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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 8:29 pm 
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I'll come back with examples tomorrow night, but I have to say: you gotta be kidding. Are you seriously, I mean seriously, claiming that people have not, throughout history, killed because they believed God told them to??

Well that's not what you said is it? You said "God often tells his followers to kill other people." I don't think God has told anyone that, and I doubt you could prove he does. What people claim is irrelevant. Even with the Islamic whackos, we see their reasons for killing are mainly political. Sure they believe they are going to get virgins in heaven, but men dying on the battlefield in WWII also believed they would be given a hero's welcome in heaven. hat country doesn't tell its troops, "God be with you." That doesn't mean they are going off to war because of religion. Palestinians are not bombing Israelis because Allah tells them. They are doing it because they are desperate. They are doing it for the same reasons the atheist Marxists in Sir Lanka are doing it. They believe they are at war and these are military/political maneuvers.

Why didn't Muslims fly planes into our buildings thirty years ago? Back then they didn't feel they were under attack. Now they do. They believe they are war with America because America is invading their territory and imposing western values onto them, effectively changing the landscape of their society that had stood the test of time for 14 centuries.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 8:32 pm 
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beastie wrote:
I'll come back with examples tomorrow night, but I have to say: you gotta be kidding. Are you seriously, I mean seriously, claiming that people have not, throughout history, killed because they believed God told them to??

Or are you going to pull a "no true scotsman"?


I'm saying man has done a lot of stupid, cruel, hateful, evil things while claiming God told them to. But that doesn't mean God told them to. That just means the men have made that claim. Joseph was no different from any number of men throughout the centuries who made the same claim with similiar lack of authority.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 8:47 pm 
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And this is the point really. Humans will kill with or without religion. So to say they kill because of religion really begs the question: do they? Or is that just something they say to make excuses? Or is that just something they say for therapuetic purposes?

Did the crusaders kill because of religion? In a sense I guess, because they were told they were forgiven of their sins if they went. But ultimately they were defending the helpless as well as themselves. The Roman Empire, using Christianity as a symbol, withstood centuries of attacks from invading forces without fighting back, probably because they were a Christian empire. It sat back and watched two thirds of its territory get taken over by invading forces before it finally made an aggressive move with the crusades. Now if the Roman Empire wasn't Christian, would they have waited so long before fighting back? I can't think of any Empire in recorded history that would have sat by and watched that take place. Certainly no atheistic Empire would have done that. But Christianity encouraged pacifism, and it was only in the face of inevitable destruction that the crusades were called.

The fact is, recent history tells us that a religious dictator is less likely to slaughter his own population, than one who is an atheist. This is because as a theist, he is bound by the positive standards and expectations that exist in religion whereas an atheist is bound by nothing.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 9:16 pm 
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I can think of a variety of situations where people believed God approved of and in that sense asked them to kill people. I think that happens when peoples own understanding of the situation is that killing is the necessary practle response to a problem. Now it is quite possible that people have on occasions jumped prematurely to that solution when better understanding would have seen it as unnecessary. The point is that people see the kill option as necessary sometimes and act accordingly.

In my belief tradition God says turn the other cheek and love the other like oneself. That in general is reason to question the logic which proposes killing is necessary. Yet I see situations where it was necessary. Stopping Nazis being the obvious example.

Say Kevin, I think you put your finger on the one thing I find disturbing about atheism. In general I experience no particular distast or fear toward peoples lack of belief. Sometimes I hear an obsessive desire to fit everybody into the one world view. It would stop all of these unpleasant arguments.(if everybody saw things one way) It is the specter of the totalitarian solution to human conflict.

Perhaps on a simpler level I see people resist the ambiguities of our limited knowedge. I do not think science puts us into possision of an understanding of human problems free of the ambiguities of different points of view. Yet the favored argument against faith is that faith involeves us in ambiguous and sometimes contradictory explanations of experiece.

Did you know the Bible contradicts itself? How can we escape that painful truth? Limit our mind to the clear dictates of science.

I see that clarity as delusionally overbelieved. It promises peace and mutual understanding. It does not deliver as the 20ct shows. I have more hope that turning the other cheek provides a better path to peace.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 11:23 pm 
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Who cares about Stalin and his deranged personal psychology?! He wasn't just a skeptic (like most of us here). He was much, much more than that to become a murderous dictator. Atheism wasn't sufficient and it's debatable if it was even necessary.

I hate these arguments.

I don't believe an individual person's convictions regarding "god" are a significant driving force in becoming a mass murderer -- those ideas are not a necessary component, nor sufficient. Belief or disbelief is not the prime mover in human character. If you think it is then watch out: you are on the precipice of bigotry.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 11:49 pm 
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Who cares about Stalin and his deranged personal psychology?! He wasn't just a skeptic (like most of us here). He was much, much more than that to become a murderous dictator.

