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Suffering and the vain quest for significance - Comments

passutoba's Avatar Comment 1 by passutoba

Beautifully constructed Paula...well done! I take heart that it's almost certainly going to give at least a handful of believers pause for thought and then hopefully a complete change of mindset.....

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 17:13:00 UTC | #434224

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 2 by InYourFaceNewYorker

Well said, Paula!

Again, not to be a shameless self-promoter (okay, maybe I am) but I wrote a blog entry about this issue a few days ago and it is now posted here:


Fri, 22 Jan 2010 17:16:00 UTC | #434227

Tyler Durden's Avatar Comment 3 by Tyler Durden

Excellent structure Paula. (And a nice plug for NBGA).

Unfortunately some of the religious suffer from "cart-before-the-horse" thinking so assume planet Earth was "created" for us, instead of looking at the damn facts, evidence and cosmological history first, then making up their minds about events.

e.g. Planet Earth was "created" at the approx same time as our sun, but us mere mortals only appear halfway thru its lifespan. Another billion years and it's buh-bye!!

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 17:24:00 UTC | #434233

TIKI AL's Avatar Comment 4 by TIKI AL

I luvs me some Pat Robertson. Everytime he opens his mouth, godbots all over the world cringe. I wonder how many he has driven away?

Jesus rifles update: Maddow reported last night that the Michigan manufacturer has stopped putting Buybull verses on the US Military rifle scopes and has sent kits into the theater to remove them from the rifles already being used by the Muslim recruits to train with. Their sneaky proselytizing almost cost them a 660 million dollar contract in a thriving state like Michigan.

Oh well, back to going door to door for them.

Stupid godbots.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 17:32:00 UTC | #434236

chuckg's Avatar Comment 5 by chuckg

Spot-on Paula! The degree to which the earth's and universe's natural forces are indifferent to humanity can't be stressed enough. We are but lichens clinging to a steep rock wall on a huge windswept mountain. It is ironic that climate change deniers will bring out this fact to reinforce their points. The earth, its life and even humanity will survive man-made global warming. That's not the issue. It's the dirt-poor Bangladeshi peasant squatting in his hut one foot above sea level; it's the Sudanese subsistence farmer scratching at the concrete hard dirt; it's the Maldivian fisherman watching the water lap at the bottom of his stilted hut, wondering if it will make it through the next tropical storm season. It's the Haitian earthquake refugee, house leveled, wife and 2 of his 4 kids with it, living in a UN-issued tent, with a looming Hurricane season just around the corner.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 17:42:00 UTC | #434239

Tezcatlipoca's Avatar Comment 6 by Tezcatlipoca

An excellent piece by Paula Kirby. When I was texting 90999 the other day I wasn't thinking about passing judgement only trying, in some small way, to send aid to people in need. Later I heard about Robertson's message. Sadly, I wasn't too surprised.

re. Comment #453595 by TIKI AL

How surprising that Trijicon would put filthy lucre ahead of the word of dog¿ Not.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 17:47:00 UTC | #434242

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 7 by prettygoodformonkeys

One small point: I recently read that the size of the observable universe is approximately 93 billion light years, not 40. Which just confuses me, regarding the universe's expansion. If we observe that far away, and this is looking into the past, what gives us the ability to see that far into a past that is only 13.7 billion years old?

I can't seem to do whatever mental trick it takes to see this. And a bunch of others, as well. Like, if things further away are going faster than those that are close, then: are we estimating that, because of the expansion, those things are already farther away (93 bly) than they appear, or do they actually appear that far because of red shift? And, is there a limit to this - in effect, a threshold to what light will come back to us? IOW, will the edge of the universe reach, from our perspective, 'apparent' light speed?

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 17:49:00 UTC | #434244

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 10 by Paula Kirby

prettygoodformonkeys: One small point: I recently read that the size of the observable universe is approximately 93 billion light years, not 40. Which just confuses me, regarding the universe's expansion. If we observe that far away, and this is looking into the past, what gives us the ability to see that far into a past that is only 13.7 billion years old?

