Readers’ beefs of the week

It was a productive two weeks for beefs, given my heavy criticism of religion, which always brings the faithful out of the woodwork to defend their God. And, surprisingly, they are often nasty! (That’s a joke.) Most (but not all) of the following people will have had only one chance to post on this site. As usual, all misspellings and infelicities of language are from the original comments.

Here’s a bad one: Reader “justice” commented on my post “Pennsylvania teenager faces jail time for ‘desecrating a venerated object,’ which proved surprisingly popular (though not with “justice”!) You may recall that that post showed a teenager who was in trouble for simulating fellatio with a Jesus statue:

degenerate faggot will be sucking cock in jail.
you stand for nothing.

“Justice” has clearly been drinking too much Mountain Dew in his parents’ basement.

*******

Reader Geoff commented on another popular post “John Dickson at the ABC: Theology is so sophisticated that it doesn’t need a subject“:

There are many people who believe in God and there are many interpretations in practiced belief. So it’s really none of your business if the want to design an academic study course on it.

Of course it’s my business to go after courses of study that contribute to the dissemination of lies and delusions. Many people believe in homeopathy, too—should I stop criticizing the courses about it and the many homeopathic products peddled in stores and pharmacies?

*******

Reader Daphne, no doubt a Jehovah’s Witness, had this to say about my post, “A Jehovah’s Witness criticizes me for criticizing their policy on blood transfusions“:

Actually if you were up to date on your research, you would know that blood transfusions are actually old medicine, it’s been proven that people who get bloodless surgery heal faster and better than people who recieve the blood. Even the military is recognizing this and using it on a more regular basis.

Old medicine? Gee, I wonder why the Red Cross is urging people to donate blood during the “Natonal Preparedness Month” of September, and has just launched a blood donation app for your mobile phone. that will schedule your donations, keep track of them, urge others to follow, and even give you credits? I guess the fact that blood transfusions are “old medicine” simply hasn’t reached the Red Cross, which promotes the app by saying, “The Blood Donor App is a great new way to help meet the constant need for blood.” It hasn’t reached my physician, either, who says he’s seen Jehovah’s Witnesses die after refusing transfusions, when a simple dollop of blood could have saved them.

*******

There were, however, a few more substantive comments that took me to task for not understanding religion. Here are three (one abridged) about my post “What is a “true” religion?”. The first is from reader “Ronk” (the quote in the first paragraph is from my post):

“if “true” means anything, it must mean “true to some principles.” As far as I can see, there are only two such principles: true to scripture or true to some code of conduct that the writer approves. But these definitions often contradict each other, so no “true” religion can be specified….ISIS, like all religious movements, is based on faith; and faith, which is belief in the absence of convincing evidence, isn’t true or false, but simply irrational.”

You clearly have (or are pretending to have) no idea what religion and faith are. True faith must of necessity be true to the principle that it cannot cannot assert anything which contradicts reason. Any religion which asserts anything irrational or which promotes actions which are immoral, is clearly not a true religion.

I take your point that ISIS is generally representative of the beliefs and actions of Moslem rulers over the last 1380 years. Howveer you seem unaware of the fact that the fundamentalist Christianity which you describe was not invented until Christianity was already 1900 years old; was virtually unheard of outside of the USA until 50 years ago; and still represents only a tiny minority of Christians currently living on earth.

Here we have another dime-store theologian trying to tell me what “true” religion is. First of all, Ronk claims that “true” religion cannot assert anything that contradicts reason. Well, that eliminates about 95% of the faiths on earth: those that make unfounded or unevidenced truth claims.  There goes literalist Christianity and most Islam, and even those Buddhists who believe in karma and reincarnation.  As for the claim that “true” religions don’t promote immorality, there goes Catholicism as well, with its claims that condoms don’t prevent AIDS, its demonizing of gays (whose behavior sends them to Hell), its acceptance of a historical Adam and Eve (which science has conclusively disproven), and its equating a human blastocyst with an adult human, since both supposedly have souls. And of course Islam goes again for promoting immorality. (Here’s one example: to prove a claim of rape, a woman requires the presence of four witnesses—or eight women, I guess, since sharia law says that a woman’s testimony is worth but half of a man’s—who will vouch for the rape. How likely is that?)

We already know about the canard that “fundamentalist Christianity began 50 years ago.” (actually, “The Fundamentals” began publication over a century ago, so Ronk doesn’t even know the facts). But that, pardon my French, is irrelevant bullshit. Every church father, from Aquinas on down, was a fundamentalist (or literalist, if you will) about some biblical claims. They all took Adam and Eve, the Genesis story, Hell, the Resurrection and so on as real, literal truths, and that, of course, is what I was talking about. I could give a hoot when the American Fundamentalist movement started (around 1910); what I care about is whether Biblical literalism has been on the go for the past two millennia. And it has. I claim that more than 90% of Christians are fundamentalists about the literal truth of at least one Biblical claims.

