19 December, 2010

Good will to all men? Not from the grumpy atheists! (Thank God not all atheists are grumpy but there sure seems to be a lot of them)

Why is it that so many in the atheist community cannot bring  themselves to get past their anger whenever they engage in discussions? The language of many of their contributions in public debate is laced with invective and dripping with sarcasm and bile. There are exceptions of course, but they tend to fall more into the category of being the 'exception that proves the rule' when compared to the hostility of many of today's atheist posters. Comment offered by the theists in the public square is often depicted as being 'malicious' or 'venomous' and intended to enslave the 'feeble minded and weak' by those who post. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Venom is something that is oriented to death. Christians are oriented in a 180 degree different direction. We speak not to the culture of death  that grips our world but rather for the culture of life and light which ends with the gift of eternal life.

For example, the Catholic Church in its human incarnation is sinful,
(as is every other human institution) corrupt and often acts differently from what it teaches. Yet it is still here. She may be battered and bruised, largely through its own sinfulness and the criminality and immorality of a few, but 2000 years of experience has permitted the Church to experience the waxing and waning of the faith in different part of the world at various time before. We do not despair these difficult times because we have been here before... and we may be here again in the future, but one would be foolhardy to predict her demise anytime before the great parousia.

Why are believers so confident? It's because even though we have suffered the wounds of sin from various clergy, we know that they not the totality of our experience. There have been times when we stood as a paragon of grace for believers. Even today there are times when the voice of the Church has truly spoken to the core of many, moments when the transcendent presence of God is visible despite our sinfulness and brokeness for anyone who has both the eyes and heart to see it. It is these moments, brought about through the faithful ministry and efforts of almost all clergy who has taken up the yoke of service which makes possible and strengthens the convictions and fidelity of many believers today.

But... I think that there is a more primordial reason for the 'bad mood' of so many atheists.

Atheists tend to see the state of their personal world as being  limited to the best they can achieve. Life's injustices will never ultimately be surmounted and they are limited to a 'what you see is what you get' assessment of life's trials. Believers on the other hand
know that things will be better. They know that following the teachings of the church can bring them closer to that promised ideal in the here and now, and that any justice denied them by the events of their personal lives as a result of their fidelity to God will be theirs to enjoy in the life to come.

It is easy to understand how this fuels the anger that many atheists. When one must content themselves with a creed that necessarily mean that they will never personally experience ultimate justice, peace or love; that when they look back at the missed opportunities denied them through life's injustices, it is without hope of recompense other than ultimate annihilation in death. Such a world view would certainly lead to a jaded view of life. Since theists tend to see the glass as being more full than empty, their optimism and good cheer must be be particularly annoying to atheists when they see life in such sombre colors (particularly amid the Christmas season when Christians sing out their joyous message of hope).

Nihilism on the one hand, or hope on the other? No wonder they're so grumpy.

106 comments:

  1. It was a moment of supreme irony to read about the xian 'culture of life' and then glance over at the abortion counter next to this screed. A rather ghoulish own goal, sir. :)

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  2. I might be grumpy if I were compelled to believe in both the existence of hell and the existence of a benevolent deity. Fortunately, I don't wake up with my head ringing each morning, and rather, proceed through each day without much thought given to either. This doesn't make me grumpy. It makes me happy. If I felt compelled to spend my Sunday mornings contemplating such things (as I did when I was young), I would be grumpy. But I don't, and so I am happy. If public policy were ever supported by arguments based in revealed knowledge rather than reason, I would be grumpy...OK...that makes me grumpy. You win.
    Antiochus Epiphanes

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  3. You are profoundly wrong. Any anger or sarcasm you are hearing from Atheists when they deal with you is caused by their frustration in dealing with you, I am almost certain. The frustration comes from dealing with arrogant, self-assured, condescending people. You believe in a childish set of myths that have no evidence in their favor and then are put out when a more reasoned thinker points this out. I'm sorry your beliefs are childish and foolish but I can't do anything about that and I'm not about to let you get away with acting superior because of your silliness.

    By the way, it is repugnant, yet completely unsurprising, to see a member of the clergy dismissing as unimportant the crimes of the catholic clergy. You are a member of a despicable order and if you had any self respect, would leave it. In fact, if you had any self respect or the ability to reason clearly, you would leave it.

    Bottom line, there is no evidence for the existence of any deity. Sorry if being told how wrong you are makes you think I'm grumpy. If you knew anything about logic, you would also know that even if Atheists are grumpy, it doesn't change the fact that we are right and you are wrong.

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  4. Mr. Moyle,

    I am an atheist and don't recognize the atheist straw man you depict. I am generally a happy, well-adjusted person who tries to live his life according to the golden rule "Do not do to others that which we do not want them to do to us" (articulateed by Confucius approximately 500 years before Jesus). I also positively set out to help people and society by volunteering my professional services and giving to charity.

    You are right about one thing, I am sometimes angry, even venomous. I'll tell you what makes me spit venom: when I read your colleague, Bishop Barnando Alvarez say the following about priests raping children and having the Vatican hierarchy cover it up:

    "There are 13 year old ado­les­cents who are under age and who are per­fectly in agree­ment with, and what’s more want­ing it, and if you are care­less they will even pro­voke you" - Bishop Bernando Alvarez

    source:
    http://www.typicallyspanish.com/news/publish/article_14332.shtml

    I am further moved to anger and invectiev when I hear your Pope and the Vatican try to blame "secular society", "petty gossip", "the media", "homosexuals" etc etc

    Your church Mr. Moyle is both the world's largest NGO Charity and the largest paedophile ring in the world. That makes me angry and it should make you angry as well. Instead of complaining about atheists' tone, why don't you help bring down the paedophile ring occurring under the catholic church's roof?

    When the Vatican turns over all its files on paedophile priests to the police in every jurisdiction ion the world, I'll stop being so angry.

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  5. Most nonbelievers don't bother to talk about religion to folks like you because you have already made up your mind about things that you do not understand and don't appear to intend to understand. You need to read Ricky Gervais's cheerful holiday message.

    "I do not believe in any gods." is not a creed, nor is it nihilism.

    The Catholic Church once fought for economic justice for the poor. Now, it ignores justice, relying, apparently, on the unsubstantiated claims that things will be squared away in the afterlife. Fixing problems in the world we see is far more important for humanity than worrying about the unsupported promise of heaven.

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  6. "Believers on the other hand know that things will be better. They know that following the teachings of the church can bring them closer to that promised ideal in the here and now, and that any justice denied them by the events of their personal lives as a result of their fidelity to God will be theirs to enjoy in the life to come."

    I'd be interested to learn how you can know anything with 100% certainty when there is absolutely 0% evidence for it.

    Oh, hang on. That's what 'faith' is all about, isn't it? Believing in the completely unbelievable. Relying on revelation, rather than evidence.

    I'm not grumpy. I love and live life. When it comes to religionistas, though, I simply laugh at them. Except when they impinge on others' rights, of course, because then it makes me mad. (Especially when those others are amongst the more disempowered, and/or less fortunate, of society.)

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  7. Tim,
    How wonderfully nuanced your essay is. Do you actually know any atheists? I doubt it much based on this straw man you have built.

    It must be hard being a man of the cloth these days, particularly one who preaches from within the corrupt body of the roman catholic church (intentionally not capitalized). Your bitter projection is noted and I can’t help thinking there is a lot of a Christian version of taqiyyah here, commonly referred to as “Lying for Jebus” in skeptic circles.

    Yours in rationality, or perhaps “ir” in your case,

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  8. Fascinating that you presume to speak for all atheists. If an atheist were to say the same things of all Christians, you'd no doubt proclaim, "That's not true!" and then attempt to present counterfactuals. As an above commenter noted, it's convenient to present atheists as a straw man without ever letting an atheist speak for him/herself.

    So let this atheist here speak: I'm MUCH happier now that I have jettisoned the death-cultish ravings of Christianity. When I let go of paying fealty and obeisance to a vindictive, petty, conditionally-"loving," obtuse conception of a deity, I began to live and enjoy living.

    Now, see what I and others have done to your straw man?

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  9. The Christian’s Jehovah is God Almighty,
    a cantankerous fellah, he’s flaky and flighty,
    and, so far as I can tell,
    the Christians often are as well.
    (because)
    The Bible Bogey, and believe this, so they must,
    is omniscient, omnipotent, and totally just;
    but it’s a father, a son, and a friggin’ ghost,
    that with magic spells becomes wine and toast!
    With the problem of theodicy,
    it sure as hell is idiocy.
    (compare)
    The Jew’s Yahweh is a wrathful old jerk,
    setting strict rules on when to work,
    how to dress, and what to eat and sip,
    and giving baby boys the snip.
    Myths of Bronze Age, goat-herding nomads
    metaphorically have ‘em, by the gonads.
    (similarly)
    The Moslem’s Allah is a fierce great djinn;
    ‘Islam’, in English, means ‘Submission’.
    Apostasy is treated just like a crime;
    they’ll threaten to kill you, to keep you in line.
    Dare draw Mohammad in a comic cartoon,
    there’ll be riots and killings from here to Khartoum.
    (likewise)
    Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Buddhist,
    Zoroastrian, Baha’i, Mormon, and Scientologist,
    Confucianist, Shintoist, and Taoist too,
    Wiccan, Spiritualist, and the New Age woo;
    Yea, verily, those of each and every religion,
    are mired in the miasma of superstition.
    (so)
    Why should yours be the “one true faith”,
    in the magical antics of an unseen wraith?
    Belief, without evidence, is just plain crazy,
    ignorant, stupid, or thoughtlessly lazy.
    Life needs no purpose, at a theistic god’s direction;
    evolution just happens, by natural selection.

    I have sent you this poem in the hope that you will read it and realize that some people find your religious beliefs to be unwarranted and absurd. When I was a small boy, still in short pants, I understood that religious beliefs in deities were lacking any supporting evidence, and therefore had no basis in fact. Later, I realized that religion was a tool for controlling people. Religion should be a private matter, because when it gains political power, as with any ideology, it becomes a tool for oppression. Please consider the benefits of rational thought over superstition and wishful thinking.

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  10. Here's your god speaking in Leviticus chapter 26:

    I will punish you. I will bring disaster on you - incurable diseases and fever that will make you blind...there will be no rain and your land will be as hard and dry as iron...I will send dangerous animals among you, and they will kill your children...I will send incurable diseases among you...I will cut off your food supply...Your hunger will be so great that you will eat your own children.

    I always get a bit grumpy after reading those words - and even grumpier when a Christians reads the same words and says, "Isn't God amazing? So kind and loving and full of mercy..." Idiots!

    If god appeared in front of me right now, do you know what I'd do? I wouldn't bow down and kiss his feet, I'd punch his silly head in.

    So yeah, color me "grumpy".

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  11. Well Tim,

    On balance, I have to side with your critics, who rightly point out that your version of an "atheist" is a bit of a straw man.

    I was once a devout Catholic. The cognitive disonance from trying to reconcile the real world with my religion was making me very unhappy.

