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26 Oct 2011 06:36

Martin318is wrote:I think the answer to this is that religion and politics are indeed different - for several reasons. Primarily it is down to belief and evidence. For instance, I think of it this way:

* 2 people support different political parties. Once every - say - 3 to 5 years, one of those parties will get elected into power. From that time, there will be considerable evidence over the next year or two that will either shake or support the "faith" of the person that supported that party.

* 2 people have different religious faiths (where 'faith' includes atheism to save me typing it all the time). The only time you will really get any evidence whether your god is the real one (or that one exists at all) is likely to be after your death - although in the case of Budhists they will reincarnate and lose that knowledge all over again?).

Anyway, the point is that debate of religion is a lot stronger and more personal because NOBODY actually has any evidence to support their case. There will always be a stronger - and just as unverifiable - argument that trumps yours. Such as, how can anyone be sure that god A isn't so benevolent that he/she/it happily supports followers of other faiths even though they deny him/her/it? Its a human differentiator that is very personal, precisely because it is soley based upon faith. An argument against that faith is often taken as an insult - thats just how it is for many people. Many faiths are actually interpretations of the same events and/or texts and they are supported by those that made those interpretations.

Personally, I find it amazing that in the case of the Norwegian tragedy, when Anders Behring Breivik was identified as a Christian based upon his lengthly writings, Christian journalists instantly jumped upon this and claimed it was false because 'no follower of Jesus could have done these things'. These are the same journalists that immediately identify a terrorist as a muslim/Islamist with no evidence even though the act of terror is abhorrent to the majority of leaders of the faiths.

Seperation of god and state is supposed to be a big deal but good luck getting voted in as US President (or even just a lower representative) without a history of turning up to Christian churches....


I think you are overstretching a bit to say nobody has any evidence.
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26 Oct 2011 07:05

Martin318is wrote:I think the answer to this is that religion and politics are indeed different - for several reasons. Primarily it is down to belief and evidence....


I wanted to comment on this, because it is a central point that has come up repeatedly.

For people of faith, there thus need be no other evidence than what scripture and their priests or ministers have told them. The objective and environment of faith exists within the boundaries of belief itself. It has its own self contained ends, which requires nothing really more than to believe and can't be rationally prooved or disproved as a result. This is why it is useless, from a rational perpsective, to challenge someone's beliefs, which exists prior to and apart from any historical evidence beyond that of tradition and lore. Nor is this the homework or job, I don't believe, of the layman.

In any case in our Western Civilization, since the Age of Reason, the pillars of faith have been increasingly challanged by the new rational philosophies, science and scientific historical methodologies, which have also been applied to, for example, the history, not faith or theology, behind religion and the historical and pseudo-historical figures that formed its basis. And there has been an extensive body of scholarly literature in this regard that began in the XIX century. For the first time, really, religion had been placed under the scrutiny of history, philology, art and architectural history and so forth in the academic sense. Prior to that, actually, any inquiry that challenged the religious dogma was, to a great extent, considered taboo; while intelectuals who did so literally risked their skins and so couched their criticism within the spirit of sacrcasm or reformation, without, however, outright challenging the very reality upon which the entire belief system was based.

Thus for the historian, or secular rationalist, the phenomenon of how a religion was built means that one can't be limited, or even find relavence in those things which satisfy a person of faith when arriving at their beliefs. By contrast the layman can only arrive at an understanding within the limits of human reason and historically verifiable events, which prohibit tradition or the supernatural, which he can not rationally accept, into his analysis of the past. He therefore accepts that beyond those limits, and perhaps as irony would have it he is going on a leap of faith, further understanding is not humanly possible. Whereas for one of faith those rational limits are not real limits at all, because belief allows one to supercede them and to "know" what the rationalist says is unknowable. In short they are speaking two mutualy exclusive and irreconcilable languages.

