Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Religion is but Myth and Superstition that Hardens Hearts and Poisons Minds"

The Freedom From Religion Foundation won a lawsuit to place a sign next to a nativity scene that has been set up in the Washington state capitol building. Good job FFRF!

With a nod to the winter solstice - the year's shortest day occurring in late December - the placard reads: “At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

I like this idea. What do you think?


Ceroill said...

Not bad, not bad. It's about time.

G said...

Am I the only one who noticed the irony of the statement "may reason prevail" being immediately followed by the dogmatic claim "There are no gods,...", which is a "faith" statement (i.e. unable to be proven or refuted through reason and natural law alone)?


This leads me to what I have been saying to ALL who are so damn certain, faith has to have a kernal of doubt; it is just inherent in faith. I have faith in myself, but I am human and at times will let that faith in myself down; shit just happens.

csm said...

No G, I see no irony whatsoever. There are no gods. Until proven otherwise this is the reasonable stance. No faith required to NOT believe in something when there is no evidence for that something.

G said...

I disagree.

Making an unequivocal declaration like, "There are no gods" is actually the only UNreasonable position.

For one thing, you claim that there is no evidence. That isn't true. Even if you reject everything else, we have ancient historical documents that give evidence of the existence of various "gods." It is, of course, understandable if one considers the evidence to be less than compelling. But that doesn't mean the evidence ceases to exist.

Second, the simple fact that we currently lack compelling evidence of 'x' does not mean that 'x' doesn't exist. This is particularly relevant when we look at the current state of physics (e.g. string theory, among others), seeking to understand and explain dimensions beyond the four we are sensitive to in our own time-space domain.

As far as I can see (and I am certainly not in the same class as the "cutting edge" physicists of today), it would be impossible to prove things beyond our time-space domain without being physically removed to that higher dimension. The classic illustrations come from "Flatland" (or other similar books). Those beings existing in two dimensions are unable to see, understand, or explain the three-dimensional objects, even though they can see the effects of those objects passing through their space.

With so much that is completely unknown to us (even within our own physical universe), it is perfectly reasonable to DOUBT the existence of any gods, as long as one admits that it is a possibility (in essence, the position of the agnostic). But the absolute, dogmatic belief in a god or rejection of the possibility requires a leap of "faith" in one direction or the other.

There are aspects of our existence that are beyond the ability of "reason" alone to explain. Even a concrete mathematical concept like 'i' (the square root of -1) is opposed to the arguments of "reason". You simply can't square any known number and get a negative. It is beyond reason, but it is true (and important).

For that matter, what are we to do with quantum mechanics and general relativity? They are both extremely well established, but they contradict one another.

If one were to take your statement, "There are no gods. Until proven otherwise this is the reasonable stance" at face value, then we would infer that you could insert anything else that hasn't been proven in place of "gods" (e.g. string theory, the 'Grand Unification Theory', dark matter, etc.), and you would categorically reject it as well.

I am not saying that it is unreasonable to take the evidence for the existence of a god and reject is as insufficient. What is unreasonable is to completely reject the possibility (i.e. 'There are no gods.').

"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." - A. Schopenhauer


Hey g,

I read a thought provoking book while on vacation, which I think you might be the only one here who would take the trouble to read. It is called "The Cult of the Presidency" by Glen Healy and it's basic thesis is that until the electorate brings their collective expectancies of the job of President down to a reasonable(hence Constitutional) level we as a country will have Presidents who will consolidate more and more power(much of it unConstitutional)because to meet those expectancies they are actually forced to seek more and more power. This is one of those rare books for me which I will use to filter any new information and events.

The book traces the "Imperial Presidency" back from Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson all the way to the present inhabitant of the White House. Backed up by the Constitution and many of the Federalist Papers, Healy shows how and why we as a people(with help from an abdicating Congress and Judiciary) have demanded much more from the job and why the President can never satisfy because of the impossibility of success. And as solemn as the subject matter is at times there are moments of outright hilarity too. An eye-opening and fair-minded book which I think everyone(especially voters) should read.

G said...

I'm willing to take a look at it, but it will have to wait at least a couple months. I'm overseas at the moment. But I'll put it on my library list for when I get back (right after the one coreyd suggested). It sounds interesting.

I would tend to agree that the presidency will continue down the road toward stronger and more centralized power (just as congress and the courts have been doing). If something like the Watergate affair were to happen these days under Bush or Obama, I suspect the reaction from the majority of the electorate would be a quiet shrug.

csm said...

