While I find it most enjoyable to read the (mostly) sensible discussions on this forum and to share some of my day with like-minded and intelligent people, I can't help feeling a deep sense of pointlessness at ever trying to persuade religious people to see sense.
Most of you have probably had the experience of trying to understand why seemingly intelligent people are religious. It is a depressing exercise, as normal logic goes out the window as soon as the topic of faith comes up, and you get blank, idiotic stares from the subject of your questioning. I have spend many years of my life trying to understand how so many people can hold these unsupportable views, and have got precisely nowhere. For the most part I guess, human beings are a superstitious species who cannot handle intellectual complexity very well, and therefore resort to simplistic stories to interpret the world around them. Bears shit in the woods, humans tell superstitious stories. That's all there is to it - so stop worrying about it and enjoy your life.
I have the greatest admiration for Sam Harris and his objective of putting the issue of faith on the public agenda, but I have given up the fight myself, having pissed off too many friends over the years - people who simply cannot engage in a sensible discussion about their most fundamental beliefs.
Does anyone have any words of encouragement here - why bother with all of this? Let them believe whatever they want, who cares? Fight the policy implications on their merits on a case by case basis.
At some point, I started wondering how religion has been selected for in the gene pool. It must be, for it seems to be on the acendency. My theory is that it is not religion, per se that is selected for, but the propensity to do exactly what mama and papa say. Kids who do that, for the most part, are more likely to survive and breed. Those of us who snuck away whenever we could ended up being caught by the boogie man.
Just a thought, and it goes along with what N said. Why dont you sign up, by the way, I enjoy your comments.
[quote author=“hampsteadpete”]At some point, I started wondering how religion has been selected for in the gene pool. It must be, for it seems to be on the acendency. My theory is that it is not religion, per se that is selected for, but the propensity to do exactly what mama and papa say. Kids who do that, for the most part, are more likely to survive and breed. Those of us who snuck away whenever we could ended up being caught by the boogie man.
Just a thought, and it goes along with what N said. Why dont you sign up, by the way, I enjoy your comments.
I agree that there’s little point in trying to use reason in appealing to those who have no use for it and value it about as much as they do a hangnail—those who can’t even really recognize it in the first place. Our “unalienable” human rights (in particular) rest entirely on the health of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. That’s worth defending by whatever viable means we can, but attempting to reason liberty into sound health by confronting theocrats with it is wasted time and effort.
I agree with N, it is difficult if not impossible to convince any of them, of anything that threatens their absurd notions. Like him, I really dont try any more, at least I dont go in with any expectations.
That said, I still take advantage of every opportunity to make my voice heard. Why? Because I never know when someone might read my “letter to the editor,” or see my bumper stickers or T-shirt from http://www.evolvefish.com, and realize that at least one other person on the planet feels the same way they do. Sounds trite, I know, but there was a point, shortly after I moved to the South, that I thought I was the lone ranger among these bible thumpers.
Why do I feel it is important that we do this? Because “they” have every intention of turning the United States into Jesusland, and I think everyone in this forum is aware of this. Below is a monthly letter from the president of an organization called christianexodus.org. Their objective is to get enough christians to move to South Carolina to basicly take over the state, change the state constitution, and eventually succeed (again) from the union. Tell you the truth, I dont really care if they do, as long as they keep their foolishness there, but they wont. Below is the letter, if you are interested, you can read it for yourselves. Personally, I think they are worth stopping!
November 5, 2004
Dear fellow Exodusters,
Our bold project is still very much in its infancy, and we often receive emails asking for more information about what ChristianExodus.org is. So let’s answer the question: Just what is ChristianExodus.org?
Well, before we discuss what ChristianExodus is, let us mention a few things that we are not.
First, ChristianExodus is not a cult! (see September 12th President’s Column for more on this topic)
ChristianExodus is not a religious sect of Christianity; rather it is a broad-based non-denominational Christian project. Our Statement of Faith is in fact broader than those of Christian denominations, and in conflict with none of them. If ChristianExodus is labeled a cult based upon its religious beliefs, then it must necessarily follow that all Christian denominations are cults; for their beliefs are narrower than ours, and they would therefore more closely resemble being a sect of ChristianExodus.
Furthermore, our beliefs are not extreme, unless of course you consider the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, the writings of our Founders, and the Word of God to be extreme. Each of our beliefs is based upon statements found in these writings. And you know, the vast majority of people in this nation shared every one of our beliefs until the 1860’s. Even following the War for Southern Independence, the government in this country shared most of our beliefs until the infamous ‘separation of church and state’ ruling in 1947. Our beliefs are anything but extreme; rather they are patriotic and desirous of a return to normalcy.
