Of course the same thing can be achieved with dark mater so you can see how that is going.
If god exists and has infinite (or even just extremely large) resources, he could simulate the entire finite universe on his PC and know our future before we do. Or he could give us free will.
Let me clarify what I mean by "unpredictable." It means it can not be predicted.

Posted by: rusty wilson at July 23, 2007 2:23 PM

"But I did say big bang. I just assumed everyone had heard of that."

My downstairs neighbors know all about the big bang. I keep them awake at night on the weekends reminding them of it.

Posted by: Lena at July 23, 2007 3:18 PM

TO: Amy Alkon
RE: Oh, the Apostacy!

"There's Nobody Up There” -- Amy Alkon

Don't count on it.

If you're right, so what.

If you're wrong.....

[Atheist, n., One hoping to God that He doesn't exist.]

“What does it means if you're told god's all knowing and all powerful, and you're suffering terribly, and you pray and pray, and your suffering continues?”-- Amy Alkon

Could mean any number of things. I guess it would depend on your particular perspective/perception/proclivities/whathaveyou

You should probably start a poll, as opposed to a polemic.


“While the religious tend to claim believing in god brings them great comfort, to believe there's a god and to have all evidence point to god not giving a shit about your excruciating pain or horrible disability can't feel good. (I'm reminded of the site Why Does God Hate Amputees?) Gia Cortina writes of the now-late Tammy Faye Messner in the Post/Chronicle:” -- Amy Alkon

Guess you never cared much for Calvin and Hobbs, where Calvin’s father keeps telling him that hardships, e.g., doing the chores, ‘builds character’. Eh?


“It was a little over two months ago that Tammy Faye said on her web site, "The doctors have stopped trying to treat the cancer and so now it's up to God and my faith. Please continue to pray for the pain and sick stomach."” -- Amy Alkon, citing Tammy Faye [Bakker]

And your point here is....

“Faith doesn't cure cancer, catching it in time and getting the appropriate medical care does.”-- Amy Alkon

Actually, God cures a LOT of things. Talk to me about an acute attack of gout I had in 2003. [Note: Call it a B’day gift from my Father.]

“That's something I'm guessing William Lobdell learned. He was the religion reporter for the LA Times. He had a long but compelling piece I read from word one to the end in Saturday's LA Times about his journey in the religiosphere:” -- Amy Alkon

There’s a difference between writing about something and knowing/understanding about it.

“ WHEN Times editors assigned me to the religion beat, I believed God had answered my prayers.”-- Amy Alkon, citing William Lobdell

A classic example of why one should be ‘careful about you pray for’.

“ As a serious Christian, I had cringed at some of the coverage in the mainstream media. Faith frequently was treated like a circus, even a freak show.”-- Amy Alkon, citing William Lobdell

Anyone who claims to be a ‘christian’ should be prepared for the commensurate abuse. Witness THIS piece.

“ I wanted to report objectively and respectfully about how belief shapes people's lives. Along the way, I believed, my own faith would grow deeper and sturdier.” -- Amy Alkon, citing William Lobdell

Here’s an interesting ‘indicator’. One cannot be ‘objective’ about being a ‘christian’. That is if they are a REAL christian in the first place.

One can try to explain things to non-christians in an objective fashion, but the fact is that if you ARE a christian, a REAL one, there is no doubt in your mind. Nor is it a ‘blind faith’, as so many disbelievers like to claim. You know it in the very fiber of your being.

“ But during the eight years I covered religion, something very different happened.”-- Amy Alkon, citing William Lobdell

WHAT!!!!?!??!?!!?????

I won't go all Harry Potter reviewer on you and give away the ending. Read the whole thing. It's worth it.”-- Amy Alkon

How about a link so we can get beyond your Paul Harvey wannabe moment?

Okay....

.....I found it. [Note: Maybe you should start bolding your links. Sitting on the ‘cigar balcony’ off my office, enjoying some tobacco and a good scotch in the midst of an afternoon Sun-Thunderstorm—weather here along the Front Range is ‘interesting’—after about 8 hours of intense coding, it was hard to pick out the link. Too much staring at a monitor can do that to you.]

I’ll read the rest of his essay and comment on it on my own blog.

“My take, of course: Religion is a business, and one that has to perpetuate itself by perpetuating nonthink in its members. It's an insinuating mental parasite. And this while we all have so much information available to us, on so many subjects, and it's easy enough to look into the merits of rationality and see that believing, without evidence, in god, really doesn't make any sense.”-- Amy Alkon

Sure it’s a business. Most such activities, including the media, medicine, politics, higher education, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum, ARE a ‘business’ THESE days.

But God is not a ‘business’.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[God builds His temples in the hearts of men, on the ruins of churches and religions. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson]

P.S. I cited that to a practicing Buddhist during a staff meeting last Friday, to which he said,in effect, “Amen.”

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 23, 2007 3:18 PM

> perhaps the Almighty was
> Almighty perturbed about a
> certain lavish lifestyle

Props to Patrick. Perfect comment. She should have been in prison.

> it was intended to be a
> mean-spirited joke.

Don't take it back! To Hell with her.

(Yes, I realize that the Little Girl Voice for which she was so famous most often attends a victim of childhood sexual abuse, as does a scattered personality. But there are plenty of people who were troubled in childhood who didn't grow up to cheat little old Christian ladies out of their Social Security checks. To Hell with her.)

Posted by: Crid at July 23, 2007 4:25 PM

> perhaps the Almighty was
> Almighty perturbed about a
> certain lavish lifestyle

Props to Patrick. Perfect comment. She should have been in prison.

> it was intended to be a
> mean-spirited joke.

Don't take it back! To Hell with her.

(Yes, I realize that the Little Girl Voice for which she was so famous most often attends a victim of childhood sexual abuse, as does a scattered personality. But there are plenty of people who were troubled in childhood who didn't grow up to cheat little old Christian ladies out of their Social Security checks. To Hell with her.)

Posted by: Crid at July 23, 2007 4:25 PM

> If you're right, so what.
> If you're wrong.....

The crux of Christian fatih: fear of punishment.

> Could mean any number
> of things.

Nonresponsive. Her inquiry was specific: Why does an omnicient, omnipotent being allow suffering?

> if you ARE a christian,
> a REAL one, there is no
> doubt in your mind.

Doubt is failure? Golly, you're fiercer about it than any Pope.

Suddenly it not just about fear, but about exclusion as well. This should not surprise.

Posted by: crid at July 23, 2007 4:33 PM

> But God is not a
> ‘business’.

How could you be such a fool?

Posted by: Crid at July 23, 2007 4:35 PM

Rusty,

So what is your point? It doesn't validate a god's existence.

