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Fallen Angels Assault: Heaven at Christmas - Comments

Mr Blue Sky's Avatar Comment 1 by Mr Blue Sky

What is Wonder Land? I am glad I live in UK. Apathy is common here and I do not believe we get the same free ride that gun toting US citizens may experience.

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 15:14:00 UTC | #12706

Jared's Avatar Comment 2 by Jared

Another in the long line of articles saying we can't be good without god. ::Yawn::

But this one comes with the added benefit of misinterpreting the goals of atheist activists. We don't necessarily all want to cut religion out of the world (although I don't know that it'd be so bad if we DID). We merely ask to keep it out of public policy and schools, and to legislate not from a position of one particular faith but rather in a way that protects us FROM any particular faith's perspective. That's all.

Man, we REALLY are the least-trusted minority in America!

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 15:41:00 UTC | #12711

Niels Thorsen's Avatar Comment 3 by Niels Thorsen

Using the words "virtue's originalists" betrays the author's true position and demonstrates a lack of understanding regarding the human experience.

There was virtue long before there was religion.

Niels

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 15:54:00 UTC | #12716

jbannon's Avatar Comment 4 by jbannon

"...Atheists and the unchurched undervalue the extent to which they are getting a free ride on the social strength that religious-based virtue provides. It's one thing to write in a book that we don't need them. But I'd rather not run the real-world experiment of navigating without them."

I wonder what pills this guy has been taking. I suggest he change his medication and, while he's at it, have some appreciation of history. This is a typical piece of historical revisionism claiming that the cardinal virtues are religious (and in his terms this obviously means Christian). Even someone like me who is just an interested layman and not particularly well read in history knows perfectly well that these virtues he lists are not unique to either the religious in general or to Christianity in particular. He should try reading Epicures, Aristotle, Plato, Confuscious and that's just a couple off the top of my head that predate Christianity.

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 16:01:00 UTC | #12718

denoir's Avatar Comment 5 by denoir

"Religion has been the supplier of virtue necessary to American exceptionalism."

This is the key sentence in the article and it couldn't be more correct. However, it is not a good thing and it is not an original thing.

It is basically a religious conviction of moral supremacy that goes way beyond regular nationalism. You can draw many parallels to medieval Europe or the colonization era. The self-designated role of being a "world police" is just a more modern version of the "White man's burden". It's a mix of expansionist economic ambition backed by absolute nationalist and religious beliefs. One should be careful not to think that the nationalism and religion are excuses - they're at least as strong as the pragmatic economic ambitions.

When Europeans kidnapped people from Africa to be used as slave labour in the colonies there was a strong conviction not only that they had the right to do it but that it was their duty before God to do so. They were convicted that they had been chosen by God (why else would they be so successful?) to civilize an uncivilized world. The heathens had to be converted. Slavery was necessary as the savages weren't capable of taking care of themselves. The slaves weren't exploited as a cheap work force - they were being cared for by their masters and rescued from barbarism as well as eternal damnation. These weren't excuses - they were dead honest about it. Religion played an essential role in these absolute beliefs of superiority.

Fast forward 200 or so years. Our moral standards have evolved to a higher level of sophistication, but we play the same games. Take the Iraq war. Economic exploitation? It's called introducing a free market and free trade. The "White man's burden" has become the "Western man's burden". The Iraq project was as much about introducing a stable democracy in the Middle East - with the hope that it will be spread. Again on the agenda is saving the poor bastards that aren't capable of managing themselves. As in each instance before, it is "One nation under God" doing the 'educating' of the world.

It's not a simple question of nationalism. The notion of a divine purpose and approval is essential. And there is no clearer example than America where religion and patriotism are deeply interwoven.

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 16:46:00 UTC | #12726

Mr. Mark's Avatar Comment 6 by Mr. Mark

Yet another article that makes me embarrassed to be an American.

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 18:29:00 UTC | #12732

lpetrich's Avatar Comment 7 by lpetrich

Yet another advocate of Plato's Royal Lie. Plato's Republic was to have an official religion for the purpose of making its citizens virtuous, a religion that Plato himself considered false.

Notice that Mr. Henninger does not address the issue of how much truth a religion might have, only its ethical effects. And as pointed out earlier, Mr. Henninger reveals his ignorance of a LOT of important history. Pagan Greek and Roman philosophers thought a lot about ethics, but for the most part, they didn't say "We're only following Zeus's orders." In fact, Plato posed a serious dilemma for the divine-command theory of ethics in his dialogue Euthyphro. Is something good because a god like it, or does that god like it because it is good?

