This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Comments by BanJoIvie

Go to: Talking to people works!

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by BanJoIvie

Jersey, I think you're assuming that wondernerd is a teacher. That was not my impression. I thought that these two friends were students in a less-than-stellar math class.

Thu, 16 Aug 2012 15:44:21 UTC | #950891

Go to: Guidance in turning my children to reason

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by BanJoIvie

I am also a former Mormon. I left voluntarily as an adult after having completed a mission.

I only have a couple of thoughts regarding your plans.

You're plan seems perfectly reasonable. I would only suggest that you avoid presenting this plan to your wife a a set of demands, or as an all-or-nothing package. Remember that you have taken the time to formulate your thoughts on the matter, and even to ask advice before discussing it with your wife. But this may all take her by surprise. I suspect that the less you can make her feel "confronted" the smoother it may go. You may also try to think of your proposal as a starting point for a discussion rather than an end goal. Be fully prepared to hear your wife's objections and her wishes in the matter, and to seek compromise.

I don't know how possible it would be, but what if you invited your wife to accompany you and the kids on your every-other-week explorations? You might even offer to attend sacrament meeting with them on "her weeks" in return. I realize your excommuniction may make this very uncomfortable, and I wouldn't envy you the time in those pews. This approach might allow the family to address differing views together rather than setting up a you-versus-your-wife division of time. There would certainly be drawbacks to this approach, but there may be advantages. Worth considering.

The only other thought I have is that you may want to allow the kids a chance to at least express their thoughts and feelings while making decisions that impact their lives. They will very likely have their own views and preferences about Sunday time, and even about baptisms/ordinations/etc. You may not decide to give them their way in every one of these choices, but I think it will be important to consult them and let them know they are heard.

Mon, 06 Aug 2012 23:59:51 UTC | #950470

Go to: Why do we find mountains beautiful?

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by BanJoIvie


Similarly, is anyone aware if any work has been done on why we have a sense of humour?

Not really what your looking for, but this question immediately made me think of the novel The Road to Mars by Eric Idle. It's a silly little comedy/sci-fi romp which mostly follows the adventures of a comedy duo who are traveling the show biz circuit through our future solar system.

This duo have a robotic secretary named Carlton who is obsessed with understanding the human concept of humor, and is traveling with his bosses as a means of researching his doctoral thesis on the subject. In the end his research posits the existence of a primary force in nature called "levity" which is the polar opposite of gravity, and exerts a generally expansive, uplifting effect on all matter in the universe.

Wed, 11 Jul 2012 01:55:43 UTC | #948880

Go to: Belief In God Plummets Among Youth (CHART)

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 32 by BanJoIvie

Comment 28 by /Mike

If you ever have problems with links or formatting in an article in the future please click on the green "report a problem" button

Thanks /Mike. I can't believe I never saw that before.

Thu, 14 Jun 2012 21:35:40 UTC | #947475

Go to: Belief In God Plummets Among Youth (CHART)

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 27 by BanJoIvie



For those interested, the rest of the article is HERE.

Thu, 14 Jun 2012 17:07:50 UTC | #947425

Go to: Rhode Island cross controversy - legitimate or petty?

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 221 by BanJoIvie

Comment 212 by Marcus Small

All of this smacks of a kinda of secular blasphemy...Do we really want the right not to be offended.

This is the "crux" of the matter from my point of view. This criticism, and all the similar observations on this thread betray a complete misunderstanding of the point.

At least so far as I'm concerned, this is NOT about a religious symbol being "offensive." There may be atheists who feel that way, and if so, I agree that they should get over it. Personal offense is nobody's problem but the person taking it. The problem here isn't "offense" or even the cross itself per se. The problem is that a religious symbol does not belong in this particular location. A public firehouse already has a very important symbolic function, and that function constitutionally procludes the expression of religious faith.

Public institutions are erected, operated and maintained with taxpayer funds for the express purpose of serving the needs of the entire community. They serve and represent the community as a whole. They are an inappropriate venue for expressions of faith. Even if every individual citizen in a community happened to belong to and agree with a certain faith, the civic body as a whole does not and cannot* belong to that faith. The US Constitution guarantees that the civic body remains secular - NOT atheist, not "hostile" to faith - but strictly neutral in all questions of faith. All governement institutions in a secular state are forbidden from taking any stand on religious issues.