    On a "Good Friday" back in 2002 I finally came to the conclusion that atheism was the only rationale response to the world I experienced. The sense of relief was immediate and transforming. In truth, I have never been happier since admitting to myself that there is no god, or if there is one, it is so remote from a loving and compassionate being that it is meaningless to believe in it.

    Cheers...Martin

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  12. "Atheists tend to see the state of their personal world as being limited to the best they can achieve."

    We make of life what we put into life. To consider doing ones best in the only life that we can honestly be sure of is not in any way a limitation. It is what we should each strive for. To suggest that it is a limitation makes messenger's clarity of thought suspect. Bordering on deceitfulness which I consider part and parcel to be a requirement of selling faith.

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  13. If atheists are grumpy, it's not because they are atheists.
    For me, the prospect of finding joy in believing something that is not true, is horrifying. Most "new" atheists make good use of their critical faculties. They scrutinize every claim to the best of their abilities. Not because they disregard every claim out of hand, but because they have an appreciation for the truth.
    And with truth I mean objective, scientific truth.

    Atheists don't dismiss your religion because they don't like it; that's secondary. They dismiss it because it has not been shown to be true.
    That's what atheism is all about.

    The fact that the roman catholic church keeps demonstrating a callous disregard for human rights (btw, that includes women ,children, blacks, hispanics, etc...) only makes it easier to dismiss it.

    I often hear the argument that religion provides comfort and meaning to people. That's fine.
    The problem is that religious people base their actions on their beliefs even when these beliefs have been shown to be false.

    When Bertrand Russell was asked in an interview whether there was a practical reason for having a religious belief he answered: "There can't be a practical reason for believing what isn't true. I rule it out; it's impossible. Either a thing is true or it isn't. If it is true, you should believe it, if it isn't you shouldn't. And if you can't find out out whether it's true or it isn't you should suspend judgement. It seems to me fundamental dishonesty and fundamental treachery to intellectual integrity to hold a belief because you think it's useful and not because you think it's true."

    E.g., your tasteless abortion counter indicates that you don't believe in women's rights. You probably believe that a lump of cells has more rights than a woman just because it's of the species homo sapiens (as is the mother, btw). That is no justification to condemn a medical procedure.
    Abortions are not pleasant. To have an abortion is probably the most difficult and emotional decision a woman can ever make.
    And instead of providing support, you attack these people in the most disgusting way possible.

    Now I am grumpy. Not because I'm an atheist, but because your ignorant, hateful religion harms people in the real world.

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  14. Just another person bouncing over here to assert that maybe we dislike your religion so much because it is a magnificent force of self-perpetuating evil that has ruined people's lives for thousands of years.

    I escaped. I've never been happier.

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  15. "Life's injustices will never ultimately be surmounted and they [non-delusional human beings] are limited to a 'what you see is what you get' assessment of life's trials. Believers on the other hand know that things will be better."
    - Tim Moyle

    Blind faith or belief is not necessary nor required to know that once upon a time, a corrupt-to-the-core Diocese sent "It" to my former boyhood parish - St. John the Baptist in the mid-eighties - to predate upon prepubescent boys, manipulate them through the confessional booth, ply them with alcohol, and to use them as human waste receptacles for "It's" own truly evil intentions. And this same corrupt-to-the-core and above-the-law Diocese not only re-assigned "It" once, nor twice, but three times whence "It" arrived at our church with open arms of welcome. With each assignment "It" raped, "It" ravaged, "It" utterly destroyed. This same Diocese even had the gall to allow "It" to retire and even rewarded "It" with a $1,800.00 monthly church pension that "It" still receives till this day! And the most heinous injustice of it all... "It" never served one day behind bars nor was "It" de-frocked... true EVIL need not be named, its actions and intentions speaks for itself, "Father".

    We were not loved by "It", we were not even hated, we were being systematically condemned to serve a lifelong sentence in a silent, Hell, by the very instrument entrusted to guide us towards the light and salvation of our "Father" who art in [an imaginary] Heaven.

    So "Father" Mole, when your Pope Benedict recently addressed your cardinals and your
    bishops saying that revelations of abuse in 2010 reached "an unimaginable dimension" that required the church to accept the "HUMILIATION" as a call for renewal, reflect upon your Order's humiliation for it is, without doubt divine retribution, and unquestionably deserved; it was your very own brethren that broke their solemn vows and now their victims are breaking their silence.

    Benedict even went on to say, "We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen..."

    Look in your own mirror "Father" Mole, 'what you see IS what you get' and know that things will be better for US and the advancement of humanity once WE rid the world of you and your patriarchal piles of pig vomit, plague.

    Merry Christmas.

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  16. Mr. Moyle,

    What are your thoughts on the Catholic Church removing sponsorship for St. Joseph's Hospital in Arizona?

    I mean, which is better allowing the mother to live by killing the child or allowing both to die?

    Please explain why the Catholic Church would prefer both die.

    Mr. Moyle, have you ever written to or otherwise complained that members of the command structure of your organization are knowingly aiding and abetting criminals, including moving them to a non-extradition treaty country and changing their name? Do you support the criminals that your church supports?

    If I'm grumpy, it's because of being upset at people like you that try to justify illegal and immoral actions of your fellows and your church.

    One last question, at least one woman is alive to tonight, even though her baby isn't. How can you sleep at night when you would prefer that she be dead?

    Kevin McCarthy
    kevin at alexismccarthy dot com

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  17. Father Timmy wonders why atheists are grumpy. Maybe it's because we read or hear folks like him misrepresenting atheists and atheism.

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  18. So how many atheists have you knowingly spoken to?

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  19. I agree with pretty much every other poster here. Religion is the root of all evil. If I had my way, religion would be banned.

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  20. So folks, as you can see... not only am I correct in asserting that there are many grumpy atheists out there (and now in here)... but they are dangerous people who want to deny others the right to their own beliefs.

    I rest my case.(Not really, but it would be nice if I could)

    Fr. Tim

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  21. Confirmation bias. Instead of addressing the other issues raised with your essay you address the one that you believe confirms it. I suggest that it was an intended deceit on your part over at Pharyngula when you said that you write such essays to encourage discussion. Realizing that out of dozens, and now hundreds, or replies that you could pick the replies that confirm your essay. You did so there and now here. With no apparent intent on engaging those thoughtful criticisms of your essay. It may be that you find yourself ill equiped for such discussion when your primary duties require interaction with passive listeners.

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  22. Anonymous: I think that Jerry Seinfeld nailed my opinion of your concern when he said "Yadda, yadda, yadda."

    Bye for now.

    Fr. Tim

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  23. Your assertion that atheists are "dangerous people who want to deny others the right to their own beliefs" sounds a lot like projection. You're the one who made an affirmative claim concerning the "grumpiness" of atheists, yet have failed to show a) how this "grumpiness" is somehow endemic only to atheists and is not just the result of "bear baiting" by people like yourself, b) how this grumpiness of atheists proves the existence of your deity (to the exclusion of the other ones claimed by other religious traditions) and c) any evidence that atheists are "dangerous" who want to deny others the freedom to believe whatever bits of celestial foolishness they want to believe. Rather, it is you who wish to present atheists in the worst light possible--and that is intellectually dishonest, at best. At worst, it is the scurrilous behavior of an intellectual coward who would want to demonize others simply because he can't face the fact that there are many, many people who refuse to fall in line with his religious ideology.

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  24. Skippy: Promoting that religion should be banned isn't dangerous for believers?

    Fr. Tim

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  25. WHO said that? And even if one person said that they think religion should be banned, so what? In other words, citation needed.

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  26. And you're going to cherry pick ONE person who on this blog who said they'd ban religion--if they had their way. Really. Mind you, this person has absolutely NO governmental power that we know of--and it certainly isn't a majority opinion. Again, you show your intellectual dishonesty by generalizing to the whole.

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  27. Fr. Moyle said: I think that Jerry Seinfeld nailed my opinion of your concern when he said "Yadda, yadda, yadda."

    So it appears that I am right about your intent and further it is much worse than I suggested. You were lying about wanting to engage in discussion.

    One more point "Yadda, yadda, yadda" is not an opinion it is vacuous chatter which ironically may be the most cogent reply you have attempted.

    moakley

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  28. "So folks, as you can see... not only am I correct in asserting that there are many grumpy atheists out there (and now in here)... but they are dangerous people who want to deny others the right to their own beliefs.

    I rest my case.(Not really, but it would be nice if I could)

    Fr. Tim"

    How could one not be annoyed by you? You are a member of a group that hides and tries to justify the actions of sex offendors. You cause unimaginable pain with your stances on contraception, disease prevention, and abortion. Most importantly, in spite of all these grave offenses, your greatest evil is that you encourage children, under threat of eternal pain and death, to leave behind their ability to reason. Faith, as posited by the catholics, is an unmitigated wrong that stunts intellectual growth.

    Of course some people will speak out of turn when provided with provocation such as yours. I assure you that the vast majority of Atheists don't care what you think personally but when you organize and raise money to effect the way other people think then you are to be attackes and exposed for the villans you are.

    Will you admit that there is no evidence for youe beliefs? Will you admit that catholic orders knowingly and with malice exposed children to sexual abuse because their public image was more important to them then the children's well being? If you will not do these things, you are a liar and a fool.

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  29. You should likely also remeber that you are dealing with a very tight subset of Atheists. You can only draw from observations of those dealing with religion in the public sector or with you personally. Both of those things are quite enough to generate teeeth clenching rage in any thinking person.

    Confronted with such evils, rage is the only good response. It speaks to the sweet nature and good humor of Atheists that all you get is "grumpy"

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  30. Seriously?
    Anonymous above expresses a concern that, after saying that you're interested in discussion, you haven't actually addressed any of the comments made, but rather ignored them and dismissed them.

    Your response: "Yadda, yadda, yadda."

    Obviously, you lied. You are not interested in a discussion. You are not interested in anything that doesn't confirm what you already believe.

    Is it really any wonder why people get angry with you?

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  31. kneighbour said that, "If I had my way, religion would be banned." to which you responded, "but they are dangerous people who want to deny others the right to their own beliefs."

    Well done. A perfect display of utter idiocy. kneighbour uttered no desire to deny you your beliefs, only the desire to ban organized religion, which is NOT the same as your own personal beliefs. You can believe in your 3-in-1 friend in the sky all you want....fine. But your formal religion is not at all necessary for you to maintain that belief. But it is necessary to do all the really evil crap that such beliefs cause in the real world.

    Angry? You bet. Too bad you aren't just as angry for just the same reasons.

    Roger

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  32. I followed the thread on Pharyngula. The few times you have addressed valid points of discussion brought to you, it was only to deny them with your own personal conviction presented as evidence, no actual discussion whatsoever.

    An example:
    "Religion does not harm society. Just because you say so doesn't make it true." - Fr. Tim

    Indeed just saying so doesn't make something true, however the thousands of cases of systematically covered up child abuse accumulated over the decades(to protect the reputation of the RCC no less) make that claim true! That's just one example of harm caused by religion.

