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There are billions on this planet convinced that there is a creator living in the clouds who can hear our thoughts and intercede/not intercede in our lives depending on his mysterious "reasons." You can convince this species of anything if you're clever enough.


Actually, belief in a supreme being is bizarrely ambiguous as to the effect it has on ability to deduce from evidence. The relatively small number who hold to some version of scriptural inerrancy are not The face of theists, any more than the occupants of booths at Waffle House at noon on Sundays are an accurate sampling of the human spectrum. Various permutations of theism are used to underpin social and political stands from conservative to progressive. And same goes for atheism, which is far from monolithic in its love for vs. indifference to the poor and to economic realities.

If you're going to issue a put-down to theists, references to cloud beings, which are worshipped about as often as Zeus is these days, show either a remarkable unfamiliarity with reality, or a sadly-disabled ability to craft a caricature from something people actually believe. Try something like "There are billions who believe in parthenogenesis that resulted in a female producing a male offspring." That one works.

So would some demonstration of familiarity with basic psychology, in which we discover that a lot of peoples' group memberships mean more to them than evidence or truth because the human mind avoids stretching, *if* the owner of the mind hasn't been taught the joy of it early, and didn't form the habit of finding fulfillment in questioning. That habit needs to form before the importance of Belonging and group approval becomes predominant. The study in the Gladstone panels shows people defending their group when they fear it's threatened. HTH.

Sherwood Harrington

That was inspired, Nostalgic. Very well put, and thank you.


Oddly enough, a couple of Seventh Day Adventists came to the door today and after an afternoon of discussion and reflection, I decided they were right. My apologies to both of you for my smug atheism. I now have a higher power to beg forgiveness from - after I read my four year old her book for the night. Her choice? "Oh, The Things You Can Think!" by Dr. Seuss. An inspired selection, because the more I read, the more I understood your post.

Again, my apologies.

Mike Peterson

I'm not particularly persuaded by any arguments for the existence of God. As said above, believers range from those who genuinely believe in The Great Bearded Father to those who feel that there must certainly be some unifying principle and who are not offended by poetically calling it a person, as well as by those who are simply Catholic or Baptist or Buddhist or Jewish as a point of cultural identity. I had a prof who said you could no more be "ex-Catholic" than you could be "ex-Italian," though I don't think his idea of a "permanent mark on the soul" was the same as mine and the one reflected in Owen's comic (You Damn Kid) and I suspect his own soul.

This is, however, a different level of belief than that discussed in the posting. There were or were not WMDs in Iraq. Roberts did or did not align himself with anti-abortion extremists. You can or cannot run a national economic system as you would a family budget.

Cosmology is also a yes-or-no proposition, but, since the ultimate answer is not on this plane, it's not a matter of being mistaken or correct. I find Anselm's "proof" of God typical of medieval thinking -- he tailors his logic to the outcome he wants. But Tertullian's "I believe because it is absurd" has some appeal, though I am even more fond of the classic Irish statement about fairy folk -- "I don't believe in them, but they're there."

There is still stuff we don't understand. And it's unfair to cast all believers in the form of those who have a very concrete, specific and unsupported Deity in mind. Unfortunately for the debate, the term "Deist" hasn't much traction in our culture, because it would be good to line that up with "agnostic." The Deist would take the Irish standpoint -- Not believing in anything specific but admitting that there appears to be something happening here and we don't know what it is -- just as the agnostic says, "I see no point in believing, but I'll admit there is no proof one way or the other."

I'm agnostic, and, the older I get, the less I care what happens next. What I am convinced of is that it doesn't matter to a person who acknowledges the importance of the social contract. If there is a "God," he is most certainly not the God of Deuteronomy, checking the tags on your shirt to make sure you weren't wearing blended cloth. And if there isn't (which I largely suspect), you'll still be remembered as a good guy who tried to make the trip pleasant for those around him. *shrug*

Firm atheism, to me, is like fundamentalism -- far too confident in the unknowable to be a position open to reason. I feel the same way about skeptics like James Randi, because there is stuff we don't understand, and, while I don't think it's magic, I do think it's out there waiting for further examination. Randi says that, if it can't be explained with today's technology and understanding of science, it doesn't exist and anyone who says it does is either a fool or is lying.

Silly is silly at either end of the spectrum.

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