The confussion here comes from those who erroneously conflate a defense of secularism with a defense of atheism. There is NOT an equivalency between erecting a religious monument on public land, and suing to have that monument removed. If the FFRF were trying to erect a giant red A at the firehouse, that would be petty, and the exact corrolary to what the original monument builders did. If Atheists tried to use public land to erect an atheist monument to fallen soldiers, how quickly would Christians rush to defend it? How "petty" would we consider efforts to block it?

The FFRF is not the agressor here. The designers of this monument, and those who defend it are invading civic space and attacking the vital principal of separation - a principal which protects us all. FFRF is making a defensive move here against unwarranted encroachment. They should be supported for taking an unpopular stand in favor of an important legal protection.

Faith and religion have many protections and privileges under US secularism. Christians have a Constitutionally protected right to express their beliefs and to erect their cherished symbols. They absolutely do not have the right to raise those symbols over the commons - to effectively claim pride of place for their cherished beliefs over all others.

And I'm shocked how many people are raising the age of this monument as if it made any difference at all to the issue at hand. What possible relevance does the fact that law began to be broken nearly a century ago have? It was illegal then, it has been illegal for every second of those ninntey-plus years, and it is illegal at this very monment. The violation of the US Constitution ios happening right now. The long-standing nature of the violation only makes it more shameful and increases the urgent need to correct matters.

Separation of church and state matters. It is not petty. It is more important than PR.

Fri, 04 May 2012 18:34:55 UTC | #939723

Go to: Rhode Island cross controversy - legitimate or petty?

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 124 by BanJoIvie

Comment 122 by inquisador

Sometimes we should concede a point, not out of fear, but because it is the right thing to do.


The cross carries a weight of historical and emotional baggage, and for many people that is an important part of cultural heritage.

Yes, but the public firehouse does not belong to "many people" it serves all the people. It is not the appropriate place for "many people" to be expressing their religious faith. There are many, many places for important cultural symbols. Public facilities are not among them.

The First Amendment is also an important part of cultural heritage, and it belongs to the citizenry as a whole.

This monument is clearly unconsititutional. Not a grey area, not a borderline case, an unequivocal violation of the establishment clause. It was unconstitutional 91 years ago, and remains so today. The fact that it could have been erected without anyone batting an eye speaks to the enormous presumption of privilege among the majority Christians. Appeals to the "cultural meaning" of this clearly religious symbol are weak tea apologetics.

I can't think of a single good reason why it should be moved.

Really, not one? I can't think of a single good reason for it to remain. Why should the removal require justification when the monument itself is illegal? It is no great imposition to simply move it to an appropriate venue.

To prove a point about church and state?

See, you thought of a good reason right there. Why should proving such a point be unimportant? Church/state separation is a bedrock principle that protects every citizen - Chritstians included. Frankly using a public firehouse to make a point about church and state is a much more appropriate use of communal resources than making a religious point.

I thought secularism was opposed to meaningless dogma?

Definitionally, secularism is opposed to the mixing of church and state. That's all. But I just can't agree that this case is meaningless, or that the the vital principle of strict separation is "dogma."

Right now, today, there are millions of American citizens who believe that the US is a Christian nation. They fully expect Christian symbols, holidays, practices and ideas to be given priority under force of law. For many, many people this cross is an expression of faith and a statement about the nature and character of the state. The existence of such a popular sentiment - I believe - is inherently unhealthy for a modern secular democracy, and makes a monument like this much more than a "cultural" artifact with historical significance. It is important that the government clearly reject the idea of enshrining the majority faith civic institutions. At the very least we ought to insist that the state refrain from reinforcing the idea that Christianity is preferred.

I agree with Egbert. It is shocking how easily rational people will overlook an important principle because of the status quo.

Of course I don't mean that secularism is meaningless, but that the stubborn insistence on unnecessary imposition is.

Is a cross at a public firestation not an unnecessary imposition? Why stubbornly insist on keeping it?

Mon, 30 Apr 2012 16:54:01 UTC | #938402

Go to: [Update - statement from CfI ]Secular Group Charges Michigan Country Club with Religious Discrimination

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by BanJoIvie

Comment 8 by Alan4discussion I'm still not clear what exactly was booked or cancelled. Was it a room or a speaker? Is this an issue of breach of contract, or unlawful discrimination, or both?

It was a reception for Professor Dawkins arranged by Center for Inquiry–Michigan and RDFDS.

