Andrew Sullivan is plenty peeved; responds

Oh dear, I have got Andrew Sullivan’s knickers in a twist. His original attack of me for conceiving of all religion as “fundamentalism” was uncharacteristically intemperate, and forced me to respond with equal vigor.

(For a very strong critique of both Sullivan’s piece and Ross Douthat’s similar views in the New York Times, see Jason Rosenhouse’s superb response at EvolutionBlog. Jason shows that there’s no support for Douthat’s view that the Adam-and-Eve story was part metaphor and part truth, and he completely demolishes Sullivan’s claim that hardly anyone ever took that story as gospel over the whole history of Christianity).

Anyway, Sullivan is clearly ticked off and just as intemperate as before.  He’s come back at me at the Daily Dish in a piece called “Must the story of the fall be true? Ctd.” He repeats his views that he “can agree with Coyne on this [the sad state of modern Christian apologetics] and still find him crude and uninformed about the faith he has such contempt for.”

His response is notable for two things. First, he doesn’t really respond, but merely reproduces, without much response, several comments made by readers on this site. So he’s been reading the posts and comments here, but is too cowardly to respond—and of course he doesn’t allow any comments at his own site.

Second, he tries to defend Original Sin in a bizarre and incoherent way. I reproduce below his full defense, a lovely piece of obfuscatory apologetics:

I would argue that original sin is a mystery that makes sense of our species’ predicament – not a literal account of a temporal moment when we were all angels and a single act that made us all beasts. We are beasts with the moral imagination of angels. But if we are beasts, then where did that moral imagination come from? If it is coterminous with intelligence and self-awareness, as understood by evolution, then it presents human life as a paradox, and makes sense of the parable. For are we not tempted to believe we can master the universe with our minds – only to find that we cannot, and that the attempt can be counter-productive or even fatal? Isn’t that delusion what Genesis warns against?

The answer to his last question is “no.”  Saying that we are creatures with evolved and culturally-derived morality (yes, Andrew, that’s where our moral imagination came from, not from God), and can be both good and bad, is hardly a “paradox”.  And how is it “fatal” to try to master the universe with our minds? We’ve done a pretty good job of it so far.  We sure haven’t mastered it with our nonexistent “souls”—or with a belief in baby Jesus.

He goes on:

The Fall and the Resurrection are the bookends of that paradox. It could well be, as my lapsed Catholic reader believes, that we have become morally better over 200,000 years, that gain is possible, that our better angels can progressively master our raging beasts within. But part of that was fueled by religious evolution, as Bob Wright has brilliantly laid out. So it’s possible that the Fall does indeed lead to the Resurrection, but that it is only finally fulfilled by humankind’s ultimate, universal embrace of a loving God through the aeons of time. Doesn’t Christian eschatology strongly hint at exactly such an ultimate resolution? You just have to let go of certain neuroses when you read and ponder texts about profound mysteries rendered into stories. That’s why doubt fuels faith. It prevents you from fixating on a particular pattern of thought that blinds you to the richness of other interpretations of the same, basic truth.

First of all, Wright certainly does not show that humans have become morally better over the last 200,000 years.  He gives no data on that point, asserting only that scripture has become more moral since the early days of polytheism. But even if Wright is correct (and I don’t think he is), that says nothing about whether such putative moral improvement has anything to do with validating the Christian myth.  In fact, if we’ve become progressively better over time, then why do we think there was a “Fall”? And even if there was a Fall, why does that give evidence for Sullivan’s belief in God, Jesus, and the Resurrection?

All Sullivan is doing here is confecting a post facto story to justify his Catholic beliefs. But the story is unconvincing.  He has not come close to answering my main question: how does he know that certain parts of the Bible—like Adam and Eve and the Fall—are to be taken metaphorically, while others—like the existence of God, Jesus, the Resurrection, and the expiation of sin “through the universal embrace of a loving God”—are true.  Once again, he’s cherry-picking, and he’s plenty mad that I called him out on it.  And like many “sophisticated” believers, he absolutely refuses to divulge what he believes.

I have little more to say to this superstitious bully.  I would gladly have commented on his site had he allowed comments, and he’s too lame to comment on my site.  He defends himself at a place—his blog—where he’s impervious to criticism.

We see in Sullivan what we see so often these days: a smart person who completely loses it when it comes to defending his faith.  Rather than give up his untenable Catholicism—after all, he’s a vocal gay man who belongs to a Church whose official policy condemns gayshe simply makes stuff up to explain why the Catholic myth is okay.  He’s one of those people who wants to appear progressive and down with science, but can’t bear to abandon the superstititions that give him so much comfort. This is a fundamental reason for the rise of accommodationism.

In a way I feel sorry for Sullivan.  But I’m more angry than sorry, for he obstinately fails to deal with the elephant in his room: that the Church he so ardently defends says that he’ll go to hell for his brand of sexuality.  He should not be a Catholic.

437 Comments

  1. Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    I would argue that original sin is a mystery

    Stopped reading right there. Maybe it’s because I watched too much Scooby Doo as a kid, but I thought mysteries were for solvin’.

    • Philip
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:29 am | Permalink

      Not to Catholics! Catholics with doubts about the faith soothe the symptoms of cognitive dissonance by claiming anything incoherent is just a “mystery”, something we can never fully understand.

      • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

        And ’tis no mystery about what they are doing. Cognitive dissonance theory kicks believers ass.

        • TomZ
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

          Yep. It’s just like Neil deGrasse Tyson says about UFO-believers – “There’s lights in the sky, I don’t know what it is, so let me proceed to tell you exactly what it is!”

    • daveau
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Sullivan: “And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”

      • Microraptor
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        And that dog!

        • Aratina Cage
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

          On this website it was probably a cat. Scratchy-Mew perhaps?

          • Chris aka Happy Cat
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

            Would you mind if I use Scratchy-Mew as a gay.com screen name? Purrr-lease?

            As for Sullivan…

            So it’s possible that the Fall does indeed lead to the Resurrection, but that it is only finally fulfilled by humankind’s ultimate, universal embrace of a loving God through the aeons of time.

            Is he suggesting the resurrection is also a metaphor? History or metaphor: which is it Andy? You’re making my head hurt.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

              He is – and then on Sunday he goes to Mass and affirms that it isn’t. And he wonders why we have a problem with that.

            • Aratina Cage
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

              Would you mind if I use Scratchy-Mew as a gay.com screen name?

              Nope, I would not mind. :D

              Purrr-lease?

              Hee-hee. Now that’s something I will have to use in later conversations.

    • Tyro
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:56 am | Permalink

      There are mysteries and there are mysteries.

      Dark Matter is a mystery. We can point to several lines of evidence that it exists but what it might be is a mystery. That’s a good state of affairs.

      With theology, “mystery” is code-word for some doctrine that either has no evidence or is falsified by the evidence. Calling it a “mystery” is actually a desperate plea. Rather than admitting that some teaching is wrong or is unsupported, people call it a “mystery” in the desperate hope that someone will believe it really is.

      In fact, the only mystery here is why people haven’t abandoned these beliefs long ago.

      • Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        Very true. Dark matter is a mystery that we’re trying to solve The Fall is a mystery because solving it means we have to throw out the whole theory of god and we don’t want to do that.

    • Screechy Monkey
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      “a mystery that makes sense of our species’ predicament”

      A mystery that makes sense of things? That’s positively Orwellian.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        well said!

      • Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        I think a mystery in Catholicism is like a Black Box in science. You can use it as a discussion tool without knowing what’s inside. The difference is that in science you’re constantly trying to open it, but in Catholicism you must not try to open it. That seems to be how Sullivan is using the word.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 8, 2011 at 3:08 am | Permalink

        …our species’ predicament…

        Which would be, exactly…? If you’re really on board with H. sapiens being just another species, any ‘predicament’ is pretty much just narcissism.

        • Screechy Monkey
          Posted October 8, 2011 at 8:56 am | Permalink

          I think Sullivan views death as the predicament. (Cf. his written debate with Sam Harris, where he essentially admits that his belief is based on his fear of death)

          Actually, I’ll be charitable to him and say it’s “knowing we will die,” which is uniquely human (I think?)

          Of course, postulating an afterlife is about as realistic a solution to this predicament as the old joke about an economist on a desert island who finds a can of beans. “Assume we have a can opener….”

    • Posted October 10, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      In that spirit, I like this quote, from Tim Minchin’s “Storm”:

      “Throughout history, every mystery ever solved has turned out to be… NOT MAGIC.”

  2. John K.
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    What do you do when a crushing hammer blow has demolished the foundation of your beliefs? Just ignore it? If he is going to obtusely ignore and not respond to the arguments, there is indeed nothing left to say.

  3. Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    That’s why doubt fuels faith. It prevents you from fixating on a particular pattern of thought that blinds you to the richness of other interpretations of the same, basic truth.

    Hmm… the richness of other interpretations that don’t actually explain anything?

    Doubt also fuels rational thought, but philosophical naturalists use it for a furnace that refines our knowledge and understanding, not for a campfire to keep the terror of not knowing at bay.

    /@

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:49 am | Permalink

      PS. This is only tangentially relevant, but it’s too good not to share (again?): Dara O’Briain: Science doesn’t know everything. (& yes, it’s actually Dara Ó Briain.)

      • GBJames
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:53 am | Permalink

        Thanks! A fine start to my Friday.

      • CarlosT
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        Dara O’Briain is a good example for Sullivan in another way: he’s culturally Catholic in that he acknowledges his roots, but he rejects all the other nonsense.

        • Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:34 am | Permalink

          <pedantry>Ó Briain</pedantry> ;-)

          /@

          PS. If you can’t easily type the “Ó”, get a Mac! :-D

          • Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:20 am | Permalink

            Really? I’ve always been able to switch between languages on Linux, Windows and Mac computers. Alt-Shift is usually the default key.

            • Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

              Ah… Alt-Ctrl-Shift-O, in fact.

              Still, that’s awkward compared to Alt-E, Shift-O.

              OK, so what do I do for a “ú”? Alt-U does nothing on my ThinkPad…

              Or an “ö”?

              /@

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

                OK… that’s odd. Alt-Ctrl-U does give me a “ú” in IE, but not in Safari. (Apple are clearly trying to sabotage Windows here! ;-))

                Still, what about other diacritics?

                /@

                PS. Sorry for being way OT now…

              • Dominic
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

                Cannot do Old Norse hooked o!

                I do despair when people like Sullivan who are considered sinners by their faith cannot seem to see the incongruity of adhering to that church when it condemns them. I always despised the death bed confession – perhaps he will rely on that?

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

                You mean, “o̧”?

                /@

              • Dominic
                Posted October 8, 2011 at 12:28 am | Permalink

                How!??? Please formican allan!!

              • Posted October 8, 2011 at 2:50 am | Permalink

                On a Mac!

                First, System Preferences » Language & Text [International in earlier versions] » Input Sources, check Unicode Hex Input.

                When you want to type this (or another non-keyboard character), click the flag at the top right of the menu bar and select the “U+” “flag”.

                Then type o followed by Alt-(0,3,2,7) (the hexadecimal Unicode for a “combining cedilla”); that is, press and hold Alt, type 0, then 3, then 2, then 7, then release Alt: o̧

                This works for any Unicode character; you just need to know the Unicode hex value for it. A heart: Alt-(2,6,6,5): ♥ (A character might not display, depending on what fonts you have installed.)

                You’ll need to reselect the Union Flag or Stars and Stripes in the menu bar if you want to carry on using shortcuts like Alt-E, E for é (otherwise, Alt-(0,0,E,9)).

                You could also use Edit » Special Characters… and pick the character you want from the “tray”. Or use a utility like PopChar (which is what I do ordinarily).

                /@

              • Kharamatha
                Posted October 8, 2011 at 5:56 am | Permalink

                How silly. You hit ´ and then you hit o.
                Behold!

                ó

                Your keyboard sucks.

              • Posted October 8, 2011 at 7:10 am | Permalink

                :-P

                So, what kind of keyboard do you have that has a ´ key?

                (Of course, these are all much easier on an iPad!)

                /@

              • Kharamatha
                Posted October 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

                One with some “dead” keys. :)

          • daveau
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

            “Ó” Or copy and paste…

        • Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

          But, of course, Carlos, you make a very good point.

          /@

  4. Niall
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    As an etymological aside, can anyone explain “butthurt” to me? US-usage, I suspect, and as I’m from the UK it doesn’t translate very well (in a couple of different senses) – it looks like a particularly unfortunate (possibly homophobic) term in this context (criticism of someone who is openly gay).

    • GBJames
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:02 am | Permalink

      http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=butthead

    • Rick
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:05 am | Permalink

      butthurt: Annoyance because of a perceived insult
      The double-entendre really does make me think JAC is starting to channel PZ. I, personally, don’t mind. I think its hysterical.

    • Jer
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:19 am | Permalink

      When I first heard the phrase it was in a context where the person who was “butthurt” had been metaphorically “spanked” by his opponent and was whining about it. And for a long time that was the only way I had ever seen the phrase used (as Jerry is using it here). So I’ve always associated the phrase with the recipient of a rhetorical spanking pouting, whining and acting like a child to get sympathy for his/her position rather than mounting a legit defense of their beliefs.

      I have since mostly encountered people who take the phrase to mean something about sexual assault or as a slur against gay men. So I don’t use it myself anymore – and I have to be honest it never would have occurred to me to take it that way if it hadn’t be pointed out to me. So I may be just amazingly naive or I may never have encountered it in a context where that was anything remotely like a possible interpretation of the phrase.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

        Whether you’re gay or straight, male or female, having something shoved up your butt hurts.

        Having something shoved up your butt has very little to do with properly performed anal sex.

    • Nathair
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:21 am | Permalink

      Yes that is the origin, “they’re ‘butthurt’ ’cause I just f**ked them in the ass.”

      But all the cool kids are using it anyway and defend it as meaning “they’re butthurt ’cause I just kicked their ass.”

      It’s one of the more sophomoric of subliterate internet insults.

      • Dan L.
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        Yeah, the secret is that no one ever uses it except to irritate internet tone police and related varieties of pedants.

        (See what I did there?)

      • Aratina Cage
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        Come on. How do you know that is the origin? Parents used to spank children only one generation ago in the United States and it was common even in public to see a recently walloped child holding crying in pain and angry at the world because of it. It seems to me rather demented to equate having a hurt butt to anal rape.

        • Aratina Cage
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:39 am | Permalink

          “holding their hands over their butt”

        • r
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

          i agree. it refers to being spanked and smarting from it. nothing to do with the anus.

        • Kharamatha
          Posted October 8, 2011 at 6:08 am | Permalink

          Anal fixation. *shrug*

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      Never heard this one myself.

      http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=butt+hurt

      • whyevolutionistrue
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:40 am | Permalink

        Oh dear, I didn’t even THINK about the sexual implications. Thanks for pointing this out; I’ve changed the title and avoided that word so it won’t be misconstrued.

        • Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

          You realise that those of us who get notified of your posts by email get the original title, and arrive here (hours later, since across the Pacific I would have been asleep when you posted) to find it’s been changed?

          • Diane G.
            Posted October 8, 2011 at 3:18 am | Permalink

            Which is fine, no? Especially as it’s all explained here in this subthread. JAC made the right decision.

    • CarlosT
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      Urban dictionary didn’t miss butthurt: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=butthurt

      I don’t know the exact etymology, but as far as I can tell, it’s not homophobic.

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      The word “butthurt” is unpleasant (and as others have pointed out can be interpreted as homophobic), but it expresses a concept that is poorly represented by any other word in the English language.

      At a basic level it translates as “offended”, but it means more than that. It implies that the offense results from a sense of entitlement being pricked. It also implies a kind of hypocritical priggishness, in that a person behaves obnoxiously, but acts as though they have the moral high ground.

      • Don
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        Yes, and it smacks of anger and humiliation, as in a child who’s been spanked.

        • articulett
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

          I always thought the term came from being spanked as well… I’ve seen it in reference to “cyber spankings”. I rather like the term myself. (But maybe I’m kinky.)

    • articulett
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

      I got a giggle when I saw that the title in my navigation bar didn’t match the title of this article.

      And this is for Andrew:

    • Posted October 8, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      I could be wrong but I believe the proper politically correct pronunciation is “but-thurt”.

  5. vel
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    wow, that’s all Sullivan has, the old wheeze that there are “things man is not meant to know, so quit asking so I don’t have to admit my myths are wrong”???? I’m also amused by the claims of “religious evolution” which do no more than inadvertantly admit that there is no “truth” in religion, and that religion *always* plays catch up to the moral evolution of humanity, insisting that its “truths” are just that until they are finally overridden by plain old humans.

  6. Lotharloo
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    We are beasts with the moral imagination of angels.

    I take it he believes in angels. If so, where is his evidence?

    But if we are beasts, then where did that moral imagination come from?

    Evolution by natural selection has created other beasts with moral imaginations. Or does Andrew Sullivan believe there is also Jesus chimpanzee, Jesus dolphin, Jesus bat, Jesus monkey, and the equivalent of Jesus and fall story for any animal that shows some altruistic behavior?

    If it is coterminous with intelligence and self-awareness, as understood by evolution, then it presents human life as a paradox, and makes sense of the parable.

    There is no paradox and the fall story does not make any sense; the paradox only exists in the minds of those who are blinded by faith and cannot recognize that the problem had been solved by science long time ago.

    For are we not tempted to believe we can master the universe with our minds – only to find that we cannot, and that the attempt can be counter-productive or even fatal? Isn’t that delusion what Genesis warns against?

    Perhaps Andrew Sullivan lives in a cave frozen centuries ago that he is so blind to the tremendous advances that we have made in the past century. Dear Andrew Sullivan, the Nobel prize in physics went to those who figured out the fate of our universe. Please wake up.

    You just have to let go of certain neuroses when you read and ponder texts about profound mysteries rendered into stories.

    First you have to establish that there is something profound about Bible. So far, the only sure way to establish such claim is to brainwash a kid from childhood, either by parents or by the society, to believe that. The same works for Quran as well. Mr Andrew Sullivan, I come from a muslim society where I hear the exact same claim but with Quran switched for Bible even from people who claim they are not muslims. For some reason, branding a child’s mind with holiness of a certain historical relic seems to have lasting effects well into adulthood.

    • Dominic
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      I suppose with his angels phrases he is deliberately channelling Lincoln & the new Pinker title…

  7. Steve Smith
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    there is no rational basis to draw a distinction between the parables Jesus told and whether he existed at all? Really? Again, I’m struck by the coarseness, ignorance and stupidity of Coyne’s argument.

    You know what’s coarse and stupid? Calling people coarse and stupid for stuff they never said, everyone knows they never said, then pretending this is distraction enough to ignore the original, devastating point.

  8. Marta
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Andrew Sullivan believes what he believes, and he wants to be left alone about it, so no picking on him.

    If Sullivan kept his Catholicism to himself, that would be the end of the story. It would still be interesting, of course: gay man subscribes to a set of beliefs that deny him full membership in humanity; that forbids the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. But, you know. Whatev. Might not make much sense to someone else, but it doesn’t have to, because it’s Sullivan’s personal beliefs, which he keeps to himself.

    But nooooooooo. Sullivan, from the righteous protection and privilege of centuries of Catholicism has to be a Bully for Jesus. From the safety of his blog. With commenting prohibited.

    Sullivan, you big baby. You’re an intellectual coward and bully.

    • Chris
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      Let’s not forget that the Catholic Church also blames much of its pedophilia problem on homosexuals. In its view, it doesn’t have a pedophilia problem, it has a homosexual problem. To the church, someone like Andrew Sullivan is little different from a pedophile.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Ouch! That is gonna hurt, more so because it is the facts.

      [If Sullivan insists on being an ass, one can even say this involves some butt hurt.]

  9. Sajanas
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    I think Sullivan is one of those people who has really not put any thought into just how much of the Christian story changes when you have evolution.

    Our morality, our emotional lives, and our consciousness is something that evolved gradually, and is shared in varying degrees with the ‘beasts’. We are animals…. the only reason there is the appearance of a clean divide is because all our hominid relatives are all dead. Moreover, if he believes in a creator God that used evolution, its important to note that there could not have been ‘a fall’. A fall from what? It has been a steady uptick in the traits that we consider ‘human’ since the last common ancestor with chimps, and more over, this method is brutal, harsh, and deadly… and a lot of our ‘immorality’ isn’t without some adaptive survival value too. So if you believe God used evolution, he deliberately made us the way we are. So, you end up with Jesus trying to redeem us for our faults, which were put there by a creator God who thought using evolution was an effective way of making hopeless altruists, the dolt.