Lastly on this subject, ChristianExodus does not propose that our members live in an unconventional manner. Nor do we propose a different form of government than already exists in South Carolina.
Second, ChristianExodus is not an isolationist organization.
We do not seek to withdraw from the world.
We do not seek to lock down our borders in such a fashion as once witnessed in Eastern Europe.
Instead, we recognize the benefits that a Christian nation offers to the world. We desire a Christ-friendly ‘base of operations’ in which to train up our children and from which to send missionaries to the ends of the earth. We desire a State that lets its light shine upon the nations of the world, not one that keeps the Good News to itself.
Part of our witness to the world as Christians is composed of how we govern ourselves at home. What can the world make of Christianity when the nation most identified with it:
· murders 43 million of its babies;
· celebrates sodomy and redefines marriage;
· proclaims that we evolved from apes; and
· erases Christian morality from the public square lest it influence someone?
No, we are not isolationists; we are missionaries with a strategy for implementing the Great Commission: to go and make disciples of all nations.
Third, ChristianExodus is not a religious reform movement.
It has often been presented to us that we’ll never be successful in reforming government until we reform our churches. While we agree that our Christian churches are in dire need of reform, we disagree with the supposition that one cannot happen without the other.
Certainly our churches need reform. For crying out loud, our pastors allow money to dictate the topics of their sermons! Some topics are off limits so as not to jeopardize their church’s precious 501(c)3 status… as if God needs tax deductible donations in order to accomplish His work!
Albeit that pulpit reform is a worthy endeavor, it is however not the mission of ChristianExodus.org. Church reform must remain the mission of other organizations.
Fourth, ChristianExodus is not an educational organization.
Certainly we will all continue to grow in knowledge of the Scriptures and constitutional law, and ChristianExodus will help its members every step of the way in this regard. However, reeducation of the American populace is NOT why we exist. Plenty of wonderful educational organizations exist and spend a great deal of money getting their message out to the masses. But that mission is theirs, not ours.
ChristianExodus came into existence as a result of the very simple belief that we don’t NEED more Christian Constitutionalists to be successful. There are already enough of us. We simply need to be in the same State.
Lastly, the goal of ChristianExodus is not necessarily secession.
Our mission is: “To reestablish Constitutionally limited government founded upon Christian principles.” Where it is possible to accomplish this goal within the union, we will do so. If it becomes impossible to accomplish this goal within the union, then we must press for independence. But what of the man who says, “I’m willing to fight for our liberties so long as it doesn’t lead to secession”? Let’s be very clear about this: when government violates your God-given rights, you do not give up your rights, you give up the government. If our mission cannot be accomplished within the current federal union, then we MUST stand beside the Declaration of Independence and declare that it is time to “alter or abolish” our ties with Washington, D.C.
Although independence is not our goal, it may become the means by which we achieve our desired end.
Well then, what is ChristianExodus.org?
First, we are a political action organization, and we are government reformers. But simply put, ChristianExodus is really just a massive voter mobilization effort. Rather than just get Christians to the polls ever other November, we aim to get them to the SAME polling places! We exist to move Christian Constitutionalists to a particular section of the country so that we are voting in the same local elections.
Additionally, ChristianExodus might be considered a political “sub-party”; an organization within the existing political parties, because we intend to endorse and run our own candidates in the primaries of these parties. We will implement an organized strategy in electoral politics distinct to ChristianExodus rather than to party.
Second, although we’re not isolationists, we may rightly be called separatists.
Note that religious separatists founded the various States of this union. The Pilgrims understood that for the good of their children and posterity they had to separate themselves from the Church of England. They first went to Holland, but realized that the youth of that nation were incredibly immoral and would surely corrupt their own. So America became their destination, and the myriad of souls that have been won to Jesus Christ as a result of their ‘separatism’ must number more than a billion.
It is a fundamental precept of Christianity that we are to be distinct from the world. We are always to be separate from it spiritually, and often times physically. We must certainly separate our children from worldly things while they are trained up in the Lord so they’ll not depart from Him as adults.
Lastly, we are Christian Constitutionalists.
