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Comments by jsweet

Go to: Falling from Faith: When Pastors Stop Believing

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Secondly, to blame the church or churches because of various actions or inaction as a reason for leaving the faith ignores the individuals doctrinal and theological education, and their ability to employ critical thought. Also, when one disagrees with a church (or entire denomination for that matter), it necessitates a change of venue. The individual church is no different from an automotive service station. When you do not like or agree with how they work on your car, you simply find another mechanic. You don't quit driving.

Just a point about this... I haven't read the original pastor's article, so I dunno how he framed it... but there is an element of truth to the idea that a bad sect can cause someone to let go of their faith, when that same person might very well have persisted in their faith had they found themselves in a "good" sect. This is not because the "good" sect is actually beneficial or has any access to the truth, but simply because all the things that are wrong with religion are more easily visible when you are immersed in a particularly striking example of those bad things.

To use an analogy... Say Alice and Bob both don't wear their seatbelts. They each find seatbelts uncomfortable, and so rationalize away all the dangers. One day, Alice gets in a minor accident. She is okay, but she gets banged up a lot worse than she would have if she had been wearing her seatbelt. It causes her to re-examine her attitudes, and decides that the slight discomfort is worth it for the safety benefits. Bob, on the other hand, is lucky enough to never get in an accident, so he is never motivated to re-examine his attitudes, and persists in not wearing a seatbelt until he dies of old age.

Bob was still an idiot for not wearing his seatbelt. And Alice would have persisted in her foolishness too, were it not for the bad experience she had.

It's the same with "bad" religion vs. progressive religion. Absolutely, "bad" religion drives a lot of people out of the faith who would have stuck with it if they had had a good experience. So what? It's still foolish.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 20:11:20 UTC | #945066

Go to: Higgs boson hunters scent their elusive quarry at the LHC

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Bah, the thing about "ranked on a scale from one to five 'sigma'" really bugs me. It's not a scale from 1 to 5; it's a measurement of the probability of an error, and it could go up to as many sigmas as you want. 5 sigma has been arbitrarily chosen as "sure enough", but it could have easily been 6 sigma, or 4 sigma, or 9 sigma, or whatever. Blech.

Starcrash: I think it might be a Britishism, but I think the gist is just, "I'm pretty certain about this, to the point I'd bet something that I like a lot (like chocolate)." I think.

Sat, 10 Dec 2011 17:10:26 UTC | #897553

Go to: Canadians losing faith in religion

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Explanations from experts vary - from fear of extremists and anger toward individuals who abuse positions of power, to a national "forgetting" of Canadian history.

Or, you know, it could just be that religion does do more harm than good, and many Canadians are recognizing this fact... The "experts" didn't consider that hypothesis? heh....

Mon, 19 Sep 2011 16:22:33 UTC | #872675

Go to: Amoebae Get Organized

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Wed, 07 Sep 2011 18:05:31 UTC | #868332

Go to: How man 'lost his penile spines'

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Penile spines? That's rather graphic. Perhaps someone needs to bowdlerize this article.


Thu, 10 Mar 2011 13:23:37 UTC | #600767

Go to: [UPDATE 19-OCT] Morals Without God?

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Seems like a lack of knowledge of world religions. When he refers to "Christian morality", I can only assume he is referring to those moral features of Christianity which are virtually universal across all societies, religious or not. (Otherwise, is he saying atheists in the US are all misogynist homophobes who don't work on Sunday?)

One point to make, he brings up the "Bright" appellation, and sure enough it goes 'clunk' just as hard as we all expected. Thanks a lot, Geisert. What a horrible idea that one was... In any case, I don't call myself a Bright, for exactly the reason that de Waal poo-poos it!

It's also funny how he refers to polemical books about evolution "not reaching their intended audience" -- right after he acknowledges that they are very useful for a wide audience! So, somehow de Waal "knows" what the target audience should have been?

It's an unwinnable game. You right a book for group X, they say you have failed to reach group Y, and since group Y was obviously your target audience.... Bah!

Tue, 19 Oct 2010 13:17:52 UTC | #535589

Go to: New BBC guidelines extend 'due impartiality' to religion

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I'm more concerned about the guidelines being extended to science than I am about them being extend to religion. If the guidelines mean the Beeb can't say that, say, Reform Judaism is more awesomerly than liberal Methodist, yes fine. There's no objective truth there anyway, so might as well be neutral, eh?

