The Pope asks Catholics to be stupid

The Pope’s Christmas Eve Homily ended by importuning his minions to give up reason, be humble, and be “made simple.”

It seems to me that a deeper truth is revealed here, which should touch our hearts on this holy night: if we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our “enlightened” reason. We must set aside our false certainties, our intellectual pride, which prevents us from recognizing God’s closeness. We must follow the interior path of Saint Francis—the path leading to that ultimate outward and inward simplicity which enables the heart to see. We must bend down, spiritually we must as it were go on foot, in order to pass through the portal of faith and encounter the God who is so different from our prejudices and opinions the God who conceals himself in the humility of a newborn baby.

In this spirit let us celebrate the liturgy of the holy night, let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped. Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart.

What he means, of course, is “let us be made simple minded by what we tell you about God.” For that’s what the Vatican is doing by asking people to give up their reason and their naturalism and to  just let themselves—as John Haught would put it—be “grasped by the infinite.”  What an unspeakably vile thing to ask!  But of course it’s in the Church’s interest to ask this, for it’s by the abnegation of reason alone that Catholicism survives.

Beware of anyone who asks you to be “grasped” or “carried away” by anything but reason. For what they’re asking is for you to suspend your disbelief and start accepting hogwash.

I love the part about “the God who conceals himself in the humility of a newborn baby.”  Since when were newborn babies humble? They’re always screaming to have their needs met.  And if the Catholic God is so humble, why is he, like that newborn baby, always demanding worship and affection, and why does he dispatch to Hell those who don’t tender them?

368 Comments

  1. Posted December 26, 2011 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    I believe that baby Jesus is alive for two reasons: 1) The large number of people who believe in life-after-death. 2) The historical Jesus.

    It is true many people think religious faith is irrational (unenlightened), however, these people tend to be unintelligent about the mind-body problem, ignorant of the proof of God’s existence, and irrational about the meaning of life. I refer you to my essay titled, “Why Liberalism Is a Neurotic Response to Religion.” (http://www.newevangelization.info/styled/code-3/index.html)

    • Posted December 26, 2011 at 5:39 am | Permalink

      What proof of God’s existence?
      Please tell.

      • Posted December 26, 2011 at 5:46 am | Permalink

        If you look at Roemer’s crazy post, you’ll see that he buys the cosmological argument, saying that all finite beings have causes, and God is an infinite being that needs no cause, so there must be God at the end. LOL! He also dismisses evolution by natural selection as a “pseudoscientific delusion,” and so I’ll ask him if he’s read my book, and to respond to the massive evidence for evolution, before he’s allowed to post here again. I don’t know how this guy slipped through, but at first I thought he was joking when he said “I believe that baby Jesus is alive for two reasons.” LOL!

        • Posted December 26, 2011 at 5:49 am | Permalink

          Aww, damn, cos I was hoping he would expound about Evidence for the Historical Jesus, and mebbe even mention Josephus so I could tell him why he was wrong.

          • Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

            It’s fun for a while, but arguing with Creationists is like shooting *actual fish in an *actual barrel. It’s just too easy and quite frankly I think it holds science back by wasting time.

        • daveau
          Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:53 am | Permalink

          …at first I thought he was joking …

          Yeah me too. I read it 3 times looking for the funny before I realized that he was serious about:
          1) argumentum ad populum and
          2) unfounded assertion of the existence of an historical Jesus.
          To me, those are great comic premises, but he has terrible follow through.

        • Lynn Wilhelm
          Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

          I’m so sorry Jerry.
          I think this guy arrived here because of me. He started a LinkedIn discussion on “the mind-body problem” and I mentioned your recent posts on free will.
          He also accused many others of scientism.

          • Lynn Wilhelm
            Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

            Oh and the discussion was in the Freethinkers group. It’s amazing that this guy’s a member of that group.

      • Posted December 26, 2011 at 5:48 am | Permalink

        Don’t you detect the holy feronomes of the gods , the demiurg and the demons ?

      • Posted December 26, 2011 at 5:54 am | Permalink

        The cosmological proof/argument: You exist and I exist, but I am not you and you are not me. We are finite beings. But finite beings need a cause. Hence, an infinite being exists.

        The above is an argument if you understand it but are not persuaded that an infinite being exists. I call it a proof because it is a formal (logical) result in metaphysics.

        • Posted December 26, 2011 at 5:57 am | Permalink

          And why don’t INFINITE beings need a cause? Just because they’re infinite doesn’t mean that they don’t need a cause! And if your definition of “infinite being” is “a being that doesn’t need a cause,” then you’ve just committed a tautology, not a proof of God.

          I claim that even infinite beings need causes. It’s turtles all the way down!

          Now, given all the evidence for evolution and natural selection that I provide in my book (which you obviously haven’t read), why do you consider evolution by natural selection a “pseudoscientific delusion?” Believe me, there is a gazillion times more evidence for natural selection and evolution than there is for either God or Baby Jesus!

          • Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:25 am | Permalink

            Why does an infinite being need a cause?

            What is a delusion is the bright idea that free will is an illusion.

            Why is pseudoscience is that humans evolved from animals. True science is that the bodies of humans evolved, not their souls.

            • Rob
              Posted December 26, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink

              Why does a finite being need a cause?

              Prove it

              Prove it.

            • wunelle
              Posted December 26, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink

              Keep saying it over and over and over again, washing your hands until they bleed. But you’re asserting nonsense and using the nonsense to “disprove” what you don’t even understand.

              You know nothing about “infinite beings.” You’re just making stuff up.

              Bye-bye.

            • Scote
              Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

              Non responsive. Move to strike.

              Again, why, given the evidence in Jerry Coyne’s book do you claim that evolution, out of all science, is pseudo science.

              Please give an answer that is consistent with, you know, **science**.

            • Papalinton
              Posted December 26, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

              David Roemer
              “What is a delusion is the bright idea that free will is an illusion.”

              The concept of ‘free will’ is a purely apologetical construct. It was first promulgated to get around the cognitive dissonance of an Adam and an Eve voting with their feet to ditch the whole ‘garden of eden’ thing, recognizing it as a sham and decided to become real people, warts and all, after all.

              That is, of course, if you believe in he nonsense of an Adam and an Eve, in the first place.

            • ahannaasti
              Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

              Mr Roemer, even assuming that your axioms are true, here is what is logically wrong with your argument, illustrated by an analogous argument about integers.

              Axiom: For every integer, there is a strictly smaller integer.

              However, from this axiom, it does not follow that there is an “infinite” integer. As Dr Coyne said on this thread, there is the other possibility of there being “turtles” all the way down. Which is what happens in the case of integers. There is no “infinite” integer. Just an infinite number of finite ones.

            • Filippo
              Posted December 27, 2011 at 3:54 am | Permalink

              This is to say that something is so merely because one thinks and says so.

              Sir, how old is the Earth? What is the basis for your answer?

          • daveau
            Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

            I don’t buy the premise that there are infinite beings. Prove it.

            • Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

              I have proven that a finite being needs a cause. Why do you think an infinite being needs a cause also? The burden of proof is on you.

              • Rob
                Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:12 am | Permalink

                No you have not, considering there’s documented uncaused events. You are making assertions that you can not support, and in fact, have been shot down for decades. And that has been presented to you in this thread, multiple times.

                You are delusional.

              • daveau
                Posted December 26, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

                The burden is not on me to prove that there are no infinite beings. As with leprechauns and their pots o’ gold, the burden of proof lies with those who say that such a thing exists. Just name one infinite being, and show some evidence for its existence. Easy, right?

              • Se Habla Espol
                Posted December 28, 2011 at 12:24 am | Permalink

                David Roemer proclaims

                I have proven that a finite being needs a cause.

                Actualy, you’ve done two things, neither of which has probative value.
                First, you’ve made an assertion counter to reality, alleging your assertion to be proof. That aspect has been discussed.
                Second, by considering your raw assertion as ‘proof’, you’ve demonstrated a consequence of the Arrogance of Faith. You imagine a proposition — “a finite being needs a cause”. You choose to believe that your imagination necessarily represents Certain Truth — that’s the arrogance of faith, which forbids you any doubt and which blinds you to reality (unless your faith can pervert it into confirmation).

            • Papalinton
              Posted December 26, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

              I’m with you Daveau. Roemer needs to prove it.

              I wonder if Roemer has ever wondered whether an infinite being has huge testicles?

              • daveau
                Posted December 26, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

                Just show that one teeny-weeny infinite being exists, that’s all I ask. Then we would be getting somewhere.

                Naturally it would have infinite balls. 😉

          • abb3w
            Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

            My inner pedant suggests the compromise that infinite beings and finite beings have equivalent need for causes.

            I’d also suggest any philosopher playing around with the term “infinite” should be flogged with a list of large cardinal properties unless they indicate what cardinality of infinity they are referring to.

        • Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:02 am | Permalink

          You are aware that an internally consistent argument is worth exactly zero if it is made up of unproven baseless assertions.

          You exist and I exist, but I am not you and you are not me. = Yeah, cos that would be confusing. But as part of the argument it’s kind of irrelevant.
          We are finite beings. = Yes.
          But finite beings need a cause. = Yes. There are natural causes now understood for pretty much everything out there.
          Hence, an infinite being exists. = What?! You can’t say that. You haven’t proved that at all. You’re just saying that because you want it to be true.

          You can’t make up an argument asserting whatever you want to be true as fact and then claim this is evidence.
          There is no room far a “hence” in your statement. You can’t just day “hence”. You have to provide evidence for it.

          • Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:28 am | Permalink

            What are “natural causes”? A contingent being is caused by another being. If all beings needed a cause the universe would not be intelligible. There has to exist at least one being that does not need a cause. Such a being cannot be finite, begin to exist at some point in time, or be a composition of beings.

            • NewEnglandBob
              Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:49 am | Permalink

              Show proof that all beings need a cause. That is the basis of your original premise and you can not prove it. On that basis alone, your argument fails, never mind the illogic of the rest of it.

              • Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

                A being that begins to exist at some point in time needs a cause because it can’t be the reason for its own existence.

                If you agree to this, I’ll try to explain why a finite being and a being that is a composition of two other beings needs a cause.

                An infinite being that always existed and is not a composition of other beings can be the reason for its own existence.

              • Rob
                Posted December 26, 2011 at 7:26 am | Permalink

                Not only can he not prove it, it’s been explicitly disproven.

              • NewEnglandBob
                Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

                …because it can’t be the reason for its own existence.

                No, sorry, incredulity is not acceptable as an argument. Just because you don’t want to believe it, doesn’t make it so.

                An infinite being that always existed and is not a composition of other beings can be the reason for its own existence.

                No, this is yet another bad use of logic. You are not even coherent here.

              • Rob
                Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:37 am | Permalink

                “A being that begins to exist at some point in time needs a cause because it can’t be the reason for its own existence.”

                Second point is correct, the first is not.

                Not having a cause != being its own cause.

              • Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:46 am | Permalink

                A being that begins to exist at some point in time needs a cause because it can’t be the reason for its own existence.

                Okay. I give.

                What’s the cause of all those uncaused quantum phenomena, such as virtual particles (including Hawking radiation), radioactive decay, and almost certainly the Big Bang itself?

                Sorry. I know you see the word, “quantum,” and you probably think, “Woo-woo-Jesus!” So let me move this out of the quantum scale and into the everyday world.

                Ever see a gumball machine? Notice how all the gumballs are stacked so nicely?

                Whose job is it, do you think, to carefully arrange all those gumballs in there?

                Huh?

                b&

              • Rob
                Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

                @B&:

                I don’t know that I’d call your gumball example uncaused, since you do have gravity and mass interactions.

                Unintentional? Sure. Uncaused, not really.

              • daveau
                Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink

                @Ben-

                Whose job is it, do you think, to carefully arrange all those gumballs in there?

                Therefore, Kepler?

              • Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:48 am | Permalink

                I don’t know that I’d call your gumball example uncaused, since you do have gravity and mass interactions.

                A physicist would call those causations. But, to a theologian, causation requires an intelligent agent. Last I checked, the orderly stacking of gumballs in the machine wasn’t the result of a great deal of intelligence.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted December 27, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

                “A being that begins to exist at some point in time needs a cause…”

                Given that I’m fundamentally a collection of atoms, at what point in time did I begin to exist?

              • Posted December 28, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink

                When you do something wrong, do you feel guilty? Do you apologize? Do you promise not to do it again?

                What evidence is there that you are a collection of molecules? The evidence supports the theory that humans are embodied spirits or indefinabilities. One piece of evidence is that there is no evidence humans are collections of molecules.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted December 28, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink

                What evidence is there that you are a collection of molecules?

                Um, are you serious? Did you not make it to the 6th grade? What do you think skin, hair, blood, and bone are made of?

              • Posted December 28, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

                Now that you mention it, if he’s not a collection of molecules, he has no need to ingest any molecules, so all his beverages and foodstuffs could be donated to the poor. Wonder how long he survives on nothing? Oh, well. He’s got his skydaddy to feed his soul, I guess.

            • keith
              Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink

              Shorter Roemer: “I don’t understand natural causation, therefore, God exists.”

              Your argument from personal incredulity needs work, dude.

              • Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

                You all seem to be oblivious to the fact that the famous atheists, Dawkins, Coyne, Dennett, Karen Armstrong, etc., have never refuted the proof I just gave: finite beings need a cause, so an infinite being exists.

                Also, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy does not understand the cosmological proof. There is nothing in that entry which mentions “finite beings.” The account of the proof in Wikipedia is just as ignorant and irrational:

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

                1) Every finite and contingent being has a cause.
                2) A causal loop cannot exist.
                3) A causal chain cannot be of infinite length.
                4) Therefore, a First Cause (or something that is not an effect) must exist.

                It might help you to know that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that you can prove God exists. Sidney Hook’s refutation is that metaphysics has no content. John Paul Sartre does not even say God doesn’t exist. He says the concept of God is contradictory.

                Since humans are embodied spirits, humans can be considered contradictory too.

              • Rob
                Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:16 am | Permalink

                (1) Is an invalid assertion

                Therefore, the rest of the argument is hooey.

              • Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:22 am | Permalink

                To clarify Rob’s refutation, quantum mechanics did away with the sort of causality you’re so hopelessly stuck in. Your cosomorgasmical incoherence is as outdated as flat-Earth astronomy and the rejection of the Theory of Evolution by Random Mutation and Natural Selection.

                And every bit as pathetically stupid.

                Really, have you no shame? What is it about being the laughingstock of thinking society that you take so much pride in? I mean, you do know that not even your Pope believes any of this bullshit, and that he and the rest of the Church are just using your gullibility to milk you for all you’re worth, right?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • truthspeaker
                Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:27 am | Permalink

                Even if finite beings did need a cause (and they don’t), it would not follow that an infinite being exists.

                Even if you established that an infinite being exists (which you haven’t), it does not follow that an infinite being would have thoughts, feelings, motivations, or that it interacts with humans, or that it incarnated as Jesus to share its message with humanity.

              • Rob
                Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

                “You all seem to be oblivious to the fact that the famous atheists, Dawkins, Coyne, Dennett, Karen Armstrong, etc., have never refuted the proof I just gave”

                Know how I know you haven’t read Dawkins?

                (Hint: Chapter 3)

              • David Leech
                Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

                It’s worst than that David Roemer has just made little baby Mereology cry:-)

              • Posted December 26, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

                “finite beings need a cause, so an infinite being exists.”
                I see a gaping hole after the comma. Why not, for example, an infinite series of finite beings?