    How pathetic and telling that you want to ignore the evils done by your church, dismissing all that human suffering, and you're supposed to be a figure of moral authority. But no, your response to these facts was "To infer that I as a priest am a pedophile is factually, logically and moral far worse that my suggesting that atheists are 'grumpy'!", when I didn't see anyone accuse YOU personally of paedophilia, but they accused the RCC - which is UNDENIABLY true. You do enjoy your straw men, don't you? It appears that you care more about your institution than your followers(apart from the money they bring, of course!) or the suffering caused by your institution, when you should be in a position to make progress, not deny that anything is wrong!... What a waste.

    I'd say that this is probably the best reason ever to be grumpy.

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  33. Tim, your blog is entitled "where the rubber hits the road". This idiom, itself, is suggestive of action in the real world. Curiously, your interaction at
    pharyngula demonstrated quite the opposite.

    Despite your negative portrayal in this blog, you were welcomed at pharyngula. Do you remember what you said? "Wow! Lots and lots of comments, most of them filled with intelligent arguments." Tim, intelligent arguments deserve intelligent discourse. Would you not agree?

    Tim, your claim was an "...intent of provoking discussion..." and, so, you were asked questions representative of why atheists are absent your belief in the supernatural. Again, let me remind you that it was atheists that provided these "intelligent responses". However, your posts were of the ilk ...Alas, I suspect that you would not accept the evidence that I would present. Google 'miracles' or attend a few Church services over the Christmas season and witness the power of God yourself!.

    That's it? Those are your answers? Is that what you believe Christ said when he ministered, or was questioned: "Useth thy Google?"

    Naturally people became exasperated with your actions. Tim, I sincerely hope your don't run your life this way; visiting places, provoking a negative reaction by your refusal to join in the discussion, and then shouting "help, help, I'm being repressed!" from the rooftops. As a formal social worker, I'm sure you recognize that kind of behavior as playing the victim.

    Rather than calling people names, why not show the power of your convictions, demonstrate that you have answers and not one-way rhetoric?

    You have a wonderful opportunity to minister to a large group outside of your faith. Curiously, rather than answer the hard questions, you literally ran away. Are you afraid that your faith is not strong enough for you to answer real questions in the real world. Is that it, Tim? It sure looks that way.

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  34. So what do all the joyful atheists have to say about the not insignificant number of posters at Pharyngula who advocate banning entire religions, or even actual violence against Christians? One guy over there said we should punch priests in the face when we see them. Look at the abuse Father Tim got over there. Almost immediately someone called him an idiot. Christ said a tree is known by it's fruits, and there's some bitter fruit in evidence over at Pharyngula.

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  35. @Pat
    "One guy over there said we should punch priests in the face when we see them."

    Would you like to provide a link to back that up?

    Regardless, I would say those people are wrong. Freedom of conscience is indisputable and you are never justified in using physical violence in response to words.

    Now, what do you say to the fact that your pope was directly involved in hiding known pedophiles and shielding them from prosecution?

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  36. Actually Pat, there was one person who mentioned banning religion, and one person said they would punch -God- in the face. I'd say that was an insignificant number, and you have also glossed over the people who disagreed with the idea of banning religion as well as the vast majority of respectful comments that contained interesting points of discussion - ignored by Fr. Tim. Besides, everyone knows that it's religion's job to impose on other people's freedoms.

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  37. I have to go to work, so this may be my last post for a bit, but I'll keep reading. I think everyone could go on sniping at one another for a hundred pages. I don't see the point in that, which is why I don't usually comment on blogs. If you want evidence for God's existence, just look at the person sitting across from you at the breakfast table. They are made in his own image. Listen to Mozart's Piano concerto in A, and think about how so much beauty formed itself spontaneously out of nothing, and that beauty itself has no ultimate meaning. That's a pretty small universe if you ask me. Read the life of a saint like Saint Francis, and you'll see God. He's there even if you don't want him to be.

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  38. Group A: Tells everyone that a supposedly benign magical Jewish sky-zombie who was also his own father will (despite his omnipotence) allow them to be tortured for all eternity if they have too much fun without feeling terribly guilty about it and begging his forgiveness because a distant ancestor listened to a talking snake.

    Group B: Gets grumpy when group A tries to impose their crazy bronze-age belief system on others without a shred of evidence, sucking away millions in funds (tax free) and ruining the lives of millions of children who are indoctrinated into their cult before they can think for themselves.

    Dear Tim: if there is a god that made us in his image, he would be outraged if we did NOT get grumpy at your particular death-cult's attempts at indoctrination and message of guilt and servitude.

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  39. So, still got nothing hey 'father'.

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  40. "I have to go to work, so this may be my last post for a bit"

    Taking a page from Father Tim, I see, posting an insulting and deceitful comment and then running away as soon as people start asking questions.

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  41. Pat said "Listen to Mozart's Piano concerto in A, and think about how so much beauty formed itself spontaneously out of nothing" Yes but it took billions of years - I agree that evolution is wonderful and beautiful.

    She also said " and that beauty itself has no ultimate meaning." Au contraire, you and I and millions of others have and do enjoy it - that makes it pretty meaningful to me.

    Now where was god in that? Oh wait ... he wasn't necessary

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  42. So where is the children raped counter? And is there somewhere to donate to their psychological care?

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  43. "Taking a page from Father Tim, I see, posting an insulting and deceitful comment and then running away as soon as people start asking questions."

    I wasn't trying to duck out, just had some work to do. I can't sit on the internet all day. Insulting and deceitful? You get offended pretty easily I see. Sorry about that.

    Pat said "Listen to Mozart's Piano concerto in A, and think about how so much beauty formed itself spontaneously out of nothing" Yes but it took billions of years - I agree that evolution is wonderful and beautiful.

    That's just the point. Billions of years or hundreds of trillions of years, it doesn't make any difference. It's the fact that the music of Mozart exists at all that can't be explained by evolution. Saint Augustine asked the same question 1500 years ago. If there's a God, why is there evil? But if there's no God, why is there good?

    "So where is the children raped counter? And is there somewhere to donate to their psychological care?"

    So are you guys going to claim this boob as one of your own, or is he/she just an atypical angry atheist?

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  44. "But... I think that there is a more primordial reason for the 'bad mood' of so many atheists."

    I have come to the conclusion that Fr. Tim is right regarding grumpiness when atheists are confronted by the religious. However, the reason has nothing to do with nihilism. I am an atheist but not a nihilist. Something doesn't have to last forever to be good or worthwhile. This seems like something that any child realizes and that my godless (and godful?) friends expressly understand. Atheists in general don't mope about our life ending. Surprisingly we are no more maudlin about the death of a loved one than any true believer I have met*.

    Why so grumpy then? A few of my reasons below:
    1) There is no way to openly express disbelief in god without offending others. Some religious people can tolerate the presence of an unbeliever, but in my experience, many can't. In my experience, people often feel that it is their responsibility to insult you when they find out you don't believe.
    2) Revealed knowledge is often used as an argument to support or condemn public policy. I don't have access to that knowledge. However, we all have access to reason. Shouldn't policies affecting everyone be decided by means that are open to everyone?
    3) It is disconcerting to know that my own mother believes in a god who will send me to hell for nothing worse than my lack of belief in him. She must also believe that her god is just in doing so. The cognitive dissonance causes her distress. I love my mother, and it makes me sad that she is distressed. The very idea of hell is at odds with even the most draconian sense of justice, and should be abandoned. So there is that.
    4) I have a child. It is not my interest to raise her to be an atheist, but to give her the ability to think critically. Although she has been sent to a supposedly secular day care provider, she has been taught to pray to "God, her Father"**. She has been on the receiving end of several stealth baptisms that I know of (one by my own mother), and has had various incantations directed at her by well-meaning relatives and friends. It is inappropriate. I don't go around telling other people's children that Jesus didn't die for their sins, that hell doesn't exist, or that any justice in the world must come from the world. Why can't people just leave my kid alone?


    Before this becomes a screed, yeah...I am sometimes grumpy because of the influence of religion. However, not always, and I try to get along. If a stranger says to me "Merry Christmas", I give them a "Merry Christmas" right back. My mother-in-law lives with my wife and me, and has filled our house with various religious decorations (including a nativity in my living room). I haven't even scowled***. I have been asked by my very religious department head if I worry that my daughter will go to hell. I work with that guy every day without confronting him with how unprofessional and offensive that question is. Unlike some of my fellow atheists, I even address Fr. Tim by the title that he prefers.

    So, Fr. Tim: Can you see how you are wrong here? Sure you sense some gruffness from the average non-believer. This has NOTHING to do with nihilism, or fear of death, or the need for meaning. I don't envy the believer, and neither do many other atheists that I know. You should probably get to know a few atheists before making sweeping generalizations about the causes of their dissatisfaction with some of the interactions that they have with believers. It really isn’t that hard to understand.

    *Though by Fr. Tim's logic, we should be, right?
    **Hilariously, she thinks that she is praying to me.
    ***For the record, I hate Christmas. A lot. Everything about it.

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  45. "I wasn't trying to duck out, just had some work to do"

    And yet you've had the time to post two separate comments without answering my question.

    I answered your question. You're ignoring mine. You're goddamn right I'm offended.

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  46. "So are you guys going to claim this boob as one of your own, or is he/she just an atypical angry atheist?"

    Are you saying that it's inappropriate to be angry about children being raped? Are you not angry? Do you just shrug your shoulders and consider it business as usual?

    Individual catholic priests have raped children. The catholic church as an institution has protected these priests, even after repeat offenses.
    The pope himself, when he was a cardinal, ordered that no one inform the authorities on pain of excommunication (in relation to abuses in Ireland, if memory serves).

    Are you not angry?

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  47. "So are you guys going to claim this boob as one of your own, or is he/she just an atypical angry atheist?"

    We aren't a club. There are no membership dues, and no meetings. I can't claim the commenter as one of my own, any more than I can reject him or her. This is maybe part of what you lot aren't getting. Atheism is simply the lack of belief in god. There is no shared belief. We aren't all nihilists or socialists or libertarians, or nazis, or anything. We don't hate god anymore than we hate Scrooge McDuck.

    Don't Catholics find judgements made about them that are based on misunderstanding to be annoying? Atheists likely feel the same way. I don't like being painted as a nihilist, because I am NOT a nihilist. The proposition that atheists are nihilists is absurd. Fr. Tim's thesis (as he is calling it) isn't simply that we atheists are a shrill and unhappy lot, but that we are unhappy because we believe in nothing. I have offered an alternative hypothesis, and have not received any response. We are unhappy because of the prevalence of such ignorant attitudes. Anyone want to deal with that hypothesis?

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  48. Anonymous: Thank you for your post. I can sympathize with you about the struggles of others interfering with how you and wife choose to raise your own children.

    If I have learned one thing through this debate, it is that I was wrong to tar everyone with one brush. Your post is proof positive that atheists face the same struggles/rewards through their daily lives that believers do. It was insensitive of me to assume otherwise.

    I can appreciate your attitude about Christmas. It is a time that has been marked by great sadness and tragedy in my family and I find it difficult to 'get in the spirit' of the season as well.

    May your holidays bring peace and joy to you and to all those you love.

    Fr. Tim

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  49. Dear A. Nonymous:

    Your hypothesis is that: "We are unhappy because of the prevalence of such ignorant attitudes."

