Good, bad, and ugly

First, The bad: Vatican brother Guy Consolmagno, a Vatican astronomer much beloved of John Kw-k, spoke yesterday at Winona State University in Minnesota. His topic: “Astronomy, God, and the search for elegance.” I don’t have a transcript of his talk, but the pre-talk publicity was dire, for Consolmagno had the temerity to draw unfavorable comparisons between cats and humans:

His combined religious and scientific vocations give him the opportunity to consider “the big questions” — “the mysteries you breathe in and ponder.”

“These are human questions,” he said, pointing out that “my cat never asked these questions. My cat never wanted to look through a telescope.”

Seeking answers to questions of how the universe works and how we came to be part of it are distinctly human activities, “like doing a dance or making a painting or doing all the things that cats don’t do.”

So what? Consolmagno never wanted to catch a bird or bask in the sun on a roof.

The supposed conflict between religion and science really doesn’t exist, Consolmagno said. “Science grew out of religion.”

Historically, the church has fostered science and the academic life, he pointed out, and churchmen have been in the forefront of scientific advancement — in fact the originator of the Big Bang Theory of the origin of the universe was a priest [JAC: Georges Lemaitre].

“There is nothing in the Bible opposing evolution,” he pointed out, “but there is something in the Bible against astrology.” . .

. . To apply a modern reading to a 2,000 year old text “does violence to the text,” Consolmagno said, “and that’s not me saying it, it’s Augustine saying it.”

God, I am so sick of hearing about Augustine the Hippo.  And what about all those theologians who were more literalist? Why is Augustine singled out and the others ignored?  And, of course, Augustine believed in predestination, but Consolmagno conveniently omits that. But what do you expect from someone who denigrates cats in public?

The Ugly:  Deepity Chopra! On the CNN “Belief” blog, he writes “Science and religion should be friends.” Deepity isn’t worth wasting much time on (although he’s rich—a severe indictment of America), but the piece contains, besides the usual atheist-bashing, LOLz like this:

Outside the view of the general public, science has reached a critical point. The physical building blocks of the universe have gradually vanished; that is, atoms and quarks no longer seem solid at all but are actually clouds of energy, which in turn disappear into the void that seems to be the source of creation.

Was mind also born in the same place outside space and time? Is the universe conscious? Do genes depend on quantum interactions? Science aims to understand nature down to its very essence, and now these once radical questions, long dismissed as unscientific, are unavoidable.

Yep, I’m gonna get right on the question of whether genes “depend on quantum interactions.”

And, The Good: a strident atheist article at HuffPo—and not by Vic Stenger, either! It’s by Frank Schaeffer, ex-evangelical Christian and author of the book Crazy for God, and his piece is called “We need freedom from religion no just freedom of religion.”  The piece isn’t written all that well, and jumps around all over the place, but hey, it’s amazing that something like this even appears in the Religion section of the Website of Boobs and Woo:

Would the IRS give al Qaeda tax-deductable status?

Then why does the Roman Catholic Church, which has done so little to make up for the pedophilia abuses, have that status? Why do the Scientologists? Why do countless fundamentalist Protestant schools that are more like madrassas than schools as most of us understand the term? Why aren’t parents who kill their children for God not serving life sentences? If The New Yorker article is true, why aren’t the leaders of Scientology in jail? Why wasn’t Cardinal Law prosecuted?

Answer: Because of our crazy ideas about religious freedom that on so many fronts trump not just common sense but the rule of law. . .

. . . The state needs to take away tax deductible status from any religious organization where child abuse is condoned (or hidden). This stripping of tax deductible status should apply to the extremist faith healing Evangelicals and pedophile enabling Catholics and to the Scientologists as well. And child abusers should be jailed be they in robes or hiding out behind “respectable” Hollywood stars.

I must admit that I see no justification for any religion (not just the nefarious ones described by Schaeffer) to get tax-exempt status in America.

h/t: Jon

75 Comments

  1. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    “There is nothing in the Bible opposing evolution,” he pointed out . . To apply a modern reading to a 2,000 year old text “does violence to the text,” Consolmagno said, “and that’s not me saying it, it’s Augustine saying it.”