I believe Richard was scheduled to speak, and the venue had been duly booked in advance. The owner abruptly canceled after seeing Richard take abuse from Bill O'Reilly on Fox news.

There we're several discussions here at the time. The first URL below leads to one. The second is an essay by Sean Faircloth arguing the case for caring about such discrimination despite libertarian objections. A site search for "country club" will bring up more.

Sat, 28 Apr 2012 00:53:54 UTC | #937866

Go to: [Update - statement from CfI ]Secular Group Charges Michigan Country Club with Religious Discrimination

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by BanJoIvie

Comment 3 by davidckahn

Ugh, I hate it when people--even ones who share my general philosophy--get on this high-horse when someone denies them the use of private facilities to promote their own worldview. Freedom of speech doesn't mean a privately-owned organization has to provide you with a microphone and a soapbox. Deal with it.

Sorry, but if your "private" organization hires its facilities out to the public, then it must do so indiscriminately. Keep it fully private or rent to all comers. That's US law. It's why for example cafe owners can't but up "whites only" signs despite their rights as "private" property owners. Deal with it.

Fri, 27 Apr 2012 23:09:42 UTC | #937844

Go to: We asked "Do you really believe ___" and they said yes. Now what?

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by BanJoIvie

Comment 6 by 78rpm

She went on to tell me tht every word in the bible was true. I asked her whether she believed that a snake talked. She smiled indulgently and explained, "That was The Devil speaking."

What the hell do you do with someone like that?


Genesis, Chapter 2

1 Now the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die

"You just told me that every word of the bible is true. Now you claim that the word "serpent" is not true? The devil is never mentioned in the Genesis story of Eden. It clearly states that Eve had a conversation with a serpent (who incidentally told her the truth about the fruit. God lied to her.)

If the word "serpent" is a metaphor, then every other word is fair game. Either accept a taking snake or abandon literalism."

Wed, 04 Apr 2012 01:39:11 UTC | #932231

Go to: Military Blocks Atheist Efforts to Feed Homeless

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 30 by BanJoIvie

No worries aroundtown. Glad to hear it was a misunderstanding, not another cancellation.

Have a great event guys! It's certainly been well earned. Wish I could attend. I expect full reporting!

Sat, 31 Mar 2012 01:28:46 UTC | #931478

Go to: Military Blocks Atheist Efforts to Feed Homeless

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 28 by BanJoIvie

Comment 27 by aroundtown

So I just discovered this event is cancelled in it's entirety? I'd have thought we would discuss this event being shutdown. I still can't find out if it's on or cancelled, this is very confusing to nail down. If someone else know's could you post the answer.

There's no mention of any trouble on the Rock Beyond Belief website. Where did you get the impression that the event was cancelled?

Could you have gotten some old news? RBB was originally scheduled to occur last year, but was cancelled in (March '11) when various restrictions were announced by those in command which made it impossible to proceed. Since that time there has been a change of heart on the part of Ft. Bragg higher-ups (facing a disciplined and determined group of organizers, PR pressure, and well as scrutiny from above due to creative interpretation of regs?) The event was rescheduled for tomorrow, and should be even bigger than originally planned. Each of these turns of event have been discussed at length in previous threads. (Apologies, if you already knew all this.)

I haven't heard anywhere that RBB was in danger again. I hope there is some mistake! This should be a great day for the Ft. Bragg community and for US military atheists.

Fri, 30 Mar 2012 21:16:26 UTC | #931431

Go to: Military Blocks Atheist Efforts to Feed Homeless

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by BanJoIvie

The clear (illegal) double standard in the US military's preferential treatment of evangelical Christianity is a national disgrace. Thank you Sgt. Griffith of your tireless efforts to call those responsible to account.

Also, as long as we're "asking" fellow posters to censor themselves in this free speech zone, I'd like to ask posters to refrain from taking moderator or admin powers upon themselves. The goals and aims of RDnet are clearly spelled out by those who set it up and run it, not by those of us who visit. There are pretty clear cut Tems and Conditions already in place to guide discussions on this site. (They are blessedly short, minimally restrictive, and pointedly do not ban "gutter language" per se.)

In my solely individual opinion, "offense" is usually the reponsibility of the person taking it. One of the things I value most about RDnet is the sense I get here that I am presumed to be an adult who can handle a bit of rough and tumble. Abuse and sheer idiocy are properly removed, but purely cosmetic concerns about the dainties are usually left to each individual conscience.