    You have a serious problem if your happiness appers to you to be determined by anyone other than yourself. Yes, people are ignorant. They are ignorant of the beliefs of Christians, if what I read above is any example, and they are ignorant of the beliefs of atheists again, if what I read above if indicative.

    But, happiness is an inside job. You are happy if you choose to be. My ignorance or brilliance is not a factor in your happiness.

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  50. Now that I have some free time to read through these comments, I'd like to take a shot at answering a few of the questions posed to me.

    'anonymous' wrote: "The frustration comes from dealing with arrogant, self-assured, condescending people. You believe in a childish set of myths that have no evidence in their favor and then are put out when a more reasoned thinker points this out. I'm sorry your beliefs are childish and foolish but I can't do anything about that and I'm not about to let you get away with acting superior because of your silliness."

    Let's see... you state at the outset that my beliefs are 'childish', unreasonable and 'foolish. And I'm the one whose arrogant and condescending?

    Many people are objecting to by statement that atheists believe that life is necessarily without any form of ultimate meaning. Is that not the very definition of nihilism?

    con't next message

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  51. Lamanga2004 writes: "That's what 'faith' is all about, isn't it? Believing in the completely unbelievable. Relying on revelation, rather than evidence." No, that is not the definition of faith. It's the definition of fideism, a very old heresy.

    'Skippy' offers: "I'm MUCH happier now that I have jettisoned the death-cultish ravings of Christianity. When I let go of paying fealty and obeisance to a vindictive, petty, conditionally-"loving," obtuse conception of a deity, I began to live and enjoy living." I found this statement has somewhat ironic given that it was offered as evidence that I (unlike a wise atheist) am guilty of lumping all atheists into one 'grumpy' group. I guess that means I am a 'death cult' raver since I am a Christian. Evidently all Christians are the same in this regard. Right, Skippy?

    'Anonymous' posted the following tidbit of wisdom: "We make of life what we put into life. To consider doing ones best in the only life that we can honestly be sure of is not in any way a limitation. It is what we should each strive for. To suggest that it is a limitation makes messenger's clarity of thought suspect. Bordering on deceitfulness which I consider part and parcel to be a requirement of selling faith."

    All I can say in response is that if anonymous is truthful in this conviction, that s/he must be living a uniquely graced life. To never have experienced resentment at an opportunity or desire denied her/him by another... to never have learned that life is not always fair (for this was the point I was making in my post) is to have been particularly blessed in life.

    con't next

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  52. MBrandon: I'm talking about grumpiness associated with interactions with religious people (and of course, not all religious people). I am actually a super happy dude. I have a job I enjoy and a family that is both supportive and fun to be with. I'm not happy about this:
    "Many people are objecting to by statement that atheists believe that life is necessarily without any form of ultimate meaning. Is that not the very definition of nihilism?"
    As I have said, I am not a nihilist. I don't know any nihilists. Disbelief in your god is not nihilism. This is a false dichotomy. Fr. Tim has every reason to be incensed at having been painted as either being a pedophile or supporting pedophilia (here and on other blogs). It is a ridiculous accusation, unlikely to be true, and is intended as nothing more than a barb*. To me, the assumption that atheists are all nihilists seems much the same. Fr. Tim has not given up this position, although it has been revealed to him by me and other atheists that this is simply not true. It isn't ruining my day or anything, but I can't understand his persistence in this matter, unless it is a jab at those who don't believe the same way that he does.

    I forgot to sign my last two comments. For the record, I am the same guy who posted as Anonymous twice today and yesterday as Antiochus Epiphanes. Which isn't my real name, so I am still anonymous.

    *I am guilty of having hurled a little invective myself, although nothing of this magnitude (I said that priests had plenty of time on their hands because they had no real responsibilities--a ridiculous assertion that I know to be false for many priests that I have known and liked.) I apologize for that.

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  53. Fiat Lux raised a horrendous account of abuse from his childhood. I can only say to him what I've said consistently on this blog: go to the Police! Have the pervert charged. Demand justice for all of the victims. It's one thing to scream pain at an evil perpetrated on innocents, but going to the Police with specific charges is a far more productive way to deal with the pain.

    Another common question is 'how many atheists do I personally know?' That's a difficult question to answer since I know lots of people and I do not demand that they tell me their stance on this question as a condition of my friendship. I do know that a few of my close friends are either atheists or agnostics. However the majority of atheists that I have come to know I've met virtually in the comment threads of various blogs. I admit that they may not be a representative sample of the greater atheistic community, but the evidence on this thread and others make a pretty convincing case that many of them are exactly as I portrayed them to be in this column.

    One other common accusation leveled at me is that I am supposed to meekly accept whatever abuse and opprobrium is heaped upon my head without bleating a word in response. To this I point out that both even John the Baptist and Jesus himself responded with invective when they was attacked by the Pharisees and lawyers ('brood of vipers', 'hypocrites'etc.) I have no need to live up to their facile parody of how a Christian is supposed to act.

    That's enough time to spend on these comments for now. I'll take a break and return to them later.

    Fr. Tim

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  54. Finally! A response...at least to something. As usual, it's cherry-picked and then misinterpreted.

    Tim writes: Skippy' offers: "I'm MUCH happier now that I have jettisoned the death-cultish ravings of Christianity. When I let go of paying fealty and obeisance to a vindictive, petty, conditionally-"loving," obtuse conception of a deity, I began to live and enjoy living." I found this statement has somewhat ironic given that it was offered as evidence that I (unlike a wise atheist) am guilty of lumping all atheists into one 'grumpy' group. I guess that means I am a 'death cult' raver since I am a Christian. Evidently all Christians are the same in this regard. Right, Skippy?

    First, lay off the sarcasm--no one here or on Pharyngula has declared him/herself "wise." I certainly haven't. At any rate, where did I "lump" Christians in the same regard? No, what I posited is what I think about Christianity. I think--from my years within it and outside of it--that it fetishizes death. The religion is predicated on death, both "spiritual" (in the fear of spiritual death) and physical (the torture and murder of your founder). The language about this world is one of death. Even the notion of an "eternal life" is predicated upon dying in this world. The poor around the world are told to suck it up in this life and hope for a better one to come. The beauty of this life and this world is subordinated to a vindictive, petty deity who for some ridiculous reason, allegedly created two eternal realms (heaven and hell) to put his creation for offenses in a finite existence.

    Christianity has an organized dogma and set of doctrines that vary from denomination to denomination, but on the whole, espouse a lot more about death than life. Something you apparently miss about atheism is that there's no creed, no doctrine, no dogma. So, no, you can't compare Christianity and its death-cultish ravings to atheism. What you also miss--and attempt to read into what I wrote above--is that I was writing about the religious doctrine/dogma and not the individuals. So don't get butthurt when I say that Christianity has death-cultish ravings.

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  55. " However the majority of atheists that I have come to know I've met virtually in the comment threads of various blogs."

    Geez, dude. Why don't you just say you don't know any atheists? Oh, but that would then blow up your confirmation bias, wouldn't it?

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  56. "We aren't a club. There are no membership dues, and no meetings. I can't claim the commenter as one of my own, any more than I can reject him or her. This is maybe part of what you lot aren't getting. Atheism is simply the lack of belief in god. There is no shared belief. We aren't all nihilists or socialists or libertarians, or nazis, or anything. We don't hate god anymore than we hate Scrooge McDuck.

    Don't Catholics find judgements made about them that are based on misunderstanding to be annoying? Atheists likely feel the same way. I don't like being painted as a nihilist, because I am NOT a nihilist. The proposition that atheists are nihilists is absurd."


    That is the single most cogent comment on this entire thread! Especially the part I bolded.

    Bottom line, everyone: Your religious beliefs or lack of same are YOUR business, no one else's. "Share" them with others at your own peril...as if they were a virus, because that's precisely how some folk will receive them! And don't be surprised when others, not of your beliefs (or lack thereof), resist your efforts to absorb them into your own particular circle of think-alikes with vigor!

    Which came first -- the religion or the proselytizer?

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  57. So, Tim, when is my comment going up? Given your desire for a good discussion, I can't imagine you wouldn't approve it, so it must be a technical issue. I'll restate my points.

    1) You admit that your original article was "insensitive". This implies that you know that some people have been offended by it. Yet, you still respond to comments here as if they existed in a vacuum.

    The comments in this thread are a response to an article that you yourself admit what misguided. Isn't it unreasonable to criticize the tone of those comments, then?
    Surely, we should just say "bygones" and move on, right?

    2)
    Fiat Lux raised a horrendous account of abuse from his childhood. I can only say to him what I've said consistently on this blog: go to the Police! Have the pervert charged. Demand justice for all of the victims

    This I had a problem with. If Fiat Lux did go to the police (assuming the offender is still alive), would the catholic church help the investigation in any way possible, or would they hinder it?

    Given the historical record of the catholic church on such matters, I think it's an entirely fair question. Even the pope has been involved in such cover-ups.

    As such, do you understand if your call for justice sounds a bit hollow to us?

    Do you understand why maybe we'd like to see some action before we're willing to believe that the church has turned a new leaf?

    3) In relation to the question of whether your faith is childish, I will compare it with believing in Santa.

    Most people would agree that believing in Santa is childish. After all, people will say, where is he? How would he be capable of distributing all those gifts? Has anyone ever actually seen him? Is there any evidence of his existence at all?

    No there isn't and it is my contention that your God falls in the same category. There is no evidence for God whatsoever.

    You've been asked for evidence before and declined. You've made vague references to miracles at pharyngula, but you didn't cite any examples that you found convincing.

    Will you do so now? Will you give us evidence? Or will you accept that God and Santa have the same evidentiary support?

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  58. "'anonymous' wrote: "The frustration comes from dealing with arrogant, self-assured, condescending people. You believe in a childish set of myths that have no evidence in their favor and then are put out when a more reasoned thinker points this out. I'm sorry your beliefs are childish and foolish but I can't do anything about that and I'm not about to let you get away with acting superior because of your silliness."

    Let's see... you state at the outset that my beliefs are 'childish', unreasonable and 'foolish. And I'm the one whose arrogant and condescending?"

    yes. I give good reason for not believeing in any deity. No proof. Not one shred of good evidence. You have no good reason to believe and certainly can't and won't provide one. Thus, like a child, you are accepting a silly story just as a four year old accepts Santa.

    So, yes, your beliefs are childish. Accepting unreasoningly a story that is impossible on it's face with no evidence is the act of an intellectual child and a fool.

    So, that covers why you are the three things I called you. That you refuse to accept reason from someone who shows it to you makes you arrogant. Your idea that you and a lot of other silly, venal old men have something worthwhile to offer is condescending.

    So, yes, you are exactly everything I called you.

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  59. Skippy: What hairsplitting! You say that you are not lumping Christians together under one insulting label... then follow it up by saying that Christianity is a death cult! What the hell are Christians if not followers of Christianity. You have NO moral high ground to stand on with me Bud. You are your own sparkling example of a hypocrite.