    I really hate that part of Christian philosophy anyway… it takes everything good about us and assigns it to God, and takes everything bad and makes it out fault, and when we actually put real questions to it, it hides behind it being ‘a mystery.’ Well it just ain’t cutting it anymore.

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      “it takes everything good about us and assigns it to God, and takes everything bad and makes it ou[r] fault, and when we actually put real questions to it, it hides behind it being ‘a mystery.’”

      Excellent summary.

  10. Claimthehighground
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    Sullivan’s response reminds me of the Mom who tells her kid to do something, and when the kid repeatedly asks “Why?” based on logic and reason, just shouts, “Because I’m the Mommy, that’s why.” He really needs to step back and read some of his own stuff to note the inconsistencies. Or, to save time, just read the previous thread on this site.

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      Oh god I hate my mother.

      • Dominic
        Posted October 8, 2011 at 12:46 am | Permalink

        Fairy god?

    • Kharamatha
      Posted October 8, 2011 at 6:12 am | Permalink

      I didn’t grok that something like that was a rethorical device at that age, so it only sparked more questions.

  11. Chris Slaby
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    In the hopes that Andrew Sullivan is still reading Jerry’s website, I just want to restate the most important thing Jerry said in this post:

    In terms of this issue, intelligent and/or progressive people holding on to their religions beliefs–this is the most important question, and Jerry should be highly praised for bringing it up as often as he does. No one has even come close to answering this very simple question, at least not satisfactorily. Francis Collins has said some silly things, like the fact that his jump from something might exist to Jesus is just a matter of personal faith. That’s not an answer! That doesn’t show me how you know it to be true! And Andrew Sullivan is following the same path. I think anytime someone wants to intelligently discuss the possibility of religion being real, at least Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, they must be ready to explain how they know which parts of scripture are literal truth and which parts are metaphor (as we’ve recently seen, no one, not even the craziest among the crazy, is an absolute literalist). So please, tell us how you know. Tell us how it’s possible to know this. I’m not asking just out of some sort of anti-religious sentiment. I’m really asking. I’m curious. I want to know how it’s possible to know what these people claim to know. I’d be very nice if someone, someone who holds these beliefs could just take a few minutes and focus and answer this simple question. With history as a lesson, I’m doubtful this will happen. But if you’re out there, Andrew Sullivan or anyone else who both thinks and still adheres to some form of religious faith, please explain how you know the things you say you know!

    • Chris Slaby
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:51 am | Permalink

      Blockquote fail. Here’s the important part of Jerry’s post:

      “All Sullivan is doing here is confecting a post facto story to justify his Catholic beliefs. But the story is unconvincing. He has not come close to answering my main question: how does he know that certain parts of the Bible—like Adam and Eve and the Fall—are to be taken metaphorically, while others—like the existence of God, Jesus, the Resurrection, and the expiation of sin “through the universal embrace of a loving God”—are true. Once again, he’s cherry-picking, and he’s plenty mad that I called him out on it. And like many ‘sophisticated’ believers, he absolutely refuses to divulge what he believes.”

      • DV
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        Does this really need to be asked? We know how he knows. By taking the word of an authority, that’s how.

        • gillt
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

          but which authority? Rather Sullivan, like everyone else, makes it up as he goes along, picking and choosing which parts of scripture and teaching resonate with him through emotion and sentiment. It’s always been about pathos.

          • bric
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:54 am | Permalink

            If he is a Catholic, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Holy See is the ultimate authority for what one must believe; that’s pretty much what a Catholic is. In former times it was the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, and had more effective tools for ensuring the hoi poloi believed what they were told to believe.

            • gillt
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

              I’m not interested in definitions of what a Catholic is or isn’t. Who’s going to enforce it?

              Religious affiliation is an accident of birth. How many American Catholics have even made the pilgrimage to Rome do you think? Diocesan Bishops then parish monsignors are where the day-to-day authority rests in this country.

              • Dominic
                Posted October 8, 2011 at 12:54 am | Permalink

                “Who’s going to enforce it? ” Very true. The point is most people are unthinking about their ‘faith’ except in a very vague way.

  12. Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Masochism by proxy tends to hijack the medial prefrontal cortex — one of the fringe benefits of Catholicity.

    • Diane G.
      Posted October 8, 2011 at 3:25 am | Permalink

      “Masochism by proxy…”
      :D

  13. dunstar
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    lol. What I also find mysterious in the same way that Mr. Sullivan finds original sin mysterious is that why didn’t the Big Kahuna just nip the Fall in the bud in the first place? Why didn’t the Big Kahuna immediately send the Magic Bearded Man to have a chat with Adam and Eve about what they did? Wouldn’t it have been much much easier and less of a mess that way when you only have to deal with two people! lol. Or was the Big Kahuna so ravingly angry at the two of them that he couldn’t even talk to them immediately after the fact? So it’s a mystery to me how someone so powerful could be so petty. It’s very strange.

    • Sajanas
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      Or, better yet, just write what he wants us to do in big glowing letters in front of our face.

      It never ceases to amaze me how much religious writers pressure us to accept things on faith, and yet, why did Abraham, Moses, and the Apostles get a direct line to God, with miracles and everything, and we have to go it alone? They don’t want to admit that the real answer is that these characters vanish if you look at them closely, and the miracles never arrive when you look at them critically.

      • Marta
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:35 am | Permalink

        You bet.

        This is angels/head/pin stuff.

        I’ve been much too busy playing games on the internet to do my theology homework, but just what IS the explanation given by theologians for “Abraham, Moses, and the Apostles get a direct line to God, with miracles and everything, and we have to go it alone?”

        • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

          I believe it is “I’ll tell you this only once”.

          However, that doesn’t seem to explain A&E, Noah, Abraham, Moses _and_ Apostles.

      • YourName's notBruce?
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        Yes. This. None of those characters in the bible who actually met and talked with god in the stories told about them would have needed faith; they would have had evidence!

    • RR
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      …why didn’t the Big Kahuna just nip the Fall in the bud in the first place?

      The only possible answer: he wanted it to happen!

      • dunstar
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        lol.

        And why wasn’t sin completely eradicated when he sent the Magic Bearded Man to supposedly save us all from our sins?!

        Is the Big Kahuna telling us that the itsy bitsy tiny flaw in his Grand plan is for us feeble humans simply not to believe! lol.

        He’s gotta come up with a better plan than that then!

        So now we’ve manage to develop one of the awesomest tools there is and that is Science.

        So if he’s trying to get our attention to listen to Him again, he’s gotta do better than sending natural disasters our way! lol.

        It’s not like he can send another Magic Bearded Man to re-tell us the message again. that fool whomever it may be would simply get made fun of.

        So the Big Kahuna better think of something quick! lol. cuz his powers are shrinking by the decade.

      • r
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        he created humanity, set it up to fail so he could then after much suffering and wiping everyone out with a flood but 1 family, send himself to be sacrificed to himself to appease himself to save his flawed creation from sins that he created, then have 100s more years of suffering only to finally send himself again to take just 144,000 true believers of all the people that ever lived to be with him up in the sky.

        thats why he didnt nip it in the bud in the first place. the alternative is superior.

    • Aratina Cage
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

      Think of it like this: if God is eternal, then the whole history of humankind has been a blip on a blip on a blip on a blip… on a blip on his radar screen. Intervening in every situation is just not worth it. After all, this whole “curious and impatient humans” thing will be over soon enough from God’s perspective.

      • Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        Nah, you’ve got it backwards.

        If the sole purpose of this almighty and eternal god is to see to it that I get to live the good life for an eternity, think of how important that makes me!

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Aratina Cage
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

          Heh. But consider this, too: If God is so all-powerful and possibly extra-dimensional, then what if the “god” that Adam and Eve, and Moses, and everyone else in the Bible interacted with was not the God but just a sentient piece of his untucked shirt spilling over into our dimension that happened to brush the dome of the Earth as God strolled by or something?

          • Tulse
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

            I think you’ve just re-invented gnosticism.

          • Dominic
            Posted October 8, 2011 at 12:56 am | Permalink

            His shirt touched my dom[e]! Hallelujah!

          • Kharamatha
            Posted October 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

            The demiurge is a shirt corner! o:

      • YourName's notBruce?
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        And what was this eternally existing god doing for all that eternity he existed before creating the universe. Must have been some bored!

        • Aratina Cage
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

          You think he was bored before? Wait till the Earth disintegrates and he has the rest of eternity to sit and twiddle his thumbs. Poor guy.

          • Tulse
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

            But he’ll have lots of entertainment watching the infinite agony of those he condemned to eternal torture for the actions their carried out during their infinitesimally short lives.

  14. JimV
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    There is one JAC statement to which I think AS’s objection has some merit: “there is no rational basis for seeing part of the Bible as literally true and part of it as metaphor.”

    I think there is one rational basis, and JAC should have named it instead of making the sweeping statement which he did: evidence. That is, the parts for which there is some historical or archaeological evidence could be seen as true. This doesn’t encompass a lot, but it gave AS a hook to hang his response on. Take that away and AS has nothing.

    I think what JAC meant to reference were the supernatural claims in the Bible, not the whole of the Bible.

    • Marta
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:24 am | Permalink

      And that historical or archeological evidence would be what?

      Hector Avalos in “The End of Biblical Studies” thoroughly debunks the notion that that there is historical or archeological evidence for any claim made in the Bible.

      And even if Avalos had not, King David actually existed, therefor Goliath?

      • Ray
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:47 am | Permalink

        “thoroughly debunks the notion that that there is historical or archeological evidence for any claim made in the Bible.”

        Hyperbole much?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hezekiah%27s_Tunnel

        • Marta
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:05 am | Permalink

          I thank you for your robust and vigorous refutation. Huzzah!

        • Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

          As others have already remarked in earlier threads, getting incidental details right is not historical or archeological evidence for any claim made in the Bible, any more than mentions of King’s Cross Station are evidence that the Harry Potter books are anything but a work of fiction.

          /@

          • Ray
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

            I believe you have a strange definition of the words “claim made by the bible.”

            In what universe is the statement: “This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David.” not a claim made by the bible?

            Now if you want to say that all the supernatural claims made by the Bible are false, I’d agree with you, but that is not what you said.

            • Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink

              Gee, wow. An anthology of faery tales set in the middle east got some part of the geography right, while in the same sentence referring to a mythical fortress. Stop the presses!

              Dude, that’s no more a factual claim than Rowling’s description of platform 4 3/4 in a London train station.

              b&

              • Marta
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

                Platform 9 3/4.

              • daveau
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink

                What’s the difference? It’s fiction. ;-)

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

                Oh, it’s “important”, as platform 9¾ couldn’t exist in the real King’s Cross, since platforms 9 and 10 are in a different part of the station not at all like Rowling describes. (It’s well known that she was actually thinking of St. Pancras. Before the EuroStar remodelling.) ;-)

                (Btw, there is now a platform 0 in KGX!)

                /@

              • Ray
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:19 am | Permalink

                oh ffs, we’re talking about plumbing, not magical fortresses here. Do you even read what you are responding to?

                All I’m saying is that if the Bible makes some sort of claim about dynastic succession, public works projects, or military engagements in the area of modern day Israel, Lebanon, Jordan or Syria, it’s usually right. Do you disagree? The book of Kings consists primarily of such claims, so why not just call it an imperfect historical record? It’s not like we have better records of that time and place available to us. (archaeology is good as a crosscheck, but it is by no means comprehensive.)

                Do you want to claim Asa and Jehosophat never existed, just because they are only mentioned in the “entirely fictional” Bible? Do you discount everything Eusebius ever said just because he passed along doubtful miracle stories?

              • Ray
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

                To clarify. I’m only talking about ca 900-600bc. I don’t want to get into debates about David, Solomon, Ruth or Esther here.

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:53 am | Permalink

                When dealing with a book that opens with talking animals and closes with zombie snuff pr0n and is chock full of wizards and dragons and sea monsters and giants and unicorns and sky castles inbetween, you’d have to be more than a wee bit daft to conclude that anything in it has any bearing on reality, especially for that which is recorded nowhere else.

                I mean, really. Why is this such a hard concept for you?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Aratina Cage
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

                platform 9¾ couldn’t exist in the real King’s Cross, since platforms 9 and 10 are in a different part of the station not at all like Rowling describes. (It’s well known that she was actually thinking of St. Pancras. Before the EuroStar remodelling.) ;-)

                And now it’s even more well known! Thanks for that bit of trivia.

        • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

          But there are no historical sources on a king “Hezekiah”, you are pointing us to biblical scholars inventions. The one source is the same text you want to test for validity.

          Also, since your link describe numerous such tunnels, you can get a match to about any text mentioning ground works leading waters.

          • Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

            This.

            • Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

              OK, so the Hebrews borrowed from the Assyrians… maybe?

              Where is the historical or archeological evidence that supports either description of Hezekiah or his plumbing (other than there was some kind of plumbing somewhere in the vicinity built by someone at sometime)?

              /@

              • Ray
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

                You think the Hebrews borrowed from the Assyrians in figuring out the name of their own king? Is it so inconceivable that historical writing and myth could end up in the same compilation?

                About the tunnel. It’s been dated to the right time by paleography and carbon dating.
                http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305440305001688, and it connects to the correct spring. That, together with independent accounts of the relevant siege of Judah seems more than enough to identify the tunnel by any sane standard.

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

                Sorry, where’s the historical (extra-Biblical) or archeological evidence that there was a Hebrew king names Hezekiah?

                /@

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

                *named

              • Ray
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

                prism of Sennacherib or Taylor prism. The wikipedia article I linked before describes it. The next two are translations. You can search through and locate two mentions of Hezekiah the Judahite. (Judah was one of the two ancient Hebrew kingdoms which the Biblical books Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles give history of, the other being Israel.)

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

                OK, Ray, I’ll give you that. I’m still dubious about the plumbing, but I accept that the dynastic succession or military engagements have some basis in fact.

                However, those facts are, to my mind, so overlayed with the supernatural, such as the Angel of the Lord slaying thousands upon thousands of the Assyrians that besieged Jerusalem, to make a nonsense of the Bible as a putatively historical text. Some historical details may be right, but the broader claims are still only fictive.

                /@

            • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

              Hezekiah is also mentioned in Assyrian records.

              Ah, thanks!

              Now we come to the crux of the matter here, since a little googling gives me that there seem to be no archaeological data on these prisms that have just surfaced out of context, and the translations are old and obviously done by biblical scholars: there is very little scientific historical and archaeological data on these things. I don’t mean to move goalposts, but I can’t judge for the historical value of these things due to lack of such handy references. (They can even be forgeries for all I know; ‘optimistic’ readings of names and places; et cetera.)

              As for the tunnel, my previous comment stands, we have numerous water works with various dates so can find the mentioned “conduit”, especially if we overlook the missing “pool”. So we lack identification with what you term sane standard.

              When historians and/or archaeologists stands up and say that there are historical facts in these religious texts that can be actually backed up, I will sit up and notice. To date they seem to claim that there is scant to nothing of facts in there.

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

                +1

              • Ray
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

                You are indeed moving the goalposts. Well, here’s Israel Finkelstein (The same archaeologist who’s famous for the controversial hypothesis that many of the building projects traditionally associated with Solomon were actually built 100 years later by the Omrides. Not exactly a conservative.)

                http://books.google.com/books?id=lu6ywyJr0CMC&pg=PA264&lpg=PA264&dq=israel+finkelstein+hezekiah&source=bl&ots=lRy3Hrh85B&sig=_sTfShZUwEKDpOoC88CEXDChLww&hl=en&ei=AYGPTu3MNsPs0gHUou0Q&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCUQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=israel%20finkelstein%20hezekiah&f=false

                Here’s wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hezekiah

                Can you find me a historian who thinks it likely that Hezekiah did not exist?

                Honestly, why is it so hard to accept that the Bible is a compilation of works SOME of which have useful historical information?

              • Ichthyic
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

                Honestly, why is it so hard to accept that the Bible is a compilation of works SOME of which have useful historical information?

                Why is it so hard to accept that Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone has useful historical information in it?

                same question, same answer:

                it’s not, it’s IRRELEVANT. There are far better sources of historical information.

                just like we wouldn’t use Harry Potter to learn about the history of the UK, we shouldn’t think to use the bible to learn about the ancient Middle East.

                simple, really.

                Honestly, why is it so hard for you to accept that?

              • Ray
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

                Harry Potter is modern. Modern sources are a dime a dozen. The Bible is from a time when historical writings are few and far between. In that period, even things like the Iliad (which is much more mythologized than the book of Kings mind you) are useful. As it happens, the Bible is probably the single most useful source of near eastern history for the years 900-600bc. Before that it’s spotty at best, and afterwards, there is some accurate information you likely wouldn’t find elsewhere, but competing sources are more available.

                Just because this particular collection of ancient texts is used in modern cults to promote ignorant ideas does not make it any more or less useful than any comparable collection of ancient texts.

              • Ichthyic
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

                Just because this particular collection of ancient texts is used in modern cults to promote ignorant ideas does not make it any more or less useful than any comparable collection of ancient texts.

                in thinking I only meant “texts” as sources of information on history, you rather ignore all the other sources.

                I myself prefer archeology.

                you know, that stuff that has now proven there never was an actual “exodus”, nor was there ever a large contingent of jews in Egypt?

                so, since archeology is putting the bash to the idea that that collection of goatherder fables is in any way reliable, uh, WHY RELY ON IT?

                miss the point much there, Ray?

              • Microraptor
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

                Ichthyic nails it- the bible has such a low accuracy rating that it simply can’t be used as an authoritative source of information. So many of the events it mentions aren’t verified by any other sources that the ones that it gets right should be regarded as nothing more than the way many modern works of fiction make references to real people, places, or events, as I’ve already noted above.

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

                As it happens, the Bible is probably the single most useful source of near eastern history for the years 900-600bc.

                A cop comes across a drunk intently searching the ground under a streetlamp. The cop asks the drunk what he’s looking for.

                “Ossifer, I <hic />dropped my wallet. Can you help me find it?”

                The policeman obliges, but it’s very quickly apparent that the wallet is nowhere to be found. “Are you sure you dropped it here?” he asks the drunk.

                “No, I dropped it back in zat alley,” comes the slurred reply.

                The cop incredulously responds, “So why’re you looking for it here?

                “Because,” the drunk proudly proclaims, “this is where the light is!”

                It may distress you that, without the Bible, you know nothing of near eastern history from 900 – 600 BCE. Nevertheless, the fact remains that, even with the Bible, you still know nothing of near eastern history from 900 – 600 BCE.

                A true academic would acknowledge as much, and you have just demonstrated why so few real scientists have any respect for the humanities.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Ray
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

                Archaeology is great if you can get it, but if you want names of kings, dates and motives of battles etc. there’s no substitute for the written word. You can dig up an artifact with words on it, if you’re lucky. But Akkadian tablets are no more immune to falsehoods than Hebrew scrolls. The epic of Gilgamesh was also written on tablets, and it features a worldwide flood and a tunnel through which the sun travels at night. Parts of the Bible are like the Epic of Gilgamesh, other parts are more like the Taylor Prism, and it isn’t all that hard to figure out which is which.

                Even Exodus, which looks kind of like history, can be rejected, not just for its lack of archaeological confirmation and its supernatural elements, but for the more mundane reason that if the Jews had been slaves in Egypt for 4 generations, they would speak Egyptian, not Hebrew. (Two Generations in Babylon was enough to get them speaking Aramaic.)

                Where people like Sullivan err is not specific to Biblical interpretation. The error lies in accepting miracles in some, but not all cases. Once you accept miracles, any interpretation at all can be forced on the texts. You could claim Romulus was the son of Mars as easily as you could Claim Jesus to be the son of YHWH. And of course, while without miracles, Adam and Eve can only be idle speculation about the origin of painful childbirth and such, with miracles, you could claim anything you want about its origins (god’s way of telling us about Homo Erectus, something that happened before the Universe we know even existed etc. etc.).

              • GBJames
                Posted October 8, 2011 at 5:51 am | Permalink

                “Honestly, why is it so hard to accept that the Bible is a compilation of works SOME of which have useful historical information?”

                It isn’t. In exactly the same way that The Iliad and The Odyssey are works of fiction that contains “useful” historical information. Although, to be fair, Homer’s works are a bit more reliable in this sense.

              • Ray
                Posted October 8, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

                @GBJames

                Do you have anything to base your unfavorable comparisson with Homer on something? Because If you’re claiming there’s more history in Homer than the Book of Kings, you’re either ignorant or crazy.