I can answer both of those points, I think, with the aid of Victor Stenger's excellent book, God: The Failed Hypothesis. First, I now realise I made a mistake in claiming that the universe is 40 billion light years big. The following excerpt from Stenger's book shows the error I made, and also answers your main question:
And, you might ask, how big is the universe? The farthest observed galaxy at this writing, Abell 1835 IR1916, is 13.2 billion light-years away. Since it has taken 13.2 billion years for its light to reach us, and the current estimate of the age of the universe is 13.7 billion years, we are seeing this galaxy as it was only five hundred million years after the start of the big bang. Because the universe has been expanding since the light left Abell, this galaxy is now about forty billion light-years away.

Hope that helps!

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 17:58:00 UTC | #434249

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 9 by Jos Gibbons

Comment #453605 by prettygoodformonkeys

An object on the edge of the observable universe emitted life 13.7 billion years ago, which has travelled 13.7 billion light years to us in that time. Due to the expansion of the space between places in that time, the current distance between the Earth and the edge of its observable universe has gone up. The observable universe then has a diameter of 93 billion light years, and 40 billion light years is an approximate value for its radius, not diameter. Calculating these numbers is a tricky business based on taking into account that the Hubble parameter H in Hubble's law v = Hd has changed over the universe's history. (It's sometimes called the Hubble constant, but it's actually not constant (i.e. it does vary with time), although it is uniform (i.e. at a given time it is true across all space).

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 17:58:00 UTC | #434248

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 8 by Stafford Gordon

This essay is the very opposite of a murder mystery; it's clear who the culprit is from the beginning.

He would appear to be an inadequate attention seeker, so it might have been better to have resisted mentioning his name all together; but he needs taking to task.

Is he really that ignorant, or is it entirely a cynical money making excercise on his psrt? If the former, he's incorrigible, if the latter he's ruthless.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 17:58:00 UTC | #434247

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 11 by Ignorant Amos

Nailed it Paula...I'm chuffed to have prople like Paula on the side of reason.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 17:59:00 UTC | #434250

Alyson Miers's Avatar Comment 12 by Alyson Miers

The idea that any of this has anything at all to do with us, that it was created with us in mind, or that our 'sinfulness' has had any effect whatsoever on the majestic, monumental and utterly indifferent laws of physics, is egotism of the highest order. Not bad, for a religion that preaches humility!

Perhaps they'd like some aloe for that BURN.

Even before amassing all the knowledge that shows us how disasters are indifferent to our piddling lives, I wonder how many of our ancestors noticed how God seems to hate people living on some parts of the Earth a lot more than others. I mean: do people living near faultlines sin a lot more than the rest of us£

I live in a part of the world where natural disasters are not much of an issue. Where I live, tornadoes are extremely rare, flash floods and mudslides don't happen, earthquakes are impossible, and hurricanes become worthless and weak before they reach us. The land is fertile and the climate is temperate; winters are cold but not oppressively so, summers are hot but not dangerously so, droughts happen sometimes but not usually for very long. Does God love mid-Atlantic Americans more than others£

We humans have been migrating around this planet for thousands of years. At what point did some observant explorers notice that God's wrath did not follow them between one continent and another£

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 18:01:00 UTC | #434252

root2squared's Avatar Comment 13 by root2squared

I thought this was a beautiful sentiment

Give me the indifference of the laws of physics rather than the hubristic self-righteousness of the religious any day.


We know the approximate composition of the individual planets and comets, we know the approximate number of stars in our galaxy and of galaxies in our universe

I was surprised to learn recently (From a plaque at the zoo) that we know more about some distant planets than the nearest tropical rainforest.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 18:05:00 UTC | #434254

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 14 by Ignorant Amos

12. Comment #453613 by Alyson Miers

Indeed, I live in Ireland, god really loves us...there's not so much as a snake (driven out by St. Patrick no less) to bite us, yes, life is just peachy in god's green Ireland. LOL

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 18:09:00 UTC | #434255

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 15 by Dhamma

To think that this utter brilliant writer has once been religious astounds me.

Well, I'm glad she landed on the right side.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 18:14:00 UTC | #434257

Enlightenme..'s Avatar Comment 16 by Enlightenme..