                “1) Every finite and contingent being has a cause.” Isn’t “having a cause” part of the definition of “contingent”? Therefore this statement is circular.

                “2) A causal loop cannot exist.” Now that you mention the possibility, why not? Perhaps time is cyclic. “In my end is my beginning” said T.S. Eliot. Or was it “In my beginning is my end.”

                “3)A causal chain cannot be of infinite length.” Who says? Why not?

                “4) Therefore, a First Cause (or something that is not an effect) must exist.” OK. Let’s call it “the Universe”.

                “It might help you to know that the Roman Catholic Church teaches that you can prove God exists.” On the contrary, if the Roman Catholic Church teaches it, it’s probably wrong.

                “Since humans are embodied spirits,….”
                We are? How do you know? What does that even mean? Why is somebody’s spirit never quite the same after enough severe blows to the head?

              • Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

                You misread the proof. A causal chain of finite beings can be of infinite length. However, an infinite being must exist outside of the chain and give the chain its existence.

                That is why is is wrong to think of God as the first cause, a being that comes at the beginning of a chain.

              • ahannaasti
                Posted December 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

                However, an infinite being must exist outside of the chain and give the chain its existence.

                Proof of assertion required. The proof must, in particular, explain the following, among other points.

                Q1) Who/what “outside the integers” caused the infinite chain of integers?

                Q2) What “causes” a pair production?

              • truthspeaker
                Posted December 28, 2011 at 10:00 am | Permalink

                You are right about one thing – Karen Armstrong is an atheist, even though she denies it.

            • Posted December 28, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

              “One piece of evidence is that there is no evidence humans are collections of molecules.”

              No Evidence? Here’s a picture of a molecule, does that count? http://www.mizozo.com/tech/08/2009/30/first-picture-of-a-molecule-taken.html

              Or are atomic force microscopes invalid vessels of revelation and therefore don’t count?

              And I guess the atom bomb is a myth? You really hopped on the train to crazy town with that one. I suppose if you deny the fundamental principals of existence anything becomes possible, even God.

              • Posted December 28, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

                Not sure he’s worth the time and effort. He’s the sort to take some “homeopathic remedy” exactly because it claims to include enzymes… After all, enzymes aren’t molecules, right? They’re sciency-sounding things with magical properties.

                It’s the sort of mentality I call st00pid (double-0 stupid, licensed to die). His disrespect for science will make him too suspicious of physicians to see one when it counts or trust what one tells him — that is, before it’s too late.

                And when they put children at risk, interfere with public education, breach separation of church and state, or cause what I consider any other “mortal signs”, I simply hope they rest in peace… soon.

              • Posted December 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

                “They” meaning people who choose to be st00pid.

        • Rob
          Posted December 26, 2011 at 7:11 am | Permalink

          Disproven.

          There are plenty of events without causes (see: Quantum Mechanics)

          The sum total of energy and matter in the Universe is 0, so there’s no violation of conservation.

        • Tulse
          Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:55 am | Permalink

          Why must the cause be an infinite being? Why is it necessary for the cause to have an intellect?

        • Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

          What is the basis of your assertion that finite beings need a cause? It seems you pull that right out of thin air. If otherwise, please provide reasonable grounds (i.e., not rationalized, metaphysical,groundless excuse for further argument based on nothing).

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted December 26, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

          That flunks Physics 101, since there is plenty of objects that have no “cause”, but are results of a process. That includes systems that tunnel into existence up to and including individual humans that are results of evolution and their interactions with their natural environment (including other humans).

          In short, “cause” has no observable physical connotation. (As opposed to, say, causality.) It is a failed philosophical term.

        • Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          Maybe the metaphysics of Aquinas or some other genius who has, unfortunately, been massively superceded. Perhaps less planting in this old garden and reading, I dunno, even Descartes, would disabuse you of some of this hoary stuff.

          Reading contemporary materialist metaphysics (e.g. Armstrong, Bunge …) might head-explode, so …

    • Rob
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink

      What historical Jesus? There’s squat evidence.

      What mind/body problem? It’s handled quite fine in modern neurology.

      Lots of people also believed that the sun went around the earth. Didn’t make it any more correct.

    • FrankN.Stein
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      Hark the Christmas Troll sing….

      • microraptor
        Posted December 27, 2011 at 12:46 am | Permalink

        Rather appropriately, Crazy Train just started playing on my iPod.

        I mean, wow, the arguments I’ve just seen make “look at the trees!” seem sophisticated.

    • Jack van Beverningk
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      1) The large number of people who believe in life-after-death.

      Did you reduce that large number by that large number of people who believe in life-after-death, but NOT that “baby Jesus is alive”? (What do you mean with “baby Jesus is alive” anyway? You can’t mean that literally).
      1.5 billion Muslims come to mind, to mention just one group.

      Also, considering the same type of reason: may we know your view on astrology? And re-incarnation.

      2) The historical Jesus

      Compare “I believe the shroud of Turin bears the actual impression of Jesus Christ for this reason: 1) The historical shroud.” (i.e. There is a shroud somewhere with what looks like an image on it).

      I read the essay.
      The most astounding information I found on your website was, I’m sorry to say, that you appear to have a Ph.D. in Physics.
      But then .. ‘Religion poisons everything’.

      • Erp
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        Strictly speaking Muslims generally do think Jesus is alive and in fact never died (someone else was crucified). However they consider him a prophet not god.

        • Kevin
          Posted December 26, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

          Well, I think if you ask a Muslim, he’d probably say that Jesus died in the “usual” way — but out of sight of the chroniclers.

          So no, I don’t think Muslims believe Jesus is a 2000-year-old man, walking around Tel Aviv somewhere.

          (Cue Mel Brooks).

    • Posted December 26, 2011 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      You have got to be joking. I mean, nobody, even the gods-soaked, can be that stupid.

      The cosmological “argument” is an introductory textbook example of bad logic, and Jesus is a textbook example of an ahistorical figure. You might as well declare your undying allegiance to Dumbledore because so many pre-teens have a crush on Emma Watson and because Plato proved that the Largest Prime Number is really, truly out there, somewhere — it just has to be.

      Here’s a free clue for you. Go dig out the cards attached to the presents “Santa” left you yesterday, and compare the handwriting with Mommy’s.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • daveau
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink

        Esqueeze me. Are you dissing Emma Watson? Fiend.

        • Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:15 am | Permalink

          Sorry — no, not at all.

          Ms. Watson is certainly magical. But her magic is an ancient variety that long predates the supernatural. And no cause whatsoever to think that Dumbledore is Hogwarts’s salvation.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • daveau
            Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink

            Well. Alright then. Apology accepted. Rest of the post excellent.

            Wait! Are you telling me Mommy is Santa?…

            • Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:53 am | Permalink

              Nah. Mommy can’t be Santa. Don’t you remember seeing her kissing Santa?

              b&

              • daveau
                Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink

                Sexist.

              • Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

                @ daveau

                Are you assuming a heterosexual kiss?

                /@

              • daveau
                Posted December 26, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

                @ant-

                No, I was thinking of two women. Mommies can be Santa. Go pick on Ben.

              • Posted December 27, 2011 at 2:47 am | Permalink

                @ daveau Oh, you’re right. I misread Ben’s comment. Apologies.

                @ Ben Sexist!

                /@

              • Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:36 am | Permalink

                Hey, guys — back off!

                I wrote that Mommy can’t be Santa. I never wrote a word about Ma.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:44 am | Permalink

                Oh, Ma!

                😀

                /@

              • sasqwatch
                Posted December 27, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

                Yo Yo Ma?

              • Posted December 27, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink

                Yo Yo Ma’s sound is so fat it fills Carnegie Hall….

                b&

      • MosesZD
        Posted December 27, 2011 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        because so many pre-teens have a crush on Emma Watson

        And for good reason! Almost makes we want to be young again… Of course, I’d have to give up Heather Locklear… And Heather aged like a fine champagne…

    • Lord Labakudoss
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Counting muslims and a significant number of non-Christians, more people believe that Jesus died, than those who believe that he did not; so your argument by numbers fails right there, my friend!

      • microraptor
        Posted December 27, 2011 at 12:49 am | Permalink

        In fact, there’s a 180,000 year time period when nobody anywhere in the world believed in Jesus 😉

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

      I believe that baby Jesus is alive for two reasons: 1) The large number of people who believe in life-after-death. 2) The historical Jesus.

      You can certainly believe anything you want in order to confirm that religion and its leaders ask us to be simple minded.

      And indeed. In 1) correlation is not causation, and lo! on the contrary every evidence we have points to that death is death. And in 2) there is no evidence for such a historical person, and lo! on the contrary every evidence we have points to that named religious founders are just tales.

    • Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      I have to call Hitchen’s Razor on all this baby jeebus, infinite/finite beings malarky.

      • Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

        +1

        • Posted December 26, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

          Hitchens’ Laser? +1

          • Posted December 27, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

            I’m finding “Hitchens’ Razor” awkward, and “Hitchens’ Lazer” brilliant as it is, also vocally awkward. “Hitchens’ Rule” seems more workable. Anyone? Thoughts?

            • Dermot C
              Posted December 27, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

              Yep, the alveolar voiced fricative, I think you call it, in the ‘z’ sound of the final ‘s’ in ‘Hitchens’ doesn’t sit nicely followed by the liquid vowels of ‘ul’ and ‘ur’.

              I therefore suggest a word beginning with an ‘s’ or any non-sonorant vowel.

              ‘Hitchens’ Synallagmatic.’ adj. mutually or reciprocally obligatory.

              Points in favour; it pastiches, in classical Oxbridge style, similar ideas e.g. Pascal’s Wager; sounds impressive; guaranteed to intimidate the opposition; it’s a neologism which makes sense; once learned, rolls rather pleasingly off the tongue.

              Points against: all the above except the last one.

      • Kharamatha
        Posted December 27, 2011 at 3:36 am | Permalink

        Imma firing my razor?

        • Dermot C
          Posted December 27, 2011 at 3:51 am | Permalink

          Before this Hitchens’ razor/laser phrase becomes part of the language, can anyone reference where and precisely how CH phrased it? I have seen several slightly differing versions.

          I always worry about famous quotations being not quite as their authors proclaimed them; let’s get it bang-on right.

    • Juan
      Posted February 8, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      “OMG” i thought he was starting with a funny or humorous line then he got all serious. LMAO

      so funny

  2. Stephen P
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Give him his due – he gives one very good piece of advice:

    We must set aside our false certainties …

    Just a shame that he doesn’t apparently have any intention of following his own advice.

  3. Posted December 26, 2011 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    “…in the Church’s interest to ask this, for it’s by the abnegation of reason alone that Catholicism survives….”

    It is one of the holy tactics of many parasitoids to paralyse some neurological capacities of their victims in order to make their own survival more possible …

    This old , very tired and sick man tells nothing new …He also beliefs very strongly in his own delusions and hopes to still survive some new year(s) …?

  4. Posted December 26, 2011 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    “our false certainties, our intellectual pride” = theology

    ” let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped” except for the property of the Church

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:19 am | Permalink

      LOL!!!!!!!!!

    • microraptor
      Posted December 27, 2011 at 12:53 am | Permalink

      You know, I was wondering, as I saw the news article on CNN last night, if anyone else was noticing the irony of the pope, in his fine robes and gilded golden icons, to be talking about the importance of not being deceived and distracted by all the false glitter at Christmas.

      • Kharamatha
        Posted December 27, 2011 at 3:38 am | Permalink

        The man was bit by a radioactive christmas-tree.

  5. daveau
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    We must bend down over, … in order to pass through the portal of faith…

    There. All fixed.

    We’ve already established that they’re stupid, now we’re finding out exactly how much.

    • PCS
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:17 am | Permalink

      Ha, brilliant!!

    • Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      Very close…but it’s not so much that we’ve established that they’re stupid, but that they’re gullible, and the Pope is continuing to extract the maximum profit possible from the marks.

      That’s all his “Christmas Message” is — the age-old confidence scam. “Trust me, and pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

      b&

      • daveau
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        I was kinda runnin’ with JC’s premise. I agree it’s more gullibility than stupidity.

        Pedant. 😉

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      +1. Brilliant, and how fitting!

    • Posted December 26, 2011 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

      Or how about, “We must all bend the facts … in order to pass through the portal of faith.”?

  6. Posted December 26, 2011 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    In spite of the Catholic church’s much vaunted support for promoting education, my experience as a young person was that several of the most devout members told me that education was a great distraction to Faith.

    Most of them would not have been so crass as to suggest avoiding graduating high school or university, but they did speak of it a little disapprovingly, as something that muddled the minds of the devout and was best compartmentalized off into a separate box when contemplating all things to do with Faith.

    They weren’t wrong either. Education about the origins of the bible and the history of the Church was devastating to my belief. Thank god 🙂

  7. Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    I really don’t see how Catholic’s are so convinced that their religion doesn’t demand them to be sheep, the thoughtless flock who slaughter their independence for the barely hopeful belief that they might live forever.

    They listen to this message the same as we do, do they really hear something different to us?

    • Alexander Hellemans
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 8:09 am | Permalink

      “I really don’t see how Catholic’s are so convinced that their religion doesn’t demand them to be sheep,”

      Are they? Pastor, or “pastore” in current Italian, means shepherd. And are the parishioners not called the “flock” ?

      Being a sheep (or simpleminded) is a virtue in Catholicism. Don’t they get easier through the eye of a needle?

      • MadScientist
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        I guess with religious enlightenment they believe that it’s easier for a sheep than a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. The rest of us just shake our heads and go “that’s still got to be one huge goddamned needle”.

      • Posted December 26, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        I am referring to a recent event in Australia concerning a very great man, Father Bob. Father Bob has spent his life helping Australian youth that are displaced, drug addicted and subject to similar unfortunate circumstances.

        He is known as a rebel priest, and has often come against the church for certain practices. He is well know for his ‘practical attitude’

        He is getting old though, and now at 77 the church has demanded he retire. In response there is a petition circulating the net to have him reinstated, and he has said he hopes that people will stand behind him.

        I go into more about it here http://bethecog.blogspot.com/2011/12/is-catholic-church-best-place-for.html

        That the people get to choose or impact what choices are made by the clergy higher up? That sounds like democracy to me. I don’t ever remember anything like that in the bible.

        • Marella
          Posted December 26, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

          Father Bob is just about the best thing I know about the catholic church. He’s also caused the church more trouble than anyone since Luther (maybe I exaggerate but he hierarchy hates him).

      • microraptor
        Posted December 27, 2011 at 12:56 am | Permalink

        Well, the Church certainly spends plenty of time and effort trying to fleece them.

    • Persto
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      Nietzsche stated,”What is the difference between someone who is convinced and one who is deceived? None, if he is well deceived.”

      I don’t think I need to add anything to that.

  8. DV
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    The pope is of course just repeating the notion that faith is a virtue. Anyone who’s ever spoken with a an otherwise intelligent but religious person knows this is such a pernicious meme, it makes the religious impervious to any rational argument. They can be shown to their agreement that their beliefs are completely irrational, without proof, nonsensical, stupid even – and that just makes their believing more virtuous!

  9. Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    “the God who conceals himself in the humility of a newborn baby.”

    If you read “conceals” as “hides” or “disguises,”doesn’t that indicate that god is pretending to be different than he really is?

    • Posted December 26, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      Yet another example of Christian bait-and-switch mentality.
      Christian charity: Starving? No problem. Come to us, and we’ll give you a box full of food to take home to your family — just as soon as you pray with us in Jeebus name.
      Teens with nothing to do? Free party, free band, free drinks (yeah, Koolaid). Come, get swept up in the peer pressure to pray in Jeebus name.
      Need I go on?

      • Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        Hence the bit about even a clergyman complaining: “if you feed the poor you’re called a saint, if you ask why the poor have no food, you’re called a communist.”

    • Kharamatha
      Posted December 27, 2011 at 3:41 am | Permalink

      If I’m playing a Rogue, I look for concealment to get my Backstab and Sneak Attack damage bonus dice.

      • Posted December 27, 2011 at 5:03 am | Permalink

        +1d4!

      • microraptor
        Posted December 27, 2011 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        Hmm, that would explain all the evasion and uncanny dodging the Church does whenever there’s a scandal.

  10. Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    I believe there is a God.
    With my math background there are things that seem to make more sense to me like devine healing when I use the example of drawing a 2D stick man and having to change some characteristic, if that stick person were alive, it would be miraculous since my eraser comes in from an angle they are unaware of.
    Similarly, at 4D or greater being could do the same into our lives and be able to change things.

    So education and faith aren’t diametrically opposed in my view.

    When I see the incredible miracles that have taken place in my life, when I knowh the experiences that I have been able to have, I know that since I have started to have a relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that things have been different.

    If I were to say I totally understand how God does what He does, then I would be putting Him inside some box that is much smaller than He.

    However, if you want to consider all the facts of the Bible and the number of authors that wrote them across so many years and to have them all be in alignment and not contradict each other and then on top of that to be able to see that the information has continued to be true all these years that alone is a miracle and the more that science has tried to disprove, the more proofs that it is true appear.

    When you look at nature and its incredible beauty, how can one not be amazed and believe that God created it all.

    Merry Christmas and the how we got from Day 1 to now, we can ask God for more details when we see Him in heaven.

    DAY 1:
    1 IN THE beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters.3 And God said, Let there be light; and there was light.4 And God saw that the light was good (suitable, pleasant) and He approved it; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

    • Rob
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Personal incredulity is not a reason for god.

      Never mind the creation story in the bible is completely out of order.

      • Posted December 27, 2011 at 6:57 am | Permalink

        Personal experiences like the ones I have had provided evidence along with my relationship I have daily with Him do. If you would like more detail and conversation on my story please stop by my blog and I would be happy to share more of my stories about how God spoke into my life and has orchestrated many things in my life and continues to.

        • Posted December 27, 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

          Great. And, you make profits off your blog, right? So you devilishly (pun quite intended) tempt us there to continue to argue wtih you? No, thank you. At least, not until you provide serious rationale for argumentation. God spoke to you? Well, then, tell him I can’t hear him, and if he’s so all powerful, then it is up to him to fix that — him, and not you.

        • Posted December 27, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

          Tell the world that you’re in communication with an unevidenced personality that tells you what to do, and you’ll rightly be treated for schizophrenia.

          Give your invisible friend the name of a favored local deity, and you’ll be hailed as a prophet and a seer.

          I’ve yet to figure out how that dichotomy works.

          Cheers,

          b&

        • Posted December 27, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

          “orchestrated many things in my life and continues to”

          This is the theistic attitude I find most revolting. It is the epitome of a myopic, self-centered existence. THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE IN THE WORLD! To say that things, especially good things that occur in your life are part of some divine guidance or intervention (whether it be God, Karma, Allah, the universe, whatever) is to say that anyone less fortunate than yourself, who suffers hardships, diseases, oppression, and hunger must therefore NOT have let Jesus into their hearts and therefore has turned away the eye of God or at most invited his wrath. Children in Africa die of starvation every day, and many of them are prostrated before the cross committing their hearts to Jesus. How DARE you besmirch their piety, their struggle by sitting in your privileged armchair and accounting the fruits of your privilege, your position in the cultural lottery, to a loving God who in some way favors you above others! What bile! What a wretched worldview! There can never be a loving, personal God in a world with such misery! Such are the thoughts of a simple mind. Go visit the cancer ward at your local pediatric hospital. Witness the suffering, and then dare to place a Mother-Teresa-esque emphasis on suffering for Jesus!

          It is this mode of (non)thought that most debilitates the religious mind and prevents it from accepting the rest of the world as it is. It is the absolute absurdity of a personal, interventionist deity that drives me to atheism, for, beyond that description, any “first cause” god is hardly worth contemplating and utterly irrelevant considering the scope of theistic delusion.

          Your piety might be top notch, but your humanity needs some work. Try thinking clearly about the events in your life, and have some sympathy for those who do not share in your fortune, for to dismiss them is to judge them in light of the divine intention in which you bathe your own existence.

          Besides, a large percentage of the events in our lives, as close-knit as our society has become, must derive from human agents. If a human agent brought forth an event which you attribute to God, then God manipulated that human agent in order to bring about that event, ergo, free will goes right out the window.

          • Posted December 27, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

            +2

          • Mary
            Posted December 28, 2011 at 9:53 am | Permalink

            Accurate and well said…bang on!

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      Wow, Phil – a word salad of nonsense! I enjoyed your fantasy of made up lies. Once again, we have someone who thinks incredulity is an argument. It just shows ignorance and a bad imagination.

      • Mary
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        And repetition (parroting) of the mythology is somehow very satisfying to those who have absorbed the language of incredulity.

      • Posted December 27, 2011 at 6:55 am | Permalink

        My comments are more a story of what I have experienced which has provided me with evidence towards the conclusion that I have come to. It has built up my faith and belief to where I am today. Not lies but life experiences. Hope you have a great day Bob and would be happy to share more just drop by my blog and we can chat.

        • Posted December 27, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

          Oh, good, @Phil: That means you’re leaving us, right? Or, I could put it this way:
          Here’s your hat. What’s your hurry?

        • Mary
          Posted December 28, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

          Your invitation sounds so scuzzy

    • Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      Idle curiosity. You sound like just the right person to answer a question that’s been bugging me for a while.

      Who was Joseph’s father? Please cite chapter and verse, all relevant passages, if you don’t mind.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

        Matthew 1:1-17 seems to be the right place to answer your question. Hope that helps.

        Have a great day and feel free to stop by my blog if you would like to discuss further.

        • Dermot C
          Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:28 am | Permalink

          Oh dear, Phil, you fell into the trap.

          Matthew has Jacob (Matthew 1:16) and Luke has Heli (Luke 3:23), as Joseph the carpenter’s father.

          Behold, the inerrant word of the Lord.

          • Posted December 27, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

            Dermot and Ben – you should know that there is an obvious answer, laid out carefully by the church here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07204b.htm 🙂

            • Posted December 27, 2011 at 11:01 am | Permalink

              How brashly they lie! The claim in the Catholic Encyclopedia is that Heli and Jacob were brothers; were that so, they would have had the same father. Yet Jacob’s father (according to Matthew) was Matthan bar Eleazar, while Luke’s Heli’s father was Matthat bar Levi.

              As with all such sorriness, the goal is not a rational evaluation of the evidence, but a comforting continuation of the con.

              Cheers,

              b&

          • Posted December 27, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

            +1

        • Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:34 am | Permalink

          Well, sure. Matthew 1:16 clearly states, “And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

          But the part that I’ve never been able to figure out is why Luke 3:23 would then go on to insist that “[then] Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli.”

          So, which is it? You seem pretty confident that Jacob was Joseph’s father, which must mean that you’re equally confident that Luke is spreading horrible lies when he claims that Heli was Joseph’s father instead. What’s your evidence that Luke was the liar, and not Matthew?

          Or…are they perhaps both right? Did Joseph have two daddies?

          If you can clear this up, you’d go a long ways towards convincing us that you yourself aren’t the liar you’ve already made yourself out to be.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Dermot C
            Posted December 27, 2011 at 8:07 am | Permalink

            Did you notice, Phil, that Ben Goren and I came up with the same substantive point, even though we have never met? I think that illustrates a little something about attention to detail, honesty and an aversion to making things up, don’t you?

          • Posted December 27, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

            Perhaps, during the intervening years between the Matthew and Luke telling, Jacob and Heli got the whole thing sorted out on Maury Povich. Perhaps Mary wasn’t the only one with the whole “immaculate conception” story.

            • Mary
              Posted December 28, 2011 at 9:57 am | Permalink

              lol

            • Mary
              Posted December 28, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

              Lol!

            • Posted December 28, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

              Too funny!

    • Notagod
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      There’s a packet full of questions you have there with respect to the sicko goddie that you prostrate to. It would appear that your prayers haven’t answered even one of them.

      Tell me though, have you stripped away your fixation on what is material as your Pope Benedict XVI has asked, so he can rape your little hinny? If you are older than ten it would seem that you have missed the catholic hinny window.

      • Posted December 27, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

        I am not a Catholic, so not to up to date with the Pope. Sorry I can’t help you there. My original comments are based on my life experiences and I can extrapolate more with you if you would like to visit my blog we can take them up there. I have many testimonies towards what and how He has been a part of my life and has worked in and through it.

        Thanks and have a great day.

        • Posted December 27, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink

          Testamonies. They’re worth… what?

          • Posted December 27, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

            I don’t know, but I’m sure he’ll tell you on his blog.

        • Mary
          Posted December 28, 2011 at 10:00 am | Permalink

          Still sounds scuzzy!

    • Jack van Beverningk
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      if you want to consider all the facts of the Bible and the number of authors that wrote them across so many years and to have them all be in alignment and not contradict each other and then on top of that to be able to see that the information has continued to be true all these years that alone is a miracle

      IF all the authors had their facts straight and aligned their stories, omitting contradictions, then, NO, that would STILL not be a miracle at all. (Why would it?).

      But, in case of the Bible, that isn’t even the case. Not even close. It’s FULL of non-factional fictions, nonaligned stories and contradictions. Before you start making such obviously silly comments about the Bible, you should first read it. You don’t even have to read beyond Genesis to run into your first contradictions and nonaligned stories (not to mention non-facts).

      • microraptor
        Posted December 27, 2011 at 1:00 am | Permalink

        Hell, you don’t even have to read beyond the second page of Genesis to run into the first contradictions and nonaligned stories.

        • Posted December 27, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

          Please explain? What contradictions and nonaligned stories?

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

            Did God make Man (Gen 1:26 v. Gen 2:7) before or after the beasts of the field and the birds of the air (Gen 1:20 & 1:24 v. Gen 2:19)?

            /@

          • Posted December 27, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

            Please, tell me you’re joking, @Phil. You can type and spell, but you can’t read? Read your bible out loud, if you have to, and compare pages side by side. If you don’t recognize the obvious, in the very beginning (b’reishit, or “Genesis” as it were), then you might as well claim anencephalic.

    • daveau
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      However, if you want to consider all the facts of the Bible and the number of authors that wrote them across so many years and to have them all be in alignment and not contradict each other…

      Not even close to being correct. They all copied off each other, and they still got it wrong.

    • Jack van Beverningk
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      the more that science has tried to disprove, the more proofs that it is true appear.

      What exactly did science try to disprove (‘science’ doesn’t try to disprove anything!), and which proofs about what (“it”?) then ‘appeared’? Can you give an example?

      I’m sorry, but this is just gobbledygook.

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

        How about the crossing of the red sea on dry ground when the Egyptions were chasing them? http://www.arkdiscovery.com/red_sea_crossing.htm shows they found remenance of the army at the bottom of the read sea for one example.

        Hope you have a great day and feel free to visit my blog where we can continue to chat if you so desire.

        • Dermot C
          Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:33 am | Permalink

          Flat out untrue; proper Israeli archaeologists have looked found not a shred of evidence of the drowned Egyptians.

          • Dermot C
            Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:54 am | Permalink

            erratum: ‘looked and found…’

        • MosesZD
          Posted December 27, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink

          lol.

          It DID NOT HAPPEN!!!

          And the whole story is hogwash Egypt, during the time that supposedly happened, owned all of the Sinai desert (having outposts all over it within one day’s walk of each other) as well as what would later become Israel. In fact, the border extended all the way to Syria!

          And the Sinai desert, despite hundreds of years of Western Archelogy trying, has yet to find one shred of credible archaeological evidence showing the constant habitation of the desert by 600,000 people for 40 years. No coprolites, no pottery, no broken tools, no graves, no tombs, no evidence of the detritus we would expect of 40-years of wandering. Nothing.

          We can find all kinds of evidence of habitation, including ally those Egyptian forts. But not any evidence for the 600K wandering Jews…

          And it’s not like it’s that big. It’s only the size of West Virginia in a climate that is exceptionally good at preserving human artifacts.

    • phhht
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      “I believe there is a God.”

      Why do you believe that? There is not the slightest bit of unequivocal, empirical evidence for the existence of gods, none whatsoever. Such evidence comprises most of what we know about the world, so it’s quite common. Why is there none for gods?

      “When I see the incredible miracles that have taken place in my life, when I knowh the experiences that I have been able to have, I know that since I have started to have a relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that things have been different.”

      How do you know that your interpretation of events isn’t – well, let’s say, mistaken? How do you know that your “relationship” is any more real than my relationship with the Fantastic Four? After all, I’ve been able to have lots of inexplicable experiences since I began the relationship. Everything changed then and has never been the same since.

      “When you look at nature and its incredible beauty, how can one not be amazed and believe that God created it all.”

      I look at nature and its incredible beauty, and I am amazed. But I don’t see the hand of Reed Richards at work, even though he can stretch his body to incredible shapes.

      Your beliefs strike me as typical religious delusion. I assume you accept the injunction of faith to believe without evidence, or in spite of contradictory evidence. Well, I believe in the Fantastic Four, despite all the evidence that they are fictional. Why are your beliefs any more defensible than my own?

      • Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

        I didn’t go into the details of all the miracles that have taken place in my life, just giving an overview of them as it would take a lot of time and more space than a comment box could provide since I didn’t want to overload this person’s blog posting with my story. I would be happy to share more of it with you if you would like to visit my blog with your questions/concerns and hear more of my story.

        I have a story related to my promised son.
        I have a story about being put into a position of leadership in my old community
        I have a story about finding my house, my job and the “randomly assigned” real estate agent whose parents lived 15 minutes from my old house.
        And many many more over the years, including people being healed and coming back to life.

        Thanks again.

        • Notagod
          Posted December 27, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

          LOL! Thanks for that. A least you are good at comedy Phill. You should consider examining what can be accomplished without miracles though, you will be truly amazed.

          • Dermot C
            Posted December 27, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

            Yes, it’s the ‘…this person’s blog posting…’, referring to one of the world’s foremost biologists, that I particularly admire. Splendidly denigrating in its brevity and understatement and imbued with witheringly acute dismissal.

    • Rob
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      Not contradict? Dude, read from the beginning. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 don’t even agree with each other.

      A more comprehensive list WARNING: Large PDF

    • Posted December 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      And what do you say of your god’s handling of the true believers starved, drowned, frozen, or burned to death by “acts of god” such as extreme droughts, tsunamis, ice storms and prolonged subfreezing temperatures without heat, and volcanoes and house fires? Does your god treat you better than his other believers? If so, why? How about the nonbelievers he treats better than you? Bill Gates for one obvous example.

      • Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:22 am | Permalink

        We live in a fallen world. The Bible even tells us that in this world we will, not may, not could, but will have problems. And in all honesty the last year I went through one of those valley times. I wouldn’t say he treats them better, but He is looking for good stewards and Bill seems to be doing a pretty good job at giving away money to help causes. I can’t say if he is a nonbeliever as you call out, however, it may just be that he is a work in progress just like me and everyone else up until the day we die in the physical world and move on to what’s next.

        If you would like to hear more of my story, please visit my blog and let me know.