We are not just Christians at ChristianExodus. Every State in the union suffers economically at the hands of Christians and non-Christians alike. Make a list of unconstitutional government spending and you will find a sea of Christians clamoring for more of it just like their tyrannical brethren, the secular humanists. Whether it is social security, Medicare, education, international welfare, corporate subsidies, disaster relief, and the like, Christians are not clamoring for the end of these programs, rather they’re just screaming to receive their fair share.
An e-mail from the Christian Coalition sang praises about the Bush Administration for awarding $100 million in abstinence-focused grants for AIDS prevention under President Bush’s emergency plan for AIDS relief. Such praise despite the fact that the U.S. Constitution gives absolutely NO authority to Congress to spend money on abstinence, or family planning, or disease prevention programs. None whatsoever!
This might explain why the Christian Coalition has failed to reform America since its inception 15 years ago; they don’t even understand the problem, how can they possibly know the solution?
On the other hand, we are not just Constitutionalists. For example, the Libertarians wonderfully understand the proper functions of constitutionally limited government. A great number of our national ills would be solved if the libertarians ran the country instead of the Republicrats. However, an even greater host of societal problems would then plague us, because a constitutionalist who does not recognize the supreme authority of the God of the Bible cannot understand the impact immorality has on the populace. We are social beings and there is no truth in the statement that one man’s private sins do not affect the rest of us. As Christians, we know better. A public servant who cannot be faithful to his wife will not be faithful to his constituents. A man who lies in personal relationships will not be truthful in business dealings. In short, character as evidenced by private behavior does affect us all, therefore some so-called “private” behaviors must be legislated against.
So while we are constitutionalists, we are first and foremost Christians who demand that the State bow its knee to the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given, and from whom all blessings flow.
As for me, I know from experience that deconversion is not impossible. I am living proof.
Here’s the way we should reason: If we really think that religious thought is harmful to our national and international existence, then we cannot sit idly by. Even if we don’t think that it is as severe as all that, but still consider it to be false, then we still owe everyone bound by faith and its communities an alternative. (Of what value is truth to you?) Finally, even if we do not think we can convince the faith-bound of the veracity of our position, perhaps we can elevate the level of discourse and present our view to those presently uncommitted, especially if those listening happen to be in positions of authority.
Our national heritage is not one of sitting back and letting King George tell us what he wants us to believe. I see no reason to start now.
In short, the choice is to take a fatalistic or optimistic view. I choose the latter, though I know it may not work. The other option, however, is no option—it is concession.
I am more and more becoming aware of the similarities between the fundies of the East and the fundies of the West. The gruesome collision course set by these two happy camps is hopefully going to become more obvious to thinking folks. But, clearly, the frustration you express is understandable. Otherwise, Mr. Harris would be a guest on the Oprah Winfrey show and his book would be on her reading list.
I hear what you all say, and intellectually I am fully on board with the need to stand up for reason. But I find it difficult to find the energy to fight the fight.
Part of my problem is that ‘fighting the fight’ seems a bit too much like proslethysing. I am actually not that interested in what other people believe - I just don’t want them to make policy based on it. So it is very difficult to imagine a broad movement of ‘reasonable’ people taking a political stand on all of this, unless the situation became very drastic (such as if these christian exodus loonies actually made some progress). There seems to be an inbuilt contradiction in the position of the reasonable person - since reason should speak for itself, I don’t want to diminish its credibility be shouting about it from the pulpit. The last thing we need is to sink to the level of a tele-evangelist, screaming about how important it is to woship reason (do I hear a hallelujah, praise be to Sam).
So Sam Harris has clearly stuck a chord with many of us, but he too seems disinterested in leading any sort of movement to take his arguments to a broader audience. No senior politician will ever be elected in the US on a secular platfom. We cannot, by deifintion, have a church. So then, how does the fight for reason proceed?
[quote author=“child”]As for me, I know from experience that deconversion is not impossible. I am living proof.
I am too. I’m willing to bet that, like me, you weren’t very authoritarian (what church leaders said had to be considered like anything else rather than simply adopted) and you didn’t really have much at all in the way of “true” faith (the capacity to genuinely believe something sans or counter to evidence and/or viable epistemology—I don’t think most believers have a lot, but I suspect that like me you had little to none).
I’m willing to bet you also took seriously the lip service your religion offered to valuing truth, while probably also noticing the contrast between the responsibility you felt to put serious effort into determining just what that might be, and the lack thereof in most around you, including clerical and lay leadership.