Agreeing that answer 1 - 'God' being subordinate to Laws of Physics is illogical.

Leaving answer 2 - punishment for rebellion - as the only remotely plausible solution to the theodicy conundrum I've ever heard, one cannot conclude anything other than that this 'God' is forever murdering innocents to account for the sin of their ancestor.

How it can be claimed that is not an exemplar of true Evil is absolutely beyond me.

FWIW - The 'Mysterious ways' handwave is normally only deployed for the happy accident - e.g. : 'Local adulterer wins pools'.
It would be unusual to hear it deployed for The Holocaust.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 18:23:00 UTC | #434260

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 17 by SaintStephen

It is the year 2010.
Marvelous opening line, Paula. A simple, yet quite dramatic clarion call that commands the reader's attention, and instantly brings them back to reality. Like the ringing of a Buddhist bell, if you'll pardon the religious analogy.

And the remainder of the essay was even better.


Fri, 22 Jan 2010 18:24:00 UTC | #434262

root2squared's Avatar Comment 18 by root2squared

Anyway, here's how I would have responded to these questions.

Many have criticized Pat Robertson's suggestion that the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti was the work of the devil or a form of divine punishment.

Well, Pat Robertson is a monumental moron.

But if one believes God is good and intervenes in the world, why does God allow innocents to suffer?

What a stupid question. If God allows innocents to suffer, then the answer is obvious. God is a sadist.

Why does God allow Haiti to suffer so much?

God doesn't care about black people. Yes, God and Bushie have a lot in common.

What is the best scriptural text or explanation of that problem you've ever read?

Again, the answer is obvious to anyone with an ability to use elementary logic.

1) God tells people I love you all
2) God slaughters people

1) is unverifiable. But 2 is an objective fact. Therefore, we can deduce, that God was either a) Lying or b) Forgot to add "Except Haitians"

Or maybe he had one long island iced tea too many and forgot the lubrication. Of the tectonic plates, I mean.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 18:32:00 UTC | #434266

Summer Seale's Avatar Comment 19 by Summer Seale

None of the religions make sense when they try to stand up against logical reasoning and science.

The fact is simple: you just basically have to suspend all reason in order to believe.

However, that doesn't necessarily apply to all religions. I'd throw some of Judaism into that mix. I'm not Jewish but I have studied some of it. Judaism doesn't really talk about an afterlife. They also don't preach to convert people. As most know here, it's almost impossible to convert to Judaism, so they're not exactly on my hot list of people to shut up as they don't really care one way or the other what I believe in.

I'd also say that Buddhism is more a philosophy than a religion, but of course it too has stupid mystical problems with it.

By and large, my biggest beef are with religions that go around preaching for conversion foremost. Then come religions that claim knowledge of an afterlife. Then come religions that claim God is all powerful.

The first is simply offensive in the extreme. Preaching that I should convert is akin to saying my thinking is entirely wrong, that I need to suspend my beliefs and change them entirely, and to think something incredibly irrational.

The second is simply stupid. There's no proof and, in fact, it goes against what science says so people really ought to shut up about it.

The third is where you can watch religious people contort themselves into human pretzels simply to justify so many problems with the idea of an omniscient and omnipotent God. When you get down to it, it's just incredibly illogical and stupid. The fact is that an all powerful God who creates people who he knows in advance will burn in hell after they die, gives them free choice, but knows whether or not they will believe in him before he ever makes them, simply to watch them burn anyway is about the dumbest thing I can imagine.

I really don't know of other religions aside from Christianity and Islam that claim this, though I'm sure there are a few. (Judaism actually doesn't claim this as far as I know, btw..they don't really talk much about the afterlife until Jesus comes around).

So yes, if you're able to believe in a God that sits back and lets people suffer and justify it in all sorts of bizarre and nonsensical ways which basically come down to just "have faith because we can't explain it either", you'll be able to justify a God that puts people in earthquake zones merely to punish them and cause suffering.

It's crazy, it's stupid, it's insane, but it's "holy".