By being subjective on your personal interpretation of various Bible verses. Muslims commit the same interpretation claiming that Muhammad was the first to devise the Big Bang theory 1,400 years ago in Suras 21:30-33 and 51:47.

“Also, I pointed out some scientific evidence that goes hand in hand with what is written in Genesis.”

In Genesis 1:1, the earth and 'heaven' are created together 'in the beginning,' whereas according to current estimates, the earth was formed about 9 billion years after the universe began its current expansion 13.6 billion years ago.

Also, in Genesis, the earth is created (1:1) before light (1:3), sun and stars (1:16), birds and whales (1:21) before reptiles and insects (1:24), and flowering plants (1:11) before any animals (1:20). The true order of events in each case was just the opposite.

Are you being guilty of arranging the facts to suit your literary choices or the other way around? You didn’t point out any scientific evidence, but offered your opinions on 2 very different views of how the Universe was created and made huge conclusions based on the premise of your personal religious upbringing or current beliefs coincide with actual scientific theories.

No, we are not going to have an email exchange. I make it a policy of not having debates on religion and science, because of the 2 different criteria. Also I follow the second and third models of Michael Shermer’s three views on the relationship between religion and science:

`. Same worlds.
2. Conflicting worlds.
3. Separate worlds

Posted by: Joe at July 23, 2007 4:37 PM

Rusty, you mentioned being a physicist. Might you be affiliated with Bob Jones University? If you're in academe you surely can't be associated with any mainstream institution of higher learning.
BTW, ever since my methodist sunday school days when I was asked to leave a class for asking who made god, I'm still waiting for a sensible answer. perhaps you can enlighten me.

Posted by: Rojak at July 23, 2007 5:49 PM

God does answer all prayers. Sometimes the answer is 'No'.

And now you know why Tammy Faye didn't recover.

All the proof I need of God's existence can be found in the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

“The law that entropy always increases, holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell's equations — then so much the worse for Maxwell's equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation — well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”

--Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

(ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics)

Posted by: brian at July 23, 2007 6:43 PM

Thanks Amy for the William Lobdell's article. I enjoyed it a great deal.

Posted by: Joe at July 23, 2007 7:34 PM

Amy --

You might want to contact Prof. Michaels and let him know how a single paragraph of his managed to set off a great blog discussion (of course, it wasn't only his paragraph, but still). He's in the English dept at the University of Illinois, Chicago, I believe.

Lena Cuisina, Bookish Transsexual Blowjob Queen

Posted by: Lena at July 23, 2007 8:16 PM

There's nobody up there. Then what is the meaning to life? Isn‘t it obvious? The struggle to find meaning to your life is the meaning. The conflict between our intellect, emotions and feelings towards others play a vital role in finding the purpose. Especially empathy towards complete strangers. Also how the intellect will try to explain away the purpose or meaning of those particular emotions. Or when people place a greater value on emotions over the intellect. But the most important concept of all… is that you do not need to join a religion to receive any special benefits from the rest of us on the planet.

Crid was probably right that Lena’s comments would keep the Memo Warrior away.

Posted by: Joe at July 23, 2007 9:53 PM

The bible tells the story of a God that picks favorites, intervenes in those favorites’ lives, and grants favors for his favorites. In short, a storty about a God that is not very Godly, - rusty

Well rusty if god grants favors to his favorites how is that not in and of itself interfering??? Use logic man

Posted by: lujlp at July 23, 2007 10:27 PM

Thanks Joe for your comments on the meaning of life. I really needed that today.

Posted by: PurplePen at July 23, 2007 11:14 PM

Morning, all.

Brian - God does answer all prayers. Sometimes the answer is 'No'.

Funny how so many descriptions of god's behaviour are literally indistinguishable from him not being there at all.

Chuck- Anyone who claims to be a ‘christian’ should be prepared for the commensurate abuse. Witness THIS piece.

I haven't noticed much abouse. Disagreement, yes.

And thanks for telling us about your gout. That proves it all beyond any doubt. It could only have been god that cured you, after all. No other possibility exists! Have you contacted the media? The world deserves to be told.

That was not abuse.

Posted by: Norman at July 23, 2007 11:38 PM

I was abusive. Thinking of Tammy Faye puts one in the mood.

Posted by: Crid at July 24, 2007 1:50 AM

I find it harder to believe that people go to such great lengths to be ignorant than I do that people make things up about how damned near everything works. Here's a short list of things you probably didn't know.

The universe is NOT random. We have never observed a situation where at least one of the four fundamental forces was not at play: magnetism, gravity, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. This means that the number of combinations and permutations of elements is extremely large - but it only looks random.

There is no such thing as "creation". That is, it hasn't been discovered. No, the existence of something today does not mean it was "created". Building something from something else is NOT creation - it's conversion. We define a thing as "new". We made the term up. Even the "Big Bang" came from somewhere - maybe. If you ask where God came from, you get meaningless noises.

We make a lot of other terms up without thinking very logically about them. Sorry, you can't have "omniscient" and "omnipotent" in the same being without special definitions. Why? An "omniscient" being cannot learn. This is just a reflection of difficulties with human language and thinking - best illustrated by this quote: "This sentence is false."

I mentioned permutation and combination above. Know what else we think we have and don't? Certainty. People have a hard time with this, because they can't tell that what they are looking at - the progress of events through their lives - is the process of living at its current stage of completion. But certainty, the antidote to fear of the unknown, is so desired that no one wants to hear about uncertainty, pervasive as it is.

When you hear someone say, "I believe in...", you are listening to an emotional investment, not a rational one. A short conversation with someone about a variety of subjects on which they hold beliefs will lead you to think that the vast majority of what people "know" is superstition and lies. Try counting Commandments. What a shock to find there aren't just "ten".

Although beliefs come in different "sizes" as perceived to individuals and groups - there are "big" ones like one's faith, and "small" ones like the worth of a motorcycle helmet - they are all collections of ideas arranged with respect to each other and to one's ego according to an individual's judgment of their worth.

Ideas are acquired by observation. The individual can seek out data, or it can be thrust upon them. It is in the acquisition of this data that individuals fail, and frequently.

When you research an idea, you are limited by time and ability as to the amount of consideration you can devote to the task. Family and other distractions take time; sometimes, investigation requires special tools unavailable to you; the mental acuity and agility you can bring to bear may be insufficient to the task. At some point, the perceived return on investment - effort expended vs. gain achieved - reaches a zero, and investigation stops. At this point, the belief is "filed" as a mental "base" upon which future decisions can be made.

So: because of physical limitations and the innate process of judgment, your investigation cannot be complete. This means that whatever the belief, it cannot be the "whole story".

If you want to impress me, don't tell about your faith. Tell me how you tell the difference between fact and fiction.

Later, we could talk about how doubt is so necessary to faith that they are the same thing: the Irony of Faith.