I recommend for Ronk a heavy and emetic dose of Aquinas and Augustine the Hippo, as well as Martin Luther.

***

Another comment from reader Richard Field:

I’m a materialist (atheist, if you will) and I have no desire to coddle religion, but it seems to me that ISIS are clearly motivated by political and social interests. Sam Harris, as well as those that talk of ‘true religion,’ often seems to treat religion as though it were a ‘thing’ in itself with clearly defined boundaries. It isn’t a thing; it is, in part, an ideology, and like any ideology it has no fixed form: it is a bundle of varying beliefs which melt into one another and also into other forms of ideology including political and economic ones. All developed religions are also political and economic movements. As soon as a group of believers get together they begin to have a group identity, a group, and therefore a political interest. As soon as they begin to acquire property or operate within the fundamentally economic nature of society they have economic interests. There is no clear way of distinguishing between what is ‘religious’ and what is political or economic. These things are just ideologies and all part and parcel of what human beings do in society.

Of course ISIS is a political movement and of course it is politically motivated. Religion is just the ideological form through which they express their political and economic interests. Religious ideologies are like ponds into which you can dip a bucket and draw out whatever beliefs you need to support your material aims. When has that not been the case?

This is just apologetics. Of course religions eventually get their tentacles into society, and affect politics, economics, and so on, but what is the pivot point? If Islam had never started, it’s highly doubtful that many of its malfeasances would be here. Would Sunnis kill Shiites, and ISIS kill apostates and Christians if there were no Islam? I doubt it.  Religions come with moral codes that cause the harm.  If Catholicism had never been started as the first institutionalized form of Christianity, would we still have had the Inquisition, the notion of a soul that does so much damage, the opposition to assisted suicide, the demonization of gays, and so on? Let me put Field’s misguided comments another way:

Of course ISIS is a religion movement and of course it is religiously motivated. Politics is just the ideological form through which religion expresses its need to control the behavior of others.

Religion comes first, the incursion into society comes after.

As for “religious ideologies” being so malleable that they can support their material aims, well, it’s not in the interest of the Catholic Church to oppose abortion or homosexuality or birth control. Why hasn’t it dipped the bucket yet to change those beliefs!

***

Finally, reader Patrick Hornqvist sent a very long comment—too long to reproduce here. I excerpt the relevant parts:

A good article, marred only by the author’s evident unfamiliarity with the Bible. Christians understand the Old Testament as “laying the groundwork” and gradually acclimatizing the barbaric culture of the time to a different standard. The overarching narrative is one of civilization and moral development. The “introduction” is laid out in the Old Testament (e.g. Do not kill, do not commit adultery) and the “conclusion” in the New Testament, in which Jesus states that killing is not enough to be perfect; one must not want to kill, or hate. Refraining from the physical act of adultery does not make one perfect; one must not objectify others, etc.

To put it simply, the logic is that for warlike nomads living thousands of years ago, not killing someone was a steep enough command; the whole “not hating others” thing needed to be put off until later.
This evolution is most obviously demonstrated by the shift in tone from the powerful, authoritative God (The Father) in the Old Testament dispensing righteous fury to protect the chosen people to the New Testament God (The Son) who meekly dies as a sacrifice. This contrast makes evident the new standard the adherent is to be judged by.

. . . Dr. Coyne’s assertion that, “You can cherry-pick the Qur’an as easily as you can the Bible: for both are filled with calls for violence and genocide that distress us.” displays a fundamental misunderstanding of how religious groups interpret their own texts. This is made all the more apparent when we consider that a good part of the Koran was simply lifted from the Old Testament, yet Jews, Christians and Muslims would arrive at wildly different conclusions as to the context and meaning of those same passages.

Some “logic”. What we have here is a posteriori special pleading designed to reconcile the supposedly disparate messages of the Old ad New Testaments, making them part of a single plan hatched by God.

And which Christians, exactly, say that the Old Testament has been superceded by the kindness of Jesus-Time? I know enough of the Bible to remember Matthew 5:17: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”  What part of that does Hornqvist not understand?

The reason why Christians like Hornqvist have reinterpreted the Old Testament, pretending that God was laying the groundwork for Nice Jesus Time, is because we now see that Old Testament morality is reprehensible. The rest is simply that the documents were written years apart, and by different humans.

And really, “the not hating others” thing would have been incomprehensible to those living in the Middle East? Give me a break! God could tell those people anything, and they’d obey him out of fear, if not reason!