You're right. And bad religious people are much, much more than just religious. People in power will have the tendency to abuse that power no matter their views on the origin of life or the universe. I think the benefit of religion is that it provides a personal ideology to temper such temptation, whereas with atheism, well, there's nothing there. So I think the argument isn't what atheism causes so much as what it fails to preclude. Atheism does nothing to make bad people better but it doesn't make good people worse either. And that doesn't mean all atheists are bad. It just means atheism doesn't do anything. Religion effectively makes bad people better people, or at the least, makes a great effort at it. You can lead a donkey to water, and all that jazz.

There are millions of testimonies to the effect that finding "God" has changed people for the better. People who got out of alcoholism, a world of crime and drugs, all because they found God. Isn't that a good thing?

How many people can really make an argument that they became a better person since becoming an atheist? And it makes sense. Why would not believing in a "spaghetti monster" help you be a better person towards your fellow man?

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I don't believe an individual person's convictions regarding "god" are a significant driving force in becoming a mass murderer -- those ideas are not a necessary component, nor sufficient. Belief or disbelief is not the prime mover in human character. If you think it is then watch out: you are on the precipice of bigotry.


You're a man of wisdom.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 4:21 am 
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dartagnan wrote:
And this is the point really. Humans will kill with or without religion. So to say they kill because of religion really begs the question: do they? Or is that just something they say to make excuses? Or is that just something they say for therapuetic purposes?

Did the crusaders kill because of religion? In a sense I guess, because they were told they were forgiven of their sins if they went. But ultimately they were defending the helpless as well as themselves. The Roman Empire, using Christianity as a symbol, withstood centuries of attacks from invading forces without fighting back, probably because they were a Christian empire. It sat back and watched two thirds of its territory get taken over by invading forces before it finally made an aggressive move with the crusades. Now if the Roman Empire wasn't Christian, would they have waited so long before fighting back? I can't think of any Empire in recorded history that would have sat by and watched that take place. Certainly no atheistic Empire would have done that. But Christianity encouraged pacifism, and it was only in the face of inevitable destruction that the crusades were called.

The fact is, recent history tells us that a religious dictator is less likely to slaughter his own population, than one who is an atheist. This is because as a theist, he is bound by the positive standards and expectations that exist in religion whereas an atheist is bound by nothing.


I do not think that those who read a little about the history of the Roman Empire, both Western and Eastern, after the conversion of Constantine will recognise dartagnan's picture of a kindly and pacifist organisation.

And, so far as I can see, he seems to be under the impression that the crusades were launched by 'The Roman Empire'. The Roman Empire divided into Eastern and Western branches in 286, and the western branch was extinguished with the deposition of Romulus Augustulus in 476. Since the first crusade was not launched until 1095, the Western Roman Empire, as a political entity, played no part in any crusades. (The later entity that called itself the 'Holy Roman Empire' has been well described as 'neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire'.)

The eastern branch, with its capital at Constantinople, was a great and highly effective military power, which used a combination of force, diplomacy and bribery to maintain (and as far as possible expand) its frontiers against a series of adversaries such as the Persians, the Bulgars and the Arabs. In 1071 the empire made a great thrust against the rising power of the Seljuq Turks, and it was the disastrous failure of this attack at Manzikert which put the empire so much on the back foot that it called for help from the west. Hence the first crusade, whose results were by no means entirely welcome to the Eastern Emperor; instead of a disciplined mercenary force to add to his armies, there flooded across his empire a horde of what appeared to his citizens to be largely undisciplined barbarians. During the fourth crusade, in 1204, the soldiers of the cross (who had demanded a large payment from the emperor, which he had failed to pay) attacked and captured Constantinople, the capital of the Roman empire, and pillaged it savagely for three days. The damage done by this crusade is widely held to have sent the empire on a downwards course that led to its eventual fall in 1453.

"Defending the helpless as well as themselves"? "Withstood centuries of attacks from invading forces without fighting back"? Dartagnan is perfectly entitled to express his own views on such matters.

Others are entitled to use his post as the basis for making a rough estimate (subject, no doubt, to later refinement) of how reliable his historical generalisations may be. It's a free board.

[edited slightly for typos]


Last edited by Chap on Thu Mar 20, 2008 6:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 4:48 am 
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First, I have to say: ARRRGH!

For those who didn't follow Tal's thread, it followed a similar trajectory as this one. I became frustrated on that one for the same reason I've now become frustrated on this one. Here's part of my ending post on that thread, addressed to dart:

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This last post of yours completely contradicts this statement. You are now asserting that atheists are far more likely to oppress theists. You may not mean to, but you are sending mixed messages.