In any case, what the laymans' historical approach in this regard tries to build his case upon, is a historical and cultural preparation that requires in this instance: knowing the history of the Ancient Roman World, including its religious history in both the pagan and Jewish spheres. Knowing the history of art and architecture in regards to how an emerging religion was first given its identity in that world, and then how that identity was further given form and articualtion into the medieval period under the driving force of orthodoxy, etc. Then one has to know something of the history of scripture, not in terms of theological exegesis, but philologically, to understand what was original to the texts and what copious material was subsequently added by later writers to "confirm" what people already believed. Non of the latter, however, can be considered by the historian to be valid evidence, but rather as something to deconstruct in order to arrive closer to the original events.
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26 Oct 2011 07:20

Martin318is wrote:I think the answer to this is that religion and politics are indeed different - for several reasons. Primarily it is down to belief and evidence. For instance, I think of it this way:

* 2 people support different political parties. Once every - say - 3 to 5 years, one of those parties will get elected into power. From that time, there will be considerable evidence over the next year or two that will either shake or support the "faith" of the person that supported that party.

* 2 people have different religious faiths (where 'faith' includes atheism to save me typing it all the time). The only time you will really get any evidence whether your god is the real one (or that one exists at all) is likely to be after your death - although in the case of Budhists they will reincarnate and lose that knowledge all over again?).

Anyway, the point is that debate of religion is a lot stronger and more personal because NOBODY actually has any evidence to support their case. There will always be a stronger - and just as unverifiable - argument that trumps yours. Such as, how can anyone be sure that god A isn't so benevolent that he/she/it happily supports followers of other faiths even though they deny him/her/it? Its a human differentiator that is very personal, precisely because it is soley based upon faith. An argument against that faith is often taken as an insult - thats just how it is for many people. Many faiths are actually interpretations of the same events and/or texts and they are supported by those that made those interpretations.

Personally, I find it amazing that in the case of the Norwegian tragedy, when Anders Behring Breivik was identified as a Christian based upon his lengthly writings, Christian journalists instantly jumped upon this and claimed it was false because 'no follower of Jesus could have done these things'. These are the same journalists that immediately identify a terrorist as a muslim/Islamist with no evidence even though the act of terror is abhorrent to the majority of leaders of the faiths.

Seperation of god and state is supposed to be a big deal but good luck getting voted in as US President (or even just a lower representative) without a history of turning up to Christian churches....


Just as others have pointed out, the fact that nobody can have 100% positive evidence to prove or disprove the existence of God (or of their particular God or gods) does not mean there aren't hints, signs or indications one way or the other. The fact that no clear-cut answer can be reached does not make the debate futile. Once again, this is the same with, say, the debate about death penalty or public health care. Some people will favour one side, some people will favour the other. A general, established consensus will not be reached, but does that mean there aren't arguments for one side or for the other? Does that mean the debate is futile and we should stop wasting our time?

There are things that shake or support arguments based on faith. I repeat, faith and belief is no stand-alone thing. And faith and science are intrinsically related.

I have had believers trying to erect this firewall thousands of times. "Religion is all about faith, you can't question faith". Well, sorry Sir, but you don't have that privilege.
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26 Oct 2011 07:40

Descender wrote:Just as others have pointed out, the fact that nobody can have 100% positive evidence to prove or disprove the existence of God...


Atheists don't have to present evidence to disprove god. If people want to believe in a fantastical being then it is up to them to show evidence to prove it.

"An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof." -- Carl Sagan
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26 Oct 2011 07:49

BroDeal wrote:Atheists don't have to present evidence to disprove god. If people want to believe in a fantastical being then it is up to them to show evidence to prove it.

"An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof." -- Carl Sagan


I agree, of course. The burden of proof is on the theists' side.
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26 Oct 2011 07:53

Guys, I may have written that in a way that has made you misunderstand and as a result are making my point for me (and I think in one case simply agreeing with me).

What a person believes needs no proof. It is a truth to them.

However, when discussed by someone who does not share the same belief, the question of evidence is indeed one that is interesting as it is a way of reviewing and theoretically easily refuting that belief. These two positions result (I think) in a lot of the conflict regarding religions, in cases where the people having the discussion are a mixture of believers and non-belivers. for example:

I think you are overstretching a bit to say nobody has any evidence.