    Ipterpreting the stories of direct creation in Genesis as being compatible with evolution isn’t “applying a modern reading”?

    • Dominic
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      “…Then god created the viruses, & god saw the viruses as he has super-vision, & behold it was GOOD, so as he was a bit tird – tough work being a super-being god-thing – he had a rest for 24 hours.” I think you are on to something!

      • Dominic
        Posted February 16, 2011 at 7:28 am | Permalink

        tired – not tird! I am not a super-being…

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted February 16, 2011 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        so as he was a bit tird

        You misspelled “big turd”

        • Posted February 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

          Don’t be making fun of a person’s accent.

          • Michael Kingsford Gray
            Posted February 17, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

            Quiz. Who wrote this:
            “…but we like to let our hair down once in awhile and have a nice rant. About glo’al stops or Sarah Palin Arrrrrrs”

            • Dominic
              Posted February 18, 2011 at 2:42 am | Permalink

              Ms Benson…

    • 386sx
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      He means it should be read as poetry, not as literature, as a modern reader (allegedly) would read it.

      “Until recently most literature was poetry,” he said and in the ancient world it using the language of poetry, not science, was “how they described the natural world.”

      What’s hilarious is that Consolmagno obviously is ignorantly citing Augustine who thought that six days was too long for creation (Augustine thought it was all created in one day) and Augustine discounted all other world histories that contradicted scriptural world “history”. Augustine obviously was reading plenty of Bible stuff literary.

    • locutus7
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      I’m not understanding this. Augustine lived circa 400 AD. And he was referring to a 2000 year old text?

      • 386sx
        Posted February 16, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

        Hopefully Brother Consolmagno’s strong suit is astronomy.

      • Kevin
        Posted February 16, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink

        Yeah, my irony meter hit 11 on that one, too.

        Invoking a 4th century theologian as an expert in science…whoo boy.

      • Posted February 16, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

        OT?

        • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
          Posted February 17, 2011 at 2:53 am | Permalink

          Not date-able, AFAIU.

  2. Posted February 16, 2011 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    “I must admit that I see no justification for any religion (not just the nefarious ones described by Schaeffer) to get tax-exempt status in America.”

    To the extent that a religious group does actual charitable work, such as feeding poor people, one can argue that such work should qualify as tax exempt.

    I’ve never been part of a church in which such charitable work was more than 1 or 2 percent of their budget.

    The other 98+%? Tax it.

    And if those religious groups don’t apply their charity in a nonsectarian, fair way — tax that 2%, too.

    • Thanny
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      I think religious institutions should have the same right to register as tax-exempt non-profit organizations as any other group.

      That would mean opening their books, of course, which would disqualify most of them immediately, but they should be given the chance to acquire tax-exempt status legitimately.

      • Posted February 17, 2011 at 10:30 am | Permalink

        That would mean opening their books, of course, which would disqualify most of them immediately, but they should be given the chance to acquire tax-exempt status legitimately.

        Really? Every church I belonged to, back in the day, presented a financial report to the congregation at the AGM. We knew how much money came in, and where it all went, including staff remuneration (which was not out of line with what typical congregants were earning). Many of the para-church groups keep open books, properly audited, too.

        Now some of the more notorious mega-churches and TV “ministries” (especially those preaching the “prosperity gospel”), are pretty obviously scams by the people running them hiding beneath a veneer of religious respectability. But not, I think, your average neighbourhood church, or mainstream denomination.

        • Thanny
          Posted February 26, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

          I mean open the books to public record, which is required of all non-profit organizations. Whether or not any given church allows its members access is a separate issue.

  3. Dominic
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    A MUST READ that I am part way through – Geoff Simons,
    Time to be Rational: Darwin, Demons and Sex

    http://tinyurl.com/6fc9hbz

    He does not let up in his attack on all religions.