    Lukas: I have not failed to post any comments. If it's not here, it has nothing to do with me. Perhaps you were so caught up in using as many falsehoods about the Pope and the Church as you could that you forgot to click on the 'post comment button'? To bad that your diatribe about what someone should do if they are abused leaves them in pain and suffering without hope of justice or compensation. You definitely have no wisdom to offer here that is in anyway oriented to anything other than maintaining your warped view of the Catholic Church.

    I won't bother with your insulting question about Santa vs God. Want information about miracles??? Read the Bible... read the history of the saints. Don't expect people like me to fall into your childhood game of demanding evidence so that you can reject it out of hand because you are unwilling to accept what the evidence points to. Your 'confirmation bias' is your own undoing.

    Anonymousb: What I offer Lukas fits you as well. You remind me of Lk 7:31-35. Jesus' description there fits you to a tee.

    Lady Janus: I have every right to speak my opinion about my faith as well as my assessment of the weakness of others. You know that I am more than willing to allow others to express their opinion but I am not obliged by manners or courtesy to refrain from sharing my own opinion.

    Merry Christmas to all!

    Fr. Tim

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  60. So Pat you want to start insulting?

    "So are you guys going to claim this boob as one of your own, or is he/she just an atypical angry atheist?"

    Actually I wasn't particularly angry when I posted the comment you are referring to. mr moyle has a counter on aborted fetuses and a solicitation of funds to contribute to his self aggrandizement. Any catholic who is a true Christen and cares about saving her church should be dedicating her life to cleaning up the swamp and making restitution to the people hurt by the church. No Pat I'm not a boob but I also don't pretend to be a christian like you.

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  61. RGHII: Actually, you are a insulting blowhard. The donations box is hardly for my 'self aggrandizement' and the counter is noting the number of aborted pre-born children.

    If you want to insult me, no need to try to hide in a message directed to another person. Your passive aggressive nonsense is not welcome here if you haven't got the 'cahonés' to direct them to me directly.

    Fr. Tim

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  62. Step away from the blog, people. Nothing cogent going on here, just a bunch of sabre rattling.

    I say that with due respect to Lady Janus, who as usual has meaningful comments and thoughtful to boot. Most of the rest qualifies as drivel really.

    Well Father Tim. You seem to have invited in the visitors from the far side. The atheists/nihilists certainly take offence at being confronted with their quest for the serenity of nothingness.

    Amazing how they get in a lather, and bring up side topics like sexual abuse (in which of course the participation of Catholic religious was really a minor percentage, though it got almost all the press). Facts become unimportant, and so to disagree with you, when there are not facts to support disagreement, some must descend to telling you that your mother was ugly (which I am sure was not true).

    62 monologues and counting.

    Merry Christmas to all. May Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ take up residence in all of our hearts, and make us one.

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  63. Well, my apologies if I was insulting to anyone. You are a bunch of sensitive souls, aren't you? You have to understand it's frustrating to argue with you lot because on the one hand you can come here and sling mud and then claim that it doesn't count because atheists are not a group. Then when Christians get defensive you scream hypocrisy and that we're violating a standard you don't even believe really exists. The comment about the children raped counter was off base, RGHII and you know that. Why are you allowed to take cheap shots, but we can't defend ourselves? It's like you bring up the abuse scandal because you know that whatever we say you will throw back in our faces. Anyways, I really do wish all you people happiness and that you have a happy Christmas, Festivus, whatever you celebrate.

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  64. Such language, Tim! Tut, tut! Methinks you need to look up the word "hypocrite" in the dictionary--or look in the mirror, whichever is closest.

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  65. "Lady Janus: I have every right to speak my opinion about my faith as well as my assessment of the weakness of others."

    Of course you do! As does everyone else. I never said different. What I did say was, don't ever expect your own opinions of your own religion, or culture, or lack of same to go unchallenged. That goes for everyone.

    So...on this occasion, let me wish a Merry Christmas to those I know who celebrate Christmas: Wayne, Michael, Mary, and a special wish for you, Tim! Glad Yule (and Solstice) for those of us who are Pagan (the Holly King is dead, the Oak King reigns, and the light is returning!). Belated Happy Chanakah for those who are Jewish and have already celebrated. Happy Kwanzaa to some, and good Festivus to others. Did I leave anyone out? If so, I leave good wishes here for you to find -- help yourself.

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  66. Lady Janus, Tim, Michael, Mary, Lina, Paul

    Thank you for the good wishes Lady Janus. I also wish you and the others I may have missed a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    Tim, you may have misjudged the usefullness in getting into debate with recently arrived athiests. I am afraid I don't see it as something productive. I will pray that you will consider again things we have talked about in recent times. As you are one with a strong interest in spiritual matters, I still believe your energy could be harnessed to a much higher calling. But you could still be called by God in the coming year for something you have never imagined. I still believe in miracles and will pray for one. I see these debates with athiests as non-productive and a dead end. (throwing pearls around you know and trying to debate with scorners is warned against) No good can come of it.
    ________________

    One doesn't have to be religious or a believer to celebrate and enjoy this season. So I hope everyone enjoys a break and in spite of all of life's trials, stresses, and tribulation, we are able to enjoy what the holiday season has to offer, hopefully with some loved ones. Not everyone has that I realize and our thoughts are with those who might be alone. I would wish they might know the peace of Christ in such circumstances, as this is the source of true peace. The Holy Spirit also called the comforter in SCripture, will indeed comfort those who turn to Christ in truth faith and accept his once for all sacrifice as complete atonement for their sins. Please forgive for this slight digression which does seem relevant at this time.

    But like many others across the world, we will be with other christians tomorrow in a special service, followed by a young people's choir, adults choir, and a little play, after which some refreshments and fellowship in the spacious foyer, before heading home to prepare for the traditional Christmas dinner.

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  67. Wayne:

    Father Tim has chosen to engage atheists to share the light that he knows with them. It appears immediately to be a fruitless exercise, much as sharing that truth with you does.

    There is a type of blindness that we all have where we see the world not as it is, but as we are. But, there is the blindness of those who choose not to see what faces them.

    These well meaning atheists are seeking truth as we all are, and so to share that with them is the best that Father Tim can do, and it is the mission to which he has been called by his ordination.

    But, the greater blindness is that of he who has seen, but chooses to wear blinders lest someone else have a view that differs from his own, and which he cannot reconcile to his own.

    A Catholic arrived in heaven and was greeted by St. Peter there. As they were walking down a street lined with gold, the Catholic noticed that there was a large thick wall on one side of the street, and much joyous noise coming from behind the wall.

    He asked St. Peter what that was all about. St. Peter shushed him, and told him that that was where the Fundamentalists were, and that they thought they were the only ones in heaven.

    When I get to heaven, I am going to come looking for you, and I will find a way to climb over the wall if I have to to come and see you.

    As frustrated as I have gotten often at the dialogue with you, it is still a pleasure to read the words of another believer.

    Merry Christmas
    Michael

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  68. I see these debates with athiests as non-productive and a dead end

    What debate? As far as I can see, we've yet to start a debate because Tim is refusing to participate in one.

    I mean, seriously, Tim. You criticize people for being rude, even after admitting that your initial post, which started this whole thing, was insensitive.
    You refuse to discuss institutional culpability in child abuse, despite the church's record for dealing with such cases by cover-up, rather than action.
    You don't want to discuss evidence for your God, saying we'll just ignore it anyway.

    Back at the pharyngula thread you said: "Wow! Lots and lots of comments, most of them filled with intelligent arguments." Then you responded, not to the civil, intelligent comments, but to a few negative ones.

    You made that choice! You could have had a respectful, intelligent discussion, but you chose not to.

    Since you said you wanted to provoke a discussion, I have two questions for you:
    - What kind of discussion were you hoping for?
    - Do you think your behavior promoted or hindered such a discussion?

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  69. You are somewhat right Lukas. It is not a debate. It is more fomenting on the part of yourself and colleagues.

    Take for example the red herring of the sexual abuse, which had really nothing to do with the debate/foment.

    If I extrapolate what you have had to say, you first of all have missed context, and second of all are trying to tar with a broad brush people of faith because of your generalizations.

    Let me see if I get this right. Because some priests and other religious have sexually abused young people, which did occur, and which was terribly wrong, you don't believe in God. However, Statistically, there was far more sexual abuse in the public school systems of North America and in families of North America. So, if you don't believe in God, then you probably should not believe in education, nor in family life, and maybe you don't.

    And of course, though the Catholic Church, particularly in the local North American dioceses tried to hide the abuse, not unlike any other institution, though that hardly is a valid excuse, Catholic Churches are now the safest place for young people to be on the planet, but you would have to have put some thought and done a little, teensy weensy bit of reading to have known that.

    If you want to talk about the existence or lack thereof of God, then talk about that, and try to stay on topic.

    Then, maybe we can have a debate.

    Merry Christmas
    Michael

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  70. Judging by the kind of comments on Pharyngula, it is a complete waste of time trying to discuss christianity or God with most of these people. I am not a supporter of Roman Catholicism because I think it long ago departed from some essential biblical truths.

    Tim and Michael,
    You should recognize the futility of commenting to these atheists. It accomplishes nothing.

    However, the bottom line is judging by the tone of the comments on pharyngula and on here, there is no point in trying to discuss with these people. They are not interested in reasonable discourse and are only mocking christianity and the religion of yours (which I disagree with) on pharyngula.

    Michael,

    You say Tim was called to share with atheists.

    Firstly, in a general sense, I would agree with you. But if the people you wish to discuss with are scornful and insulting, there is no call and no point in trying to discuss anything with them.

    "A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise." Proverbs 15:12

    Secondly, Tim's commentary is not the kind of commentary which would invite rational discourse. It would have to be considered as the wrong approach to people.


    Thirdly, the RCC does not have a true gospel message to give to people so it is a failure from that point of view.

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  71. Small Town Guy said: ".... But if the people you wish to discuss with are scornful and insulting, there is no call and no point in trying to discuss anything with them. ..."

    Tim started the conversation with: "Good will to all men? Not from the grumpy atheists! (Thank God not all atheists are grumpy but there sure seems to be a lot of them) Why is it that so many in the atheist community cannot bring themselves to get past their anger whenever they engage in discussions? The language of many of their contributions in public debate is laced with invective and dripping with sarcasm and bile".

    Your point regarding how Tim's initial post set an adversarial and confrontational tone is well made. In hindsight, perhaps the article was intended as a rallying cry for the choir. In which case, using broad brush strokes to demonize and dehumanize your opponents is a well-known as a device for inciting hatred and stirring up the crowd.

    I think you'll find that there is still ample opportunity for discussion but it's a two-way street. Many questions were asked on Pharyngula and nearly all of these were unanswered or replied to with unhelpful and dismissive responses such as, basically, Google it. It's no wonder that the frustration level grew as it did. Maybe Tim, your duties leave you uncomfortable in the role of being actively questioned and that you are more used to preaching or reflecting questions back to your flock for them to find comfort in the bible?. In which case, we're back to the question of if you really want a discussion or a platform for your views?

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  72. Let me see if I get this right. Because some priests and other religious have sexually abused young people, which did occur, and which was terribly wrong, you don't believe in God

    You got it wrong. The child abuse matter is separate from my lack of belief. I don't believe in God because there is no good reason to. I simply hold the case for God to the same standards of evidence as any other case and I notice that it fails completely.