What is to say that an event that one person holds true to themself as evidence of the existence of their god, could not actually have come about through the actions of another faith's god? - (or fate, or blind luck). Note that I have NO problem with someone believing an event reinforces their belief, thats up to them.

Note also please that I am not arguing this idea as an atheist, I am merely making the observation as a Catholic. From the point of view of someone outside a particular religion, what is considered evidence within that religion is likely to struggle a bit under faithless scruitiny. The two sides are guaranteed to reach an inpass and often do so in loud ways.

I was commparing the difficulties of discussing religion with the discussion of other topics such as politics. When two people disagree on candidates, one of those candidates will get elected and ultimately there will be some idea of whether they were a good choice or not. There is heat and yes often burst of noise, but for a Christian (to pick one quickly) it is generally easier for a Republican to walk away from a discussion of Bush vs Clinton than Jesus vs Dice

Perhaps another way to look at it is that people refer to a political group as a 'leaning' based upon what they think - "Dave leans to the right" whereas a religion is more who you are - "Dave is a Mormon"
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26 Oct 2011 08:00

BroDeal wrote:If people want to believe in a fantastical being then it is up to them to show evidence to prove it.


But I assume that you agree that:

this is only true when that person is attempting to convince someone else that their being is real?

When under attack from an atheist (or believer of another faith) it gets a bit greyer. - why should they bother to respond actually...

When just standing there and keeping their beliefs to themselves, they don't need any 'proof' whatsoever.
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26 Oct 2011 08:22

I do not like to see any of ...

- intolerance preached as a necessity
- basic human ugliness dressed up as something sacred, and
- harm, dominance or control of, or toward, others

... done in the name of religion. We have politics and money for that sort of thing and, as I think Martin318is might agree, since these latter are variables rather than constants you can at least try to do something about them.

Here's my religion:

Arriviste's Entirely Personal And Fallible Theory of God(s) Borrowed Entirely From The Much Better Fermi Paradox:

I think gods are idealised concepts to which we attribute insuperable powers according to the flavour of the times, and which we then attempt to supplant with our own achievements.

Gods for me are yardsticks and pool games. Goals and diversions. Necessary but not of themselves an excuse for something else.

To that end, I believe in gods both as a malleable proposition and essential to human endeavour. Their actual existence is irrelevant.
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26 Oct 2011 08:48

Martin318is wrote:Guys, I may have written that in a way that has made you misunderstand and as a result are making my point for me (and I think in one case simply agreeing with me).

What a person believes needs no proof. It is a truth to them.

However, when discussed by someone who does not share the same belief, the question of evidence is indeed one that is interesting as it is a way of reviewing and theoretically easily refuting that belief. These two positions result (I think) in a lot of the conflict regarding religions, in cases where the people having the discussion are a mixture of believers and non-belivers. for example:



What is to say that an event that one person holds true to themself as evidence of the existence of their god, could not actually have come about through the actions of another faith's god? - (or fate, or blind luck). Note that I have NO problem with someone believing an event reinforces their belief, thats up to them.

Note also please that I am not arguing this idea as an atheist, I am merely making the observation as a Catholic. From the point of view of someone outside a particular religion, what is considered evidence within that religion is likely to struggle a bit under faithless scruitiny. The two sides are guaranteed to reach an inpass and often do so in loud ways.

I was commparing the difficulties of discussing religion with the discussion of other topics such as politics. When two people disagree on candidates, one of those candidates will get elected and ultimately there will be some idea of whether they were a good choice or not. There is heat and yes often burst of noise, but for a Christian (to pick one quickly) it is generally easier for a Republican to walk away from a discussion of Bush vs Clinton than Jesus vs Dice

Perhaps another way to look at it is that people refer to a political group as a 'leaning' based upon what they think - "Dave leans to the right" whereas a religion is more who you are - "Dave is a Mormon"


Religions lean too, I don't think that needs any further explanation. Your last paragraph is merely a tangle of semantic knots that lead nowhere. Or rather, that lead to the same place.