        Have a great day.

        • MosesZD
          Posted December 27, 2011 at 9:05 am | Permalink

          lol.

          Yes, the ‘get of out jail card.’

          Here’s the deal, when you play that card, you’ve LOST the argument. You’re just saying ‘because.’

          And you never answer the question: “Why didn’t God set it up so that kind of stupidity didn’t happen?”

          I mean, really, what a STUPID FUCKING SYSTEM. If the Earth were God’s Freshman “World Creation Design Project” for “Introduction to Godding” at God U, his faculty advisor would suggest a major change…

        • Posted December 27, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

          So, your god treats you better than millions of others as a whim? Then, there is no such thing as justice. And you want me to visit your blog? As if!

        • Dermot C
          Posted December 27, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

          @ Phil,

          ‘…it may just be that he is a work in progress just like me and everyone else up until the day we die in the physical world…’

          Phil, this is Gnosticism, not post-Nicene, or post-Augustinian Christianity. You ought to know that orthodox Christian teaching on the afterlife posits that those called to heaven are to be reconfigured bodily at about the same age as the Christ at His death. Your phrase ‘…in the physical world…’ implies, as per Gnosticism, that the material world is illusory and that the realm of the spirit is the true one; therefore, that the dead return to the sphere of the spirit.

          I think you need to clarify your beliefs, before schooling the unbelievers in the ways of the Book.

          And by the way, I’m having a great day; thanks for your imperative.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      I believe there is a God.

      Breaking Hitchens’ Razor: “what can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

      Empirical Score: – 100.

      With my math background

      Wow. That is as terrible as a philosophy background to try to make sense of empirical things. I am not saying it is impossible, just that much harder.

      ES: – 40.

      at 4D or greater being could do the same into our lives

      Not by breaking physical laws. That is exactly what string theory, so far a theoretical physics “math” theory, tells us.

      ES: – 10.

      So education and faith aren’t diametrically opposed in my view.

      Education is in the business to replace beliefs with facts, religion is in the business to replace facts with beliefs.

      ES: – 20.

      If I were to say I totally understand how God does what He does, then I would be putting Him inside some box that is much smaller than He.

      Physicalism can be claimed and tested without ever referencing religion, still cutting it off entirely.

      ES: – 5.

      the more that science has tried to disprove, the more proofs that it is true appear.

      Science doesn’t try do proofs and disproofs, it does testing and successfully so.

      ES: – 5.

      When you look at nature and its incredible beauty, how can one not be amazed and believe that God created it all.

      Again breaking Hitchens’ Razor in the same format but with new wording.

      ES: – 100.

      [inane religious textual posturing]

      No such facts is in evidence.

      ES: – 5.

      Unless I lost score, that is a new fantastic Empirical Score of negative (!) 285 points. Evidently then Phil doesn’t know a fact from what he digs out of his ass.

      Say, exactly why did you post on a science blog again?

      • Posted December 26, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        ++++++++++++1 !

      • Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:25 am | Permalink

        I know the life I have lived and the stories that I have experienced. I didn’t go into all the detail, but thanks for the vote of confidence above. If you would like more details, please visit my blog and we can discuss my experiences rather than dismissing some comments I abreviated above.

        Have a great day.

    • Persto
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Miracles and divine healing. Haha. Will you ask an amputee if god can make his appendage grow back? To my knowledge this miracle has never occurred. Does god not love amputees?

    • Posted December 26, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

      “The Spirit of God was moving (hovering [For a moment I thought you’d written Hoovering – a pretty image], brooding) over the face of the waters.3 And God said, Let there be light; ”

      So there was water before there was electromagnetic radiation? First mistake, right there.

    • Filippo
      Posted December 27, 2011 at 4:06 am | Permalink

      How long ago was Day 1? How do you know that?

      Does the Earth go around the sun? How do you know? Do you think that Giordano Bruno should have gone to the stake for his opinion about the matter?

      Do you agree with the Apostle Paul that a wife should “submit” to her husband?

      • Posted December 27, 2011 at 6:50 am | Permalink

        That is an interesting question as the Bible also teaches that for a God a day is a thousand and a thousand days can be like one. So I am not sure.

        Your science question seems interesting as we know about the orbits of the planets and moons, about gravity and the likes. The part about Giordano Bruno I had to look up to get more context and from what I found it wasn’t his opinion of the universe that got him killed, but his disbelief in Jesus. (re: http://www.answers.com/topic/giordano-bruno) Should he have been burned at the stake, I wouldn’t think so or many people today would be in that boat. I know what has taken place in my life and what I have seen, and that was all I commented on above. The comments in return seemed extreme in most cases, which almost seem like because of my thoughts and feedback some of those people would want to reinstate burning at the stake, but for the reverse reason.

        To make sure we have context for your “submit” question:

        21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. 24 Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, 27 so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. 33 Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.

        So in this context, the husband should love his wife as Christ loves the church – Christ gave his life, so that is quite the love. The Bible teaches about alignmentment and so having alignment within the family helps ensure the covering over the family. We see here that the wife is to respect her husband. Submit we see described as the wife being subject to her husband in order for the alignment to be there.

        It is truly just telling the husband and the wife to submit to one another and to serve one another.

        Thanks Filippo for the great questions. Feel free to comment on my site if you would like further discussions.
        Phil

        • Dermot C
          Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

          ‘Should he have been burned at the stake, I wouldn’t think so or many people today would be in that boat.’

          ‘The Bible teaches about alignmentment and so having alignment within the family helps ensure the covering over the family.’

          ‘Feel free to comment on my site if you would like further discussions.’

          All quotes from Phil.

          Given the quality of the writing – immolating a heretic sitting in a boat, indeed! – I think I’ll give your website a swerve. If you, Phil, had to write a letter of application in order to set up a blog, I don’t think you’d get to the interview stage. Do you use the dictionary ‘Portuguese as she is spoke’ in order to construct those mangled aperçus, which quite often resemble coherent thoughts?

          • Posted December 27, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

            @Dermot C, you wrote, “I think I’ll give your website a swerve.” Please reconsider. If he makes any profit, don’t let it be off you. Why else would he be chumming here, if not to bring more to his own site.

            • Dermot C
              Posted December 27, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

              British-English vs. American-English misunderstanding: ‘to give sth. a swerve’ means ‘to avoid sth.’ (semi-slang) this side of the pond.

              I assumed it was current in the U.S. So my point was lost; ah, well.

              • microraptor
                Posted December 27, 2011 at 11:42 am | Permalink

                In the US, swerve mans a sharp turn, typically to avoid colliding with something but it can also mean a sudden turn toward something. The latter definition isn’t as common, though, and I figured you were going to treat Phil’s website like a suddenly noticed hole in the road.

              • Dermot C
                Posted December 27, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

                In that case, we mean the same thing; now I’m totally confused.

              • Posted December 28, 2011 at 11:37 am | Permalink

                Oh, good! I apologize for misunderstanding and will know better next time, I promise.

        • paul fauvet
          Posted December 27, 2011 at 8:34 am | Permalink

          The letter of St Paul you quote is Ephesians – but, unfortunately for your argument, it is not by Paul. It is a forgery.

          Biblical scholars have known this for a long time. The authenticity of Ephesians was first queried by Erasmus in the 16th century, and modern scholarship has amply confirmed his doubts.

          The argument is that Ephesians cannot possibly have been written by the same man who wrote the seven letters that are undisputedly Pauline. The style is too different.

          Epphesians uses different vocabulary, and has much longer sentences than is normal in the genuine Pauline letters. In places, it simply copies from another forged letter, Colossians.

          It also contains anachronisms, referring to a powerful church which simply did not exist in the real Paul’s lifetime.

          You really should learn something about the Bible before you start quoting bits of it on an atheist blog.

          And if you deny the power of different styles in determining who wrote a work – modern literature scholars use exactly the same sort of argument to show that Francis Bacon, the Earl of Oxford or Christopher Marlowe could not possibly have written the works of Shakespeare.

  11. colluvial
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Ratzinger is telling his sheeple not to worry their little brains about it. Don’t use reason and intellect because those mental faculties would reveal that he and his organization are populated by pretentious buffoons.

  12. NewEnglandBob
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    The Pope just wants others to stay down on his low intellectual level and not rise above it by using education, logic and reason. He has mishandled every real world problem that faces his cult church.

  13. Filippo
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    For starters, what is not materially-preoccupied if not the pontifical vestments?

    • Mary
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      For starters! They never want to discuss the glitter and bling.

    • MadScientist
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      That’s funny – I was just saying to my wife that it seems strange for a pompous ass who is dressed far better than any king to be telling people they should be humble.

  14. Posted December 26, 2011 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Here’s my translation of the Pope’s message:

    Religion is pure bullshit. Therefore you must develop a taste for bullshit, in order to fully appreciate it. So I am asking you to not only develop a taste, but to become connoisseurs of bullshit.

  15. Rob Bate
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    To be like the holy infant reminds me of an old joke
    “How’d you sleep last night?”
    “Like a baby, I cried all night and wet the bed.”

  16. Rob
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    This has been circulating the net

    let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped

  17. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    then we must dismount from the high horse of our “enlightened” reason… We must follow the interior path of Saint Francis

    Well that’s Pope Benedict’s position. For a different viewpoint, let’s go to Pope Benedict:

    Pope reemphasizes relationship between faith and reason, cites example of St. Thomas Aquinas
    Vatican City, Jan 28, 2007Authentic Christian
    faith does not limit human liberty and reason, he said. Instead, “faith supports reason and perfection; and reason, illuminated by faith, finds strength to raise itself to the knowledge of God.”

    • MadScientist
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      Following the interior path of St Francis sounds sick. Did the pope use a broom or his dick?

    • Posted December 26, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      About that “high horse”… We, viewing the world through science, see so far because we “stand on the shoulders of giants.” The pope and his followers, on the other hand, have an unholy taste for little people, the kind who grow up and, if able to break through their indoctration brain washing, leave the church.

  18. ForCarl
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    David Roemer-

    You may be one of the people that Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he used the term “unintelligible”.

  19. Posted December 26, 2011 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I see that il Papa has always indicated that we must bend down, so that God can be in us. So that is what they did with all those kids.

  20. Jack van Beverningk
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    I propose that, from now on, we refer to the pope as the ‘Supreme Simpleton’.

  21. truthspeaker
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    In other words, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

  22. Jack van Beverningk
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Let us allow ourselves to be made simple ..

    Right.
    After all, we were created in the image of God. How DARE we getting all rational and enlightened!

    Way to go Pope, you’re already way ahead of us .. on the path to being simple.

  23. lola
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I’m not Catholic or religious. I am, however, disturbed by the statement that we should only be “carried away by reason.”

    Humans get “carried away” by art, music, sex, love, amusement park rides, etc. That is as much a part of what it means to be human as the ability to reason. There is no need to suggest that we should relinquish our humanity because we don’t like what the Pope said in a sermon. That is giving the old dude too much power.

    • Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Yes, good point, lola, so let me explain. What I meant is that we shouldn’t be carried away by emotion, or music, or religion, to the extent that it overwhelms our reason. We shouldn’t accept the tenets of Catholicism, for example, if they violate our notion of whether masturbation is harmless. We shouldn’t be carried away in love if we love someone who is bad for us. And so on.

      • lola
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

        That I can totally agree with. Unreasoning beliefs like religion, nationalism, racism, etc. have killed millions of innocent people. Self-destructive love affairs are never pretty.

        My problem is that destructive love affairs, bizarre beliefs, have also been catalysts for many a work of art. Bach’s unreasoning Lutheranism is intertwined with his music. Without the religiosity, we wouldn’t have the music. Without Dante’s obsession with a woman, religion, and city state, we wouldn’t have the Divine Comedy. Jonathan Swift was not entirely sane, most definitely a religious misanthrope. Those qualities were the catalyst for his works. Alfred Hitchcock had all sorts of problems with women, and those problems enrich his films. Tolkien’s LOTR is the work of a religious, racist, nationalist man. Without his religion, racism, and nationalism, you wouldn’t have the trilogy.

        It’s all very confusing.

        • keith
          Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:57 am | Permalink

          yes, indeed! we are wonderfully complex creatures 😉

          That said, becoming more reasonable as a species strikes me as the best way to navigate current social and global realities. I don’t think more reason means the end of human creativity.

        • Persto
          Posted December 26, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

          I hate this argument. Why do people think if you removed the delusional beliefs of great artists there contributions would have been diminished; rather than improved upon?

          As Schweitzer stated,”As we acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible, but more mysterious.” Losing their idiotic beliefs would have enhanced their creativity not weakened it. Gould declared,”Nothing is more dangerous than a dogmatic worldview-nothing more constraining, more blinding to innovation, more destructive to openness of novelty.”

  24. Gary Kirkpatrick
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    This is what the best Catholic minds have to offer? It’s gibberish. You’d think after 2000+ years of trying to figure out what god is they’d give up and find something useful to do. Good grief!

  25. Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Oh, please, people. The pope does not represent all of Christendom. That’s why there are so many denominations (because REAL Christians saw that pseudo-Christians weren’t believing the truth of God’s word). Anyone who claims to be interested in science should definitely look up Dr. Kent Hovind. He utterly blows you evolutionists into the dust.

    • Mary
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      Right. Everyone should look up Dr. Hovine who is a complete kook. Dr. “Dino” and his wife are in prison for tax evasion, I hear.

    • Rob
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      You’re pulling out Hovind? Here??

      BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

      You’re sort of right about dust. He’s been repeatedly ground into it.

      • microraptor
        Posted December 27, 2011 at 1:13 am | Permalink

        Hovind’s been kicked in the face so many times that at some point he appears to have acquired a taste for boot leather.

    • Kevin
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      Poe.

  26. paul fauvet
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    “The God who conceals himself in the humility of a newborn baby” – is Ratzinger really unaware that all this stuff about Baby Jesus is a late addition to the Gospels?

    Two of the gospels (Mark and John) have nothing at all to say about Christ’s birth, and Matthew and Luke tell nativity stories that are wildly divergent (the Annunciation in is Luke, but not Matthew, the mysterious star and the massacre of the innocents are in Matthew, but not Luke etc.)

    Most Catholics don’t know this, of course, because they don’t bother to read the bible. For centuries priests have run Luke and Matthew together as if the nativity narrative was a seamless whole, and not two contradictory stories.

    Clearly the gospels started with a series of sayings and miracles attributed to a radical preacher named Jesus, and as the cult grew the followers wanted to know where and how he was born.

    So legends sprang up, giving the man-god an appropriately miraculous origin, and millennia later we are saddled with the shoddy, intellectually dishonest (but commercially very profitable) consequences.

    • Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      The historical Jesus was a Jewish prophet who preached the coming of the kingdom of God. He was an exorcist and a healer. His followers swore up and down that He appeared to them after he died.

      Jesus saved mankind for meaning because He taught that our purpose in life is to serve God in this world to be with him in the next.

      He founded the Catholic Church, which gave us Western civilization.

      • phhht
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        What hooey!

        I call on you, David Roemer, to repudiate the false, murderous doctrine of faith healing.

        If you do not, you stand four-square with the baby killers of the Followers of Christ church of Klackamas County, Oregon.

        I know that your religion numbs your conscience and anesthetizes your rationality, but surely even you can see how demented, how damaging, how murderous, such a claim can be.

        • Kharamatha
          Posted December 27, 2011 at 3:48 am | Permalink

          Faith healing? Guy just moved from “quaint distraction” to “problem”.

          Frown activated.

      • Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        <snork />

        Good one!