Dart – I will let you have the last word. I just can’t take these lengthy exchanges right now, and obviously you think I am misunderstanding you, so we’ll just let it at that. I will state one more time that I do not believe religion is the problem, but rather it is just one mechanism that demonstrates the problems inherent in being a human being. I believe that the religion is just one more form of tribe, and that tribalism, while it also has positive benefits, also is what leads us to dehumanize and attack others. I do not believe that either theists or atheists are morally superior to one another, and given the opportunity, each will act with a fairly equal amount of self-interest and damage to others. I totally agree with Tal that if all religion were eradicated today, by next week new religions would replace them. But I also object to terms such as “atheist agenda” and statements which sound as if the majority of atheists believe X, Y, or Z, or are bound together by anything other than lack of belief in god.


Dart, you act as if you agree with dude's point - which is the same point I made above - but it's certainly not reflected in your statements. What you are clearly, and I mean clearly, arguing in this thread is the same thing you argued in Tal's thread - your argument is that history shows that atheists are MORE likely to engage in acts of violence against theists. Now you're calling dude wise for saying the exact opposite of what you've been arguing???????

My second ARRRGH. You were actually asking me - an ATHEIST - to 'prove' that God REALLY told people to kill other people??????!?!?

WTF???

I'm an atheist. I don't believe a god exists, much less tells people to kill people. That's why I put "God" in scare quotes.

My third ARRRGH. You challenge me to "prove" God really DID tell people to kill other people, but then tell me I can't use Islam or the Old Testament in my argument???

Again, WTF???!!?!?!??!?!?!?

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 5:03 am 
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beastie wrote:
Dart, you act as if you agree with dude's point - which is the same point I made above - but it's certainly not reflected in your statements. What you are clearly, and I mean clearly, arguing in this thread is the same thing you argued in Tal's thread - your argument is that history shows that atheists are MORE likely to engage in acts of violence against theists. Now you're calling dude wise for saying the exact opposite of what you've been arguing???????

Totally agreed.
Dart, you are agreeing with The Dude, and yet Beastie, and myself, and many other atheists have argued no other position.
Please make up your mind. Who are you actually battling with here, and what position are you actually taking?

Am I - as an atheist - any more likely to go on a murderous crusade as you - the theist?
Yes or no?!

You've just agreed with The Dude, which answers 'No'. And yet you are also arguing 'Yes' at the very same time...

I am just as tired as beastie - and I'm sure many others - of people only knowing how to shoot for the 'extremes', on both sides of this damn issue.


"Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right.
Here I am - stuck in the middle with [a few right-minded people]"


Last edited by Ren on Thu Mar 20, 2008 5:29 am, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 5:20 am 
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Chap wrote:

I do not think that those who read a little about the history of the Roman Empire, both Western and Eastern, after the conversion of Constantine will recognise dartagnan's picture of a kindly and pacifist organisation.

And, so far as I can see, he seems to be under the impression that the crusades were launched by 'The Roman Empire'. The Roman Empire divided into Eastern and Western branches in 286, and the western branch was extinguished with the deposition of Romulus Augustulus in 476. Since the first crusade was not launched until 1095, the Western Roman Empire, as a political entity, played no part in any crusades. (The later entity that called itself the 'Holy Roman Empire' has been well described as 'neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire'.)

The eastern branch, with its capital at Constantinople, was a great and highly effective military power, which used a combination of force, diplomacy and bribery to maintain (and as far as possible expand) its frontiers against a series of adversaries such as the Persians, the Bulgars and the Arabs. In 1071 the empire made a great thrust against the rising power of the Seljuq Turks, and it was the disastrous failure of this attack at Manzikert which put the empire so much on the back foot that it called for help from the west. Hence the first crusade, whose results were by no means entirely welcome to the Eastern Empire; instead of a disciplined mercenary force to add to his armies, there flooded across his empire a horde of what appeared to his ciitzens to be largely undisciplined barbarians. During the fourth crusade, in 1204, the soldiers of the cross (who had demanded a large payment from the emperor, which he had failed to pay) attacked and captured Constantinople, the capital of the Roman empire, and pillaged it savagely for three days. The damage done by this crusade is widely held to have sent the empire on a downwards course that led to its eventual fall in 1453.

"Defending the helpless as well as themselves"? "Withstood centuries of attacks from invading forces without fighting back"? Dartagnan is perfectly entitled to express his own views on such matters.

Others are entitled to use his post as the basis for making a rough estimate (subject, no doubt, to later refinement) of how reliable his historical generalisations may be. It's a free board.


Thanks Chap. You've made some excellent interventions lately---your discussion of how knowledge is produced (via multiple "scientific" methods) in "Where does The Spirit come from?" thread is a case in point. I know my jaw dropped when I read here that the Roman Empire was Christian benevolent organization and the Crusades some kind of neighborhood charity clean-up.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 7:09 am 
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dartagnan wrote:
Atheism does nothing to make bad people better but it doesn't make good people worse either. And that doesn't mean all atheists are bad. It just means atheism doesn't do anything. Religion effectively makes bad people better people, or at the least, makes a great effort at it. You can lead a donkey to water, and all that jazz.

Can you clarify here Dart?
Are you suggesting that religion can only make any given person 'better'?
...it cannot possibly make some people 'worse' than they would normally otherwise be? It simply cannot happen?