If a member of the community feels any comments are crossing a line there is a remedy. The handy little red flag allows those with the actual authority to make a determination as to whether someone's free speech is damaging the aims and purposes of this forum.

Apart from that, all posters are just equal members of the discussion here, and I bristle when anyone takes it upon themselves to articulate (and police) what "we" are trying to do with "the site."

Wed, 28 Mar 2012 16:32:58 UTC | #930960

Go to: Last week's Gary Trudeau series

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by BanJoIvie

Awesome. And "Here's your bill." is the perfect clincher.

Sat, 17 Mar 2012 15:33:35 UTC | #928084

Go to: The Fall of Foolish Faith

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by BanJoIvie

Oooooooooooo, strident!

Tue, 13 Mar 2012 19:31:47 UTC | #926749

Go to: Can Jewish and Christian values last without belief in an omnipotent God?

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 34 by BanJoIvie

So what makes all those Jews who would define themselves as non-believers or predominantly secular still call themselves Jewish? The answer lies in something additional to faith and summed up as "Jewish values". The 4,000-year-old link that a modern Jew in Tel Aviv, New York or London traces back to the biblical Abraham might be genetically fanciful, but it and the national narrative that evolved from it in all its infinite variety, customs, folk memories, intellectual and artistic efflorescence, tragedies and creative achievements still have the power to retain the loyalty of the overwhelming majority of men and women in the world today who classify themselves as Jewish.

Here is the problem in a nutshell. Davbid Goldberg uses the term "values" here, but he is not talking about morality at all, he is talking about culture.

Of course he's right that Jewish or Christian "values" can survive without the supernatural hogwash - provided you define "values" to mean something like "cultural identity." Even Richard self-identifies as a "cultural Christian." Unfortunatly for his thesis, once you water-down the term "values" to that extent, Goldberg's point becomes sort of unremarkable.

Like so much other "religious" apology today, this approach is relying on murky, conflated terminology to seem as though it is saying something profound or important. This article is essentially an extended deepity.

Far from contradicting the findings of the recent poll, Goldberg is actually making the same basic point that Richard and Paula have been teasing from the data, that being "Christian" increasingly does not mean what the prominent clergy and cultural warriors are claiming it does.

Using Goldberg's formulation, the statement that Jewish or Christian "values" will outlive the dogmas of faith is no more interesting than saying that "French values" or "Bowler's values" are independent of specific faith claims. Well duh!

Coaxing the religious to abandon their outsized confidence in unevidenced suppositions is precisely the goal of the gnu atheist movement as I understand it. If "Jewishness" or "Christianness" really does come to mean the sort of changable, pick-and-choose collection of shared cultural touchstones that Goldberg describes here - explicitly devoid of supernatural claims - then I personally will have no further complaints about these "religions." I will consider our work to be finished.

Sat, 03 Mar 2012 17:47:17 UTC | #924100

Go to: The Myth of Militant Atheism

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 10 by BanJoIvie

Comment 8 by Jos Gibbons

...I wonder what her view on abolitionists would have been had she been alive in the US c. 1860; what would constitute abolitionist extremism?

In 1860, most people in the US would have immediately thought of John Brown if you asked them such a question.

Right or wrong, there's no denying the guy was militant.

Thu, 01 Mar 2012 17:04:33 UTC | #923493

Go to: The Winner of the Social Media Contest!!

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 1 by BanJoIvie

Congratulations John Doe!! I LOVED "best video with link to YouTube."

Thu, 23 Feb 2012 02:18:37 UTC | #920904

Go to: UPDATED: Muslims Declare Jihad on Dogs in Europe

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 122 by BanJoIvie

Comment 113 by LucindaE

Comment 109 by BanJoIvie

Richard, I certainly don't think you intend to censor any views with your comment. Nonetheless, I am always wary when anyone puts on their "tone scold" hat...

I love finding irony in the comments.

Sorry, I'm afraid the "irony" here is lost on me. I think I know what you are trying to say about my point (perhaps I'm wrong) but I take issue here with the content and context of Richard's remark, not it's tone.

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 18:24:48 UTC | #913934

Go to: UPDATED: Muslims Declare Jihad on Dogs in Europe

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 109 by BanJoIvie

Comment 19 by Richard Dawkins

I don't think this is a matter for levity.

