Month 3: Week 9, Day 4: More dialogue with atheists (see Vel, I listen :)

My email convo with Vel is using her publically available email (it’s on her blog) and my own (which is on mine) – I’m confident I’m not breaking any privacy concerns here and will let her – as Peter previously, know what I’m doing.

First email:

Good morning Vel,
It’s almost 11 am my time, but closer to 10 pm for you so no expectations for a quick response. I just thought it might be preferable to write here than on wordpress comments.
My first observation would be to agree with you that there is an external reality which doesn’t change just because of the believers’ belief (in general) though that is not a universal law. The best we can say is that in our own lived experience, our beliefs have not affected what we perceived to be real. There is a claim made to objectivity, but all of us are subjectively trapped by our own limited human reality, including frail and at times unreliable senses and mental faculties. I also want to address the ‘straw man’ approach you asserted of me, that I am a god of the gaps adherent or that ‘my god’ lives under a rock on Zeta Reticuli V – I love the name though as I too am a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy in books, movies and TV and I can tell you are simply from a cursory glance at your blog. Fundamentally and for further conversation to be productive, I want you to understand the following about me:
I am not a stupid and dogmatic Christian, in contrast to (according to you own characterisation, and with the acknowlegement that I have no reason to disbelieve it) people you’ve unfortunately grown up with. I actually have ‘read’ the bible (remembering that there are different versions and translations, so for as full a disclosure as possible, it is most accurate to say I’ve studied the bible texts since childhood, to a level far beyond the average layperson, I claim that if not a genuine expert, I am at least far beyond a novice with regards to interpreting the bible. You stated previously that you are comfortable with big words and terminology, do you already know what exegesis, hermeneutics and christology mean? To a Catholic like myself who has studied and read at the University level in theology, these terms are familiar but I recognise that not many lay people know them or are comfortable using them or similar concepts. I also note you hate links for links sake but I am citing these definitions (which I’ve taken the time to read: exegesishermeneuticchristology) I too have an NSRV Bible on my bookshelf behind this desk where my PC is situated and I read it periodically. I also have a ‘Catholic’ version from the Catholic Bishops conference of the Philippines which was given to me at the age of 20 or so when I was ‘Confirmed’ in the Catholic Church down the road from where I live, if you’re unfamiliar, it is a sacrament where a Bishop (who leads a local area known as the Archdiocese of Perth) personally agrees – delegated often to a local parish priest, that a person is demonstrably an adult Catholic, suitably formed in the faith to be considered mature enough to explain their beliefs to others when called upon to do so. I do not believe the bible to be ‘sola scriptura’ that is, all that is required for salvation by itself alone and with solely the activity of the Holy Spirit upon readers with no community involvement. I believe there is a tradition of instruction by others to come to an awareness of the faith, if you haven’t had that, then I’m sorry and I genuinely encourage you to not give up on Christianity, I believe that you’re actually not meant to ‘go it alone’ in life. As for the Zeta comment, know that my assertion is that God is not ‘in’ this reality hiding under any rock, anywhere (especially NOT Zeta Reticuli V ;p). I have faith, based on reason, in accordance with a biblical understanding and Catholic tradition, that God is a metaphysical reality not within the material universe but superior to it, outside it, beyond it. It is not possible to prove or observe God using purely the tools available to you in a materialistic sense via scientific methodology. If you will only believe in God if they prove themselves to you via these restrictions, you will not believe in God (as I agree that they have not proven themselves in such a manner, either to you, or to me). A corollary to this point would be that if you are demanding that a superior God submit to your will, then you are demanding that they allow themselves to be restricted by your demands, why should this be logically expected? If God is beyond you, superior to you, and you are a creature, do you feel justified in expecting them to behave as you require?
If you wish to engage further in respectful dialogue with me I am very open to it and I send this with goodwill.
Kind regards,
Dane (Honestdadvice)

First reply:

Always fun to be on others sides of the planet.  I’ve love to visit Australia, but I don’t if I can take the 23 hour flight to get there.  Maybe when they get suborbital point to point passenger flights J 

I’m a nerd in almost all ways.  Science fiction and sword and sorcery fantasy are my favorites and I’m a tabletop RPG player.  I’ve also gone to many conventions and have done cosplay.  My husband even let me dress him up.  The only think I really don’t’ do is computer gaming but with the VR devices, I may try that too. 

Where is the evidence you have that belief changes reality?  We do have some indication that observation influences quantum events but in the macroscale, no matter how much someone wishes something, it doesn’t’ come true.  You seem to hold out hope that something somewhere can change reality with a thought with no evidence other than “well, it might happen”.  This seems to be a common thing with theists, insisting that the teapot really could be in orbit. 

It is also common for theists to huddle close to solipsism in order to find a gap for their god with the claims that we can’t know anything but ourselves and that must mean this god exists.  Again, yep, humans are frail, and sometimes the brain goes on the fritz, but we have the scientific method to help with this and again, no god is to be found.  I have no problem at all pointing out that you, like all theists, rely on gaps of human knowledge to try to claim that your god is hiding in them.  What we don’t’ know “yet” is often used as a reason why belief should be held in some god. 