If this IS your position, then I'd ask you to say that with a straight face. But, of course, you'll be able to manage that just fine across the 'interwebs'.


I also contend the section I've bolded, but one contention at a time...
(I consider myself to be a better person now than when I was a theist)

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How many people can really make an argument that they became a better person since becoming an atheist?

I can. I usually only push the issue with bigots though.
Reasonable religious people don't bother me one jot.

NOTE: I'm only talking about me. Overall - statistically - on balance - I think it makes next to no difference either way. Which is essentially what The Dude said.
...and you said he was 'wise' for saying it... I totally agree of course...


Last edited by Ren on Thu Mar 20, 2008 7:54 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 7:53 am 
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So what kind of atheism is it that is dangerous?


There is none. Non-belief in a deity isn't dangerous. It's a position. That's all.

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What kind of atheism breeds guys like Stalin?


There is none.

Quote:
What kind of god beliefs help protect us from Stalinesque atrocities?


I'm not sure, especially since Stalin's time spent studying at a seminary didn't seem to do him any good, whatsoever. If anything, the New Testament's "communalism" was probably an influence on Stalin's notion that Marxism was the path to social justice.

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What is the real enemy for people who think atheism is evil or dangerous?


Well, the real enemy is himself. His mental disorder that allows him to believe in evil or supreme beings warps his sense of reality. I would recommend some good cognitive therapy, probably some anti-depressants, and a healthy dose of secular education.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 8:28 am 
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Beastie, I'm off to work but will elaborate/clarify more later tonight.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 10:12 am 
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My position is simple but tentative.

I do think that belief in the supernatural is more of a negative for society than lack of such belief. I also think the same thing about many major religions and quite a few smaller cults. I am not in a position to prove it but it looks quite convincing.

Notice that this is not bigotry since it is not directed at the people as such but rather at belief systems which are freely chosen and have consequences. It is not bigotry if I think the same thing about communism, homeopathy, astrology, creationism, or 9-11 conspiracies is it?

Your ideas don't get a free pass just because you attach the word faith to them.

Also, nothing in my position suggests that other kinds of dogmatisms may not also be dangerous and nothing in my position is to be construed as suggesting that religion be outlawed or that its adherents be denied the right to believe or practice--as long as such practices are harmless to the rest of us.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 7:10 pm 
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Dart, I've got to agree with Beastie and the others; you are talking out of both sides of your mouth. I say belief/disbelief (which is just another way of saying faith/skepticism) is irrelevant to why humans do good or evil. If you agree with that as you say you do, then all these opinions of your are irrelevant:

dartagnan wrote:
I think the benefit of religion is that it provides a personal ideology to temper such temptation,


Irrelevant! Humans are too good at twisting personal ideology for self justification. It's personal ideology. Everybody self justifies based on other criteria -- those are the relevant parts.

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whereas with atheism, well, there's nothing there.


Irrelevant! Skepticism and credulity aren't supposed to provide a moral compass.

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So I think the argument isn't what atheism causes so much as what it fails to preclude.


Irrelevant! Skepticism and faith can't cause, or preclude, moral choices choices.

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Atheism does nothing to make bad people better but it doesn't make good people worse either.


Irrelevant!

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Religion effectively makes bad people better people, or at the least, makes a great effort at it.


Irrelevant!

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How many people can really make an argument that they became a better person since becoming an atheist?


Not me! I've always been the same person, because skepticism and faith is irrelevant to why humans choose good or evil, law or chaos.

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You're a man of wisdom.


Thank you. Now go your way and sin no more.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 9:43 pm 
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Dart, you act as if you agree with dude's point - which is the same point I made above - but it's certainly not reflected in your statements.

I'll try to be more clear.
Quote:
What you are clearly, and I mean clearly, arguing in this thread is the same thing you argued in Tal's thread - your argument is that history shows that atheists are MORE likely to engage in acts of violence against theists.

Well atheist dictators are, yes. There really isn't much of an argument about it. It is a fact. But this isn't because atheism encourages murder. It is because atheism doesn't provide inhibitions for dictators who are contemplating the act of mass murder. Some social problems can be solved by numerous dictators if they are only willing to slaughter an entire class of the population. History shows that atheist dictators feel more free to do that.
Quote:
Now you're calling dude wise for saying the exact opposite of what you've been arguing???????

I don't think I am. Can you do me a favor and put a citation from us both that you think are opposite? Let's go over what the duder has said:

"I don't believe an individual person's convictions regarding "god" are a significant driving force in becoming a mass murderer-- those ideas are not a necessary component, nor sufficient."

Not only have I agreed with this since the beginning, this statement flies in the face of many atheist arguments that have been presented recently. Duder seems to acknowledge that religion really isn't a danger, at least in the sense JAK would have us believe. Dude goes on to say:

"Belief or disbelief is not the prime mover in human character. If you think it is then watch out: you are on the precipice of bigotry."