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 18:38:00 UTC | #434267

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 20 by bendigeidfran

Well done PK.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 18:53:00 UTC | #434275

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 21 by Rich Wiltshir

Re Comment 10 from Paula

"I made a mistake..... the error I made"

Maybe the religoons COULD learn from this example.

Nicely done Paula; for the article and comment 10.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 18:57:00 UTC | #434276

NormanDoering's Avatar Comment 22 by NormanDoering

Rich Wiltshir wrote: "Maybe the religoons COULD learn from this example."

The question is, why are they immune to all the science and logic we present. I've noticed on youtube when arguing with godbots that when pointing out such things that the theists will fall back on personal experiences:

Note how the one guy, called thereprieve, even admits that his experience is driving him away from what he knows to be logical and scientific.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 19:13:00 UTC | #434286

Prankster's Avatar Comment 24 by Prankster

Bravo Paula! It is mind-bending how certain folks like Robertson and his ilk just disregard so much scientific evidence or fact as their worldview is clouded by pure ignorance, fear and superstition.

His comments over the years over natural disasters being the fault of the victims just about sums this fool up together with his abhorent version of his professed loving peaceful religion.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 19:16:00 UTC | #434292

Quine's Avatar Comment 23 by Quine

From Paula:

As ever, instead of looking at the reality of the world around them and drawing their conclusions about the nature - or even existence! - of the god they worship based on what they see, the theologians start with their desired answer - God is good! - and then contort themselves into ever more desperate intellectual non-sequiturs in order to twist the evidence to fit that answer.
Nailed it.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 19:16:00 UTC | #434291

TIKI AL's Avatar Comment 25 by TIKI AL

Since Wegener's theory was not accepted until 20 years after his death, shouldn't Robertson be ignored for at least that long?

"Alfred Lothar Wegener (1 November 1880 – November 1930) was a German scientist, geophysicist, and meteorologist.

He is most notable for his theory of continental drift (Kontinentalverschiebung), proposed in 1912, which hypothesized that the continents were slowly drifting around the Earth. However, Wegener was unable to demonstrate a mechanism for continental drift, which, combined with his mostly circumstantial evidence, meant that his hypothesis was not accepted until the 1950s, when numerous discoveries provided evidence of continental drift.[1][2]"(wiki)

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 19:27:00 UTC | #434303

Mitch Kahle's Avatar Comment 26 by Mitch Kahle

"The idea that any of this has anything at all to do with us, that it was created with us in mind, or that our 'sinfulness' has had any effect whatsoever on the majestic, monumental and utterly indifferent laws of physics, is egotism of the highest order."

Indeed. For me the word Christian is synonymous with arrogance. Claiming to have knowledge, refusing to provide evidence, and then demanding acceptance and respect is the highest form of ego.

If you want see ignorance of the highest order, just read the testimony of those opposed to marriage equality.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 19:31:00 UTC | #434306

TrickyDicky's Avatar Comment 27 by TrickyDicky

4. Comment #453595 by TIKI AL on January 22, 2010 at 5:32 pm

"Jesus rifles update: Maddow reported last night that the Michigan manufacturer has stopped putting Buybull verses on the US Military rifle scopes and has sent kits into the theater to remove them from the rifles already being used by the Muslim recruits to train with. Their sneaky proselytizing almost cost them a 660 million dollar contract in a thriving state like Michigan."

Are they going to change the cross hairs?

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 19:35:00 UTC | #434308

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 28 by prettygoodformonkeys

Thanks, Paula. Guess I'll re-read Stenger's book before I post on this again!

Also: nice job on the response to Robertson. Good to have it out there for people who need to see it.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 19:47:00 UTC | #434312

TIKI AL's Avatar Comment 29 by TIKI AL

TrickyDicky @ 28: "Are they going to change the cross hairs?" ...Yes, they have erased the little bloody nails.

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 19:48:00 UTC | #434313

Dean Buchanan's Avatar Comment 30 by Dean Buchanan

Yet another incisive analysis by Ms. Kirby, all meat and no fat.
Contrast this with supernaturalists who seem to be all fat and no meat.
I guess humans are really attracted to fat, but lean meat is better for us. edit:(these days unlike in the past.)

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 19:50:00 UTC | #434315