  4. stvs
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    God, I am so sick of hearing about Augustine the Hippo.

    No you’re not.

    Augustine condemned the foundation of science: curiosity. Augustine also believed that God tortures unsaved babies.

    There is another form of temptation, more complex in its peril. … It originates in an appetite for knowledge. … From this malady of curiosity are all those strange sights exhibited in the theatre. Hence do we proceed to search out the secret powers of nature (which is beside our end), which to know profits not, and wherein men desire nothing but to know. —Augustine of Hippo, Confessions (397), Book X, Chap. 35.
    Such infants as quit the body without being baptized will be involved in the mildest condemnation of all. That person, therefore, greatly deceives both himself and others, who teaches that they will not be involved in condemnation. —Augustine of Hippo, St. Augustine: Anti-Pelagian Writings
    Whoever is separated from this Catholic Church, by this single sin of being separated from the unity of Christ, no matter how estimable a life he may imagine he is living, shall not have life, but the wrath of God rests upon him. —Augustine of Hippo, Letters 141:5.

    Aside from these, it’s always nice to have the best quotes from De genesi ad litteram libri duodecim at hand.

    • Andrei
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

      Yes, De Genesi ad Literam is a very interesting read. Augustine makes it quite clear that there were plenty of biblical literalists back then, contrary to what Consolmagno says.

      He does not appear to have any problems with the them, except in cases where they engage in learned discussions with heathen scholars about weights of the elements or the shape of heaven. The heathens might just laugh at their silly biblical explanations, rather than see the Truth in Scripture and convert to Christianity.

      Engaging in learned discussions is of no profit for the fellow Christians, though, and what is worse, take up precious time that ought to be given to what is spiritually beneficial.

      So much for the church that ‘has fostered science and the academic life’.

  5. Posted February 16, 2011 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    “Was mind also born in the same place outside space and time?”

    Woopra’s mind most certainly was.

  6. Posted February 16, 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    I must admit that I see no justification for any religion (not just the nefarious ones described by Schaeffer) to get tax-exempt status in America.

    I agree of course, but I am willing to take the (IMO rather generous) compromise position that religions can still get automatic tax exemptions just like they do now, even if they don’t do diddly-squat for charity… but they have to open their books just like any non-profit has to do if they are applying for tax exempt status. That’s it. Go ahead and have your special little exemption, where you get a break from the state just because you like to spread delusions. But if you want to take advantage of that, show us where the money is going so we can be certain you aren’t lying about it or engaging in inurement or anything.

    I would be overjoyed to have this compromise position. It would immediately bring down the Church of Scientology. It would severely reduce the power of the RCC in America. And although I don’t think it would quite be a deathblow to the Mormon church, it would cause huge cracks to appear in the hierarchy, again reducing their influence greatly and probably their membership significantly as well.

    And don’t get me started on all the megachurches that would vanish into thin air as the head fraudsters hopped on a plane to Venezuela the night before the law was to take effect…

    • Sajanas
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      Here’s a good article from Spiegel about the wealth of the German RCC and how it is hidden from parishioners.

      http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,700513,00.html

      I agree… I don’t really have a terrible problem with the Churches being considered non-profits (though that doesn’t necessarily make you tax exempt, since there are non-profit insurance companies and other similar organizations that still pay tax). But there needs to be accountability for all of that wealth. Frankly, coming formerly from a church that made its budget in a big church meeting, its really sad that the church members aren’t more interested in seeing where their money goes. Then there is the issue of money laundering, priest embezzlement, and all sorts of other things that turn churches into little Cayman Islands.

    • Posted February 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      Why should a regular force for evil and/or delusion be tax exempt? What you suggest is certainly a start, but far from optimal.

      Any counter arguments? (Sajanas?)

      On a similar note, I do think governments should not be just secular but treat religion like the science denialism and threat it usually entails. (i.e. it’d be legal but discouraged like AIDS or holocaust denial…)

    • Diane G.
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      Inurement?