How have I disagreed with that? Disbelief isn't a "mover" at all for atheist dictators. Atheist dictators are simply operating without any moral guidelines. This doesn't mean all atheists have a problem with morality. Everyone has this problem. Power corrupts and creates temptation for more power. It isn't belief. But history shows that men in power - those who are in a position of slaughtering their own populations for the "better good" of society - are far less likely to do so if they are religious. Why? Because it is likely against the religious principles they were taught.

Now had dude said he didin't believe "an individual person's convictions regarding 'god' are a significant driving force in becoming a charitable person," then I would disagree. Rleigion does infact make bad people better. Heck, even Sam Harris didn't argue against that.

Dude just commented on this, and I think this helps pin point the problem in our communication:
Quote:
Dart, I've got to agree with Beastie and the others; you are talking out of both sides of your mouth. I say belief/disbelief (which is just another way of saying faith/skepticism) is irrelevant to why humans do good or evil.

Emphasis mine, because I didn't get that from dude's comments. I understood what he said about belief having nothing to do with a person doing evil, but I didn't get from his post the argument that this applied to doing good. Obviously I disagree here, for the reasons already expressed. Religion's greatest benefit to society is its organized efforts to make bad people good and good people better. There is much more to religious groups than simply praying to a spaghetti monster.
I don't see how anyone can really argue against this, and I don't think anyone really has. Hundreds, thousands, even millions of people claim they have become better people because of religion. Whether it be helping them get away from a life of crime, drugs, prison, alcohol, wife beating and moving towards a life of charity, volunteer work, etc. Religion has made positive impacts on lives everywhere, which essentially disproves the claim that religion has nothing to do with people doing good. That's refuted.

Now let me be clear about this. This doesn't mean there aren't any religious people commiting heinous crimes - of course there are. It just means that while religion is at least trying to do something about it, atheism does absolutely nothing.

Quote:
My second ARRRGH. You were actually asking me - an ATHEIST - to 'prove' that God REALLY told people to kill other people??????!?!?

It doesn't matter what you believe, you still made the claim and I was pointing out it was silly. Now you're upset because I took you seriously? Well, if it helps, my tongue was firmly shoved in my left cheek as I typed that. The claim that "God frequently" tells people to kill is a more powerful statement that "people claim God tells them to kill." The former is an attack on the probability of God's existence whereas the latter is an attack on stupid people. Let's keep our focus on what stupid people claim. There is a huge difference.

Having said all that, I apologize for not getting back to the other thread from a couple days ago. Honestly, I lost track of it and it was pushed to the bottom and it just slipped my mind. I'll respond to your comments here if that's OK. You left it with two posts. The first seemed to be about clarification on what I meant and an argument about the precise figure for atheists in the world. As long as you know what I meant, and understand that I do try to use qualifiers, then I think we're OK there. I think the atheist numbers is kind of a sidebar issue that really isn't worth debating since we'll never really know the exact number. The last point in your post was about atheist organizations not having an agenda against religion because, well, that's what they say.

Well, I can only see that as naïve. By that logic, Bill O'Reiley isn't a republican and Barack Obama never endorsed his preacher's beliefs. Actions speak louder than words. And the same is true for CAIR, which claims to be a benign civil rights organization for Muslims, yet gets involved in all sorts of terror supporting activities and fund raisers.

Now you said,
Quote:
What atheist organizations normally attempt to do is to protect the separation of church and state, and to attempt to spread accurate INFORMATION about atheism.

But atheism is nonbelief right? That's been the chant here for a long time. It is a "default position" to belief. So it isn't even a belief system at all. So how can there be information about it that needs to be spread? DO we need organizations for that? As to the first point, the separation between Church and State is something atheists never understood to begin with. They do a disservice to the man who started that, by implementing it in ways he never intended. Atheist organizations are behind some of the most ridiculous lawsuits known to man, that try to remove religious terms, inferences, symbols etc., from anything location or event funded by the government.

Now could someone please do us all a favor and tell us how this is logical given the ubiquitous nature of religion in the early development of our government? Political meetings opened with prayers, yet modern atheists insist the constitution would never allow that. Our money, for crying out loud, has God plastered all over it, yet modern atheists insist the constitution is against any mention of God on public grounds. Anyway, onto your second post that pertains more to this thread:
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The aggressive atheist regimes were aggressive due to their attachment to another dogma, like Marxism.

Now you're disagreeing with el duderino. Belief systems don't make people do bad things, remember? I know this is contrary to virtually everything we've been hearing from the atheist majority lately, but it is still a fact. And your statement still doesn't explain why religious dictators are less likely to slaughter their own people.
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They did not become aggressive due to the fact that they were led by people who did not believe in God – they became aggressive because they were led by people who believed in another dogma. Atheism became attached to some of that dogma, but atheism was not the cause of the dogma.