But science? There's no "impartiality" when it comes to scientific fact...

Mon, 18 Oct 2010 13:55:40 UTC | #535042

Go to: Educational apartheid: Ulster First Minister's view of faith schools

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Note that McGuiness doesn't actually say Robertson was wrong... Just that it wasn't politically astute.

Mon, 18 Oct 2010 13:48:49 UTC | #535033

Go to: Allah’s existence to be debated at UK’s leading mosque

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Wasn't this a Monty Python sketch already?

Thu, 14 Oct 2010 16:08:26 UTC | #533502

Go to: [UPDATE - Video added] Amanpour Inadvertently Exposes the Real Issue with Islam

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Well, the article you link to is moronic. We really need to be careful here that in our condemnation of Islam we don't find ourselves in bed with Christianist theocrat bigot assmunches. The article implies that Islam is worse than Christianity because the Quran and the Hadiths command Muslims to do all sorts of terrible things. Nevermind that pesky Bible, though...

Fri, 08 Oct 2010 14:53:54 UTC | #530893

Go to: Dawkins at Duke: Just the facts, Ma'am

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Quick comment on the "Blessing of the Animals"... one of the two UU services I attended was a Blessing of the Animals service, which basically translated to "Bring Your Pet To Church Day". It was pretty freakin' hilarious, definitely the most fun I've had in a church EVAR!11!!!

(Although, the latter is not saying much... I found the other UU service I attended somewhat nerve-wracking but tolerable -- churches creep me out -- and I was raised Mormon, so uh... I'll leave that to the imagination...)

Thu, 07 Oct 2010 20:51:14 UTC | #530439

Go to: Texas - RD mocks creationists...

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Strange description of The Selfish Gene, I have to say... I would say that The Blind Watchmaker "laid out his thinking of a designless universe", but The Selfish Gene seems more constrained in scope... I'd describe it as "laying out his thinking of a gene-centric view of natural selection", but I suppose that doesn't make for good copy :)

Thu, 07 Oct 2010 20:34:44 UTC | #530429

Go to: God's soft white underbelly

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Again you are confusing knowledge with pre-destination. God knows that something will happen because he is omniscient, that doesn't mean he made it happen though.

This is only true if you take omnipotence out of the equation.

For an omnipotent being, "I didn't stop it" is synonymous with "I made it happen."

Tue, 05 Oct 2010 15:15:48 UTC | #529311

Go to: God's soft white underbelly

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The base point still stands - free will answers this, but somehow this is discounted as "silly" with no real explanation.

Actually, the article addresses the free will argument in quite a bit of depth... to the detriment that it ignores a couple other approaches to the theodicy argument. Try reading it again.

Tue, 05 Oct 2010 15:14:18 UTC | #529309

Go to: God's soft white underbelly

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I see where you're coming from, but in the Christian mythology God created the universal laws which define that 'logical possibility' - it is responsible for the universe in which those laws apply, and so (if omnipotent) can adjust them. If it cannot changes those fundamental laws, then it isn't omnipotent precisely because there are forces in the universe to which it is beholden rather than the other way around.

I don't know, I'm pretty sure that some would argue that even in the Christian mythology, while God was busy creating the heavens and the earth, this did not imply he had the option to be like, "Oh, and by the way, unicorns can be both pink and invisible at the same time." They would argue that while God had complete freedom to decide what phenomena caused things pink and what phenomena caused things to be invisible, that pink and invisible is a logical contradiction.

I think the answer to this is not to deny that some people really do define omniscience this way, but rather to point out that is an artifact of our language that makes "invisible and pink" seem less inherently contradictory than "jsweet can leap tall buildings".

Tue, 05 Oct 2010 15:10:48 UTC | #529304

Go to: God's soft white underbelly

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The problem is that we attempt to rationalise the will of God into something obvious that we can see and further implies that everything that was intended to happen has happened

spmccullagh -- see my comment #22, specifically the last two paragraphs. This is fine, but if we are not allowed to "rationalise the will of God into something obvious" in the case of evil, then why are we allowed to "rationalise the will of God into something obvious" in the case of good? Do you ever thank or praise God? I presume that you will immediately cease from doing so, since your non-omniscient non-omnipotent self cannot possible know whether God meant for it to be a good thing.