    • Notagod
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      “but they have to open their books”

      That should be one of the minimum requirements for a sane society if that society is based on capitalism and the reason you give is likely valid but, that shouldn’t be a “compromise position” of Dr. Coyne’s position; “no justification for any religion (not just the nefarious ones described by Schaeffer) to get tax-exempt status in America.” They are two different things. The christians themselves should demand financial disclosure. I don’t mind supporting them in their action but I’m not going to compromise anything while helping them do that. If the christian’s god supports capitalism as they seem to suggest It would also support a bit of due diligence on their part as well because, as we all know the christian hierarchy is (what is it that christians say when another of their ministers and popes get caught committing crime?) only human.

  7. daveau
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    First off, my new kitteh Merlyn is constantly asking me for a telescope.

    And I guess that science grew out of religion in the sense that people started to realize that religion isn’t the correct answer to any question.

    • Posted February 16, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

      Why does Merlyn have to keep asking, why doesn’t he now have a telescope? What kind of human are you?!

    • KimV
      Posted February 23, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      I’m building an observatory for Lucy …

  8. Newish Gnu
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I think all not-for-profits should be subject to taxation, including property taxes, regardless of their charitable intent.

    NFPs that really do NFP stuff are unlikely to owe much if any income tax because their expenses will more or less equal their income.

    I would simply love for NFPs to pay property tax. They certainly do seem to want government services such as police and fire protection. And without the public subsidy of tax exemption, we might see some churches go out of business — as they should. This would also lead to more rational use of valuable real estate. My little city is littered with downtown churches that don’t pay a dime in property tax while occupying prime commercial turf.

    I also think NFPs should be able to petition the government(s) for financial support. That way the public subsidies will be visible to all. I’d gladly support tax dollars going to the NFP hospital while I would just as gladly oppose tax dollars going to the local churches.

    • daveau
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      “And without the public subsidy of tax exemption, we might see some churches go out of business — as they should.”

      Free marketers hoist by their own petard. I would love that.

      • Newish Gnu
        Posted February 16, 2011 at 9:12 am | Permalink

        “Free marketers hoist by their own petard.”

        Schumpeter’s Creative Destructionism doesn’t apply to just the for-profit sector, you know. :)

  9. Posted February 16, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    “And, The Good: a strident atheist article at HuffPo—and not by Vic Stenger, either! It’s by Frank Schaeffer, ex-evangelical Christian and author of the book Crazy for God, and his piece is called “We need freedom from religion no just freedom of religion.“”

    Strangely enough, Frank Schaeffer isn’t a strident atheist, he’s Greek Orthodox.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Schaeffer

    Awhile ago I read his book, “Crazy for God” about growing up with evangelical fundamentalist guru Francis Schaeffer, and about being treated as an evangelical leader in the 1970s & 1980s. It has some revealing first-hand accounts of e.g. Jerry Falwell & the inside details of the movement.

    There is also a lot of unbalanced weirdness, some of which we see in HuffPo article. E.g. even if we agreed that it was a good idea to treat religious indoctrination of children as child abuse (Schaeffer restricts this to extreme coercion I think), it’s very hard to see how this could be made into law without making government into Big Brother. If the governmental cure is worse than the disease, the suggestion is worthless.

    The tax-exempt status of religion, on the other hand, is something worth opening up for discussion. I would like to see someone review the legal history of those laws, their justification, etc., before forming a firm opinion. E.g. there are also laws that make many nonprofits tax-exempt. Are these the same laws or different? Is the suggestion that we discriminate against the religious nonprofits but not the secular ones? Etc.

    • Sigmund
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Come on Nick, fair is fair…
      If every action by a Gnu that doesn’t involve “shouted laughter” in the faces of the faithful leads to the accusation of accomodationism then it only seems right that writing an article critical of religions should be enough to label one a strident atheist!

    • Josh Slocum
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      Nick, I run a nonprofit charity, a 501(c)(3) organization. We are an educational and consumer advocacy organization, with no political or religious stance.