As for the claim that Christians don’t cherry-pick the Bible for both literal truths and moral guidance, that’s just bunk. The Qur’an is indeed derived in large part from the Bible, but the disparate notions of what both dictate actually invalidates Hornqvist’s thesis, for how can you get such different interpretations out of what is largely the same stuff? Through cherry-picking! (The Qur’an, of course, is not the same as the Bible, and has a bunch of nasty stuff that contradicts the Bible, e.g., Jews as apes and swine, going to hell for claiming the Jesus was divine, etc.)  But you don’t need to contrast Islam and Christianity to show how cherry-picking is pervasive. Just look at all the different doctrines of all of the Christian sects, ranging from Pentecostals to Unitarians to Presbyterians to Methodists to Lutherans. Each sect has different moral codes and beliefs about sex, the status of women, the validity of the Trinity, consubstantiation vs. transubstantiation, the morality of homosexuality, and so on. That’s not to mention which literal truths are embraced, starting with Genesis and evolution.

Anybody who claims that people don’t cherry-pick their morality from the Bible, choosing that which comports with their extra-Biblical notions of what’s good and bad, is simply blind.

87 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. Rob
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    There are many people who believe in God and there are many interpretations in practiced belief. So it’s really none of your business if the want to design an academic study course on it.

    I agree with this, but only because the author isn’t describing what they think they’re describing. Interpreting that as written, they’re talking about anthropology, not theology.

  3. Posted September 13, 2014 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    There is also a verse in Deutoronomy that explicitly states that the law (Mosaic law) will be handed down for generations. I think it’s in Chapter 14. Verse 19;17 of Psalms states that the law is ‘perfect’. It doesn’t mention anything about a compromise for the duration of a couple centuries, ya know, just till Jeebus arrives.
    This goes to show that the authors of Old Testament didn’t believe that any further change was necessary. This whole talk about temporary fix is just a thin smokescreen.

  4. E.A. Blair
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    “…which always brings the faithful out of the woodwork to defend their God.”

    Any deity that needs mere humans to defend it does not deserve worship, respect or obedience. Just look at how the biblical deity has declined – it’s gone from smiting, rampant destruction and walking on water to appearing on toast.

    • Sastra
      Posted September 13, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      They think God is watching them to see who will go out of their way to defend Him — and who will not. It’s part of honor culture mentality and the belief that they are being constantly judged on loyalty.

      It’s also part of obeying the commandment to spread the Word of God and convert as many as possible. Someone could see and laugh at the image of blasphemy and think Christianity is silly — someone who would otherwise have accepted Jesus.

      Keep in mind that they’re living a story in their heads; this allows them to back out of a lot of reasonable objections which are coming from outside the story.

    • Posted September 13, 2014 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      @EA: yes, I was going to mention how surprising it is that so many of the godly seem to feel their “all powerful” sky fairy needs them to do his boxing for him, but you got here first!

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted September 13, 2014 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        And afterwards they’re all feeling some combination of smug and noble for ticking off those atheists who are so arrogant they don’t even thank God when he finds them a car park.

        • E.A. Blair
          Posted September 13, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

          I have a NeoPagan friend who uses this invocation: “Hail Asphalta* full of grace/help me find a parking place”. It is tongue in cheek, of course – and I must admit that NeoPagan rituals are rather fun.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Blood transfusions as “old medicine” is I think my favourite. Don’t give me any of that old timey medicine, I need that new fangled stuff!

    • Sastra
      Posted September 13, 2014 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      I think there have been a few cases where bloodless surgery was preferable under the circumstances of the particular medical problem. But this no more supports JW theology than trichinosis supports the OT ban on eating pork. From what I can tell Reader Daphne isn’t just justifying the taboo, she’s going for a Proof of God.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 13, 2014 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        And what is always funny about these things is using her version of “science” telling Jerry to update his “research”. The religious can have the strangest talent for unifying (unsuccessfully) contradictory beliefs.

        • Sastra
          Posted September 13, 2014 at 11:24 am | Permalink

          One of the JWs who came to my door told me that even all the mainstream scientists were rejecting the theory of evolution.

          Really? What proportion? Iirc he then told me that 80-90% of scientists in the world no longer believed in evolution. And he told me this calmly and confidently, as if he were simply reporting the facts.

          One of the easiest ways to justify/unify contradictory beliefs is ignorance. Many theists exist in a bubble of fellow believers. Of course, you find all sorts of bubbles in all sorts of areas, but the religious and spiritual can make an extra-special virtue of it: they call it “avoiding the contamination of the world” (or “avoiding negative energy.”)