        Got any evidence to back up such laughably idiotic claims?

        And, while you’re at it, any good explanation for why not a single one of the literally libraries’s worth of documents contemporary to that period even pretends to vaguely hint at something that could possibly be mistraken for anything remotely like your Zombie of Zion, even if you squint especially hard? Or why all the documentation we do have about He Who Likes Having His Intestines Fondled portrays him as just another pagan death-and-resurrection demigod? And why the early Christians are universally portrayed as witless gullible idiots who wouldn’t recognize a shell game if the pea was glowing neon?

        Cheers,

        b&

      • Rob
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:09 am | Permalink

        Paul founded the church. Where’s your evidence for Jesus?

        FYI, documented kiddy fiddling in the church is older than the new testament.

      • paul fauvet
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        The Catholic Church gave us civilisation? Haven’t you ever heard of any pre-christian civilisations – ancient Egypt, Sumeria, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, China. And, of course, the direct ancestors of western civilisation – Athens and Rome.

        Works of literature much more profound than anything in the badly edited mess that is the bible can be found in the plays of the Greek tragedians, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. And Herodutus and Thucydides wrote history that was not the mere religious propaganda that makes stuff like the Books of Kings, or Chronicles so unreliable.

        Jesus “saved mankind for meaning” – what is that supposed to mean? I find my own life, without Jesus, but with my partner, my children, my friends, the pleasant chicken meal I have just eaten, and the bottle of beer now in front of me perfectly meaningful.

        And what is Jesus saving us from? Are you going to try and frighten us with tales of hell an eternal damnation? Or bribe us with offers of eternal bliss?

      • MadScientist
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        The funny thing is that there never even was a Jesus and yet people invented stories about his birth and so on. See, Harry Potter was a moggle child who was adept at prestedigitation and had a large following who trumpeted his miracles. Long after his demise people wanted to know more about him, so JK Rowling wrote a series of books.

        • Posted December 26, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

          Muggle, not moggle. But he wasn’t. 😉

          /@

          • Posted December 26, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

            Right. Both his parents were muggles but not Harry Potter, himself.

            • Posted December 26, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

              No: HP’s parents were both wizards. Hermione’s were muggles, though.

              /@

              • Posted December 26, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

                Oh, yes, you’re right! HP’s parents and Hermione Granger were born of muggles, making them half-bloods, right?

            • Rob
              Posted December 26, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

              Both of his parents were wizards, not muggles.

            • Posted December 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

              Clearly DocAtheist hasn’t read much sophisticated figulology…

              /@

              • Posted December 26, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

                Oh, dear! Did I get it wrong, again? It’s been so long since I read any Harry Potter, I’m blushing as I hang my head in shame.

              • Posted December 26, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

                Oh, I wasn’t referring to your 3:39 pm comment… but yes you did.

                Hermione was a “mudblood”; a half-blood is someone with both muggles and wizards in their ancestry!

                /@

              • Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:51 am | Permalink

                I really must start, again, and re-read the series. I miss it, anyway. Thanks for correcting me. I needed that!

              • Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:59 am | Permalink

                Wow. I clicked on your “mudblood” link, read the description, followed into reading about “squibs”, which I’d totally forgotten, and felt a harmonic resonance in my memory: This sounds much like Jewish history, with conversions in and out. Hitch didn’t know he his mother was Jewish until years after she died, yet there was something about him which made me suspect it, before also knowing. That’s happened for me, before, with others, as well. I wonder what it all means. Naturally looking for patterns, I have a few ideas.

      • ahannaasti
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        He founded the Catholic Church, which gave us Western civilization.

        I think some remedial history is in order here. Why don’t we start with:
        Sumeria,
        Indus Valley,
        the Vedic period, the Shang Dynasty, Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. If none of those satisfy your definition of “civilizations” you are going to have a hard time convincing people that our current society does.

      • Persto
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

        “Shame! Shame! Shame!”

      • Kevin
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        Um…prove it.

        Using extra-biblical contemporaneous eyewitness accounts, please.

        Hint: Josephus wasn’t there (and that account was a forgery anyway). Nor was Origen, nor Polycarp, nor any of the other early church leaders.

        Nor was Paul. He says so himself — he was born “out of time”.

        Nor was the so-called Luke. Look it up. Luke 1:1. He doesn’t claim to be an eyewitness, only an historian.

        Your claim of historicity of Jesus fails.

        And I know you’re going to try to sneak that bible in there, so here’s a test: Disprove the validity of an actual Hercules. I say that the “Labors” are an actual representation of the work of a half-god with superpowers. How would you disprove my hypothesis?

        Once you’ve finished with Hercules, you can use that same level of skepticism on Jesus. You’ll quickly find that there is no “there” there.

        He who thinks we haven’t read that particular book of myths.

      • Filippo
        Posted December 27, 2011 at 4:14 am | Permalink

        As reflected in the treatment of Giordano Bruno and Galileo, among others, I gather.

  27. Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    This is the classic power play appeal of demagogues and it works: Abandon all logic and careful thinking and action in favor of the pull of impulses of the moment, fantasy and my (the Pope’s) will and ideology.

    Of course, like all demagoguery and ideology there is nothing but the conceit of magical thinking — my mind and wishes holding sway over all matter.

    The opposite of the so called “humility” being sold to the masses.

    “You all (my sheep) be humble and then I’ll tell you what to think and how to act!” Simple.

    What a crock and what a crook.

  28. Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    It was a blatant appeal to blind faith because there is nothing else to appeal to. How sad.

  29. NewEnglandBob
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    …Must unsubscribe…too many nonsense theist posts and rational responses…must get real work done…bye.

  30. will
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    If an Infinite Being has to “exist” as David Roemer so simply puts it, than an Infinite Non-Being can exist.

    Obviously we are here, living. Why can’t the totality of all the rocks (planets), space, gravity, the totality of the Non-Being be called God? Why must the God always have human-like attributes and also be omnipotent? But most Christians would hate the idea of a God that is non-being, non-thinking rocks, space and gravity because they would then lose their high-horse to moralize, dictate and control. Religion is, after all, and has been a means of controlling and herding the populace.

    • Rob
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      Why call “the universe” god?

      • microraptor
        Posted December 27, 2011 at 1:16 am | Permalink

        Because that way god doesn’t need a starship.

        • Filippo
          Posted December 27, 2011 at 4:24 am | Permalink

          (From “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.” Whatever its alleged (de-)merits, panned by critics for being, like the first Star Trek movie, too “cerebral” [for those who, as Bertrand Russell put it, “would rather die than think.”])

          Similarly, as with need for a starship, why a need for money? After all, there was manna.

  31. Posted December 26, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    The way to see by Faith is to shut the eye of Reason ~Benjamin Franklin

    • will
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      I tend to give a pass to anyone born before Darwin’s “Origin of Species.” It was difficult to combat a Western worldview entirely infused with God. Deism, anyway, was just next door to agnosticm.

      And any of US commenting from the vantage point of 2011 would probably not be doing so if born in Franklin’s era. Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason” is as close as we get (which is very close).

  32. MadScientist
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    The Pope calls on catholics to abandon god; in his christmas address at his palatial church he said: “We must set aside our false certainties.”

    I’m still waiting for religion to be humble, accept reality, and reject its monstrous arrogance. For all the talk about humility, the church has none of it to show. Bless the pedophiles for they shall inherit the virgins.

  33. Posted December 26, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    How nice of the Pope to promote intelligent design while the rest of us are trying to good by giving one-third of our unemployment checks to charity. The church now has two causes: hide pedophiles and promote their own wealth.

    • microraptor
      Posted December 27, 2011 at 1:17 am | Permalink

      Did it ever not have those causes?

  34. pittigemaki
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    everyone knows that the shepherds are also the shearers and the butchers

    • Dermot C
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      What? Iconic English centre-forwards and centre-halves? Shurely shome mishtake?

  35. Dermot C
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    This sermon of Pope Benedict XVI needs to be seen in the light of the dispute highlighted in Vatican II. Father Joseph Ratzinger himself attended those debates as a theological consultant and underlined the need to understand scripture and the Early Church Fathers in order to renew the Church. This was in opposition to a Jesuitical wing, which was concerned with applying Christian principles to modern human experience. So, broadly, the present Pontiff represented the conservative wing versus the more liberal elements.

    For many Catholics, after this mid-sixties watershed, they felt justified, in ignoring the Church’s doctrine on abortion, condoms etc., in claiming the ‘spirit of Vatican II’, meaning the infusion of a worldly pragmatism into their private affairs; even though, Vatican II condemned ‘non-natural’ family planning (my quotation marks).

    There has been a constant struggle since between these competing tendencies in Catholicism; viz. South American liberation theology, ecumenicism and its limits. The current Bishop of Rome demonstrates his extreme adherence to the Augustinian, and rather Lutheran, tradition in his emphasis on the primacy of faith; to such an extent, that next year will start the Catholic Year of Faith. I think we can expect a full-on assault starting in October 2012; this speech represents the shot across the bows.

    Dawkins, in a conversation with the former Director of the Vatican Observatory, a Father George Coyne, (no relation, I hope!) found that they agreed almost entirely in their worldviews. RD asked the priest why he remained, in that case, in the Church, and the prelate replied, “Because I was brought up that way.” Let us not forget that it was a Jesuit priest who first proposed the Big Bang. It must be very difficult for some of these types of clergy to submit to the authority of such an anti-rationalist as the Holy See’s incumbent.

    I wonder what those elements in Catholicism think of the Pope’s swing towards out-and-out mysticism. Given the existential crisis caused by the paedophilia scandals and the emergence of a communion overripe with possibilities of schism, I imagine and hope that we might see more of the priesthood leave.

    • microraptor
      Posted December 27, 2011 at 1:22 am | Permalink

      I’m sure there’s quite a few who would be willing to leave but simply can’t think of what they’d do after they left because they’re middle-aged or older men who have no families and no skills or training other than in the priesthood.

      In fact, I’ve heard of multiple cases of priests having exactly this problem- they no longer believe in what they teach, but they keep teaching it because they simply don’t have any other means of supporting themselves.

      • Dermot C
        Posted December 27, 2011 at 3:15 am | Permalink

        See Dennett et al. re: American (married) pastors. Catholic priests in a similar crise de foi have it slightly harder, in that they have no immediate family in whom to confide their doubts.

        • microraptor
          Posted December 27, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

          I think Dennett was the source I got that from.

    • Posted December 27, 2011 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      Either that, or perhaps a quiet, undiagnosed poisoning of the pope, before he causes collapse and fragmention of what’s left of the church.

      • Dermot C
        Posted December 27, 2011 at 8:28 am | Permalink

        The best story of Papal venality which I know of, comes from the ninth century, when the Holy See was particularly corrupt.

        From memory, I recall that Pope Formosus (which I believe means handsome) succeeded Stephen VI in a sort of counter-revolution against the latter’s faction. The new Holy Father had his predecessor’s corpse dug up and stood in the dock on trial.

        The proceedings were administered under established Canon Law and you will be relieved to know that the defendant was given the right to defend himself; however, he is recorded as having waived that right.

        You will not be surprised to learn that the unfortunate cadaver was found guilty. The punishment? The first and second fingers of his right hand – the ones he used to bless the flock – were cut off. He was stripped of his papal vestments and the carcass thrown in the Tiber.

        I don’t think a similar fate will befall Pope Benedict XVI.

  36. Dermot C
    Posted December 26, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    ‘Humankind is a pattern-seeking mammal’.

    One recurrent happenstance that I have noticed on this site is that a purportedly innocent Christian Daniel, such as David Roemer, – and for each post it’s a different Daniel – wanders, ostensibly unwittingly, into the lions’ den, delivers some witless, evidence-free screed, and is mauled by a pride of a ravenous, feline rationalists, playing gleefully with the hapless religionist, like a cat with an increasingly bedraggled ball of wool.

    Would anyone care to speculate on the motivations of these masochists? I would appreciate expert psychological input. Does anyone know of any God-bothering website which organises these kamikaze Zen Christians to disrupt operations behind enemy lines?

    Why on earth do they do it?

    • Dave
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      Has anyone Googled the guy? Would not be surprised to see this whole episode show up on a web site where he brags about how he got all the atheists in an uproar.

      • Lynn Wilhelm
        Posted December 26, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

        I’m pretty sure David Roemer is who he says he is. He’s on LinkedIn with that name and has some stuff he’s written over the years with the same non-information he’s shown here. He reviewed Dawkins “Greatest Show” and filled it with so many mined quotes, I thought I needed a helmet with a lamp.

        I’m glad to see everyone here responded to his diatribe the same way I had been on the LinkedIn discussion (in a Freethinkers group, no less). Sometimes I wonder if I just don’t understand these philosophical discussions. I was right on target.

        • Dave
          Posted December 27, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink

          Roemer also advertises himself as a “religious speaker” who has a PhD in physics but he sure doesn’t act like a scientist!

          “Sometimes I wonder if I just don’t understand these philosophical discussions.” Yes, with you there. But then they’ve had many centuries to engage in sophistry. I thought it was all fairly simple: There is no gawd unless you can prove it. Until then, keep your hands off my kid’s school curriculum, my government’s policies, and my wallet (i.e., pay for your own craziness). Sounds simple?

          I am torn about how to respond to guys like Roemer. Can’t decide if all the above gives them too much credibility or that they just shouldn’t be allowed to get away with any nonsense. Oh well, each to his/her own.

          • microraptor
            Posted December 27, 2011 at 11:48 am | Permalink

            I don’t see any reason not to perform a curb-stomp on such individuals, unless you’re not in the mood or someone else is already covering all the points you want covered.

    • Tim
      Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      Sock Puppetry is definitely at work. “Daniel” and “Phil” link to the same stupid web site where one is instructed to “swipe here”. Is “Phil” the ‘math guy’ and “Daniel” the ‘physics guy’. I think they’re all the ridiculous sock puppets of some pathetic nonentity.

    • Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      Don’t forget that Christians have quite the persecution complex.

      Modern-day Christians looking to be tossed into the gladiator ring generally fall into a few categories. Some are sincere and either have never encountered the world outside their Christian community or are impervious to it. Some are hucksters (priests, whatever) looking for sheep to fleece or responding to a perceived threat to their flock — they know we’ll laugh our asses off at them, but they’re hoping the flock will see their shepherd giving as good as he gets; this especially feeds into the (intentionally-cultivated) persecution complex. And there’re certainly garden-variety trolls, just looking to stir things up; they’re the kind who’d post pictures of maimed cats if Jerry would let them.

      I don’t think there’s any sort of coordination, though it’s not unusual to get an influx when a particular shepherd notices us and sends some of his dogs our way. You’d think he’d know better than to send a few lone collies into sabretooth territory, but nobody ever accused Christian preachers of possessing towering intellects.

      Cheers,

      b&

    • Posted December 27, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      Here’s one rationale: Children who feel neglected by their parents often misbehave in order to gain attention. This suggests negative attention is better than no attention at all. I consider this evolutionary psychology: a forgotten offspring can starve to death or be ignored by parents when a predator attacks it for lunch. An abused offspring might at least get a bite of food, now and then, and will have established such a ferocity-related bond with its parents, that a predator might well receive an exaggerated dose of the very hostility served up to the neglected young.

      Religionists pray and pray to SkyDaddy without any clear response, and are too afraid of SkyDaddy’s wrath to piss him off, so they piss us off, instead.

      If we apply some “Don’t feed the trolls” response, they might implode or go postal, depending on how desperate they feel for the attention SkyDaddy isn’t providing.