      ***Three important points of clarification first:

      A. “Charity,” in IRS-speak, doesn’t necessarily “gives money to the poor,” it means an organization that provides a benefit to the public at large—be that educational, advocacy, soup-kitchen stuff, etc.—without regard to the recipient’s ability or willingness to pay for it.

      B. All nonprofits are not classified the same. Most nonprofits–though not all, as nonprofit business trade groups must pay some tax–are exempt from federal and state income and sales taxation. (Note to Newish Gnu that does NOT mean they’re exempt from local municipal and property taxes, only from state and federal income and sales tax. You can quit being so worried, since most of us nonprofits are so poor we can’t afford to buy a building – we pay our property taxes through the rent, just like all other renters. We’re not all multi-million-dollar outfits. The vast majority of nonprofits are tiny.)

      C. Only 501(c)(3) charities are exempt from both taxation and may offer tax deductions to all donors who contribute. ***

      I’d like to know the history of the laws, too, but that isn’t necessary to see the unfair ways in which religious nonprofits are favored over secular nonprofits. That much is clear, and simple.

      1. Secular nonprofits, such as the one I run, must demonstrate to the IRS that they perform a legitimate public service in a charitable fashion. This is done by submitting your articles of incorporation, bylaws, publications and materials, governance structure, and written narratives of your activity.

      2. Religious organizations, by contrast are assumed, ipso facto to be engaged in charitable work, and automatically qualified as tax-exempt, tax-deductible 501(c)(3) charities. Whereas groups like mine must demonstrate the substance of our charitable work, merely spreading “the word of God” is considered sufficient for churches.

      3. All 501(c)(3)s like the one I run must make their books and IRS returns open. You may look up my salary, how much we spend on pencils, paper, fundraising, and directly on our programs for the public.

      Religious (c)(3)s do not have to make their books public.

      4. There are a number of other legal hoops through which secular nonprofits must jump – often at a significant cost to small-budget organizations which can scarce afford to divert money from their actual mission- that all religious organizations (even the obscenely rich ones) are automatically exempted from by law.

      Honest observers of this situation have long recognized it’s a perversely unfair, unjustified system – that’s not even controversial. But it is so ingrained in American tax and legal culture it’s proven impossible to change. It remains, however, a public policy scandal.

      • Posted February 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the info, I had only heard little bits of that before.

        • Josh Slocum
          Posted February 16, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

          No problem – it’s arcane stuff unless you’re responsible for making sure you comply with it. I find most people (unintentionally) have a whole set of ideas about what “nonprofit” “charity” and tax-exempt mean that are not true, which is why I go to some lengths to explain it.

          Your former employer, NCSE, is a (c)(3), so you could plug them in above. They have to do all those things (which are legitimate transparency requirements) to stay afloat, yet the religious organizations they must sometimes oppose just get the automatic special treatment.

          • Posted February 16, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

            And that’s not a bit annoying.

            I second the thanks for the info, Josh.

      • Newish Gnu
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 11:57 am | Permalink

        Josh, You can quit worrying that I think all NFPs are large multi-million dollar outfits. I don’t. However, your point that many NFPs don’t own property doesn’t address my point about the ones that do — and don’t pay property tax.

        I live in Maryland where property tax records are available to anyone on-line. A lot of real estate owned by NFPs is untaxed. I’ve looked it up. There’s a campground owned by a NFP about 10 miles away. Assessed at $1 million, zero taxes. A Civil War museum. Zero taxes. Six churches in downtown are collectively assessed at $30 million. Zero taxes.

        I don’t care whether an NFP is religious or not, educational or not, “charitable” or not. I don’t even care whether an NFP does charitable work that I support. If a jurisdiction is going to tax real property, then all privately owned property should be taxed.

        If we broaden the tax base then we can lower the tax rate, and then I will have more dollars in my pocket to support the causes of my choice. The NFP I’ve been supported more than any other for the last 10 years is Planned Parenthood. If I didn’t have to support every property-owing church in town, I would give more to PP.