                Homer contains the names and locations of a few otherwise unknown ancient cities and maybe two names that may or may not be confirmed in Hittite records (There’s an Agamemnon and an Alexander — who’s better known in the Iliad as Paris, but they don’t necessarily come from the right years).

                The book of Kings contains 400 years of dynastic history, and something like half the names can be confirmed from inscriptions dug up in neighboring countries.

                Now the more familiar parts of the Bible (e.g. Genesis and Exodus) do seem somewhat worse than Homer in terms of historical reliability, but that’s another matter. The point is that the books that make up the Bible have very little in common aside from the fact that they come from roughly the same time and place and they happen to have made it into a religiously motivated compilation some hundreds of years later. Some are significantly more reliable than Homer, some are significantly worse.

                If you reject the historical value of Biblical Texts, merely because you dislike the religious, you are accepting one of their premises: The unity of scripture. Don’t do that.

              • GBJames
                Posted October 8, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

                @Ray: I get to pick between being ignorant or crazy? Don’t I get any options? Maybe stupid, lazy, or icky?

                Jebus, bro. You can pick any collection of myths and dig around in them for bits of “somehow derived from a historical fact”. It doesn’t get you very far.

                At least The Iliad got Heinrich Schliemann to the tell at Hisarlık.

                Now you will excuse me while I go talk with my snake.

              • Posted October 8, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

                Now you will excuse me while I go talk with my snake.

                Is that what kids’re calling it these days?

                b&

              • GBJames
                Posted October 8, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

                rofl.

    • lamacher
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      Which parts are those? “…the parts for which there is some historical or archeological evidence could be seen as true.” The operative words here are ‘some’ and ‘could’. Yes, there is a land of Egypt, there is NO acceptable evidence of Moses and a coming out of Egypt. There is a land of Israel, there is no real evidence of an invasion by Hebrews into that land, nor of the reported genocide. There is no acceptable evidence of a Kingdom of David, nor of an Empire of Soloman stretching from northern Syria to the shores of the Red Sea. And so on, ad infinitum.

    • daveau
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      Did you sleep through yesterday’s class?

      • Marta
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        +1

    • Microraptor
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      As Matt Dillahunty pointed out on The Atheist Experience, having a couple of references to actual historic places isn’t evidence for the stories being true- New York City is a real city, but that’s not proof of Spiderman existing.

      • Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

        Ah… you beat me to it… HP, Spiderman, … all these stories have real-world references for verisimilitude only.

        /@

  15. Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    “…a mystery that makes sense of our species’ predicament”

    Genius. Only someone comfortable with theology could say something so… Wrong. It reminds me of my favourite response I’ve had in arguments with theologians – “I believe it’s the literal word of god but it’s not meant to be taken literally”.

  16. newenglandbob
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    The most encompassing feeling that Andrew Sullivan should be feeling right now is embarrassment for the drivel that he wrote. After his pummeling, we shall see if he is intelligent enough to either apologize or remove himself from the subject in his writings.

    • 386sx
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

      I don’t see that happening. He’s handling the whole thing as though he’s a troll in the vein of Ann Coulter who likes drumming up controversies, and thus, notoriety and business.

  17. PB
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    I am still confused to read Sullivan’s words ” Has Coyne read the f*cking thing?”

    I am not sure whether Coyne really “read the f*cking thing”, I expect so since “the f*cking thing” is not really a difficult read.

    But it is indeed “the f*cking thing” ? god-d*mn-it! It is easy to say “the f*cking thing”, the whole book is a “f*cking thing” !!
    :D

  18. truthspeaker
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    I read his explanation of Original Sin yesterday (when someone quoted it here). I’ve been thinking about it since then and I just don’t see the mystery, paradox, or predicament.

    Humans evolved to feel emotions that motivate behavior. Naturally some of these motivations conflict. Because we are a social species where individuals can only survive in a society of other individuals, we evolved to feel guilt, shame, concern for others, empathy with others, but also with feelings that motivate us to take care of ourselves. Sometimes those motivations are in conflict. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

    Sure, those conflicts can be heartbreaking for us. But that doesn’t mean it’s a mystery or a paradox. It’s the human condition, and there’s no “salvation” from it.

    • bric
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      Spoilsport

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      I suppose it’s possible to engage in a thought experiment, where one imagines that there was a first person to feel guilt about having done some moral wrong. There might have been a moment when an ancient member of species homo who was a genius among her peers was not just aware of the feeling of guilt, but also could conceive that fallibility and right and wrong were concepts that applied to all.

      But really, the significance of this might be no more important than when the first ancestor felt a need for privacy while taking a dump.

  19. truthspeaker
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    We see in Sullivan what we see so often these days: a smart person who completely loses it when it comes to defending his faith. Rather than give up his untenable Catholicism—after all, he’s a vocal gay man who belongs to a Church whose official policy condemns gays

    He’s also a person who doesn’t believe Adam and Eve were real people who belongs to a church that requires its members to believe Adam and Eve were real people.

    • Screechy Monkey
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      Yeah, but that’s just for the rubes. Sullivan is cool with the Church teaching them all this silly literal stuff that only a fool would believe, because they’re not sophisticated like him.

      • Steersman
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        Catholic dogmata: to the extent the Church insists on a literal interpretation thereof, little more than a mass of contradictions, inconsistencies, lies and outright deceits – “What tangled webs we weave ….”

        Reminds me of a review by P.B. Medawar of a book by Teilhard de Chardin (The Phenomenon of Man):

        Yet the greater part of it, I shall show, is nonsense, tricked out with a variety of tedious metaphysical conceits, and its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself.

        One might similarly characterize the works of all theologians and large portions of the Bible itself.

  20. Jeff Johnson
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    I’m a regular reader of both the Daily Dish an Why Evolution Is True. I don’t agree with Andrew Sullivan on religion, but I like Andrew. He is an astute commenter on politics and culture. His blog is informative on a diverse set of topics. I felt disappointed when he stooped to calling Jerry “dumb” the first time, and then again “dumb” and “crude”.

    He may not accept comments, but his blog has a very large readership and anyone who sticks his neck out publicly on any subject can invite controversy on the Internet. I suspect if he allowed comments there would be an overwhelming number of them.

    But Andrew does accept emails, and to his credit he often prints emails from readers that contrast with or elaborate on his own views. He does maintain a sense of fairness, admits to mistakes (when he realizes them) and airs a range of ideas on the political spectrum. So while some might say it is censorship to not accept comments, I think a more fair view would be to say that he exercises editorial control over his blog.

    Something has touched an emotional chord in him. I only know about Andrew through reading his blog. I believe Andrew had to struggle quite hard intellectually and emotionally to reconcile his homosexuality and his Catholic faith. He seems very attached to the loving God aspect, but he also sees God conceptually as bound up in the doubt and mystery associated with the unknown. And an important aspect seems to be that religion represents that which is beyond the limits of reason, and this connects to the idea that mankind must be humble before the vastness of the universe and reality.

    I think the idea of humility before nature or the limits to reason are ideas that come naturally to scientists who struggle to piece together the mysteries of reality.

    Many atheists are familiar with the struggle to let go of religious attachment. Having one’s dearly held attachments questioned, or letting go of any deep attachment can be an emotionally shattering experience for any human being. While the final step is liberating, the precursor can be fear, doubt, sadness, and a variety of tender emotions.

    Atheist should be able to feel compassion for those struggling to free their minds from religion without having to utter a word of accomodationist sentiment. I for one don’t feel any bitterness toward Andrew, just a little disappointment. But I think atheists are capable of the moral wisdom of turning the other cheek when appropriate. I hope Andrew may one day find that he can embrace and explore and be thrilled by the mysteries of existence without reference to a deity possessing anthropomorphic qualities, and without the audacious claim of immortality.

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      I find Sullivan’s no-comments policy a bit annoying, but anyone who claims that it is tantamount to “censorship” has no clue what that word means.

      • Marta
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        Sullivan permits no comments at his own blog, nor does he engage in debate here, in an argument that he initiated.

        In that regard, his no comments policy is a bit more than annoying.

        • Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

          I understand the frustration, but he has no obligation to engage in any discussion set off by his posts. I think he should be willing to, but it’s just not how he does things, I guess.

          • Jeff Johnson
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

            He often does engage in debate on a variety of topics. I think that religion, and atheism in particular, is one of his blind spots.

            He likes to equate atheists and fundamentalists as being equally extreme, and equally wrong. This formulation has some superficial appeal, but I can’t buy it because I simply can’t find any part of my mind willing to agree with any of the supernatural claims of the many many religions that seems so obviously to be human cultural artifacts. Which is not to say there is not great value in human culture, but we should be smart enough to distinguish between what is in our imaginations, and what exists outside of our heads in the natural world.

            At any rate, I like his Christianist formulation, which plays of course on the term Islamist. There are forms of religious thinking which are more dangerously totalitarian than others, and Andrew is always alert about calling out and criticizing fundamentalism, which is admirable. I think he views his critique of atheism and naturalism as consistent with this. I disagree with this assumption of symmetry.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

              OT…

              this isn’t perchance the Jeff Johnson that was a grad student at UC Berkeley in the late 80’s?

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

                Nope, I’m one of the other Jeff Johnsons. There are too many of us around. :)

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

              Andrew is always alert about calling out and criticizing fundamentalism, which is admirable.

              excepting the times he uses it as a false equivalency, like now.

    • Dan L.
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      And an important aspect seems to be that religion represents that which is beyond the limits of reason, and this connects to the idea that mankind must be humble before the vastness of the universe and reality.

      “I have a magic book that contains the deepest secrets of the universe” != “humble before the vastness of the universe and reality”

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      I think the idea of humility before nature or the limits to reason are ideas that come naturally to scientists who struggle to piece together the mysteries of reality.

      You haven’t met many scientists, have you?

      Scientists are generally elitist competitive since science is, and the best scientists have ambition galore.* (Which for example the secretary of the Nobel Committee Anders Bàràny points out among his 10 tips for prospects. [Note in posting: I can’t find the link to the magazine (Ny Teknik) interview.])

      What is needed is tenacity, so a certain frankness towards the size of the task is good. I wouldn’t call that “humble” as much as realistic.

      And “the limits to reason” is a philosophical storytelling idea that has no bearing on what science is or does. It is further religiously inspired, I believe, which makes it impossible to use in a neutral comparison.

      Fact is, we have as of yet very little idea of the limits of empiricism because – wait for it – it is an empirical question!

      We probe that question in some small manner by doing science. But I don’t think anyone has done any inroads towards a theory predicting what we can predict and test.

      Meanwhile the most parsimonious model is that there are no limits for empiricism,** for the same reason that artificial limits between creationist “kinds” are a priori unbelievable.

      ————-
      * I am not saying that scientists aren’t nice. They generally are to a great extent, outside of the inherent competition.

      A theory I hear and find likely is that intelligence correlates with good behavior.

      ** Of course the finite size of the observable universe is an external constraint. However, it doesn’t seem in practice to inhibit our methods to probe for, say, multiverses.

      As for the other external constraint of Planck scale, guess what, it seems we can probe beyond it too. (Supernova timing results just beyond Planck times, still a bit shy on certainty.) Another imaginary boundary likely broached.

      • Steersman
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        “I think the idea of humility before nature or the limits to reason are ideas that come naturally to scientists who struggle to piece together the mysteries of reality.”

        You haven’t met many scientists, have you?

        While one might debate to what extent Einstein could be considered typical I think this quote of him indicates an attitude that is not totally unknown in the scientific community and which would be consistent with Jeff Johnson’s contention:

        To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull facilities can comprehend only in the most primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the centre of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the ranks of the devoutly religious men. [What I Believe; A.E.]

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

          Steersman, you nailed the response in my opinion. Actually I hold BAs in physics and mathematics. Einstein is definitely a good model for what I had in mind.

          Anyone who has struggled with the paradoxes of quantum mechanics, or attempted to visualize 4 dimensions, or wrestled with the cosmological argument by imagining an object with no beginning or cause, or space and time with a finite bound, should know the limits to reason very well.

          • Jeff Johnson
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

            I suppose I should say that they would know well that there are limits to reason. I don’t think “know well” really describes what I meant, since really being able to define the limits of reason would be hard or impossible perhaps.

          • Steersman
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I certainly like the quote of Einstein – ran across it in Sagan’s Broca’s Brain – and I think it applies to a fairly large percentage of scientists and mathematicians.

            Though with regard to the cosmological argument I think the Thomists have let their Christian literalism corrupt that “true religiousness” that Einstein spoke of. Interestingly, I ran across an observation or perspective by another philosopher, Bill Vallicella – whom Feser touts or references in a number of his posts – on that point:

            I find it hard to resist the suspicion that what Aquinas has done is implanted Christian elements into the foreign soil of Aristotelianism.

            But it really seems to me that that cosmological argument of Aquinas rests on a direct analog to Aristotle’s misunderstanding of the nature of motion – that a force is required to maintain an object in constant linear motion – and therefore that the argument fails. While the defenders of Aristotelian-Thomist [A-T] metaphysics on Feser’s site don’t see it this way – not surprisingly, I think Feser’s “essentially ordered causal series” on which the “Unmoved Mover” argument rests is based on Aristotle’s inductive conclusion derived from erroneous interpretations about physical movement.

            And I think that some of those defenders have a misplaced faith – occupational hazard, one might suggest – in reason and logic itself and seem to be entirely averse to providing any empirical justification for or evidence of many if not all of their premises and conclusions.

    • Aratina Cage
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      But I think atheists are capable of the moral wisdom of turning the other cheek when appropriate.

      It has been proposed by some atheists that “turning the other cheek” was more of a spiteful “fuck you!” statement than a humble “can I have another, sir?” statement because elite snobs back then worried about sullying the palm of their hands and would backhand those they considered beneath them to keep their palm clean, so turning the other cheek was an invitation to the elite snobs to slap a victim with the palm of their hand and in their anger sully themselves. If so, it wouldn’t be the kind of moral wisdom you thought it was, would it?

      • Jeff Johnson
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        I suppose so. I’ve always thought of it as deciding to take responsibility for arresting a pointless cycle of violence to prevent it from escalating. This is exercising the strength of will to not be driven by the sting of insult, but rather to absorb and transform negativity into something positive by rising above the dispute to propose some intelligent and mutually agreeable resolution to the dispute. This may induce shame in an adversary that has a conscience and can recognize the morally superior turn in direction. And it can earn respect when defusing an argument. I suppose doing nothing to respond to a physical slap rarely earns respect in the minds of many.

        I’m sure it can be scornful if you are literally being bound and tortured by some brute, to try to show that he cannot hurt you.

        I’m not a pacifist, and believe in using violence if needed to defend my life. But I think the turn-the-other-cheek parable applies to many if not most disputes that humans get into.

        In a way, Jesus was an early game theorist proposing non-zero sum solutions. If he existed at all, he was probably an intuitive genius of some kind. But just a man, certainly.

        • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

          Oh, gimme a break.

          Jesus was all about hellfire this and eternal damnation that and chop off your hands the other and bringing a sword and setting families against each other and kill all the infidels and none come to the father but through him and love him more than you love your family and and and and and — !

          Please. Stop fellating the zombie. It’s unseemly.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Jeff Johnson
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

            But the zombie might cum again…

          • Steersman
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

            Recognizing that Jesus – assuming he was a real person and not the result of a writing cooperative – might have had a few sensible if not profound observations – along with a whole load of delusions, notably that he was the Messiah – really shouldn’t qualify as “fellating the zombie”.

            For instance I seem to recollect seeing that, as suggested, game-theory does, in fact, intimate that “turning the other cheek” actually makes for a more rational and civilized society – although the theory also suggests that it is not an absolute and too many times justifies the “nuclear option” – in one form or another. And I also ran across an article – found while pursuing the definition of ad hominem – on the Unabomber which notes that Kaczynski was actually a well regarded Harvard graduate [PhD in mathematics] credited with solving a very difficult “boundary functions” problem, so difficult that “maybe 10 or 12 men in the country understood or appreciated it”. So, maybe you think that we should throw that knowledge out with Kaczynski as well?

            No doubt that there are a great many problems with a literal interpretation of great swaths of the Bible. But rejecting it in its entirety really does look like throwing the baby out with the bathwater – at best.

            • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

              Okay, maybe you can rise to a challenge I’ve yet to see anybody meet.

              Kindly quote for me seven consecutive “red text” verses that are set in the Jesus character’s voice that qualify as profound, brilliant, inspirational, whatever — something worthy of having passed the lips of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient über-god.

              That’s not much to ask for, is it?

              You also seem to think it reasonable to suggest that Jesus might have been a real, historical figure. Can you offer any credible evidence to support such an assertion? Or are you merely one of those smoke / fire “well, there has to be something to it” folks?

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

                I would suggest reading Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7. These are entirely, I believe, “red” text verses. These seem to me to be the core morality of Jesus.

                He was criticizing power, wealth, hypocrisy, violence, among other things.

                These chapters reveal how few Christians actually follow his teachings. In chapter 6, when he teaches about prayer, he totally demolishes the idea of group prayer and public prayer, and prayer for specific objectives. He frames it more as a kind of meditation.

                These things are not more profound than many other great works by great minds in human history. But in that historical context, he seemed to be trying to transform society into a world with less misery and suffering.

              • Posted October 8, 2011 at 8:55 am | Permalink

                I’ve just posted an analysis of the heart of the parallel section of Luke. If you think Matthew is any less evilly disgusting, kindly post your own analysis and I’ll consider it.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted October 8, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

                Ben,
                To start with, I’m no accomodationist or religious person. I’m surprised these primitive superstitions still survive. So I’m looking at these texts purely as something some guy who fancied himself a teacher might have said at that time. There may be some history here, or it could be purely myth or literature, it doesn’t matter to me.

                Because you can extrapolate from Luke to the Nazis and the Jews, or asymmetric master/slave oppression does not mean you have proven these texts to be evil.

                If you know something about literary criticism or film criticism, then you are aware of the wide range of connotations that can be drawn from any text. The reader brings a lot to the process of creating meaning from any text.

                So you have read them in a particular way, and I can see your points. The point about Torquemada was a very good one.

                But I can also see other things there. In a game such as the Prisoner’s Dilemma, there are solutions where one or the other prisoner rats on his partner. Then there is the tragically stable solution where both rat, because they fear the greater penalty of cooperating when the partner rats you out. Then there is the non-zero sum cooperative solution where both maintain silence.

                This can be used to model many situations where a stable sub-optimal solution exists, and by taking a risk, the players can arrive at a win-win situation based on cooperation.

                So while it’s easy to love those who love you, and to hate those who hate you, it takes some special effort and some risk to love your enemies.

                If you interpret this in the eyes of uneducated bronze-age goat herders with tribal loyalties and disputes based on competition for sparse resources, it was probably a fairly revolutionary idea that they might find greater rewards by settling ancient tribal feuds, or settling disputes over pasture land or missing animals. By loving those they formerly hated, the extend the range of possible cooperative solutions to economic problems.

                If these ideas are universalized according to the categorical imperative, then they become a model for resolving many conflicts and reducing the amount of misery and suffering in the world.

                You have pointed out that these ideas are not practical in all circumstances. Of course, in the case of extremely asymmetric conflicts, such as the Nazis and Jews, there is no opportunity for cooperation. You have only extrapolated to these most pessimistic cases and ignored many other real possibilities.

                There is nothing in these texts to justify calling jesus the son of god or to inspire belief in his miracles or resurrection. And there is nothing here to rival the sophistication of great works of ethical philosophy that we have available to us. But given the primitive circumstances and the illiteracy of the intended audience, there is something positive that can be said of the ideas. There is at the very least something of cultural and historical interest here.

                You seem to be quite dedicated to the task of obliterating the possibility that anything good can be found in the Bible. This doesn’t seem constructive to me, because it simply isn’t true, and also because that message could only reach those who already despise religion, or who at least already understand the absurdity of believing in the literal existence of god, the creation, the soul, miracles, and afterlife.

                I don’t view religion as evil. It seems to me like a quaint belief from the childhood of humanity that is a natural consequence of our evolution and our earlier lack of scientific knowledge. I think it’s obvious why many people with honestly good and moral intent are drawn to it. And it’s obvious why anyone who has a modern education should be able to see how transparently it is a human creation.

              • GBJames
                Posted October 8, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

                “I don’t view religion as evil. It seems to me like a quaint belief from the childhood of humanity that is a natural consequence of our evolution and our earlier lack of scientific knowledge.”

                False (implied) choice. It can be all of these.

              • Posted October 8, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

                I’m sorry, Jeff, but I simply don’t see how the text — quoted in context above — can be in any way interpreted the way you suggest. It’s all a master’s words to his slaves (and do recall that Christians almost exclusively characterize their relationship with Jesus and God in the same or equivalent terms) couched in millennialist nonsense about how there’s no point in worrying about tomorrow because Jesus will be back the day after.