You say to God: "Thank you, God, for giving me this new job." And God says to himself: "Stupid human, he thinks I'm helping him. I'm actually punishing him for those unclean thoughts he had the other day. He's gonna be killed in a job-related accident on the first day."

For that matter, why do you feel it is okay to "rationalise the will of God into something obvious" in the case of commandments? If you are not allowed to use your brain to figure out whether God is evil, why are you allowed to use your brain to figure out what God wants to do?

God says to you: "Do not hide your light under a bushel." You say: "Oh thank you, Lord, I will now go out and tell everyone about my Christianity." And God thinks to himself: "Stupid human, that was actually meant as a metaphor to command all the humans to stand on their heads at precisely 3AM on October 6th 2010. The metaphor was obvious to omniscient beings like myself, but the humans just don't get it. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to damn them all to eternal hellfire..."

Do you see the problem? If we are going to try to figure out what God wants from us, or are going to thank him for doing nice things, then it logically follows that we are also allowed to try and figure out why God seems like such a jerk a lot of the time, and condemn him for doing bad things. It's only fair.

Tue, 05 Oct 2010 15:03:55 UTC | #529298

Go to: God's soft white underbelly

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Oh yes, and while it is not really theodicy per se, there is one more way out of this conundrum that the article has not addressed: While it's fairly rare in the modern world, a handful of religions still make absolutely no pretense that God is in any way benevolent.

The Problem of Evil is no problem at all for those religions -- but of course it is not hard to see why a "sky daddy loves you" meme might win out in the long run over a "oh shit there's a crazy homocidal psychopath in the sky, and we'd better do what he wants right the fuck now before we get brutally lightning-bolted" meme.

Tue, 05 Oct 2010 14:55:12 UTC | #529290

Go to: God's soft white underbelly

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Overall a good treatment of the topic, but it ignores two important lines of argumentation regarding theodicy:

The first is to define omnipotence as the ability to do all things that are logically possible. This is extremely problematic, of course, as it is difficult to precisely define what "logically possible" means. Is it logically possible for me to jump over the Empire State Building without being harmed? One might argue 'no': if we go through the scenario logically, we see all sorts of reasons why I could not do it (e.g. my muscles are not powerful enough and, due to how they work, never could be powerful enough), and that even if I could, I would logically be harmed by it. The Paradox of the Stone is only the beginning of the problems with defining omnipotence.

However, that is an argument that should have been addressed, as addressing it is not trivial.

The second line of argumentation which is ignored is the old "God works in mysterious ways" canard, i.e. since we are indescribably ignorant compared to an allegedly omniscient being, how could we lay claim to understanding its reasoning and motives? I am actually willing to accept this argument on one condition: If the "we can't know God's reasons" applies to bad things, it must also apply to good things. If God is blameless, He gets no credit either. Contrapositively, if we give him credit for the good in our lives, we must also place blame for the bad -- in which case Jeebus got a lot of 'splaining to do.

By extension, if we are not allowed to apply our human reasoning to God's motives, we cannot apply our reasoning to God's commandments either. Did God really mean to condemn teh gey? Or was he just speaking in mysterious ways? A God which works in ways so mysterious as to be inexplicable cannot be worshiped, because we would never know how.

Tue, 05 Oct 2010 14:49:36 UTC | #529287

Go to: UPDATED: Beyond New Atheism?

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Once again I stand confused... much of what he says is correct, and he correctly observed that if atheists come off as crude and simplistic at times, surely that is because what they are rebutting is also crude and simplistic. I'm not quite sure how it follows from that that Eagleton's digs about theology make any sense whatsoever.

FWIW, for all those saying, "Whoever said those things?!", I've heard every single one of them said here and there on the atheist blogosphere, except maybe the "without religion there would be no war" thing. The "moderates are worse than fundamentalists" I think I might have even heard from Jerry Coyne, though don't hold me to that! I could be misremembering. Melville should have been more clear, though, that he wasn't quoting Dawkins, since Dawkins was used as the example case for most of his article.