G, I know you are a believer. Fine. But there is NO EVIDENCE for any god or gods. NONE. ZERO. ZILCH. You can pontificate all you want and dance around the issue, but that does not change anything.

Evidence must be credible. There is more evidence for sasquatch and the Loch Ness Monster than there is for god/yahweh/jehova. Do you then say that there must be bigfeet and scottish monsters lolling about in lakes?

Regarding your -1 argument, here's a big "huh?" How doe sthis have ANYTHING to do with a discussion on reason and gods?

Regarding string theory, if/when we explain it and understand it then it can be elevated to the domain of scientific "fact" (like evolution is). There a greater minds than mine working on the T.O.E. and perhaps, one day, it will be achieved. Until then, reasonable people will say that there is work that remains to be done.

And, as I'm quite sure you remember (OK, maybe not), MY definition of atheism is the lack of a belief in any gods. So I say THERE ARE NO GODS. You, on the other hand, say THERE IS A GOD. Or are you saying that you doubt that there is a god? According to you, the proper way of thinking is to doubt, so you must doubt that there is a god. Right? But doesn't your scripture tell you not to doubt? Hmmm... seems like a conundrum...

And Schopenhauer probably has it right... someday, it will be self-evident to everyone that there are no gods.

G said...


I wasn't dancing around the issue at all. Your claim that there is no evidence of the existence of any god is simply untrue... unless you've chosen to define "evidence" differently than everyone else. Eyewitness testimony IS evidence. Historical records ARE evidence. Of course, we have to evaluate all the different evidences in terms of credibility. Your personal rejection of the evidence as unconvincing doesn't mean that it is no longer evidence. And if you're going to reject historical documentation and eyewitness testimony, then I doubt that you could prove the existence of ANY historical figure from the distant past.

I don't doubt the existence of God. But my certainty requires an element of faith. To make a dogmatic claim like, "There are no gods" ALSO requires an element of faith. That was the point of my original post. I'm not saying that I have doubts or that you have doubts. But the position of "I don't know" is the only position that doesn't require any faith.

I know words like "faith" and "belief" rub you the wrong way. But I don't know how else to say it. The fact is that you can't prove (nor can anyone else) that there is no god. If you can't prove it, then it requires faith.

There is a big difference in saying, "I don't believe in god" or "I lack belief in a god" (or however you want to phrase it) and "There are no gods." One expresses your personal convictions. The other is a statement of fact, as if it has been clearly proven.

Let's take your bigfoot example. Personally, I don't believe bigfoot exists. But it would be foolish of me to make a declaration of fact like, "There is no such thing as bigfoot. It is a myth." There IS evidence of the existence of bigfoot (although I personally consider the evidence to be specious at best).

The point I was trying to make (not clearly enough) about the mathematical constant 'i' and the quantum mechanics/general relativity contradiction is that if we were to rely solely on reason, those well-accepted, scientific facts wouldn't exist. They are absolutely opposed to what 'reason' would conclude.

csm said...

Oh, G, people of religious ilk are always trying to foist their ideas of faith on others. Making a claim that there are no gods is just a reasonable claim to make based on the (lack of) evidence and requires no faith at all. What you are proposing is that EVERYTHING must be possible, and so faith is required to believe or not believe, which is absurd. Do I need faith to know that tiny invisible goats are not living under my finger nails? No, I do not. Claiming otherwise is infantile.

Additionally, you have reiterated what your original point was. Now your statement is this: "To make a dogmatic claim like, "There are no gods" ALSO requires an element of faith. That was the point of my original post."

Go back and re-read and you will find that your ORIGINAL statement to which I responded was this: "Making an unequivocal declaration like, "There are no gods" is actually the only UNreasonable position."

Quite different actually. Using your own line of reasoning, saying there is a god is just as unreasonable. Yet you do.

Bottom line is that incredible claims require incredible evidence. The claims made about god/jesus/yahweh are certainly incredible. The "evidence" you claim, is, uh, not, so much.

G said...

Ok. I'm going to restate this as simply as I can.

If a person accepts a position as absolute fact (as expressed in a statement like, 'There are no gods.') without proof, he/she has taken a position of faith.

In order to make sure my statement is understood properly, let's look at a couple of the definitions of the word "faith" to which I refer.
faith - 2. belief that is not based on proof
faith - 2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.

So in terms of those common definitions of the word 'faith', what part of my assertion is incorrect? I'm not trying to "foist [my] ideas of faith" on you. If anything, I'm showing that your position rests in the dictionary's definition of 'faith.'