                Besides, the Torah already had the Jubilee, which does all the Game Theory things you’re suggesting Jesus was groping for.

                You’ve discarded all of the Bible except for the “great moral teachings” that the Enlightenment interpolated into it. After being presented with evidence to the contrary, why would you think that the lies Christians have told about the good nature of the Bible are any truer than the inextricably intertwined lies they’ve told about the rest of the book?

                Cheers,

                b&

            • Steersman
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

              Ben Goren said:

              — something worthy of having passed the lips of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient über-god.
              That’s not much to ask for, is it?

              You’re missing my point: I am not at all, in any way, shape or form, arguing that Jesus was any type of “omnibenevolent, omniscient über-god”. I’m only arguing that he, as a human individual – or as the creation of various authors of the mythology, may have had some insights that are worth considering.

              As for “red-letter” text I don’t have the time or the patience to find anything at the moment that might qualify as “inspirational and profound” as coming from a human – although, given the content of self-help bookshelves, there seems to be quite a spectrum there that might justify classifying passing observations on the weather as such. However, the “turning the other cheek” and the “eye of the needle” parables would seem to qualify as several and for others I sort of use the observations of an American moralist, Phillip Wylie – no friend of religion or of fundamentalism, as a bit of a touchstone:

              Christ had powerful flashes of insight into the deep nature of man’s consciousness and he used every device he could invent to try to reveal the process of that insight to those who would listen. He failed. The real meaning of his gospel was largely lost even to his disciples. Such of it as they salvaged, they set down badly, and they showed their incomprehensions in the way they wrote about their master.

              The one, great positive idea which Christ repeatedly tried to express was the thought that no individual human being could know himself unless his inner honesty was complete. The peace he talked of was an inner peace, and he said so, always. The way to it was through truth and through the abandonment of preoccupation with temporal matters – with worldly goods and with trade and gain. [Generation of Vipers; Philip Wylie; pgs 289-291]

              As for whether Jesus might have actually been a real historical character, I am decidedly skeptical – too many parallels with older mythologies – notably Egyptian – such as described in Harpur’s The Pagan Christ, among others. But that there have been literally hundreds of deluded individuals who have claimed or believed that they were the Second Coming of Christ or the Jewish Messiah or the Islamic Mahdi makes it possible to plausibly think that could have been the case for the Jesus of 2000 years ago. That Jesus could have been overly taken with his insights and gone off the deep end – as with Kaczynski – shouldn’t preclude assessing those insights on their own merits.

              In addition, the story of Jesus seems to have too many human elements, betraying the same vanities and pettiness that bedevils us all, to think the story was meant to portray any “paragon of virtue” and was anything more, or less, than the story of a real, conflicted, though inspired, thoroughly human being. For example,

              When a fig tree did not provide figs to satisfy Christ’s hunger, he bade it wither, with the infantile fury of a child kicking the stone upon which it has stubbed its toe. [ibid; pg 293]

              • Microraptor
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

                And what sets the insights of Jesus apart from the insights of Aristotle, Buddha, or the like?

              • Ichthyic
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

                may have had some insights that are worth considering.

                …and just as many that weren’t.

                so, the point is?

                I’m not a fan of hero worship, nor of trying to cherry pick writings for witticisms.

              • Steersman
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

                Microraptor said:

                And what sets the insights of Jesus apart from the insights of Aristotle, Buddha, or the like?

                Nothing much in particular. In all cases, just insightful observations by real humans that can be assessed on their merits once the “chaff” of Jesus’ supposed divinity is discarded. And there are some arguments that suggest that Jesus – assuming a real individual – derived a large portion of his insights from Eastern mythology & mysticism which likewise need to be taken with a grain or two of salt.

                But maybe Jesus put his own unique “spin” on the concepts that are worth considering. The same way with those of Aristotle, many of which have been discarded or extended – although Thomists seem to be stuck in “curious lacunae of astounding ignorance” in that regard – but which still provided a basis for the historical development of current science and which may still have some relevance.

              • Steersman
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

                Ichthyic said:

                …and just as many that weren’t. so, the point is?

                That the Bible contains some insights that are worth considering. Which you apparently agree with. Although Mr. Goren seems to categorically reject the idea.

                I’m not a fan of hero worship, nor of trying to cherry pick writings for witticisms.

                But it’s ok, for example, to provide links to Paul Bloom’s article on religious motivations for rejecting science? And, similarly, I suppose you would construe Newton’s aphorism about standing on the shoulders of giants as, what, “hero worship”?

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

                I have a concert to go to, but perhaps in the mean time somebody here would care to quote Luke 6 and see if Jesus’s admonition to turn the other cheek a) is anything like how you describe it and II) even vaguely good advice, let alone moral or wiss.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Ichthyic
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

                But it’s ok, for example, to provide links to Paul Bloom’s article on religious motivations for rejecting science? And, similarly, I suppose you would construe Newton’s aphorism about standing on the shoulders of giants as, what, “hero worship”?

                wtfbbq?

                you actually think linking to a scientific review paper detailing what we know about an entire field of endeavor is the same thing as cherry picking quotes from a book?

                really?

                that’s just inane.

              • Ichthyic
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

                But it’s ok, for example, to provide links to Paul Bloom’s article on religious motivations for rejecting science?

                what’s more, this is a strawman of Bloom and Weisberg’s conclusion.

                I expected better from you.

              • Steersman
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

                Ichthyic said:

                you actually think linking to a scientific review paper detailing what we know about an entire field of endeavor is the same thing as cherry picking quotes from a book?

                Maybe not in the amount of detail readily available. But still looks to me like both are cases of referring to portions of another larger body of work – which we were both at liberty to delve into if we wanted further details – and using them to support a particular argument.

                what’s more, this is a strawman of Bloom and Weisberg’s conclusion.

                So, I didn’t have time to review the content of their paper – which I had only skimmed through. Regardless, still cases of referring to portions of other works.

                In addition, if I’m not mistaken quoting of others or referring to other sources is an entirely acceptable modus operandi – I notice Jerry, among others, peppers his posts with quotes from various sources.

                I’ll try to do better next time ….

              • Dominic
                Posted October 8, 2011 at 1:34 am | Permalink

                Ben really does not like Jesus!

              • Posted October 8, 2011 at 8:48 am | Permalink

                Well, I see nobody took me up on my request to analyze Luke’s 6 cheeks…er…the 6 Lukes’s cheeks…ah…where was I?

                Anyway, here’s the line in question, in bold, with a half-dozen verses each before and after for context, with my analysis interspersed.

                Luke 6:24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.

                25 Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.

                26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

                Wait a moment. What’s with all the hating on the successful? Hell, never mind successful — woe unto those who aren’t hungry, those who laugh? Damn. “Eat the rich” is bad enough, but this is some serious overcompensation.

                27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

                Shirley, he can’t be serious. The Jews should have loved the Nazis and offered to polish their boots with their tongues?

                28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

                Oh, fuck! He is serious! According to Jesus, the problem with the Madoff scandal is that his victims didn’t give him even more of their money! And the bank bailout wasn’t big enough, and — and it’s no wonder the Republicans can’t stop fellating the zombie.

                29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

                And here, especially in context, we see that the whole cheek-turning thing isn’t some noble form of passive resistance or inspired game theory strategy, but rather the command of a master to his uppity slaves, that they should shut the fuck up and keep licking those boots until they shine, nigger, shine!

                Don’t believe me? Think the use of the “n-word” was overly gratuitous? Well, let’s read on.

                30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

                Nope, not gratuitous at all. “Thank you, sir, for beating me like that. Please, may I have another? Here, have the last of my sick child’s lunch money, while you’re at it. No need to thank me.”

                31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

                Oh, wait — here’s another of those famous lines — the Golden Rule! Don’t seem quite so golden now, does it, buried in all this shit.

                But even this is just fool’s gold. Christians hold this up as the pinnacle of moral achievement, yet it’s been responsible for the worst of the Christian atrocities.

                Torquemada, you see, was acting in accord with Luke 6:31 in the fullest letter and spirit of its meaning. Better a few weeks of earthly torment than an eternity of damnation in Hell — and he’s exactly right, as far as that goes. If all you have is Luke 6:31 as your most important moral guidance, this sort of incomprehensible evil is inevitable.

                What’s missing here is an even more important commandment — one that game theory would have provided, had Jesus been anything other than a pagan syncretism invented by Hellenists for the purpose of controlling an unruly backwater tribe on the fringes of the Empire.

                Specifically, far more important than to do unto those as you would have them do unto you is to not do unto them that which they themselves decide they do not want to have done unto them. “No means no.” Add an exception to permit self-defense and defense of others, and now you’re truly golden.

                Once you put not harming others above treating them as extensions of your own ego, then the Golden Rule starts to make sense. If you want your neighbor to watch your house while you’re on vacation, you better watch hers when she goes. It’s the basis of commerce — you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. But let it run wild, as the Christians would have us do, and, quite literally, all Hell breaks loose.

                32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.

                33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.

                34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

                Keep digging, Jesus. Take everything that is good and right in the world, and turn it into hateful sin. Seriously, how can anybody have ever thought that any of this bullshit was something to be admired?

                One last verse, and then I’ve had enough.

                35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

                There you have it, folks. In his own words, Jesus is declaring himself to be evil incarnate, enemy to all that is good and righteous, friend to the forces of chaos.

                You know that silly comic book character of the devil as this figure that takes everything that’s good and does the exact opposite? Well, right here, in the Fucking Sermon on the Goddamned Hellmount, Jesus, in plain-as-day language, unequivocally paints himself as an even more over-the-top villain, if such a thing is possible.

                And people wonder why I challenge them to come up with even a small set of consecutive verses from Jesus that aren’t the most vile, disgusting shit imaginable. Godamnit, people, I can cherry-pick Mein Kampf to make Hitler seem as a paragon of virtue, by doing nothing more than applying the same rhetorical techniques Christians have used to sell the Jesus monster for millennia.

                You think it’s an accident that Jesus is an undead zombie riddled with fatal wounds that won’t heal? You think it’s a peculiar quirk that his disciples are ordered to drink his blood and eat his flesh? You think it’s inconsequential that the initiation rite is the torture method of simulated drowning, today known as waterboarding? You think the agonized, twisted, larger-than-life corpse at the front of the alter isn’t serious?

                There are many good people who have managed to transcend the incomprehensible evil that is Christianity, yes — to their great credit. Few Christians are anywhere near as monstrously evil as the death god whose altar they bow down before. And for that small blessing the rest of the world should be thankful, indeed.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted October 8, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

                Sorry about the formatting fail; Jerry, I wouldn’t mind if you decided to fix it.

                And I also forgot to address the the quote that Steersman ended with.

                The cursing of the fig tree is a well-known and not-subtle example of antisemitism. The fig tree has represented Torah since most ancient times. Jesus was casting a magic spell to kill all rabbis with that line.

                Christianity is and always has been powerfully, unabashedly antisemitic, in exactly the same way that Orphism was always unabashedly anti-Thracian, even though Orpheus was himself cast as a Thracian.

                If you want to understand the antisemitic nature of Christianity, you can do no better than to read Mein Kampf, in which Hitler does a superlative job of laying out the case, complete with copious in-context Bible quotes.

                Cheers,

                b&

        • Aratina Cage
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

          I’m sure it can be scornful if you are literally being bound and tortured by some brute, to try to show that he cannot hurt you.

          Yes, I think that is closer to the sense that we learned it may have had. It could have been more an act of daring defiance with a tinge of revenge at the end instead of the roll over and take it to end the cycle of violence that we usually see it interpreted as meaning.

          Anyway, that opens up a whole other line of inquiry into religious texts: How do we know that we are interpreting the parables, metaphors, and other information in them correctly?

    • tomh
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      So while some might say it is censorship to not accept comments, I think a more fair view would be to say that he exercises editorial control over his blog.

      Who has said it is censorship? I believe the word used (and aptly so) was cowardly. Of course he can run his blog any way he wants to, just like everyone else in the world. And how often does he print emails that dismanle his religious views. I’ve never seen one.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      He may not accept comments, but his blog has a very large readership

      all the more reason he should pull his head out of his ass on this topic.

      better he shouldn’t comment on things he’s obviously not worked out for himself yet.

  21. Chris
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    I can partly understand where he’s coming from. He’s using the metaphors (and he is using them as metaphors) of the Fall and the Resurrection as aspects of a spiritual or psychological journey (same thing, I would imagine). The Fall represents human suffering or living in a world of human and animal suffering (and this suffering is real or true to experience), and the Resurrection represents our ability to transcend or overcome this suffering – through acceptance or self-sacrifice perhaps, or ‘grace,’ or other means. So to him these metaphors express real truths about life, and provide a ‘route through life,’ if you will, so it is irrelevant to him whether the Genesis account is nonfactual – it expresses ‘truths of faith’ – faith being, after all, the real basis of religion. He ‘lives’ his religion, he doesn’t necessarily analyze it. So when Jerry or others criticize its factuality, to him, that completely misses the point.

    However, the fact that he gets so pissed over it, and responds so churlishly, suggests that these sorts of attacks do wound him in some manner. The Fall and the Resurrection are obviously very important to him psychologically.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      This would make a lot of sense if he didn’t willingly associate himself with a faith tradition that explicitly claims its stories have a factual basis, and whose services include a statement by the congregants affirming their belief in the factuality of the stories.

      • Chris
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        Perhaps that cognitive dissonance is the reason he gets so angry at ‘attacks’ such as Jerry’s. Maybe he does feel that conflict between fact and faith.

        This reminds me that not only is he a member of a religion that is anti-homosexual, but also a political conservative (or at least he was) – another group that looks down on homosexuality. So his beliefs have situated him within groups which morally disapprove of his ‘lifestyle.’ That would seem ideal for producing internal conflicts.

        • bric
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

          Sorry but I have to object to that debased term ‘lifestyle': “a characteristic bundle of behaviors that makes sense to both others and oneself in a given time and place, including social relations, consumption, entertainment, and dress” (Wikipedia). If the only thing you know about me is that I am gay you know virtually nothing.

          • Chris
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

            There is a reason I put it in quotes….

        • Aratina Cage
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

          Sullivan has succeeded in spreading a false meme that marriage equality, the opening of marriage rights and privileges to non-straight families, is a conservative ideal rather than a liberal ideal and a human right. He’s a minion of the Church in that way and will be one of the people they cite in years to come as to why conservative Christians spearheaded the marriage equality movement.

    • FootFace
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      But if that’s all the Fall and Resurrection are—metaphors for the challenges and consolations of life—then I don’t understand how religion could be such a persistent and powerful institution. Yes, life is hard. Yes, we can, in some ways, transcend this. [i]That[/i] is enough to drive people to war, to devote their lives to indoctrinating others?

      I don’t believe that’s what believers think their religions are.

      • Chris
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        Well, there is always a spectrum of believers in any religion, and he is clearly a liberal Catholic. I would imagine he’d be considered a heretic by very conservative Catholics. He has always struck me (based on his writings) as having a very personal, subjectively oriented view of religion (and that’s a good thing, I would imagine).

        • H.H.
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

          He has always struck me (based on his writings) as having a very personal, subjectively oriented view of religion (and that’s a good thing, I would imagine).

          It’s not a good thing so much as “less bad.”

  22. Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    [late to party, subscribing anyway]

  23. AdamS
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    I’ve been a regular reader of Sullivan’s blog (along with Pharyngula and WEIT) for a few years so feel I should offer some defence based on what I know from his writing. I would add I often disagree with him and that is definitely the case here.

    However, he is not a reflexive defender of the Catholic church. He has written mountains of posts viciously criticising the Catholic authorities for their stance on homosexuality, birth control and other aspects. He has been relentless in his reporting of the Catholic child abuse scandals and scathing in his opinion of Pope Benedict and his role in this travesty.

    Many have asked the same question raised here, why is he still Catholic. And, apart from a weak comment that the only way to chance the Catholic church is for grassroot Catholics to stand up to the Vatican from the inside,he has freely admitted his decision stems from emotional and personal rather than rational reasons. Being Catholic is central to his sense of self and how he makes sense of his life. Ad an atheist I don’t agree with this, but I’ve always had much more respect for someone who can admit their faith is groundless and has come to terms with it, than sophisticated theologians with their wishy washy apologetics.

    Which, is why it is so dissappointing to see his stance on Eden. It seems it’s okay for Catholics to criticise Catholics but atheists are too “crude and ignorant,” apparently. The double-standard is disgusting, especially from someone from who claims Sam Harris as a friend.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      Yeah – he admits his “Catholic” beliefs are at odds with the teachings of the church, but somehow he gets offended when Jerry criticizes the church for promulgating those teachings and Catholics for going along with them (or pretending to).

      • truthspeaker
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

        And, like Karen Armstrong, he dishonestly pretends that his fringe, heretical beliefs are the norm and not the exception.

      • AdamS
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink

        All I know of his character is from his blog (which he does seem to pour a lot of himself into), but I’d say he draws a distinction, as many beleivers do, between the authority that runs the Catholic church and the believers themselves. It’s not completely unfounded distinction given how many practising Catholics poll as supporting gay marriage, how many of them use birth control and how many get divorced.

        However, I agree, it’s a weak excuse for an obvious double-standard which, I feel, is beneath him. It’s okay for Christians to point out the church is run by fools but it’s not okay for atheists. You can disagree with the obviously backward aspects of Catholic dogma, but don’t point out that there’s you think the whole thing is based on lies. Don’t point out that, if certain chruch doctrine are unfounded, why can’t they all be?

        This double-standard was also obvious after “Crackergate”. However, we are all victims of out inner biases and occassional lapses of reason in certain topics. So I won’t throw away all I’ve seen in him that is worthy of respect. I’m just dissappointed and a little sad.

    • Aratina Cage
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      I believe he is friends with (or at least runs in the same social circle as) Christopher Hitchens, too.

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 8, 2011 at 3:47 am | Permalink

        Interesting.

    • Tim
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      …And, apart from a weak comment that the only way to chance the Catholic church is for grassroot Catholics to stand up to the Vatican from the inside…

      But the thing is, they don’t stand up the the church – not really. Not in a way that would really make the church pay attention. I’ve often wondered how any Catholic of good conscience can drop a dime into the collection plate as long as they continue to shield child rapists and those who shielded child rapists. That – at an absolute minimum – should prompt decent Catholic to set up an escrow fund, into which they put all they money they would have donated to the church to be withheld from the church until it truly comes clean. Imagine a massive drop in financial support from relatively wealthy, decent Catholics and the concomitent growth of an escrow fund putting pressure on the Vatican.

  24. Kevin
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Deeeeeep down, this isn’t an argument over metaphor versus literalism.

    Deeeep down, Sullivan knows that what he says is mostly nonsense with a good dollop of nasty invective mixed in.

    Deeeep down, this is about Sullivan’s fear. Fear of dying. Fear of death. Fear of what comes “next”.

    The entire reason to be a Catholic (or any other flavor of Christian or Muslim) is that it promises a preferred place in the after-death. Be a good boy or girl, don’t make trouble for the nice priests, pray in the right way, tithe (most especially tithe), and you’ll get a kitchen upgrade in your post-death apartment.

    That’s why he’s so angry. We’re pushing back at his comfortable notion that eating all those crackers will have some sort of beneficial effect when he coughs up his death rattle.

    Andrew: Get over it. There is no after-death experience. When you die, you die. That’s it. Period. Nothing follows. Not. One. Thing. Your anger reads exactly like some 5-year-old being told by an older sibling that there is no Santa Claus.

    Grow up.

    BTW: Many of us not only have read the f*cking thing, that’s precisely the reason we don’t believe any of it is real. Myths and fairy stories, revisionist Jewish history, and dietary guidelines for people without ice. A little smutty poetry. That’s it.

    The important question is: Have YOU read the f*cking thing? I suspect not. Not from end-to-end. You’ve been spoon-fed the same verses according to the church calendar year after year after year. But you’ve never read the book. Why? Isn’t it the inspired word of your god? How can you possibly believe any of it is real without actually reading the thing from cover to cover.

    Start at “In the beginning” and don’t stop until you get to “Amen”.

    And while you’re doing that, you can underline the parts you think are literally true and the parts you think are deliberate metaphor.

    My guess is that you’ll start out with Gen 1:1 = Literally true, and everything else after that in Genesis to be myth or “metaphor.” Keep going. It’ll be instructive.

    Of course, I don’t expect you’ll actually do any of that. You’re a coward.