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted September 13, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

            How did you respond to his evolution question? It would be fun to have an iPad ready to google it. 🙂

            • Sastra
              Posted September 13, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

              I just told him he was very mistaken, that I was fairly well acquainted with what the scientific mainstream view was — and it wasn’t that.

              He nodded meekly and moved on. I’ve found that the door-to-door proselytizers tend to be very non-confrontational. I’m not sure if that’s because they’re taught not to be (in order to appear more appealing), if they give up and move to more likely converts if they receive too articulate or informed a push-back, or if at least some of them are more or less phoning it in because their religion requires a certain amount of missionary street work and they really don’t enjoy it.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 13, 2014 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

                I think they are taught to be non-confrontational; the last thing you want is someone charging them with trespass if they become too persistent.

          • E.A. Blair
            Posted September 13, 2014 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

            This is on my front door, but most JWs ignore it and ring anyway.

            The only time I debated a JW on my doorstep I asked him, “What would you say if I rang your doorbell and told you that only I could save your soul?” When he hesitated, I said, “You’d do this.” and slammed the door.

            • Posted September 13, 2014 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

              Last time JWs came to my house, they startled my dog as she suddenly saw their van in the driveway when she looked out the window. This made her bark angrily, where she normally gets excited to meet someone new. This meant that the JWs practically just threw a pamphlet in the door.

            • Sastra
              Posted September 13, 2014 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

              It’s strange but I’ve never minded door-to-door proselytizing. Given the nature of their beliefs it seems reasonable under the circumstances.

              It also seems reasonable just as an idea: let’s get together and discuss questions concerning the nature of the universe, the purpose of existence, and how we choose to live. If I don’t mind people coming to my door to talk about politics or important local issues regarding street signs and school fundraisers, then why should I be bothered by folks bringing up larger concerns which are in the long run much more important and interesting? Philosophy on the porch.

              The fact that they both get it terribly wrong and don’t really do philosophy correctly (method, method, method) doesn’t for me negate the fact that at least their hearts seem to be in the right place, so to speak. They care about something more than the mundane. They’re selling ideas: BAD ideas, but hey, it’s a start.

              Perhaps the fact that it rarely happens at my house makes me more charitable (rarer still after I’ve sat down and chatted with them I’ve noticed.)Plus, they leave tracts or pamphlets which fascinate me, glimpses into what the average person – or what they think the average person — will find convincing. And for all I know, they found me persuasive … when they think it over later. They clearly don’t get many atheists (“An atheist? Okay, now — do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?”) and I suspect they don’t get a lot of opportunities to sit down either.

              • Garnetstar
                Posted September 14, 2014 at 7:21 am | Permalink

                I’ll bet I gave the most startling response ever to JW’s at my door: I flung the door open and screamed out: “I can’t talk now, I’m late for a wedding and can’t find one of my shoes!”, and slammed the door.

                It was true, too.

              • merilee
                Posted September 14, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

                I vaguely remember someone like Dear Abby years ago suggesting that you tell the JWs that you’re a nudist, and if they would like to take their clothes off and come inside you would listen to their spiel. It’d be my luck that they’d take me up on it…

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted September 14, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink

                It’s only because of damn empathy that I’m very polite to them. They do honestly think they are doing good and they are polite enough when I tell them thank you but I’m not interested and also refuse to take their flyer.

      • Garnetstar
        Posted September 14, 2014 at 7:19 am | Permalink

        This one’s my favorite, too. So, bloodless surgical patients heal faster? How about patients who present with severe hemorrhages? Are transfusions too old-fashioned for them?

  6. Daryl
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    “And which Christians, exactly, say that the Old Testament has been superceded by the kindness of Jesus-Time?”

    I think Paul of Tarsus is the usual suspect here. He is, after all, the Protestant Messiah.

    • Daryl
      Posted September 13, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Granted, he still quotes the Old Testament with authority in all the letters attributed to him, which is handy when it comes to gay-bashing. It’s all the ceremonial laws that have supposedly been washed away by Christ’s work on the cross. Prooftext: “if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose” (Galatians 2:21).

  7. Charles Jones
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    My high school chemistry and physics teacher told us with pride that he was one of the few people he knew who took the whole Bible literally. Everything.

    He was also a guy that really, really loved his dogs.

    Later I found evidence that dogs are the only creatures that God created specifically to go to Hell. Not only did KalKan dog food come in cans weighing 666 grams (our teacher told us about the satanic Proctor and Gamble symbol, so 666 grams counts as evidence!), but Revelations 22:15 states “For without [the paradisiacal New Jerusalem] are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”

    After I showed him both the 666 verse and Revelations 22:15, he muttered that these were allegorical verses. Pick and choose!

