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Marion On February - 14 - 2011

COEXIST

I’m an atheist, but I’m pretty tolerant in my non-belief. I don’t mind people of faith, as long as they don’t start trying to convince me that their way is the right way. Conversely, I don’t try to impose my non-belief on others. It works for me, but I’m cognizant of the fact that some people derive comfort and strength from faith and religious practice.

I also realise that our Constitution stipulates complete religious freedom. We are free to worship where and how we like, or not to do so, if we so choose. And this selfsame document precludes anyone being denied a job or profession based on his faith, or lack of. Put simply, a person’s religious convictions or lack of such convictions, shouldn’t matter in any walk of life or in the pursuit of any profession, even unto the office of President of the United States.

I get, as I’m sure many people do, the nuance behind many people on the Right thinking that the President is a Muslim.  Not only is this a fear inculcated by repercussions surrounding events which happened on Bush’s watch, it’s fear of “the other,” encouraged by the Rightwing media machine.

Our President certainly is different than any other we have previously had. He looks different. His name is different. I can just about remember something similar occurring during President Kennedy’s term, when people worried that the President’s Catholic religion would mean he would defer to Rome first and the United States second. That’s a pretty silly fear to have, but we’ve not seen any Catholics in the Oval Office since, albeit the men who are one and two heartbeats away from the President practice that faith.

Like me, Bill Maher is a non-believer, and he doesn’t stint on criticism of anyone who adheres to a faith. People of faith, Bill says, are deluded.  More than that, he’s archly critical of that Rightwing demographic, who propagate the notion that the President is Muslim; and well he should be critical. It’s an assumption based on nothing more than Big Lie propaganda.

The Big Lie is a propaganda technique, introduced by Adolf Hitler and refined to an art by Josef Goebbels.  It’s a merciless and pejorative public relations operation meant to eviscerate a targeted opponent. It’s basically a lie, so totally outlandish as to be unbelievable; but repeated enough times, more and more people begin to accept it as the truth.

The obvious Big Lie of the 20th Century was the one which led to over 6 million people being gassed to death during World War II, when the German people were convinced that the core cause of all their problems was down to people of the Jewish faith, living amongst them.  Now we have to suffer the Right, aided and abetted by Fox News, casting doubt on, not only our President’s citizenship, but also his religious credentials.  It’s also demonisation of one religion in the land where the concept of “freedom of religion” was fostered.  Linking the President with the Muslim faith links him with those people whom many Americans identify as having been behind the single biggest terrorist attack in history – and we’ve all been told how Obama pals around with terrorists.

On Friday night’s Real Time, Bill Maher managed to get into a contretemps of sort with his guest, Dr Cornel West, when Bill remarked casually that he didn’t think Obama was a Christian. He elaborated the point by reminding Dr West that the President’s mother was a secular humanist, and he thought the President was as well. Never mind the appearance at the Prayer Breakfast, where the President took advantage of the situation to speak openly about his faith.  That was all for show; and furthermore, continued Bill, he didn’t believe Obama “struggled” with same-sex marriage either.

OK, I know what Bill thought or intended to mean.  Maybe he was trying to convey to the super-cool ueber Left, of which he’d like us to believe he is a part, the Left which derides and looks down upon religious faith, that the President really is “one of us” – nudge, nudge, wink, wink.  And, oh, he was pretending to be a centrist too, it seems, although Bill did admit that Obama was a pragmatist.

But in saying something off-the-cuff and totally unfounded on any fact, not only does he further establish the President as being part of “the other” syndrome, he also insinuates that the President is a liar.

On the one hand, he excoriates the fact that many on the Right refuse to accept the President’s word that he is not a Muslim, whilst on the other, Bill, himself, refuses to accept the President’s eloquent declaration of faith – something which, incidentally, our Constitution distinctly reiterates that he shouldn’t have to make at all.  It shouldn’t make any difference to us what the President’s faith is or whether he follows any at all, as long as he governs well and responsibly; the President’s faith is his personal matter.

And whilst I do accept that, to some people, it matters a great deal that their leader believes in a higher being, I would imagine it would matter a lot more to these people, and indeed to all of us, if our leader were found to be openly lying and deceitful about that which he purports to believe, himself.

So, my question is this: Was Bill just trying, after months of subtle racist insinuations masked as comedy, to big the President’s cool and au courant credentials up to the shallow sheeple of the ueber Left, whom he’d formerly convinced of Obama’s “weakness,” or was he indulging in a little bit of the Big Lie, seeking to propagate “Obama atheism” as a counter-fear to the President’s supposed penchant for Islam? After all, the only thing worse than a Muslim, in some people’s eyes, is an atheist.

As Dr West succinctly observed, somebody’s wrong here.

292 Responses so far.

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  1. whatsthatsound says:

    KevenSeven, I defy you to find ONE example of me “self professing” to be a Christian. I will happily wait.

    • bito says:

      WTS, isn’t it a bit odd that discussions on religion often become, regress, to “Oh yeah, my Dad is smarter than your Dad and he can beat up your Dad while it most times is very personal? Did not the Buddha, Christ Job and many not of the thinkers not question existence and the cause? I am more concerned with those that think they know the truth. The mystery is yet to be discovered and it is up to investigate or not. Some are satisfied with what they have been lead to believe, to think. Some need a “proof.” At one time it was a “proof” that the the world was flat and the earth was the center of th universe. It took the minds and bodies to explore, not concede to the given.
      Questions remain and those that choose not to question remain, are certain, and I feel that they may be the lesser.

      • whatsthatsound says:

        Absolutely, bito. And although I may be guilty as charged in terms of one-upmanship, I do resent having words put into my mouth for me. When I screw up, I want it to at least be MY words, not somebody else’s.

        As for what else you said, I couldn’t agree more. I’m not even sure I “believe” anything. I ponder, I question, I consider, I observe, and I experience. I think those are enough.

        • KevenSeven says:

          “(kevenseven)hasn’t experienced any positives from (religion)”

          Uh, huh.

        • KevenSeven says:

          Well, I too resent having words put in my mouth, and I have had many inserted on this thread, so I can sympathize. So what religion do you adhere to?

          Or you don’t believe anything? You certainly are pretty invested for a guy who does not believe anything.

  2. KillgoreTrout says:

    Khirad, thanks for your thoughtful reply!

  3. Khirad says:

    Okay, I finally watched this, and my question is this:

    How come no one mentioned Hooman Majd was on?!

    He’s fucking brilliant AND witty.

    And his expertise and insight was WASTED.

    Oh, and how Maher brushed aside Islamophobia when Majd brought it up as a socially acceptable form of bigotry?

    Hello?

    Recommended:

    The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran

    The Ayatollahs’ Democracy: An Iranian Challenge

    What a waste of a panelist. An utter waste.

    • Marion says:

      Bill’s an Islamophobe. He’s scared shitless because Mohammed is one of the most popular names in Britain.

    • ADONAI says:

      That was always one of my big problems with Maher. Even in the early days of politically incorrect when I was a loyal fan.

      He just “wasted” panelists far too often. Never cared to pursue an issue with someone extremely knowledgeable on it. Simply dismissing it and moving on.

    • KevenSeven says:

      Maher is less than perfect as a host and is blatantly tendentious.

      I concede that point.

      Gotta run to work.

  4. AdLib says:

    Hey, I’m jumping in here to play a rare role of Moderator…not the “Your comment has been sent to” type but the debate type.

    As civil as folks are here, which is very, discussion and debate of religion requires a bit of extra consideration.

    No one here is going to change anyone else’s mind about their personal beliefs so a constructive approach would be to be more exploratory than dismissive.

    This is not to say that beliefs shouldn’t be freely expressed but generalizations and unflattering portrayals of people who believe or don’t believe something have no constructive purpose and advance no meaningful conversation.

    I appreciate everyone’s consideration of this as the conversation continues.

  5. david p canada says:

    Bf you want to equate my personal beliefs in regards to true Christianity with the war-mongering, abortion-doctor killers, go right ahead.

    But you’d be as wrong as you could be.

    I hate being painted with that brush, usually wielded by genuine haters.

    • jdmn17 says:

      David, your post brought to mind, along with AdLib’s comment some comparisons. We humans seem to struggle with religion, politics and sex. Because of some very effective work by certain elements of the media (both side of the liberal/conservative fence primarily) we seem to have polarized into two very divergent groups that are highly sensitive to each others. Add in some Libertarians, Socialists, Communists and whatever else you want and we have a very large mishmash of ideas. Same can be said for religion. It used to be, my experience, that people acknowledged others religions and politics -- we were more prone to joke about it than screw up our faces in disgust. It seems like we were much less prone to judge or talk down to others beliefs. But the media seems to have driven wedges into us and when doing so people have reacted defensively and taken even harder positions

      I think two years on HP along with having worked with a particularly aggressively conversion oriented religious man left me with a sour taste in my mouth for both conservatives and evangelical Christians. You said a couple of things the last week, and others have chimed in here and have given me some pause to stop judging and labeling as I’ve been doing.

      I have retraced my roots back to the Evangelical (Baptist) Eisenhower Republicans who raised me and I am now left to wonder why the far right gets all the press and the quiet Christians who do believe in the teachings of their religious leader are somehow shoved aside for the blaring headlines of the more outrageous members of the Christian faith. I decry the lumping of all Muslims into the same group as Terrorists yet I’ve been remiss in letting myself hear the word Christian and shuffling them off to the world of evangelical nuts.

      The same is true for conservative and I’ve been guilty of lumping all conservatives into the same family as Sara, Rush, Beck and Fox News.

      I think I have some work to do. Let someone be who they are, speak to who they are instead of immediately dismissing them because I know their religion and politics.

      For example, I have read enough of your posts that I would never equate you with the people who harassed and threatened me with death over the phone and in my mail box because my former wife worked as a nurse at Planned Parenthood, not on the abortion side but treating young women and their sexual partners with STD’s. She had no truck with the abortion side, was personally against it but felt it was a woman’s right. So for that we felt hunted and scared and two months ago when a man showed up in the PP parking lot in MN with a loaded pistol it brought it all back to me.

      I have also read enough posts from people here who I respect like crazy who express their religious beliefs ranging from atheist to Christian and Muslim. I think I need to work on being more open to what people believe in. It doesn’t affect me as long as people don’t try to change my thoughts, well, maybe arguing their point is in some ways trying to change me. Or are they simply explaining because they like where they are and want me/us to know?

      I don’t know. Late, rambling, but this thread has given me a lot today

      • Mightywoof says:

        jdmn -- gosh what a thoughtful post!! I so agree with what you’ve said here …… tribalism seems to have been unleashed in the world and nobody wants to sit down and talk with The Other they just want to shout and hurl insults (which is NOT the same thing as spirited debate)

        I felt the same way about conservatives and religion -- especially Christianity -- as you …… but then I ‘met’
        Choicelady and her words and the work she does makes me realize that there are truly good people out there who do follow the precepts of their faith and walk the path of goodness, I also read the story of Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish (a good Muslim) so, while you don’t have to have faith to walk a righteous path, there are those who walk that path with their faith.

        Since 2008, the rise of the Fruitcakes calling themselves conservatives made me tar all conservatives with the same brush but then I started reading David Frums forum and found that there are conservatives in your country, pariahs in their own party nowadays, that are just as concerned as those of us who call ourselves liberal/socialist/commie about the level of social and political discourse and the level of debate there is invigorating even if you can’t subscribe to the conservative philosophy.

        Like you, I’ve learned not to be so judgemental and tar all the religious and all the conservatives with the same brush.

        Excellent response!!

  6. SueInCa says:

    Perhaps the difference in Obama’s “religious actions” is the denomination he belongs to, United Church of Christ. I attended that church for a long time and they are not your garden variety religious fanatics. It is hard to put your finger on how the worship, kinda mystic, kinda godly, participation from lay people and open and affirming. It is the closest I ever got to feeling comfortable in a church in my adult life.

  7. SueInCa says:

    Marion

    Bill is a very angry atheist. To me it is as simple as that. Unlike others he has made a movie making fun of others’ faith. I saw the movie and in fact thought alot of the issues he pursued are valid, especially from the radical side of ANY religion or atheist including Bill. I am not sure where I stand in this argument. I don’t believe I have to participate in an organized sect to be a good person but I am not really ready to say there is no “higher power” either. I guess I am somewhere in the middle of it all.

    So…………believing as I do, I really don’t care if the president is a martian. It has nothing whatsoever to do with his ability to lead the country and it offends me that some on the religious right seem to think it is the ticket to the promised land. All you have to do is conjure up Ted Haggard to know that is a big fat lie.

    • From what I have seen (I used to watch him on Politically Incorrect a long time ago), Bill seems to be moving from atheist to anti-theist.

      An atheist has no purpose or interest in deriding and denigrating another person’s faith. An Anti-theist, on the other hand, will treat people who are of faith as if they are perpetuating a heinous crime.

      This is because the nature of an anti-theist states that faith is a crime, or, in some slightly more tolerant cases, the purview of the intellectually damaged.

      The fact is however, both an atheist and an anti-theist are products of faith as well. It is not possible to disprove the existence of a deity, any more than one can prove the existence of one. Atheism, and it’s more militant cousin, is faith that there is no God.

      I freely admit that I am a spiritual person of faith. My spiritual tradition is not the same as others. My spiritual tradition is one that makes sense to me, but that does not mean I am “right”. I freely admit that I may be wrong. And if I am wrong, I will gladly pay the consequences for it, whatever those consequences are.

      As a person of faith, I freely admit that this makes me somewhat unique. However, part of my faith says that I am not a god, and only a god can be infallible.

      That’s called humility.

      • KevenSeven says:

        Wow.

        Speaking of painting with a broad brush and simplifying and caricaturing…..

        Could you work any harder to depict us anti-theists in a bad light?

  8. whatsthatsound says:

    I think it can probably be summed up this way: Religious people probably shouldn’t talk about atheism as if they know what it is. They do not have the correct insight into it and end up mischaracterizing it and reducing it to absurdity.
    AND
    atheists probably shouldn’t talk about religion/spirituality as if they know what it is. They do not have the correct insight into it and end up mischaracterizing it and reducing it to absurdity.

    • ADONAI says:

      I’ve studied both for a decade.

      They’re equally arrogant and equally smug in their knowledge of “the truth”.

      But, again, that is just my opinion from my own study on the subject.

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      You have just equated the same thing as, “above right and left.” Good and evil. Beyond good and evil is closer to reality than any suggestion of good, or absolute evil. Religions, of any denomination have the absolute power or dictation determining what is good or evil. But it is a determination from a metaphysical point of view. It is not reality based.

      • Khirad says:

        Actually they don’t all have that absolute power.

        There is a lot of debate and interpretation within, depending on religion and sect. Polity and hierarchies also vary wildly.

        I dug the Nietzsche reference though.

        • KillgoreTrout says:

          I suppose I meant absolute power, if one allows it by a strict adherence to scripture. Fundamentalism comes to mind.

          • whatsthatsound says:

            Fundamentalism most certainly comes to mind. It is the biggie, the aspect of religion that does the most harm. But perhaps the most radical “fundamentalist” who ever lived was Pol Pot, and he was an atheist. So I really think that religion needs to be considered from a much wider perspective than most of its loudest critics view it from.

            For example, you seem quite certain that science is superior to religion. Are you willing to own that the scientific method yielded Hiroshima as well as small pox vaccines? If so, then mightn’t you be willing to concede that religion has both inspired and enslaved men?

            • KevenSeven says:

              Science did not produce the attack on Hiroshima. Politics and war did so. If we had not had the technology to nuke Japan, we certainly would have continued to carpet bomb their cities, creating firestorms that killed as many in one attack.

              What is so horrifying about the atom bombs dropped on Japan is not that they killed so many in one attack. As many died in Dresden, and nearly as many died in several Japanese cities.

              What is so horrifying is that the damage was inflicted with a single plane and a single bomb. As a people we were perfectly prepared to lay waste to Japan’s cities. The American people were relieved to have had so potent a weapon.

              War inevitably escalates to barbarism. It is unavoidable. Which makes a good argument for resisting going to war, I’d say

            • whatsthatsound says:

              Kilgore, you can disregard my last question. I see that you are quite open minded and tolerant as regards spirituality as opposed to rigid, doctrinaire religions.

      • whatsthatsound says:

        If I understand what you are saying (and I may be missing out completely), you are basically demonstrating the validity of my above statement. Most of religion is NOT a determination of what is good or evil -- it is simply an attempt to describe the universe, as well as man’s place in it. Read the Bible, the Vedas, pretty much any religious writing, and probably a good ninety percent of it will be people describing what they saw, experienced, etc. Only a small fraction will be anybody telling anybody else what to do. However, that is the part that ends up causing all the trouble.

        • KevenSeven says:

          The bible is a string of narratives of a bunch of bronze aged peasants trying to make sense of bacteria and earthquakes, and this is some way to describe the universe?

          Which revolves around which? The Earth or the Sun?

          Fer crying out loud. Religion was an effort by ignorant backward people to explain the universe and man’s place in it.

          Science is an effort by informed people using reason and observation and method to explain the universe and man’s place in it.

          Religion was the first attempt at philosophy. Much better work has followed outside of religion.

          • whatsthatsound says:

            You’ll have to tell ME how this proves the existence of God, because I never wrote anything of the kind.

            • KevenSeven says:

              Excuse me? You are a self-proclaimed christian who does not believe in god?

              What does the bible provide humanity that thousands of philosophers over the millennia have not? Besides a fiction of a supervising being who is keeping tally of how many times you have whacked off and is going to present you with the bill after you croak?

          • whatsthatsound says:

            The Bible is partly what you say, but it is other things as well. For example, in the psalms and other portions you will find people attempting to put their numinous experiences into words, just as you will find in nearly any religion. Anyone, having such experiences, would wish to describe them, including you. It is not the fault of such people that their words got shoved together with other words written by people you accurately refer to as ignorant.

            • Khirad says:

              Killgore Trout, What we’re stumbling over here is a definition of terms here, I think.

              I know that when you get technical there are many who would argue that Dharmic religions (Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism) are not religions in their Western definition even. Buddhism and Taoism further have the absence of a deity either altogether or in Buddhism’s case (except Tantric and Tibetan) the deities may or may not exist, but it’s just not important.

              I’ve been using ‘religion’ self consciously as a ‘system of belief’ which has otherwise common elements of a religion. In Hinduism, the Vedanta school is more a philosophy, and the other of the great six schools of Hinduism (no longer extant), Samkhya, was atheistic itself.

              In other words, for simplicity’s sake, I refer to it all as religion, knowing full well it’s much more complicated than that. It’s a broad brush which perhaps only helps perpetuate the broad brushing of different religions itself in polemics.

              Hitchens attempted to tackle the Eastern Religions in “god is not Great”. He failed in my opinion, not because they are above criticism, but because he wasn’t very informed about them. His criticism was about as bad as C.S. Lewis’s, ironically enough.

              I still find much of atheism -- and I’ll push the envelope here -- as a reaction to Western monotheism, in particular Christianity, which it grew out of. And it is sort of stuck in the very dualistic framework of Christianity. Sam Harris does a bit better job of being cognizant of that irony.

              But here we go, how do we sort out of the different iterations and admixtures of philosophies, religions and ‘ways’? They are all worldviews. When it involves a text, some sort of clergy and ritual -- I just opt for ‘religion’ whether or not there is a supernatural element or deities involved.

              For instance, modern Unitarian Universalism has proven one doesn’t need to believe in God (or any particular dogma) to have a religion. My congregation’s reverend is an atheist and gives sermons on atheism!

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              Khirad;

              I am a Taoist. I know it is referred to as an Eastern religion, but I would call it more of a philosophy.
              81 ideograms of remarkable wisdom.

            • Khirad says:

              Heck, even Hitchens has acknowledged that.

              And the Bible has trouble cohering with itself because it is so varied in content.

              The narratives were strung together a bit later.

              Also, who was talking about proving the existence of God?

              Is Buddhism not a religion then? Taoism?

            • jdmn17 says:

              I am not a Christian or Jew. Yet the 23rd Psalm has always given me comfort.

              When my father died, we had a horrid relationship and the funeral was just more of the same as I was seated toward the back of the “family” seating while his fourth wife and step son sat in the front row. The minister had no idea who I was, that’s how estranged we were. He asked me finally if I had a reading I wanted for him. He hated the 23rd as much as I loved it. I used to recite it to myself when he hit me -- never really talked about that before -- hmmm

              Well the minister brightened right up and was happy to read it. I was the only one in the church it hit the way it was meant. And it gave me comfort once again.

              I think the bible, well I have never studied it but I think the intent of much of it was simply to offer guidance for people to treat each other well and to find some peace. At least that’s my completely and probably naive perception.

              I left Christianity at age 12, telling them I was going to church and instead walking around the lake near my home talking to the birds and watching nature.

              There’s my diety. Nature. Not much or enough for many, more than enough for others. It suits me.

            • KevenSeven says:

              OK, so some people described transcendent and numinous experiences (which atheists can experience, btw) and this proves the existence of a god, how?

              How is religion necessary at any point of this discussion?

      • whatsthatsound says:

        ?????

    • Mightywoof says:

      My Mum told me never to discuss politics, religion or sex if I wanted to keep friendships -- she was certainly correct about religion! I’m an atheist and I’m OK with that -- I’m OK with folks who find solace in spirituality or organized religion. I won’t pretend to understand why people need it but that’s OK -- I won’t force my views on anyone and I get upset when others try to force their views on me. So yeah -- correctomundo WTS!!

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        When someone contemplates existence it is nobody’s right to say you are wrong or right. The entire concept of right and wrong are man made.
        The only morality that we can make use of is that we are all connected. Connected on a basis that includes the entirety of of everything in the universe.
        We are made up of remnants of stars and the basic elements that arouse out of that star quality and quantity.
        That is as close as I can explain it. An aging traveler in the cosmos.

        • The Dood says:

          Killgore
          A lot of what’s been said here is part of why I “became” Buddhist. I have probably been so all my life and just didn’t know it had a name! I’ve been reading some of Stephen Batchelors books (he calls himself a Buddhist atheist) because even in Buddhism there are the dogmatic beliefs and rituals that turned me off to traditional Christianity long ago. Spiritualism is a personal thing…even atheists can be spiritual..nobody has all the answers!

          • KillgoreTrout says:

            There is much wisdom in Buddhism. Part of that wisdom is the advice that say respect all religions. Religions are just different pathways to the same destination. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another.

      • whatsthatsound says:

        I have been both atheist and believer, and I see value in both. Neither my decision to reject the idea of a greater intelligence nor my later switch came about without a lot of deep thought that still goes on to this day.

        When I see the shallow attacks from either side I can only shake my head.

      • PlatoSunTsu says:

        Well said, as soon as someone tries to tell me why what they believe is “right” all I hear is what’s wrong.

    • david p canada says:

      Very well put.

      There does seem to be a lot of wishful thinking here about Obama being an atheist strolling around in Christian drag.

      If he says he’s a Christian, that’s good enough for me. I’d better have some damned convincing evidence before I’m going to call the President a bald-faced liar.

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        I really don’t think a president’s religion, or lack of religion should ever be an issue. Theology is not in his job description.

        • KevenSeven says:

          I really don’t think a president should have to be taller than his electoral opponent, but I dare say that over the last 70 years the winner of the election tends to be taller than the loser.

          I really think we should all have magic ponies that don’t need hay and don’t poop.

          Until our three preferences come to pass, perhaps you and I could focus on what actually is. Rather than what we would prefer would be?

      • whatsthatsound says:

        Yeah, exactly. HE is the only one who knows what his beliefs are, and how he came to them. Everything else is worth the price of a Starbucks Latte, IF you throw in four bucks!

        • KevenSeven says:

          Well, I don’t know if you are not a brain-eating cyborg, either, now do I?

          But I am pretty sure that Obama is an Atheist. And I have no difficulty in so saying.

          But thank you for your valuation of my opinion.

          • KillgoreTrout says:

            How could you even know such a thing?

            • KevenSeven says:

              That Obama is an atheist? Obviously I cannot “know” it. He never brings it up in our monthly lunches.

              I don’t “know” that you are not a cannibal, do I?

              I am of the OPINION that he is an atheist. There you have it. I hope that I may express an opinion without being excoriated for it.

  9. Caru says:

    “Osiris, I am your son, come to glorify your soul, and to give you even more power.” ~ Horus, (Book of the Dead, Ch. 173)

    “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.” ~ Jesus, (John 13:31-32)

    Let’s just say that remakes aren’t a new phenomenon. 😉

    • Khirad says:

      I won’t even bring up the woefully ignored contributions of Zoroastrianism at this point.

      It wasn’t so much a remake as copyright infringement.

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      I would say there is no need for glorification. Anyone being glorified is setting up the concept of, I am better than you. This goes against true spirituality and is the cause, or reason for all wars.

  10. KevenSeven says:

    I think you are reading a lot into Maher’s comments re: Obama’s faith or lack there-of.

    Of course, you detest Maher, as you have made a point of saying for the last two years here. That’s OK, Bill is a smug little dick.

    But I for one don’t believe for a moment that Barack Obama believes in any flying spaghetti monster in the sky.

    Did I just call my good friend Barack Obama a liar? I suppose I did. What of it? He’s a politician. His morning movements smells as much as anyone else’s.

    I just listened to the president’s press conference, and while I cannot recall the point he was making, I remember thinking that he was just proposing one cut or other in order to force the Repugs to cast an embarrassing vote, that the Dems could then use in the next election.

    I like Obama. A lot. But as an anti-theist, I gotta insist that he does not walk on water.

    I think Maher is spot on. Obama has no religious faith, but professes a faith due to his need to gain votes.

    Hey, if the religious are so easily duped, tough luck of them. I wish it was not necessary to suck up to the bible thumpers, but there are lots of things in this life that do not suit me very well. This one is not at the top of the list.

    • jdmn17 says:

      Keven

      I wonder what would happen if a candidate for public office, when asked of his/her religious beliefs said:
      “none of your fucking business”?

      They can’t of course and I for one am interested to know because far too often a religious affiliation these days can lead to assumptions regarding what sort of socially repressive legislation they will pursue. I suppose I’m giving myself away there. I never met a deist who was promoting a religious agenda they wanted the rest of us to follow. (Cringing now because I’m sure there are examples I’m going to get blasted with)

      In the end, if the guy/gal is religious and doesn’t bring it to the office I could give a crap what they do on Saturday, Sunday or if they smear themselves with bear grease and dance naked under the full moon on the White House lawn. Actually that might be quite refreshing

      • This is one reason I have resisted the urge to run for public office (although it does seem like easy money).

        I have no inclination to disclose my favorite sexual position, what kind of underwear I prefer, my opinion on the latest crop of American Idol contestants, why I am not married (because it ain’t legal, for one reason), why I don’t have kids (gee, someone around the house 24/7 to accuse me of sex crimes?), my recipe for chicken soup (over my dead body), or a nine-hour interview picking apart my spiritual beliefs.

        When are we going to elect officials rationally? I don’t care if a candidate is a blood-drinking worshipper of Team Edward. I want to know that they can do the job, that they have a firm grasp on real priorities, and that they have plans that will work. (This day and age, the ability to knock skulls together at the conference table wouldn’t hurt, either)

    • pfz says:

      Oh I think Obama is a Christian, i just don’t think he takes it seriously. He is a non practicing Christan if you will.

      • KevenSeven says:

        I’m sorry, but I have no idea how one is of a religion, yet does not “practice” it.

        Sounds like a big fat guy glued to his sofa calling himself a professional baseball player. I don’t see how the two can exist in one person.

        • Khirad says:

          Not all religions are orthopraxic.

          I don’t see your point.

          • KevenSeven says:

            OK, sloppy of me.

            Christianity is emphatically orthopraxic, and we were discussing the idea that Obama could be a xian without taking it seriously.

            I’m sorry. But for me anyone who does not take their religion seriously is not of that religion. And one is not a xian if one is not a practicing xian.

            Which is one of the points that we atheists rather like to consider: America is an xian nation? Really? People who have not been in a church since their parents dragged them there are not xians on the strength of their parents dragging them there as children.

            Non-practicing Jews are still Jews, btw, because “Jew” means both or either a religion or a culture. A very ancient culture, based on some solid philosophical tenants that have been adopted in many other philosophies. So a Jew who has not seen the inside of a Temple since being bar mitzvahed is still a Jew, at least in a cultural sense. Most likely. (I suppose there are a few slobs who wear mullets and eat pork rinds while watching professional wrestling. They may have left both the religion and the culture.)

      • david p canada says:

        How do you go about “practicing” Christianity?

        Get a megaphone and blast Bible verses all around Times Square? Get on TV and fleece little old ladies out of their pension checks?

        I think it’s about doing your best, realizing that no one’s perfect especially yourself, and treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated.

        Obama is more like that.

    • ghsts says:

      We live in a country where you can not have an honest stance on religion as a politician with out the religious making that your entire platform. I don’t think he lies to get votes, but to deflect the entire discussion. It is when for example he funds faith based initiatives that he is pandering(perhaps as a pragmatist.)

    • david p canada says:

      If what you say is true, the the President of the United States is a swindler and a scoundrel of the worst kind.

      Even being a Conservative, I don’t believe that for a second.

      • jdmn17 says:

        David -- that made me laugh. I have been around the world of antiques for years and I’ve seen many old newspapers from the late 1800 and early 1900 hundreds. They used some of the most colorful words to describe each other during the campaigns.

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        In my humble opinion, Obama is doing the best he can, given the cards he was dealt. I think he is a brilliant man and a decent man. But occupying the immense position that he does, the job, to be really successful, requires abilities beyond the scope of human existence.

    • Khirad says:

      You and I appear to be the dissenters here. I’m sorta calling him a liar too. But I don’t begrudge him for it, and kinda think it may only be a sort of “half-lie”. I think he has been moved to an extent by Christianity and Jesus, but that he is not exclusively Christian in any traditional sense. I’ve already said it before, but I think he’s more Unitarian in his beliefs -- though I’m fully self-aware how much I’m projecting here.

      • KillgoreTrout says:

        No man, right or left or even in the middle can successfully handle the affairs of men/women in the real world. Concepts. ideals and hopes, do not always translate into reality.

    • PocketWatch says:

      KevenSeven -- I, for one, never question anyone’s declaration of belief or lack thereof. Means nothing to me one way or the other, frankly. As long as they don’t try to prozletize, I couldn’t care less.

      Having said that, it does bother me that politicians have to pander to religious ideologies. Imagine if we had a really, really great candidate for high office on either side of the “great divide” who was an avowed atheist…

      Can we all hear the screaming and commentary that would ensue?

      That’s a problem to me.

      8)

      • KevenSeven says:

        Well, you may or may not question other people’s professions of faith or love or hope or whatever suits you. It is a free-ish country.

        And you may go ahead and be bothered by the reality that it is next to impossible for an American pol to get elected without faking some religious conviction. You may as well go to the shore and scream at the tides for all the difference it makes. Until Man loses his fear of death, people will insist on believing in god. And those people will insist on being offended by people who do not believe in god.

        I find people chewing gum offensive, but I don’t make any sort of deal out of it. Not worth the trouble.

        My opinion: Obama is a secret atheist.

        • Ricestarz says:

          Wow, I know I’m in the right place now…KS, long time no see:-D

          I hear what you are saying. Even though I was ticked by Bill’s comments ( I took the chance to watch after months and months of not doing so) as I knew it would fire up the right, I too believe he is too smart to be a “Christian”. I could care less if he is or isn’t, but I just think that he is too smart and pragmatic- also too world and cultural exposed to declare one to be better than another. That especially as the so called Right Christians are so evil towards him. Can’t believe in that kind of h8 in any religion. I’m almost sure he doesn’t.

        • whatsthatsound says:

          “Until Man loses his fear of death, people will insist on believing in god.”

          K7, it is just as inappropriate for an atheist to oversimplify and generalize concerning a religious person’s belief as it is for a religious person to generalize and oversimplify atheism.

          • KevenSeven says:

            I think it is you that is over-simplifying and caricaturing.

            I was not attempting to write a full essay on philosophy and psychology here. I did not say that the only reason that people cling to religion is their dread of death.

            I said that religion will be with us as long as Man fears death.

            • whatsthatsound says:

              That’s right. You said that religion will be with us as long as Man fears death. And that is what I consider to be an oversimplification. As there is much more to religion and spirituality, they would continue to be with man even were fear of death to suddenly not exist.

          • KevenSeven says:

            I was paraphrasing Freud there.

          • KQuark says:

            I think K7 is right on that one but it’s only one reason people need to believe in the traditional notion of a supreme being. I think man has a need for answers for why we are here and what is our purpose in being here just as much. That’s the main reason fundamentalists cannot accept evolution.

            Having been clinically dead a couple times I don’t fear death because it was not the scary place people think it is. It was really just like a peaceful rest. The deepest sleep you can imagine.

            • whatsthatsound says:

              Oh, I agree with K7 that fear of death is ONE of the things that religion originates in. But like you, I don’t believe it is the only one. But, that’s what K7 tends to do, oversimplify and reduce to caricature, where religion, faith and spirituality are concerned. That’s what I’m referring to.

            • KevenSeven says:

              Oh, there are all sorts of reasons that people “need” to believe in the flying spaghetti monster in the sky.

              I just cannot credence any of them.

  11. PlatoSunTsu says:

    I really find it disheartening when people claiming to be on the ‘left’ openly attack religion for it’s own sake.
    I have no problem criticizing (dogging if you will) any of the dogmas of any religion, especially some of the more oppressive aspects,customs, commandments; but the openly aggressive attacks don’t “play” well and speak of blind intolerance.
    Religion, in it’s own way, does in fact accomplish positive things and contributes to society, it may well be one of the last things keeping many zealots in check as opposed to the ones that use it to practice zealotry.
    Just IMHO

    • KevenSeven says:

      Be disheartened if you must, but the simple fact is that religion poisons everything.

      Go ahead. Tell me about good works, about charity.

      Then you need to credit Hamas and Hezbollah with being forces for good. You want to take that position?

      This is not about “blind intolerance”. There is ample evidence to indict religion and “faith”

      Try this on for size:

      Name a good deed or utterance that could be done or made by a person of faith that could not be done by an unbeliever.

      Now the corollary:

      Name a wicked or evil deed or utterance committed or made by a person of faith in the name of their faith that could not be done by a person lacking in a faith.

      What atheist blows up a church or mosque or synagogue because it does not comport with his belief systems? Happens every week in the real world, and it is always the work of some religious zealot.

      The extremism of the zealots is built right into the religion. The religion claims to a special understanding of the mind of the maker, and an authority to enforce that will on those around the believer.

      Sorry, not buying a nickel of it.

      • PlatoSunTsu says:

        “religion poisons everything” everything? Everything is a pretty broad statement/generalization. I guess it would be important to say that I’m not religious, spiritual yes, but I follow no organized religion, I guess I’m just smart enough ( or dumb enough as you would probably think) to realize that there is more there than I know, a great many things that neither I nor science can adequately explain.
        I am also cautious with people that feel they know everything unequivocally and without doubt, whether they are religious or not are the most dangerous of all, there is no black and white in anything… religion included.
        I would offer and many would agree that the zealots you speak of act outside the religion that they and you hold them accountable to.
        Point taken that many acts are committed in “the name of” religion, just like the crusades etc…but then of course who’s to say these wouldn’t have been committed anyways, just because someone twists a religion in a selfish pursuit does not justify it or condemn it as orthodoxy, alot of the “religious” acts of terrorism you speak of are thinly disguised acts of racism, separatism, nationalism, conquest, expansion etc…
        Ya know the thing is five years ago I would’ve agreed with most of what you wrote, completely…I’ve just had experiences that have taught me to look at everything a bit differently…

        • KevenSeven says:

          “( or dumb enough as you would probably think)”

          Where do you get the idea that I think it is dumb that there are all sorts of things that Man cannot explain? I never said anything of the sort.

          And the incitement to violence is intrinsic in almost all religion. To claim a superior understanding of the mind of god is to claim the right to murder and enslave. That simple.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      @Plato, I am a believer, but I have come to think that organized religion is a net negative for humanity.

      All people, whether they are religious or not, do both good and bad things.

      Religion makes some people behave better if they follow a religion.

      Bad people will do bad things whether they are religious or not. But religion also makes otherwise good people do things that are bad only in the name of religion. Therefore, religion has more negative consequenc­es than no religion.

      That said, I truly have no problem whatsoever with anyone following a religion. (I suppose that makes no sense.)

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      At best, it is a double edged sword. Yes, in general, most religions do work some good in the world. But many work harm as well.
      I don’t usually condemn or praise anyone for there religious beliefs unless they try to impose those beliefs or consider themselves to be a superior human being because of their faith.
      I like to think that people can be moral beings without religion. But, that may be more of a wish than a reality.

  12. Caru says:

    Only Sith deal in absolutes.

  13. zippitytoo says:

    Fundamentalism, including fundamentalist atheists(like Bill), is dangerous.

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      Could you explain the concept of fundamental atheism?

      • KevenSeven says:

        Careful. Soon somebody will be trying to convince you that atheism is a religion. I can’t get enough of that one.

        • david p canada says:

          I believe it would be more accurate to say that some atheists spout their haughty non-beliefs with religious fervor.

        • Khirad says:

          It’s not a religion, but a worldview -- and an absolutist one in its fundamentalist iteration. No one said it was a religion. You don’t have to be religious to be a fundamentalist in its broader sense (which is, of course, meant to be ironic).

          I just don’t know. That’s far more honest. I don’t care who believes what, and hey, it may not be all wrong, even though I don’t believe any organized religion has it all right.

          • KevenSeven says:

            What is absolutist about saying that I have been presented with no evidence of the existence of god?

            I’m not saying that it is impossible to find evidence of the existence of god, I’m just saying that thus far, I have not seen any such evidence.

            I see nothing fundamentalist or absolutist about that.

            Now I do think that I can characterize a profession of a knowledge of the mind and will of god as rather an absolutist position.

            I make no claim to know the mind or will of god, now do I?

          • KillgoreTrout says:

            Plato Sun Tsu; maybe it’s a matter of semantics. Mathematics is a univeral (in reality, a global) language. It is extremely logic based. But there are events and beliefs that defy logic.
            The western world of thought depends on objectivism. Things we can observe and measure.
            But there is also intuition, foresight, which cannot be quantified in any concrete sense. Or Empirical sense.

          • KevenSeven says:

            Well, actually, on this very blog atheism has been called a religion, so do be very careful with that absolutism that you seem so concerned about.

            There is nothing “absolutist” about atheism. To be an atheist is to say that one has yet to see convincing evidence of a god. It is not to say there is no god. Just that one has no reason to believe that there is.

            The ABSOLUTISTS are the people who say there is a god and that they know his mind. Plenty of them kicking around.

          • KillgoreTrout says:

            I agree. My atheism doesn’t come from some sort of absolute truth. I simply choose not to believe in supreme beings. I give the existence and intelligence inherent in all of Nature a higher position on the ladder of truth.

            • PlatoSunTsu says:

              I don’t think belief has to be limited to “Supreme Beings” or any type of conscious entity as we would ascribe to it…couldn’t it be in just an underlying order…look at mathematics,a cornucopia of proof there for a higher and unknown order.

        • Gransview says:

          Yes I am wrong? THANK YOU! I guess that settles it!

        • KillgoreTrout says:

          Yeah, that one gets me too.

    • KillgoreTrout says:

      What is a fundamentalist atheist?

      • Gransview says:

        Anyone who shuts out the possibility of more-- no matter what.

        • KillgoreTrout says:

          I don’t get your meaning. What do you mean by, “more?”

          • Gransview says:

            It’s just a mindset. I don’t accept any specific formal Religious view, or traditional concept of a “God” in “heaven”. Doesn’t make me an atheist. My concept of “God” is still evolving.

            I may be wrong, but an Atheist is not open to an evolving point of view here.

            • PlatoSunTsu says:

              I’m right there with you.

            • KillgoreTrout says:

              I think in most cases, an atheist has investigated all possiblities for the existence of a supreme being, and has found no evidence to support such beliefs.
              I am not saying I have a definitive answer for all existential questions. I just believe that if such power exists, and i am sure it does, it can’t possibly be attributed to any singular being.

            • KevenSeven says:

              Yes, you are wrong.

      • david p canada says:

        Possibly an evangelical atheist, hell-bent (no pun) on spreading the good news (gospel) about atheism.

        • KillgoreTrout says:

          Yeah, that is the supposed meaning I guess. But there is no, “gospel,” in atheism.
          I don’t think atheists should go around condemning people because they believe differently than the atheist does. To me that is the opposite side of the same coin.
          I feel no need to push my beliefs on others. But, when people seek to inject religious tenets or beliefs into our laws, then I have a problem with them.

  14. ADONAI says:

    Someone lying about it is the biggest deal for me. It doesn’t matter if you’re an atheist or an evangelical, you;’re both just as intolerable to me.

    I’m agnostic. A Deist in the purest sense of my beliefs. People think that if you’re an atheist it means you don’t believe in a man in the clouds. No. It’s much broader than that.

    You don’t believe in a higher existence, period. You deal in absolutes concerning a universe that leaves no room for them. No thanks. I’d rather remain curious about an existence I or anyone else barely understands.

    Which isn’t a defense of religion. The other absolute. The assured attitude that they know how the universe came to be and how it will end. Nonsense. Even their own book tells them they can’t know. Doesn’t stop them from telling you every fucking day.

    If we got rid of religion, arrogant secularists would find a new cudgel to bash over the heads of the supposed “unenlightened”. A new ego stroke.

    The real lie is that we pretend to know. One way or another. Folks, science may be starting to understand that the whole thing you call reality may not even be real. That the universe we pretend to understand and know, is just a small part of a larger existence we can’t see. That matter an energy are interchangeable and can a carry the same information. That “existence” is far deeper than we ever imagined. So don;t give me absolutes. There are none.

    Here 2+2 = 4. On the other side of a black hole, it may equal 6. No absolutes. Not yet.

    • KevenSeven says:

      Um. No. I can assure you that you are perfectly wrong about the meaning of being an atheist.

      To be an atheist means that you recognize no evidence of a guiding intellect that designed or built that which is around us. It is in opposition to both a theist (belief in a mind that builds, guides and supervises) and deism (belief in a mind that builds and then pisses off to some other hobby).

      Atheist means not believing, based on the evidence laid out before one, that this fat man in the sky exists and is keeping track of how often you masturbate.

      Atheists do not, despite the propaganda of theists and deists, deny the beauty of life or the mysteries of existence. We are not immune to the glorious and luminous.

      As for your meme of science evolving outside our understanding of reality; this is what is called and ever evolving tautology. No matter how much science proves that there is no reason to believe that there is not “maker”, the religious and those desperate to not believe that they are the most complex intelligence in this solar system (who knows what is out in the next galaxy?) will say “see, that only proves that God is even more subtle and complex than we could ever know.”

      When next you have two hours to spare, perhaps you would care to watch:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DKhc1pcDFM

      • whatsthatsound says:

        “(kevenseven)hasn’t experienced any positives from (religion)”?

        Says who? From where do you draw that conclusion?”

        Well, that’s certainly a valid question. I draw the conclusion from the fact that you write “religion poisons everything” and compare belief in God to a belief in a flying spaghetti monster, among other things.
        I can assure you that if you hadn’t repeatedly mocked and demonized religion on this very thread, I never would have asserted that you haven’t experienced any positives from it, but to the extent that using your own words to draw conclusions was presumptuous of me, I apologize.

        • KevenSeven says:

          Yes, you were presumptuous.

          You have never heard the “flying spaghetti monster” simile? Google it. It is an effort to illustrate the absurdity of Man’s efforts to imagine an omniscient being.

          Obviously god is not Charlston Heston floating in a cloud two miles up in the sky. But he has been so depicted on any number of occasions.

          So now that we have decided that the thousand previous images were utterly fanciful, we atheists have taken a humorous view of the matter. There is a flying spaghetti monster in the sky!

          I don’t think I have attempted to characterize your views or beliefs in this thread, but you clearly have repeatedly done so with mine. I think you should be able to make your point without doing that.

          • whatsthatsound says:

            Of course I know about the good ol’ FSM, K7. I meant precisely that, your use of said to ridicule religion. Someone who has taken positives from religions would be less likely to use ridicule, I feel. But, I recognize your right to call me out on presumptuous on this point.

            Speaking of presumptuousness, I’m wondering where you get the idea that I am a “self professed Christian”. Unless I have more than one self?

      • ADONAI says:

        I don’t really care what you “think” atheists are.

        I’m giving you the textbook definition.

        And I’ve already seen the 4 Horsemen documentary. Very good.

        • KevenSeven says:

          Which “textbook” is that?

          From Wiki:

          “Atheism, in a broad sense, is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[1] In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[2] Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.[3] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[4][5] which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.”

      • whatsthatsound says:

        K7, whenever you talk about religion, you reveal your inability to move beyond the most reductive mischaracterizations of it. In other words, you do the same thing you accuse religious people of doing.

        As an analogy, it is as if you were watching a person reading a novel in Korean. Some times he smiles, sometimes he cries, sometimes he seems overwhelmed. You go over to him and say, “What are you doing, man? This is just gobbledy-gook!!”

        The problem, you see, is that you can’t read Korean.

        • Ricestarz says:

          I can’t see that analogy. If K7 were to see someone reading Korean and he did not speak or read Korean, why oh why would he say it’s gobbledy gook? Korean is a language, religion is faith in something and or someone. When speaking of Christianity, it is all about faith. It’s not like they worship Sun Yeung Moon or L Ron Hubbard.

          • whatsthatsound says:

            That’s why it’s an analogy. Of course K7 wouldn’t REALLY do that in the case of an actual book written in Korean. What I am saying is that when he criticizes religion he is more or less doing the same thing. HE hasn’t experienced any positives from it so he assumes that it is not possible TO experience positives from it. He hasn’t had the transcendent experiences of history’s great meditators, so he assumes that THEY haven’t EITHER, and are either lying or making stuff up.
            Just like telling someone they can’t get something out of the Korean language if you yourself can’t read it.

            • KevenSeven says:

              “(kevenseven)hasn’t experienced any positives from (religion)”?

              Says who? From where do you draw that conclusion?

      • Khirad says:

        I recognize no evidence either way.

        That being said, I still find myself closest to Sam Harris in that group. The numinous, and the mysteries of existence of Hitchens and Dawkins aside.

        But, you continue to argue a straw man.

        Adonai was proposing no such tautology as that.

        I don’t know about him, but I still say that doesn’t disprove anything.

        Do I believe in God as understood by most? No.

        Do I believe in some abstract notion of god, not even a deity, but an ISNESS… I don’t really know.

        Do I recognize our insignificance, even as there’s talk of other universes bordering our own as if they were galaxies? Yes.

        • KillgoreTrout says:

          I don’t think significance plays much of a part in the overall scheme of things. Significance implies a level of one being more important than the other.
          I think Nature is equal, across the board. I am not talking about the hierachy of sentience, but pure existence and the part that all of Nature plays in the conduct of life, to make up the whole of reality.

      • ghsts says:

        Love that conversation, mind bending.

    • KQuark says:

      Exactly AD the more sure you are one way or another the more I don’t believe you when it comes to religion. But it also makes me tolerant of people’s beliefs as well because they could be “right”. My personal beliefs really have no right to infringe on anyone elses because the probability I will find out if I’m “right” or not is nonexistent.

      My beliefs are an amalgam of many experiences, religions and philosophies and will be a little different today than they will be tomorrow. I do know the golden rule of most religions is not a bad way to live your life. There’s no downside to treating people as well as you would like to be treated yourself, save if you are a masochist I guess.

      BTW the last line reminds me to recommend that people new here look through the archives. The Planet has some great pieces on all aspects of religions and beliefs.

    • PocketWatch says:

      I love Einstein’s “thought experiments.”

      Imagine you are a two dimensional creature. You can go left or right or diagonally, but that’s it.

      You would have no concept of, nor could you even understand “up” or “down.”

      We are three dimensional creatures in a multidimensional universe. Our brains and science can hardly conceive of what the universe really is, let alone what it may mean.

      Either that, or we are a really bad HS science project run amok.

      8)

    • Khirad says:

      I may be agnostic too, but I believe in Adonai.


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