        • Diane G.
          Posted February 18, 2011 at 1:09 am | Permalink

          Great choice!

  10. Mr. Fright
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    “Science grew out of despite religion.”

    There, fixed that for you.

    • Rob
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      Sorry, it is out of. A lot of investigation started so they could further see god’s glory.

      Once that investigation started to show the lack of need or other contradictions with dogman, THEN it’s in spite of.

      • Mr. Fright
        Posted February 16, 2011 at 9:51 am | Permalink

        I’m not saying it did or didn’t, just commenting on how he says there’s no conflict because one originated the other.

        • Rob
          Posted February 16, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

          OK, true, I misunderstood your point.

          You’d think he’d understand the general fallacy of that. Christianity came from Judaism; no conflict there, nosirree.

  11. Rob
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I must admit that I see no justification for any religion (not just the nefarious ones described by Schaeffer) to get tax-exempt status in America.

    I think this is true. It needs to be an all or none (preferably, none). If it’s somewhere in between, it is a religious freedom issue, since the system could be abused to grant / revoke that status.

  12. Posted February 16, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    To apply a modern reading to a 2,000 year old text “does violence to the text,” Consolmagno said, “and that’s not me saying it, it’s Augustine saying it.”

    He wants to have his Kate and Edith, too, methinks.

    Either the Bible is the result of a process in which one or more of the Christian gods played an integral role or it isn’t.

    If it is, then the inevitable conclusion is that the Christian gods are happy with the Bible exactly as it is, knowing full well that many humans have a tendency to be literalistic and not wax poetical. Their gods know that Ken Ham will interpret it as literally true, and they’re fine with that.

    If it isn’t, then it’s just one of countless ancient religious myths and of no more scientific significance than the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Odyssey, or Harry Potter.

    Consolmagno would have us believe that his gods are so impotent that their only concrete means of communicating with us today is through translations-of-translations of copies-of-copies of bad poetry authored by Bronze Age goatherding warlords who liked to tell tall tales about zombie porn, talking plants that give magic wand lessons to reluctant heroes, and magic gardens with talking animals and angry giants. If he believes that, fine — but I full well reserve the right to laugh at him as the idiot that so obviously makes him.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Bob
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      “zombie porn”? I’ve read the first 5 books of the Old Testament but don’t recall this, (among the other bizarre and horrific acts).

    • Tulse
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      He wants to have his Kate and Edith, too

      Heh!

    • Mike from Ottawa
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      “Consolmagno would have us believe that his gods are so impotent that their only concrete means of communicating with us today is through translations-of-translations …”

      That one cannot know the reasons behind the actions of a supernatural intelligent designer and thus subject the ID hypothesis to testing, because the ‘designer’ is not constrained to consistency either internal or with our understanding, is one of the reasons that IDC is not science. Ben Goren makes the mistake of assuming that a supernatural being must operate consistently and in a way that accords with Ben Goren’s understanding of motivations.

      • Rob
        Posted February 16, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        Why wouldn’t a perfect being behave consistently?

        That perfection is constantly claimed by many religions.

      • Posted February 16, 2011 at 11:27 am | Permalink

        Ben Goren makes the mistake of assuming that a supernatural being must operate consistently and in a way that accords with Ben Goren’s understanding of motivations.

        Not at all.

        Christians claim their gods are responsible for the Bible, and that their gods can do anything and know everything. It therefore follows that the Bible is exactly what their gods want it to be, that they are fully aware of the consequences, and that the consequences are to their liking.

        Anything else means that either their gods were and / or are incapable of controlling the content of the Bible — which directly contradicts Christianity’s most fundamental claims — or that their gods don’t know what happens to people when they read the Bible — again contradicting its most fundamental claims.

        Or, of course, it just might, maybe, perhaps be that their gods are imaginary and the Bible is purest fantasy….

        Cheers,

        b&

      • Sajanas
        Posted February 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        It is kind of suspicious that the ‘designer’ makes his will known in a way that is only distinguishable from hundreds of other Iron age mythologies by the fact that it is still being practiced?