In my claim that the rejection of the possibility of the existence of gods is the only UNreasonable position, I meant strictly the declaration of fact when there is so much about our universe that we still don't understand. What makes that position ultimately unreasonable is the refusal to admit that there is faith involved. The position of belief is only reasonable if there IS that admission of faith.

"Bottom line is that incredible claims require incredible evidence."

That statement sounds nice, but isn't it true that the pure evolutionist accepts the "incredible" claim that life on this planet arose from non-living matter? Where is the "incredible evidence" to support that belief?

I don't want to get into another endless and pointless discussion of evolution. I'm only pointing at the origin of life itself. It has never been shown that it is even possible.

csm said...

Like a typical religioso, you conflate origins with evolution. The two are not the same and evolution says nothing about why there is something instead of nothing.

Like a typical religioso, you try to foist faith on others who have no use for it. I do NOT need faith to say that there are no gods. Yes, I could be wrong. By using the same reasoning I can safely say, with no faith required, that there are no pink fairies. Yes, I could be wrong. But we all know I'm not. The only difference here is that there is a type of fairy that you believe in and you cite faith for that belief. Kudos to you -- that is all well and good. I do not need faith. Never have, never will. Or are you saying that I have to have faith that I will never need faith?

It is actually quite ridiculous to claim that faith is required to NOT believe in something.

csm said...

Looks like that insipid blowhard Bill O'Reilly has his panties in a knot over this sign.

That just makes me love it all the more!

And hey, why not have a Festivus display? Sounds like fun to me! (Bottom line here is that none of this belongs on state or federal property.)


Actually there were Pink Fairies. They were a rock band formed in England in the early '70's and they put out three official albums of varying quality. At one point I had all three albums and I thought they had merit. Killer version of "I Saw Her Standing There" on "Never, Never Land".

csm said...

Well, I'm sure that is why I chose pink as the color. And I forgot that there was another avid rock/punk fan posting here. Maybe I should change "pink fairies" to "blue gremlins" - or did you drive one of those in college, Bawdy?

G said...

One last time:

"faith - 2. belief that is not based on proof"

You state, "There are no gods."

Prove it. If you can't prove it, then your claim that there are no gods "is not based on proof." Therefore, it requires faith. It is simple, logical reasoning. If you don't like it, then your argument is with those who publish dictionaries of the English language.

I'm sorry that a lowly religioso of my ilk is unable to simplify the argument any further.

The statements in the FFRF's sign:
"There are no gods, no devils..."
"There is only our natural world"
"Religion is but myth..."
"Religion... hardens hearts..."

These are claims that are not based on proof. Therefore, they are, by definition, statements of faith.


No, but my wife had a green one before I came into her picture.

csm said...

G, in my opinion, you live in a childish little world if that is your mindset. It requires no faith at all to not believe in something that has no credible evidence. It does require faith to believe in the same.

coreydbarbarian said...

wowee. i'm not sure if i want into this conversation or not. you guys are vicious. ;)

regarding the original post, i love the equal access law, and i love the uproar it is still causing. every courthouse lawn should be open to all, assuming it's already open to christians.

now, with regard to reason & faith...

*doesn't it take a modicum of faith in reason just to hold reason in such high regard? wording it differently, can we ever be certain of something without making an assumption somewhere?

i'm reminded of something voltaire said: "doubt may be unpleasant, but certainty is absurd."

i'm just sayin..

coreydbarbarian said...

first, there's

then, there is

both related to csm's original post.

g, thanks for reminding me of flatland. i've been meaning to reread it for a while. :)

bawdy, those green gremlins are all right until you get them wet, or ya feed 'em after midnight.
wha? wrong critter? oops. mybad. ;)

csm said...

Of course, you have to keep an open mind and understand that you may be wrong about things. Faith is the never-ending "belief" in something, and the constant apology for same in the absence of evidence, and worse, in the presence of the contrary.

csm said...

By the way, the latest I've heard here is that someone has petitioned to have a Festivus display added to this mess. I absolutely love it!

Andy said...

There are no Gods.. Very true! History shows us that there have been many Santa Clauses also. My "innocently naive" nephews still believe there is a Santa. If you instill the beliefs in young impressionable souls, they take that thought and make it reality. Pushing God on a Child is dang near Child abuse. Wake up, and think free, you dumb brain washed religious F's!!! There is no GOD.