In any case, my point was not that discussing religion is as easy or transparent as discussing politics. My point was that questioning religion ought to be every bit as acceptable as questioning a political stance.

Take my other example, discussing literary works, or films. Is it easier to discuss these than to discuss religion? I don't think so. But one thing I know is that it is more acceptable. You won't hear anybody say "My liking Tarantino is personal. You can't use reason to question my liking Tarantino. This debate is therefore futile".
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26 Oct 2011 08:52

Martin318is wrote:But I assume that you agree that:

this is only true when that person is attempting to convince someone else that their being is real?

When under attack from an atheist (or believer of another faith) it gets a bit greyer. - why should they bother to respond actually...

When just standing there and keeping their beliefs to themselves, they don't need any 'proof' whatsoever.


Sure, but in that case they are only fueling the atheist (or believer of another faith) in their claim that God, or their God, does not exist and it is a product of their mind, or of other people's minds.

They might not need proof for themselves, but that won't make their God any truer.

There isn't a "true to me" as opposed to a true for everyone.
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26 Oct 2011 09:34

Descender wrote:In any case, my point was not that discussing religion is as easy or transparent as discussing politics. My point was that questioning religion ought to be every bit as acceptable as questioning a political stance.


never suggested that questioning religion is not acceptable - all I did was provide an explanation for why:

when you question someone's opinion of a film you get a reasoned discussion (with a sane person)

when you question a politic stance, you get anything from reasoned discussion to heated debate, and

when you question a person's religious beliefs, you can go anywhere from reasoned discussion to enemy for life.

Yes, of course there are 'leanings' that is just being pedantic - the reality is that there are very few people in the world that when asked would respond, "I'm a Tory/Republican/Democrat/whatever" at most they will call themselves socialist/conservative/etc. Whereas when asked, a much larger percentage of people will say, "I'm a Catholic/Mormon/Muslim/Jew/etc". In thoe cases, the people have grown up with the labelled religion since birth.

None of this means you cannot have a calm reasoned discussion with someone of a particular religion, it just MAY be an explanation for why things are more likely to go more pearshaped when it gets more intense.
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26 Oct 2011 09:38

Descender wrote:They might not need proof for themselves, but that won't make their God any truer.

There isn't a "true to me" as opposed to a true for everyone.


yes, but why should they CARE what is true for you or everyone, if they have no intention of trying to convert people and are just quietly living their life? (which was the context in which I made the point)
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26 Oct 2011 09:39

by the way, is there anything worse than getting caught in a conversation with a "born again..." who is keen to convert you? (doesn't matter which religion, born again anything seems to be bad)
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26 Oct 2011 10:13

Martin318is wrote:Guys, I may have written that in a way that has made you misunderstand and as a result are making my point for me (and I think in one case simply agreeing with me).

What a person believes needs no proof. It is a truth to them.

However, when discussed by someone who does not share the same belief, the question of evidence is indeed one that is interesting as it is a way of reviewing and theoretically easily refuting that belief. These two positions result (I think) in a lot of the conflict regarding religions, in cases where the people having the discussion are a mixture of believers and non-belivers. for example:



What is to say that an event that one person holds true to themself as evidence of the existence of their god, could not actually have come about through the actions of another faith's god? - (or fate, or blind luck). Note that I have NO problem with someone believing an event reinforces their belief, thats up to them.

Note also please that I am not arguing this idea as an atheist, I am merely making the observation as a Catholic. From the point of view of someone outside a particular religion, what is considered evidence within that religion is likely to struggle a bit under faithless scruitiny. The two sides are guaranteed to reach an inpass and often do so in loud ways.