Posted by: Radwaste at July 24, 2007 5:11 AM

Rad, what I meant by "life is random" is that there seems to be no explanation why a bowling ball falls out of the sky on the head of one four-year-old and not another. There's no evidence anybody is up there moving us all around like chess pieces for any particular purpose.

As far as free will goes, yes, I believe we have free will, but I believe our free will is influenced by our genetic makeup, our biology, and our environment.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 24, 2007 5:28 AM

The struggle to find meaning to your life is the meaning.


Word, word, word, word Joe!

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at July 24, 2007 5:33 AM

"I believe in nothing; everything is sacred.

I believe in everything; nothing is sacred."

-the Chink, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

Posted by: Flynne at July 24, 2007 5:35 AM

Rad-The universe is NOT random.

I was under the impression that quantum events were genuinely random. That is (and this is for other readers, as I ain't going to teach you how to suck eggs) things like the decay of a radioactive atom behave perfectly randomly according to whatever distribution it is that applies. Poisson, I'd guess. The important point being that this behaviour is demonstrably not just the appearance of randomness caused by our ignorance of some underlying deterministic system, but is, as far as we can tell, honest-to-goodness randomness. The order we see around us is statistical in origin, because large numbers of random variables behave in a orderly way in aggregate, if the number is large enough.

Posted by: Norman at July 24, 2007 5:37 AM

Flynne, your "Even Cowgirls" comment reminds me that my business card used to be based on Robbins' "The 10 most famous redheads," and their job descriptions, except that I made it 12 (can't remember who I added...I mean, besides me). My favorite was "Scarlett O'Hara, Bitch."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 24, 2007 5:54 AM

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at July 24, 2007 6:06 AM

Yeah, Amy, Robbins is da man!

Jody that was priceless.

Here's another quote I'm fond of, but I'm not sure who it belongs to:

Politicians, priests and con men have the same job. Separating you from your money. When you have a choice, go with the con man. At least you'll get something for your money.

Posted by: Flynne at July 24, 2007 6:14 AM

Jody - hee hee!

Flynne- Politicians, priests and con men... sounds like Heinlein.

Posted by: Norman at July 24, 2007 7:22 AM

TO: Joe
RE: In the Beginning

"In Genesis 1:1, the earth and 'heaven' are created together 'in the beginning,' whereas according to current estimates, the earth was formed about 9 billion years after the universe began its current expansion 13.6 billion years ago." -- Joe

Did you forget that business I commented on a few doors down the hall from here? That part about looking at what was written from the context of the writer? I guess you did.

Okay. So, how does a guy from, say 6000 years ago, explain to HIS contemporaries a vision he has from God on how He 'did it'?

Would he understand the concept of 'billions' of years?

Then again, how would God give such a vision to a mere mortal?

Would he make the poor smuck sit through the previous 13 billion years? The guy wouldn't last that long.

Maybe he would put it into high-speed playback mode? But would the guy remember that sort of time-lapse? Not very likely.

Or, perhaps He did a fade-in/fade-out for various stages of the overall process. Fade-in. Show a segment of the process at a significant juncture. Fade-out. Fade-in. Show the next significant segment. Fade-out. So on and so forth.

As an example of that sort of thing, go watch Disney's original Fantasia. The segment about life on earth; music is Sacre de Primtemps, by Stravinski. I think the Disney people were inspired by that approach.

How would someone from then 'interpret' that sort of vision? Could it be along the lines of, "Hey! I mean I saw that on the first 'day' He did this. Then the next 'day', He did that....."

The same sort of approach works to help understand other things in that old Book that don't make much sense at face value. Especially in Revelation.

Hope that helps.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Prophecy is proof enough for christians.]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 24, 2007 8:51 AM

"Then again, how would God give such a vision to a mere mortal?"

Mushrooms?

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at July 24, 2007 8:55 AM

The thing is, Chuck, we have come to our current understanding of the universe - not just the cosmos, but also medicine, geography, chemistry - you name it - despite the bible. More precisely, despite people using the bible as a tool of repression and ignorance. The bible has not, on the whole, been of the slightest use in improving our lot. It's not all bad, but there's very little good in it. The whole New Testament can be boiled down to "be kind to each other," and that's not even original. The Buddhists figured that one out a few centuries earlier.

So, how does a guy from, say 6000 years ago, explain to HIS contemporaries a vision he has from God on how He 'did it'? The Greeks had figured out a whole lot of stuff for themselves about 2500 years ago. People were just as smart 6000 years ago as we are now - and just as dumb. God didn't need to give one man a vision and leave it to him to tell his drinking buddies who would think he was having DTs. God could have held a seminar. God could have done skywriting. God could have done any number of things. But no, God's got to behave as if he's not there. I have to admit, he does that quite well, and it keeps lots of people in work explaining why - which brings us nicely back to the opening post.

Posted by: Norman at July 24, 2007 11:46 AM

TO: Jody Tresidder
RE: The 'Stuff'....

"Mushrooms?" -- Jody Tresidder

...dreams are made of?

Perhaps. Or bits of cactus. Or leaves of certain plants that wilt readily. [Note: You should have seen the expression on my ROTC sergeant's face when I and my fire team (of cadets on a field training exercise) showed up with our helmets camouflaged with cannabis.]

Hey! God made it. We should use it accordingly.

[Note: It's that crap we make ourselves, e.g., meth, that REALLY screw us up.]

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Drugs change nothing but our health, The dreams were in our minds from birth. - Michael Dransfield]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 24, 2007 1:45 PM

P.S. Remember THIS....

"All good things in moderation."

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 24, 2007 1:46 PM

"All good things in moderation."

Try telling that to Him, Chuck!

(Your memo style is ruining my flow, btw).

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at July 24, 2007 1:55 PM

Amy and Norman: the existence of the four forces I mentioned has the same effect on "randomness" that {two sides and one edge} has on a coin toss. The result of each is actually confined to a fixed set: heads, tails, edge. For a "universe", the numbers are just intolerably large.

This is evident in the repeated structures we see everywhere, and in the constancy of the natural laws we codify but cannot change.

Sadly, there are a lot of people phobic about the unknown. Their unreasoning fear causes them to substitute a statement which allays that fear. That's why you see nonsense like "evidence of things unseen" - right up there with something the weirdest "woo-woo" crystal-worshipping, "soul-molecule" and "aura handling" worshipper with ten cats and no friends might say.

There are a lot of people who insist that all of the Bible is "correct", and they are easily shown to use special and irrational "definitions" to maintain that illusion. Point out that there was no Flood, no "Ark" and the Earth is old and you'll see the process.

