Sin and The Sinner

by Grania

I noticed a comment that said something along the lines of trying to find common ground for a person while despising most of their political beliefs was somewhat like the old Christian aphorism “Love the sinner, hate the sin”.



It’s a slogan that makes most liberal people, even  non-atheists, choke a little. But it really deserves some unpacking because I don’t think that the analogy is completely fair. I am not trying to call anyone out on this, I’ve seen it in many places before. In fact I am pretty sure I’ve used it myself.

The reason why “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a slogan that deservedly gets a lot of scorn and eye-rolling is not really because of what it says but because of what its common association is: i.e. a rather smug self-congratulatory  phrase used by bigots in an attempt to paint themselves as reasonable and compassionate, usually seconds after announcing that a percentage of the human race deserves to be treated as second class citizens in all perpetuity for reasons of having been born with different proclivities to their own.

However, in and of itself the idea of being able to discriminate between people and their actions and beliefs is not only a laudable one; but is probably something that all humans do.

For example, if your child comes home from school having gotten themselves into a brawl, even a brawl that is largely their own fault; you are probably not going to stop loving them and cut off all ties with them. Compassion and discrimination are much more important here than absolutism.

Another example, in 2002 Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, and Richard Dawkins worked together on an issue that concerned them: that of the teaching of Creationism in “faith schools” in the UK. They may fundamentally disagree on whether there is a god or not, but clearly their passion for good standards in education is far more important than their philosophical differences.

For some time now politics in the media has fostered a culture of polarizing the “other”, to pretty much the detriment of everyone. If Obama’s years in office have shown the US and the world anything, it’s just how destructive absolute refusal to accommodate and compromise can be. As a non-American, I must confess to just gaping at the non-stop filibustering that has marked his term. The damage done must be hard to quantify.

Anyway, all of this is a long-winded way of saying that one does not have to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. One can find common ground with and compassion for the “sinner”, even if one has serious reservations about the “sin”. There is nothing inherently wrong or illogical with that line of thought.

Of course, none of this means you have to tolerate bigotry, racism or homophobia in your midst; no matter what flowery terms it gets couched in. However, just because some people rather cynically misuse an otherwise fairly sane and astute observation about humanity, doesn’t make it a useless point worthy of consideration. You shouldn’t have to agree with someone on every point to be able to work together on issues that matter to both of you.



  1. Scott Draper
    Posted July 26, 2015 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    if your child comes home from school having gotten themselves into a brawl, even a brawl that is largely their own fault; you are probably not going to stop loving them and cut off all ties with them.

    Not really a good analogy. Imagine if the child did this every day and reveled in hurting others. I could easily imagine a parent eventually recoiling in horror at their child. Some parents of psychopaths feel this way.

    • rickflick
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think that’s the analogy Grania has in mind. The idea was that of a typical and usual kid getting into a rare and rather normal altercation at school, as children often do. Extrapolating in the direction of a clinically diagnosed psychopathic child who is totally beyond control has little bearing or utility in this case.

      • Scott Draper
        Posted July 26, 2015 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

        The psychopathy is irrelevant.

        In Grania’s example, the bad behavior is a one-time thing, whereas the “sin” that people abhor is always present and repeatedly committed with enthusiasm.

        • rickflick
          Posted July 26, 2015 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

          Sure, adults may be ingrained in their attitudes and rather immune to correction, while the child, assuming a proper upbringing, will soon see the light. However, it’s not always the case that mature bigots are unreachable. All analogies suffer from excess scrutiny, but I got here point well enough.

    • nightgaunt49
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

      No you don’t abandon them, the take them to see professionals about evaluation to see if there is an inner need for the child to provoke violence. Even psychopaths can be helped, but the parents must be patient and relentless in order to instill in a child about attacking others is wrong. Still it is hard to help them.

      Religion and other forms of psychological framework can abet their natural tendencies and give permission for heinous violence. We find that in the Abrahmic religions all too easily. Only those who ignore such parts are pleasant people not to be feared. But then they are acting against the dictates of their own “loving” religions.

      How do we deal with the ones “who must believe” yet shrink from the more violent aspects of it like stoning and institutionalized anti-sexualism. (Only married and only for reproduction is allowed.)

      • rickflick
        Posted July 26, 2015 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

        Don’t forget celibate priests and nuns.

  2. Dermot C
    Posted July 26, 2015 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    The problem ,Grania, is the word ‘love’. Love begins with lust, and is the hard work one puts in through lifetime commitment to another. It ain’t humanly possibly to claim you love a sinner for whatever they have done with which you disagree: a better word is ‘tolerate’ in its old-fashioned enlightenment sense. Dinner calls, hence the brevity. x

    • nightgaunt49
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      It’s a compulsion to reproduce. And that orgasm is a real good pay off. Fortunately we can have sex any old time alone or in groups and with no conscious need to reproduce. Which is where religion drops its iron spiked boots.

      • rickflick
        Posted July 26, 2015 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

        “Which is where religion drops its iron spiked boots”
        But, in the nicest way possible.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      I expect it may be a translation/usage thing. In the old days ‘love’ did not necessarily mean shagging. (It still doesn’t – I love my car / Pink Floyd / walking in the bush yadda yadda).

      In its context, I think it means a bit more than ‘tolerate’ – I think it means ‘show compassion for’. I still don’t like it as a slogan – too neat and simplistic.


    • darrelle
      Posted July 27, 2015 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      There are several different kinds of love. Only one of them includes lust for sex.

      Though, at least a couple of the other kinds of love can evolve into eros-love, particularly in males. Even so, I think the word love works just fine in this quote. I think it works well in this context.

      • Dermot C
        Posted July 27, 2015 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        Yep, I know that there are different kinds of love, none of which remotely cover the patronizing Christian ‘love the sinner etc.’ trope.

        On lust becoming love, that’s a common psychological and physiological pattern in western relationships. Young lovers rut furiously for the first few weeks, gradually get to know each other, rumpo tails off gradually over the first year, becomes sporadic, and through the irritations, doubt, disenchantment and parental-distancing of the 40s and 50s a sort of love, contentment, understanding returns in old age. Again a more mature impression of the partner being one’s other half, the confirmation of one’s youthful wish and desire.

        In no possible sense can one love the sinner and hate the sin: this is just oleaginous Christian creepiness. Frankly, I don’t believe anyone who says they love the sinner. Respect as a human being, maybe. Respect their ideas? No chance. Tolerate in the enlightenment sense? Of course.

        But love? No way: especially if you’re being commanded to, by the End of Days. x

        • darrelle
          Posted July 27, 2015 at 11:09 am | Permalink

          I thought we were talking about a secular interpretation of this?? I thought we had already thrown the religious interpretation under the bus?

    • eric
      Posted July 27, 2015 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      What does lust have to do with the love between a parent and child? Or two siblings? You can certainly have love without lust.

      Personally, the reason I don’t take such platitudes seriously is because the behavior of the people who say it isn’t IMO consistent with them loving the sinner. A true ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ attitude would probably involve inviting them over to talk about things. Actively wanting them to go to church with you. Giving them hugs when they’re upset. Telling them to stop, yes, but being their friend while you do so. Just imagine your sibling is cheating on their spouse (who has done nothing bad). You love your brother/sister, but you hate their behavior. Its unlikely you would respond to that situation by trying to make adultery illegal. Who does that? You probably wouldn’t exile them from your family or faith based community, either. Yet these are the thing anti-gay fundies do. Yes, as Grania says, its possible to love the sinner and hate the sin. But I would say that the empirical evidence from anti-gay fundy behavior doesn’t support the notion that they are actually doing that; they appear to be hating on the sinner as well as the sin.

  3. Stephen Barnard
    Posted July 26, 2015 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I think we do have to tolerate bigotry, racism, and homophobia. Of course, it depends on what you mean by “tolerate”. I take it to mean allowing free expression of ideas and positions, regardless of how repugnant they may be, short of them calling for or inciting violence. It doesn’t mean standing silent.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      I agree. This is a good post imo Grania. We do have to put up with bigots etc in the name of free speech, as long as they don’t advocate violence etc. It is only by engagement and the exchange of ideas that we can hope to change hearts and minds.

      An example is the remarkable move towards the acceptance of same-sex marriage around the world. Twenty years ago it was unthinkable. The places where it’s still unthinkable are those where civil discourse is discouraged or shut down, most often due to religion.

  4. Sastra
    Posted July 26, 2015 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    However, just because some people rather cynically misuse an otherwise fairly sane and astute observation about humanity, doesn’t make it a useless point worthy of consideration.

    Agree completely. You state it very well. The ability to take a person’s entire background, community, experience, training, ideology, and even genetics into account when you “judge” them as a total human being is I think actually fostered by a scientific gnu atheist approach. We consider multiple contexts and factors in analyzing both humanity as a whole and individuals in particular.

    A belief in supernatural essences of good and evil is what leads to the black-and-white assumptions that some people are just plain “bad” and ought to be objectively and entirely condemned (and damned.) Recognizing nuances leads to a larger group of mitigating factors.

    The reason why “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a slogan that deservedly gets a lot of scorn and eye-rolling is not really because of what it says but because of what its common association is: i.e. a rather smug self-congratulatory phrase used by bigots in an attempt to paint themselves as reasonable and compassionate, usually seconds after announcing that a percentage of the human race deserves to be treated as second class citizens in all perpetuity for reasons of having been born with different proclivities to their own.

    It’s maybe not so much the self-congratulatory smugness as the mis-categorization. “Sin” is a deepity. If used in the secular sense it involves causing real harm to self and others. In the religious sense it can mean any damn thing at all. It’s infuriating then when the religious try to blend the two interpretations into one and pretend that “accepting” someone despite their sexual orientation is JUST LIKE “accepting” someone despite criminal tendencies. They want to get credit for being open-minded or loving and continuing to have “hope.”

    And from the religious perspective, so they should. After all, it’s certainly better and more “Christ-like” to treat weak individuals with compassion. But the religious perspective is not the reality perspective, thank you very much. Creating new “sins” just so there can be a big freakin song and dance when you forgive them in the name of God doesn’t count. It wouldn’t even count in God’s favor.

    None of us is perfect. But from what I can tell the fundamentalist version of God is even worse.

    • JJH
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 6:33 pm | Permalink


      I guess I came too late to the party. You wrote almost the same comment I was going to. As a pretty much strict determinist/humanist, the “Love the sinner, hate the sin” ideal is a natural deduction. Although, like you, I would shy away from using the word sin due to the equivocations that could result. The only thing that I would add is that a great deal of disdain that the secular community has for the phrase is due to the rank hypocrisy of many Christians who use it (e.g. encouraging ostracization of family, threatening children with hell-fire, etc.)

    • darrelle
      Posted July 27, 2015 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      I thought Grania was right on the money, and your addition here, Sastra, is spot on. Couldn’t agree more. It is about compassion and tolerance, and the problem word is not “love” but “sin.” But, as you say, a secular interpretation of “sin” cleans it up nicely.

  5. Posted July 26, 2015 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Two points here –

    First, what is the point of “loving the sinner and hating the sin” if there is no such thing as free will? What is there to “love” anyway when we are only speaking of a robot? As for the sin, that is nothing but a causally inevitive happening.

    Second point – I do agree that there is plenty of room to work with those of religious persuasion if the particular goals we seek are goals held in common. I think a perfect example of this is in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover School Board case where religious scientists speaking for Evolution proved the most effective witnesses for a common cause of Science.

    • Sastra
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      Without getting into it too deeply here, I think you misunderstand the free will debate and its utility in addressing questions which take place on other levels (though it’s also possible none of us ‘properly’ understands it.) No “robots.” People are still people, emotions are still emotions, psychological causes are still psychological causes, and so forth and so on regardless of whether or not their ultimate explanations reduce to the non-mental level of physics. Your first question is irrelevant then.

      Agree with your second point.

      • Posted July 26, 2015 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

        Well, far be it for me to ever want to rekindle the tedious free will debate once again here. Been there, done that! All I will say is that I believe you are wrong Sasta in your “people will be people” argument. There is a profound implications if someone accepts the premise that there is no such thing as free will. It changes everything. I believe that incompatibilists realize this subconsciously and not liking the implications they come up with rationalities such as yours – “people will be people” or “I can’t help having the illusion”. Thus they try to have their “there is no free will” cake and eat the “yes there is free will” cake’s implications too.

        Sorry – it doesn’t work.

        • Sastra
          Posted July 27, 2015 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

          I can’t remember who said the following:”An explanation doesn’t change what’s being explained.”

          (I’m a compatibilist, by the way, so your question and argument may be aimed at Jerry more than at me.)

          • Posted July 27, 2015 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

            Sorry, but I’m going to have to call a deepity foul on that.

            Trivially true: life on Earth continued to evolve the same way after Darwin’s seminal publication as it had for billions of years prior.

            Profoundly worng: before Darwin, as far as humanity was concerned, YHWH was personally responsible for the development of life. The deepity would have us believe that, since nothing changed but the explanation, YHWH is still personally responsible for the development of life; just that the development matches Darwin’s explanation instead.


            • Sastra
              Posted July 27, 2015 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

              I think you’re misinterpreting the quote. What it means is that, say, a bird itself isn’t suddenly going to behave differently if we change our explanation from divine creation to evolution, or from evolution to divine creation.

              • Posted July 27, 2015 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

                Yes; that’s the trivially true part. But, from the perspective of our understanding of the behavior of the birds, everything changes in light of Darwin.

                The same would apply back to the original conception of “free will.” People will still be governed by the same physics as always, but our understanding of that behavior will be radically different…and, especially in this case, that new understanding will recursively alter the behavior itself.


            • Posted July 27, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

              But YHWH is the explanation and he is what is being changed (yes, I know exactly what I’m saying about the “unmoved mover” here). The fact that there’s life on Earth is the unchanged part.

              YHWH is not needed as an explanation and suddenly we have a resurgence and revisionism going on saying that YHWH is necessary for everything regardless of what other explanations are in place. Of course, the elephant in the room is that claiming YHWH is the first cause of everything has effectively eliminated him from being at all useful (and for that, you should use the word “mystery”).

        • Posted July 27, 2015 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

          I program computers for a living. Should I assume algorithms can’t improve and that solutions to problems can’t improve and that machine learning is all in vain because it’s deterministic? Determinism versus indeterminism is simply a debate over the rules of the game and I frankly think it’s so far removed from telling us anything useful that it detracts from more important discussions such as what deterministic processes tell us about human behavior. We are making great inroads in understanding causes for behavior and modifying behaviors based on that understanding.

          For the record, I agree with Sean Carroll’s take that free will is a perfectly useful phrase in everyday language. The fact that the debate is largely semantic has been rehashed here countless times. Unless you’re proposing dualism, there just isn’t a major disagreement between the two camps.

          I view free will in the same way as I view something like fluid mechanics. It is certainly useful to model weather by assuming randomness all over the place because we simply don’t have the processing power to compute the system precisely. But no one is out there pretending that weather isn’t determined by the laws of Physics.

          • Posted July 27, 2015 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

            I quite agree with you Chris. If only incompatibilists took this sort of view then there would be no problems. But they go on to deriving “necessary implications” of their non-free-will theory into “necessary new behaviours” arguments. For example that we should penalise criminal behaviours to a far lesser degree – it’s not the criminals “fault”. Yet they seem to ignore the flip side of their belief – e.g. that nobody deserves any praise whatsoever for any extraordinary achievements.
            In any case I believe that the “physics” they talk about in mental process is horrifically reductionist and bears no actual relation to the complex processes in the human brain -modeling, associative memory, learning, self programming, abstraction etc etc. It’s like discussing an AND gate and declaiming “this device could never solve a differential equation”. They ignore that AND gates can be structured into computers and that such solution capabilities do then emerge.

            • Posted July 27, 2015 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

              For example that we should penalise criminal behaviours to a far lesser degree – it’s not the criminals “fault”.

              Eh, that’s not the argument Jerry nor I make.

              The common justification for punishment is that the criminals deserve it because they were compelled by their free will to choose to do so. Jerry and I argue that that argument is fallacious because it depends on “free will” being a real phenomenon, which it isn’t.

              You could then certainly go on to make some other argument in favor of punishment that doesn’t depend on free will; however, any such argument is going to run afoul of the empirical evidence that demonstrates that punishment leads to worse outcomes than non-punitive options. That there are better solutions than punishing people — that’s why Jerry and I oppose punishment.


              • Posted July 28, 2015 at 5:50 am | Permalink

                It doesn’t really matter how you frame your argument Ben, you are still using the supposition (an incorrect one I would say) that free will does not exist – and based on this supposition our behaviour should be different than it would be if free will really did exist.
                All I ask is that if you hold this incompatibilist position on free will you should at least be CONSISTENT. You should not cherry pick the “nice to haves” of the alternative compatibilist position and hang on to them with justifications such as “it is just human” or “we can’t help having the illusion” etc.
                Just consistently accept ALL the implications of your stance e.g. that achievement, romantic love, bravery etc etc are also invalid constructs along with blame.

              • Posted July 28, 2015 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

                Just because there aren’t any married bachelors doesn’t mean that marriage isn’t real or that there aren’t any unmarried bachelors. And “free will” is no more necessary for “achievement, romantic love, bravery etc etc” than are the gods that grant us our “free will” in the first place.


            • Posted July 27, 2015 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

              Honestly, I skim most of the free will debates here, partially because I lack the time to digest all the comments since they are some of the most popular posts and also because I’ve still yet to see how the conversation is different from one group saying their team won by 3 points while the opposing camp vehemently declares that this is wrong and it is their team who lost by 3 points.

              I also have to question that the definition of free will that we typically throw out around here, which pretty much coincides with the dictionary definition.

              Really? People think that free will means they have choices unrestrained by prior causes? All but the looniest among us would readily admit that you can make a choice to jump over the moon and fail due to biology and physics. This is a silly example, but extends to every day situations where most (and I admit many people fall outside this camp) people would say they can’t make the choice not to have a terminal illness. Even including the woo peddlers, most people will admit we have no ultimate choice about dying.

              So, if we start pressing people about free will and really making them think about it, I don’t think we’ll end up with anything resembling the dictionary definition. We certainly have a long way to go to get people to accept proven methods of behavior modification, and this is where I think Jerry and others here jump in and say we need to learn how to live with the effects of determinism. I happen to think, along with you, that that conversation is too far removed from the context of everyday life. Let’s get people to believe there’s more than will power to modifying behavior, and that’d be a big first step. The debate can be fascinating, but I don’t think that holds true for society at large.

              And now we’ve done exactly what you fretted about, gone head first back into the free will conversation…but we had no choice 😉

    • phil
      Posted July 27, 2015 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      Actually some of the most effective witnesses against Dover School Board were those ostensibly giving evidence for said School Board. Why none was charged with perjury is a mystery.

      • Posted July 27, 2015 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        I’ve watched the PBS film “The Devil in Dover” several times… even had a chance conversation at a scientific gathering with Nick Matzke from the NCSE who had a central role in putting together the case for the plaintiffs. Board members it seems, lied, tampered with evidence and perjured themselves in pretrial depositions. Judge Jones recognised these serious transgressions but merely lectured them on their misdeeds. Why they weren’t charged seems a total mystery to me.
        The thing that most impresses me about the case is the unbelievable bravery of the plaintiffs themselves. They exposed themselves to becoming hated outcasts within their own community, and had to go through long months of tedious litigation. And for what? For scientific truth. And they were just ordinary people and also mostly religious believers. They took our side. Anyone who would look down on such brave allies needs to question themselves on whether THEY could ever be so brave.

  6. BobTerrace
    Posted July 26, 2015 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    There are times when a person stands for so many things that are opposed to your own beliefs so that the accumulation makes it difficult to see that person separate of their ideology. I find that I cannot respect someone who is that far off from what I find correct and I can even hold contempt for a few that I have had to oppose on every issue.

    • Frank
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      “the accumulation makes it difficult to see that person separate of their ideology.”

      Why do we have to separate the “person” and the “ideology” in the first place? What exactly IS this separate “person”, anyway? A “soul” that is somehow separate from a person’s thoughts and action?

      And what is wrong with some good, old-fashioned contempt when we deem that it is warranted? Contempt for those who decrease the well-being of others is a GOOD thing – it often it spurs people into appropriate action. Where does this line of thinking end? “Love Hitler, hate the Holocaust”?

      Where is Hitchens when you need him? He never shrank from exposing the vapid nature of the Christian dictum, “love thy enemies”.

      • phil
        Posted July 27, 2015 at 8:02 am | Permalink

        You have a point Frank. From what little I know of Islam it looks pretty nasty in parts (and so does Christianity and Judaism judging by the OT), but I’m reasonably sure most Muslims, some of whom are citizens of my country, are decent people (or at least not really worse then the rest of us).

        The problem I have is how can we condemn a nasty ideology without condemning the believers, who very frequently identify themselves through said nasty ideology? I feel sorry for them, their ideology has been used as justification for horrendous behaviour and it has defamed them.

        I don’t think they can be inoculated by claims that their ideology has been hijacked or misinterpreted, but at the same time it is often counterproductive and unfair for them to feel isolated and condemned.

        We have this problem in Australia that some Muslims feel unsafe on the streets, particularly women because of their dress, in the aftermath of events at home and abroad. I think that’s bad. I don’t think it’s good that they feel the need to dress a particular way for their religion, but it’s about as bad as them feeling unsafe on the streets because they want to dress that way.

        And yet, those really hateful people who interpret the nastiest parts of their ideology literally and act on it (e.g. Westboro Baptists, IS) should be condemned.

      • darrelle
        Posted July 27, 2015 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        I sure can’t speak for others, and I am quite familiar with the traditional religious usage of this saying, but I sure would never interpret this saying to mean that we are supposed to love everyone, all the time, no matter what they’ve said or done. I don’t know Grania at all except through her comments here, but I am pretty damn sure she doesn’t intend such a trite absolute interpretation as you imply, either.

        It is a sentiment to keep in mind, to check yourself so that perhaps you are able to reduce the incedence of being a dick in situations where being a dick is uncalled for.

        Have you never noticed that whenever circumstances are such that you come to learn more of a person that you don’t like, on a personal level, that more often than not you find that they have some redeeming qualities that engender something like a “hey, she isn’t so bad after all” kind of attitude?

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      I feel the same for some people – I find myself feeling nothing but contempt for them when every opinion they hold is, to my way of thinking, just ignorant. It can be a struggle just to be polite. I force myself to remember how much they would love to be able to criticize me for something like being rude.

      Also I know it really annoys them when I keep being reasonable and always have an answer up my sleeve to their stupid arguments that they think are so clever that no one’s ever thought of them before. “Why are there still monkeys?” As a non-scientist, that one’s supposed to really stump me.

      I also tend to repeat over and over in my head my personal mantra that even idiots have the right to free speech. And even in my own head that sounds pretty arrogant, presumptuous, superior etc and successfully makes me remember all the times I’ve f**ked up and had to admit I was wrong.

      • BobTerrace
        Posted July 26, 2015 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

        I particularly despise a person who discusses politics with a friend of mine on Facebook. She is a far right wing conservative and I catch her fabricating nonsense all the time. I refute what she says with multiple links to back me. She then tries to use the “tone” argument which is when I inform her that people use that when they have no facts. That usually chases her away.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 26, 2015 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

        I think you and I might have the same relatives. 😉

        • Posted July 27, 2015 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          We all do, it just varies how close they are 😉

        • Posted July 27, 2015 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

          I have a theory, which is mine, that we all share the same half-dozen batshit crazy relatives, and said people do the sockpuppet thing to convince us that they’re really different people.


          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted July 27, 2015 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

            I think you might be on to something there. I wonder if to them, we’re the crazy ones they complain about.

            • Posted July 27, 2015 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

              Hmmm…could be…in which case, it would seem that our overpopulation problems are solved — there are, after all, only a dozen of us: half a dozen of “them,” and half a dozen of “us.”

              For my encore, I’ll now proceed to turn the zebra crossing into a finch guard.


      • Sastra
        Posted July 26, 2015 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

        When I come across people whose “every opinion they hold is, to my way of thinking, just ignorant” I try to imagine that they might be kind to their pets, good to their friends, or maybe just useful or helpful in some other way — like giving good directions to the train station or knowing how to get keep chipmunks out of potted plants. It’s rare that I can’t even imagine anything like this.

        It doesn’t necessarily make me like or respect them. It just opens up the possibility that, under certain circumstances, I could conceivably like or respect them. And, as you point out, I’ve f*cked up enough myself that I ought to hope they might be playing with their imagination, too.

        • rickflick
          Posted July 26, 2015 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

          A potentially more helpful thought would be to imagine being in a very tough situation where you need help to survive. Say, stranded on a desert island, or facing an enemy charge in battle. Now this kook, for whom you feel you have no respect because of some political view or other, suddenly becomes indispensable. He or she has skills needed for survival.
          No? Remember this is just fantasy. 😉

  7. Bruce Gorton
    Posted July 26, 2015 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I would say Obama’s issues more showed the dangers of a society in which you have one half of the political spectrum competing, and the other half trying to cooperate.

    The Democratic Party was happy to compromise, which gave the Republicans a whole lot more power to undermine their attempt at governance.

    Cooperation is the best way to achieve things – but you need everyone playing ball.

    So in other words, compromise is valuable provided it goes both ways. If you are faced with someone who just will not work with you – don’t try to work with them.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

      Cooperation is the best way to achieve things – but you need everyone playing ball.

      That’s the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and that sniffs of pinko-commie-subversive-psychology to some people. Probably ones who are also worried about the purity of their precious bodily fluids.

    • steve
      Posted July 27, 2015 at 4:34 am | Permalink

      In line with the cartoon in Grania’s original post:

      Both sides need to play ball, but the rethuglicans are playing Calvin ball! 🙂

      ps. It was I in a previous post yesterday, who pointed out the “love the sinner not the sin” aspect of the issue

  8. Posted July 26, 2015 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    We’re seeing the flipside of this in all the Muslim pandering; far too many people, including atheists and regulars here, are much too eager to avoid criticizing Islam lest they been seen as antithetical to moderate Muslims.

    If we’re not going to be accommodationist with respect to Christianity — and we emphatically shouldn’t be — then isn’t the crime of accommodationism even more profound with respect to Islam?

    Islam is no more compatible with modern Enlightenment values than is Christianity, and we do all a disservice when we pretend, to ourselves or to others, otherwise.


    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 3:20 pm | Permalink


      • thh1859
        Posted July 26, 2015 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        Yes, yes.

  9. Posted July 26, 2015 at 2:41 pm | Permalink


  10. Posted July 26, 2015 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Your comment about President Obama could easily be interpreted as a criticism of President Obama. I certainly hope you didn’t mean it that way.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      As an outsider, and like Grania, I often look at US politics with horror, especially the way that at a national level they’re unable to get much done because of the extreme partisanship. Although there are faults on both sides, I see the majority of the problems coming from the Republicans, and I think most from my country (NZ) feel the same. I was horrified at the pettiness that emanated from the GOP from day one of Obama’s election, marked most notably by (then) minority leader Mitch McConnell’s speech about making him a “one-term president”.

      • rickflick
        Posted July 26, 2015 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

        It all goes back to the civil war. The Republicans have taken on the south and there festering resentments as the core of their constituency. They say the war ended in 1865. I don’t think it did.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted July 26, 2015 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          Correct me if I’m being wrong on foreign (to everyone except an American) political history, but I was under the impression that the Deep South (the slave states) was significantly Democrat, not Republican until fairly recently. (Usual caveats about broad brushes and overarching generalisations.)

          • eric
            Posted July 27, 2015 at 10:38 am | Permalink

            The flip from racist democrats to racist republicans happened around 1948. Which is not that recent, but yes definitely a long time after the civil war.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted July 27, 2015 at 10:45 am | Permalink

              Strange. Not part of the public image. But then, public images so rarely are about reality. As Johnny Lydon was known to say.

        • nightgaunt49
          Posted July 26, 2015 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

          Republicans and Democrats of today are nothing like what they were in the past. Especially after the Great Shift and the “Southern Strategy” where most of the Dixiecrats moved to the Republican side and Republicans did the same to the Democrats. This part of history the Dixiecans always forget and say Democrats are till that way. They lie so much it seems they must not think it to be sinning. Or that it is one of those sins they get absolved for the “greater good” whatever that is for them.
          We know they want a theocratic country. Christian Dominionist or several types together.

          • rickflick
            Posted July 26, 2015 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

            They want a theocratic and segregated country.

        • steve
          Posted July 27, 2015 at 4:39 am | Permalink

          That’s why rickflick said “have taken on” — in other words today’s rebubbacans are 1800’s democrats on the issue of southern slavery. (or so it would seem in the extreme at least).

      • Randy Schenck
        Posted July 26, 2015 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        I should probably stay out of the political discussions but just can’t help it. You are very much correct in seeing the extreme partisanship in the republican party and just casual inspection over the last 30 years show this becoming worse with every passing year.

        There is also the clear effect that having an African American president is also having on many of the people in this party. The entire population of the white south did not switch from democrat to republican in the 60s for no good reason. But aside from this, most republicans in our Congress can join in lock step agreement on nearly every issue today because there is almost no danger of losing office. In fact, any talk of compromise on issues is a good way to get knocked out of office.

        It is not a pretty thing to watch or to say but politics as it was known even 40 or 50 years ago does not exist in the U.S. any longer.

        • rickflick
          Posted July 26, 2015 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

          “politics as it was known even 40 or 50 years ago does not exist in the U.S. any longer.”

          That raises the question of whether we need to make some drastic changes, and to what? If the government ceases to function, what can be done?
          Let’s hear it for removing money from elections. Constitutional convention anyone?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 26, 2015 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

        I agree as an outsider that is close to the US. The Republicans took that stupid oath that said they would never raise taxes (IIRC) and that means they just hunker down and fight. It’s awful.

  11. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted July 26, 2015 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    I would expect Calvin (or is it Hobbes? I can never remember which is whom) to be holding a sign about loving the sin and hating the sinner.

    • Posted July 26, 2015 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      That is Calvin. Judging by his expression, he knows he is asking for a lot.

    • BobTerrace
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      The real Calvin (John) hated everyone and everything because everything is predetermined for everyone. It was a sin to enjoy anything according to Calvin.

  12. thh1859
    Posted July 26, 2015 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    I remember being pleasantly surprised when I heard that Bishop Harries and Richard Dawkins were friends.

    Good ole Church of England: my local vicar describes himself as an agnostic. His wife isn’t; she’s an atheist. No-one around here seems to object.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      One assumes the Xtians in the Church of England – all three of them – love him and hate his agnosticism. 😉

      Thing about the C of E is that traditionally, the clergy were supposed to be well-educated people, and we know what education does to faith.


      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted July 26, 2015 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

        On further reflection, remember how Alain de Boton was rabbiting on a while back about how (some) atheists needed an organisation to belong to with rituals and meetings and all that stuff. I’ve just realised we have one. It’s called the C of E. 😉

    • rickflick
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

      I’d be interested to know what kind of sermons he preaches? I remember long ago I visited a church (U.S.) where the preacher mentioned God a number of times, but had such a strange affected pronunciation of the word (something like – Go-waaa-yd) that I couldn’t help thinking he was having very serious doubts about the meaning of the word.

    • Dermot C
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      Before everyone starts going all gooey over the fluffy bunny wing of the C of E, I wandered idly into Carlisle Cathedral a few years back and occupied a back pew during the sermon.

      It turned out to be the valedictory speech of the Bishop of Carlisle himself – he who a few months before, in a comedy demonstration of religio-UKIP-Tea Party solidarity, had blamed Sodomites, haemosexuals for the Yorkshire floods down the road.

      After a lifetime of service to God, the man’s last words to his flock were a slag-off of Prof. Dawkins. He spent about 5 minutes warning, if memory serves, of the anti-Christian iniquity of the selfish gene which led only to ruination and atheism. No ‘Forgive them, Lord, they know not what they do’ from this cleric. Hell hath no fury… the Bishop warned.

      Not my idea of an appropriate leaving speech. x

      • steve
        Posted July 27, 2015 at 4:46 am | Permalink

        Funny typo: “haemosexuals” could be a new word for vampires!

        • Dermot C
          Posted July 27, 2015 at 5:57 am | Permalink

          Steve, that was no typo, that was my type. ‘Haemosexuals’: Borders pronunciation from just north of Carlisle in sunny Jockoland.x

      • thh1859
        Posted July 27, 2015 at 6:04 am | Permalink

        @Dermot C
        OK then, good ‘ole fluffy bunny wing of the C of E.

        • Dermot C
          Posted July 27, 2015 at 7:03 am | Permalink

          I have an elderly uncle-in-law, ex-Treasurer of Oxford County Council, big liberal Anglican, sort of a British member of Flannery O’Connor’s Church without Christ, nicest and most clubbable fella you could ever meet.

          He used to go for a swim every morning at 7 a.m. in, I think, some Oxford University pool. Harries, the Bishop of Oxford, used to be the only other person in the pool. Uncle Joe and he would chat a lot.

          My uncle used to say that he could only recognize the Bishop of Oxford without his clothes on. x

  13. Posted July 26, 2015 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    “Love the faithful. Hate the faith”

    I saw that snarky comeback on some discussion thread a few years back. Wish I could give credit where it is due.

    As I recall, the believers in that discussion didn’t like it one bit.

    • rickflick
      Posted July 26, 2015 at 7:24 pm | Permalink


  14. nightgaunt49
    Posted July 26, 2015 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    I am all for buiding bridges not burning them and most Christians here are reasonable enough to be on our side. We need to cultivate it since we are in a very small minority. Only the Muslims have fewer.

  15. Randy Schenck
    Posted July 26, 2015 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Do not wish to give away the ending or primary story that Harper Lee was expressing in Go Set A Watchman. If you have read it please let me know if the “love the sinner” theme is kind of the message and problem she realizes in herself.

  16. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted July 26, 2015 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always disliked that phrase because it seemed to be too Polyanna. Too neat. And unrealistic. A bit like ‘turn the other cheek’.

    As an aspiration it’s excellent. I suspect it’s hardly ever fully realised in practice, but quite often approached.

    My more realistic version – ‘Deplore the sin but show compassion for the sinner (so long as he’s not a complete arsehole)’ somehow lacks the same zing.


    • thh1859
      Posted July 28, 2015 at 4:29 am | Permalink

      Damn you! You made me spill coffee over my computer keyboard.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted July 28, 2015 at 4:54 am | Permalink

        Are you sure you won’t extend a little forgiveness in my direction…?


  17. Stephen B
    Posted July 26, 2015 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always found it best to love the sin and hate the sinner. But that’s just me.

  18. Posted July 26, 2015 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Hate the belief but not the believer

    it’s funny to watch them try to compute that

  19. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted July 27, 2015 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    “trying to find common ground for a person while despising most of their political beliefs”

    There’s a difference between political beliefs that I heavily and deeply disagree with (like stronger versions of libertarianism) and political beliefs that I actually despise (like white supremacy).

    When Dawkins and the Bishop of Oxford disagree on God, I suspect that’s more in the former category. Dawkins comes across as despising some forms of religiosity (like the Muslim fellow in his documentary who says we in the West dress our women like whores) and deeply disagrees with others (like Jesuit astronomer George Coyne).

    I myself don’t mind politicians who believe in God (I myself prefer to identify as agnostic rather than atheist), but politicians making decisions on the basis of special interpretations of the Apocalypse scare the bejeezus out of me, and I see no basis for finding common ground for them at all, and I frankly think they should never be in public office.

    Sometimes such assessments may also hinge on a subjective assessment of the overall character and sanity of the person holding those beliefs. Bill Maher seems to personally like Mike Huckabee in a way he does not Michele Bachman. I share his perception of both, though I can’t quite figure out why Huckabee seems a tad likable.

    • steve
      Posted July 27, 2015 at 4:52 am | Permalink

      Because he has a “boyish” face so looks like an innocent likeable young lad, while at the same time has a grandfatherly voice and air about him, so he scores on that memory click as well.

  20. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted July 27, 2015 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    It’s a slogan that makes most liberal people, even non-atheists, choke a little.


    It is badly worded (as there is no ‘sin’ except for sect members), but I suspect the moral here as elsewhere in religion is originally stolen from a secular source.

  21. David Broome
    Posted July 27, 2015 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Why not see flip it, and see how well it’s received by the loyal opposition: Love the believer, hate the belief.

  22. Posted July 27, 2015 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    This is one of those core tenets that I learned growing up in a conservative Catholic household that actually makes sense at the surface. In reality, it is just another part of the con game that’s been going on for nearly two millennia. I suppose we can quibble over how long the Church has maintained a position of power in the world; the Church would say it started immediately at the time Jesus died, I’d put it in the 4th century. Anyhow, an authoritative institution doesn’t keep power for that period of time without getting very good at pitching the bull they sell.

    They don’t hate gay people, you see, they simply hate the sinful gay acts. They don’t hate couples who sleep together before they’re married, they hate the grave sin and feel sad for the couple for not experiencing the fullness of love that natural theology gives. (Catholic, missionary position, married sex after properly checking the woman’s menstrual cycle to see if she can get pregnant and then praying about it is so good…really the best kind of sex!)

    Anyhow, as soon as anyone proposes that gay people are naturally gay, the snide theologian will retort that serial killers with mental illnesses are also naturally that way. Should we just permit them to kill people because it is their nature? To counter this nonsense (or as George Carlin put it, the greatest bullshit story ever told) you have to go deeper than the “hate the sin” meme and look at just what sin is supposed to mean. And therein lies the unfounded premise–that a consensual act between two adults who love each other is an act that deserves eternal torture more so than a “celibate” priest who fondles a kid and then confesses it.

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