In my experience what most believers really value is verisimilitude, not so much the genuine article. And for many the association between the genuine valuation of truth and taking personal responsibilty for discerning what of it one can doesn’t even register—it seems faith effectively turns that obvious connection off.
Faith seriously miscalibrates our BS detectors—adds filters that require a statement or claim to fit into the pre-existing paradigm. That which doesn’t pass through this filter automatically sets it off, so how far such statemtents and claims can be considered depends how prominant this faith filter is in the given believer’s BS machinery. In most cases I think it effectively disables the BS detector for anything that has very much to do with their articles of faith at all.
All that to say that in the vast majority of cases, I’d say genuine challenges to faith are DOA.
We cannot, by deifintion, have a church. So then, how does the fight for reason proceed?
You’re so right, Nietschze. I think venues such as this forum—and the internet in general—are possibly the only ways. Little tendrils may work their way into some people’s minds.
I was easily de-converted in my second year of college, by a psychology professor who made clear (to me, at least) the absurdities people will subscribe to. Surely there are others like us out there who will come looking for a community to be with.
I just finished the first chapter of Sam Harris’ intriguing new book, “The End of Faith”. He sent me an email and suggested I join the conversation online so here I am. I’m a Christian anxious to add whatever I can to a discussion on religion and rationality and, hopefully, lessen the enormous chasm between them…one millimeter at a time. I don’t have any claim to possess ultimate Truth. I’m just seeking to remain on the path that leads there. Sam Harris mentioned in a recent radio interview that “The End of Faith” is an attempt to change the conversation. I know I’ll be pounded by many of you but I welcome the dialogue.
“Faith begins precisely where thinking leaves off”—- Kierkegaard
Stop fighting; relax and be. Sometimes a few words can be an inspiration to someone. I know that this forum has brought to light many different views that I have never considered. I haven’t believed in religion for a while; however, my naivety and lack of attention (or maybe my acceptance of its existence) to the powers of Christianity have left me feeling like my head has been buried in the sand. If you have something to share, you should share it. It is not going unnoticed or unapprecated.
Question everything. You might get tired, but you will never be at a loss for conversation. Also, do not assume that a person who uses the word “faith” actually has “faith”. Alan Watts said that true faith is not insisting on a particular religion or belief, for by insisting one shows not faith but an attachment to dogma. I repeat: those who most often use the word faith are “faithless’: they don’t trust the Universe or God or the unknown.
Alan Watts (can you guess I am a fan of his?) said that, when floating in the ocean, one doesn’t “insist” on floating, one relaxes, lets go, and then you float. To insist is to tighten up, which is a lousy way to float: you will get exhausted and drown in short order. Do not cede any ground to those who insist on a particular faith, for they have none!
By concretizing mythological forms, religions have served to reduce the ineffable to a more controllable size and substance. Carl Jung stated that (paraphrased): ‘Religion exists to protect its followers from a direct experience of God’. People would poop in their pants if they faced undifferentiated consciousness or the godhead and were not up to the task. Joseph Campbell spoke of how a shaman could swim in the sea of mythological symbols that a schizophrenic would drown in—not by applying a tenuous hold onto reality but by relaxing and letting go.
One of the greatest gifts Watts gave to me was his assertion regarding how people who don’t trust themselves (and therefore must give all of their “soul” to a deity) are in a terrible bind: if you can’t trust yourself, you can’t trust not trusting yourself! The floor disappears and you haven’t a real or metaphysical leg to stand on!
Trust yourself, and know that you can be wrong. If god is the source of all, then you are of that god, so what’s to worry about?
Does anyone have any words of encouragement here - why bother with all of this?
Encouragement comes from grasping elements of truth within others conceptual system.
All of us ‘bother’ because we are all seeking peace of mind in an apparently insane world.
when they do start thinking, then your opinions and views might matter.
My theory is that it is not religion, per se that is selected for, but the propensity to do exactly what mama and papa say. Kids who do that, for the most part, are more likely to survive and breed.
Except if the world is in flux.
those who can’t even really recognize it in the first place.
Maybe not at this moment, but occasionally humans have been known to have an epiphany
I still take advantage of every opportunity to make my voice heard.
An admirable position. Discernment allows us to know the ‘right time’ to make a statement, the time when it will cause critical thinking to occur.
even if we do not think we can convince the faith-bound of the veracity of our position, perhaps we can elevate the level of discourse and present our view to those presently uncommitted
Those that proclaim their blind faith the loudest are the least likely to be fully convinced of the veracity of their faith
fundies of the East and the fundies of the West. The gruesome collision course set
‘fighting the fight’ seems a bit too much like proslethysing.