Of course it wasn't the cause of the dogma, and I never said otherwise. You see, it isn't a matter of what atheism does. It is a matter of what atheism doesn't do. Atheists and theists alike, will eventually be put in positions in politics where they will be granted the power to slaughter their own people. Given both situations, would you rather be a citizen of the country run by an atheist or theist? With the atheist, his atheism does nothing to preclude the onslaught. With the theist, whether or not he chooses to follow it, he has at least been given a moral compass that has a chance of guiding him in the right direction.
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But I really don’t understand why you even bring this up.

Well, I hope I've made it clearer.
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I’ve mentioned this before, it always bemuses me when religionists attack atheism by saying it’s like a religion. Does that really help your cause?

Atheists generalize about the negatives of religion, without understanding the fact that they are acting just as religious as the theist. This is about a point of fact, not about helping a cause.
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You say it’s like a religion

It can be. It isn't always like religion. Theists don't necessarily act religiously either.
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You asserted that atheists have “had it easy” compared to hatred and discrimination handed out to theists. This defies reason and reality.

Not according to those pesky little things called statistics.
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You conceded that atheists are always in the minority, and the hard facts are that minorities in any population will always suffer more discrimination and hatred.

Oh, so now you accept atheism as a belief system?
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For heaven’s sake, dart, an atheist is the least likely to be elected president, based on atheism alone, in the US

For heaven's sake, do you really consider this proof of hatred towards atheists? People will elect the man they are more comfortable with and majority issues factor into that. Theism is a majority issue. It always has been. It used to be more majority than it is today, but it si still a majority issue. Libertarians are struggling to get a shot at the Presidency too, but their difficulty has nothing to do with American "hatred" towards them. If it is, then every political move atheist organizations make against religions, must also be considered "hatred" towards theists.

Like marching across the country with a magnifying glass to find religious symbols in small towns they don't really care about and they'll never visit again, and fund legal action to have those symbols removed, even though 100% of the people in the town want those symbols there. Atheists who are active in these organized efforts, were born in a country that says God bless America, that has God written on its currency, etc. But they aren't interested in maintaining or even respecting the traditions and culture of America. They essentially want to recreate a nation in their "minority" image, and they are getting their way! How many minorities can claim so much success as the so-called "persecuted" atheists in America? That is why there is some antagonism towards them by conservatives.
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Atheism is often associated with amorality and hedonism. We see this over and over. I am honestly confused that you are asserting that atheists are less discriminated against and hated.

Globally, yes, it is a fact. Apparently, you haven't been paying attention to world events, such as the ongoing persecutions in China towards religious people. There are more theists persecuted in one day in China, than there are atheists persecuted in America for a year.
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Besides, as I have pointed out before, a great deal of the hatred and discrimination that theists have suffered have been doled out by other theists – just of a different persuasion

True, but not all. And it still doesn't change the fact that religious people are more perscuted because of their beliefs, than atheists are persecuted for thei lack of belief.
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Yes, atheists get on internet boards or write books, and may vent about religion. Can you blame us?

Yes.
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We live in societies saturated with religion

Religions that leave you alone. I mean the worst thing that might happen is that they try toc onvert you. Whoopty doo. They're not going to egg your house and threaten the life of your children. Let's take a look at the FBI report on hate crimes. Here is the list of hate-crime incidents based on religion or lack thereof:(http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2006/table1.html)

Anti-Jewish: 967
Anti-Christian 135
Anti-Islamic: 156
Anti-Atheism/agnosticism: 7

Even if I grant that all the other hate crimes against theists were all from other theists, you still have to come to grips with the fact that there were only seven cases involving anti-atheism the entire year! This flies in the face of your complaints about excessive persecution.
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we are viewed with suspicion, and even hatred and fear, simply due to the fact that we don’t believe in god.

Oh come on. This certainly isn't the case where I have lived. Even in Atlanta the Christians are considered the looneys to be feared. When someone at work says he is an atheist, he might get an Evanglical cohort try to dissuade him, but he certainly isn't met with antagonism or fear! Most people shrug it off as if to say, who cares?

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 10:31 pm 
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dartagnan wrote:
Let's take a look at the FBI report on hate crimes. Here is the list of hate-crime incidents based on religion or lack thereof:(http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2006/table1.html)

Anti-Jewish: 967
Anti-Christian 135
Anti-Islamic: 156
Anti-Atheism/agnosticism: 7

Even if I grant that all the other hate crimes against theists were all from other theists, you still have to come to grips with the fact that there were only seven cases involving anti-atheism the entire year! This flies in the face of your complaints about excessive persecution.

Actually it doesn't say anything by itself. We need to first normalize the data by percentages of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Atheists/Agnostics in the population before any semi-meaningful conclusions can me made.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 10:47 pm 
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dartagnan wrote:
There really isn't much of an argument about it. It is a fact. But this isn't because atheism encourages murder. It is because atheism doesn't provide inhibitions for dictators who are contemplating the act of mass murder.