      Mere “Xtian fellowship” isn’t enough for these insecure individuals. Perhaps they’ve been so extreme as to turn their own peers away. And so, they come here…

      • Dermot C
        Posted December 27, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        Funny!

        I’ll tee them up and you nod them in.

        • Posted December 27, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

          ?

          • Dermot C
            Posted December 27, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

            Soccer metaphor, Doc.

            The winger (me) crosses and the centre-forward (you) heads the ball in the net. In other words, I’m the feed-guy, you supply the punchline. It’s a compliment.

            You and I seem to be speaking different languages, today!

            • microraptor
              Posted December 28, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

              This thread has been more educational on British slang than watching Doc Martin on PBS.

            • Posted December 28, 2011 at 11:57 am | Permalink

              Oh, but no worries! I love learning languages, and had I the time, soccer is the only sport I’d bother to follow as a spectator, so thanks for the education!

            • Posted December 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

              P.S. I read, early on in medical school, that doctors are socially retarded, and it’s true — or, at least, it was back when work hours weren’t limited. The intensity of study to compete for the entrance to college, success in college, and application process for medical school was unbelievably intense, back then, and I, all the worse, chose a specialty so competitive, reaching it really meant beating the odds. So, I confess, I’m socially retarded and decades behind on much of what’s been going on in the news. Disabled, now, I am trying to use the opportunity to catch up.

              • Posted December 28, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

                Say…you wouldn’t happen to be Dr. Smartass, Troll Veterinarian of USENET fame, would you?

                b&

              • Posted December 28, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

                Nope. Total bone head, here. In fact, to prove it, a cat scan showed heterotopic ossification in my posterior brain (though I’d have to look, again, to see exactly where). Bone head is a nickname for orthopaedic surgeon, btw.

              • Posted December 28, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

                Ah, sorry. It’s a small world, but I guess it’s not quite that small….

                b&

  37. Posted December 26, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    “if we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our “enlightened” reason.”

    I’d stand that on its head: If we have to abandon the Enlightenment and reason, then it would be better not to find any god(/dess/es) who appeared as a child.

  38. Kharamatha
    Posted December 27, 2011 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    I believe there is a Barcrulant in feringôr.

    My reasons for believing this is 1) that humans haffselat and 2) fifteen is slightly less than seventeen, so fifteen always implies seventeen.

    If you read the Beowulf, you will find out that Grendel fought Fafner in the 6th movie and saved christmas.

  39. MosesZD
    Posted December 27, 2011 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    [P] Science has been far more successful than the humanities in improving human life.
    [C] Resources should be directed away from the humanities toward science.

    Interesting. My wife is a scientist, not some intellectual fapper, and would definitelyely disagree with Dr. Dr. Dr.. Especially as she was a dual-major in college — Fine Arts and Biology — and which course she pursued in life was a narrowly decided, not easily decided.

    And while she doesn’t have three PhDs, she is regularly published published in Nature, Science and Cell. The three top journals of her trade where good, verifiable work is par for the course. Instead of intellectual fapping…

    So if it’s going to be swinging e-peen, I’ll go with hers…

  40. Dave
    Posted December 27, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    BTW, since when do Catholics have to be “asked” to be stupid (or gullible, if you prefer)?

  41. Posted December 29, 2011 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    There is remarkable continuity in the early church. Paul, who planted many churches, was taught by Jesus’ closest friends. Early writers like Ignatius and Irenaeus are connected to Jesus through Polycarp, who was a disciple of John, Jesus’ closest friend. Plus, the Gospels were the products of first and second generation communities which were instructed by eyewitnesses. Scholarship is ever pushing back the dates of their composition.

    I was an agnostic for many years and I appreciate the arguments raised by the skeptics on this blog. What drew me into Christianity was the need to explain the faith’s X factor, which is absent in every other religion: What is at the root of the amazing transformation of the apostles from backwater provincials to world-traveling preachers, willing to die for an unknown crucified Jew? Other major religious teachers experienced adversity, yes, but they all ultimately prevailed in the end, setting the groundwork for continuation and maturation. They were successful in worldly terms, often teaching for decades and dying with well-established networks of followers. Not so with Jesus, who suffered a humiliating public death at a young age. There is no reason to think that his disciples would have carried on carried on his work — never mind proclaim him Lord and Savior — unless they had an extraordinary experience. This experience is not, to my mind, adequately explained by the various skeptical theories. It is too enduring to be deception or hallucination and occurred too early to be written off as the result of legendary accretion. Also, the claim of resurrection, especially as it is described in the Gospels, would have been awfully peculiar for first century Palestinian Judaism. Anyway, what sort of loons suffer certain persecution and death for a claim they know to be false or even doubtful?

    Strangely, and certainly unusual, my conversion to Christianity was intellectual long before it was emotional. I was compelled initially by the weight of the historical arguments, which I had long dismissed as hollow, but eventually came to recognize as amazingly sturdy and convincing.

    Anyway, I do not wish to engage in a protracted debate. I know how hard it is to get outside your own worldview. To this day, I marvel at my conversion.

    As a final note, I do not think the Pope is suggesting we abandon the pursuit of knowledge — especially given how cultured he is. I think he is warning against hubris, against excessive confidence in the ability of creatures to give an exhaustive account of reality. Consider the words of Saint Paul:

    “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (I Corinthians 1:20-29).

    These Jews and Greeks are among us still. He who requires miraculous spectacles is a “Jew,” while he who is enslaved to the senses is a “Greek.”

    Merry Christmas!

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      What is at the root of the amazing transformation of the apostles from backwater provincials to world-traveling preachers, willing to die for an unknown crucified Jew?

      Oh, puh-leeze. If that’s all it takes to convince you, why aren’t you waiting for the aliens hiding behind the comet to come back, or shagging young girls in Koresh’s name, or drinking Jonestown Juice?

      Christianity is just another pagan death-and-resurrection mystery cult like all the others of the time, except it was grafted onto the Jewish backstory. No more and no less. If you doubt me, just read Justin Martyr’s First Apology and Lucian’s account of the Passing of Peregrinus — they’ll tell you exactly what, how, and why Christianity is what it is.

      And if even that’s not enough to open your eyes, make up your own “Theory of Jesus.” Who was he, and what set him apart from the dozens of other men with that name recorded in the history of first century Judea? Now, go looking in the huge store of documents from first century Judea and the rest of the Mediterranean looking for even a hint of your fantasy.

      Good luck. You need it.

      Cheers,

      b&

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      “I do not think the Pope is suggesting we abandon the pursuit of knowledge — especially given how cultured he is. I think he is warning against hubris, against excessive confidence in the ability of creatures to give an exhaustive account of reality.”

      Philip,

      The real hubris is human beings thinking we can live without a planet. Christians have actively discouraged Americans from becoming informed about science, keeping children in the dark and endangering all of us. Ever been to a rainforest? There’s your heaven on Earth. Life on the planet is what keeps it in balance, not some higher being in human form.

      • Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:07 am | Permalink

        “The real hubris is human beings thinking we can live without a planet.” Amelie, I’ve never seen it stated so beautifully and perfectly!

        • Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:25 am | Permalink

          Very kind, DocAtheist. Thank you. 😉

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      All of a sudden, in the past, oh, decade or so, Christians have started pointed at Jews as their source in a way never noticed, the 50 odd years before. Why, after the church made such a point, for some 2.000 years, to attack Jews and indoctrinate antisemitism, is this happening now? I think this cartoon sums it up:
      It won’t copy, here, but it shows a tall, fat, white, male Christian with his arm around the shoulder of a short, insecure-looking Jew. Their T-shirts identify them, reading “Judeo-” and “Christian”.In the first frame, the Christian says, “Not only are we best friends, we’re the foundation of morality. Never forget it!” In the second frame, the Christian says, covering his mouth so only the Jew can hear, “Right, Christ-killer?” His facial expression looks deadly serious and sneaky at the same time.
      So, all of a sudden, Christians want to publicly claim Jews are their best friends. NOT!

    • truthspeaker
      Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      So the man who claims to be God’s representative on Earth is warning us against hubris?

  42. Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    “Oh, puh-leeze. If that’s all it takes to convince you, why aren’t you waiting for the aliens hiding behind the comet to come back, or shagging young girls in Koresh’s name, or drinking Jonestown Juice?”

    Those are both variations on a well-established cultural model, not something radically new. Plus, both groups collapsed after the death of the messiah-figure.

    “Christianity is just another pagan death-and-resurrection mystery cult like all the others of the time, except it was grafted onto the Jewish backstory.”

    No, I don’t think so at all. There are similarities with certain pagan myths, but that is natural enough, for the human heart, being in the Image of God, desired the Christ-event, if only half-consciously.

    Christianity is thoroughly Jewish. The incarnation and the Trinity are both anticipated throughout the Old Testament, sometimes very clearly, especially in the Wisdom books.

    “If you doubt me, just read Justin Martyr’s First Apology and Lucian’s account of the Passing of Peregrinus — they’ll tell you exactly what, how, and why Christianity is what it is.”

    I have read Justin’s entire corpus. The First Apology I have read more than once. I enjoy it very much and am not sure why you consider it dangerous to orthodox Christian historiography.

    “And if even that’s not enough to open your eyes, make up your own “Theory of Jesus.” Who was he, and what set him apart from the dozens of other men with that name recorded in the history of first century Judea? Now, go looking in the huge store of documents from first century Judea and the rest of the Mediterranean looking for even a hint of your fantasy.”

    He was the Son of God, the Word made flesh, as portrayed in the Gospels and proclaimed in the apostolic epistles and preserved by the orthodox creeds of the Church. The Gospels are valid historical witnesses. Indeed, they are quite remarkable for antiquity.

    “The real hubris is human beings thinking we can live without a planet. Christians have actively discouraged Americans from becoming informed about science, keeping children in the dark and endangering all of us. Ever been to a rainforest? There’s your heaven on Earth. Life on the planet is what keeps it in balance, not some higher being in human form.”

    Christians are called to be responsible stewards of creation, which was generously bequeathed to us by God. Creation is “good,” as the Lord declared, and thus to be treated as such. The Scripture resounds with awe at the wonder of the earth. Nature is one way we know the Deity, “for from the greatness and beauty of created things, the Creator is seen by analogy” (Wisdom of Solomon 13:5).

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      “Christians are called to be responsible stewards of creation”

      Don’t do us any favors. Believers have seriously missed the boat on this one, what’s more they refuse to acknowledge the link between conservation and scientific method. Ecology is not a religion. It’s a science. By turning the public away from science, you have wilfully harmed ecological research and conservation. Now arrogant humans think they should continue to experiment with the atmosphere via geoengineering. Really – haven’t we done enough already?

      • Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:39 am | Permalink

        I don’t know what any of this has to do with Christianity. My wife is green through and through. Also, a devout Catholic. I would be just as happy with you to avoid “experiment[ing] with the atmosphere via geoengineering” — whatever that is. Sounds scary.

        • Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:46 am | Permalink

          *Sigh it is scary. Picture lung-killing toxins spewed into the air. We need to oppose this, all of us.

          I’m not judging you or your wife, although I would warn you both that 99 percent of “green” claims on products are false, this was proven via an investigation. Truly green actions are ones modeled by our grandparents; buy durable products made of metal and glass. Invest in well-crafted products. Grow you own food. Learn self-sufficiency. Buy nothing. Principles that once guided Conservatives, ironically enough. Sad it has gone the other way.

          • Philip
            Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

            Those all sound pretty good to me.

          • Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

            That’s all good advice, but there’s one thing that would top it all.

            Cover your roof in solar panels.

            With all the federal, state, local, and utility incentives, it’ll work out to a 7% – 11% rate of return on your investment, so it’s far and away the best bang for the buck for your illiquid reserves.

            And, if you don’t have the cash to finance it yourself, get a loan from the bank, consider the bank your power utility for the duration of the loan, deduct the bank’s interest rate from your mental calculation of your effective rate of return, and enjoy free energy when the loan is paid off. It’ll still pay better than your IRA even while you’re paying off the loan — and, after that, it’s free money.

            And, oh-by-the-way, you’ll do more to green up your lifestyle than everything else on your list combined.

            Since the utility commissioned my own rooftop array back in late September, my carbon footprint has been on the order of a back-bush tribesman. By this time next year when I’ve had a chance to get my garden going, it’ll probably be negative.

            Our planet’s problem right now is a petrochemical one. It’s not about overpopulation, and only indirectly about pollution, deforestation, and the like. Cover a single midwestern US state in solar panels and you’ve got enough power for the whole planet, plus enough power to undo all the damage we’ve done, plus grow the population like crazy. And that includes enough power to make gasoline (etc.) from atmospheric CO2.

            Of course, it would cost something on the order of the current global annual GDP to do that, but….

            Cheers,

            b&

    • Dermot C
      Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Philip,

      I asked this of another Christian, but received no reply. Perhaps you can furnish a response?

      Ex hypothesi, the kenotic Weltanschauung of the post-Judaic dharma centring on the Хριστός, that His lay should be as sclaves, would you posit manumission as:

      a) epistemologically, indicative of αϊρεσις
      b) contingent on hierographology or
      c) a genus of intercessory sensus fidelium inspiring the Sancta Sedes, strictly ex cathedra?

      I look forward to your exegesis.

      • Philip
        Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        Sorry, Dermot, I can’t help you.

        • Dermot C
          Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

          Philip,

          I’m sorry, I assumed that you were a scholar of theology. I’ll put it my question above in the vernacular, then.

          Given the idea of the ‘self-emptying of one’s own will’ in post-Judaic law within Christianity, that Christians should be as slaves, would you consider the freeing of slaves as:

          a) as far as we can know, an example of heresy
          b) dependent on the study of sacred texts or
          c) as an example of the Holy Spirit, in answer to prayer, inspiring solemn papal definitions, via the Holy See.

          Again, I look forward to your discourse.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      The incarnation and the Trinity are both anticipated throughout the Old Testament, sometimes very clearly, especially in the Wisdom books.

      This is flat-out untrue. Please don’t insult our intelligence by posting drivel like that.

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      @Philip wrote, “Christianity is thoroughly Jewish.”
      Puh-leeze!
      I’m Jewish, atheist, and here to tell you your “sudden” love of Jews smells to high heaven!

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      Those are both variations on a well-established cultural model, not something radically new.

      Just like Christianity. Which you would know if you had read anything of Martyr.

      I have read Justin’s entire corpus. The First Apology I have read more than once.

      You’re a liar. Because, if you had even been barely awake while reading it, you would have known that the whole point to the Apology was that Christianity is no different from Paganism (expanded upon in excruciating detail), so why therefore all the hatred towards Christians?

      Here’s but a small sample:

      And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter. For you know how many sons your esteemed writers ascribed to Jupiter: Mercury, the interpreting word and teacher of all; Æsculapius, who, though he was a great physician, was struck by a thunderbolt, and so ascended to heaven; and Bacchus too, after he had been torn limb from limb; and Hercules, when he had committed himself to the flames to escape his toils; and the sons of Leda, and Dioscuri; and Perseus, son of Danae; and Bellerophon, who, though sprung from mortals, rose to heaven on the horse Pegasus. For what shall I say of Ariadne, and those who, like her, have been declared to be set among the stars? And what of the emperors who die among yourselves, whom you deem worthy of deification, and in whose behalf you produce some one who swears he has seen the burning Cæsar rise to heaven from the funeral pyre? And what kind of deeds are recorded of each of these reputed sons of Jupiter, it is needless to tell to those who already know. This only shall be said, that they are written for the advantage and encouragement of youthful scholars; for all reckon it an honourable thing to imitate the gods. But far be such a thought concerning the gods from every well-conditioned soul, as to believe that Jupiter himself, the governor and creator of all things, was both a parricide and the son of a parricide, and that being overcome by the love of base and shameful pleasures, he came in to Ganymede and those many women whom he had violated and that his sons did like actions. But, as we said above, wicked devils perpetrated these things. And we have learned that those only are deified who have lived near to God in holiness and virtue; and we believe that those who live wickedly and do not repent are punished in everlasting fire.