I’d say genuine challenges to faith are DOA.
Little tendrils may work their way into some people’s minds.
I’m a Christian anxious to add whatever I can to a discussion on religion and rationality and, hopefully, lessen the enormous chasm between them.
Bravery and good will, hope and reason can close the chasm.
Stop fighting; relax and be. I know that this forum has brought to light many different views that I have never considered.
Consideration is the key.
Question everything. By insisting one shows not faith but an attachment to dogma. By concretizing mythological forms, religions have served to reduce the ineffable to a more controllable size and substance. Trust yourself, and know that you can be wrong. If God is the source of all, then you are of that God.
Our discourse necessarily brings us to Christ, because Christ is the still living myth in our culture. Christ is our culture hero, who, regardless of his historical existence, embodies the myth of the divine Primordial Man, the mystic Adam. It is Christ who occupies the center of the Christian mandala, who is the Lord of the Tetramorph, i.e., the four symbols of the evangelists, which are like the four columns of Christ’s throne.
Christ is in us and we in Christ. Christ’s kingdom is the pearl of great price, the treasure buried in the field, the grain of mustard seed which will become a great tree, and the heavenly city.
As Christ is in us, so also is his heavenly kingdom. This is in exact agreement with the empirical findings of psychology, that there is an ever present archetype of wholeness which may easily disappear from the purview of consciousness or may never be perceived at all until a consciousness illuminated by conversion recognizes it in the figure of Christ.
As a result of this anamnesis the original state of oneness with the God image is restored. It brings about an integration, a bridging of the split in the personality caused by the instincts striving apart in different and mutually contradictory directions.
The only time the split does not occur is when a person is still as legitimately unconscious of his instinctual life as an animal. It proves harmful and impossible to endure when an artificial unconsciousness - a repression - no longer reflects the life of the instincts.
There can be no doubt that the original Christian conception of the imago Dei embodied in Christ meant an all embracing totality that even includes the animal side of man. Nevertheless the Christ symbol lacks wholeness in the modern psychological sense, since it does not include the dark side of things but specifically excludes it in the form of a Luciferian opponent.
Although the exclusion of the power of evil was something the Christian consciousness was well aware of, all it lost in effect was an insubstantial shadow as evil was characterized as a mere diminution of good and thus deprived of substance. According to the teachings of the Church, evil is simply ‘the accidental lack of perfection’.
So far as we can judge from experience, light and shadow are so evenly distributed in man’s nature that his psychic totality appears in a somewhat murky light.
In the empirical self , light and shadow form a paradoxical unity. In the Christian concept the archetype is hopelessly split into two irreconcilable halves leading ultimately to a metaphysical dualism - the final separation of the kingdom of heaven from the fiery world of the damned.
This inevitable opposition led very early to the doctrine of the two sons of God.
The elder was called Satanael. The younger became Christ. The ideal of spirituality striving for the heights was doomed to clash with the materialistic earthbound passion to conquer matter and master the Earth.
This change became visible at the time of the Renaissance, the age of Enlightenment, the ‘rebirth’, or born again, and it referred to the renewal of the antique spirit.
We know today that this spirit was chiefly a mask; it was not the spirit of antiquity that was reborn but the spirit of medieval Christianity, which underwent strange pagan transformations, exchanging the heavenly goal for an worldly one, and the vertical of the Gothic style for the horizontal of world exploration and the investigation of nature (voyages of discovery, etc.).
No tree can grow to heaven until it’s roots reach down to hell. Although the attributes of Christ undoubtably mark him out as an embodiment of self, looked at from a the psychological aspect he corresponds to only the ‘good’ half of the archetype.
The anti-Christ corresponds to the ‘evil’ half.
Both are Christian symbols, and they have the same meaning as the image of the Savior crucified between two thieves.
These symbol tells us that the progressive development and differentiation of consciousness leads to an ever more menacing awareness of the conflict and involves nothing less than a crucifixion of the ego, its agonizing suspension between irreconcilable opposites.
Naturally there can be no question of a total extinction of the ego, for then the focus of consciousness would be destroyed, and the result would be complete unconsciousness.
The relative abolition of the ego affects only those supreme and ultimate decisions which confront us in situations where there are insoluble conflicts of duty. In other words the ego is a suffering bystander who decides nothing but must submit to a decision and surrender unconditionally.