Meanwhile, free-will arguments nearly always omit a couple of requirements: you are looking at a completed process, whatever you think led to it, and speculation about the many apparent paths to the SAME outcome does not change it; the range of choices you CAN make starts with "iota" - an infinitely small increment having no apparent effect (think "butterfly theory").

Notice, if you will, that the human desire to avoid errors makes us say, "Oh, if I had only done that differently!" We look at "free will" as a chance to do better, missed. This makes it hard for us to notice that not only were there different paths to take to a different result - there were also different paths to the same one.

Posted by: Radwaste at July 24, 2007 1:56 PM

Wow! I didn't know a little comment on life would start all this discussion? Especially, one who spent the entire day in a laboratory conducting routine tests and bossing interns around.


Posted by: Joe at July 24, 2007 2:01 PM

> showed up with our helmets
> camouflaged with cannabis.

Much is suddenly explained.

(ps- 99 bottles of beer on the wall)

Posted by: Crid at July 24, 2007 2:20 PM

TO: Chuck
RE: Merriam Websters

Definitions of parody and self mockery.

parody: a feeble or ridiculous imitation

self: oneself or itself

mockery: a subject of laughter, derision, or sport

Memorize the definitions and then look for the closest mirror. Stare directly into the mirror. Say the words aloud and point at the reflection. Capisce?

Hope that helps.

Hugs and kisses,

Joe
[ “Nuff said.” Stan Lee ]

Posted by: Joe at July 24, 2007 2:54 PM

TO: Norman
RE: God, Man & the Book

“....we have come to our current understanding of the universe - not just the cosmos, but also medicine, geography, chemistry - you name it - despite the bible.” -- Norman

You can say, “despite the bible”, however, you have not provided a reasonable explanation of WHY the first chapter of Genesis comes so close to our ‘understanding’ of how the cosmos, and life on Earth, came into existence. The correlation between our understanding and that first chapter of that old Book are REALLY quite interesting. It’s only those with closed minds who don’t ‘appreciate’ it.

“More precisely, despite people using the bible as a tool of repression and ignorance.” -- Norman

Since when is recognizing a correlation of old literature and science “repression and ignorance”?

There are MANY tools for “repression and ignorance”. Atheists use them ALL the time.

“The bible has not, on the whole, been of the slightest use in improving our lot.” -- Norman

Typical ignorance, showing through there, Norm.

“It's not all bad, but there's very little good in it. The whole New Testament can be boiled down to "be kind to each other," and that's not even original. The Buddhists figured that one out a few centuries earlier.” -- Norman

So, just because someone else, whom the West had never heard of for even centuries after it was repeated in it, it’s not ‘good’?

“Oh! It’s not ‘original’, in hindsight.” Eh?

That’s a cheesy argument. One might suppose that you’d not ‘be kind to each other’, just because the Western Guy said it later. Is that it?

Actually, it’s more than merely being ‘kind’ to one’s neighbor. If you read more, or were more honest, perhaps, you’d cite it as it is written....

LOVE thy neighbor as you love yourself.

Merely being ‘kind’ to ones neighbor is not nearly on a par with laying ones life down for them; should the need arise.

THAT’S what is REALLY written in there. Why do you misstate it? Why this misrepresentation? This dissinformatin?

If you hate the Bible. If you hate Christ. If you hate God. If you hate christians. Why beat about the bush? Eh? Just come out and say you hate people. And have done with it. After all, shouldn’t one be true to themselves? At least you’re being—finally—’honest’.

Isn’t that what ‘free will’ is all about?

RE: The Telling of Tales

“So, how does a guy from, say 6000 years ago, explain to HIS contemporaries a vision he has from God on how He 'did it'?” -- Chuck to all

“The Greeks had figured out a whole lot of stuff for themselves about 2500 years ago. People were just as smart 6000 years ago as we are now - and just as dumb.” -- Norman

I’ll drink to that!

“God didn't need to give one man a vision and leave it to him to tell his drinking buddies who would think he was having DTs.” -- Norman

I’ll drink to that, too! But that seems to be His MO.

“God could have held a seminar.” -- Norman

He did. A one person attendance. More of a tutorial session, I guess. He seems to prefer that approach.

“God could have done skywriting.” -- Norman

Actually....He does. All you have to do is go out tonight and look up at the stars.

Admittedly, the guys with the big-honk’n-lensed telescopes get a better perspective, but that doesn’t mean we can’t see for ourselves.

All of creation is proof of His work. Whether you accept that or not.

“God could have done any number of things. But no, God's got to behave as if he's not there. I have to admit, he does that quite well, and it keeps lots of people in work explaining why - which brings us nicely back to the opening post.” -- Norman

Yes. He does seem to want to keep His presence something of a ‘mystery’. Hence that business (above) about His not holding a group ‘seminar’. I guess it has something to do with developing ‘faith’.

Now. If you resent Him for that...whose problem is that?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[God may be subtle, but He is not plain ‘mean’.]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 24, 2007 3:01 PM

TO: Joe
RE: Self-Mockery

Hey. If you can't laugh at yourself, you've little justification to laugh at anyone else.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Laugh at yourself. Join the rest of the world.]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 24, 2007 3:02 PM

P.S. Guess who I'm laughing at now....

...three guesses, first two don't count. {nudge-nudge, wink-wink}

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 24, 2007 3:04 PM

Chuck(le),

Pretty please, with cinnamon and sugar, give us a link to your blog.

Posted by: Donna B. at July 24, 2007 3:33 PM

Rad-

I can't say I made much sense of your reply - I was hoping for more physics and less psychology or religion. I'm familiar with mathematical statistics but not with quantum mechanics. Re free will, I couldn't make out your point: are you explaning how it works, or how it doesn't exist?

Posted by: Norman at July 24, 2007 11:37 PM

Chuck-You can say, “despite the bible”, however, you have not provided a reasonable explanation of WHY the first chapter of Genesis comes so close to our ‘understanding’ of how the cosmos, and life on Earth, came into existence. The correlation between our understanding and that first chapter of that old Book are REALLY quite interesting. It’s only those with closed minds who don’t ‘appreciate’ it.

Genesis looks quite consistent with how an intelligent but relatively ignorant person might explain things 6000 years ago. I don't see any sign of divine inspiration. Just human intelligence. Given that it's an attempt to explain what we see around us, it's not surprising that there's some correlation. It would have been surprising if it had started with "Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe" and expected that to be an explanation.

But, as an explanation, it is (a) wrong, (b) incomplete and (c) unsatisfying. That's probably why most churches have given up reading it as anything other than moral parables, which can mean pretty much anything you want.