      You continued:

      [Jesus] was the Son of God, the Word made flesh, as portrayed in the Gospels and proclaimed in the apostolic epistles and preserved by the orthodox creeds of the Church. The Gospels are valid historical witnesses.

      The Gospels describe Jesus as a necromancing zombie with a fettish for having his intestines fondled through his gaping chest wound. And the earliest of them references events that didn’t happen until 70 CE. Realistically, they’re all second century works, and it’s long been known that they’re anonymous documents with multiple authors. If that qualifies in your book as “valid historical witnesses,” then I’ve got some prime Arizona beachfront property to sell you.

      But we know that Jesus wasn’t the human incarnation of the creative force responsible for Life, the Universe, and Everything. We know that for an absolute, unquestionable fact.

      We know it for the simple reason that we’ve got literally libraries full of documents written in and around Jerusalem during and shortly after his alleged apparition. All of them should and would have noticed such a thing, and yet not a single one did.

      There’s the entire Dead Sea Scroll library, which are the original pieces of parchment themselves. No mention of Jesus.

      There’s the collected works of Philo, brother-in-law to Herod Agrippa, ambassador to Caligula, and the Jewish philosopher who first incorporated the Logos (the “Word” that opens G. John) into Judaism. No mention of Jesus.

      There’s Pliny the Elder, who was fascinated with all things supernatural. No mention of Jesus.

      There’s all the Roman satirists whose stock in trade was the exact sort of humiliation you’re stupid enough to believe Jesus heaped upon Pilate and the Sanhedrin. No mention of Jesus.

      I could go on and on and on and on, but I’ve got real work to do.

      Cheers,

      b&

  43. Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    “All of a sudden, in the past, oh, decade or so, Christians have started pointed at Jews as their source in a way never noticed, the 50 odd years before. Why, after the church made such a point, for some 2.000 years, to attack Jews and indoctrinate antisemitism, is this happening now? I think this cartoon sums it up:
    It won’t copy, here, but it shows a tall, fat, white, male Christian with his arm around the shoulder of a short, insecure-looking Jew. Their T-shirts identify them, reading “Judeo-” and “Christian”.In the first frame, the Christian says, “Not only are we best friends, we’re the foundation of morality. Never forget it!” In the second frame, the Christian says, covering his mouth so only the Jew can hear, “Right, Christ-killer?” His facial expression looks deadly serious and sneaky at the same time.
    So, all of a sudden, Christians want to publicly claim Jews are their best friends. NOT!”

    I would say the relationship is a quite a bit more complicated than you are making it out to be. Jews persecuted Christians and pagans when they could. Christians persecuted Jews and pagans (and other Christians) when they could. Pagans persecuted Jews and Christians when they could.

    Reading the fathers of the church, you find high praise for the Jews of old. Moses and Elijah, Jeremiah and Isaiah were all considered exemplars of piety. Gregory of Nyssa, for instance, was fixated on the glory of Moses’ life.

    Christian antipathy is reserved for those Jews who reject Christ as the messiah. This is not surprising, given that the first followers of Jesus were thrown out of the synagogues and stoned for their “blasphemy.” This is not license for revenge. Indeed, such thinking is deeply opposed to the Gospels. Nonetheless, it is an explanation.

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      You’re so full of sh–, I bet your eyes are brown.

      • Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        For the record, I’ve personally experienced violent and brutal antisemitism since childhood, delivered by Christians, even after I remiinded them that Jesus was a Jew. Not all of them knew it, in advance. When I was a child, Christian children were indoctrinated with a Christian “Christ Jesus” and with “Christ-killer Jews” for contrast. As I said, this started shifting ten years ago, i.e., when Bush II took office… Need I say more?

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Allow me to rephase my last remark: You are the prime example of Liars for Jesus.

  44. Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I guess what frustrates me is this bizarre assumption that Christians are unthinking drones. This is not my experience. I don’t know a single Christian who has not struggled with doubts. I know very few who have not considered the arguments of other viewpoints, be they religious or atheistic. Sometimes these investigations are superficial, but oftentimes they are quite serious.

    I, for one, have studied the godless thinkers, from Hume to Hitchens. They make many good points. But ultimately not good enough. Probably what I find most lacking in atheistic materialism is beauty, which I find in abundance in Christianity.

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Seriously? After I just suggested you visited a rainforest? Name one thing more beautiful than that. Have you ever seen one, even? I am not an Atheist but I am a so-called “unbeliever”. How can you discount all the natural beauty on the planet, Philip? Christians are not unthinking drones. One of my best friends from grad school is a devout Christian, she also takes classes on Evolution and knows that Creationism is nonsense.

      I’m glad you feel qualified to tell us what points are “good enough” or not; but you guys have zero evidence for your claims. Amazing you’d feel free to judge evolution.

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      And what frustrates me is the assumption that “atheistic materialism” as you put it lacks beauty. How denigrating to place the same kind of false stereotype you claim atheists use on us. I was beginning to respect your personal brand of Christianity, but then you let the unthinking drone out and screwed it all up. I suppose it was inevitable as your back neared the wall that the same trite weak-minded bile was bound to come out. There is profound beauty in the world, and science allows us to explore this beauty without misguided supernatural myths to sully its wonder. You point to Hume and Hitchens yet ignore Sagan and Asimov, Tyson, Hawking, Einstein, etc, etc, etc. Sure, there is some beauty in mythology, but that doesn’t make it true, it just makes it nice to imagine. People believed a lot of stupid things 2000 years ago, that’s a weak argument for believing them today.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      So you decide whether or not something is true based on its beauty?

      Wow.

      You’re an unthinking drone by your own admission.

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      You struggle with doubts because reality keeps knocking at your brain and finding the door slammed shut and locked tight. Your choice to ignore reality, that is, to not think, making you the drone you describe. Stop struggling and give in to the truth, or die a drone. You have enough free will to choose.

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      “Probably what I find most lacking in atheistic materialism is beauty, which I find in abundance in Christianity.”

      What makes you think that “atheist materialism” lacks beauty?

      I find an abundance of beauty in philosophical naturalism, not only from the things of beauty in the natural world (rainforests, sunsets, colliding galaxies, and so on), which is a beauty apparent to all humanity, beliver and unbeliver alike, but also in the simple, elegant and grand processes that have given rise to all of these things without the need to hypothesise an intelligent agency of any kind, a beauty that any theistic believer cannot completely apprehend, since to introduce God is to cripple the simplicity, elegance and grandeur of these processes.

      Where, then, is the abundance of beauty you find in Christianity? What is beautiful in Christianity that is not in the natural world, not created by people, cannot be appreciated by atheists/unbelievers/nones, or does not have secular analogues?

      /@

  45. Philip
    Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    “Seriously? After I just suggested you visited a rainforest? Name one thing more beautiful than that. Have you ever seen one, even?”

    I have seen pictures of them and they are indeed beautiful. But I would say the contemplation of God is more beautiful.

    “How can you discount all the natural beauty on the planet, Philip? Christians are not unthinking drones.”

    I don’t discount it. I enjoy natural beauty in and of itself, but also savor it on another level, because it points towards the goodness and beauty of God.

    “I’m glad you feel qualified to tell us what points are “good enough” or not; but you guys have zero evidence for your claims. Amazing you’d feel free to judge evolution.”

    That depends upon the meaning of evidence. Speaking strictly skeptically, I have little to no evidence that anything exists outside myself. I have little or no evidence that my wife actually loves me and is not simply using me for material gain. And so on. Man does not live by evidence alone. Thankfully.

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      I’m sure your wife loves you, Philip. You are a pretty patient guy.

      But to say that species evolved from other species is quite a bit more of a large question in the scope of life.

      Just because you have chosen to ignore fossil, genetic and morphological evidence of evolution, does not mean it does not exist. Don’t be disturbed by our relationship to primates. I assure you, it is a benign development in our natural history. It teaches us to be more understanding of other people.

      • Philip
        Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        I am pretty sure, Amelie, but I am not certain. I have experiential faith, “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6), not reasoned proof.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      Man does not live by evidence alone

      Speak for yourself.

      If your wife does not provide evidence that she loves you, I suggest making an appointment with a marriage counselor ASAP.

      My fiancee provides such evidence on a daily basis. If she didn’t, I wouldn’t have proposed to her.

      • Philip
        Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Let’s be civil.

        Now, unless you have the power to read minds, you can not know with absolute certainty that your wife loves you. You can only draw a likely conclusion based upon her actions, which may be deceptive. You are relying on induction: making a generalization based upon the events of the past, and their uniformity or lack thereof.

        Ultimately, we take the love of our friends and family on faith. Love is a leap into the unknown. That is why it is a risk. That is why it is so dangerous — and so thrilling.

        Take away God and everything, even the hardest “facts,” are just assumptions, because we lack exhaustive knowledge, which is impossible for a finite mind. This radical skepticism is the logical conclusion of atheism.

        Therefore it is no surprise that deconstructive postmodernist succeeded secular modernism. The modernists wanted to keep good and right, true and false, but get rid of God. Unfortunately, they can’t be separated, which is why postmodern society has neither. Objective truth requires a Supreme Subject.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

          There was nothing uncivil about my comment.

          Now, unless you have the power to read minds, you can not know with absolute certainty that your wife loves you. You can only draw a likely conclusion based upon her actions

          Yes, that’s how evidence works.

          Ultimately, we take the love of our friends and family on faith.

          No, we conclude that they probably love us based on the evidence.

          Take away God and everything, even the hardest “facts,” are just assumptions, because we lack exhaustive knowledge, which is impossible for a finite mind.

          This does not follow. Provisional conclusions are more than “just” assumptions. They are conclusions based on the evidence. They are provisional because, as you say, nobody has exhaustive knowledge. But some knowledge is better than no knowledge. The more knowledge you have, the more confident in your conclusions you can be.

          • Philip
            Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

            You have evidence that she acts as though she loves you. You have no evidence her actions spring from true love or other motivations, because you can not know her thoughts, only what she says her thoughts are.

            Therefore your conclusion is totally arbitrary. There is no more reason to conclude she is being earnest than to conclude she is being deceptive. You are fooling yourself if you think your steadfast conviction of her love is rooted in anything more than wishful thinking based upon her superficial adherence to a certain set of behaviors. Ultimately, you are convinced by intuition born of experience.

            All I’m trying to demonstrate here is that we all depend upon incomplete and often totally unverifiable data. Yet you set the bar for evidence extraordinarily high when it comes to God. Criteria acceptable in other areas of life you suddenly reject as being insufficiently critical. This I do not understand.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

              You have evidence that she acts as though she loves you. You have no evidence her actions spring from true love or other motivations, because you can not know her thoughts, only what she says her thoughts are.

              Therefore your conclusion is totally arbitrary.

              That does not follow at all.

              My conclusion is provisional because, as you say, I can’t be sure she isn’t being deceptive. But it is not totally arbitrary, because the available evidence, taken in total, suggests that she is being honest about her feelings.

              The fact that she makes more money than I do is evidence that she is not motivated to pretend to love me for financial gain.

              The fact that I’m not exactly Gerard Butler is evidence that she is not motivated to pretend to love me in order to raise her social status by having arm candy.

              My social status is roughly equivalent to hers. This is evidence that she is not motivated to pretend to love me in order to elevate her own social status.

              Since we are both human beings, there is reason to believe that our thought processes regarding love behavior are similar. Not identical, of course, but similar. So if she acts in ways that I would act were I in love, this is evidence suggesting that she has similar feelings.

              She could be lying about her feelings for me. It’s certainly something that humans are capable of doing! But on balance, the evidence suggests that she is not. There is enough evidence to make a provisional conclusion that she does have feelings of love for me.

              Ultimately, you are convinced by intuition born of experience.

              Yes – that’s evidence-based, rational thinking.

              All I’m trying to demonstrate here is that we all depend upon incomplete and often totally unverifiable data.

              No one disputes that.

              Yet you set the bar for evidence extraordinarily high when it comes to God. Criteria acceptable in other areas of life you suddenly reject as being insufficiently critical.

              Nope, I set the bar exactly as high for your god (and all others) as I do for all other truth claims. The criteria I reject for God I would reject for any other claim.

      • Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        Oh, what a sweet breath of fresh air in this block of smelly superstitious drek! I hope she accepted, and that the two of you share a wonderful and long future together!

        • truthspeaker
          Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

          Yes, the wedding is in April. Thank you.

          • Dermot C
            Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

            Congrats, truthspeaker.

  46. Philip
    Posted December 29, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    In fact, when it comes to so many important parts of life, we can at best arrive at likelihoods via induction. But induction can only be justified inductively, which is clearly faulty. So it is ultimately on faith bred from experience, not proof arrived at by reason, that I conduct my existence. (I think our friend Hume taught us that one, right?)

    • truthspeaker
      Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      If it comes from experience, it’s not faith.

      • Philip
        Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        Experience is absolutely a component of faith. Only he who experiences the Living God has faith in him. In fact, this is one of the basic contentions of Christianity: man would not truly know God unless he willingly revealed himself. Thus the incarnation and resurrection, signs and miracles, the movement of the Spirit with power throughout the church.

        Consider the opening words of Luke’s gospel:

        “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:1-3).

        Or these words from the beloved apostle:

        “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us — that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (I John 1:1-4).

        This is also why martyrs are called “witnesses,” and why Tertullian called the blood of the martyrs the seed of the church. The church is the witness of man’s constant experience with God, his enduring encounter with the Deity.

        • Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

          Philip, I can show you a primate at a zoo and demonstrate through genetic tests that you two have something in common. Where is your blood sample from God?

          • Philip
            Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

            Surely, you jest.

            I would say that God is spiritual, but that’s really too simple. Angels are spiritual. Humans are in part spiritual.

            God is something far great. God’s mode of existence is radically unlike our own. He is what some theologians have called “hyper-essential.”

            Of course, you will probably express incredulity that there exist immaterial objects. Yet there is no reason to be skeptical. Our minds are, at least in part, immaterial, and we experience this reality every day.

            The image of the dog in my head: how many inches long is it; how many inches tall; how many inches wide; how much does it weigh; how does it feel; what part of my skull is it closest to.

            Of course, these are absurd questions, because there is no miniature image of a dog in my head. If you lopped off the top of my skull, you would find nothing but brain. Now, a sophisticated machine might “see” certain chemical and electrical activities, but surely it would not see a dog. The dog is immaterial. But it is also real. Thus, reality is not strictly material.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

              That image in your head is made of up chemicals that correspond to input from your optic nerves, cross-referenced with memories of things you’ve seen previously. There’s no reason to think any of it is immaterial.

            • Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

              You can imagine a dog because your optic nerve has transmitted messages to your brain telling you what a dog looks like, and your brain has stored that in your memory in the form of neurological firings. That would be elecrical, not mechanical. There is not little machine inside your head. Only cells.

              I don’t express incredulity at anything, my dear. I am a scientist. If there is evidence for it, there it is. If you want to talk about the immaterial, you first must define it. You also must define hyper-essential.

              I noticed you avoid talking about evolution like the plague. Why is that?