    I have never been presented with any credible evidence for the existence of God. If you have any to offer, I'd love to hear it.

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  73. The central point of Tim's thesis is that atheists are nihilists. As I have asserted, this is simply false. I have not been insulting with Fr. Tim, or any other Catholic here. It appears that if I refuse to participate in invective, my comments will be ignored by Fr. Tim and other commenters who support this position. Damned if you do and damned if you don't, I guess.

    So I let me tell you what I believe, to demonstrate that I am not a nihilist.
    I believe that the world is real, and the reality of the world exists independent of my observation or belief. I also believe that I can learn about it by observing it. I believe that my own life is worth living. I believe that if I act for the common good, I can help make the world better, and that ultimately, this will make my life better. This will help me understand the world better, which I find to be fulfilling and enriching.

    Experience has led me to these beliefs. I could be wrong about any or all of them. If I discover that, I will revise my beliefs.

    Where is the nihilism in this?

    Antiochus Epiphanes

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  74. Wayne:

    Sometimes you say things that are very cogent. Sometimes not. For example in the Not category "Thirdly, the RCC does not have a true gospel message to give to people so it is a failure from that point of view."

    You've got to stop making this kind of nonsense up, or borrowing it from other dissidents. You clearly do not have a very serious grasp of the Gospel message to make such a statement.

    Yes, you quote the words, and do so well. But, if the words have not taken rest in your heart, they are meaningless. How you live is far more important than what you say, and your querrelousness over dogma, and the hows of Christianity rather than the substance of believing in Jesus Christ, diminishes what could from you otherwise be a meaningful message. You can hardly bring love and hope to your brothers and sisters with a superior attitude and by trying to stuff the bible down other's throats.

    You might be able to use the bible as a teaching tool, if you had a foundation for doing so, but your foundation is a personal interpretation and disagrees with the interpretation of so many of your brothers and sisters. The bible is incapable of being errant, and so for you to present an interpretation different from the history of the Church makes you in error, not the bible. You really should rethink some of the postures that you take.

    It is far easier to have disagreement with Lady Janus, because she asks questions of those she disagrees with, and actually reads and absorbs the answers. She may not come to agreement, but she provides meaningful responses, and carries on a dialogue, with give and take and good sense and humour.

    The Bible message is to be taught by dialogue as well. Dialogue cannot happen if one of the two (di) is not listening, but is too busy forming the answers.

    I value your faith, even if it differs from mine and Father Tim's. I have learned a number of things from our communication, and have had to examine some of my own thoughts as a result of things you have said. But, it is in no way superior, and often the way you present it makes it actually appear to be inferior, to be stilted, legalistic, and not personal.

    At least that is how it appears to me.

    Frankly, I would rather have communication with the atheists, who are on a far opposite side of the fence, than have to split hairs with another Christian, who claims to have all the answers.

    Michael

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  75. Lukas:

    YOU raised the child abuse issue, which though it is irrelevant to the existence of God, seemed important to you, important enough to attempt to high jack the discussion with it.

    You say that you hold the case for God to the same standards of evidence as any other case. That is a crock. The case (as you call it) for God is right in front of your face.

    Just on one small issue, let's say there was a Big Bang that got the creation of the universe going. I sat in my back yard gazebo last summer for many long hours. I tried and I tried to create something out of nothing. Yes, I noticed the birds eating at our feeders, and the flowers growing and coming to bloom. I sipped my coffee and had interesting discussions with My Dear Wife. But, try as I might, I could not create something out of nothing.

    I willed a tree to grow in the middle of our yard. I stared at the spot, thought as hard as I could about it, imagined it, and even watered the spot, to give it a nudge. But, try as I might, I could not create a tree from nothing. I was determined not to use a seed, since that would be something.

    The only thing you or I can create from nothing is, . . . . wait for it. Yes, Nothing.

    So, my question to you is Who or What even created the Big Bang?

    While, you are at it; Who or What created the laws of Logic, Mathematics, Science, and Absolute Morality, without which we could not think rationally?

    Just that you raised the child abuse question indicates that you must believe in some Absolute Morality. Otherwise having sexual relations with any thing or person would not be wrong.

    What proves that God exists is that without God you would have none of these things.

    I don't think you are interested in credible evidence of the existence of God. It has been in front of your face all of your life, and you have chosen to deny it.

    The bigger issue is not whether you deny that God exists, but whether God denies that you exist. He is far more gracious than you.

    If you really want to know about the existence of God, I am not a very good source for you. I tend to be irritable and sometimes irrational. But, IF YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW IF GOD EXISTS (really not just for discussion purposes) ASK HIM, with an open mind and heart. He would love to have you desire to spend time with Him.

    Michael

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  76. Antiochus: GRUMPY atheists (IMO) are nihilists. As I have said here and on other sites, I am not claiming that ALL atheists are anything! I did not make this clear (eg: "There are exceptions of course, but they tend to fall more into the category of being the 'exception that proves the rule' when compared to the hostility of many of today's atheist posters.") and as a result I have painted with too broad of a brush for many people's comfort.

    Suffice it to say perhaps that there are likely to be far more nihilists to be found among the ranks of the atheists than among Christians? Can we at least agree on this one point?

    Fr. Tim

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  77. I am grumpy sometimes and I am not a nihilist. You have been provided with many reasons that an atheist may be grumpy other than nihilism. Your thesis is baseless, and I can't imagine what provoked you to write such a thing.

    I suppose that nihilism isn't inconsistent with atheism, but neither are many other belief systems (empiricism, materialism, etc.). However, I seriously doubt that your experience with atheists (limited as it appears to be) includes any instances of nihilism. I don't think that the grumpy atheists that you are addressing are nihilists.

    Antiochus Epiphanes

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  78. Michael,

    "Frankly, I would rather have communication with the atheists, who are on a far opposite side of the fence, than have to split hairs with another Christian, who claims to have all the answers."

    The reason for that is because atheists have nothing to prove that some of the doctrines of the RCC are wrong and in fact they could care less about doctrine. So you will be more comfortable debating with them than me.

    Michael, the most important question which I have been giving some thought to lately I need to ask you. I believe it is crucial and will determine where you, Tim, and the rest of us spend eternity. I know you view my approach as wrong and as you say too legalistic in some ways. Well, I confess I do not always have the best approach and it might seem cold. I confess I am not a skilled speaker or writer and fall short in many ways. But I see myself as the only one on here who is at least trying to present what I believe is the vital truth from God's Word. This gospel truth is absolutely vital to believe in order for a soul to be saved. If I am guilty of not presenting it in a loving way, I do plead guilty; but my Saviour understand my shortcomings and weaknesses and I believe has forgiven me through His atonement.
    We are called to spread the gospel of salvation by faith in Christ.

    NOw back to the one vital question I must ask you.

    Michael, my dear friend, what are you trusting in for you salvation, especially for the atonement of your sins? Can you explain if you have forgiveness of sins and on what basis?

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  79. Tim, you mention a comparison with atheists and Christians. Personally, I struggle with the basis for your extrapolation.

    Perhaps it might be helpful if you could explain in what order would you rate the other twenty or so major religions across the globe for likely inclusion in the ranks of nihilism?

    In case this comes over the wrong way. This is a sincere question as I'm really interested in not just your answer, but why would feel that way about each one.

    ReplyDelete
  80. YOU raised the child abuse issue...
    No, I didn't. This subject had been raised before I ever joined the conversation and the broader subject of priestly misconduct was even mentioned in Tim's original post. However, since it seems we have the chance to have a real conversation, I'm quite content to drop it.

    Let's get to the good stuff.

    The only thing you or I can create from nothing is, . . . . wait for it. Yes, Nothing
    Since nobody is claiming that human beings created the universe, this is irrelevant.

    So, my question to you is Who or What even created the Big Bang?
    I will give you the honest answer; an answer I wish people would employ a bit more often: I don't know. You're the one claiming to know, which puts the burden of proof on you.

    Who or What created the laws of Logic, Mathematics, Science, and Absolute Morality
    All these are human constructs, which (to a greater or lesser degree of accuracy) describe the real world.

    The mathematical expression 2+2=4 is entirely a human invention. The fact that two rocks added to a pile already containing two rocks will result in a pile of four rocks is a fact of how the world works. If two rocks plus two rocks had resulted in five rocks, then our mathematics would have reflected that.

    So, to clarify, the qualities that are described by logic, mathematics, etc. are not things existing separate from the universe. They are qualities inherent in the universe. The universe works in a certain way and we invent these disciplines in order to describe it.

    Just that you raised the child abuse question indicates that you must believe in some Absolute Morality
    No need. Morality is also a human construct and as such is quite subjective. Let me unpack this a bit.

    Morality can be considered as a set of rules of conduct, which will lead to a desired state. While the results of any given set of rules are objective, the desired state is not. If a person were to desire a world which was one big slaughterhouse, then murder would be entirely in accordance with that goal.
    Luckily, being the same species, we tend to agree (at least in broad strokes) about what kind of world we'd like. Once the goal is agreed upon, we can objectively examine what kind of rules will be most likely to get us there.

    Otherwise having sexual relations with any thing or person would not be wrong.
    Sure it would. It's wrong. See how easy that was.

    Now, since you've brought up morality, I think we should touch on the Euthyphro Dilemma. It goes like this:

    Is an act good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?

    If it's good because God commands it, then it's essentially arbitrary. If God commanded the opposite (never mind whether he would) then that would be good. So, morality is relative and subject to change at any time.

    If God commands it because it's good, then morality is absolute, but also independent of God. So, God is not necessary for morality to exist.

    I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.

    (Post too long. Continued below)

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  81. But, IF YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW IF GOD EXISTS (really not just for discussion purposes) ASK HIM, with an open mind and heart

    Do you really think that's the first time I've heard that? Do you really think I haven't tried? I have. I've gotten down on my knees and asked with as much sincerity as I could muster that God show me some sign, any sign, that he really exists.
    I explained that I am not capable of just taking it on faith. Not something that important. I'm simply not wired that way. I need something more tangible than vague statements and "miracles" that could be explained in a million different ways.
    I've asked more than once and I've left an open invitation for him to show up at any time convenient to him (after all, if he's running the universe, it might be a bit arrogant to expect him to just drop everything and come running). He hasn't shown up yet.

    But, of course, if you're true to christian form, you'll just tell me I wasn't sincere enough. That's what's happened every other time someone has brought this up and there's no way that I can convince you otherwise.

    Anyway, round this off, I'd like you to respond to the following:

    1. First off, please give a definition of God. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it does have to be clear enough that you'll be willing to stick to it without major revisions for the rest of the conversation.
    2. Do you accept that as the one making a positive claim, the burden of proof is on you?
    3. What are your thoughts on the Euthyphro Dilemma?

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  82. I would like to generously grant you that all atheists are nihilists like all priests are pedophiles.