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      “And while you’re doing that, you can underline the parts you think are literally true and the parts you think are deliberate metaphor.”

      OK… so now he’s underlined everything, what then? :-D

      As someone else observed before, if you just use a highlighter to mark the literal bits, you’re far less likely to run out of ink…

      /@

      • gillt
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        there are versions of the bible that use red ink for every Jesus utterance. Imagine a publisher that put out a bible version for each Christian sect where the red lettering meant literal truth. There would be thousands of these bibles, of course, and still not everyone would agree.

        But it would be fun to see.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Good going. I just wanted to pop in and say I have read the thing, and it is too little fucking and smut for my taste.

      I mean, it is labeled as portraying the Fall to Sin (or at least the garden variety stories in there are), but it isn’t much of supposed-to-be-sin sex for example.

      Over-advertised and over-prized, I would say.

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      “Fear of death.”

      I’ve had discussions with other theists that ultimately came down to this. All the ration in the world won’t address a basic, primal fear of death.

      Facing up to mortality is an act of maturity. That’s not something you can accomplish in a single conversation, or even several of them over the internet.

      • Posted October 8, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        Every child is afraid of death. Could it be that those who were told they shouldn’t be afraid because it isn’t really death but just “going into another room” find it much harder to accept the fact of the extinction of the ego later.

        As a once-born atheist, my parents never tried to gloss over death. “It’s just like going to sleep” was a common saying. My own childish fear was greatly relieved when I figured out out that it wasn’t necessarily accompanied by excruciating pain, as so much of the death that kids learn about is. (A neighbour’s grandmother died and we kids all saw the hearse outside the house. Someone said it had red carpet to hide the blood, and someone else said “Silly, there isn’t any blood.” In that moment – or maybe a bit later – I realised that if there didn’t have to be blood, there didn’t have to be pain either.) “Death agony” is a mischievous expression.

        So now I don’t have any fear of death at all, just a little sadness if it happens earlier than expected. But if I had been brought up that death was a mere transition, and especially if the posthumous promised to be much better than the pre-, I imagine that understanding would be much harder to reach.

    • Konradius
      Posted October 11, 2011 at 2:14 am | Permalink

      http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2011/10/05/dont-tell-religious-believers-what-they-really-believe-tip-3-of-10-for-reaching-out-to-christians/

      Don’t tell believers what they really believe… It gives them an easy way out of the cognitive dissonance they have. ‘Oh, that’s not what I believe, I guess I’m off the hook now’

  25. sasqwatch
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    I mentioned this pretty late in the last post, so it might not have gotten widely-read. So at the risk of repeating myself… here goes.

    First off, though, I would like to commend Jerry on slogging through much theology to address critics that say that he’s not sophisticated enough to comment intelligently on matters of faith. It shows a true commitment to intellectual integrity, but like any similar commitment, it should be made carefully and thoroughly. I believe Father Hardon could help us all here.

    Father Hardon has compiled much detail over the Catholic doctrines that are essential to completely understand, if we are to appreciate the richness and the explanatory power inherent in the writings of both the Old and New Testaments. The field of inquiry is called Mariology, and Father Hardon is, I believe, one of the leading Mariologists spearheading the endeavor. Granted, much of the discussion can be quite technical, but Father Hardon is thorough in how he nails his topic, providing complete coverage.

    Father Hardon has even compiled a very helpful index explaining many of the terms integral to a finer understanding of the problem of evil and the fall of man. It is telling that few readers here understand that the Immaculate Conception refers not to the Virgin Birth, but of Mary’s own conception, which is integral to her immediate Assumption, body and soul, into heaven. Father Hardon makes this all clear, providing the reader with clues as to which bits of doctrine are metaphorical, and which have to be true, in a literal sense.

    As Hardon relates, the assumption proves that heaven is a PHYSICAL place, a place where Mary’s body and soul now resides. It is where our reconstituted bodies will eventually reassemble, according to Father Hardon, at least those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I hope this humble post has, with Father Hardon’s help, cleared up any misconceptions and allows the reader to come full circle, integrating the significance of the story of the Fall of Man with the mystery of the conception of Mary, the crucifixion of Jesus, leading to the eventual assumption of all those who choose to be saved, into a very real PHYSICAL place called heaven.

    Father Hardon has worked very hard on compiling this knowledge. And it would be a shame if Father Hardon’s work ended up only as so much spilled ink. But most importantly, I just wanted to type “Father Hardon” a couple more times.

    • sasqwatch
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      And now that this admittedly wordy comment is out of moderation (thanks!), I’d like to add that I find Hardon’s writings in the sophisticated field of Mariology to be truly semenal.

      • Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        Oh, come on! :-/

        /@

        • sasqwatch
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

          A very poor choice of words, unless you were making another joke. ;-)

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      Srsly? I know this is very juvenile, but… Father Hardon?

      “which [bits] have to be true, in a literal sense.”

      Well, that’s not the question: The question is, which bit’s are true, in a concrete sense.

      /@

      • sasqwatch
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        Concrete? I’m equating that with “literal”, sorry. That seems to be the lingo used – literal vs. metaphor, right?

        Apparently (as per the links I gave) the stuff about the Immaculate Conception and Assumption supposedly makes the Adam/Eve original sin story all fit together with the crucifixion and Jesus’ and Mary’s bodily ascension. Apparently, the good theologian is as serious as a hard attack.

        • Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

          Sorry: I meant nothing by it: Just “elegant variation”.

          /@

          • sasqwatch
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

            I cannot tell you how much fun I’m having right now… without being in violation of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

      • sasqwatch
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        The naughty bits? (that’s what I should have responded with the first time, damn)

      • Tim
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

        You mean which bits are concrete, in a true sense?

    • DV
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      I just watched Thor last week. Maybe heaven really is a physical place in some other galaxy, and the gods are just possessors of technology sufficiently advanced as to look like magic to us.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      On an … explanatory plane, the work of Hardon seems a bit jerky-rigged.

      • bric
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        O. M. G.

      • sasqwatch
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think I want to know from where the good Father Hardon gets his inspiration.

        I mean… do the ideas just flow naturally? Or perhaps they…

        • Badger3k
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

          …splurt out?

          • sasqwatch
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

            I was thinking “comes in spurts”, but yes, I think that’s close enough.

  26. Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    For are we not tempted to believe we can master the universe with our minds – only to find that we cannot, and that the attempt can be counter-productive or even fatal?

    Dr. Coyne touched on this in the OP, wondering just how “mastering the universe” might be “fatal.”

    If this is Sullivan’s interpretation of Original Sin, then Sullivan’s arguing that religion is resting on a pretty crappy foundation.

    I wonder if Sullivan is actually ignorant of all the learning, testing, “universe mastering” that’s gone on over the ages, that allow him to live a comfortable life and have an unnaturally long life expectancy.

    Sitting on our asses and not trying to master the universe would be the fatal option.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      It becomes dangerous if you start thinking that your mastery extends farther than it really does. Obviously this idea predates Christianity. The Greek concept of hubris addresses it.

      • Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        Quest for knowledge =/= hubris.

        • Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink

          But… there are some things that Man is not meant to know! ;-)

          Seriously: hubris is a deeply theistic concept: “excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis.” [NOAD]

          /@

          • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

            Or, “don’t ask”.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

          I didn’t say it did. Thinking you have more knowledge than you really do is akin to hubris.

          • daveau
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

            Or Dunning-Kruger.

  27. Ken Pidcock
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I would gladly have commented on his site had he allowed comments, and he’s too lame to comment on my site.

    He probably has a policy of only commenting on blogs.

    • Tulse
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      Heh.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      Ba-dum-CHING!

  28. eric
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    It seems to me that there is a reasonable way to approach the problem of which bits of the bible were meant to be taken literally vs. metaphorically. You look at other early Jewish writings. You look at how they use their language, what sorts of plays on words they employ, you look at their stories and the literary devices they have in their stories, etc., and you use all that independent, background knowledge to assess the old testament writings.

    This is already going on. It’s called higher criticism. Fundies hate it, most other religious people ignore it, because of it’s perceived theological problems. Problem one: such an analysis leads to answers that a lot of Christian sects don’t like. If a structured, academic methodology relying on independent document evidence etc. doesn’t give the “right” answer, they have to reject that methodology. Problem two: the implied need for higher criticism strikes at the theological claim that God is giving us clear and obvious instructions. It smacks of gnosticism and is problematical for anyone who things wrong belief sends you to hell, because if it takes a big brain and lots of historical knowledge to understand the message correctly, a lot of innocent but dumb people are going to hell.

    I think this is why Sullivan says such a dumb thing as that it is “obvious” which parts of Genesis are metaphorical. Theologically, God’s message has to be obvious for his judgement to be just. If it’s not obvious, then sending us to hell for getting it wrong is not just.

  29. DrDroid
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Jerry is not the first to tangle with Andrew and his wooly-headed arguments. Back in 2007 Sam Harris engaged in a lengthy online debate with him, which you can read here:

    http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/debate-with-andrew-sullivan-part-two/

    It’s pretty much impossible to make headway with people committed to being obtuse, for in the end they just fall back on the “I just have faith but can’t explain it” argument. Sam summarized the debate in his eloquent and penetrating way in his last debate post as follows:

    “Well, we have reached the end of our debate, and still we do not agree. We’ll have to leave it there for the time being. I think, however, that our stalemate conceals some important asymmetries. For instance, I feel that you should have been convinced by my side of the argument. Can you say the same? You seem, rather, to have argued in a different mode. In your last essay you admit that your notion of God is “preposterous” and then say that you never suggested I should find it otherwise. You acknowledge the absurdity of faith, only to treat this acknowledgement as a demonstration of faith’s underlying credibility. While I have yet to see you successfully pull yourself up by your bootstraps in this way, I have watched you repeatedly pull yourself down by them.

    You want to have things both ways: your faith is reasonable but not in the least bound by reason; it is a matter of utter certainty, yet leavened by humility and doubt; you are still searching for the truth, but your belief in God is immune to any conceivable challenge from the world of evidence. I trust you will ascribe these antinomies to the paradox of faith; but, to my eye, they remain mere contradictions, dressed up in velvet.”

    Hard to improve on that…

  30. Bernard Ortcutt
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    What is it about religion that makes people write drivel like those paragraphs of Sullivan’s that you quote? It’s deepity after deepity. People who write this garbage ought to be ridiculed.

    • Marta
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      We’re doing our best :-)

  31. will
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I would say I’m a regular reader of Andrew’s “Daily Dish” and I find the guy to be common-sensical and lucid (with a fine sense of the absurd). However, I agree with Jerry, his mind DOES turn to mush when he switches over from politics and culture to religion.

    Andrew’s common sense shuts down when discussing God, Jesus and “divine mysteries” — God gets a pass, His “character” receives very little critical examination and is not subjected to Reason or any unfavorable analysis (the common critical standards he will apply, say, to Sarah Palin). Also, Andrew can be duplicitous: when confronted with savagery in the Old Testament (the stoning punishments for adulterers, the matter-of-fact acceptance of slavery, the appallingly violent, jealous, vindictive nature of a supposedly Loving Heavenly Father), Andrew will turn around and say that these parts are man-made, while the parts he likes are “divinely-inspired”.

    I wish you would write a column, Jerry, going through the first five Books of the Old Testament. Every time I open up and read, I am freshly horrified by the brutalities and bloodthirstiness and cruelty and accepted “wisdom” within these narratives.

    “Anyone who beats their male or female slave with a rod must be punished if the slave dies as a direct result, but they are not to be punished if the slave recovers after a day or two, since the slave is their property.” – Exodus 21:20-21

    “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” – Exodus 20:5

    Page after page is strewn with casually stern atrocities and vicious jealousies:

    “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Take that man out of the camp. Everyone who heard him curse shall put his hands on the man’s head to testify that he is guilty, and then the whole community shall stone him to death. Then tell the people of Israel that anyone who curses God must suffer the consequences and be put to death. Any Israelite or any foreigner living in Israel who curses the LORD shall be stoned to death by the whole community'” – Leviticus 24:13-26.

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      Stoning? (Too good not to post.)

      /@

      • Steersman
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        “Lovely” indication of how religion can be used to justify our worst motivations and desires. As Pascal noted, “Men [and women] never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”

    • Steersman
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      Every time I open up and read [the Old Testament], I am freshly horrified by the brutalities and bloodthirstiness and cruelty and accepted “wisdom” within these narratives.

      Regrettably, or maybe not, the Quran is no better, as this passage suggests:

      According to Islamic tradition, God has ninety-nine names …. Many of the names are variations on the theme of mercy and compassion. Al-Rahim: the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate. … Al-Karim: the Generous, the Bountiful. [But] how is it that, among the ninety-nine Beautiful Names of Allah, there is also Al-Mudhill: the Humiliator, the Degrader, Bringer of Dishonor and Disgrace. … Al-Muntaqim: the Avenger, the Inflictor of Retribution. Al-Darr: the Punisher, Bringer of Harm to Those Who Offend Him. Debasing, killing, avenging, harming – strange ways of showing mercy! But justified on page after page of the Koran. [In Defense of Atheism; Michel Onfray; pgs 168-169]

      Though there are some hopeful signs that there is some dialog, at least between the three Abrahamic faiths, as this discussion on the book Painful Verses would suggest. Maybe such discussions will lead to more awareness of the very problematic dimensions of literalism, at least in the realm of religion.

      • yesmyliege
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

        “Every time I open up and read [the Old Testament], I am freshly horrified by the brutalities and bloodthirstiness and cruelty and accepted “wisdom” within these narratives.

        Regrettably, or maybe not, the Quran is no better…”

        And the New Testament is incalculably worse. The pain of stoning lasts a minute. A lake of everlasting fire for all eternity, however…

        These days, it is likely that there is not a single Jew who is afraid of death by stoning for, say, taking the name of YAHWEH in vain. But how many millions today are literally terrified of going to hell?

        • Steersman
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

          A lake of everlasting fire for all eternity, however … But how many millions today are literally terrified of going to hell?

          Some seriously twisted psychology there that would envision such things – and to threaten people, particularly young children, with it. Being sent to bed without supper or watching the hottest TV program isn’t sufficient for disciplinary purposes?

          Ever read Dawkins’ on the traumatic effects of that on children? [The God Delusion; Chapter 9; Childhood, Abuse and the Escape from Religion] One doesn’t need to look much further than that to answer Dawkins’ question: Why be hostile to religion?

  32. randyextry
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    There’s a comment over at Evolutionblog that I am going to copy over here, because I think it is pretty much perfect. It’s from someone named “eric.” I hope he doesn’t mind. He writes:

    What atheists are claiming is illogical is reasoning like this:

    “In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,”… not metaphor.

    “…when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up…” metaphor

    “…for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth…” not metaphor

    “…and there was no one to till the ground…” metaphor

    “…but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground…” not metaphor

    “…then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground…” not metaphor

    “…and breathed into his nostrils…” not metaphor?

    “…the breath of life…” metaphor?

    “…and the man became a living being…” metaphor if you believe in pre-adamits, not metaphor if you don’t.

    THAT level of arbitrary back-and-forth…is what is irrational.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      Yes. And Sullivan seems to have misinterpreted Jerry as saying it is not reasonable for the Bible to contain both metaphor and fact.

      But what Jerry actually said is that there is no rational basis to decide what parts of the Bible are metaphor, and what parts are fact. If Genesis is (predominantly) metaphorical, why isn’t the Resurrection also metaphorical? On what basis could you argue that it is not metaphorical?

      • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        Very good, that is the religionist/accommodationist mistake: criticism of subject amounts to criticism of person (text).

        [Though I wouldn’t let the text of the hook as being perhaps sweet and personable. (o.O)]

    • eric
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      I don’t mind. :) I also posted a different point here in @27.

  33. GBJames
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Andrew Sullivan has a non-response posted.

    http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2011/10/must-the-story-of-the-fall-be-true-ctd-1.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+andrewsullivan%2FrApM+%28The+Daily+Dish%29

    “Things can be real and not true; and they can be true and not real.”, he says. To which I would respond, if I could post there, “No, this is not possible. Some things really do exist, really, truly. Like pure bullshit.”

    • Bernard Ortcutt
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      It’s deepities piled on deepities, all the way down. I really can’t stand when people use “true” in ridiculously wrong ways. Most things can’t be true, because the only things that can be true are thuth-bearers, like claims or beliefs.

      http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/truth/#TruBea

      Moving my arm isn’t true (unless I’m making a claim in a sign language). Rocks aren’t true. Music isn’t true. All of these are real, but they aren’t truth-apt and hence not true. On the other hand, things that don’t exist (i.e. aren’t real) can’t be truth-apt, and thus everything that is true is real.

      If Sullivan wants to abuse our language like this, I would appreciate he did it in some less important part of it.

    • Marta
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Huh. Just as I thought. It’s turtles, all the way down.

    • Andy Dufresne
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Despite Sullivan’s admirable trait of being somewhat more likely than many prominent commentators to admit error, people who engage in this kind of wish-thinking and rationalization will never be convinced by facts and evidence and reason—because he can always just resort to using “true” in that silly way. The benefit of this discussion among he, JAC and the others is that on-loookers SEE how silly these “sophisticated” arguments are, and they SEE how the questions people like Jerry are asking are totally rational and straightforward. And many of them will then begin to SEE that our side is more reasonable, that the Eagletons, Sullivans, and Haughts of the world are talking fantasy, not reality. He can call Jerry dumb, but what he can’t do is make an argument that lines up with reality.

    • eric
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, he seems to have used several hundred more words just to say “God is mysterious” again. God is sort of like George Carlin’s driver joke – how mysterious He is depends on how tough a question you ask.

      But as I said in @27, the ‘he’s mysterious’ defense creates it’s own theological headache. For a religion built upon the idea that belief matters for salvation, saying we can’t be sure what we ought to believe implies God has no problem sending innocent confused people to hell for wrong belief.

      • Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

        You are confused by your own doing friend. We turned away from God and chose knowledge instead, but God says it’s okay, proof by becoming a human being and dying for all of mankind as a token of his commitment to ALL of us. Accept the token, and you shall be free for eternity.

        • Aquaria
          Posted December 13, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

          More mush-brained drivel.

  34. truthspeaker
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I think this cartoon is relevant to Sullivan’s interests:

    http://www.atheistcartoons.com/?attachment_id=3209

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Perfect!

    • Ichthyic
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      thanks for the link.

      that’s a good strip; added to my morning breakfast routine.

  35. gr8hands
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Sullivan, put down your cross and follow us.

  36. Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Okay, this is very odd coming across this because I just wrote a blog post YESTERDAY that creatively describes this issue.

    The just of what the piece means is that not only is the story of “Adamn and Eve,” the ultimate and seriously hard to rationalize metaphor, but it is also a true metaphor. It suggests that our own knowledge, our own grasp of intelligence has made us feel like our own god.

    And are we doing a good job, being our own gods? Look at leaders over the span of history and you tell me… they haven’t gotten much better by the way, only better at deception(thank you modern media).

    I mean, look at your house. We sit in a throne room of our own construct, all imitating God, whether you believe you are or not. Everyone does it, and the bible directly warns on multiple occasions that our intelligence will be our downfall.

    Lastly, the bible says we will decline and only become more self-absorbed over time, and even in the face of prophesy, still be able to deny the second coming of Jesus Christ. It’s all right there, but you are letting your own pride and abosorption get the better of you… You cannot see because you desire so much to be God, and just can’t come to terms with the fact that you are not.

    You ate from the tree of knowledge because you could not forsee its harm. None of us could, for it is a “Catch-22.” If you never gain the knowledge, how could you know its affect on human beings? With the knowledge, you only become thirsty for more, and ignore your spirit’s cries.

    Keep eating from that second tree, for when it comes time to eat from the first tree, I am sure you will be stuffed to the point where you cannot handle even one more bite.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      How do you know God sits on a throne?

      Doesn’t it seem more likely that some authors described God as sitting on a throne because that’s what human kings did?

      • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        Doesn’t it seem more likely that a human king, as in a beast, desires to sit on a throne because he was made in God’s image? Do you know of any other animals that do this? It’s actually bizarre if you think of it in natural terms, not in self created fallacy.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

          “Doesn’t it seem more likely that a human king, as in a beast, desires to sit on a throne because he was made in God’s image”

          No.

          Why do you think God sits on a throne? What is your basis for believing that?

          Humans sit because it’s comfortable for us – lots of animals do that. Being social animals with a roughly hierarchical social structure, some human leaders in some societies adopted the practice of sitting on chairs that were elevated higher than others in their group. The society that wrote the Bible was one of them.

          • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

            There is no argument here. You suggest that animals desire to sit on a throne, not a chair, a throne implies power. You need to know the meaning of a word before you bastardize a conversation. You will not win twisting my words into your own perverted mindset.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

              Yes, a throne implies power because people in some societies decided to symbolize power that way.

              So, on what basis do you believe God sits on a throne?

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

                If you must know, Revelation illustrates the saved as living among Jesus in a throne room. The throne is only a symbol of power, by why would human beings seek power? Not only over their enemies, but over the ones they love as well?

              • truthspeaker
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

                The same reason dogs in packs compete to be the alpha male or female, the same reason bucks fight each other for access to does, the same reason chimps try to assert dominance over each other.

                So, you assume God sits on a throne because a book written by humans who lived in a society where rulers sat on thrones depicts God as sitting on a throne?

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

                You’re thinking too deep my friend. The point is the natural state of humans is to love and care for others, not destroy them through seeking objects and Earthly power. We do it because we at from “the tree of knowledge.” We are bound to the Earth, and all of its contents, and therefore our spirits cannot prosper. We deal with life, we do not enjoy it.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

                “The point is the natural state of humans is to love and care for others,”

                Evidence?

              • Tulse
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

                You’re thinking too deep my friend. The point is the natural state of humans is to love and care for others, not destroy them through seeking objects and Earthly power.

                Have you read any history?

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      The just of what the piece means is that not only is the story of “Adamn and Eve,” the ultimate and seriously hard to rationalize metaphor, but it is also a true metaphor.

      No, the story of Adam and Eve is a childish faery tale about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry giant. And your Jesus fantasy is nothing but really bad B-grade zombie snuff pr0n.

      If you ever you develop the intellectual and emotional maturity of a pubescent child, you might come to understand as much.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        The symbols in Genesis are literally everywhere, and can still describe human behavior to this very day. Either we haven’t changed much in thousands of years, or whoever wrote Genesis was an absolute psychological genius. Have you read any literature? Do you understand that even writers 100 years ago had a hard time seeing life as it is today? But we are not talking hundreds of years, but thousands. It’s unseen in human history, you should really give that book another look.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

          Human nature hasn’t changed much in thousands of years, and literature in European cultures was heavily influenced by Genesis so it’s no surprise some of the symbolism makes sense to us.

          It’s just a book. There are lots of books. They’re all written by people.

          • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

            But this book is particularly visionary, especially in the way of human psychology. Even “1984” or “Brave New World,” are not as accurate in some ways, and those were written within the past hundred years. It’s very startling if you consider the date of this book and the wisdom it possesses.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

              Please. There are Greek philosophical texts from the same era that are far more “visionary”. There’s nothing special about the stories in the Bible. The only reason we’re all familiar with them is because men with swords and spears made sure that people heard someone read from it every Sunday.

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

                I’m familiar with many texts, but did you know that Christianity was built on the basis of Greek mythology? Well now you do know, and just made my point for me. You see, we aren’t entirely sure who wrote Genesis, it’s actually unprovable, but it’s definitely been argued that ancient Greece may have had something to do with it. “Alpha and Omega,” is just one example. See, Christianity does not refute that the Greek Gods existed, but that those gods are not gods at all, just greater beings.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

                “Alpha and Omega” is in there because the New Testament was originally written in Koine Greek.

                Genesis was not influenced by Greek myths, but by Sumerian and others of the region.

                And I wasn’t talking about Greek mythology, but Greek philosophy of the 6th and 5th centuries BC, when the Jewish priestly class in exile in Babylon wrote the versions of Genesis (and the rest of the Old Testament) that we have today.

              • Dominic
                Posted October 8, 2011 at 2:03 am | Permalink

                Nathan may be unfamiliar with the Iliad. Lots of wisdom & eternal truths there. Also the Epic of Gilgamesh etc etc.

        • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

          Sorry. I’ve read it. It’s shit.

          I mean, the bloody thing features a talking plant, fer chrissakes. On fire. That gives magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero.

          Then there’re the dragons and the sea monsters and the zombies and and and and….

          Besides, the so-called “morals” are heinous beyond measure.

          In that magic garden opener, the abusive single father tosses his toddlers to the curb, naked and crying, for the horrible crime of letting their deadbeat uncle talk them into the drinking the turpentine dear ol’ Dad had left in the juice bottle in the fridge. The verbose vegetation wants nothing more than an excuse to unleash biowarfare hell on the Egyptians just to prove that he’s one motherfucking sonofabitch badass that you don’t want to fuck with. The zombie runs a private hellhouse in which he’ll toss all those who fail to fondle his intestines in just the right way — and he’s rigged the game such that all of humanity is guaranteed to land there.

          Hell, have you even pretended to read the damned thing? If so, what on Earth were you smoking while you did so?

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

            You do not see symbols, only words. You’re interpretation of Genesis is like looking at individual blocks of an unbuilt pyramid one at a time, instead of seeing the pyramid complete and put together. If you think you’re vulgar terminology is going to sway my opinion, then you should save your words for someone less apt. You obviously have no understanding of literature, story-telling, media conceptualization or human psychology, and you should probably just assume the story has nothing “between the lines,” because there is no hope for you to interpret this meaningfully. You’re mind is already made up.

            • daveau
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

              *your

            • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

              Oh, puhleeze.

              Explain to me how one builds great pyramids out of speechifying snakes. And do it without re-writing the text from scratch. “Show your work.”

              I dare you.

              b&

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

                I have clearly explained how I have nothing to prove to you. You have proved plenty to yourself already.

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

                How pathetic.

                You come here spewing bullshit about how the Bible is this wonderful orgasmic expression of the best of humanity, and when we call you on it, you’re all hat.

                Worse, you’ve just violated a direct commandment from your dear leader, his final message to his creation.

                Mark 16:14A fterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

                15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

                16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

                17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

                18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

                So, how’s about it. Are you a real Christian? If not, what’re you doing pretending to preach the gospel? If so, why won’t you follow through?

                More importantly, are you willing to prove your bona fides by drinking a nice, tall glass of household ammonia followed with a chaser of chlorine bleach?

                Run away, little boy. You’re out of your league. All you god-botherers are. As Hawking put it, science will win because it works. All you’e got is that book of bad faery tales that you haven’t actually read for yourself but that you’ve been taught to pretend is the Encylopæeia Brittanica.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

                A little boy shakes a stick like you just did. A man says what he has to say, and that is all. I am not forcing the gospel upon you in any way. I do not see how you have interpreted any of my posts in this way. I have no hate for anyone on this blog, but I think that it is important to note that science and religion can co-exist. That is all, and I hope you enjoyed trying to proclaim power of me with that last junction, and I’m sorry for I will not roll in the mud with you.

              • Ichthyic
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

                I have nothing to prove to you.

                Oh?

                Five bucks says you will continue to spam your gibberish here in order to try and prove something to us.

                prove me wrong.

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

                I will not roll in the mud with you.

                You’re the one doing all the mud-rolling. We’re the ones laughing at you for making such a pig of yourself.

                Such as by blathering about the coexistence of makebelieve and the scientific method. Do you really expect anybody to fall for that, when you can’t even pretend to offer even one single fact that can be known through revelation but which is opaque to systematic inquiry.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Ichthyic
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

                I will not roll in the mud with you.

                Squeal like a piggy for me now, c’mon.

              • Badger3k
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

                Did you ever…like…look at your hand? I mean…really…loooooook?

                About the same level of coherence. Sounds real fluffy bunny to me.

            • Dominic
              Posted October 8, 2011 at 2:07 am | Permalink

              Say what you mean & mean what you say… If you cannot spell it out but have to talk in parables how do you expect simple folk like me to understand?!

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          Humans haven’t changed that much in the last few thousand years. We have culturally evolved a more modern and advanced morality than existed in the bronze age. We universally condemn slavery. We don’t sell our daughters into bondage. We don’t stone adulterers to death.

          Our morals have evolved, the Bible has stayed the same. To say our values are Judeo-Christian is simple ignorance.

          • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

            Aside: I’ve always found it interesting that the only people I’ve ever heard use the phrase “Judeo-Christian” have never been Judeo but have _always_ been Christian. It’s transparently clear they just mean “Christian values” but hey, you can’t exclude the Jews because of the OT, the Commandments – oh, and all the centuries of persecuting.

            If we actually did run our states according to proper, era-authentic “Judeo-Christian” values, we’d be more like … well, we wouldn’t be that different to Saudi frickin Arabia.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Well that is creative, too much, since it avoids the question “how do you know”? What would make a text metaphor or about facts? What would make a metaphor be about facts or just a deepity?

      And deepities aren’t the answer to how to recognize and avoid them.

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      “Look at leaders over the span of history and you tell me… they haven’t gotten much better by the way, only better at deception”

      I stopped reading your comment at this point. The reason is because this single statement alone identifies you as not worth listening to. Of course you may accidentally say a few things that happen to be true; but your entire message is based on a logically flawed, factually incorrect premise, and therefore all of your conclusions must be disregarded. This is called logic.

      Not that I expect it to matter to you. Like all religiosoids, the simple factual incorrectness of premises never seems to invalidate your conclusions. This, indeed, is the essence of faith: to hold to a set of conclusions independent of the facts.

    • Dominic
      Posted October 8, 2011 at 1:55 am | Permalink

      “the bible directly warns on multiple occasions that our intelligence will be our downfall” – does it?
      For crying out loud – our stupidity is our downfall.

  37. will
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    I have to say (as an atheist) that I am still struck by the parallels between the first paragraph of “The Book of Genesis” and the “Big Bang” theory.

    In Genesis the omnipotent, never-created, always existing God creates an entire universe out of nothing. — Yesterday, no space, no dimensions, no stuff, no Light, no nothing. God after hovering around in a no-space void for eternity suddenly creates SOMETHING out of NOTHING.

    And, at its core, stripped of conjecture, the “Big “Bang” tells us pretty much a similar creation: Stephen Hawking argues that a “grand designer” was unnecessary in the creation of the universe, and that it is possible that something can come out of nothing.

    “The laws of nature themselves tell us that not only can the universe have popped into existence like a proton and have required nothing in terms of energy but also that it is possible that nothing caused the big bang,” Hawking said.

    These two theories are remarkably similar. One does it with God, one without. I have a Christian friend who became very indignant when we were discussing the “Big Bang” theory. “How do you get something out of NOTHING?” he demanded.

    • lylebot
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      I’m pretty sure the Big Bang theory is a theory of the expansion of the universe, not a theory of the origin of the universe.

      It doesn’t make sense to talk about what was or wasn’t there “before” the Big Bang, because time only exists within the universe. This isn’t just a technical nitpick. If you don’t realize that “before the Big Bang” is undefined, then you don’t understand relativity, which means you’re very far from even a basic understanding of the Big Bang.

      • Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

        OK, you may be contradicting yourself there.

        If the Big Bang is a theory of the expansion of the universe, not it’s origin, and time began with the origin of the universe, then time did exist before the Big Bang.

        For a good discussion of what the Big Bang is, see “Defining the Big Bang” by theoretical astrophysicist Ethan Siegel.

        The Big Bang is the first moment in the history of the Universe where we can describe it as a hot, dense, expanding state, full of matter, antimatter and radiation. It has a temperature of at least a quadrillion Kelvin (but no more than 10²⁹ Kelvin), and it coincides with the time where inflation ends and the Universe’s expansion rate is dominated by the matter and radiation density.

        /@

    • truthspeaker
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      “Yesterday, no space, no dimensions, no stuff, no Light, no nothing.”

      Um, no, Genesis doesn’t say that. It says God created the heaven and earth, then the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Then he created light.

      • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

        And light is how human beings see “truthspeaker.” Now, isn’t that such an odd coincidence? You’re whole world, and what you see as reality, the first creation in the universe, as told by a book that predates quantum mechanics by about say, 3,000 years at least?… Oh the irony.

        • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

          WTF?

          SFW?

          The concept of “light” predates quantum theory by millennia!

          And “light” – photons — existed in the cosmos before any matter did, let alone chemical elements and compounds like water, so Genesis gets the order of creation conspicuously wrong, no?

          /@

          • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

            :-(

            OK – Ignore that. I hit Post Comment too soon then.

            I was conflating two arguments — of course God did say (according to Genesis!), “Fiat lux!” first.

            I should stop trying to multitask. I’ll finish off what I should be doing now and get back this later.

            /@

          • Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

            OK. As you were. I was right after all.

            When God said “Fiat lux!” he (or , at least, the Spirit of God [?]) was “moving over the face of the waters”.

            So where did those waters come from?

            /@

          • Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

            Hmm… except for this: And “light” – photons — existed in the cosmos before any matter did, let alone chemical elements and compounds like water…

            Just ignore the bit in italics, will you? Ta. ;-/

            /@

        • truthspeaker
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

          There is no scientific theory proposing that light was the first “creation” in the universe.

          • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

            Light is the essence of everything you see. What is a sun? A huge ball of energy emitting light… Is it safe to say that a “Big Bang” possibly created stars, or many of them, and that these stars emit great amounts of light? A bang, stars, and instantaneously, for light is the fastest moving particle in our known universe, there is light. Sounds pretty close to me my friend.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

              No, the big bang started with matter that started forming starts millions of years later.

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

                Hypothesis, you cannot know that for certain, and if you listen to what you’re saying you’d know that that’s irrelevant. God stands outside the confines of time, the bible says so. So millions of years to him is? And again, you cannot see atoms with the naked eye, so to him the first thing again, is light. And millions of years here, maybe instant to him if he so chooses? You could not fathom what it means to not be bound by time.

              • daveau
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

                Yet you know God did it, for certain? That’s nonsensical, completely unsupported by fact. The Big Bang theory is a theory, not a hypothesis, which means that there is actual verifiable evidence and actually explains the observations.

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

                A theory requires just as much faith as God requires.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

                “God stands outside the confines of time, the bible says so”

                Why do you assume that what the Bible says about God is true?

                And theories do not require faith – they have evidence to support them. If they don’t, they get rejected.

              • daveau
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

                Exactly, but for different reasons. A theory does not require faith because there is verifiable evidence. God does not require faith because he does not exist.

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

                “A theory requires just as much faith as God requires.”

                This is absolutely false. God relies exclusively on faith. There is no evidence. The invisible and the non-existant bear an extraordinary resemblance to one another, and I don’t think that is coincidence.

                A theory must make predictions that can be tested. A theory must be able to state what observations would disprove it. A theory is strengthened when observations confirm its correctness, and weakened when observations contradict its predictions.

                Faith in God is asserted independently of any means of verifying or disproving his existence. There is no reason, no observation to suggest that belief in God is correct. Just name one prediction based on your belief in God that can be tested, or one observation that would disprove your belief in God.

              • GBJames
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

                OMG! My mistake! THE BIBLE SAYS SO! Now I understand! How did I miss that?

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

                A theory requires just as much faith as God requires.

                What a maroon.

                The Newtonian Theory of Gravity requires no faith. You can trivially test it for yourself. Just get yourself a radar gun and a stopwatch. Climb to the top of a tall building, point the gun at the ground, and start the watch the same moment you step off the edge of the building.

                If Newton’s Theory was correct, your gun will read 9.8 m/s&sup2; after one second, and you will have successfully proven Darw^WNewton’s theory correct.

                Do please perform the experiment for us and report back with the results, okay?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

                “If Newton’s Theory was correct, your gun will read 9.8 m/s&sup2; after one second, and you will have successfully proven Newton’s theory correct.

                Do please perform the experiment for us and report back with the results, okay?”

                lol. Damn you have a wicked sense of humor BG. He will of course have proven Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest as well.

              • daveau
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

                Actually radar guns only measure velocity, not acceleration. Or am I mis-reading the garbled “per second squared” at the end there?

                Regardless, your gun should read 22mph or Mach 0.028

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

                Oops — sorry, Dave. You’re right. That’s what happens when one fails to edit properly…if the gun measured acceleration, which it doesn’t, it’d always read 9.8 m/s/s. Since it doesn’t, after one second, it’ll read 9.8 m/s = 35 kph = 22 kph. One second later, it’ll read considerably more, but few buildings are tall enough to perform that particular experiment. You’ll also have to account for aerodynamic effects at that point and…

                …aw, hell. Who’m’I kidding.

                natanjay, just go jump off a tall building and be done with it, mkay? If your faith in Jesus is pure and you ask him nicely, he’ll fly you wherever you like.

                But we both know you’re entirely faithless, don’t we? So grow up and stop pretending otherwise.

                Cheers,

                b&

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

              A theory requires just as much faith as God requires.

              What the hell does that even MEAN?

              it’s totally nonsensical.

              dude is nuts.

              • tomh
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

                God stands outside the confines of time, the bible says so.

                You cannot argue with someone whose sole evidence is, “The Bible tells me so.” It is hopeless.

              • Microraptor
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

                He started off making no sense and has progressed to (somehow) making even less.

            • ritebrother
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

              “Light is the essence of everything you see.”

              Nice tautology.

              • Aquaria
                Posted December 13, 2011 at 7:36 am | Permalink

                In the beginning there was nothing. God said, ‘Let there be light!’ And there was light. There was still nothing, but you could see it a whole lot better.

                –Ellen DeGeneres.

            • yesmyliege
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

              oh, ffs.

              There were a thousand creation myths before Genesis, and they all – what a miracle of presage! – foretold of the creation of light.

              • Steersman
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

                Never ceases to amaze me how Christian – and Islamic – fundamentalists can swear a blue-streak that their creation myth is the only “real-meal-deal” in the face of a veritable myriad of them [literally] that humanity has believed in over the millennia.

        • daveau
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

          *Your (again)

        • Ichthyic
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

          Oh the irony.

          ??

          how is that irony?

          here’s an alternative explanation:

          A bunch of goatherders around the campfire one night:

          “Well, we can’t see in the dark to do anything, so let’s say our creation of god couldn’t see in the dark either, so he must have had to create light to work with first!”

          much more likely that your ramblings.

        • Dominic
          Posted October 8, 2011 at 2:17 am | Permalink

          “Creation ex nihilo (Latin “out of nothing”), also known as “creation de novo”, is a common type of mythical creation. Ex nihilo creation is found in creation stories from ancient Egypt, the Rig Veda, the Bible and the Quran, and many animistic cultures in Africa, Asia, Oceania and North America.”
          Wikipedia after Leeming, David A. (2010). Creation Myths of the World.

          So there.

    • phhht
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Hawking’s argument represents the triumph of Laplace’s Observation: Gods? We have no need for that hypothesis.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Christians are fond of this something out of nothing formulation because they believe the only answer is God.

      The question of how does something come out of nothing demands the question of “how did God make himself out of nothing?” (You know, before he magically created something out of nothing by making the universe.)

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, well, the big bang theory is so 90’s.

      Just a decade later we had the first coherent cosmology, the reigning inflationary standard cosmology. The putative initial singularity is now even more remote, and inflation separates the big bang expansion from it.

      In fact, the simplest model of inflation would give us eternal inflation. As the name implies, there doesn’t need to be a beginning of such a multiverse.

      More importantly, a standard cosmology universe is zero energy. So the description should be “nothing came out of nothing”. Structure formation was seeded by quantum fluctuations, again no external input.

      And remaining formation is driven by the entropic freedom that cosmological expansion gives. Just as in evolution, life can order and grow and evolve in a surplus of energy heading for entropic growth. By increasing disorder we have also increasing order, if not a zero sum game in an individual universe so one over the set of all universes – it can go on forever.

      So the only cosmological question* becomes, why does the universe expand? Well, Einstein showed that a static universe is unstable. And obviously universes that are first expanding then imploding are relatively shortlived so sparse.**

      Seeing that we have little leverage for external context remaining in the question of how universes came to be, it seems ridiculous to insert a largish “god” right there.

      ———-
      * You can still ask where physics came from (laws, theories). But there are answers that centers around Hawking’s self-sufficiency.

      ** We can’t actually make measures over multiverses yet, so this is handwaving.

      • Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        Nice!

        /@

        • yesmyliege
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

          Science works in mysterious ways.

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      The Maori myth of creation begins with Te Kore, the Nothing/Void, which after generations/kinds of Void, gave rise to Te Po, the Night, (which is very close to nothing), which eventually gave rise to Te Ra, the sun/day.

      “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start….”

    • Posted October 8, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      (A) The big bang is a postulated origin of the expansion of our hubble volume, not some sort of absolute beginning.

      (B) In Genesis, it too is not an account of ex-nihilo. Never mind the god itself, it also mentions things like “the waters” as preexisting prior to the earth and the sky. (Or, if you prefer the ambiguously translated convention, “heavens and the earth”.)