Of course it is. The entire proposal is patently ridiculous and ridicule is therefore an entirely appropriate reponse. Satire is our weapon and jokes are our friends.

Is this attempt to impose Islamic ideas of purity on the wider population also a very serious matter? Most certainly. But serious matters are not somehow off limits for comedic treatment. I tend to think any subject someone tells me is no laughing matter is probably in desperate need of satire.

Richard, I certainly don't think you intend to censor any views with your comment. Nonetheless, I am always wary when anyone puts on their "tone scold" hat (having become very sensitized to this tactic by accommodationist sentiments and by those who seek to silence or marginalize gnus by criticising their "attitude".)

Thu, 02 Feb 2012 16:53:49 UTC | #913906

Go to: Depression Defies the Rush to Find an Evolutionary Upside

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by BanJoIvie

I find it hard do believe, as Dr. Friedman implies, that any serious evolutionary scientist would suggest that full-blown clinical depression has adaptive value to a modern human. Clearly it does not. Any "upside" one might speculatively identify to various depressive symptoms would obviously be outweighed by the disruptive and harmful impact on a patient's life.

Nevertheless, there must be an evolutionary explanation for a phenomenon so widespread in the human population. Such an explanation need not necessarily suppose that depression itself has adaptive value to an individual. It is only necessary that some adaptive (to copies of genes not necessarily individuals) trait or traits have been selected for (over evolutionary time) and that depression is a one effect (not necessarily the selected effect) of said trait(s) which arises under current environmental conditions.

Evolutionary psychology can often be the source of "just so stories" and wild hypotheses, but I strongly suspect that Dr. Friedman is mischaracterizing attempts by evolutionary psychologists to explain depression as attempts to portray it as helpful. My suspicion is fed by the fact that Friedman offers the work of Joseph P. Forgas as an example of studies which show the value of "sadness" only to admit 5 paragraphs later that Forgas never impled that his research has any bearing on clinical depression. Forgas in fact accepts a distinction between "normal" sadness (like that in his subjects), and depressive states.

If there are E.P.s making the case that studies into the advantages of "sadness" can be generalized to depression, then Friedman is absolutely right to call them out. In such a case however, he should cite the flawed assertions in his article. The only person making such an erroneous case in this article is Friedman himself.

Tue, 17 Jan 2012 15:45:17 UTC | #909182

Go to: Has religion made the world less safe?

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 45 by BanJoIvie

Comment 39 by Schrodinger's Cat

Statistics come with an inference. Something is being inferred from them.

Something is definitely being inferred. Though the inferrence you are drawing was certainly not implied by Pinker.

What is Pinker infering ?

Er, um, implying?

Well....what else other than that cultural changes, the decline of religion, etc, have made the world 'safer'....less violent.

Well sort of. What he is actually saying is that the facts plainly show a decline in violence. Given this clear data we can seek for underlying causes. Some of these are clearer than others. Perhaps you should try to understand what Pinker is actually saying before throwing around such dismissive invective.

I call quite justifiable nonsense on that, because the means by which the world has been made 'safer' in the past 65 years has been the threat of total anihilation !

It may surprise you to note that Pinker is actually aware of the Mutually Assured Destruction doctrine, and of the Cold War. Neither of these pose a challenge to Pinker's arguments, and he deals frankly with them.

So its only been the threat of the most extreme form of violence, one which has not abated, that has secured this 'safety'. It's nothing to do with culture, religious decline, or the spread of secular liberal ideals [Added emphasis by BanJoIvie]

Now who is the one making unwarranted assertions? Care to back up this claim that the nuclear threat alone is responsible for declines in almost every imaginable measure of human violence? I can't wait to hear how the threat of nuclear war accounts for the worldwide end of legal slavery, or for animal rights movements.

Thu, 29 Dec 2011 06:27:51 UTC | #903467

Go to: Has religion made the world less safe?

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 38 by BanJoIvie

Comments 29 and 30 by Schrodinger's Cat

For example, arguing that the rate of death from war has fallen to unprecedented lows in the past 65 years and that this reflects a lessening of violence is disingenuous tosh........bearing in mind that lack of war was maintained by the threat of wiping out most of the human race!