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  83. Fr Moyle, You are accusing atheists of being nihilist? Nihilism, last time I checked, refers among other things to a belief that life is meaningless. Excuse me? On what basis to you tell your readers that people who do not believe in a god think that life has no value? There is no valid logic in your equation between nihilism and atheism. Every atheist I know, and I know a few, places a supreme worth on the value of human life. Indeed, for atheists generally I would suggest to you that it is precisely because they DO place the highest worth on the value of life that they DON'T believe in a supreme being. Surely nihilists might be atheists, but the converse does not follow in logic. It is a rather ridiculous sophistry you dump on people who happen not to subscribe to your belief: you assert that we are angry because we don't believe your creed? It's a rather silly circular proposition don't you think? If anything makes me angry it is that people in your position as the spiritual leader of your parish should promulgate such caricatures in the name of Christianity. Some of the things church leaders and ultra-conservative politicians say about atheists are in my view evil, unlawful and unchristian and are no better than those Islamists and fundamentalists among other religions who call for the death of unbelievers. Jim

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  84. YOU raised the child abuse issue...
    No, I didn't. This subject had been raised before I ever joined the conversation and the broader subject of priestly misconduct was even mentioned in Tim's original post. However, since it seems we have the chance to have a real conversation, I'm quite content to drop it.

    Let's get to the good stuff.

    The only thing you or I can create from nothing is, . . . . wait for it. Yes, Nothing
    Since nobody is claiming that human beings created the universe, this is irrelevant.

    So, my question to you is Who or What even created the Big Bang?
    I will give you the honest answer; an answer I wish people would employ a bit more often: I don't know. You're the one claiming to know, which puts the burden of proof on you.

    Who or What created the laws of Logic, Mathematics, Science, and Absolute Morality
    All these are human constructs, which (to a greater or lesser degree of accuracy) describe the real world.

    The mathematical expression 2+2=4 is entirely a human invention. The fact that two rocks added to a pile already containing two rocks will result in a pile of four rocks is a fact of how the world works. If two rocks plus two rocks had resulted in five rocks, then our mathematics would have reflected that.

    So, to clarify, the qualities that are described by logic, mathematics, etc. are not things existing separate from the universe. They are qualities inherent in the universe. The universe works in a certain way and we invent these disciplines in order to describe it.

    Just that you raised the child abuse question indicates that you must believe in some Absolute Morality
    No need. Morality is also a human construct and as such is quite subjective. Let me unpack this a bit.

    Morality can be considered as a set of rules of conduct, which will lead to a desired state. While the results of any given set of rules are objective, the desired state is not. If a person were to desire a world which was one big slaughterhouse, then murder would be entirely in accordance with that goal.
    Luckily, being the same species, we tend to agree (at least in broad strokes) about what kind of world we'd like. Once the goal is agreed upon, we can objectively examine what kind of rules will be most likely to get us there.

    Otherwise having sexual relations with any thing or person would not be wrong.
    Sure it would. It's wrong. See how easy that was.

    Now, since you've brought up morality, I think we should touch on the Euthyphro Dilemma. It goes like this:

    Is an act good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?

    If it's good because God commands it, then it's essentially arbitrary. If God commanded the opposite (never mind whether he would) then that would be good. So, morality is relative and subject to change at any time.

    If God commands it because it's good, then morality is absolute, but also independent of God. So, God is not necessary for morality to exist.

    I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.

    (Post too long. Continued below)

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  85. (continued)

    But, IF YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW IF GOD EXISTS (really not just for discussion purposes) ASK HIM, with an open mind and heart

    Do you really think that's the first time I've heard that? Do you really think I haven't tried? I have. I've gotten down on my knees and asked with as much sincerity as I could muster that God show me some sign, any sign, that he really exists.
    I explained that I am not capable of just taking it on faith. Not something that important. I'm simply not wired that way. I need something more tangible than vague statements and "miracles" that could be explained in a million different ways.
    I've asked more than once and I've left an open invitation for him to show up at any time convenient to him (after all, if he's running the universe, it might be a bit arrogant to expect him to just drop everything and come running). He hasn't shown up yet.

    But, of course, if you're true to christian form, you'll just tell me I wasn't sincere enough. That's what's happened every other time someone has brought this up and there's no way that I can convince you otherwise.

    Anyway, round this off, I'd like you to respond to the following:

    1. First off, please give a definition of God. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it does have to be clear enough that you'll be willing to stick to it without major revisions for the rest of the conversation.
    2. Do you accept that as the one making a positive claim, the burden of proof is on you?
    3. What are your thoughts on the Euthyphro Dilemma?

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  86. Tim,

    On reflection, I think I was incorrect about my criticism of your comments on atheists. On second thought, I think you comments are a fairly accurate assessment of them. I hope you will forgive me.

    I have to keep looking up the word nihilists. Not sure why it so a hard word to remember the meaning of. Nihilism - rejection of all moral and religious principles.

    Hope you have had a good holiday season so far.

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  87. Michael,

    "Sometimes you say things that are very cogent. Sometimes not. For example in the Not category "Thirdly, the RCC does not have a true gospel message to give to people so it is a failure from that point of view."

    What in your view is the gospel? What is necessary for one to get to heaven?

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  88. Tim, read very carefully and try very hard to comprehend the many posts in this thread . They are pregnant with prophetic words for you. Surely you don’t believe that your God has more love and respect for your ideas than He does for any of the others here.

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  89. "If I had my way, religion would be banned."

    First of all, I'd like to state that however grumpy I might be (and I'm pretty grumpy at the moment, because I've having complications from my wisdom teeth and my mouth hurts), I heartily condemn this sentiment. I'd be happy to see religion fade away on its own, but I'd be horrified and furious to see it banned.

    "So what do all the joyful atheists have to say about the not insignificant number of posters at Pharyngula who advocate banning entire religions, or even actual violence against Christians?" (Pat)

    Links or post numbers, please? I heartily condemn those sentiments, too, but I don't remember seeing either of them by significant numbers of posters at Pharyngula. I do not condemn those who insulted Fr. Tim for refusing to address any of the many polite responses he received, though.

    "If I have learned one thing through this debate, it is that I was wrong to tar everyone with one brush. Your post is proof positive that atheists face the same struggles/rewards through their daily lives that believers do. It was insensitive of me to assume otherwise." (Fr. Tim)

    Glad you learned something! ;) I hope you understand why your writing could be frustrating even for people who are not exceptionally angry by habit?

    "But, happiness is an inside job. You are happy if you choose to be. My ignorance or brilliance is not a factor in your happiness." (MBrandon)

    My happiness depends partially on the state of the world because I care about it. I cannot simply say, 'Sure, people die of easily preventable diseases, and the homeless freeze in the streets, and children are taught nonsense as fact, and some countries suffer from famine while others have more food than they know what to do with, and the world is torn by pointless warfare and slaughter, but I choose to be happy anyway.

    My happiness is also influenced by the pain in my mouth - an inside factor, but hardly one of my choosing. ;p

    "The atheists/nihilists certainly take offence at being confronted with their quest for the serenity of nothingness." (MBrandon)

    *Rolls eyes.*

    "But, the greater blindness is that of he who has seen, but chooses to wear blinders lest someone else have a view that differs from his own, and which he cannot reconcile to his own." (MBraondon)

    Heh, I agree with you on that one! Everyone, whatever their opinions, ought to keep open eyes and seek out another viewpoint once in a while.

    "...the bottom line is judging by the tone of the comments on pharyngula and on here, there is no point in trying to discuss with these people. They are not interested in reasonable discourse..." (Small Town Guy)

    You might give it a try before deciding. I'm a lurker rather than a poster there, but in my experience, most of the regulars are perfectly willing to discuss matters calmly with anyone who actually argues honestly, and attempts to address the points that they make. The more they respect your approach to the debate, the more polite they tend to get, even if they disagree with your opinions. Don't expect them to react well to arguments they've heard and refuted scores of times already, though.

    "So, my question to you is Who or What even created the Big Bang?" (MBrandon)

    The simple answer: I don't know. I've heard several possible explanations, but it's hard to get much evidence about what was present before the Big Bang - if there even was a 'before'. But the fact that we don't know something, and may never find out the answer, doesn't mean something even harder to explain was responsible.

    (Continued in next post - Jalt)

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  90. (Cont.)

    "While, you are at it; Who or What created the laws of Logic, Mathematics, Science, and Absolute Morality, without which we could not think rationally?" (MBrandon)

    Much of mathematics is a human construct. It works the way it does because that's how mathematicians have defined the rules. Different systems of mathematics can even have different rules, and still be useful. I would probably argue that morality is also a human construct. My moral views grow from my personal convictions and values, and from my reasoning on the subject. The universe as a whole couldn't care less what we humans do to each other.

    As for logic, and the laws of nature, and those parts of math that are not a human construct, I don't see why they need any creator. They are simply the way that reality works. It exists; why wouldn't it operate in consistent ways?

    "What proves that God exists is that without God you would have none of these things."

    Do you think that God could make something possess a given quality and not possess it at the same time? If God told you to torture an innocent child to death, would this be the moral thing to do? If so, then the laws of logic and morality are arbitrary, not absolute. If not, then God is limited by them as much as we are, not responsible for determining them.

    "The bigger issue is not whether you deny that God exists, but whether God denies that you exist."
    I think, therefore I am. Existence cannot be an illusion because there must be something perceiving the illusion. If a being that could reasonably be described as a god does exist (which I acknowledge is possible), then what matters is not this being's opinion regarding my existence, but his, her, or its decision regarding my fate.

    I am confident that no being worth worshiping would condemn me for doing my best to understand reality, even if I do get it wrong.

    "If you really want to know about the existence of God, I am not a very good source for you. I tend to be irritable and sometimes irrational. But, IF YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW IF GOD EXISTS (really not just for discussion purposes) ASK HIM, with an open mind and heart."

    You think I haven't? I'd LOVE to believe that there's a supremely powerful and benevolent being watching over the world. I'd LOVE to believe in life after death, with true justice, paradise, or both. I'm certainly not eager to face oblivion. I take no joy in believing that I'll never see my dead family and friends again, never get to know my grandfather as well as I'd like or meet those of my ancestors who died before my time. But as best I can tell, the evidence just doesn't fit, and I can't believe something just because it'd be nice if it were true. And for all its flaws, the world is an amazing place. The universe is full of wonders everywhere you look. Life is precious, and neither despairing at its brevity nor pretending it is otherwise will make it better.

    (More in next post. - Jalt)

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  91. (And the last.)

    "Suffice it to say perhaps that there are likely to be far more nihilists to be found among the ranks of the atheists than among Christians? Can we at least agree on this one point?" (Fr. Tim)

    Perhaps there are. I don't believe I've ever met anyone who identified as a nihilist, so I don't feel I'm in a position to judge.

    I wish, Fr. Tim, that you would address a few of the points that were made politely, early on in the thread at Pharyngula. Say, perhaps, three of them - that doesn't seem like an unreasonable request. But regardless, I have an offer for you if you are really interested in discussion. Do YOU have any questions about MY beliefs? I'm no great philosopher, and I certainly can't speak for any other atheist, but I'll answer to the best of my ability and avoid any intentional insults. This goes for any of the other posters here, too.


    On a final note, I love this time of year. I don't have to agree with all the words to enjoy the beautiful music! I hope everyone's been enjoying their celebrations, whatever they might be called.