(a) wrong: take just the first sentence: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Ignore questions of where God came from. This sentence leads to the idea that we are here on the earth, which is imperfect and full of corruption, while above us god, the angels and the heavenly bodies wheel around in perfect circles. This is not true, but it wasn't until 1543 that Copernicus started his revolution which led to our inderstanding that the same laws apply here on earth and throughout the universe. Copernicus waited until he was on his deathbed to publish; it was the only way to avoid the threats of excommunication, violence, torture and death that the Church handed out to anyone who dared to disagree with doctrine.

(b) incomplete: given that this is supposedly from the creator of the universe it is strangely silent about atoms, microbes, the round earth, dinosaurs, natural selection, plate tectonics, the water cycle, and in general anything that is not immediately apparent to a human without artificial aids and years of study. Don't you think that humans would have benefitted a little from knowing the germ theory of disease? Nah, better let them think it's evil spirits punishing them for lack of faith.

(c) unsatisfying: as an explanation, "god did it" is fundamentally useless. This is so well known I won't expand further here.

Typical ignorance, showing through there, Norm. That's just an ad hominem. Give some examples, please.

If you hate the Bible... Heck, it's just a book! I'm all for books. I don't have an index of proscribed books, or hold book burnings. I don't value foolishness even if it is "for the lord." But even if I did all this hating, it would be irrelevant to the facts of the argument. In other words, it's another ad hominem.

I guess it has something to do with developing ‘faith’. I think you are spot on. You value faith, I don't. More specifically, you value your own faith, but you don't value the faith of Muslims, Mormons, Satanists, Wiccans, Pastafarians etc. Yet, how did you come to have your faith? My guess - which you didn't answer in a previous thread - is that it is the faith of your parents, family, neighborhood. Am I right? Or did you read the Bible, the Koran, the Tripitaka, etc, with an open mind, and choose from them?

Posted by: Norman at July 25, 2007 1:44 AM

Norman - "free will" exists only within limits. Just to be careful: I'm using the definition, "I can choose several actions, each with a different outcome, at any moment."

Key to the realization of "free will" are two major factors: the limitation of the organism (you can't will yourself to fly), and the fact that actions change by iota. In short, you may make an inconsequential decision.

There is an inherent difficulty in determining what the consequences of two different paths might really have been, and there is always the problem of interaction. An inconsequential decision may be made fatal by an outside agent making his or her own set of choices.

Scott Adams has talked about "free will" on a regular basis. He thinks we don't have it, and calls us all "moist robots". I think he's just not thought about inconsequential increments and outside agents enough.

Posted by: Radwaste at July 25, 2007 3:49 AM

Radwaste-

I've only recently decided against free will, and I think that by Occam's Razor, it's up to free will proponents to produce some evidence of it. Obviously I make decisions all the time. But so do computers, and they can produce complex and surprising behaviour. We are a lot more complex than computers, so it seems quite plausible that we could operate without free will. It doesn't feel like that; but then it doesn't feel as if the earth is spinning every 24 hours, either.

You have an idea of an iota - an infinitely small increment. I don't know what that bit of metaphysics means. What's the difference between "infinitely small" and "not there at all?" Can you see it, weigh it, detect it in any physical manner? How do you know it exists?

I suspect there is no way, even in principle, to demonstrate free will. So why have the concept? Where's the evidence?

Posted by: Norman at July 25, 2007 5:45 AM

guess it has something to do with developing ‘faith’.

Do you not only have faith in god, but in talking dinner plates, dogs that speak French, and, to borrow from (I believe) Sam Harris, faith that your frozen yogurt will fly? Because there's as much evidence for these as there is for god.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 25, 2007 5:54 AM

TO: Donna B.
RE: The Blog

"Pretty please, with cinnamon and sugar, give us a link to your blog."-- Donna B.

Which one?

I've got several. Some support the local community activists. Others deal with politics; however, the local party chiefs don't care for the idea of going over to the offensive vis-a-vis going after gaffs the other party's members/reps make and they've initiated actions to remove me as the blogmeister there. Then there is the one I was thinking of addressing this matter of whatzhizname's article. That's www.comensarations.info.

But I haven't had the time to read and fisk hiz article in the LAT yet. Been too busy learning a new development environment. Maybe this afternoon.....with any luck in implementing a new 'on-line' help system.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Don't tell me your IQ. I'm a member of Densa.]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 25, 2007 8:07 AM

TO: Norman
RE: Stuff & Such

“You can say, “despite the bible”, however, you have not provided a reasonable explanation of WHY the first chapter of Genesis comes so close to our ‘understanding’ of how the cosmos, and life on Earth, came into existence. The correlation between our understanding and that first chapter of that old Book are REALLY quite interesting. It’s only those with closed minds who don’t ‘appreciate’ it." -- Norman

“Close”? Who decides what’s ‘close’? You? And who made you the god of ‘closeness’?

If you don’t care to understand it. Is that MY problem?

You’ll have to explain yourself, when the time comes.

All I have to do is point out that I pointed this out to you. That’s all my mission reads like, vis-a-vis YOU, in that old Book. I just have to ‘witness’, brother.

What you do with it is between you and Him.

"Genesis looks quite consistent with how an intelligent but relatively ignorant person might explain things 6000 years ago. I don't see any sign of divine inspiration. Just human intelligence. Given that it's an attempt to explain what we see around us, it's not surprising that there's some correlation. It would have been surprising if it had started with "Twas brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe" and expected that to be an explanation." -- Norman

Interesting. In one breath you indicate it does come ‘close’.

"But, as an explanation, it is (a) wrong, (b) incomplete and (c) unsatisfying. That's probably why most churches have given up reading it as anything other than moral parables, which can mean pretty much anything you want." -- Norman

In the next you say it doesn’t. At least by YOUR ‘standards’.

Not my problem, buckie, if you can’t appreciate that some guy from 6000 year ago was describing his vision to his contemporaries and not some obtuse putz of the 21st Century.

"(a) wrong: take just the first sentence: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Ignore questions of where God came from. This sentence leads to the idea that we are here on the earth, which is imperfect and full of corruption, while above us god, the angels and the heavenly bodies wheel around in perfect circles. This is not true, but it wasn't until 1543 that Copernicus started his revolution which led to our inderstanding that the same laws apply here on earth and throughout the universe. Copernicus waited until he was on his deathbed to publish; it was the only way to avoid the threats of excommunication, violence, torture and death that the Church handed out to anyone who dared to disagree with doctrine." -- Norman

And what does this have to do with the proverbial price of tea in China?

Nothing.

It DOES have something to do with the way men have perverted ‘religion’. And I’ll be amongst the first to say such, publically. Men, especially the power-hungry, tend to screw things up ‘royally’. History is rife with such malfeasance.

But, contrary to your obviously ardent desire, it has NOTHING to do with God. Or did you misconscrew that comment I cited from Ralph Waldo Emerson (above)?