The only inhibition that works well enough is the sincere morality of the person with the power. The whole idea that we need to be watched and threatened by invisible beings who very existence is questionable is repugnant to human dignity. Good men and women act based on what they sincerely feel is right regardless of fear of hell.


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Some social problems can be solved by numerous dictators if they are only willing to slaughter an entire class of the population. History shows that atheist dictators feel more free to do that.

No, history does not show what atheist dictators feel nor does it show that atheism is the cause or even the catalyst for their actions. Your statement embodies an implicit theory about why a dictator does what he does and what he feels! It is an unsubstantiated theory that just comes from prejudices about what deters people from doing evil.
The idea that it is the fear of God that motivates people to do good and deters them from doing evil is part of a religious worldview. The rest of us may not hold that view.

Case in point, the transition from theist to atheist had zero effect on my likelihood to do wrong or right. The only difference is that I make choices that are based on my own sincere urge to do right and constrained by what I really know, based on real evidence. For example, I would not decide questions about politics based on the idea that Jesus will be returning soon. Indeed, as a religious person, I might have held ideas merely on faith such as the idea that God will save us or that Jesus is returning soon. This could have affected my vote on public policies regarding conservation and long term social and environmental goals.

So my tendency to want to do right is the same but I pay more attention to facts, what I really know or don't know, and to the reality that I don't have supernatural sources of knowledge unavailable to nonbelievers. No crystal balls, no oracles, gods, demons, or books full of vague prophecies.

So, let me be clear. For me, it is not atheism against theism per se but rather
1. rational skeptical thinking against credulous faith based thinking.
2. the authentic desire to act morally as opposed to inauthentic fear-based pseudo-morality.

I know traditional religious people who act based on rational skeptical thinking and the authentic desire to act morally, but it is because of who they are and largley despite the advice of thier relgious books not because of them. I believe that they would remain enthusiastically moral even if they lost thier faith in the supernatural.

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Last edited by Tarski on Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 10:54 pm 
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Actually it doesn't say anything by itself. We need to first normalize the data by percentages of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Atheists/Agnostics in the population before any semi-meaningful conclusions can me made.


Well, there are more atheists in Ameirca than Muslims and Jews. Does that help?

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 10:56 pm 
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I do not think that those who read a little about the history of the Roman Empire, both Western and Eastern, after the conversion of Constantine will recognise dartagnan's picture of a kindly and pacifist organisation.

That isn't what I said, and I think you know that. I would simply observe that the Roman Empire expanded by conquest. However, since Christianity became the state religion, the Empire became more of a defender than an aggressor. Its territories were frequently invaded and even overrun. Over time, two thirds of its territories were lost to outside invasions, without the slightest effort to reclaim them - until the crusades.
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And, so far as I can see, he seems to be under the impression that the crusades were launched by 'The Roman Empire'.

You seem to think it inappropriate to refer to Byzantium as the Roman Empire. Why? That is precisely how it was understood during that time.
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The Roman Empire divided into Eastern and Western branches in 286, and the western branch was extinguished with the deposition of Romulus Augustulus in 476.

Is there supposed to be a point here, or are we just suppose to gauk at another straw man construction site?
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Since the first crusade was not launched until 1095, the Western Roman Empire, as a political entity, played no part in any crusades

And I mentioned the "Western" Roman Empire, where exactly?
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The later entity that called itself the 'Holy Roman Empire' has been well described as 'neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire'

And I mentioned the "Holy" Roman Empire, where exactly?
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The eastern branch, with its capital at Constantinople, was a great and highly effective military power, which used a combination of force, diplomacy and bribery to maintain (and as far as possible expand) its frontiers against a series of adversaries such as the Persians, the Bulgars and the Arabs.

And?
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In 1071 the empire made a great thrust against the rising power of the Seljuq Turks, and it was the disastrous failure of this attack at Manzikert which put the empire so much on the back foot that it called for help from the west. Hence the first crusade, whose results were by no means entirely welcome to the Eastern Emperor; instead of a disciplined mercenary force to add to his armies, there flooded across his empire a horde of what appeared to his citizens to be largely undisciplined barbarians.

That's because the primary intent was to rescue Jerusalem and save those in distress.
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During the fourth crusade, in 1204, the soldiers of the cross (who had demanded a large payment from the emperor, which he had failed to pay) attacked and captured Constantinople, the capital of the Roman empire, and pillaged it savagely for three days.

Yes, against orders too. None of this was authorized. It was a tragedy, but I guess that's what's to be expected when you call thousands of volunteers off to battle, with no chain of command, no organization and no training beforehand.
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"Defending the helpless as well as themselves"? "Withstood centuries of attacks from invading forces without fighting back"? Dartagnan is perfectly entitled to express his own views on such matters.