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 20:41:00 UTC | #12745

jbannon's Avatar Comment 8 by jbannon

He also posed us atheists the same dilemma: is the act moral because we approve of it or do we approve of it because it is good?

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 20:58:00 UTC | #12748

jefferson's Avatar Comment 9 by jefferson

Yes, Mr. Mark. The religious people sometimes make me feel embarrased to be an American as well. I have a feeling when foreigners think of Americans, they think of religious people screaming "We're (Americans) #1!" and holding rallies for bullshit issues like homosexuality and abortion. And I get lumped in with them:(

"Do virtues matter as ballast in a dynamic, complex society? If yes, where will they come from? Do secularists simply expropriate them from religion? Or do they create their own, such as "do not oppress"?

This guy is another nutcase who thinks all good virtues come from religion.

Anyway, someone I know showed me this link. It contains excellent quotes from excellent people... Not!
http://web.archive.org/web/20041113084054/www.reandev.com/taliban/

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 22:09:00 UTC | #12753

Twinky's Avatar Comment 10 by Twinky

"Mr. Dawkins offers his own "new" Ten Commandments, such as "Do not discriminate or oppress" and "Value the future on a timescale longer than your own." "

[sarc]Hmm, good point here.. these are truly detestable sentiments. Let all good christians rise up against this unspeakable abomination of intention disguised as reason.

And also thank God he gave me the sense to distinguish between what I discern as the good morals in the holy text from what I discern as the bad, which God surely let slip accidentally as he was dictating to his prophets[/sarc]

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 22:35:00 UTC | #12760

Sam's Avatar Comment 11 by Sam

Most of us atheists are living proof that you don't need faith to be moral. If the only thing that keeps you from lying, stealing, raping or killing is the belief that "God said so", then guess what: you, sir, are not moral, and all the faith in the world isn't going to change that.

One of the harmful effects of religion is, as Sam Harris has pointed out, that it gives people bad reasons to be good, when good reasons are actually available, and prevents us from recognizing these good reasons. If we abolished religion the good reasons to be good would still be there, while many of the bad reason to be bad would go away.

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 23:27:00 UTC | #12763

John Phillips's Avatar Comment 12 by John Phillips

jbannon: "He also posed us atheists the same dilemma: is the act moral because we approve of it or do we approve of it because it is good?"

What dilemma, I try to live by a 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' credo because it is logical to do so, simple as that. If you like, the selfish gene in action, as cooperative altruism has proven more conducive to survival than conflict. Define it how you will as I don't really care about the definition only the result of the behaviour. Though if you define the behaviour following on from my personal credo as moral fine, I simply call it logical captain, live long and prosper.

Sat, 23 Dec 2006 23:47:00 UTC | #12766

Niels Thorsen's Avatar Comment 13 by Niels Thorsen

RE: 11. Comment #14649 by Sam: "Most of us atheists are living proof that you don't need faith to be moral."

Just so Sam, I like to think of it this way: All moral humans are living proof that you don't need faith to be moral.

With the realization that there is no 'personal god', this is the clear position to take.

Niels

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 00:13:00 UTC | #12768

Sancus's Avatar Comment 14 by Sancus

From Mr. Mark:

Yet another article that makes me embarrassed to be an American.

Why?

I don't mean why be embarrassed. I am embarrassed by my president, local schools, and a number of other things, so I can understand. But, why are you embarrassed by this article? Or any article that you didn't contribute to writing?

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 04:22:00 UTC | #12780

rww's Avatar Comment 15 by rww

#14612
One spanish bishop, concerned by the death of the Carib natives at the hands of the conquistadores was reassured by the Pope that these natives were so close to animals that they had no souls. (I wonder if anyone has inverted this question and asked for papal guidance now, and whether the Vatican would consider chimpanzees 97% soul)
I tend to agree with you Denoir: one of the funniest questions in the Rapture index FAQs was something like, Given the prominence of the USA as a christian nation at the End Time, how come we are not mentioned in the Bible? The answer is equally amusing.
Since Plato has also appeared in this thread, the question that intrigues me is whether we may be on the cusp of another enlightened period of rationalism, but like the 5th century Athenians (empire builders themselves) at risk from a universal loss of confidence ( they lost their war with Sparta, lost confidence and plunged back into superstition and away from democracy)

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 04:27:00 UTC | #12781

Sancus's Avatar Comment 16 by Sancus

From denoir:

It's not a simple question of nationalism. The notion of a divine purpose and approval is essential. And there is no clearer example than America where religion and patriotism are deeply interwoven.