  38. Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    The fastest moving particle part is critical by the way, for the first thing God would have seen after such an event as standing outside the universe, is light. Therefore the order that Genesis describes these events is not wrong… There may have been stars obviously before there was light, for the stars create the light in the first place, but the first thing God would have seen, not a being within our universe(which there were none, so their perspective is null and void) is light. Think outside the box for a change.

    • Marta
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Aw, nuts. A New Age godbot. There goes the neighborhood.

      • Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

        I am my own master. The Godbot part is a conscious choice, while your beliefs were instilled by an indoctrinating public school system. Enjoy the fall, my friend. It’s going to be one Hell of a ride…

        • daveau
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

          Boring troll is becoming boring…

          • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

            A troll preys on weak thinkers. I have intentionally targeted the more intelligent people on this thread, and ignored all the others. Don’t be scared of a debate, because it is only that. A debate.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

              For this to be a debate, you would have to present compelling arguments to support your position.

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

                As I could say the same thing to you, friend. I do not hate anyone who doesn’t share my beliefs, I just have faith that many of you could break the mold of indoctrination and free yourselves from its chains. The chains are, that is, that science disproves God. And to that I will sound off with my most intellectually challenged word of the day: Bullshit.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

                We don’t think science disproves God. We think the complete and total lack of evidence for their existence disproves all gods.

              • daveau
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

                I’m pretty sure that you are using the word “indoctrination” incorrectly. Speaking as an intelligent person, of course.

            • Marta
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

              Yes. You are all that, Sir Leprechaun, and I, for one, am too terrified to debate you, assuming that I had the intellect in the first place. Do fuck right off, won’t you?

            • ritebrother
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

              But you haven’t said anything yet.

          • Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

            Haha! I spotted him in 5 sentences!

        • phhht
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

          Why don’t you go shake your juju rattle at someone else?

          • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

            I shake my “juju rattle” at no one who doesn’t shake theirs back. The people on this blog wish to understand the universe and its origins through debate and knowledge acquisition. I am simply showing them that their own philosophies can be used against them, and that their philosophies are just as debateable as Christian philosophies. Faith in God or faith in science? The ultimate question, but I choose to let the two co-exist.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

              Science has a proven track record of giving us knowledge. Religion does not. No faith is required.

            • daveau
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

              The origin of the universe is not based on philosophy. It is based on the scientific method, and all the debates in the world will not change the current theory. Only evidence can do that.

            • phhht
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

              I am simply showing them that their own philosophies can be used against them

              Look out! It’s ju-ju-do!

              • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

                It’s “debate” instead of actual facts. New age bot of god bot, this Dunning-Kruger case has no more knowledge of what he discusses than Jerry’s boots.

              • Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

                Actually, I think Jerry’s boots are rather smart. Don’t you?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Ichthyic
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

                quite. I could only wish I had a tenth of his collection.

                some very nice stuff there.

              • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
                Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

                Touché!

            • ritebrother
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

              Are you still in middle school?

            • articulett
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

              Andrew, is that you?

        • Ichthyic
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

          I am my own master.

          looks at the time cover image it’s using as an icon…

          Is that a… juggalo?

          • Ichthyic
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

            oh, i see. you think it’s a clever take on Obama.

            Obama as Joker.

            uh huh.

            yes, so accurate and original.

            I am simply showing them that their own philosophies can be used against them, and that their philosophies are just as debateable as Christian philosophies.

            only in your own mind, seriously.

            in the real world, people are just laughing at you.

          • H.H.
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

            It’s Obama made up to look like Heath Ledger’s Joker, so it’s safe to say he’s probably one of those Obama-hating Tea Party intellectuals.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

              don’t forget to put the quotes around the word “intellectual”.

              otherwise, he might get the wrong idea.
              ;)

        • H.H.
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

          That’s a good trick considering a lot of us never attended public school. But obviously somebody told you that public schools are bastions of liberal indoctrination and you, like the simple-minded gullible sheep that you are, believed it. You also seem to believe that Hell is a real place, also on nothing more than other people’s say-so. But you aren’t the deluded one. Oh, no. You’re a clear thinker! Ha, ha, ha.

        • Aratina Cage
          Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

          Public schools educate children and youth, they are not supposed to brainwash them and most of them do not. The worst part about public schools besides the lack of a top-down national structure is that the local godbots are often able to suppress knowledge that otherwise would be taught to students in public schools, things like human evolution, thorough human history, and sex education. So, you have it exactly wrong. You were the one who was brainwashed. Your non-public-school “knowledge” of gods and angles and demons and messiahs isn’t worth a penny compared to the knowledge those of us received who went to a public school.

          • Aratina Cage
            Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

            angels, not angles. :\

            • Dominic
              Posted October 8, 2011 at 1:13 am | Permalink

              Ah – you are echoing a pope, “Non Angli sed Angeli”, Gregory the Great.

          • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

            I’m sure I was taught about angles in maths…

            /@

            • Aratina Cage
              Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

              *hangs head in shame*

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      “the first thing God would have seen after such an event as standing outside the universe, is light.”

      God would have seen light? With what?

      • Bryan
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

        Good question – love it.

        In a similar vein, whenever I hear someone refer to God as “he”, I wonder whether that means that God has a penis.

      • Dominic
        Posted October 8, 2011 at 2:23 am | Permalink

        Ah – you said it before me!

    • Dominic
      Posted October 8, 2011 at 2:22 am | Permalink

      If Nathan’s god can see it must have eyes & be an individual being rather than being some ‘omnipresent’ triune spirit.

    • Pete D
      Posted October 8, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      If God was standing “outside the universe” please explain how he would see light that is bounded by the universe. Said photons would never reach him.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted October 8, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

        he had special-pleading glasses?

        • Pete D
          Posted October 11, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink

          LOL…or a speculaphotometer.

  39. Posted October 7, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Yo, Andy, I just read this little bit of opaque postmodernism:

    “I would argue that original sin is a mystery that makes sense of our species’ predicament – not a literal account of a temporal moment when we were all angels and a single act that made us all beasts. We are beasts with the moral imagination of angels. But if we are beasts, then where did that moral imagination come from? If it is coterminous with intelligence and self-awareness, as understood by evolution, then it presents human life as a paradox, and makes sense of the parable. For are we not tempted to believe we can master the universe with our minds – only to find that we cannot, and that the attempt can be counter-productive or even fatal? Isn’t that delusion what Genesis warns against?”

    Sokal called. He wants his hoax back.

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      Flippancy aside …

      Based on your writings, an armchair psychologist that I just made up might muse that you’re simultaneously paralysed with fear of the idea of leaving a church that hates you and condemns you to Hell and with the fear of Hell itself (as is standard for good Catholic boys), from which you can only be saved by that same church.

      As a result of this double-edged terror, that armchair psychologist might surmise that your overly-worded theological obfuscations, defences and apologetics (which strongly resemble Stockholm Syndrome or a battered spouse mumbling “Oh, he’ll change, he loves me” through broken teeth) read like a desperate attempt at convincing _yourself_ that it’s best to remain in the fold.

      The Vatican must love guys like you: they’ve broken your mind and your spirit to the extent that you’ll defend the faith with your last breath, even as they themselves squash it from your chest.

      • Steersman
        Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        The Vatican must love guys like you: they’ve broken your mind and your spirit to the extent that you’ll defend the faith with your last breath, even as they themselves squash it from your chest.

        Reminds me of a joke, although there’s more edge than humor in it:

        It was Nero’s birthday and to celebrate it he had 21 virgins burned at stakes. Later he noticed that one of the unfortunate ladies was still alive and appeared to be muttering something. Wishing to know what that was Nero asked a flunky to go over and find out and who dutifully reported back that the lady was singing, “Happy birthday Nero, happy birthday to you”.

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

      “We are beasts with the moral imagination [and intelligence and technology] of angels. But if we are beasts, then where did that moral imagination come from?”

      From the same place as the intelligence and technology. We figgid it out. And sure, it’s imperfect, just like our intelligence and technology. But strikingly it’s no less imperfect when a church says it’s handed down from God. If anything, it risks being worse. “For good people to do bad things….”

  40. Ichthyic
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    So he’s been reading the posts and comments here, but is too cowardly to respond—and of course he doesn’t allow any comments at his own site.

    nothing else past this need be said.

    Sullivan:

    DISMISSED.

    ta.

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      One might note that when he does deign to respond to anyone (be it Harris or JAC) he really doesn’t say anything beyond “I believe it, that settles it”. In between the incoherent waffle, that is.

  41. Tulse
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised no one has commented on Sullivan’s huge retreat.

    October 5:

    There’s no evidence that the Garden of Eden was always regarded as figurative? Really? Has Coyne read the fucking thing? I defy anyone with a brain (or who hasn;t had his brain turned off by fundamentalism) to think it’s meant literally. It’s obviously meant metaphorically. It screams parable.

    October 7:

    I am sure plenty of Christians today and in the past (and many today) believed in the literal truth of Genesis, down to the seven days and Adam as dust and Eve as his rib. They believed it to be real and true.

    I generally like Sully’s work, but he has a huge blind spot when it comes to his religion. I’m deeply disappointed that he is so intellectually dishonest here not to say that his later comments completely undermine his earlier argument against Jerry.

    But I think this is another example of how, as Hitch puts it “religion poisons everything”. Even a relatively smart and sophisticated thinker like Sullivan goes all mush-brained when his childhood religion comes up for discussion.

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      That was too rich. I just emailed him your two quotes and asked him if Christians still apologized.

    • Andy Dufresne
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      Good catch there.

      I’ve been thinking about how the “Has he read the fucking thing” line is also a kind of crime against reading, since it implies that the supposed metaphorical nature of Genesis is SO obvious that only a fool, a bloody fool would think it literal. Like every other creation myth I can think of, the Genesis account was believed—by the vast majority of believers, the vast majority of the time—to be a real account of how the world really began. To suggest it’s intended as a metaphor, and that that intention is somehow manifestly obvious in the text itself, is really quite strange.

    • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      Oh, so _that_ was the fucking things I should have read. [/hangs head]

      But, hilarious!

    • Ichthyic
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      he has a huge blind spot when it comes to his religion.

      not surprising though?

      How else could one maintain religious beliefs WITHOUT deliberate blindness?

      not a single person doesn’t share this problem.

      all show some form of cognitive dissonance.

      ALL.

      Sullivan not only isn’t an exception, he simply can’t be.

  42. Dominic
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Oh “original sin”, that mystery of mysteries…!

    I cannot recall the last time so many comments appeared on WEIT in so short a time!

  43. Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Given the regularity with which you preclude comments that you disagree with, to criticize Sullivan as cowardly for not responding here and not allowing comments at his site is disingenuous at best. Why would we wish to participate in a carefully orchestrated echo chamber?

    • Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

      Given the regularity with which you preclude comments that you disagree with

      You have evidence, or is this some trollish meme that you are propagating from other faithist blogs without checking?

      • Posted October 8, 2011 at 7:04 am | Permalink

        It has happened a number of times to me and also to people I know. That’s his right, of course (it’s his website and he can censor comments any way he wishes), but he shouldn’t criticize Sullivan for behavior so similar to his own.

    • ritebrother
      Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      Did you say something?

    • Dominic
      Posted October 8, 2011 at 12:31 am | Permalink

      Carefully orchestrated? Ridiculous.

      • Dominic
        Posted October 8, 2011 at 2:26 am | Permalink

        You should get together with Nathan above.

  44. Robert Hagedorn
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Saint Augustine couldn’t do it, but can someone else, believer or nonbeliever, explain what kind of fruit Adam and Eve ate in the story? After 6000+ years I think we are all due an intelligent explanation. No guesses, opinions, or beliefs, please–just the facts that we know from the story. But first, do an Internet search: First Scandal.

  45. lobstersnorter
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Coyne FTW!!

    Excellent post, especially the last paragraph.

  46. lobstersnorter
    Posted October 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Sorry if someone else has pointed this out already, but I just noticed that the url to this post read: “andrew-sullivan-is-butthurt.” I have no further comment on this.

  47. Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know who greendragonreprised is, but he’s quoted in the Guardian as saying

    “Most Christians treat the Bible and theology generally like a software licence, they skip out reading the details and just click the ‘I agree’ box.”

    I like it.

  48. Posted October 7, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    *s/he’s

  49. Filippo
    Posted October 8, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    “In a way I feel sorry for Sullivan. But I’m more angry than sorry, for he obstinately fails to recognize that the Church he so ardently defends asserts that he’ll go to hell for his brand of sexuality. He should not be a Catholic.”

    Would like to hear him say why he persists in wanting to remain a Catholic.

    Reminds me of the case going before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the narcoleptic teacher who was fired from a Lutheran religious school for threatening to file a lawsuit against the school because they downgraded her insurance (and suggested she resign?).

    Ought religious entities be exempted from federal civil rights laws?

  50. Steersman
    Posted October 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Ben Goren said:

    Once you put not harming others above treating them as extensions of your own ego, then the Golden Rule starts to make sense. …. But let it run wild, as the Christians would have us do, and, quite literally, all Hell breaks loose.

    [I’ve taken the liberty of posting at the top level for reasons of readability; sorry for the essay.]

    Thanks for your detailed response, although I think you also are letting your spleen get the better of your brain – generally bad karma regardless of how much justification for that there might be [plenty in the case under discussion] – don’t get angry; get even. But, for example, while you concede some utility to the Golden Rule you also, justifiably, note that letting the principle “run wild” is to let all Hell break loose. However, I personally am not a Christian, much less the group, Christians, and I acknowledged that aspect in my previous posts, notably with this:

    For instance I seem to recollect seeing that, as suggested, game-theory does, in fact, suggest that “turning the other cheek” actually makes for a more rational and civilized society – although the theory also suggests that it is not an absolute and too many times justifies the “nuclear option” – in one form or another.

    I really don’t think anything there in my post would suggest that I think that “The Jews should have loved the Nazis and offered to polish their boots with their tongues”.

    Seems to me that in some significant ways you are the obverse of Feser and the fundamentalist company he keeps (if surreptitiously): he thinks that “Christ cannot be wrong in anything he teaches”, while you apparently, at least in your more splenetic phases, insist that Christ cannot be right in anything he teaches and that there is nothing of value in the Bible. Which is somewhat incongruous given that both Jerry and Dawkins have made positive references to the “stirring bits” and those “passages of outstanding merit [including] the sublime Ecclesiastes” in the Bible. Although, I would of course argue that Feser’s position is far more problematic than yours even if the latter is still significantly so. However, in the case of the former, I’m reminded of a passage in his The Last Superstition:

    Suppose you know through purely rational arguments [???] that there is a God, that He raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and therefore that Christ really is divine, as He claimed to be, so that anything He taught must true; in other words, suppose that the general strategy just sketched can be successfully fleshed out. Then it follows that if you are rational you will believe anything Christ taught; indeed, if you are rational you will believe it even if it is something that you could not possibly have come to know in any other way, and even if it is something highly counterintuitive and difficult to understand. For reason will have told you that Christ is infallible, and therefore cannot be wrong in anything He teaches. [pgs 156-157]

    Absolute madness. The lot of them – all those who subscribe to that view – are crazier than shit-house rats [ex-cuse my French].

    Apart from the fact that quantum mechanics is also “highly counterintuitive” but actually works and provides real, tangible benefits, and in spite of the fact that Feser makes heavy use of “suppose” and “if you were rational”, he still acknowledges elsewhere in his book and blog that the case for God is anything but proven – in which case the whole argument for Christ’s infallibility collapses like the proverbial house of cards – being, as it is, built on the quicksand of wishful thinking.

    And that categorical position of Feser justifies, in my view, your rejection of that position and your vocal opposition to it. But it does not justify an equally categorical rejection of literally everything in the Bible. “Accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative” would seem to be a useful and relevant guideline.

    • Posted October 8, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      I assure you, my reaction to the Gospels is in no way reflexive or absolutist in principle.

      It’s just that, every single time I’ve delved into them, I’ve been repulsed by the steaming pile of shit.

      Do you think it would be good to accentuate the positive in Mein Kampf, while eliminating the negative? It could be done, you know. All you have to do is take the exact same approach as pastors do to the Bible when they prepare their sermons.

      If you can present an actual extended quotation from the Gospels that isn’t tainted, if not filled, with horror and madness, I’ll reconsider my position. But, please, don’t simply paraphrase the “truisms” you hear from the pulpit. Go to the source, and look a half-dozen verses on either side of the one you think is key. That is, read it in context.

      Once you do, I think you’ll discover that there really isn’t anything in there worth salvaging.

      As to the rest of the Bible, the story is much the same. There’s the occasional poem here and there that doesn’t suck; Ecclesiastes isn’t half bad, though hardly the best example of its kind.

      Really, it comes down to the Missouri motto. If the Bible really is a “Good Book,” there ought to be evidence supporting the proposition. Yet all the evidence presented to date demonstrates the opposite conclusion is the correct one. Shirley we’re all good empiricists ’round these here parts and not afraid to accept the conclusions evidence indicates?

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Steersman
        Posted October 8, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

        If you can present an actual extended quotation from the Gospels that isn’t tainted, if not filled, with horror and madness, I’ll reconsider my position.

        Bit of a challenge, largely because I don’t know the Bible well enough to really do justice to it. But on skimming through Matthew I found something that might qualify, Chapter 7, Verses 1 through 14 (not all of which I will quote at the moment):

        1) Judge not, that ye be not judged.
        2) For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
        3) And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is thine own eye?
        12) Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this the law and the prophets.
        13) Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.
        14) Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

        In passing I note that the last two verses echo, or are echoed by, the title of the book The Razor’s Edge which in turn is taken from a verse in the Katha-Upanishad. But one might argue that you’re being a little overly demanding and not taking due consideration of the times in which the book was written. I will readily agree with you that there are portions of it filled “with horror and madness” but, relative to those times and utilizing a precept from the Bible itself, you might want to consider separating the wheat from the chaff – which can of course be decidedly poisonous.

        In addition, as mentioned, I think Dawkins himself in The God Delusion makes a credible case for some significant value in the Bible:

        The King James Bible of 1611 … includes passages of outstanding literary merit in its own right, for example the Song of Songs, and the sublime Ecclesiastes …. But the main reason the English Bible needs to be part of our education is that it is a major source book for literary culture. The same applies to the legends of the Greek and Roman gods, and we learn about them without being asked to believe in them. Here is a quick list of biblical, or Bible-inspired phrases and sentences that occur commonly in literary or conversational English, from great poetry to hackneyed cliché, from proverb to gossip: [two pages of phrases, 384-385] …. Surely ignorance of the Bible is bound to impoverish one’s appreciation of English literature?

        The problems don’t seem to derive from the Bible itself – and the Quran and the Torah – but from the literal interpretations that far too many put on the contents.

        • GBJames
          Posted October 9, 2011 at 7:12 am | Permalink

          “The problems don’t seem to derive from the Bible itself – and the Quran and the Torah – but from the literal interpretations that far too many put on the contents.”

          I’d phrase it just a bit differently… The problem isn’t the Bible itself – and the Quran and the Torah – but from believing that they are in one way or another the product of some non-human source. They may be of interest as literature. They are worse than useless as moral guides.

          • Steersman
            Posted October 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

            I’ll certainly agree that the problem is due to believing that those books are “the product of some non-human source”. Although that really seems to be part and parcel of the nature of literalism.

            As for moral guides, that depends on how literal you read the contents and what you balance it with. For example I’ve always found that Proverbs had some useful perspectives on that point:

            1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. [Although you have to read “Lord” metaphorically to get the maximum amount of “salt” out of the verse, as in “laws of the universe” (gravitation, karma, etc)]

            1:22 How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? And the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?

            4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom and with all thy getting get understanding.

            17:10 A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool.

            24:3 Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established.

            Maybe there’s a reason why Jews are disproportionally represented in the ranks of Nobel laureates.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 9, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

              wait, what?

              I hope that was a joke?

            • Posted October 10, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

              1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. [Although you have to read “Lord” metaphorically to get the maximum amount of “salt” out of the verse, as in “laws of the universe” (gravitation, karma, etc)]

              What, precisely, is it you’ve got in that pipe you’re smoking?

              b&

              • Steersman
                Posted October 10, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

                Joseph Campbell, Robert Graves, Sir James Frazer [The Golden Bough], Karen Armstrong [The Battle for God], Jung [Psychology & Religion], Kuhn [Shadow of the Third Century: A Revaluation of Christianity], Barbara King [Evolving God: A Provocative View on the Origins of Religion], Julian Jaynes, Aldous Huxley [The Doors of Perception], etc., etc. etc. ….

              • Posted October 10, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

                That sure would explain an awful lot.