"(b) incomplete: given that this is supposedly from the creator of the universe it is strangely silent about atoms, microbes, the round earth, dinosaurs, natural selection, plate tectonics, the water cycle, and in general anything that is not immediately apparent to a human without artificial aids and years of study. Don't you think that humans would have benefitted a little from knowing the germ theory of disease? Nah, better let them think it's evil spirits punishing them for lack of faith." -- Norman

As if a man from 6000+ years ago knew about such.

As for ‘giving it all to us on a silver platter’, didn’t we already discuss that He doesn’t seem to use that MO? Or did you conveniently ‘forget’ that part too?

"(c) unsatisfying: as an explanation, "god did it" is fundamentally useless. This is so well known I won't expand further here." -- Norman

Too bad that you are ‘dissatisfired’. However, your comment reminds me of Asoep’s fable regarding the Fox and the Grapes....i.e., you’re crying about ‘Sour grapes.’

Grow up.

"Typical ignorance, showing through there, Norm. That's just an ad hominem. Give some examples, please." -- Norman

Not if it’s factual. Your ignorance speaks for itself. Whether or not you wish to be ‘stupid’ is your decision. [Note: Stupid, n., Ignorant and proud of it.]

"If you hate the Bible... Heck, it's just a book! I'm all for books. I don't have an index of proscribed books, or hold book burnings. I don't value foolishness even if it is "for the lord." But even if I did all this hating, it would be irrelevant to the facts of the argument. In other words, it's another ad hominem." -- Norman

Maybe not just yet, buckie. However, you don’t seem too far from having such.

The only ‘foolish’ people are those who have their prejudices so well set that they can’t break free of them. You know....close-minded types. For example, folks who say, “There is no God.” Not because it’s been proven, but rather because it goes against their self-aggrandizement.

Case in point....

You asked for an example of why I said your ‘ignorance’ was showing.

Here ya go....

You said that the New Testament was about “people being nice to each other”.

I remarked that it’s something considerably MORE than merely being ‘nice’. It’s about ‘love’. A love so strong that you would lay down your life for your neighbor.

Why you don’t appreciate that is the measure of your ‘ignorance’. And, from my point of view, it’s rather ‘deep’ as well as ‘wide’.

"I guess it has something to do with developing ‘faith’. I think you are spot on. You value faith, I don't. More specifically, you value your own faith, but you don't value the faith of Muslims, Mormons, Satanists, Wiccans, Pastafarians etc. Yet, how did you come to have your faith? My guess - which you didn't answer in a previous thread - is that it is the faith of your parents, family, neighborhood. Am I right? Or did you read the Bible, the Koran, the Tripitaka, etc, with an open mind, and choose from them?" -- Norman

You could have a point there.

I’ll offer myself as an example.

I was reading that Book on a nightly basis since 1983. However, a LOT of it just didn’t make sense to me. Then, in 1990, I encountered a gentleman who explained something to me....you’ll never FULLY grasp what is in that Book until you’ve made a personal commitment to that Guy.

Well. What he said made a lot of since as I had been reading for seven years and was still having difficulty with understanding. So. He lead me in a prayer in which I said, for all intents and purposes, “I give up. I need Your help here.”

I continued my nightly readings. However, a few months later, I noticed that things I’d read in the past and had no grasp of were beginning to make sense to me. And, ever since then, more and more things became, what any reasonably prudent individual would call, “blatantly obvious”.

And the fun just keeps on coming on.

So you may well have a point there.

As for valuing the ‘faith’ of a bunch of people who are diametrically opposed to ‘love’...well...let me ask YOU. Do you value the “Sword” over “Love”? What’s your take on human sacrifice? Do you care for others more than you care for yourself?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[The proof is in;
The truth is when;
Your heart starts asking;
“What’s my motivation?” -- Newsboys, Shine]

P.S. Have not got to whatzhizname's LAT article yet. Too busy trying to build a database and an AppleScript to parse several thousand pages of PDF into suscinct, discrete reports to determine how well the state DOT's hired guns have evaluated historic properties along a route they wish to widen an interestate through our little village.

They just dropped a number of boxes of documents and a CD on our desk and said, "Have at. You've got 60 days to reply."

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 25, 2007 1:27 PM

Chuck-“Close”? Who decides what’s ‘close’? You? And who made you the god of ‘closeness’?

You had me puzzled there. Then I realized you were criticizing your own words. I think that's a first in this forum.

I don't get hung up on spelling, but "misconscrew" is a corker.

Chuck, what we have here is a failure to communicate.

Posted by: Norman at July 25, 2007 2:44 PM

Welcome to the fold, Norman.

Posted by: Joe at July 25, 2007 3:46 PM

"Chuck, what we have here is a failure to communicate."

Perfect, Norman!

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at July 25, 2007 4:46 PM

TO: Norman
RE: Perhaps

"Chuck-“Close”? Who decides what’s ‘close’? You? And who made you the god of ‘closeness’?

You had me puzzled there. Then I realized you were criticizing your own words. I think that's a first in this forum." -- Norman

But more of a problem with formating than anything else.

I apologize for not recognizing my own verbiage. I'll attribute it to doing too much code and too many blogs.

RE: Then Again, Perhaps Not

However, the situation remains that you still seem to have trouble:

[1] Reconciling, in your heart, the 'close' correlation between Genesis 1 and our understanding of how the Universe and Life on Earth came to be.

I have my understanding of how 'close' those are. You have something that seems to me to be recognizing the 'close' correlation, and yet you reject this as any form of evidence.

As I've said, time and again, this is not MY problem. It's yours.

[2] Answering questions. I think I asked you a few questions in response to your question about, ""

My answer to your question about Muslims, Mormons, Wiccans, Satanists, was...

"As for valuing the ‘faith’ of a bunch of people who are diametrically opposed to ‘love’..." -- Chuck to Norman.

To which I asked YOU, "well...let me ask YOU. Do you value the “Sword” over “Love”? What’s your take on human sacrifice? Do you care for others more than you care for yourself?" -- Chuck to Norman

Why is it you can't answer simple questions?

Instead you whine about being 'puzzled'.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[There is no expedient to which man will not resort to avoid having to think.]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 26, 2007 11:20 AM

P.S. To avoid future 'puzzlements', maybe you should adopt a more effective format for writing comments on blogs? Don't you think?

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 26, 2007 11:22 AM

TO: All
RE: Whatzhiznamez Article

At first blush, it appears to be something that reminds me of that piece done by someone claiming to be an airborne-ranger and saying he and his comrades-in-arms committed all kinds of attrocities in Iraq. Later, it was determined that he was lying through his proverbial teeth; which any REAL Ranger would likely knock out of his mouth, if they recognized him in a bar.

At any rate. That's the 'feel' I got of it as I read it. Not that the writer isn't on the staff of the LAT. Or that he never, once thought of himself as a 'christian'.