              • Philip
                Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

                “You can imagine a dog because your optic nerve has transmitted messages to your brain telling you what a dog looks like, and your brain has stored that in your memory in the form of neurological firings. That would be elecrical, not mechanical. There is not little machine inside your head. Only cells.”

                I absolutely agree with all of that. We are hylomorphic creatures, as Aquinas wrote, equally matter and spirit.

                But I don’t think you’re really giving due consideration to this problem. For a very long time, my answer was as simple as the one you just provided. However, it’s really a great deal more complicated. Sure, the memory is electrical, as you say — but there is no image of a dog in any of those cells or neurons. When you remember, your brain is performing activities, but it is not generating a little ghost-dog to project inside the cranium. Yet the image of the dog has true, undeniable existence — above and beyond the electrical and chemical activities occurring within the body.

                If thoughts and brain-states were the same, you could ask the same questions about them and get the same answers. But you can not ask the same questions about the dog in my head and the nerve or synapse or cell that produces it. One has physical properties, the other does not. One can be touched, probed, observed, the other can not. Furthermore houghts can be true or true or false (i.e. it is true that France is in Europe) but brain-state can not be false (the electro-chemical cocktail that yields that proposition is neither true nor false). The problem of the continuity of identity also suggests an immaterial aspect of human personhood, though this is too difficult to get into here.

                This is not so simple a problem as materialists like to say. There are many brilliant people who are still baffled by the mind-body problem; a great number of them are not Christian or even theists.

                As for evolution, it does not concern me.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

                but there is no image of a dog in any of those cells or neurons.

                Are you sure about that?

                To the best of our current knowledge (which is still pretty limited), what it’s doing is sending information that your visual processing center interprets as an image of a dog. This is identical, or nearly identical, to the information that would come from the eyes, but it’s coming from stored memories instead.

            • Alexander Hellemans
              Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

              “Now, a sophisticated machine might “see” certain chemical and electrical activities, but surely it would not see a dog. The dog is immaterial. But it is also real. Thus, reality is not strictly material.”

              You are wrong here. Information in your brain is stored as a distribution of physical entities (connections between nerve cells) and the material nature is of the storage of this information is not different of the material nature of information stored in a computer’s working memory (the location of electric charges in certain components) or from the way the physical locations of beads on an abacus designate a number. In principle, a very sophisticated machine would be able to restitute an image of your dog. For example, there are experiments where prostheses, such as mechanical hands, can be controlled by the brain directly.

              • Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

                “the material nature is of the storage of this information is not different of the material nature of information stored in a computer’s working memory (the location of electric charges in certain components)”

                I don’t know if you were responding to me or to Philip; but needless to say, of course it’s different. A human has nerve cells. A machine does not.

            • Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

              LOL! I google “dog” and up pops an image of a labradoodle staring at me quizzically. If I lop off my display, there is no little image of a dog to be seen! That doggie must be immaterial!!! What a pathetic analogy of an immaterial object. Of course, it goes further to demonstrate that God is all in your head more than that there are “spiritual” (What exactly does that MEAN anyways?) beings floating around outside of existence, which is to say they don’t exist. Were your analogy even close to adequate, then I could log on to the spiritual realm of World of Warcraft and fight some immaterial goblins with my sword of a thousand truths.

              If you’re going to try to convince me that your storybook characters are real, it will take a little more than empty assertions and poorly conceived analogies to do so.

              You owe me a laptop btw 🙂

              • Philip
                Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

                Computers generate images by pixelation. Are you suggesting our minds do the same thing? That’s rather facile.

              • Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

                “Computers generate images by pixelation. Are you suggesting our minds do the same thing? That’s rather facile.”

                It was a comparative analogy. To claim my reduction as superficial in light of your own ludicrous analogy is comical. The mechanisms themselves are obviously different, but your claim that opening my brain and not finding the image of a dog is the same as opening a computer and not finding the image of a dog. To even expect as much is silly and to accredit an immaterial reality to either is equally silly, or at least a stretch. Neither indicates a damned thing about the “immaterial”. Sauce for the goose and all that?

                Besides, “computers generate images by pixelation” is just a tad facile in itself, and is avoiding the point. Analogous mechanisms for capturing said images, storing them, and then reproducing them on a display could be made for human senses and sense memory. Just because one uses chemical storage and the other electromagnetic storage, and one uses biochemistry to generate optic signals and the other electricity does not suddenly make one magical and the other mundane, but rather different mechanisms for a similar effect. To claim otherwise is simply to admit biological illiteracy. With the proper enzymes we could feasibly remove that image of a dog from your brain and it would be gone forever until you caught sight of another dog. Such experiments in understanding memory are underway. A few injections in the right lobes, and “Jesus who?” Isn’t that an interesting prospect!

              • Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

                Clearly, you, Philip, are perfectly ignorant of the anatomy of the human visual system.

                Though rods and cones in humans aren’t laid out in a regular rectangular grid as are the photoreceptors in a digicam, and though the processing is done in a bio-chemo-electrical hunk of meat with a rather messy architecture instead of in silicon, the analogy is otherwise essentially identical.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • truthspeaker
                Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

                That’s not facile at all. The raw images from the eyes are pixelated. Other parts of the brain refine them and remove some data, but it’s possible that they are still stored in the brain as arrangements of pixels.

              • Posted December 29, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

                IIRC, the way the brain stores images is more like vector graphics, with information about shapes, colours and so on processed in different parts of the brain.

                But still, you’re right. There only true image is the one projected onto the retina/plate of the camera. The mind has to learn to interpret the generated impulses as a (mental) image – and, yes, that’s exactly the same as interpreting the impulses from memory. A computer (so far) lacks that interpretive step.

                /@

                PS. Interestingly, a person who has become blind can learn to interpret the impulses generated by an image mechanically impressed on their tongue in just the same way. (The image is coarse grained, of course.)

              • Posted December 29, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

                *The only true

      • Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        Unless that subjective experience is caused by brain activity and bears no grounding in reality.

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      “Inductions can only be justified inductively…” Are you kidding? If you used any reasoning, inductive or deductive, to suggest a truth, you should still design a form of experimentation to test it before blindly believing it as infallible. Otherwise, you might inductively decide something which turned out to be lethal, and continue to do it because you thought your god wanted it that way. Like, oh, say for example, faith healing.

  47. Philip
    Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    DocAtheist,

    That is not my whole statement. This is: “But induction can only be justified inductively, WHICH IS CLEARLY FAULTY.”

    Anyway, many things are not open to experimentation. Really, those ideas and propositions which give meaning to our lives tend to exceed experimentation.

    For instance, what experiment do you propose to answer this question: “Is deception ever moral?” Or: “What does it mean to lead a good existence?” Or: “Is taking one life to save ten lives justifiable?”

    Your jump to experimentation reveals the naturalistic biases and materialistic presuppositions that color your perception of reality.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      Those questions aren’t open to experimentation because they are subjective questions. They don’t have right or wrong answers.

      • Philip
        Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        Two questions, then:

        1. Is there subjectivity objectively true?

        2. If they are indeed subjective, then we have no basis for law beyond convenience and utility. Is this not the worst sort of nihilism?

        • truthspeaker
          Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

          1. Is there subjectivity objectively true?

          There are things that are objectively “true” within systems that are based on subjective preferences. Raping babies is objectively immoral within a moral system based on the subjective desire not to allow other people to suffer.

          2. If they are indeed subjective, then we have no basis for law beyond convenience and utility. Is this not the worst sort of nihilism?

          Utility is important for legal systems, but so are empathy, compassion, and enlightened self-interest.

          • Philip
            Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

            “Utility is important for legal systems, but so are empathy, compassion, and enlightened self-interest.”

            Why are those particular (very Christian) virtues “important”? To whom and to what end?

            • truthspeaker
              Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

              They’re important to people who want to build a society with as little human suffering as possible, one where our subjective sense of justice is satisfied more often than not.

          • Philip
            Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

            “There are things that are objectively “true” within systems that are based on subjective preferences. Raping babies is objectively immoral within a moral system based on the subjective desire not to allow other people to suffer.”

            That is frighteningly Orwellian: objective truths cannot by definition depend upon human preferences.

            Of course, I’ve heard this innumerable time. It is the war cry of postmodern relativism.

            It’s also totally impractical. How does one define the limits of a system? Was Nazi-era Germany a “system”? If so, did the consent (passive or active) of the majority of Germans lend moral legitimacy to the Holocaust?

            • Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

              As a matter of fact, no. The Catholic Church did. Read your history.

              • Philip
                Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

                Good timing. My wife just finished a class on the Holocuast. She and I had a good (if occasionally frustrating) time refuting the anti-Catholic propaganda of the professor.

                Especially satisfying to note the praises lavished upon the Pope by so many noted Jewish figures (Pinchas Lapide, Isaac Herzog, Israel Zolli).

                To think that Pius’ brave actions actually led the Chief Rabbi of Rome to convert — taking the Pontiff’s birth name, at that! Truly amazing, right?

                God is great.

              • Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

                I think you just proved the existance of alternate dimensions, because that couldn’t have come from this world. Your explanation of the Nazi belt buckle, reading “Gott Mit Uns”? Or the Christian oath taken by Nazis? Just to name a couple examples, of course.

              • Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

                Jews, specifically Zionists, also praised Hitler as well in his work towards moving the Jewish population to Israel. That’s not exactly good evidence for the beneficence of the Catholic church.

              • Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

                It was in sarcasm, as in, “Thank you for beating me nearly to death. It made me appreciate being alive, albeit terribly crippled.”

              • Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

                Oh, and since we’re on to silly slogans: God is not great.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

              Truly objective truths cannot, no.

            • Tulse
              Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

              did the consent (passive or active) of the majority of Germans lend moral legitimacy to the Holocaust?

              Did the order of you god lend moral legitimacy to the genocide of the Canaanites?

              • Philip
                Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

                Tulse,

                Sooner or later, God ends every life. He is, you know, God. What right does the clay have to speak against the Potter.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

                God didn’t massacre the Canaanites, the Israelites did – on God’s orders, or so their historians claimed.

              • Posted December 29, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

                “Tulse, Sooner or later, God ends every life. He is, you know, God. What right does the clay have to speak against the Potter.”

                So, by all means, let’s end them by the bloodiest and most detestable means possible! What a loving Potter! Of course not all died, most of the virginal young girls were just raped and put into slavery by command of your favorite tyrant. I mean, all girls are likely to have sex eventually right? Thank you for finally showing us your Christian goodness in all it’s fucked up glory!

                You have officially portrayed yourself to be morally bankrupt, I see no reason to continue this conversation.

              • Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

                So, Philip, if one or more of your gods were to speak to me as one of them did to Moses regarding the Midianites, and I were to kill you and your wife, enslave your male children, and make your female children my personal sex slaves, you’d have no problem with that, right?

                I mean, you’re just putty in the hands of your gods, and I’d just be the physical manifestation of said hands. What right could you possibly have to object?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Tulse
                Posted December 29, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

                What right does the clay have to speak against the Potter.

                And Christians complain about atheists’ “moral relativism”, when your endorsement of Divine Command Theory is just “might makes right” writ large.

                You’re welcome to think of yourself as nothing but a flower pot, to be shattered at the whim of its maker, but I for one have much more respect both for myself and my fellow humans. Any god that orders the massacre of a people and the sexual enslavement of their girls is a monster that has lost all moral authority, and is completely undeserving of worship. And anyone who follows such a god has lost all rights to claims of moral superiority, as anyone would who praises a murderer and rapist.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted December 29, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

                + 1

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      I suggest you be more careful with your use of words and application of logic. When you mix reality with morality, you suggest truth is black or white, there is no gray, and that only some imaginary skydaddy is worthy enough to tell us what to do, like wipe out all the Amelikites. Would you consider that moral or immoral? Bottom line is, I don’t care. You cannot unmix reality from superstition, so I am done with you.

      • Posted December 29, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        Correction: Not “cannot” but “will not.”

  48. Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    @Philip really? Hylomorphism? You’re using a philosophy from 382 B.C. to debate science with us? That just won’t do.

    Evolution is what we’re talking about, Philip. Underneath all your double-speak and I-refuse-to-discuss evidence is the claim that God exists, that “He” created the world and that we did not evolve from monkeys, correct? You surely did not start this whole discussion for the sake of convincing me there is not a little dog in your head.

  49. Philip
    Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    “@Philip really? Hylomorphism? You’re using a philosophy from 382 B.C. to debate science with us? That just won’t do.”

    Why the chronological snobbery? I’ve never understood the strange notion that people from the past were lumbering goons incapable of squeezing out a decent thought in their lives depended upon it . . .

    I mean, really, do you think your particular philosophy is some novel idea? Guarantee it isn’t. As for the mmany atheistic materialists here, they were a dime a dozen in Greco-Roman antiquity. In fact, many of the ancient philosophers espoused ideas quite fashionable today (random creation of life; spontaneous generation of life; eternal cycles of creation and destruction; the cosmos as a giant recycling machine for atoms).

    “Evolution is what we’re talking about, Philip. Underneath all your double-speak and I-refuse-to-discuss evidence is the claim that God exists, that “He” created the world and that we did not evolve from monkeys, correct? You surely did not start this whole discussion for the sake of convincing me there is not a little dog in your head.”

    Let’s put it this way: If it turns out creation did not occur exactly as portrayed in Genesis, I would be neither surprised nor shaken. Genesis, to me, speaks primarily about God’s sovereignty.

    If nothing else, the accounts were meant to combat the following pagan notions: (a) the universe is eternal (fancy that — Scripture proclaiming cosmological truth millennia before science!); (b) the universe is a battlefield of the gods; (c) the universe is chaotic and evil; (d) matter is wicked, a product of some twisted sub-deity; (e) there is no one all-powerful sovereign Lord of time and space.

    • Posted December 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      “chronological snobbery”

      That’s one for the record books, Philip. Thanks for making me spit out my coffee.

      No snobbery here, silly. I am no more intelligent than you. But let’s discuss evidence, not philosophy.

      As a former Pagan I can tell you that everything on your list was made up by none other than Catholics who wished to badmouth Wiccans and women alike. Again, evidence. Show me one Wiccan / Pagan sites which make those claims.

      I don’t expect you to just take my word for anything, make me provide proof.

      • Philip
        Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Paganism is not monolithic, and modern paganism is at variance with ancient paganism at many points. So we must tread carefully here.

        It is undeniable that many (if not most) pagan mythologies have creation stories that involve two or more deities and/or supernatural forces either having sex or engaging in struggle. More generally, they begin with birth or death. This is a staple of ancient religion, especially those of the Near East. The point of Genesis was to say: “No, creation was not an accident; it was intentional, it was good, it was ordained and ordered start to finish by the One True God, who brought everything that is out of nothing by his own free will.”

        Even in later antiquity, sects like the Manichees rejected that idea that the “good God” of Jesus Christ created the world, because material is antithetical to spirit. This was the influence of oriental mysticism as well as Platonic dualism. Such negativity toward the material world also appears in the semi-paganized gnostic Christian cults. This is why the church has always valued the Genesis accounts: they affirm the goodness and intentionality of creation.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

          Do you have any evidence that this view of creation is accurate?

          • Philip
            Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

            Yes. But we never even finished our debate about what constitutes evidence.

            • truthspeaker
              Posted December 29, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

              I think the definition of empirical evidence is pretty well established in the literature.

            • Rob
              Posted December 29, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

              Funny, because all the existing scientific data goes against that.

  50. Joseph
    Posted July 27, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Mythological traits belong to mythological characters, not to historical ones. Virgin birth, miracles, return from the dead — there was no historical Jesus. Just the mythological one.


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