I'll just point out that this is becoming the more accepted view among historians. For example:

"New research has definitively shown that Crusaders were predominantly the first sons of Europe: wealthy, privileged, and pious. Crusading was extremely expensive and more than a few noble families risked bankruptcy in order to take part. They did so for medieval, not modern, reasons. Crusading for them was an act of love and charity by which, like the Good Samaritan, they were aiding their neighbors in distress. Muslim warriors had conquered eastern Christians, taken their lands, and in some cases killed or enslaved them. The Crusader believed it was his duty to right that wrong." - Crusaders and Historians, Thomas F. Madden (http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=209)
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Others are entitled to use his post as the basis for making a rough estimate (subject, no doubt, to later refinement) of how reliable his historical generalisations may be. It's a free board.

Wow. We really needed you to explain that to us. Thanks.

And all this time we thought we weren't free to decide for ourselves.

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:30 pm 
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The only inhibition that works well enough is the sincere morality of the person with the power.

That begs the question I think. Are people automatically endowed with an equal sense of morality? What about sociopaths? What is more likely to help, atheism or moral principles taught in religious contexts?
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The whole idea that we need to be watched and threatened by invisible beings who very existence is questionable is repugnant to human dignity

I think that's a gross misrepresentation of religion in general, but even in these cases, you still have the situation where the religious belief encourages someone to act against natural temptation to act wrongly, whereas a lack of belief does nothing. Dawkins was right in this sense when he said the atheist is "freer." He is "free" in every sense, including to act immorally without consequence.
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Good men and women act based on what they sincerely feel is right regardless of fear of hell.

Exactly. The fear of hell argument is a myth in itself I think. After all, most Christians believe they are forgiven if they repent anyway.
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No, history does not show what atheist dictators feel nor does it show that atheism is the cause or even the catalyst for their actions.

I didn't say it was the cause or catalyst. I don't know how many times I have to say this. What history shows, at the very least, is that atheist dictators are more likely to commit such atrocities. That they feel it is all right seems reasonable to assume since they do it. Why would a dictator do anything he felt wasn't right?
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Your statement embodies an implicit theory about why a dictator does what he does and what he feels! It is an unsubstantiated theory that just comes from prejudices about what deters people from doing evil.

But it is an established fact that religious belief deters some people from doing evil. It doesn't deter all, but it does deter a great many. Atheism on the other hand, deters none. Therefore, it is no surprise to see that an atheistic dictator is a hundred or perhaps a thousand times more likely to kill his own population.
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The idea that it is the fear of God that motivates people to do good and deters them from doing evil is part of a religious worldview.

I have said nothing about a fear of God. Most Christians I know love their neighbors because they genuinely want to mimick Jesus. It has nothing to do with fearing hell. They have conditoned themselves to feel charity and love towards others because that is what Jesus taught. Love your enemy. I suppose you could argue it has to do with their desire to go to heaven, but even still, it is a worthy endeavor that is religion caused. Religion does so much for the individual that atheism cannot.

I mean no matter how whacky your religious family might seem to you, I think once you've had a taste of non-religious upbringing, you'd appreciate how wonderful they really are by comparison. So many kids turn out to be rotten eggs in society because of the way they were raised in broken homes, exposed early on to crime, drugs, prostitution, etc. Can atheism help any of this? Not only can religion help, religion does.
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Case in point, the transition from theist to atheist had zero effect on my likelihood to do wrong or right.

And why should it?

It is impossible to analyze yourself that way. As far as you know, your theistic background has been instrumental the the develop your moral self. Just because you gave up theism doesn't mean you can just as easily change the kind of person you are and become immoral. And nobody here is saying atheism is synonymous with immorality anyway. Your statement above is workingbackwards from what I have been saying. Bad people without religion are more likely to become better people with religion. But not all people without religion are bad. Some are better than other religious people. I am saying that atheism does nothing to make a bad person a better person.
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For example, I would not decide questions about politics based on the idea that Jesus will be returning soon.

I don't know anyone who does.
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Indeed, as a religious person, I might have held ideas merely on faith such as the idea that God will save us or that Jesus is returning soon. This could have affected my vote on public policies regarding conservation and long term social and environmental goals.

Yea, I see that point. But I'm not entirely sympathetic to it. I wasn't a fan of the flick, "Day After Tomorrow."
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So, let me be clear. For me, it is not atheism against theism per se but rather
1. rational skeptical thinking against credulous faith based thinking.
2. the authentic desire to act morally as opposed to inauthentic fear-based pseudo-morality.

Your second point is a straw man. Sure, some theists may "believe" for fear of hell, but I believe all theists become better people, morally and socially, because they want to mimick Jesus. That has nothing to do with fearing hell because they feel Christians don't go to hell.
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I believe that they would remain enthusiastically moral even if they lost thier faith in the supernatural.

See, you're talking about somethng different. Whether atheism can make a good person worse. That isn't what I'm saying. I'm saying atheism does nothing to make a bad person better, whereas religion obviously does. And I think this pisses off a lot of atheists because there really is no way to around against this. It is a point that even Sam Harris has to concede.

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