Heck. I used to think I was a christian. For a number of years; read the Bible, went to church, sang in the choir, etc., etc., etc. Well...as I've admitted, I was 'ignorant'.

I suspect that the writer was, and apparently still IS, likewise.

The difference between he and me is that I didn't let my pride get in the way of removing my ignorance.

I don't need to write a fisking tome about all the abuses he's seen going on around him inside what all too many people think of as a 'church'. The facts speak for themselves. Even people who call themselves 'christians' misbehave. And in very bad manners. However, as some Wag put it, 2000 years ago....

"A tree is known by its fruit."

Meaning it is not known by some sign someone hangs on it. An apple tree does not bear 'cat-balls'. [Note: A poisons fruit that grows on a tree in the Panamanian jungle. Looks like siamese-twin Jonathan apples.]

The 'trick' for the lay[wo]man is to be able to recognize that 'cat-balls' will hurt you. And that requires the gift of 'discernment'. In other words, you get a 'feel' for who and/or what you're dealing with.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Some things have got to be believed to be seen.]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 26, 2007 11:37 AM

Chuck-

I think you must imagine I spend my time raging against the light, hating god and everyone else, frustrated and bitter because my meaningless life is trickling away, clutching all my possessions like a dragon with its hoard of treasure.

Do you value the “Sword” over “Love”? Do you mean, do I prefer killing people to befriending them? I've never tried killing, so who's to say. "I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword" - no thanks, live and let live.

What’s your take on human sacrifice? Like the Aztecs? Cruel and pointless. Giving my life for others is different; I hope I never have to, but I also hope that I would be prepared to.

Do you care for others more than you care for yourself? Very few of them. Difficult to know how I might behave in an extreme situation. I certainly don't have a problem helping others, but it's not usually to my own serious disadvantage. Oddly enough, I will defend your right to believe what you want.

"As for valuing the ‘faith’ of a bunch of people who are diametrically opposed to ‘love’..." Not only do you not value these people's faith, you put the word in quotes to suggest that it's not real faith at all. Whether you agree with them or not, I think you'll find their faith means just as much to them as yours does to you. I will defend their right to believe what they want. As for their being diametrically opposed to love - nonsense.

Why is it you can't answer simple questions? I can, but it sometimes seems a waste of time. I do hope this is not one of those times.

Posted by: Norman at July 26, 2007 2:12 PM

TO: Norman
RE: Letters from the Land of Evasion

“I think you must imagine I spend my time raging against the light, hating god and everyone else, frustrated and bitter because my meaningless life is trickling away, clutching all my possessions like a dragon with its hoard of treasure." -- Norman

Sounds like a reasonable description to me. As some guy said it, “If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck...”


"Do you value the “Sword” over “Love”? Do you mean, do I prefer killing people to befriending them? I've never tried killing, so who's to say. "I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword" - no thanks, live and let live." -- Norman

Interesting evasion, that.

You didn’t answer the question of Sword v. Love. You said you hadn’t tried the former, yet. So, I’ll take that as when you get sick-and-tired-or-worse about christians, you’d just as soon slaugther them....if you have a mind to. And all that babble about ‘live and let live’ is just so much dust thrown in the air to further obfuscate the matter.

Note: You’re living down to your earlier comment in this, your latest, missive.


"What’s your take on human sacrifice? Like the Aztecs? Cruel and pointless. Giving my life for others is different; I hope I never have to, but I also hope that I would be prepared to." -- Norman

My take on human sacrifice?

I think I asked you yours first. And you have yet to answer me.

I.e., more mere evasion on your part.


"Do you care for others more than you care for yourself? Very few of them. Difficult to know how I might behave in an extreme situation. I certainly don't have a problem helping others, but it's not usually to my own serious disadvantage. Oddly enough, I will defend your right to believe what you want." -- Norman

""As for valuing the ‘faith’ of a bunch of people who are diametrically opposed to ‘love’..." Not only do you not value these people's faith, you put the word in quotes to suggest that it's not real faith at all. Whether you agree with them or not, I think you'll find their faith means just as much to them as yours does to you. I will defend their right to believe what they want. As for their being diametrically opposed to love - nonsense." -- Norman

You’re right. I don’t value a faith that calls for ‘human sacrifice’. Nor the slaughter of other people.

Do you? Or are you still in evasion mode?


"Why is it you can't answer simple questions? I can, but it sometimes seems a waste of time. I do hope this is not one of those times.” -- Norman

More mere evasion.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[The Truth will out.]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 26, 2007 3:07 PM

Chuck-

Re: quacks like a duck: what on earth makes you think that I fit that description? What a blinkered, judgemental view you have of your fellow human beings. What kind of Christian are you?

Re: just as soon slaughter Christians: my answer to your simple question is live-and-let-live. Why do you reject this? Why on earth would I be slaughtering Christians? What is so special about Christians, anyway? Do you yearn to be a victim?

Re: human sacrifice: once again, you don't recognise your own words. You don't value a faith that calls for human sacrifice. Yet you claim to be a Christian, which is founded on the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Was Jesus' sacrifice a bad thing or a good thing? You've read the book: what's your answer?

You ask whether I value such a faith. I don't value any faith. Is that clear enough?

Re: answering questions a waste of time: I answered your questions as honestly as I could in a few words. You regard my answers as "mere evasion". Why is that? Don't they fit your perjudices about atheists?

Posted by: Norman at July 26, 2007 11:34 PM

Norman,

A little advice. Chuck is one of those rare human beings that will wake up everyday with arguments, conclusions and victory already established even before he turns on the computer. You would get more feedback from having a debate with a coma patient with the occasional spontaneous muscle twitches in the form of responses. It is an exercise in pure futility. Chuck's personality does remind me of the character 'Scheisskopf' in the novel Catch 22. Yes, I know what the name means in German.

The best way to handle the situation is either ignore or become condescending in your comments. Watch the reactive responses and eventually he will defeat his own argument through his own memos.

In a strange way he could be an accidental Zen master.

Posted by: Joe at July 27, 2007 11:01 AM

Joe-

Thanks for the advice. I was initially impressed with Chuck, as he seemed to be quick, well-informed and differently opinionated. But this last exchange doesn't give the impression that he's even reading the posts; he's just responding to key words and phrases in an automatic and predictable kind of way. Even when they are his own words. He has turned out to be much less quick and well-informed than I thought - but just as opinionated.

Posted by: Norman at July 27, 2007 12:02 PM

No problemo, Norman.

Anyone who has responded to one of his posts goes through the same process. Basically, I ignore him, unless I am in a playful mood.