I was commparing the difficulties of discussing religion with the discussion of other topics such as politics. When two people disagree on candidates, one of those candidates will get elected and ultimately there will be some idea of whether they were a good choice or not. There is heat and yes often burst of noise, but for a Christian (to pick one quickly) it is generally easier for a Republican to walk away from a discussion of Bush vs Clinton than Jesus vs Dice

Perhaps another way to look at it is that people refer to a political group as a 'leaning' based upon what they think - "Dave leans to the right" whereas a religion is more who you are - "Dave is a Mormon"


I broadly agree with you although I have seen politics discussed with what might be called religious fervour. I was just stating that they it is possible to present things as evidence for the existance of God, but just like a jury can decide evidence in a court of law is worth nothing, a person can reject the evidence as being false. For example I could present the words of the apostle John as a eye witness statement but others need to examine it and make up their own mind.
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26 Oct 2011 10:26

Martin318is wrote:never suggested that questioning religion is not acceptable - all I did was provide an explanation for why:

when you question someone's opinion of a film you get a reasoned discussion (with a sane person)

when you question a politic stance, you get anything from reasoned discussion to heated debate, and

when you question a person's religious beliefs, you can go anywhere from reasoned discussion to enemy for life.

Yes, of course there are 'leanings' that is just being pedantic - the reality is that there are very few people in the world that when asked would respond, "I'm a Tory/Republican/Democrat/whatever" at most they will call themselves socialist/conservative/etc. Whereas when asked, a much larger percentage of people will say, "I'm a Catholic/Mormon/Muslim/Jew/etc". In thoe cases, the people have grown up with the labelled religion since birth.

None of this means you cannot have a calm reasoned discussion with someone of a particular religion, it just MAY be an explanation for why things are more likely to go more pearshaped when it gets more intense.


I see what you mean. We are in agreement, then.
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26 Oct 2011 10:46

I suppose now is a good time for a bit of humor, which ties into the nature of this discussion:

A British atheist (a British guy once told me this, so I assume that it was a British joke) dies and finds himself standing before the Almighty Himself.

God asks the British atheist why didn't he believe in Him.

The British atheist responded: "Where was all the proof?"
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26 Oct 2011 11:49

rhubroma wrote:I suppose now is a good time for a bit of humor, which ties into the nature of this discussion:

A British atheist (a British guy once told me this, so I assume that it was a British joke) dies and finds himself standing before the Almighty Himself.

God asks the British atheist why didn't he believe in Him.

The British atheist responded: "Where was all the proof?"


That is usually attributed to Bertrand Russell, who was in fact a British atheist.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aPOMUTr1qw
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26 Oct 2011 11:58

Descender wrote:Just as others have pointed out, the fact that nobody can have 100% positive evidence to prove or disprove the existence of God (or of their particular God or gods) does not mean there aren't hints, signs or indications one way or the other.


Id say the contradictions constitute solid proof. That the Christian God doesn't exist.

God is omniscient but the "word of god" is unimpressive, filled with errors and doesn't demonstrate an iq anywhere near that of todays man.

God is benevolent but likes to throw all his enemies (about 99.999% of people who have ever lived) into torture for eternity.
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The Father of Clean Cycling, Christophe Bassons wrote:When I look at cycling today, I get the impression that history is repeating itself: riders who are supposed to be rouleurs are climbing passes at the front of the race, and those who are supposed to be climbers are riding time trials at more than 50 kilometres per hour.

The story is beginning again, just as it did 14 years ago


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26 Oct 2011 12:01

rhubroma wrote:I suppose now is a good time for a bit of humor, which ties into the nature of this discussion:

A British atheist (a British guy once told me this, so I assume that it was a British joke) dies and finds himself standing before the Almighty Himself.

God asks the British atheist why didn't he believe in Him.

The British atheist responded: "Where was all the proof?"


Its not a joke. Russell was serious ;)
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The Father of Clean Cycling, Christophe Bassons wrote:When I look at cycling today, I get the impression that history is repeating itself: riders who are supposed to be rouleurs are climbing passes at the front of the race, and those who are supposed to be climbers are riding time trials at more than 50 kilometres per hour.

The story is beginning again, just as it did 14 years ago


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26 Oct 2011 12:08

The Hitch wrote:Its not a joke. Russell was serious ;)


+1. I was waiting for a punchline that never came! :D
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