    • Sastra
      Posted September 13, 2014 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      PZ Myers has an entire talk on “God Hates D*gs,” complete with one denigrating Biblical reference after another.

      My understanding is that many modern Muslims also consider the d*g a spiritually unclean animal. A while back there was some sort of fuss over NY cabbies refusing to pick up anyone who had one, citing religious reasons and claiming discrimination if their companies ordered them to stop turning down business.

    • Posted September 13, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      @Charles Jones: re 666. I used to have my screensaver at work scroll 29A (which is 666 in hexadecimal) around the screen. I don’t think anyone ever knew the meaning of it, except maybe some of the IT staff.

      • Posted September 13, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        It’s a hex!

        /@

        • E.A. Blair
          Posted September 13, 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

          Which reminds me of the nerd joke: Why are Hallowe’en and Christmas the same?

  8. Posted September 13, 2014 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I have recently discovered that a professor of biology and chemistry at a public school in Canada is a creationist. He claims his principal and superintendent are also creationists. Should I inform someone? Who should I inform?

  9. Roger
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    A good article, marred only by the author’s evident unfamiliarity with the Bible. Christians understand the Old Testament as “laying the groundwork” and gradually acclimatizing the barbaric culture of the time to a different standard.

    Speak for yourself. Anyway the Christians who do see things that way sure don’t seem to have much of an opinion of the “chosen people”. Apparently they were like delicate flowers who couldn’t handle the truth, except really barbaric delicate flowers lol. And not very bright apparently.

    • Sastra
      Posted September 13, 2014 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      Yes, it’s the Little People Argument again, with folks in the ancient mideast being so dense and entrenched in old habits that they couldn’t be told not to rape women at all, they could only be told not to rape under certain circumstances. And yet the Greeks were debating ethical philosophy in surprisingly sophisticated ways. And the OT expected its followers to obey very complex and difficult rules regarding worship and purity.

      It would be like someone arguing that the best way to reduce inner-city gang violence is to introduce rules to them on who and when they are allowed to shoot each other. After all, they couldn’t handle not being allowed any unnecessary violence. Not those people. Then in 1500 years or so we can try to bring them up to regular standards.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted September 13, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

        It reminds me of this Ricky Gervais stand up bit.

      • Roger
        Posted September 13, 2014 at 11:42 pm | Permalink

        Not to mention the science. If they were told accurate scientific things, then I guess they would have fainting spells and mass science shock and horror overload would ensue.

        • Roger
          Posted September 13, 2014 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

          Or better medical advice even!

  10. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Christians understand the Old Testament as “laying the groundwork” and gradually acclimatizing the barbaric culture of the time to a different standard.

    “Barbaric”? Are we talking about the same times – viz 500 to 200 BCE? The acmes of the Grecian and Babylonian and Persian civilizations? Pericles and the invention of democracy (women and slaves need not apply, but at least they weren’t racist about it; unlike later “modern” Christians who fought tooth and nail and Gatling gun to maintain their slave-based economy).
    Oh, can we chuck in Archimedes, Aristotle , Pythagoras and Euclid too, for the foundation of the empirical sciences. And the un-named Babylonian who seems likely to have discovered electricity.
    Barbaric? He can say that from a society that has invented both the machine gun and the nuclear bomb.

    • Posted September 13, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      sub

    • Posted September 13, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      « And the un-named Babylonian who seems likely to have discovered electricity. »

      I think she was called “Amber” …

      /@

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted September 18, 2014 at 7:05 am | Permalink

        I’m thinking of the (alleged) “Baghdad Battery” and allegedly the oldest example of manipulation of electrical current rather than static electricity.
        But yes, they also had knowledge of static electricity, using both amber and electrum (natural silver-gold alloys).

        • Posted September 18, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

          I wasn’t meaning amber specifically, but alluding to where “electricity” comes from (ἤλεκτρον, amber). Hmm…

          /@

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted September 19, 2014 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

            Ah, that route.
            nONETHELESS, THE “bAGHDAD Battery” is fascinating reminder that our ancestors were smart – if ignorant.
            Maybe they could handle a “CapsLock” key ??

    • Hypatias Daughter
      Posted September 14, 2014 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      Yet, these same recalcitrant barbarians had no problem obeying God’s command to whack off the ends of their weenies, in an age before anesthetics or antibiotics. Even today, with modern medicine, a small percentage of circumcisions result in infection, maiming and death.
      (And the sour cherry on that shit sundae is that if a man was left scarred or maimed by the circumcision, he was barred from entering the Temple or serving as a priest.)

  11. colnago80
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    And which Christians, exactly, say that the Old Testament has been superceded by the kindness of Jesus-Time?