Like all Christians you must be dogmatic about some parts of it.  Catholicism is based on dogma, “a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church”.   I am also, if not a genuine expert, I am far beyond the average layperson.  I do know what all of these words you have given mean: exegesis, hermeneutics and Christology.   Exegesis, the interpretation of texts.  Christians come up with many versions of what they want to claim a text “really” means.  Hermeneutics: methods of interpretation.  Christians also have many of those.  Christology, the interpretation of what JC is about.  When I was losing my faith, I looked into all of these for answers.  What I found is that there is no one divine message, there are a lot of humans who want to claim that their version is the only truth, with no evidence.  I do like Catholicism and think that its smart to not be sola scriptura, but it isn’t any more coherent than Presbyterianism.  When I was in my teens, I went to Spain as a school trip and we were there over Holy Week.  That was quite an eye opener for my little Calvinist self. J  I even saw a bullfight on Easter Sunday where the bull got some revenge on the matador. 

No, I hate links when someone takes the lazy way out and won’t explain what on the links is important or how they understand it.   I do know what confirmation is.  My best friend in high school was Catholic so she taught me a lot of things about it.

All sects of Christianity have a “community” where some people claim to know more than others and that their interpretations are the only right ones.  I’ve looked at all sorts of versions of Christianity and their magic decoder rings that they claim tell them the “truth”.  If I am to believe the bible, then all baptized believers in Christ should be able to heal people.  It is very obvious that you can’t, so either the bible is making false claims or Christians aren’t getting something right. 

I don’t go it alone at all.  I have my husband, family, friends, experts in various fields, etc.  No god needed.  When I was a Christian, I certainly wasn’t alone, but that didn’t make the religion any more true. 

Every theist has faith, and most claim that they came to the faith by “reason”.  Many make the exact claim as you do, that this god is somewhere out side of the universe and beyond time, etc.  However, we don’t get that from the bible, and the “meta” God was invented afterward.  Per the supposed book that tells about this god, it stands on things, has to wait for events to happen, likes meat smoke, and is awfully dependent on humans.  This god supposedly affects the material world. 

Many Christians go for the more vague god since it is not so hard to excuse for its behavior.  Peter Tillich came up with the “ground of being” or some such vague term to support this meta god and make it harder to show that it doesn’t exist.  Karen Armstrong, a one time Roman Catholic nun, has made it more mainstream. It is indeed possible to show that this god has a rock bottom possibility of existence since we don’t find that physical evidence of its actions.   Unless you want to claim that this god has done nothing in the material plane?

I would believe in a god if it can show itself to be and not need humans who claim to know what it wants, etc.   I might not worship it since all gods worshipped by humans are just humans writ large and just as petty and vicious as any human.  We have the god of the bible proving itself in exactly the restrictions I have given in to the characters in the bible.  It is only now that this god is a no-show and theists must invent reasons why.  If Thomas warrants a personal interview, and this god wants everyone to come to it, then why is the reason I don’t get one?  JC gave Thomas a pretty gentle chiding for wanting evidence.  Now Christians often tell me that how dare I ask for evidence and that this god just wants faith that it exists. 

If it’s too arrogant to show itself, then exactly why should I care to worship it?  There is nothing restricting to asking for evidence when that evidence has supposedly been given with no problem. 

“If God is beyond you, superior to you, and you are a creature, do you feel justified in expecting them to behave as you require?”

Yep, I certainly do since per  your religion, your god made me the way I am.  If it made an honest atheist that wants evidence, and then refuses to provide that evidence to me.  Hmmm, seems that this god is rather childish. 

Do define what you consider “respectful”.  I’ve had very many Christians make this demand, and it always ends up that they think “respectful” only means I won’t contest their claims. 

My first reply:

Good to see your reply Vel,
I do hope you feel I’m being respectful to you thus far – I’m not trying to bend over backwards to be kind or conciliatory, it’s just that I genuinely do respect fellow intellectual people and can tell that you are genuinely interested in discussion and debate. Respect has nothing to do with blind compliance or acceptance of another’s view simply to avoid conflict. If anything I respect you more if you advocate for rational thought, are willing to consider your own and opposing viewpoints and demand the same from others. I really loved your comment “your god (in a qualified sense – as in I’m stating it, not you, don’t worry, not attempting to mischaracterise you) made me the way I am. If it made an honest atheist that wants evidence, and then refuses to provide that evidence to me. Hmmm, seems that this god is rather childish.”I think it’s insightful – assume for a moment that the Christian claim of God as creator of beings in their own image and likeness is accurate – what does this mean?To me it means, capable of creative endeavour, imagination, freedom of thought, in short what we call ‘human’. I also respect your evident desire for proof of god’s existence – if they are really there.I can only say that I respect your right not to worship my/the Christian God, I am commanded to love (even) my enemies (interpreting this as those who are not ‘for you’ as ‘against you’) I acknowledge this is problematic to some but I genuinely believe it to be instructive in regards to how I should approach dialogue with those who dispute God’s existence. I see you and other ‘new’ atheists as people first and foremost, worthy of respect and treating with dignity. I hope you do as well, but it’s not my place to demand that of you – it’s your free choice.I’d like to define ‘love’ as ‘willing the good of others’ for the purpose of discussion, ‘defining will as the earnest desire, with emotion and intellect/reason, to work towards with practical activity). Now full disclosure, I do believe the Christian message and value of evangelisation but you’ve heard the good news. It is a free choice to accept it or not. I truly respect that. If you don’t believe there is sufficient evidence for god for you, then fair enough. I am happy to explain why/how I derive confident belief in Jesus of Nazareth if you care, otherwise I am happy to leave it. It’s nice to speak to a fellow nerd/geek – I’ve never done cosplay (except dressing as Woody or the ‘purple wiggle’ for a few birthdays in my late teens and early 20’s but still I’m a big RPG fan and play the MMO – World of Warcraft pretty much daily. I also have a regular board game social group and we play the likes of Pandemic, Haunted House on the Hill, Lords of Waterdeep and the like.

Oh I forgot, the evidence that belief changes reality query was one I wanted to touch on too – in a secular sense I hope you’d agree with the psychological insight that perceptions due to mental state are important and do affect a persons’ lived experience. For example if you are focussed on how much you lack or want but don’t have you’re likely to be unhappy, whereas a shift in perspective towards gratitude for the fact that you have the basics of food, shelter, adequate sleep etc. might help you feel more positive/affect your mood in the same objective reality.I do also believe that miracles ‘may’ occur, it’d just be qualified by the reality that I’ve never experienced it, it’s a faith thing, not a science thing. I’m not claiming certainty that the miracles of the bible occured and I do question whether or not I have ‘faith equivalent to a mustard seed’ if I can’t just tell a mountain to go tumble into the sea. For me it’s not so much about miracles being the big showy stuff, as the fact there hasn’t been a nuclear holocaust despite the history of the arms race since WWII, I don’t think most humans are that responsible or ‘good’ so it’s to me improbable that we are still here despite the existential threat nukes represent. To me that’s ‘miraculous’, does that make any sense? The definition of a miracle is something that makes visible the invisible God. This is a highly subjective area. I think that may be why Atheists are unable to observe miracles. If you’re only going to accept inexplicable healings or walking on water or a man appearing in the clouds, well I just am not personally holding my breath, yet I still believe. Finally, yes at the quantum level I think the science is very reasonable in claiming that we can only know so much about a particle, either where it is or where it’s going but not both, leading to probabilistic models and the concept of ‘fundamental uncertainty’.
Kind regards,
Dane (Honestdadvice)

Vel’s 2nd reply:

Hello,

I’m going to combine my reply to both of your posts here.   


I do indeed agree with the idea that belief can change mood and that the belief that prayer works by the subject or others can make people feel subjectively better.  It’s little different than a placebo and we know those work, weirdly enough. 

However, belief does not change reality only its perception.  No one gets a reality of their own.   

Many theists want to believe that miracles occur; I sure did when I was a Christian and I was convinced that if I only prayed the “right” way, my prayers would be answered as promised.  Even if miracles don’t happen to the theist directly, there is the hope that someone somewhere gets a miracle and this leads to the gullible belief in claims of miracles with no evidence.  This also leads to victim shaming since theists often want to excuse their god by insisting that something the human did caused the god not to grant the miracle.  I’ve seen Christians that another Christian wasn’t “sincere” enough or has sinned in some way and thus this god was punishing them or ignoring them.   I find that to be no more than abuse. 

It’s not only a “faith” thing.  If miracles occur then we should have evidence for the vast majority of them, considering what is claimed as a miracle. 

I do believe you are claiming certainty that the miracles of the bible occurred.  Your religion depends on the certainty that they did, especially the raising of the dead.   Per the bible the faith equivalent to a mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds known easily to the authors of the bible.  The assumption that you don’t have enough seems to be only an excuse offered for you to continue to believe in your god. 

If you can’t move a mountain in to the sea, then there is no reason to believe that anyone can just by “faith”. 

There is no miraculous god needed for the reason that there hasn’t been a nuclear holocaust.  Us humans are smart, not always all of the time.  You want to attribute human caution and thought to some magic that you can’t show.  We can indeed show that humans are smart enough, usually, not to kill themselves off. 

Your religion depends on you accepting the false claim in the bible that humans aren’t good or responsible, that we are somehow dirty rags.   That description certainly doesn’t speak well of the supposed creator who made those dirty rags and supposedly knew exactly what it was getting, being omniscient and omnipotent, etc.   Happily, the nonsense that the bible claims about humans is largely wrong.  That dirty rags nonsense is no more than a pastor/priest inventing a disease and selling the supposed cure for it. 

Many religions make the claim  of miracles and I think they would agree that those miracles are supposedly the hand of a god made visible.  It should not be subjective at all, since again, many miracles should leave evidence.  The claim that atheists can’t observe miracles because they don’t’ believe is a common excuse for other religions too.  My wicca friends claim that their miracles can’t be done around unbelievers.  And to attribute actions to a god only depends on willful ignorance and a desperate need for evidence for the god in question. 

Let me ask you, do you accept the claims of miracles from other religions?  Do you accept that there are other gods?   In my experience, Christians do not, or they try to claim that those “miracles” are really from Satan/demons.  So whether you hold your breath or not, miracles don’t happen. 

Science does not claim that there is only so much we can know about a particle.  It says that it appears that we currently can only know so much.  Again, theists need to hope that science stops dead in order to preserve the gaps for their gods.  It may lead only to probabilistic models but again no god needed at all. 

Part 2 

I find you to be respectful enough.  Honestly, I don’t particularly care.  I can throw jabs back and forth with the best and don’t take things personally.  I don’t hesitate to land a punch when I feel it’s merited. I will point out that atheist isn’t a proper noun, though some theists love to capitalize it for some reason, as if it were some religion or philosophy.  

I rather liked my comment too about a god making atheists too.  I often use something similar when a theist (I usually engage Christians, Muslims and the occasional Jew since they are the most prolific) claims that they would be praying for me to agree with them.

The idea of a creator god making humans in its “image” has always been a curious claim in the bible, and Christians are certainly all over the place on what they want to claim it “really” means.  Since the bible has this god enjoying physical things, standing on blue stones, being literally seen by various people in the bible, wanting literally tons of gold/silver/jewels and finely dyed leathers, I have no reason to think that the original believers didn’t think this god as physical very much like the other gods invented in the Bronze/Iron ages.  As a side note, I love to read other mythos, even the just-so stories Kipling wrote.  My favorites are stories about trickster gods, like Loki, Raven, Anasi, etc.

I see nothing in the bible that says that this god is some vague numinous force.  I can have an aesthetic sense with no god needed.  Humans tend to have the same aesthetic sense since symmetry shows intact health and we are quite the animals to associate that with good.  We see no creativity from the god in the bible.  It is indeed presented as the creator, a baseless claim, but we have no idea if that is simply its nature.  This god, as presented by theists, is nothing but dogma, no imagination, to paraphrase “It is what it is” and nothing more.   

I can understand that you respect my right not to worship your god, and I appreciate it but it is not the common Catholic thing throughout history.  Your god has no such respect and will happily murder me and all of mine without a thought per your bible.  Christians don’t agree on predestination or free will, but the bible says that this god intentionally prevents some people from being able to accept it, and thus damns them for no fault of their own, as object lessons to the believers (Matthew 13, John 15 and Romans 9). 

One of the better things in the bible is the “love your enemies” part but I personally was surprised when I actually read the bible and it says not to resist evil at all in that bit of the bible.  Funny how pastors/priests choose not to mention those bits.  I’m too much of a disciple of Captain America and Captain Kirk to ever consider doing that.

The idea of “new atheists” seem to be something that Christians like to claim.  Have you read Robert Ingersoll?  He was no less aggressive than Hitchens, Dawkins, etc.  And oh, Mark Twain was blunt about religion.   Atheists have finally become less afraid for our lives and our livelihoods and we are indeed coming out and proudly.  I do object to you saying that we should be treated with dignity as if we don’t actually deserve it.  If you don’t mean that, then I apologize for the assumption.   

I agree, love is wanting or willing the good of others.   So, love doesn’t come into what most Christians want for non-christians.  It is the paternal assumption that what Christians have is good and is good for others.  Per the bible, it is not a free choice to accept the “good news”, since again, there are plenty of verses that support predestination, far more than there are for free will, even in the “church fathers”.  Is it free will if I have a sword, a pistol or the threat or eternal torture to my head? 

I would question the value of evangelization.  Per the bible, it seems to say that without being told the supposed “truth”, then those who don’t know are not held accountable for it and thus aren’t sinning.  So, the actions of evangelists/missionaries are damning lots of people.  And I see Catholics evangelizing to Protestants, and vice versa, I just have to roll my eyes in ridicule.   My Presbyterian church sent missionaries to Australia back in the 70s.  Now, I’m pretty sure you are sure that you have had Christians there for a while. J  

I know why people are certain their god exists; it’s very intoxicating to think you have some knowledge of the universe.  This is why I looked and looked and looked for the “truth” and why I’m a scientist.  And, again, if you kept it to yourselves and didn’t harm others with your religion, I wouldn’t care less.  But I see people being harmed again and again from the baseless claims about what a magical being demands.  This creates a reason why I vociferously stand up against religious claims and actions. 

Currently, my husband is running an Alternity game, a science fiction rpg game system put out by TSR/Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro, via video chat.  We used to play D&D in the Forgotten Realms for a long time.  I enjoyed running clerics.  It’s quite a different world where the gods respond and this world where there are believers and the god/gods do nothing. 

Cosplay and our adventures at GenCon  What the Boss Likes – Gen Con 2016 and our adventures in cosplay – part 2 – Club Schadenfreude

What the Boss Likes – vacation in Indianapolis for Gen Con 2016, part 1 – Club Schadenfreude 

What the Boss Likes – Gen Con 2016 and our adventures in cosplay, part 3 – Club Schadenfreude 

(I’ve read her blog posts, sounds really fun and interesting 🙂

My latest responses here (2nd reply from me))

Hi again Vel,
First off, I just wanted to let you know that just as with Peter – of the ‘Reality not fantasy’ FB page, I am intending to place our convo into my blog over time as posts, I do hope we can continue to have a constructive conversation into the future. I am truly curious if you are currently working as a scientist? In what field or area? Do you work in research? I want to touch on the comments you’ve made that are intriguing in the order you made them as best I can. Firstly, I am very curious how belief in any context can change the perception of reality without changing ‘reality’ itself? To me, what you’re saying from a mechanistic standpoint is that the brain of an individual who believes has the capacity to affect their physiology in distinct ways that contrast with the ‘hypothesised’ or possibly imaginary alternative person who is physically the same in all relevant respects but belief in the particular case in question. We tend to work in generalities but in the specific case of an individual like me. If I on a given day could be happy or unhappy with my life, I claim it would affect the reality of my life due to my choices and behaviour. I hope that makes sense, it’s in the context of the ‘shared’ reality with others than all interactions external to ourselves obtain meaning/significance. One of the best, most helpful insights of Catholic Christianity is that God = relationship and the ‘made in the image’ idea at a metaphorical level is that we are social beings, that we are meant to interact with one another (as I am seeking to do out of goodwill and desire for connection with you and others online). To be fair to you, I do not believe that God doesn’t answer your prayers because you aren’t good enough. My wife often suffers from that delusion and I frequently tell her the same thing I say here (my interpretation of the utility of prayer): God is not in the business of fulfilling all human desire, we are actually harmed by getting everything we want (as we often want that which is not a ‘need’ or in a longer term context is harmful e.g. cigarette smoking or alcohol or overeating etc.), I pray as you ((my wife) in the context of how I explain it regularly to her) should, for the grace to accept what comes as God’s will for my life, for the grace (defined as the supernatural assistance to do something beyond human capacity alone) to trust in God and believe that whatever happens, God will make good come from it for believers united with Christ and His Church. I actually think it very unhelpful for a person who is sick with cancer for example, to obsess over prayers to be healed, though it is understandable and I am in no way advocating they just ‘roll over and die’ – they definitely should seek help and treatment to the extent reason allows – for example a 40 year old mother with a child under 3 would be justified in spending more resources to survive than a 75 y/o woman with adult children and grandchildren. I suspect and believe that God (being genuinely omniscient) takes ‘everything’ into account and processing it ‘perfectly’ arrives at the ‘best possible’ outcome willing this into being at all times – as a believer in the resurrection, I’m not afraid of my own death/mortality, and trust that I will have an eternity with God in heaven. I do not ascribe ‘omnipotence’ to God as traditionally interpreted: that God can do anything. God is perfect but still limited, that is, God is perfectly good so is limited to only doing that which accords with ‘good’. In that sense I believe Catholics and Muslims differ, I’ve heard it said that Muslims believe Allah could tomorrow command murder as ‘good’ and it would be good, wheras for Catholics, murder is evil and God is limited to never command that which is intrinsically evil ‘become’ good. 
I’m not in a rush to explain everything all in one go but I’m unsure if I’ve mentioned to you previously my intent to write a book on Catholic Christian apologetics this year, the purpose of my ongoing communication with atheists being to get my thoughts in order, begin writing seriously and keep motivated and inspired for the creative endeavour to come. 
You asked a direct question so in brief (I’m really bad at brief): yes I do believe there are beings and things that are ‘supernatural’ other than God alone – e.g. angels, demons, a ‘place’ though non-physical (it’s not under the lithosphere somewhere in the mantle ;p) called hell, gehenna or hades where evil beings reside due to a rebellion against heaven which ‘failed’. I also suspect that humans have creative power – I know you know Neil Gaiman: the Anasi https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ananse reference was a giveaway and I love tricksters too, it also comes up as an idea in Supernatural (with the Winchesters) that perhaps human belief ‘creates’ gods (lower case/lesser than God) beings with power in certain domains and places. I do not believe God needs our belief or derives extra power from us, being perfect and thus is entirely self-sufficient. I also don’t believe true angels (including lucifer/satan/ the ‘devil’) require disbelief in God to have power, they are what they are as God is what God is, as we are what we are. I don’t think any of us get more power from belief and get weakened by others unbelief in us. However, I’ve often attributed human creative power to ‘group psychology’ for example belief in astrology or numerology might make it ‘true’ or perhaps more accurately give it the capacity to affect the perception of reality for subsequent people who hold it to be so. That doesn’t mean that the explanatory framework is correct e.g. that a constellation affected the nature of the being born at that time/space when the ‘sign’ was dominant. If many Africans in sub-saharan Africa 1000 years ago believed in spirits, perhaps their beliefs manifested in ‘reality’ somehow. Equally if many asians and moderns alike believe that 8 is lucky, perhaps it ‘makes’ the number more lucky (for them). Food for thought… 
Kind regards,
Dane (Honestdadvice)
Honestdadvice.wordpress.com
https://www.facebook.com/Honestdadvice

PS I do not believe you don’t deserve respect fundamentally or that I’m somehow ‘giving you a bone’ by being respectful – indeed, I am commanded by Catholic Christianity to consider all as worthy of dignity and respect as we are all one human family, made in the image and likeness of God. It’s a very useful (socially) idea, whether or not it comes from a divine inspiration or not. It’s also a very inconvenient idea (short term) as it requires far more deliberate care, effort and conscious consideration to be respectful than to be flippant, disrespectful or callous. I see all those as morally inferior as well of course, but even if they are morally ambiguous, I still choose to take the effort to try to be good to others in the hope of being an example others can then choose to imitate 🙂

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11 thoughts on “Month 3: Week 9, Day 4: More dialogue with atheists (see Vel, I listen :)

  1. “I am commanded by Catholic Christianity to consider all as worthy of dignity and respect as we are all one human family, made in the image and likeness of God. ”
    then why doesn’t your god reflect what you say is the right thing to do?

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    1. I thought you didn’t believe that there was such a thing as my god? How can you expect to see the ways God allows human dignity if you won’t see God? That is illogical. I am not (just) being flippant, I am also making the point that treating people with dignity is subjective yet still important. Secular humanism as advocated by Matt in a video from 2018 Pangburn on YT with Jordan Petersen elaborates a little on what the ‘manifesto’ of the ideology/position is. Are you familiar with any versions yourself? Is dignity the right term to use for what you think humans are owed, or perhaps only just ‘humanity’ in a generalised sense and any humans who do rub you the wrong way can ‘get stuffed’? I do not criticise you for that attitude if so, I have it too. Treating people with dignity isn’t what I feel like doing much of the time. It’s a choice, I make the choice due to my religion’s teachings and also due to logical reasoning. Basically if I want dignity and I can’t rationalise why others are lesser than me and still justify why I would deserve dignity then I must give others the same treatment I desire. Hmm sounds a bit like a certain yellow coloured rule…

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      1. Well, Dane, I am disappointed. Really, you tried that nonsense of claiming I must believe in your god if I speak of it as a character? No, Dane, I do not think your god is any more real than Darth Vader, but I can speak of both as characters since it is easier.
        I do not need to believe in your god to know what Christians and the bible claim about it. You are being flippant to try to avoid the issue. No one deserves respect or dignity, they earn it. I have no respect for or consider dignified those who would intentionally harm people because of some belief in a god.
        You seem to assume that all atheists believe in the same thing. We most certainly do not. I agree in some of the secular manifesto’s ideas, but not all. Yep, people who do evil aka “rub me the wrong way” can indeed get stuffed and I’m more than happy to punch Nazis.
        The golden rule has been around far longer than Christianity. So don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.
        It’s also notable that you didn’t answer my question: Why doesn’t your god reflect what you say is the right thing to do?

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      2. I think you assume too much of me, I am human and not a mind reader, your question is woefully vague. I don’t accept the premise that God doesn’t reflect the moral law to do to others that which you want them to do to you and for that as a basis to include intrinsic dignity. Perhaps you will choose to be more specific and then we can discuss this further

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      3. Dane,
        is it okay to kill children for the actions of others?
        Your god does this with no problem repeatedly, killing David’s son, killing the children of various tribes that occupy the land that the Israelites want, etc. Is it okay for a human to do the same thing?
        Why doesn’t your god reflect what you say is the right thing to do?

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      4. Thanks for the specific queries, why does the narrative in the Bible not reflect the concept of respect as you see it? Simply that you labour under the delusion that this life is all there is and that there is nothing broken and evil lurking in your own and my heart called sin, you’re not just a human being worthy of respect and dignity, you, I and everyone else is also an as you like to express it, dirty rag. I completely understand that you wouldn’t admit this as it’s not a part of your worldview. Basically if you are cut off from God the consequence of either enslavement or death makes consistent sense. As to the killing children for the actions of their parents, are you so naive as to believe that children are a tabula Rasa? Yes, I do recognise that there is the potential to start again and reject some examples from our forebears on some things but by and large humanity goes on with what our ancestors did and thought, you are just the incredibly fortunate recipient of many human changes since JC came to earth, objectively the cause of the largest ever change in human societies was the concept that God wants us to be redeemed from our sons, in order to become acceptably worthy of eternal life as a birthright but only if reborn, aka baptism due to the lack of deserving it if irredeemed, which is part of an answer to your query.

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  2. Hello, Dane,
    I’m not currently working as a scientist. I am a geologist.
    Belief is a subjective thing and thus the perception it creates is subjective. It has nothing to do with how reality acts. You appear to have assumed I think that the brain is some separate thing from the human being. It is not.
    The reality of your life is again subjective, dependent on how your brain chemistry might be. And to an outside observer, it may not be. However, the “cold equations” don’t change. A ladle of molten steel will still incinerate flesh. Your opinions do not affect me other than any actions you might take because of them. Those actions aren’t subjective of course. If you punch me, that will be quite real. If you try to put your opinions into law, they will be quite effective in reality too. But that does not make your opinions true.
    We do have a shared reality, and that shared reality has no evidence for the claims of theists. I get to see that by watching you all contradict each other.
    As for a relationship with your god, one might say a child has a relationship with their imaginary friend. This imagined relationship has no basis in reality. Those characters cannot be shown to exist.
    Again, Christians disagree on what parts of their bible are to be taken literally, metaphorically, so I just see Christians making things up with no evidence.
    We are indeed social beings. No god needed for that. You want to pretend your god “made” us to be social animals. Like every theist with their god and their creationism.
    I already know that this god doesn’t answer my prayers since it doesn’t exist. You might claim you are sure that it doesn’t answer my prayers, but that doesn’t mean I’m not good enough. That’s only a baseless claim. You offer the usual excuse for your god’s failure, that it doesn’t “fulfill all human desire”, but that is not what your bible claims. JC says that any prayer, no exceptions, will be answered by him. Christians have invented excuses why he always fails. That’s what you get for believing in a book authored by many ignorant humans. You must constantly bring up to day, with new excuses.
    Nope, we are not always harmed by getting what we want, again that is just an excuse. Your excuse fails when we know that your god doesn’t heal people as promised. One has to wonder how a child is harmed if their parent is healed from cancer and doesn’t die. Or a parent is harmed when their child dies.
    Such the arrogance in telling me how I should pray. You self-edit your prayers since you know you god will fail every single time you ask him for something. You ignore what your bible says since you know this. You try to pretend that your god needs evil and somehow “uses” it to make things “better” but you have no evidence of this at all. It’s rather like watching a 1930s German telling themselves that Hitler needs to do these evil things since it will make things better. Surely, the one in power knows better than you, right?
    I’m sure you do think it is unhelpful for a person with cancer to actually think about the promises of the bible and the promises of Christians. However, your bible says to be loud about asking for help, as the blind men were. Now you counsel them to be quiet.
    It’s also interesting to see a Catholic declare that there is a resources based value on a life. That it is more good for a mother to spend resources in trying to live than an old woman. Per your bible, the elders of the church can heal anyone by anointing and a prayer. Why need to go to modern medicine at all?
    You may suspect, and believe, but you make up what you want your god to be and that god cannot be shown to exist. You offer only the “best possible world” apologetics which is always amusing when this god is claimed to be omnipotent, able to do *anything* with no limits. You of course want to change the definition of “omnipotence” since it doesn’t fit with the reality you are faced with. This is no surprise, and again, shows the theist always following reality, never the other way around. Your god says it is the creator of evil too, so you intentionally ignore your bible when it is inconvenient.
    Christians have constantly told me that as long as this god does it, murder is fine, killing children is fine, killing all non-christiansn is fine. The bible says it is fine. You have created a new religion for yourself. You, like many many other Christians, want to play word games with “murder” and “killing”.
    Apologetics, be they for Catholics or other Christians, or other religions are the same things claimed, and always funny how the apologist will ignore the same apologetics used by another theist. Apologetics aren’t for atheists and non-christians, Dane, they are for the Christians themselves, to convince themselves that there are “reasons” why their god fails.
    Other Christians believe in the same things you do, as do other theists, with their good spirits, bad spirits and magical afterlives. And a “rebellion” in heaven? Oh how silly. We have this god that creates rebellious creatures and is “shocked, shocked” that they do what they are made to do. Then this god is desperate to show off to these creatures and works with them to get its plans to work. Such a terribly ridiculous story. BTW, there is a very fun book called To Reign in Hell by Steven Brust that details this rebellion. More fun to read than Milton, anyway.
    Humans do indeed have creative power, no gods needed. You need to pretend that humans don’t create your particular god because of the need to pretend that yours is the only real one. The fact is that humans create all gods, even yours, since every Christian has a different version of that one floating around in their brain.
    This god obviously does need us if we are to believe the bible. If it did not, then it would have remained as itself. This god also interacts with time and matter, per the bible. The “ground of being” was invented, again by humans who know that the bible fails rather dramatically in its claims. This god must be made more vague to continue to exist.
    Your religion is no different or more true than astrology or numerology (considering how much numerology is used in the bible). It is group think to assume some magical god that agrees with only a certain group of people.
    A religion that says I deserve to be eternally tortured doesn’t respect me. Respect isn’t a big thing for your religion, considering that JC himself called a woman a dog and people swine.
    Being respectful doesn’t require much, just to stand down when someone should be called out for their claims. I have no respect for your religion. I withhold judgement if you deserve respect or not. Your example is not one to be imitated since it depends on false claims that can and do harm people.

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    1. Yes in reading back over our comment history I saw you stated you are a Geologist. I know you don’t respect my religious beliefs and I don’t expect you to, I know my God is a very patient and tolerant one when it comes to putting up with insult. Jesus called people dogs and swine? Oh no, heaven forbid, especially if he meant it as an insult right? I mean what could God possibly think about sinful humanity and how to get that point across in memorable ways? Perhaps by use of language designed to shock and remind people of their lowly status? I don’t mind if you don’t respect me either, I am still going to choose to be respectful to you regardless. Good day Vel

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      1. Your god demonstrates no patience or tolerance in the bible Dane. We have this god taking a tantrum with Adam and Eve. We have this god killing David’s son. We have this god killing every non-christian in Revelation. Actions speak louder than words.
        Tolerance: “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own”
        Patient: “manifesting forbearance (a refraining from the enforcement of something (such as a debt, right, or obligation) that is due) under provocation or strain”
        The only way you can claim it is patient and tolerant now is that it does nothing at all. Just as if it were imaginary. I can do anything I want in regards to pointing out the failures of this god and, for all of the smiting it used to do when someone dared to doubt it, it does nothing at all. That isn’t patience or tolerance, that is impotence.
        You keep insisting on respect, but again I’ve shown that your religion doesn’t offer it. I do find it amusing that you have no problem in excusing JC’s disrespecting the Samaritan woman and those who do not accept his baseless claims. Now, you claim that this disrespect is okay by this god as long as it “gets the point across”.
        So much for objective morality. If the actions are wrong for me, then they would be wrong for your god too *if* they are objectively wrong. However, it seems that you want to excuse your god for not following this morality just because it is god. This makes this morality you claim subjective since it only depends on who someone is, not the action it self.
        One of the worst thing about Christianity is that it has to lie and claim that humans are “lowly” e.g. the nonsense about filthy rags. Again, it is just the claims of pastors and priests that there is some magical disease and that only they have the cure for it. The RCC has become rich because of that false claim.
        It shows that you god is incompetent in its manufactures. I am very glad to not believe in the need to pretend that humans lowly and that only some have the “right” answer.
        As for respecting me, do what you will. Your bible also says one has to respect the emperor so I’m not impressed. (1 Peter 2, which also has that nice bit about slaves should never try to gain their freedom).

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      2. One point I’d like to pick up on is the idea of equivalence in terms of morality: you said if the actions are wrong for me, they’re wrong for your god too… I dispute that you have the same status as god/s in terms of respect or dignity, I’m not saying you’re not worthy of respecting and being treated with dignity, I’m saying that the inherent nature of you (and I) is created/creation, not creator/author. The right of the author over their creation is superior/higher. We are ONLY worthy of respect and dignity to the extent that our creator imbues us with this property by their existence and continued choice to allow us ‘shared’ existence, as we are dependent upon reality for existence. If you cease to exist, God doesn’t get affected negatively. But if God doesn’t exist then I argue that you do get affected negatively in terms of their being no reason not to ignore your rights and just disregard any claims to dignity you might posit. Let’s try to approach this another way – do you want to be respected by your husband? Do you believe your husband wants to be respected by you? What about in a case (hypothetical or real makes no difference to me, I’m not judging you) of sado-masochism with agreed upon rules (between the two of you), where ‘abuse’ or abusive behaviours are condoned for sexual pleasure either temporarily or in an ongoing way in that relationship. To an outsider, this might appear something needing to be stopped, unless they listen and accept your freedom to behave in mutually agreed ways. For myself, this is analogous to how God interacts with humanity. We are supposed to follow rules and when we don’t we are able to be ‘justifiably’ abused in the context of language in the noted case of JC and the Samaritan woman at the well – I like that story by the by, JC says she is a disreputable woman, by the moral standards He asserts as rules.

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      3. Dane,

        As it stands, there is no evidence for your heaven or hell or sin. Not believing in something that has nothing to support it is not a delusion. It is your bible that calls humans dirty rags. Not me. I find that concept nothing more than psychological abuse perpetrated by people who want to sell something.

        I would not admit to your abuse since it is not true. It is the nonsense spread by people who want to control others. That you think that someone has the right to enslave or kill anyone for a disagreement is rather disturbing.

        And speaking of disturbing, your attitude toward killing children is indeed that. Children are a tabula rasa. They must learn, and that learning is shaped by their physiology and environment. And no, the largest change to society is when people discovered fire and agriculture. Your version of your religion has reached few since even most Christians don’t agree with it.

        I do note that you did not answer my questions: is it okay to kill children for the actions of others?
        Your god does this with no problem repeatedly, killing David’s son, killing the children of various tribes that occupy the land that the Israelites want, etc. Is it okay for a human to do the same thing?
        Why doesn’t your god reflect what you say is the right thing to do?

        I know you want to pretend your god is better than me. And you want to pretend the creator has the right to do whatever it wants. Yep, nothing more than might equals right.

        No, Dane, you only think that we are only worthy of respect and dignity because of your god, that your god is ever so wonderful to “allow” us to exist. That is the attitude of the abuser and of the abuser. If I cease to exist, that’s all that happens. Again, no evidence for your god at all. We already know what happens if your god doesn’t exist: no change to what we have at all.

        Humans don’t need your god to respect each other or consider their dignity. With your god, I have no reason to think that humans have any worth since, as you claim, we don’t have any to your god. Without your god, humans don’t have to care what some god thinks. We can make our own decision and we have worth to each other, no god needed. Christians already ignore the dignity of others that they are sure aren’t good enough for them aka their god, simply dependent on what you play pretend this god wants.

        I am respected by my husband and he respects me. No god needed again. Sadomasochism with consenting partners is not abuse. You know this since you put quotes around the term abuse in that instance. You forget that humans have never consented to be abused by this god. Your analogy fails.

        In the story about the Samaritan woman, JC does not call her “disreputable”. He impressed her with knowing what she has done in the past. She has had five husbands, no word on what the circumstances are (it could be as silly as what is described in Matthew 22), and is evidently living with a man under no marriage. This doesn’t seem to bother her or JC. Then she wonders if he is the messiah tells people, and they end up believing too. JC claims that salvation is from the Jews. No evidence of that either, and knowing that Christians ignore the commandments, it seems that they don’t have that salvation either. It’s curious that you claim its okay to be a jerk if someone is “disreputable”, but go on about respect.

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