        Especially when it is perfectly within this entities power to put a nice, well lit sign in front of everyone’s face to let us know what’s up. Even the miracles in the Bible seem a rather cheap way of showing us what’s up, since it only happened in a tiny part of the world, to illiterate people. People write this off because “you’ve got to have faith”, but really, why then a burning bush, a zombie Jesus, or a flaming sword? Are we really so worthless to God that all he can do is an old book that is substantially less cool than the Odyssey? It is a more efficient explanation thatit is all as built by human hands like all the discarded religions.

  13. Posted February 16, 2011 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Brace yourselves:I’m going to shock you. One of the reasons I read the NY Daily News is because their Voice of the People (letters to the editor) section gives me a wider, and mostly less satisfying, perspective on the way people think than does the NYT.
    But yesterday (2/15/2011), buried among comments about the Grammys, I read this:
    “No more free riders. Levittown, L.I.: Everyone agrees New York City is in dire financial straits. How many properties in New York are exempt from real estate taxes? Maybe now is the time to review and revoke that status and get the houses of worship and nonprofits and their myriad real estate holdings back on the tax rolls. — John Kostynick”

    • locutus7
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      Well, both parties say nothing is off the table as far as lowering the deficit. Let’s see how the tax-exempt status of churches flies.

  14. KP
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Hahaha, yes I saw the Deepity link yesterday and almost forwarded it to you. But I was very sure either you or PZ would find it on your own.

  15. Brian
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Does he know that astronomy grew out of astrology? The reason guys like Ptolemy, brache, Kepler and Galileo even newton studied the stars was because they believed doing so would help foretell the future or god’s plan.
    It’s interesting that he claims these for christianity but ignores what they were trying to do as if they were doing it because of orthodoxy not inspite.
    I guess the truth is malleable to these guys.

    • Chris
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      And astrology was condemned by his beloved Augustine.

  16. Holli
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I’m curious why boobs is included in the insult to HuffPo. Cause everybody knows the skeptical community totally respects women and never makes misogynistic comments…oh, wait. Never mind.

    • Posted February 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      I came up with the “boobs and woo” thing. I don’t see how it’s sexist at all, unless you take offense at the term “boobs”. My point is that the HuffPo is full of fluff, primarily of the pseudo-science and half-naked women variety.

      • Dominic
        Posted February 16, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        My man boobs are offended… ;) nah – not really.

      • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 3:50 am | Permalink

        I’m a terrible human – I *like* boobs, among other female secondary sexual characteristics.

        [He! I initially spelled that "sexondary"...]

        I’m slightly better as a man, I take my half-naked women where I find them. I just can’t stand the misogyny thing.

  17. Sili
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Learn to spell: It’s Kw*k.

    • Rob
      Posted February 16, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      I thought it was spelled “free camera”

      • Sili
        Posted February 17, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

        No, “Leica Rangefinder” – the “Sideways” is silent.

  18. Posted February 16, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Cahrities don’t have the other concerns of churches,so people should give to them rather than to churches.
    Tax the churches!

  19. Posted February 16, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    “My Take: Science and spirituality should be friends” – Deepak

    That”s like mixing milk and shit together and calling it a milkshake.

  20. Posted February 16, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    Folks, the full Augustine puts into perspective that quote about Genesis! We ought to hammer that point. And had he, Aquinas, Luther and Calvin the power, they would have scorched all Europe!
    Why not emphasize that as it seems appropriate to me to do so in order to portray such people as those who love their neighbor- as probably meant! nAfter all, they condoned slavery!
    What is the context of Jeshua stating that the king said to bring forth his enemies in order to slay them if not alluding to his wishes? That sorry cult leader!

  21. Posted February 16, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Seeking answers to questions of how the universe works and how we came to be part of it are distinctly human activities, “like doing a dance or making a painting or doing all the things that cats don’t do.”

    How do we know that these are distinctly human activities?

    Maybe primates, corvids and cephalopods seek answers, too, in their own ways…

    Cats, of course, don’t.

    They already know the answers but are keeping them to themselves.

  22. 386sx
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Augustine’s wikipedia entry says, One reason for this interpretation is the passage in Sirach 18:1, creavit omni simul (“he created all things at once”), which Augustine took as proof that the days of Genesis 1 had to be taken non-literally.

    Wow, that guy is a laugh a minute. Does he ever get anything right?

  23. Posted February 16, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, how about noting that context of Augustine in full as these posters do and present how exegetes for evolutionary creationism- Ayala, Miller- and creationist evolution – Dembski- both forms of theistic evolution, that laughable obfuscation, err as you reveal in “Seeing and Believing?”
    That would be the book that should shake to the foundations that form of woo!
    God as the ultimate explanation means a parasite on natural causes that does nothing itself -violating the Ockham with its convoluted,ad hoc assumptions for Him, as an explanation as meaning God did it!
    Thales of Miletus and Strato of Lampsacus are right whilst Plato and Aristotle are wrong as the teleonomic argument implies! Naturalism is the way,not the woo of the supernatural!

  24. Dave
    Posted February 16, 2011 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    “I must admit that I see no justification for any religion (not just the nefarious ones described by Schaeffer) to get tax-exempt status in America.”

    Hear, hear! If there’s one thing I’d like to see before I die, it’s the elimination of tax-exemption for religion!!

  25. Torbjorn Larsson, OM
    Posted February 17, 2011 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    The supposed conflict between religion and science really doesn’t exist, Consolmagno said. “Science grew out of religion.”

    Actually, science outgrew religion (say, as per comments under #10).

    Historically, the church has fostered science and the academic life, he pointed out, and churchmen have been in the forefront of scientific advancement — in fact the originator of the Big Bang Theory of the origin of the universe was a priest [JAC: Georges Lemaitre].

    So? Newton, explaining the movements of stars, were an heretic. Maybe we should all be heretics, that seems to work!

    Even better, since most scientists are atheists, we should all be atheists. Consolmagno could take comfort from the fact that the conflict between atheism and science really doesn’t exist, and by symmetry the supposed conflict between religion and atheism really doesn’t exist. We could all be atheists and theists at the same time. Or take a cue from scientists, parsimoniously be atheists and still fulfill Consolmagno’s requirements on religion.

    More seriously, according to the church source of Aristotle the universe had an infinite past, which lead to woes for Abrahamic creationism.

    Conversely, the religion of Lemaître and his attempts to insert it into his science spelled trouble for science: “In the 1920s and 1930s almost every major cosmologist preferred an eternal steady state Universe, and several complained that the beginning of time implied by the Big Bang imported religious concepts into physics; this objection was later repeated by supporters of the steady state theory.[71] This perception was enhanced by the fact that the originator of the Big Bang theory, Monsignor Georges Lemaître, was a Roman Catholic priest. ["Big Bang", Wikipedia.]”

    The modern Big Bang theory makes Consolmagno unhappy and Aristotle happy, since the part of the standard cosmology which is inflation means that Big Bang is merely the initial, conditions _after_ inflation. Inflation can in principle be eternal, and the simplest model is that it is.

    [Since the exponential divergence of inflationary volumes means _its_ initial state is lost with the memory loss of exponential chaotic processes. A priori it is very low probability that a process starts close to its stationary point out of the whole phase space of its dynamics, a stationary point which a future eternal universe of inflationary volumes constitutes. But a posteriori it is very likely to find standard cosmology there by inflation exponential nature and environmental selection of observers both. So there is no inherent problem with choosing the simplest physics - making Aristotle eternally happy.]

    Astrophysicist Siegel @ Starts With A Bang:

    “Was there a singularity before inflation? Possibly, but at this point, we have no way of knowing. Inflation is the first thing we can say anything definitive about, but it definitely comes before what we traditionally call “The Big Bang”. So maybe I should admit that Starts With A Bang isn’t really the starting point of everything, after all, just the start of where our observable Universe comes from.”


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