                But tell me, where does Campbell equate YHWH with the universal law of karmic gravitation and declare that the beginning of knowledge is fear of said law?

                While we’re on the subject, would you be so kind as to explain what, you think karma is and how it qualifies as a law of the universe?

                …and I’ll also observe that established religions most certainly do not have a monopoly on woo — though you sure do seem to prefer your own woo to be distinctly god-tinged, even if they’re merely metaphoric gods.

                I mean, really? Armstrong? I don’t think even she takes herself seriously — or could explain what, exactly, it is that she’s on about.

                Cheers,

                b&

        • Posted October 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

          Bit of a challenge, largely because I don’t know the Bible well enough to really do justice to it.

          And that right there is the heart of the problem.

          Face it — you don’t know the Bible, and yet here you are defending it with many of the same apologetics offered by Christians that contradict easily-observable facts.

          For example, here’re the full fourteen verses. The context, again, should make clear that the few you cherry-picked are far from noble.

          Matthew 7:1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

          2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

          Well, there goes the criminal justice system.

          3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

          4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

          5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

          While one can see the value in casting off hypocrisy, this is pure nonsense. It turns the perfect into the perfect enemy of the good. Follow Jesus in this matter, and you’ll be perpetually paralized.

          6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

          And here again we have yet another truly evil, disgusting deepity. Have you any clue how miserable a place the world would be if doctors only treated those they considered deserving of their ministrations? If teachers only taught the worthy? If lunch counters were still permitted to turn away the melanin-enhanced?

          7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

          8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

          9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

          10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

          11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

          This isn’t morality — it’s spellcasting 101. It’s a fantasy, faery tale. It’s the basis of the Prosperity Gospel, and we all know how much of a disaster that is.

          12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

          Note that first word? “Therefore,” meaning, “as concluded from the preceeding verses about how your faery godfather will make your dreams come true.” This isn’t some noble sentiment about share and share alike or anything along those lines; it’s pure sympathetic magic.

          13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

          14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

          Jesus just can’t get enough of the hellfire and damnation, can he? Right here, the very next verses after his foolish “Golden” rule, he’s reminding everybody that the rule is for the slaves, and that masters such as himself will continue to exercise their absolute power of life and death over the slaves.

          But one might argue that you’re being a little overly demanding and not taking due consideration of the times in which the book was written.

          It seems you are as unfamiliar of the Classics as you are of the Bible. Due consideration of the times in which the book was written will bring one to the conclusion that it was written by spiteful, ignorant, inelegant backwater hicks on the fringes of the Empire. Really, it can’t hold a candle to other popular contemporary works.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Steersman
            Posted October 9, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

            Face it — you don’t know the Bible, and yet here you are defending it with many of the same apologetics offered by Christians that contradict easily-observable facts.

            No, I don’t know the Bible inside and out, from front to back, not having read it day and night. Never said I did; I’m not defending the Bible or Christianity – which you seem to think is the case, only pointing to some passages which I thought had some value – my entire point. But it seems to me that, in the words of William Blake, “Thou readest black where I read white”. And far more dogmatically I would suggest.

            In addition the “defense” that Dawkins offered and that I quoted – more or less along the same line as mine – can hardly be construed as apologetics from any “namby-pamby weak-tea” accommodationist. But do take it up with him if you’re so inclined.

            Well, there goes the criminal justice system.

            That is your particular idiosyncratic interpretation relative to the justice system. Mine – and most people’s I expect – is relative to interpersonal relationships. Really don’t see where Jesus made any reference to that system – maybe you’re reading between the lines and bringing in your own highly questionable biases because I don’t see any such.

            While one can see the value in casting off hypocrisy, this is pure nonsense. It turns the perfect into the perfect enemy of the good. Follow Jesus in this matter, and you’ll be perpetually paralyzed.

            I don’t see anything there either in those passages that suggests it is an absolute and to be followed categorically. Only problematic if you insist on viewing Jesus as literally divine and perfect, to be followed as lock-step automatons. My point regarding the problematic nature of literalism. But you are an atheist, aren’t you?

            Jesus just can’t get enough of the hellfire and damnation, can he? Right here, the very next verses after his foolish “Golden” rule, he’s reminding everybody that the rule is for the slaves, and that masters such as himself will continue to exercise their absolute power of life and death over the slaves.

            That Jesus couched his thoughts in terms of the current religion should hardly preclude us from taking a more metaphorical approach in an interpretation of that passage (among others), more along the line of, say, the slippery-slope analogy or that of the razor’s edge — which I expect you would think of some utility.

            One might suggest that your views are just as literalist, hence just as bad and just as problematic, as those of the most rabid Christian fundamentalist.

            Cheers.

            • Ichthyic
              Posted October 9, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

              One might suggest that your views are just as literalist, hence just as bad and just as problematic, as those of the most rabid Christian fundamentalist.

              you mean, just like Andrew Sullivan did?

              yeah.

              and your logic has exactly the same flaws.

              • Steersman
                Posted October 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

                WTFBBQ?

                Sullivan is prepared to concede, apparently, that Adam and Eve were not literal characters – somewhat contrary to Catholic dogmata, although that seems to be a moving target – but apparently insists on keeping the original sin portion along with the rest of the schlock – Big Daddy in the Sky, the Resurrection, the intercession of the Saints, probably the rest of the Catechism.

                All I am doing is suggesting that some portions of the Bible can be read metaphorically and which thereby retains some value. In addition I have, in this thread and others, explicitly indicated a more or less categorical rejection of any supernatural causation. More or less along the line laid out by Dawkins – as I indicated. Entirely different kettle of fish methinks.

                I think you need to recalibrate your gun sights.

              • Ichthyic
                Posted October 9, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

                no, the idea that atheist’s views of the bible are just as fundamentalist as any evangelical xian was what Sullivan’s original argument was that started this whole back and forth…

                and you just repeated it, near verbatim!

              • Microraptor
                Posted October 9, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

                Steersman, if you need to take a metaphoric interpretation of a translation of something that was supposed to be literal in its original language for it to be useful, it isn’t that useful because all the value is coming from something else.

            • Posted October 10, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

              No, I don’t know the Bible inside and out, from front to back, not having read it day and night. Never said I did; I’m not defending the Bible or Christianity – which you seem to think is the case, only pointing to some passages which I thought had some value – my entire point.

              Yes, that’s what you’ve been doing.

              What you’ve failed to do, however, is explain how your non-Christian version of Salad Bar Bible Study is in any way superior to those offered by Christian apologists.

              What, exactly, is there to be gained by trying to see the best in either Mein Kampf or the book which directly inspired it? What’s so damned precious about the Bible that can’t be gotten elsewhere, without having to wade through pile after pile after stinkin’ pile of shit?

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Steersman
                Posted October 10, 2011 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

                What you’ve failed to do, however, is explain how your non-Christian version of Salad Bar Bible Study is in any way superior to those offered by Christian apologists.

                Doesn’t rely on any supernatural entities for one. For another it provides a psychological and philosophical tool and perspective with which to interpret at least some of those texts.

                What, exactly, is there to be gained by trying to see the best in either Mein Kampf or the book which directly inspired it?

                For one thing, ever hear of the aphorism about learning from one’s mistakes? Although the latter has, I think, a greater number of positive lessons than the former. But feedback in general has some remarkable corrective capabilities. For another, as mentioned though you seem not prepared to consider it or the source as particularly credible (closed mind?), there is the list and statements of Dawkins that I quoted, several times, earlier.

            • Torbjorn Larsson, OM
              Posted October 10, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

              I don’t see anything there either in those passages that suggests it is an absolute and to be followed categorically. Only problematic if you insist on viewing Jesus as literally divine and perfect, to be followed as lock-step automatons. My point regarding the problematic nature of literalism. But you are an atheist, aren’t you?

              Way to (dis)miss Coyne’s point, which was laid out in the first article:

              “Like Ross Douthat, Sullivan misses the point. Of course the Bible sounds like fiction, because it is in its entirety. Good Catholics like Sullivan try to save their religion by reading those fictions as metaphors. You could do the same thing with any scripture, or any myth. But if he really considers himself a Catholic, then surely there’s something in Scripture that Sullivan sees as really, truly true. Could he please tell us what that is?”

              So no one, certainly not atheists, claim that everything can be taken literary. Most historians and skeptic are claiming that, obviously, this is all myth and fiction. You can answer that, Sullivan can’t answer that, by shifting the burden of evidence. That is atheism, if you will, not your pitiful fundamentalist strawman which no one can take literary.

        • Steersman
          Posted October 10, 2011 at 1:03 am | Permalink

          Microraptor said:

          Steersman, if you need to take a metaphoric interpretation of a translation of something that was supposed to be literal in its original language for it to be useful, it isn’t that useful because all the value is coming from something else.

          Evolution apparently works, in part, by adapting one structure “designed” for one purpose for another – the bones in the middle ear apparently being a classic example of that. I don’t see why the principle can’t be used in areas of thoughts and ideas – memes.

          Though not quite sure I follow you. But, in any case, how do you, or anyone else for that matter, know exactly what literal events took place and what the original language might have been? Given the literally tens of thousands of gods that Mankind has worshipped and sacrificed to – frequently other humans – over the millennia it is just a little implausible to argue that the scenario with Jehovah is literally accurate. Far more plausible, in my view, is that it is a very distant reflection of mankind’s dawning consciousness – Julian Jayne’s bicameral mind theory, introduced by Dawkins in The God Delusion, is probably only one of a number of possibilities in that regard. But Genesis may still retain some valuable echoes – sort of like the cosmic background radiation from the Big Bang – of the psychological trauma of that birth.

          In addition, a large number of Greek myths – Sisyphus and Prometheus, for examples – presumably started out as being viewed as the literal truth but have evolved into quite durable and useful metaphors. I see no reason why at least some of the Christian mythology can’t be similarly utilized – as in fact it has already by some as indicated by a great many literary works such as East of Eden.

          • Posted October 10, 2011 at 2:16 am | Permalink

            I think the difference here is that there’s a huge number of people who still regard those Biblical “metaphors” as literal truths; thus, they are far less useful than those “durable” metaphors from Greek myths. Whatever “we” here think, the Bible is still part of a living religion, which deeply undermines the usefulness of Biblical metaphors: Whenever you use one, however secular your intent, a large portion of your audience will ineluctably infer that you subscribe to the literal meaning or at least to the supernatural context (i.e., that you are a Christian or at least a theist), whereas no-one nowadays would reasonably infer from a reference to Sisyphus or Prometheus that you believed those myths to be true or that you worshipped the Olympians.

            Furthermore, using Biblical metaphors, however apt, carries with it the (to “us”) negative association of other parts of the same work, however much they are played down by liberal Christians. As Ben points out, Mein Kampf contains material that is, in isolation, as “worthy” as the isolated Biblical passages you’ve cited — but what reasonable person would want to quote Adolf Hitler in support of a point that they were making, however apt and rational the quote was? Unless they didn’t mind being viewed as a nazi or some kind of white supremacist…

            /@

            PS. Re another thread, I think there is a good reason for Hitchens to recommend The Greek Myths, as Robert Graves does a good job in teasing out the literal truths behind many of those stories and what they are metaphors for. (Often the triumph of the Hellenic patriarchal society over the pre-Hellenic matriarchal society, iirc.)

          • Posted October 10, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

            But, in any case, how do you, or anyone else for that matter, know exactly what literal events took place and what the original language might have been?

            Who cares? This is a book in which the “hero” demands that all non-Christians should be made into blood sacrifices at his feet in his altar. He’s coming to bring a sword, to set families against one another, to bring Armageddon, to direct the infinite torture of all humanity, and on and on and on — and all you’re worried about is whether or not one can quite-mine his instructions to the slave race to find something that you can twist as somehow being vaguely tangentially related to modern Game Theory?

            Give me a break.

            Cheers,

            b&

        • Steersman
          Posted October 10, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

          Ant Allan said:

          I think the difference here is that there’s a huge number of people who still regard those Biblical “metaphors” as literal truth

          Yes, I quite agree with you that that is a problem. But I don’t see it as an insurmountable one – actually quite easily done by indicating, or raising the question of whether, the statements are made from a metaphorical perspective. As for “undermining the usefulness of Biblical metaphors”, Dawkins himself asks “Surely ignorance of the Bible is bound to impoverish one’s appreciation of English literature?” To close off that avenue of knowledge because of a potentially erroneous inference by others as to what one subscribes to seems far too close to shooting oneself in the foot.

          In addition, the other side of the coin of those erroneous inferences seems frequently to be a vocal and categorical rejection of any metaphorical value in the Bible – a very untenable position. And one arguing for that case would then appear to be almost as dogmatic as religious fundamentalists. Somewhat counterproductive.

          Furthermore, using Biblical metaphors, however apt, carries with it the (to “us”) negative association of other parts of the same work, however much they are played down by liberal Christians.

          As above, it definitely can be a hurdle in communication which the “transmitter” must make some effort to surmount with, say, some redundancy. But it seems the “receiver” also has some obligation to ensure that “noise” from its own biases doesn’t corrupt the signal.

          However, more importantly, it seems that your statement is rather close to an ad hominem argument, to discounting information and arguments because of where or who they are coming from rather than on their merits, to “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”. For example, as I mentioned earlier regarding the Unabomber, one should be able to talk about Kaczynski’s significant contributions in the field of mathematics without that leading to the inference or conclusion that one supports his political philosophy.

          … but what reasonable person would want to quote Adolf Hitler in support of a point that they were making, however apt and rational the quote was?

          Depends on what the quote was, what the context was and which point they were trying to make. Trying to hide information and not discuss it for fear of what someone else might infer doesn’t sound very efficient or productive. For instance, there’s this quote of Hitler in Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:

          The folkish state … must act as guardian of a millennial future in the face of which the wishes and selfishness of the individual must appear as nothing and submit …. A folkish state must therefore begin by raising marriage from the level of a continuous defilement of the race and give it the consecration of an institution which is called upon to produce images of the Lord … [pg 89]

          Now, one could quite reasonably justify promoting the family as an important pillar of society. But when it becomes an absolute – as it did with Hitler, and as it shows signs of becoming in Feser’s and the Church’s “moral” view – then the result – as history attests – is simply hell on wheels. A situation that is compounded by the adherence, in both cases, to that statement of Hitler’s about “the millennial future [in which] the wishes and selfishness of the individual must appear as nothing”.

          So, a credible argument – I think, as does, in essence, Eric MacDonald though of course not Edward Feser – based on Hitler’s statements which would not have the impact – such as it is – without them. Bad karma I think to be closing off sources of information and methods for the interpretation of it.

          P.S. Thanks for the book reference.

        • Steersman
          Posted October 10, 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

          Ben Goren said:

          I mean, really? Armstrong?

          Have you actually read any of her books? Probably not as otherwise you probably wouldn’t be so dogmatic.

          But tell me, where does Campbell equate YHWH with the universal law of karmic gravitation

          He probably doesn’t – I would be surprised if he did. And I said “laws of the universe” (gravitation, karma, etc), not “karmic gravitation”. Though in either case it was more along the line of a metaphor, an allusion, a suggestion – although I guess I should have indicated that in big block letters for you.

          If you’d actually try opening your mind a crack you might consider, for starters, enlightening yourself on game theory, either through Wikipedia or the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. While I hardly have much of handle on it myself and it is a struggle, particularly the latter which is mostly over my head, I know enough to know that it is an important avenue of research. And this from the latter suggests some reasons:

          Philosophers share with economists a professional interest in the conditions and techniques for the maximization of human welfare. In addition, philosophers have a special concern with the logical justification of actions, and often actions must be justified by reference to their expected outcomes. (One tradition in philosophy, utilitarianism, is based on the idea that all justifiable actions must be justified in this way.) Without game theory, both of these problems resist analysis wherever non-parametric aspects are relevant.

          And it seems the study of game-theory actually might contribute something to coming up with some “laws” for describing the nature of our societies and how they work and how to “maximize human welfare”. It is obvious that we have some reasonably workable laws for physics and chemistry and the like, but I think we still have a long ways to go before we have equivalent ones for our societies and our minds.

          But they say that not knowing what the laws of the land are is no excuse – do the crime, do the time, mostly, in effect. And the laws by which our minds work, our societies work, reality works, are just as inexorable, if not more so – and not knowing them – about which we should exhibit some trepidation if we have any interest in either our own survival or that of our societies – can be just as fatal. One might even suggest that recognizing that situation is in fact, as Proverbs clearly indicates – assuming one can make the analogous mental substitution of “Laws” for “Lord”, the beginning of wisdom.

        • Steersman
          Posted October 12, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

          Ichthyic said:

          no, the idea that atheist’s views of the bible are just as fundamentalist as any evangelical xian was what Sullivan’s original argument was that started this whole back and forth…

          I don’t see anything in Sullivan’s original post or in his subsequent one(s) that justifies your statement – maybe you could quote it and provide the link? But neither does Shea, and Douthat only talks of an “interesting symbiosis between militant atheism and religious fundamentalism”. And, as far as I can see, the closest anyone comes to that is where Douthat asserts:

          But that’s very different from arguing that either the Genesis story or evolutionary biology has to be a “palpable lie,” and implying anyone who accepts Darwinian evolution has to dismiss the first book of the Old Testament as the ancient equivalent of the Hitler Diaries. This is the view of many fundamentalists, of course. But it’s extremely telling that an atheist like Coyne insists on it as well.

          While Jerry naturally promotes the first part – the Darwinian evolution – it seems a bit of leap to characterize his conclusion – “if you reject the Adam and Eve tale as literal truth, you reject … the Fall of Man and human specialness” – as asserting that the Old Testament is equivalent to “the Hitler Diaries”. And it really doesn’t seem equivalent to asserting that Jerry’s position is as fundamentalist as that of, say, Albert Mohler. Although I think a reasonable compromise position is to say something like, “If the evolutionary biology description is correct then either the Old Testament is the ancient equivalent of the Hitler Diaries or it is, in its description of Adam & Eve and Original Sin, at least, no more than analogy and metaphor – which is, in itself, no crime against reason, logic or humanity.”

          And, of course, the Church has basically conceded the premise, evolution – largely in any case, but is now desperately trying to hang onto the literal truth of Original Sin – can’t be laying much of a guilt trip without it – by conceding, justified by truly Olympic caliber contortions on the field of logic, that Adam & Eve is only true metaphorically – or, in A-T speak, “metaphysically” true. But it is that attempt to have one’s cake and eat it too – apparently a standard modus operandi for the Church and its apologists – that is the most problematic aspect. Though their attempts at it are really kind of amusing.

          But, in any case, what I was saying to Ben Goren here was something I think is quite a bit different. My point was that his interpretation of the dozen verses from Matthew was, apart from reading into them a whole bunch of extraneous and non-existent details and connotations, still predicated on a literalist viewpoint – “avoiding exaggeration, metaphor, or embellishment; factual; prosaic”. Whereas I had more or less explicitly argued for a metaphorical, interpersonal, psychological, or philosophical interpretation.

          While he is certainly entitled to look at Scriptures from that literalist viewpoint and I will quite readily agree that it is a problematic one and justification for criticisms of fundamentalists – something Sullivan agrees with as well, that is only one particular viewpoint – a metaphorical one is also entirely capable of providing substantial benefits, as Dawkins himself pointed out.

          And finally, to say that Ben is just as literalist as a fundamentalist is not at all, I think, the same as saying he is “just as fundamentalist as any evangelical Christian”.

  51. trevor
    Posted September 11, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Every word that is sacred to the Jews is also sacred to the Roman Catholics. But no atheist/skeptic goes after the Jews with the same gusto that they go after the Catholics and evangelicals, except the late Christopher Hitchens, whose maternal grandmother was Jewish.

    To understand Sullivan’s reasoning, one has to step out of scientism and to have done graduate studies in conservative humanities, as Sullivan did at Harvard.

    BTW, the Catholic Church has formally stated that it has no quarrel with evolution. This is a major stumbling block in that church’s dealings with American evangelicals, who find themselves in growing agreement with Rome in other dimensions.

    The Creation can be seen as a simplification of the received history of the universe and of our planet for middle eastern minds of 25-30 centuries ago. But I agree that it is difficult to find a place for the Fall in any extant scientific narrative.

    I believe that Catholic theology clearly points tpo the damnation of proimiscuous homosexuals. Homosexuals who are in faithful pair bonds can live and hope though.

    • gbjames
      Posted September 11, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      “To understand…”

      The Courtier’s Reply.


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  1. […] we need to bring in the other players. Of course, we must start with Jerry Coyne (here, here, and here – and there are others too, because this goes back several months), because it was chiefly […]

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