I fail to see how hypotheticals, alternate timelines or potential violence that could have happened (yet didn't) serves to counter the plain fact that - despite all these things - violence did decrease during the period in question. Your strange argument here appears to be that "violence decreased" cannot be considered a fact because it had the potential to be false. Subtle reasoning indeed.

it's also worth pointing out that the 'rate of death from war' is itself a disingenuous criteria regarding violence

It may be worth pointing out, but since the 'quoted' phrase here originated with you, not with Pinker, I fail to see the relevance.

Given the advances in medical science and treatment of the wounded, the 'rate of death from war' will have decreased anyway even if the rate of wars themselves remained constant.

Possibly so. However this is another irrelevant hypothetical, since the "rate of wars themselves" (almost in any way you might choose to define that nebulous term) did not in fact remain constant. Combat deaths are only one possible metric that might be relevant to detemine such a thing. Casualty rates, collateral damage reports, refugee data, etc., etc. etc. all reflect the same trend during the period in question.

It is not a fallacy to derive purely statistical conclusions from purely statistical data.

Thu, 29 Dec 2011 00:56:10 UTC | #903428

Go to: Has religion made the world less safe?

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 28 by BanJoIvie

I'm not objecting to Pinker's book. I have heard glowing reviews of it, but have not read it yet. I'm discussing this article, which is not titled "has religion made the world less violent", but "has religion made the world less safe".

Of course. But my point is that Pinker would clearly agree with you in his answer's to both these questions. If one had to sum up his article into a one word answer to the title question, that answer would be "yes." The body of his text merely examines some of the ways in which (despite some counter-exmples) religion has served on the whole to decrease human safety. Admittedly, he choses the metric of violence for making his point, but not to the express exclusion of others. Granted, his summation is brief, and far from exhaustive (and your additions still leave plenty of religion's crimes off the list.)

If your only point is to expand upon the many reasons for condemning religion's influence, then I whole-heartedly agree with you (and I presume to imagine that Dr. Pinker would as well.) I would only quibble with your assertion that because Pinker doesn't mention every way in which religion does harm that he has necessarily "missed" some.

Wed, 28 Dec 2011 18:40:15 UTC | #903351

Go to: Has religion made the world less safe?

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 26 by BanJoIvie

Comment 15 by Schrodinger's Cat

' Religion' is such a vague description that to argue 'it' may or may not have made the world a more violent place is really a nonsense argument and not one derived from critical thinking.

Way to write an entire response to the title of an article. Did you read any further? Pinker directly addresses the concerns you raise:

Religion plays no single role in the history of violence because religion has not been a single force in the history of anything. The vast set of movements we call religions have little in common but their distinctness from the secular institutions that are recent appearances on the human stage. And the beliefs and practices of religions, despite their claims to divine provenance, are strongly influenced by human affairs, responding to its intellectual and social currents. When the currents move in enlightened directions, religions often adapt to them, most obviously in the discreet neglect of the bloodthirsty passages of the Old Testament. Many accommodations instigated by breakaway denominations, reform movements, ecumenical councils, and other liberalizing forces have allowed other religions to be swept along by the humanistic tide. It is when fundamentalist forces stand athwart those currents and impose tribal, authoritarian, and puritanical constraints that religion becomes a force for violence.

Wed, 28 Dec 2011 17:14:27 UTC | #903339

Go to: Has religion made the world less safe?

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 25 by BanJoIvie

Comment 17 by rod-the-farmer

The church was opposed to "empathy inducing novels " ???? Really ? That sounds interesting. Catcher in the Rye ? More details please, if any here know them.

The first example that sprung to my mind was Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. I assume that's what prompted the line from Pinker, but I could be wrong. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair might be another candidate.

Wed, 28 Dec 2011 17:07:16 UTC | #903336

Go to: Has religion made the world less safe?

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 24 by BanJoIvie

Comment 3 by Steve Zara

By concentrating largely on violence, Pinker misses ways in which religion is currently either actively attacking well-being or threatening the well-being of vast numbers in the future.

Religious views on contraception make life much less safe for millions where HIV is widespread.

Religious views on homosexuality threatens the well-being and even lives of millions as well.

Most potential damaging, religious views in the USA are one reason for a rejection of the need for action to deal with life-threatening consequences of polution, such as climate change.

The latter could lead to the deaths of millions, and even hundreds of millions if the situation really gets out of control, as a consequence of famine, lack of water, floods and wars over resources because of vast migrations.

You have a point of course, but I think you fall here into the fallacies that I have seen raised by almost every person who objects to Pinker's book.