I've been confused a lot lately. I read this, I read Julian Baggini's recent piece, I am in the process of reading Unscientific America, and in every single one I have experienced the sensation of nodding my head, agreeing with almost every point -- and then reaching a conclusion that, to me, does not seem to follow at all. Maybe it's me. :D

Wed, 22 Sep 2010 14:44:21 UTC | #523384

Go to: Pope should come and go in peace

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Well that was confusing... he basically agrees with us, but we're dicks anyway? Because... well, he never really says why.


Tue, 21 Sep 2010 17:58:37 UTC | #522865

Go to: The Case of the Halfhearted Catholic

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I read the relevant sections of the USCCB-commissioned report, and I do not draw the same conclusions as Kirby and Robertson, i.e. I do not feel that it clearly supports the notion that Catholic priests are more likely to be abusers than the general population. Am I misreading it? If so, could someone point me to specific passages?

Note that I am not by any means trying to be an apologist here! While it is unclear to me that Catholic priests are more likely to be sex offenders, I feel the data is fairly clear that the victims-per-offender is much higher for Catholic priests, exactly because of the cover-up and the shifting from parish to parish. Even if the problem of abuse in the Catholic clergy is no worse than what is experienced in any similarly-sized institution, the institutional response has been tragic.

Tue, 14 Sep 2010 14:59:10 UTC | #517705

Go to: 9/11 was the start of the New Atheist movement

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His hypothesis about the various branching schools of thought among the Left is interesting -- though I'm not sure it's particularly well supported. And he's not wrong for some in the environmental movement, it's a quasi-religious cause, and his description of that is more or less apt (though he seems to imply that this quasi-religious motivation applies to a hell of a lot more of the environmentalist left than I think is fair or accurate).

But his characterizations of both anti-racism efforts and gnu atheism are just bizarre.

Fri, 10 Sep 2010 16:39:15 UTC | #515627

Go to: Atheist doctors 'more likely to hasten death'

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Yes, exactly, I think the headline and lead-in of the article are intentionally misleading so as to sound like what people want to hear. A proper reading of the article is of course very much in favor of less theistic doctors. But the headline and first paragraph intentionally try to give the opposite impression.

Thu, 26 Aug 2010 16:36:55 UTC | #505966

Go to: A Test of Tolerance

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Yeah, keep trying your "nuanced level" as the rest of the country decides to keep fellating Glenn Beck.

Tue, 24 Aug 2010 00:50:49 UTC | #504506

Go to: A Test of Tolerance

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Playing right into the hands of Christianist theocrats.

Even if you oppose the Not-at-Ground-Zero Not-a-mosque, when there are demagogues seriously trying to abolish the First Amendment right of the builders to be treated in a religion-neutral manner, now is maybe not the time to prattle on about it. There should be one message and one message only coming from the liberal/secular/atheist side: The people behind Park51 have every right to proceed as planned. End of sentence.

Mon, 23 Aug 2010 22:13:33 UTC | #504453

Go to: Is Atheism A Positive Force in America?

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Who is that guy? I've never even heard of him.

He's funny, but I can't help but think they found the most offensive ridiculous atheist spokesman they could find, in order to make atheists look silly. I mean, I thought this guy was entertaining, but... not the spokesman I would have chosen for Nightline!

Fri, 20 Aug 2010 18:23:00 UTC | #503066

Go to: Scotsman Review: Faith Schools Menace?

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So WAS the ? inserted by the producers? It keeps confusing me every time there is a review... like the reviewer is trying to say "Faith schools menace? Ridiculous!" Then I remember, that's the actual title of the program...

Thu, 19 Aug 2010 20:34:04 UTC | #502628

Go to: "It must have happened for a reason"

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I've got a similar story, though this one would never be mistaken for anything supernatural or divine... but it does display how easy it is to fall victim to faulty reasoning:

A little over a year ago one of my cats died very suddenly and unexpectedly. It was really quite devastating, in the morning she was perfectly healthy to all appearances, good appetite, bouncing around and playing; in the evening her kidneys completely shut down.

ANYWAY, that's not the point of the story. You see, a few weeks before, we had ordered some preventative flea medication for our cats, and it had arrived less than a week before she died. My wife had been reminding me to apply the medication, but I kept forgetting.

If I had remembered to do my chores, I would be 100% convinced that she had some reaction to the flea medication and that I had inadvertently killed her. And yet, it would have been just a random coincidence... a simple post hoc fallacy.

Thu, 05 Aug 2010 13:25:38 UTC | #496156