    Well, Prof. David Heddle who teaches physics at Christopher Newport University has claimed numerous time over at Ed Brayton’s blog that the Christian scriptures supersede the Hebrew scriptures.

  12. NewEnglandBob
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Sub

  13. Jeffrey Jones
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Jerry, I know you are against homeopathy, but you must give credit to Homeopathy Without Borders, who put their bodies on the line every day to help stop the spread of Ebola by using diluted tinctures 🙂
    I don’t claim originality for HWP, I saw it somewhere else.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted September 13, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Still, you shared it with us and for that I thank you.

    • Ralph
      Posted September 13, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      The more dilute the remedy, the greater the effect. It follows, surely, that fewer homeopathy practitioners will have a greater therapeutic effect. So the fact that none of them have actually gone to Africa shows the depth of their concern for the urgency of the crisis.

      • GBJames
        Posted September 13, 2014 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        Indeed.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted September 13, 2014 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        Greatest. Homeopathy. Cartoon. Ever.

        • Ralph
          Posted September 13, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

          Diluting 30X just makes it really easy for the ones that are left, so a really slow sperm can just wiggle up to the egg at leisure. That’s why they don’t go extinct, you just end up with a lot of lazy thinking.

          • Ralph
            Posted September 13, 2014 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

            Oops, I just realized that 30X is shorthand for diluting tenfold 30 times. I should never doubt Randall.

    • Posted September 13, 2014 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      😀 An excellent joke! Oh wait. …it isn’t a joke?

      that’s some deranged crap.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted September 13, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      I made a 30X homeopathic donation. Took $100, diluted it ten-fold thirty times, and sent the remainder, rounded to the nearest penny, to them.

      It feels great to contribute in an appropriate manner to such a worthy cause.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 15, 2014 at 12:49 am | Permalink

      The great virtue of homeopathy is that it’s foolproof. It doesn’t matter if the practitioner completely misdiagnoses the illness. It doesn’t matter if he starts with the wrong pathogen before dilution. It doesn’t matter if he loses count of the dilutions at 20C instead of 30C, or even if he doesn’t bother and just uses tap water instead. In all cases the homeopathic dose is exactly and precisely the same. Ain’t that great?

      • Posted September 16, 2014 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        That’s why Hahneman was able to claim cures – sometimes doing nothing is better than something.

  14. Nick
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Why would you bother responding to “Justice”? He or she is obviously just a troll and probably couldn’t care less about someone desecrating a statue. Don’t feed the trolls.

    Also, I think you’re jumping the gun a bit in assuming daphne and Patrick are religious simply because they disagreed with you on religious topics.

    • Posted September 13, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

      I didn’t respond to Justice; I posted his/her letter here just to show what kind of stuff comes in.

      I think it’s a pretty good bet that reader daphne is religious. Who else would defend the Jehovah’s Witness blood stance? And did I say that Patrick was religious? No.

      Do not tell me how I should respond to posts, okay?

      • Nick
        Posted September 13, 2014 at 10:54 am | Permalink

        I’ll admit “respond” was not the right word but surely just posting what Justice said is still feeding a troll and will encourage more trolling in the future since all they want is attention.

        Doesn’t the statement “The reason why Christians like Hornqvist…” suggest that he’s a Christian or am I missing some other interpretation here?

        • Posted September 13, 2014 at 10:56 am | Permalink

          No, you’re right about that; I missed it. However, I ask you again to not tell me how to run this website. I know trolls and get them all the time. The fact is that Nick is blocked. You are on moderation as well until you apologize, as you’ve just made things worse by your unwanted advice. Have you read the Roolz?

  15. Sastra
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Of course it’s my business to go after courses of study that contribute to the dissemination of lies and delusions. Many people believe in homeopathy, too—should I stop criticizing the courses about it and the many homeopathic products peddled in stores and pharmacies?

    My money is on Reader Geoff answering “yes.”

    Alt med proponents often manage get their courses and products in legitimate places by successfully playing the “teach the controversy” card on the Table of Open-Mindedness. Only they call it “integrative medicine.” So stop criticizing different ways.

    • Sastra
      Posted September 13, 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      Er … that last sentence is supposed to be satirical.

  16. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Richard Field says: “…it seems to me that ISIS are clearly motivated by political and social interests.” He then goes on to claim that one cannot separate religious from political or social motivations since they get all blended.
    I can agree that these things do get blended, but ISIS is clearly a group that is driven by a specific interpretation of a specific sect of a specific religion. Their interpretation of their religion makes them do what they do. It should not be surprising, however, that this would need to be explained to a religious apologist.
    I would ask: Imagine a group of people that are primarily motivated by a specific religious interpretation. Consider for a moment that there would be such a group of people. What would that group look like? What would be the inspiration behind their words and actions? Would their speeches be derived from their holy text, or would it be from the writings of Machiavelli or from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War? Would they go out of their way to direct their violence toward those of a different faith, killing and oppressing and forcibly converting them as is specifically prescribed by their religion, or would they tolerate those of different faiths and only attack those of any faith who try to get in their way? Just what would a murderous group of religiously motivated zealots behave like?
    ISIS walks, quacks, and looks exactly like a religiously motivated movement. We should call it that.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 13, 2014 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      I would offer to Richard Field this comment from a woman medical doctor who escaped to Turkey.