The fact that there is still bad in the world does not mean that progress hasn't been made. Nor does raising the fact that progress has been made imply that it will necessarily continue.

The very fact that we now concern ourselves on a wide scale with the oppression of gays and women is actually a sign of this very progress. Sexual freedom has always been opposed by conservative and reactionary forces, religious ones in particular. I would argue though that those forces are actually now less powerful (proportionaltely and on average) than they have been at any other time. Millions are oppressed and many suffer horribly from this oppression, but many millions more have broken free and enjoy control of their own bodies. The fight is far from over, but there is little duobt which way the larger tide is currently moving. I would argue that this is the best time so far in human history to be gay. Not in all places or cultures surely, but overall.

Your point about the danger of global warming is spot on of course, but even here I see progress. Humans have always raped the environment as they and their technologies have expanded. It is only because of the population and tech explosions of the 20th century though that the threat is now greater than in times past. Awareness of environmental impacts and desire to curb them is - I suspect - now more widespread among humanity than it has ever been. The existence of widespread environmental movements with real power is evidence of progress over previous ages. Perhaps not enough progress to counter out growing numbers. Even the loud voices of dogmatic denialism - dangerous as they assuredly are - are a sign that the tide has shifted. A century ago no such shouting would have been heard, simply because the assumption of human primacy over nature was unquestioned by the overwhelming majority.

All of these offenses have been a part of every stage of human history. today we actually recognize them and organize efforts to oppose them. We have made progress.

Wed, 28 Dec 2011 17:01:04 UTC | #903334

Go to: Has religion made the world less safe?

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 23 by BanJoIvie

Comment 7 by SleeveDagger

I would have to disagree with some of the above, the idea that human beings are now less violent then in the ancient past is nonsensical to me.

Your personal incredulity is irrelevant. Dr. Pinker exhaustively documents the plain fact of diminished human violence during the modern era in his latest book. This does not mean that humans have somehow changed their inherent nature at a fundamental level, merely that social institutions and cultures have arisen that - so far - have made headway in the fight to curb the worst excesses of human violence. this trend could reverse at any time.

Many, many problems still exist (Steve Zara points out a few, there are more.) Violence itself is certainly still a problem, but right now in human history, it is less of a problem than it has ever been before. There is no doubt from the historical record that a random human today is very, very much more likely to avoid becoming a victim of violence than such a person sampled a century ago.

Wed, 28 Dec 2011 16:36:25 UTC | #903326

Go to: A very atheist Christmas

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 32 by BanJoIvie

Christmas belongs to anyone who wants it, and just because I gave up believing in a god doesn’t mean I gave up believing in the love and joy of family. I did not give up the joy of celebration with my abandonment of the absurd.

Loved this bit!

I can't stand when "that sort" of Christian gets on their superior little horse and starts shouting "hypocrite" at any atheist who cracks a smile during the holidays.

I get doubly annoyed when atheists, who should know better, buy their garbage and parrot it back at other atheists. Accusations of hypocrisy require the accuser to first accept the Christians' claim to "ownership" of this holiday. Apart from the purely semantic fact that the name "Christmas" was derived from their silly dogmas and then successfully attached to the winter festival (through a long and particularly heavy handed "branding" campaign) I can't see where the Jesus crowd has any special claim to the season. We make a real mistake when we let them get away with it.

I see no difference between keeping Christmas while jettisoning Christ and loving the holidays but hating eggnog, or tinsel, or partridges in pear trees. Jesus is just one more piece of cultural baggage that has gotten sucked into the massive vortex of ancient human solstice rituals. As far as I'm concerned everybody is free to use the bits they like and chuck the rest; plus add their own! That includes the using the name "Christmas" (as a completely separate element from the whole nativity thing. The Church insisted on slapping their label on the thing, they can't object if we use it how we will.) Elevating one optional element of the holiday to some sort of indespensible status plays right into the believers' hands. The holiday belongs to humanity. Don't blindly let the sectarians plant their little flag!

Thu, 22 Dec 2011 14:59:36 UTC | #901943

Go to: Mayans never predicted world to end in 2012: experts

BanJoIvie's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by BanJoIvie

Comment 17 by Pdogg

The Mayans didn't even see the Spanish coming!

NO ONE expects the spanixh inquisition! (Sorry.)

Sat, 03 Dec 2011 16:31:29 UTC | #895317