Posted by: Joe at July 27, 2007 1:46 PM

Re: quacks like a duck

”what on earth makes you think that I fit that description? What a blinkered, judgemental view you have of your fellow human beings. What kind of Christian are you?" -- Norman

Must have been something you said, that made me think that you fit that description.

Perhaps thinks like....

“I think you must imagine I spend my time raging against the light, hating god and everyone else, frustrated and bitter because my meaningless life is trickling away, clutching all my possessions like a dragon with its hoard of treasure." -- Norman

Along with most everything else you’ve said on this particulare subject; this thread and others.

So...

...do you want milk with your quackers?

Re: just as soon slaughter Christians

“my answer to your simple question is live-and-let-live. Why do you reject this? Why on earth would I be slaughtering Christians? What is so special about Christians, anyway? Do you yearn to be a victim?" -- Norman

I don’t reject you answer. What I suspect is that you’re not telling the truth.

Why would you want to ‘slaughter Christians’?

Probably for reasons similar to [Kid] Crid, Joe, ‘justin case’ would, given the chance; because we won’t ‘shut the flock up’ about issues that we recognize.

Look at what the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently did. They, for all intents and purposes, declared Christianity as a ‘hate group’. Why? Just because we believe things like “homosexuality is wrong”.

Drunk driving is ‘wrong’. But its politically correct to say such.

Being something of a student of history, I can see the logical progression of these sorts of thinks. In due time, they’ll be rounding up christians and putting them in a cage. And where will you stand on such an event? Pro? Con? Abstaining?

Well. When the time comes, remember, you could have read about it before hand in that old Book.

Re: human sacrifice

“once again, you don't recognise your own words. You don't value a faith that calls for human sacrifice. Yet you claim to be a Christian, which is founded on the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Was Jesus' sacrifice a bad thing or a good thing? You've read the book: what's your answer?" -- Norman

How so? Please provide a citation and justification for your first sentence.

Oh. I get it. Convulted logic.

Let me hone Occam’s Razor a ‘touch’.......{tink-tink}.....yeah, that’ll do....

Since when are YOU or I ‘God’?

Furthermore, I take it you’re so selfish that you’d never lay down your life for a friend. Let alone a ‘follower’ you’ve never ‘met’. How typically, selfish of you.

"You ask whether I value such a faith. I don't value any faith. Is that clear enough?" -- Norman

Actually, I doubt if you value anything, other than your own [what passes for] life. But that’s just my opinion. However, I suspect a lot of others, even those who support you here in these discussions would rather me ‘covering their back , in a tight spot’ than you. Whether they’re willing to admit to it in public is another matter. Something to do with fearing the wrath of their contemporaries in a hypthetical discussion versus the REAL world.

And therein, lies the proof of the proverbial pudding.

Re: answering questions a waste of time

“I answered your questions as honestly as I could in a few words. You regard my answers as "mere evasion". Why is that? Don't they fit your perjudices about atheists?” -- Norman

Why do I consider many of your ‘answers’ evasive? Probably because they are.

For instance....

I’ve asked you TWICE how YOU feel about ‘human sacrifice’. And you STILL have not answered me whether you approve or disapprove. It was a simple question. A simple, “I think it’s great” or “I’m opposed to it”, would have sufficed. Instead you attempt to change the subject. THAT is ‘evasion’, plain, pure and simple.

Nothing to do with my ‘prejudices’ about ‘atheists’ or satanists or wiccans. Just a simple question that you have YET to answer.

The question NOW becomes, “Why are you evasive on this matter?” Guilty conscience, perhaps?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[It’s all fun and games, until someone gets sacrificed to Satan.]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 28, 2007 12:24 PM

TO: Joe & Norman
RE: Yeah....Right....

"You would get more feedback from having a debate with a coma patient with the occasional spontaneous muscle twitches in the form of responses. It is an exercise in pure futility." -- Joe

All the comatose and catatonic I know are so adept at cogent discussion.

You sound more and more like an Aseop's fable.

RE: In Truth

"Chuck is one of those rare human beings that will wake up everyday with arguments, conclusions and victory already established even before he turns on the computer." -- Joe

[1] The computers in the LAN of this household run 24/7/365.

[2] I'm an ENTJ. Victory is already established; unless you can prove me wrong. And then I'll change my opinion to be more in line with what was discussed. [Note: Better read up on you Myers-Briggs, buckie. Sounds like you've got a LOT to learn.]

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[A clash of doctrines is not a disaster, it's an opportunity.....to learn.]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at July 28, 2007 12:28 PM

Chuck-

Re: covering my back - I don't think I'd like to let you get behind me under any circumstances. A self-professed Christian, but of the gun-totin' kind, with a serious dose of paranoia? I have really no idea what you might do. I'd prefer you to stay in front of me and keep your hands where I can see them.

Posted by: Norman at July 29, 2007 12:44 PM

Chuck - Whether they’re willing to admit to it in public is another matter. Something to do with fearing the wrath of their contemporaries in a hypthetical discussion versus the REAL world.

... and ...

What I suspect is that you’re not telling the truth.

Seems you will reject as lies, anything that doesn't fit your preconceived notions. Not only do you say we are all liars here, but that we want to slaughter you or round up Christians into cages. I must admit I've never met anyone who thinks like this. That's not a compliment. In fact, I think you should talk to your priest or minister or shrink or whoever you trust about it.

Victory is already established; unless you can prove me wrong. And then I'll change my opinion to be more in line with what was discussed.

Not much chance of that happening, is there!

Posted by: Norman at July 29, 2007 2:31 PM

TO: Norman
RE: Coverage

"I don't think I'd like to let you get behind me under any circumstances." -- Norman

Well....

....not to put too fine a point on it, buckie, but

I know plane-loads of paratroopers as well as many other comrades-in-arms who trusted me with their very lives.

RE: Paranoia

"A self-professed Christian, but of the gun-totin' kind, with a serious dose of paranoia?" -- Norman

As an old Army adage goes...

A healthy paranoia keeps men alive on the field of battle.

And Life, by and large these days, is something of a battlefield. Don't you think? Or were you asleep on 9/11?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[If you're not 'paranoid', you're not paying attention.]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at August 10, 2007 7:24 AM

TO: Norman
RE: Take a Chance

"Not much chance of that happening, is there!" -- Norman

Only if you're totally ignorant....or 'stupid'.

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Stupid, n., Ignorant and proud of it.]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at August 10, 2007 7:26 AM

TO: Norman
RE: A Simple Test....

""A self-professed Christian, but of the gun-totin' kind..." -- Norman

....of 'ignorance' and/or 'stupidity'.

Who said, "Now is the time for every man to take his purse and buy a sword"?

What does it mean?

Regards,

Chuck(le)
[Ignorance, n., When you don't know something.]

Posted by: Chuck Pelto at August 10, 2007 7:28 AM

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