      “The most important thing for them was Sharia,” Raheb said, referring to Islamic law. “Not medicine, not health.”

    • Posted September 13, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      I think a notable point is that, regardless of whether any given movement is political, social, economic, or religious (or any combination thereof,) when the overt justification is religious, there are distinct reasons behind this – mostly, the idea of divine authority and its ability to draw in the suckers. Isn’t it curious how often the bastions of good, moral behavior get linked to oppressive and violent actions, and still continue to draw in the adherents?

      Why does it work? Because humans have a ridiculously well-developed ability to excuse abhorrent behavior just so they can retain their status as “good.” Because if religion is somehow found not to be good after all, then they’d have to, I dunno, actually go out and do something beneficial to earn this status. That might leave no time for being self-righteous.

      I would hazard a guess that the majority of religious folk use scripture to reinforce their preferred behavior. Sometimes this behavior is beneficial. Sometimes this behavior is selfish, egotistical, domineering, or vengeful. The large number of the former who simply refuse to recognize the latter is downright scary.

      • Sastra
        Posted September 13, 2014 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

        You might be right, but my suspicion is that it’s the other way around. A minority of the religious use scripture to reinforce their preferred behavior and for the majority their behavior is shaped by both their religion … as well as their inherent tendencies.

        That’s because religion is so good at using supernatural authority/knowledge to frame moral questions. An otherwise wise, kind, intelligent person can urge wars, condemn homosexuals, advocate vengeance, anticipate armageddon, or believe in a 10,000 year old earth because they’re taught not just that these things are good, but why they are good — and why people of the world will not see eye-to-eye with them on this. They have a deeper insight into the genuine situation because of their faith.

        I have been told by many religious people that the best solution to all the ills of the world is more “love” — a love inspired of course by spirituality. I don’t think that’s the main problem though. Suicide bombers will tearfully kiss their friends and relatives goodbye before they sacrifice themselves for a deep and sincere love of God and country. I think we need more reason.

        • Posted September 14, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

          My point was that use of scripture is always selective – for instance, there is a great deal of concern over homosexuality, to the point of demanding restrictive legislation, but nobody seems too concerned with the bits about facial hair or women’s ‘unclean’ periods.

          As I thought about that a bit, though, I realized that most people really don’t bother with their scripture at all – they listen to what their churches tell them (and the supposed interpretations thereof,) and never try to read it for themselves without editorials.

          But are they primarily guided by the church doctrine instead? It would take seeing what their church is preaching, but I still doubt it. Even with weekly reinforcements, it’s not hard to find religious folk who forget all the peace and humility stuff, but really focus on the retribution bits, even ignoring that it’s god’s retribution. Their presence in the church on Sunday mornings (adjust as needed) is all that’s needed to fulfill their obligations.

          And yes, I agree with you on the reason bit, though I use the term ‘critical thinking’ – everyone believes they’re reasonable. The ability to always says to oneself, “But is that correct?” is something too few people try to adopt.

  17. Sastra
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Reader “Ronk” wrote:

    True faith must of necessity be true to the principle that it cannot cannot assert anything which contradicts reason. Any religion which asserts anything irrational or which promotes actions which are immoral, is clearly not a true religion.

    Unfortunately, True Faith must of necessity be true to the principle that it cannot cannot assert anything which contradicts the Reasoning of God. The Reasoning of God is perfect because, unlike human beings, God knows the Big Picture and can interpret what is rational and moral within that spiritual framework.

    Here’s the test, “Ronk:” go out and ask people who claim to be pious and yet appear to be doing immoral actions whether they are indeed doing immoral actions … or whether they are doing actions which are highly ethical when viewed from inside their religion (which, when you ask them, turns out to be True.)

    “Faith” itself – an insistence on adhering to a factual belief as if doing so is a test of one’s character — is an epistemic no-no. But under religion, it turns into the most beautiful virtue of all.

  18. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    In fairness to Ronk’s final paragraph, it might be better to speak of pre-20th century Christians as partial “literalists” and “committed to creedal orthodoxy” rather than as “fundamentalists” as the latter term is usually reserved to refer to an all out commitment to full Biblical literalism.