Really. So the Saudi Arabian national flag, which consists entirely of the words, "there is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the messenger of Allah," and a sword, does not represent a clearer example than America where religion and patriotism are deeply interwoven?

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 04:40:00 UTC | #12782

denoir's Avatar Comment 17 by denoir

I would say that it doesn't. That's just religious commitment on the part of the state. The Saudis may be religious fundamentalists but they don't see themselves to be chosen by god to change the world and bring the 'Saudi way of life' to the rest of the planet.

There are of course religious organizations that are bent on world domination, but it is seldom embodied as part of a national identity - as it is in the case of America. To find anything similar to "manifest destiny", you'd have to look at Europe during the colonial era.

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 04:51:00 UTC | #12784

Sancus's Avatar Comment 18 by Sancus

Before I go on, denoir, I just wanted to address an earlier point.

Take the Iraq war. Economic exploitation? It's called introducing a free market and free trade.


Who has been describing the Iraq war this way? I'd like to read them, because only a few months ago I was troubled to read that Iraq has no banking sector. None. The Iraqi troops are being paid in cash, and they have no means of wiring a transfer to their families, so they must walk on foot to their homes. This is especially problematic, because Iraqi soldiers are easily targeted and killed by insurgents this way. It is deeply troubling, and I would think that some ordinary banking that you and I so take for granted would go a long way to helping them and their families.

My goodness, if only it really was about trade, things might be a lot better. Unfortunately, it is far worse, since Iraq appears to have been about nothing at all.

That's just religious commitment on the part of the state. The Saudis may be religious fundamentalists but they don't see themselves to be chosen by god to change the world and bring the 'Saudi way of life' to the rest of the planet.


Forgive me, but this sounds very strange to my American ears: that you would dismiss the significance of a nation having any religious commitment at all, and then proceed to argue that the United States, world famous for separating state and religion, is the clearest example of a nation where religion and patriotism are deeply interwoven.

You understand where my confusion is coming from, right? I recognize we are probably experiencing a cultural misunderstanding.

"Manifest destiny" was indeed an American phenomenon that existed around the same time as European colonialism, but we no longer have it today. I'm not sure what anti-American propaganda you've been reading, but if we did have a manifest destiny, we would have taken Afghanistan and Iraq and installed our own governments. The tragedy is that we did not even restrict their constitutions to separate Islam from government, so now we have in Afghanistan a legal system that murders apostates, and in Iraq a civil war between those vying for the superiority of different methods of interpreting hateful Islamic law for the new Iraqi government.

So, really, it is much worse than you think. If only things were as good as your simplified argument. We would have enforced a constitutional separation of church and state in Afghanistan and divided Iraq up between the coalition, annexing specific areas and installing our own permanent governments, establishing a beachhead against Islam. Instead we gave more power to Syria, Iran, and the insurgents by telling them in advance that we were leaving and let the oil fields burn.

I was just thinking -- it is quite ironic. People look at this crazy world, searching for purpose and meaning, and erroneously find it in religion. An atheist looks at the meandering American policy in the Middle East, searching for purpose and meaning, and erroneously finds it in religion. How much better off we would be, if it were actually true.

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 06:21:00 UTC | #12791

blaine's Avatar Comment 19 by blaine

Back to the article...

"Instead of "Atheists and the unchurched undervalue the extent to which they are getting a free ride on the social strength that religious-based virtue provides."

Intellectual laziness. Instead of doing some research into the statistical consequences which must follow from such a hypothesis (non-religious populations must be more criminal, etc.), he starts with the assumption of the goodness of Christianity and doesn't consider questioning it, even when the goal of his article is to consider the people who do question.

Satirical paraphprase: These skeptics are wrong by virtue of not assuming, like I do, that Christianity is the preserver of humanity. Since the earth is controlled primarily by religiosity, it is impossible to tell if secularism would be better, so why risk it? On the one hand, the positive effects of Christianity are so powerful that they preserve humanity from self destruction every day. On the other hand, these effects are so subtle that neither I nor anybody else can conceive of a way to objectively compare the effects of Christian and secular cultures.

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 07:08:00 UTC | #12794

denoir's Avatar Comment 20 by denoir

Sancus:

"Who has been describing the Iraq war this way? I'd like to read them, because only a few months ago I was troubled to read that Iraq has no banking sector."


Perle, Armitage, Kristol, Kagan and Bush himself for that matter. The post-war "plan" was that a democratic system would be introduced with the parallel of lifting the sanctions and stimulating the economy through trade.

"Forgive me, but this sounds very strange to my American ears: that you would dismiss the significance of a nation having any religious commitment at all, and then proceed to argue that the United States, world famous for separating state and religion, is the clearest example of a nation where religion and patriotism are deeply interwoven."

It might sound strange, but actually it is not very difficult to understand. In a country where flag waving is mandatory, waving the flag isn't connected to patriotism. In Saudi Arabia religion is part of the political system - it is mandatory. In America you have the theoretical freedom of being an atheist but you can forget running for political office. To quite George H.W Bush:

"I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."

That is the prevailing sentiment. Furthermore it is far more relevant in practical terms than the Saudi example - I'll come to that later.


""Manifest destiny" was indeed an American phenomenon that existed around the same time as European colonialism, but we no longer have it today. I'm not sure what anti-American propaganda you've been reading, but if we did have a manifest destiny, we would have taken Afghanistan and Iraq and installed our own governments."

No, the "manifest destiny" concept was not about permanently occupying other countries. It was about America having a god-given destiny to spread democracy around the world. Although it doesn't go by that name anymore - it still very much exists. It is what Bush meant when he said that god told him to invade Iraq etc America did to Iraq and Afghanistan exactly what it thougts its divine destiny was: a regime change.


"Instead we gave more power to Syria, Iran, and the insurgents by telling them in advance that we were leaving and let the oil fields burn."


That's plain incompetence and has little to do with any original planning and intent.

"An atheist looks at the meandering American policy in the Middle East, searching for purpose and meaning, and erroneously finds it in religion."

No, I'm not talking about any purpose or meaning. The point of my original post was to agree with the author of the article that religion is a major component of American exceptionalism. That idea was a component in basically every war that America has been involved in. It is also the reason why America is one of the most (if not the most) militant nations on earth. The fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia may be more radical than the American Christians - but they also both lack the evangelical will to spread the system and the military means to do so. Despite not being the most religious country on earth, I would argue that religious belief in America does the most harm world-wide.

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 08:48:00 UTC | #12795

Mr. Mark's Avatar Comment 21 by Mr. Mark

Sancus asked why I said that this article makes me embarrassed to be an American. I think the answer was given above in posts 19 and 9 in more-succinct and elegant ways than could I.

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 10:11:00 UTC | #12800

DavidJMH's Avatar Comment 22 by DavidJMH

The audacity to claim that "secularists simply expropriate them (virtues) from religion". Virtues have always been society based by any group from the stoneage on. The reverse is the case; religion usurped virtue to give itself some street cred.

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 11:33:00 UTC | #12807

Joadist's Avatar Comment 23 by Joadist

Denoir,

You were quite correct about the key sentence.

Islam doesn't deify any nation-state. It would continue to exist, even if Islamic nations failed.

America, on the other hand, sees a failure of itself as a nation as absolute failure of Christianity. Or vice versa.

It is the most dangerous of all ideas, that a world without America is unthinkable. That removes all inhibitions about nuclear war. The risk of destroying all life for all time is far less than risking that a destroyed America might never rise again. And a world without America isn't worth having.

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 13:19:00 UTC | #12811

Sancus's Avatar Comment 24 by Sancus

From denoir

Perle, Armitage, Kristol, Kagan and Bush himself for that matter.

Oh, I thought you were going to name someone credible.

It might sound strange, but actually it is not very difficult to understand. In a country where flag waving is mandatory, waving the flag isn't connected to patriotism. In Saudi Arabia religion is part of the political system - it is mandatory. In America you have the theoretical freedom of being an atheist but you can forget running for political office.


Why?

Yes, this is still very difficult for me to understand. It appears you're looking at this through your own cultural lens. Great Americans in our eyes don't just "forget running for office" if that's their goal, or give up on themselves when the going gets tough. None of us are inspired by people who give up. On the contrary, Americans love an underdog. We are utterly fascinated by them, by the idea that one person with a dream and the heart to follow through with it can change everything. It's a defining element of our mythology and history.

Jesus is represented in America as an underdog. It's so obvious to me that I tend to look past it and forget that it may not be obvious to others. American Christians are moved by the violence of the Crucifixion, because it is the story of one man braving humiliation and torment at the hands of his own peers, and then does what is necessary to conquer death and all that. The particulars of the story are extremely irrational and profoundly weird, but people with little hope in themselves latch on to something.

Christian fundamentalists believed themselves to be the underdog, and they still do, I think. They keep going after "Hollywood," and that will be their downfall, as religion escapes into art.

In places like Saudi Arabia and Europe, there isn't the same cultural appreciation of the underdog. You quote Bush 41 on atheists, as if comments like that would deter an American atheist from running for office. Quite the opposite, it calls us to action. We face an uphill battle, but we're Americans -- that's what we do! Every group who has been labeled unpatriotic or un-American raises their influence over time. Sometimes they do it with the help of religion and sometimes not.

Religion may seem deeply interwoven with patriotism from the outside, but that's because inspiration is deeply interwoven with patriotism, and a lot of Americans find inspiration in religion. I personally don't think that's at all difficult to understand, but if you come from a place where religion is mandatory, I definitely see how that would keep it from being inspiring! Coercion is the antithesis of inspiration.

There's no "new atheist dream" in America right now. It's still intellectualized. What we need is to inspire people. In the mean time, we're very fortunate to have people like Dawkins help us find the courage to even dream about a world without religion.

No, the "manifest destiny" concept was not about permanently occupying other countries. It was about America having a god-given destiny to spread democracy around the world. Although it doesn't go by that name anymore - it still very much exists. It is what Bush meant when he said that god told him to invade Iraq etc America did to Iraq and Afghanistan exactly what it thougts its divine destiny was: a regime change.


Like I said, if only it were true! Bringing democracy to the ME is an after-the-fact justification for a war that had no meaning. There were no weapons of mass destruction, so they had to find some reason to say it wasn't all meaningless. But I'm afraid it was meaningless. Administering the death penalty for apostates is not American-style democracy, not by a long shot.

That's plain incompetence and has little to do with any original planning and intent.


Plain incompetence would necessarily have a lot to do with original planning. If you don't make a workable plan, then you are incompetent at planning!

The point of my original post was to agree with the author of the article that religion is a major component of American exceptionalism. That idea was a component in basically every war that America has been involved in. It is also the reason why America is one of the most (if not the most) militant nations on earth. The fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia may be more radical than the American Christians - but they also both lack the evangelical will to spread the system and the military means to do so. Despite not being the most religious country on earth, I would argue that religious belief in America does the most harm world-wide.


Saudi Arabian citizens laid waste to our largest city. For decades they have travelled to various Muslim countries in the ME and SE Asia to gather people for religious violence. They have indeed caused great harm world-wide and have done so through exceptional evangelical will.

You say religion is a "component" of American wars, and I guess I'll let that slide. War is a quintessential life-and-death struggle and people often find help in religion.

Manifest Destiny was about expanding American borders and gaining new territory permanently. It was not "colonialism" as you're used to it. Manifest Destiny was about bringing new states into the union, expanding congress, and letting more people vote for the American president. It was not about subjugating people to the tyranny of European monarchies and emperors. It was about spreading religious freedom, not any particular religion.

Unfortunately, that's not what's happening now. I'd be so much more optimistic, if Manifest Destiny was back. We are literally in a worst case scenario, kowtowing to the Islamic equivalent of Manifest Destiny and its religious oppression.

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 23:40:00 UTC | #12871

Sancus's Avatar Comment 25 by Sancus

From Mr. Mark:

Sancus asked why I said that this article makes me embarrassed to be an American. I think the answer was given above in posts 19 and 9 in more-succinct and elegant ways than could I.


I suppose I would eventually feel embarrassed, if I kept allowing other Americans to speak for me, too.

Sun, 24 Dec 2006 23:58:00 UTC | #12872

denoir's Avatar Comment 26 by denoir

Yes, this is still very difficult for me to understand. It appears you're looking at this through your own cultural lens. Great Americans in our eyes don't just "forget running for office" if that's their goal, or give up on themselves when the going gets tough. None of us are inspired by people who give up. On the contrary, Americans love an underdog. We are utterly fascinated by them, by the idea that one person with a dream and the heart to follow through with it can change everything. It's a defining element of our mythology and history.

Part of the mythology - perhaps. Part of the reality - hardly. It is clearly shown by the many prominent black and female presidents..except for you have had none. There is a chance today - when those groups are not underdogs anymore. Or compare your social system to the one of other western countries. The underdogs don't seem to have much sympathy of the rest of the society.

If anything, America loves a winner. The American dream is not to fight the good fight as an underdog but to win. This has its origin in America's largely Calvinist past where the idea was that success was a sign of god loving you. The distribution of the extremely poor and the extremely rich in America is a good example of a subsequent effect.

In military terms, after the early wars with the British, America has never fought a war as an underdog. And there never was much sympathy for the underdogs that on rare occasions beat you (Vietnam, ongoing now in Iraq).

Manifest Destiny was about expanding American borders and gaining new territory permanently. It was not "colonialism" as you're used to it. Manifest Destiny was about bringing new states into the union, expanding congress, and letting more people vote for the American president. It was not about subjugating people to the tyranny of European monarchies and emperors. It was about spreading religious freedom, not any particular religion.

Manifest destiny (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifest_destiny) was the ideological framework that was among other things used to motivate a territorial expansion. It is however not limited to it. We can call it "American exceptionalism" or "America: World Police", if you prefer it. A defining characteristic of it, compared to a standard humanitarian moral interventionist imperative is the religious component of it.

Mon, 25 Dec 2006 11:46:00 UTC | #12920

Sancus's Avatar Comment 27 by Sancus

Part of the mythology - perhaps. Part of the reality - hardly. It is clearly shown by the many prominent black and female presidents..except for you have had none. There is a chance today - when those groups are not underdogs anymore. Or compare your social system to the one of other western countries. The underdogs don't seem to have much sympathy of the rest of the society.


A chance? The country was begging Powell to run for president in the early 90s and he refused. Condi Rice leads all the polls, but she is refusing. The two frontrunners on the left are a black man and a white woman. You barely know anything about America.

I'll get to our "social system" in a bit.

If anything, America loves a winner. The American dream is not to fight the good fight as an underdog but to win.


Yes, I thought that was obvious. We like to see underdogs win. It's not interesting to see an underdog lose. We're not cheering them on to win for nothing!

This has its origin in America's largely Calvinist past where the idea was that success was a sign of god loving you. The distribution of the extremely poor and the extremely rich in America is a good example of a subsequent effect.


Ah, I think it has its origin in the fact that winning is preferable to losing. (You and other people outside of America care about winning, too, right? Please tell me you do...)

The distribution of the extremely poor and the extremely rich in America is a complicated subject, but it does indeed have something to do with Calvinism. I've had to live in a homeless shelter myself. One of the worst experiences of my life, not just for the obvious loss of dignity, but because it was a Christian homeless shelter. Christian homeless shelters that tell their guests they only need to accept Jesus in order to be saved do not do much to encourage them to work out of their situation. Yes, Calvinism does indeed give the extremely poor a reason to not work, for if they're guaranteed heaven, they can live out the rest of their lives doing nothing and feel that's okay, and if they're not guaranteed heaven, they have no hope anyway. It's lose-lose and it's their own fault for believing something so ridiculous.

Interesting that the two richest Americans are giving away all their money. Is it any coincidence they are both atheists?

In military terms, after the early wars with the British, America has never fought a war as an underdog. And there never was much sympathy for the underdogs that on rare occasions beat you (Vietnam, ongoing now in Iraq).


Putting aside the tremendously stupid notion that not going to war as an underdog would reveal something, and the genuine weirdness of your bringing that up, there was an incredible amount of sympathy for Vietnam and now Iraq. There's no way you could think something like that if you lived in America.

Manifest destiny (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifest_destiny) was the ideological framework that was among other things used to motivate a territorial expansion. It is however not limited to it. We can call it "American exceptionalism" or "America: World Police", if you prefer it. A defining characteristic of it, compared to a standard humanitarian moral interventionist imperative is the religious component of it.


You're proving my point for me by linking to that page. The first sentence says its about territorial expansion.

What I've found interesting in this discussion, is that you seem ardent on convincing me that, in order to be patriotic, I must be a Christian. This is puzzling because this is exactly what the Christians tell me, and they are of course plainly wrong. They seem to have convinced you of that, however, which is also puzzling because I think you would agree that they are sensationalists and not credible. Why would you listen to them? Especially when you know there are atheists in America who care about their country, and would be provoked to see you agreeing with them? You do us no favors by buying into their nonsense.

America is exceptional. You don't know why? You have not told me what country you're from. America was very, very reluctantly forced by Europe into the position of world police, as our late arrival to Europe's wars show. America would not be the world police, if we did not have to keep saving Europe from itself and worrying about its colonial dung elsewhere.

If there's anything you should be learning from Iraq, it's that America really might not be there to protect Europe again. How many times has it been now? I lost count after Kosovo, Yugoslavia, and Bosnia.

Anyway, you may get your wish now.

Tue, 26 Dec 2006 01:40:00 UTC | #12960

briancoughlanworldcitizen's Avatar Comment 28 by briancoughlanworldcitizen

Unfortunately, that's not what's happening now. I'd be so much more optimistic, if Manifest Destiny was back. We are literally in a worst case scenario, kowtowing to the Islamic equivalent of Manifest Destiny and its religious oppression.

Sancus, I hope you'll forgive me jumping in here. However, you appear to be falling prey to the very thing you accuse the fundamentalists of. The difference is that you have nationalist blinkers not religious ones.

The idea that the islamic world poses a credible threat to Europe, let alone the United States is ludicrous. Although I sympathise with your interpretation of their motives (at least of some of their politicians), they have nothing like the relevant resources to prosectute the islamic version of the neo-con dream.

Thus to express fear, or to justify the massive slaughter of Iraqis or Iranians to offset this fictional threat, to verbally support or bolster such threadbare arguments, is morally unconsionable.

Nationalisim, is arguably a far more pernicious form of delusion than religion, and you seem to be suffering from a full blown infection. Take your atheist skepticisim and apply it to your nationalisim, see how you get on.

For the record, applying my skeptical view of nationalisim to my religious convictions, was one of the primary hammer blows to deconstructing my religious faith. Maybe it can work both ways?:-)

Tue, 26 Dec 2006 03:10:00 UTC | #12966

Logicel's Avatar Comment 29 by Logicel

Sancus said, "I've had to live in a homeless shelter myself. One of the worst experiences of my life, not just for the obvious loss of dignity, but because it was a Christian homeless shelter."
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Forgive me, Sancus, but that made me laugh so hard it hurt! Such is the bitter-sweetness of life. And since I gave you a chuckle with my coining, 'a bouquet of atheists', YOU OWED ME!

Tue, 26 Dec 2006 04:17:00 UTC | #12970

Logicel's Avatar Comment 30 by Logicel

Briancoughlanworldcitizen, said, "Nationalisim, is arguably a far more pernicious form of delusion than religion, and you seem to be suffering from a full blown infection. Take your atheist skepticisim and apply it to your nationalisim, see how you get on.

For the record, applying my skeptical view of nationalisim to my religious convictions, was one of the primary hammer blows to deconstructing my religious faith. Maybe it can work both ways?:-)
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Briancoughlandworldcitizen, I remember about 15 years ago when I first moved to Europe from America, I bought and wore a tee-shirt with the slogan, 'world citizen.'

I am enjoying this discussion between Denoir and Sancus, and hope it continues as long as they are interested in doing so. I am learning about these two different viewpoints a bit more, and I appreciate their time and efforts in discussing them.

I, myself, am pretty tough in general on patriotic Americans, as they do seem to be reliqious and unthinking in their style of patriotism expressed by such sayings as, 'We are going to kick ass', America is the Greatest Country (sort of like Allah is great), etc. These kinds of posters abound in many discussion forums. So it is rare and scintillating to encounter a thoughtful patriot like Sancus. Apparently they do exist.

My atheism and my primary identity being that of a New Yorker (the rest of America always seemed foreign to me, and America to me is basically the American Constitution so I do not have a strong identity based on its people, culture, or land). Why that is, I have no idea, but that is how it turned out for me. So as I travelled and lived in other countries, I became less and less nationalistic, that is, in my nationality as a New Yorker, well, really, a Manhattanite. However, I am still heavily influenced by western civilization, so I am far from being a world citizen in my mind and heart, but I am trying.

The Middle East and the Far East (Chinese and Eqyptian cultures) influenced the development of western civilization, and despite of that--as I am fond of saying--it seems that many vocal Americans and I can add, Europeans, think that their country(ries) popped out fully developed from the void in a similar fashion as Athena popped out, fully formed, from the head of Zeus.

Tue, 26 Dec 2006 04:47:00 UTC | #12971