    --Jalt Varyd

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  92. Lukas,

    There are many people, including many christians, who think that christians must prove the existence of God. However, that is not correct. I will give two reasons why it is not necessary for a christian to attempt to prove to you or anyone else that God exists, which from a scientific point of view, may not be possible to do because God is a Spirit.

    1. The Bible itself, which christians believe to be the complete revelation from God to man, does not attempt to prove God exists, at least not in a scientific sense. This is evident from the fact the Bible speaks in a way which assumes the existence of God. The first words in the Bible for example say "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Genesis chapter 1 vs 1. Thus the very first verse does not start by trying to prove God exists but simply states as a fact that God created the heaven and the earth.

    2. The Bible does make the statement that the evidence for the existence of God is all around us. "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." Romans ch.1 vs19, 20.

    Everything that God wishes man to know about God is written within the pages of the Bible and his eternal power is evident in the creation around us.

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  93. Jalt,

    The Bible teaches that faith are gifts of God. Faith is not something you can drum up by philosophical or scientific reasoning.

    "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crufified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

    But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Sprit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." 1 Corinthians ch2 vs7 to 11.

    Because of man's fallen nature which he inherited from our first parents fall (fall of Adam and Eve), man is corrupt and unable to see the truths of God and the Bible unless God enable's him through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. For more details on this you may read the articles on the following website:

    http://www.reformed.org/calvinism/trf/index.html

    Of particular relevance is the article called "Man's Totally Helpless Condition"

    But the other articles are also relevant.

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  94. "All of this brings out the basic principle of the Reformed Faith - the sovereignty of God. God created this world in which we find ourselves, He owns it, and He is running it according to His own sovereign good pleasure. God has lost none of His power, and it is highly dishonoring to Him to suppose that He is struggling along with the human race, doing the best He can to persuade men to do right, but unable to accomplish His eternal, unchangeable, holy, wise, and sovereign purpose.

    Any system which teaches that the serious intentions of God can in some cases be defeated, and that man, who is not only a creature but a sinful creature, can exercise veto power over the plans of Almighty God, is in striking contrast to the biblical idea of his immeasurable exaltation by which He is removed from all weaknesses of humanity. That the plans of men are not always executed is due to a lack of power, or a lack of wisdom, or both. But since God is unlimited in these and in all other resources, no unforeseen emergencies can arise. To Him the causes for change have no existence. To assume that His plan fails and that he strives to no effect is to reduce Him to the level of His creatures and make Him no God at all."

    http://www.reformed.org/calvinism/trf/index.html

    Skeptics should consider this and realize God has spoken clearly through his creation and in his written revelation and is not sitting and hoping men will believe. He has predestined certain individuals to believe. If you are still alive, you could be one of God's elect. However, the Bible says faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans chap.10).

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  95. "I have to keep looking up the word nihilists. Not sure why it so a hard word to remember the meaning of. Nihilism - rejection of all moral and religious principles." (Small Town Guy)

    ...What? Where'd you get that definition? My favorite handy reference, dictionary.com, has a rather different take:

    "1. total rejection of established laws and institutions.
    2. anarchy, terrorism, or other revolutionary activity.
    3. total and absolute destructiveness, esp. toward the world at large and including oneself: the power-mad nihilism that marked Hitler's last years.
    4. Philosophy .
    a. an extreme form of skepticism: the denial of all real existence or the possibility of an objective basis for truth.
    b. nothingness or nonexistence.
    5. (sometimes initial capital letter) the principles of a Russian revolutionary group, active in the latter half of the 19th century, holding that existing social and political institutions must be destroyed in order to clear the way for a new state of society and employing extreme measures, including terrorism and assassination.
    6. annihilation of the self, or the individual consciousness, esp. as an aspect of mystical experience." (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nihilism)

    The closest I can find is "An approach to philosophy that holds that human life is meaningless and that all religions, laws, moral codes, and political systems are thoroughly empty and false.", which still doesn't match your definition.

    And none of these describe me, or atheists in general.
    --Jalt Varyd

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  96. Jalt: You offer: "An approach to philosophy that holds that human life is meaningless and that all religions, laws, moral codes, and political systems are thoroughly empty and false" as a definition of nihilism. That is the best definition have have heard to date that explains what I meant by the use of the term. Thank you for posting it.

    I am not saying that all atheists are anarchists or resemble Hitler in any way! Nihilism is for me exactly as you describe it. A philosophy that rejects absolutes, religious codes etc. that leaves its adherents ultimately alone in judging how to make life 'better'. That has historically led to both a hedonistic and ultimately failed society. I cannot see how such a path is in any way better than the moral principles that guided us to our current state of societal prosperity and peace.

    Fr. Tim

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  97. You were highly insulted after I made the comment on your response to "Barbara" - the woman who's child was murdered but not murder according to you , a killing justified as you say because she was only 80 days old and born with a disease , therefore not worthy to save.- that you appeared to me like a peacock with feathers in full fan.
    It should please you then to know that you now appear hideously before me as a peacock stripped of every feather but for the single one you think still has everyone fooled. Tim there will be no door in heaven big enough to get your head through.

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  98. Larry: What in God's name are you talking about... and how did you get here? Aside for assuming you're having a particularly bad day, I do not understand the point you are trying to make. What have I said that led you to offer your colorful metaphors about my head and 'plumage'?

    Fr. Tim

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  99. I have been trying to follow this thread, while driving for three days, and am exhausted by the drive and exercise.

    With 98 comments and counting on this posting, I have lost sight of what the point is of the exercise, and don't think I am the only one.

    There are some thoughtful comments here, and some rantings and ravings as well.

    As near as I can tell, and the vitriol and rhetoric found above makes it a challenge to discern, atheists claim not to believe in God. Also, as near as I can tell, Chistians claim that God believes in all of us.

    If I was not so full of myself and puffed up with my own intelligence, which would I prefer to believe? Just preference.

    If I believe that the Bible is the love story of God and his chosen people, and of His Mercy shown to us, which claim am I likely to believe?

    if I ignore that the Bible is in part a history book of relationship between God and His People, and consider it merely a fairy tale which claim am I likely to believe?

    Now, if the God of the Bible has revealed himself to me personally, such that I hear his voice occasionally, that I see things He wants me to see occasionally, that I know that the love that courses through my being for Him, for my family, and for all his creation is not something that I could have manufactured my myself, which claim am I unable to walk away from?

    I believe with all my being that there is a God, that it is not me, and that we only need to open our eyes and particularly the eyes of our hearts, to see that this world, which is far bigger than we can grasp has been created, and did not come into existence by itself.

    May the God of all Mercy open all of our eyes to the wonders of His Creation. May we look with the eyes of little children, with wonder and awe, and drop the facades of our self importance,and the walls of our self protection.

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  100. Michael: Glad to hear that you made your trip safely, but IMO, +54 F. sounds pretty good to me, even if it is raining. At least you don't have to shovel rain!!!

    Fr. Tim

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  101. Brother Wayne:

    Your question is too vague and there is not enough space to answer it regardless. Besides you know the answer, and it is not pertinent to this blog posting.

    Oh Heck!!

    Wayne, We Christians live in a Monarchy, and would do well to remember that it is not a democracy, nor a meritocracy. As such, it cannot be Reformed externally. You cannot pick and choose beliefs daily, and think you have the answer, only to go someplace else tomorrow because they have the answer. It is no more a buffet than it is a democracy.

    As long as Christians vote with their feet, instead of listening to their hearts, we cannot be one, as we have been called to be by Our Saviour.

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  102. "...a Monarchy...cannot be Reformed externally."

    No? King John of England. Runnymede. 1215.

    Try again?

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  103. Michael,

    "As long as Christians vote with their feet, instead of listening to their hearts, we cannot be one, as we have been called to be by Our Saviour."

    You may think matters of religion and truth should be determined with one's heart, but God says in his Word something different:

    "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah ch17 vs9

    The truth is the heart is not a trustworthy means to determine truth and error. Neither are large numbers of people following something any kind of gauge as to the truth of something. Look at the hundreds of millions following false religions. Muslim probably has the most followers in the world, perhaps well over one billion and ahead of the Roman Church.

    Sure, the Scripture calls believers to be one in the faith. Agreed. But unity must be based on truth. What evidence for the truth do you have? What is your standard? The decrees of fallible men?

    John chapter 17 which records Jesus' high priestly prayer is quite informative. Jesus did pray that his people (believers) would be one in vs.21. But Jesus also said "Sanctify them through thy truth: they word is truth." vs17

    From this it appears believers are sanctified (made holy or set apart) by the truth in God's Word. Not by simply uniting in a vast hierarchical organization. The bottom line is what kind of unity (oneness) was Jesus speaking about?

    Again in verse 19 Jesus stresses the importance of truth. "And for their sakes I santify my self, that they also might be sanctified through the truth."

    Believing and worshipping Christ means worshipping Him in spirit and in truth. Isn't that what Jesus taught? He seeks people to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

    "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." 1 John ch1 vs7

    I made another posting to you today under another article. I hope you found it.

    Do you believe that Jesus died for you personally and that all of your sins have been forgiven? Do you believe there is no more atonement to be made for sin? Was Christ's sacrifice sufficient to pay for all of your sins?

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  104. Tim, Michael, Lady Janus,

    I wish each of you a very happy new year.

    Wayne

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  105. Lady Janus:

    Your recent response to my monarchy comment, citing 1215 Runnymede, King John et al, actually proves the point I was trying to make, but I am working on a piece for my own blog on Monarchy and will use it there, and explain myself better, I hope.

    I appreciate your insights, because they get me to thinking. Usually, I stop to think and have trouble getting started again.

    Happy New Year to you, and also to Father Tim and Wayne.

    The sun is out here in Southern Arizona, and will warm things up in the next few days. I am looking out the front window of our winter home here, and see beautiful blue sky past the palm trees and cacti.

    Michael

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  106. So, just to sum up the results of the conversation so far:

    I asked for evidence. I was presented with a bit of handwaving and a lot of questions, which I answered to the best of my ability.

    I then asked for a response on three points:
    1) a definition of god (rather relevant if we're going to discuss the matter at any depth)
    2) Whether the theists acknowledge their burden of proof
    3) The Euthyphro Dilemma, arguing that morality doesn't require a god

    I got two responses; one from the person I was responding to myself, saying, basically, that he couldn't be bothered; and from one other person, who ignored points 1 and 3 and utterly rejected the idea that he had a burden of proof to lift at all.

    So, in case anybody is still reading this, I ask: Are you still wondering why atheists tend to get annoyed when we debate theists?

    When we join the conversation, we are instantly peppered with questions, most of which are red herrings and some of which make gross assumptions about who we are.

    If we answer the questions, our answers are rarely acknowledged. If we ask questions in return, they are ignored.

    Finally, if we do manage to get a single point through, the theists are perfectly happy to toss all rational standards of debate out the window and just declare that the existence of their god is obvious and they don't have to back it up because the bible says so.

    Short version: The reason atheists are "grumpy" is that we actually care about the subject, yet we find it incredibly difficult to find anyone who is willing to have a real discussion.

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