    (But his 2nd paragraph is just special pleading.)

  19. Posted September 13, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    I think you couldn’t give a hoot.

  20. Posted September 13, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    The “new medicine” of no blood transfusions apparently cuts down on the number of old Jehovah’s witnesses.

  21. Filippo
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    sub

  22. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Not much to add here. And the usual foaming-at-the-mouth crazy was pitiful this time around.

    Except maybe this:

    Christians understand the Old Testament as “laying the groundwork” and gradually acclimatizing the barbaric culture of the time to a different standard.

    What is it with apologetics and its unthinking defense of the indefensible? To try to withdraw religion as it is, or here has been, practiced from testable scrutiny is both silly and futile. Worse, it is immoral.

    Apologetics is like claiming that arsenic isn’t dangerous, because you can dilute it until its accumulated toxicity is somewhat less than a lifetime LD50 dose. Does that help the many citizens that drink arsenic poisoned well water?

  23. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    “As for “religious ideologies” being so malleable that they can support their material aims, well, it’s not in the interest of the Catholic Church to oppose abortion or homosexuality or birth control.”

    Well, arguably it is in their interest to oppose two of those because it potentially results in more Catholic-fodder. But I agree that’s not the primary reason why they do it.

  24. Posted September 13, 2014 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps Patrick Hornqvist should spend time telling the likes of the duck dynasty crew with their solution of killing or converting Muslims about how they are “doing it wrong.” Instead, most religious people give waivers to all other religious people because “at least they believe in God.”

  25. Mattapult
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    It isn’t that not getting a blood transfusion makes someone heal faster; it’s that the bloodless surgeries use minimally invasive techniques and other methods to reduce the need for blood transfusions in the first place. Minimize the trauma of a surgery, and healing is faster. No surprise there.

    A better measure would be JW’s who refuse blood transfusions after being in car wreck. I’m sure their recovery is longer, and their survival rate is lower. Of course, if they are bad enough to need a transfusion, they may not be conscious to refuse it.

  26. Another Tom
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    “Augustine the Hippo” that just made me smile.

    Funnily enough Augustine argued for caution in interpreting Genesis. Generally he warned against taking bits literally that are contradicted by observation and reason, because it would make christianity look bad. He didn’t want potential converts to view christianity as a religion of idiots.

    So much for modern creationists.

    • Posted September 14, 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Yes, but the consequences of his caution were less severe in that age. There wasn’t reason to believe the Earth couldn’t be just several thousand years old, for example. There also wasn’t the overwhelming evidence that falsification is a powerful tool for finding out the truth. It’s true that if Augustine were here today, hr may have been one of the sophisticated theologians, but if that were the case, it blows the claim apart that religion has some grip on “unchanging truth”.

    • Posted September 14, 2014 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Yes, but the consequences of his caution were less severe in that age. There wasn’t reason to believe the Earth couldn’t be just several thousand years old, for example. There also wasn’t the overwhelming evidence that falsification is a powerful tool for finding out the truth. It’s true that if Augustine were here today, hr may have been one of the sophisticated theologians, but if that were the case, it blows the claim apart that religion has some grip on “unchanging truth”.

  27. merilee
    Posted September 13, 2014 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    sub

  28. Stephen P
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    We already know about the canard that “fundamentalist Christianity began 50 years ago.” (actually, “The Fundamentals” began publication over a century ago, so Ronk doesn’t even know the facts).

    To be fair, I think he got that bit right. What he says is that it “was virtually unheard of outside of the USA until 50 years ago”, which may well be correct as far as the current American strain is concerned.

    But yes, I think the movement of the early 1900s should be seen as the resurrection of fundamentalism, after a period when common sense and science seemed to be winning, not the birth of fundamentalism.

  29. friendlypig
    Posted September 14, 2014 at 2:53 am | Permalink

    Prof, I’m glad I read the entire post otherwise I would have missed your reference to Mathew 5:17. That, IMHO, stops many of the religious; and was certainly good value when the Protect the Pope website was in full swing. not even Deacon Donnelly whose website it was chased that one down.

    Another they don’t like is Mathew 6:6.

    It’s all about pick and chose.

    Incidentally God can’t touch me; I live in a valley and drive an iron chariot (Judges 1:19). Life’s a bummer!

  30. Posted September 14, 2014 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Jerry succinctly states “Anybody who claims that people don’t cherry-pick their morality from the Bible, choosing that which comports with their extra-Biblical notions of what’s good and bad, is simply blind.” One of the best arguments one can use when someone starts thumping their bible is using other bible verses! One of my favorites is when a divorced and remarried person rails against same sex marriage – easy pickin’s


%d bloggers like this: