Thoughts on That Judeo Christian Stuff

July 19, 2011 156 Comments
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Here, I’m going to stir the waters a bit. My fellow admin and I agree on many things. Indeed our areas of agreement much outweigh our areas of difference. However, I’m going to explore probably the primary area of difference now.

On two separate occasions the issue of liberty has been discussed in the context of the western Judeo-Christian culture. When it cropped up again in the latter post by luikkerland, I felt compelled to comment.

Yes, the old positive, v negative liberty thing. Liberty is leaving people alone to live their lives as they see fit. That liberty extends only as far as it does not adversely affect the liberty of others. That’s it, nothing more, nothing less.

Here, I diverge from my allies in that I see no need for religion to be involved at all. I am with the American founding fathers on this one. The state shall make no laws regarding religion etc, etc. By the same token, the state should preserve the right to freedom of religion as a basic civil liberty.

Liberty does not require a religious context. We do not need religion –  or more specifically, the Christian one or the belief in deities to develop a sound moral standing or to develop the codified laws that regulate our interactions with each other. Every society has developed the same basic principles. The golden rule is woven into the fabric of human interaction irrespective of the prevailing belief system.

Yes, I realise that atheistic movements have been responsible for mass slaughter in recent history, but so too have there been religious slaughters, including those in the name of Jesus Christ (although, frankly, he would have been horrified at much of what has been done in his name, I suspect). However, the belief system or the lack of one is moot. It may have been an excuse, but that is all. Morality is something we have within ourselves and we can choose to behave in a moral way regardless of what we believe about gods or not.

We tread on dangerous ground when we start to talk about positive liberty backed up by regulation, permission or religious codes. Liberty is merely you leaving me alone to live my life as I see fit –  regardless of whether it offends your religious sensibilities. As long as I do not impinge on your liberty to live your life as you see fit, then we should rub along just fine. I don’t need to believe in your god(s) to be a moral person. I can work out the difference between right and wrong perfectly well without religious teachings or holy books. My basic humanity suffices.

Nor, for that matter do I accept the point that there is confusion when we oppose the death penalty and yet are content for abortion to be legal. I am not remotely confused about either. When one takes these positions as I do, all I see is consistency that is itself consistent with minimising the reach of the state into the lives of its citizens. Indeed, those positions do not need to be held for moral reasons anyway –  both can be maintained for entirely pragmatic ones. The execution of an innocent and a return to back street abortions being the outcomes of a reversal of the present situation and neither are desirable irrespective of one’s moral position on the matter.

Finally, that Judeo-Christian culture. Much of what we in the Anglosphere admire about our system is derived from common law. The law between men that originated at the time of Richard II when he sent circuit judges about the country to arbitrate disputes. Their decisions were recorded and used in subsequent similar disputes. The culture at the time was Catholic Christian and the people were devoutly religious, with the Church holding great sway over both the state and the individual. Indeed, the country was a borderline theocracy. However, so too was the rest of Europe, yet we developed a cultural system that was –  and is –  better than theirs despite that common Christian background. Common law is not based upon religious teaching, is is based upon pragmatism and common sense. It does not need the church or its teachings to survive intact.

Liberty does not need religion to survive. Religion does tend to rely on liberty though. So, while I am fully supportive of the idea of a written constitution and would defend absolutely the right to practice one’s religion without fear or favour; as I mentioned in my earlier comment, the first amendment had it spot on, frankly:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Let’s keep it that way.

—————————————

Update. The Nameless Libertarian takes a similar view.

156 Responses to Thoughts on That Judeo Christian Stuff

  1. July 19, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Liberty does not require a religious context.

    Hmmmmm.

    Yes but it has one. You can attempt to rewrite history as, say, the feminists and marxists have or you can acknowledge and give credit where it is due. Common Law is a major factor but so was the Judaeo-Christian tradition which allowed a mindset which valued the freedom to explore new paths.

    Did the Renaissance arise in an Islamic country or among primitive tribespeople?

    It’s always interesting the vehemence with which humanists desperately deny their traditions – it’s almost like biting the hand that fed them. You might depart from the traditions, you might concentrate on other, parallel traditions and fair enough, there’s no need to explore space in a liturgical manner.

    But to deny that which is and was, simply through prejudice is a curious phenomenon in the human spirit. ;-)

    • July 19, 2011 at 9:18 am

      Given that Islam is around 500 years behind Christianity, then I would expect an enlightenment to be some way off yet – about a thousand years or so.

      I don’t consider myself a humanist. Indeed, I don’t accept any labels, bar that I do not believe in gods.

      As I pointed out, our common law system exists in parallel with a Christian tradition – but only in the English speaking world, not in the European one despite a common religion and common ancestry. Therefore, you cannot expect to ascribe cause and effect. There is something else going on.

      While I accept that there are overlaps betwixt liberty and Christian belief, there is also a huge gap, particularly when we start to talk about moral codes. I for one, do not wish to live in a society where the state decides law based upon Christian (or any other) moral codes for its system of law.

      Here, I feel, the French have it right (despite their illiberal burqua ban) – the state is strictly secular and religion is a private matter.

      So, I stand by my comment, no, liberty does not need a religious context and is better off without one.

      • July 19, 2011 at 9:41 am

        liberty does not need a religious context and is better off without one

        Classic errors:

        Equating Christianity with “religion” – the relativism of the modern age. Dawkins is religious, as are the Islamists about their faith, pagans are religious. They’re entirely disparate groups and thoughts.

        Religion, in the context in which you use it, i.e. a negative context, is about dogma, oppression, the state and I’m happy to use this definition. It’s about man’s interpretation of philosophies and societal theories. Religious to some means devout, faithful and has zero to do with the way you’re using it. As I say, I’m happy to use your definition for the purposes of the discussion.

        Christianity is the only faith in which a society which is largely composed of those who accepted it, e.g. England developed along lines of freedom to follow independent thought. The very idea in its pages is that we are free, as individuals, to choose. This is what belief is and it is put to the individual to believe or not. The consequences, if you do not, are in the afterlife.

        Yet you’re still free to choose and as you make your bed, so you lie in it. The difference between us, who come from this tradition and those coming from an Islamic tradition, is that we say that’s your choice – good luck in the afterlife. The Islamist slits your throat.

        You wouldn’t have this freedom and we wouldn’t have this blog if it was not for this tradition. Other societies do not have this freedom. It’s no coincidence that the snuffing out of freedom today in the western world is accompanied by the snuffing out of Christian principles and replacing them with religions of oppression.

        • July 19, 2011 at 10:19 am

          Hindus and Buddhists might argue with the ‘only Christianity’ bit there, not sure. My experience of Christian proselytisation is that it can be anywhere from the genteel approach you describe to a pretty full on in-yer-face-and-flying-spittle affair. True that no Christian has said anything about slitting my throat but only because they’re expecting their god to sort me out instead. In comparison Buddhist proselytisation always seems to pretty laid back, presumably because they think you keep getting another go until you get it right, and in mainstream Hinduism it seems to be non-existent – not one Hindu I’ve ever met, and there have been dozens, have ever suggested that anything would happen as a consequence of not being a Hindu (actually I can say the same about muslims, but the difference is that I know there are places you could probably find half a dozen who would at a moment’s notice).

          It’s no coincidence that the snuffing out of freedom today in the western world is accompanied by the snuffing out of Christian principles and replacing them with religions of oppression.

          I think this is two separate things: removal of liberties first and religious zealots of an oppressive bent then thinking, ‘Oh look, lots of oppression there, sounds like it would suit us.’ Even then I think that’s a secondary consideration to thoughts along the lines of, ‘Oh look, they’re prepared to rob their own citizens to give us money for nothing at all, when’s the next flight?’ I suspect a lot of these deeply religious types who preach oppression really have some very secular motives when it comes to their countries of choice.

          • July 19, 2011 at 10:29 am

            I suspect a lot of these deeply religious types who preach oppression really have some very secular motives when it comes to their countries of choice.

            Agreed. Zealots always give me the heebie-jeebies because the minds are so narrow. I’d die in a theocracy – the idea of not being able to pursue my own course and finding things out all the time would be so stifling.

            To be told by humans I am to believe this or that is not my idea of fun. If I want to know about Christianity – I’ll read the book and the history of its development. If I want to know about our common law, I read that. My choice, my decision what I study.

            I wouldn’t deny that to anyone.

        • RTS
          July 19, 2011 at 3:50 pm

          “It’s no coincidence that the snuffing out of freedom today in the western world is accompanied by the snuffing out of Christian principles and replacing them with religions of oppression.”

          It is exactly that (a concidence) unless proved otherwise. I’d say it’s less of a coincidence that it’s occuring at the same time as the rise of mass media.

          I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t believe there’s some great overaching plan to enslave us all. What I think is we have successive generations of idiots who all get into power and in order to keep their name in the media and therefor ideally win the next election must find some cause to hang their hat on.

          And that in order to find people who’ll appeal to the mass media candidates are groomed from an early age and brought into the fold where they add to the delusion that politics is a thing in itself rather than a tool used by society to get things done.

          Thus we have a situation where 600 and odd utterly disconnected people thrash about trying to “make things better” with very little idea of what was wrong in the first place.

          So, I personally believe we’ll stumble into tyranny as the result of bad ideas, halfway good intentions, the pursuit of job security and the never ending quest for publicity.

          • Revolution Harry
            September 22, 2011 at 8:51 pm

            RTS, do you really think that all that is happening around us is the sole result of the actions of MP’s? Sadly the conspiratorial view of history has been overwhelmingly proved to my satisfaction. To be honest, They aren’t even hiding it from you. The abundant evidence is there should you wish to discover it.

      • LJH
        July 19, 2011 at 1:27 pm

        Islam closed the door to a Renaissance based on a rational universe with the suppression of Mutazilites from 847 CE because to make the visible universe comprehensive and predictable was to limit the Will of Allah, a position which has been enforced by all major schools of Islamic law. Weather forecasts in the early years of Pakistan were suppressed on this basis, although quietly reinstated. These issues are discussed in Robert R Reilly “The Closing of the Muslim Mind” covering both the theological debates and the continuing effects in the present. The West should remembe Thomas Aquinas for accommodating rationality and theology without which we would have remained eternally paused in an inexplicable universe.

      • Revolution Harry
        September 22, 2011 at 8:57 pm

        Longrider, my understanding of English history and specifically the Common Law, is that it started with King Alfred. From the England and English History website we read:

        The beginnings of English Common Law

        King Alfred’s Book of Laws, or Dooms, as set out in the existing laws of Kent, Wessex, and Mercia, attempted to blend the Mosaic code with Christian principles and old Germanic customs. He inverted the Golden Rule. Instead of “Do unto other as you would that they should do unto you”, he adopted the less ambitious principle, “What ye will that other men should not do to you, that do ye not to other men”, with the comment, “By bearing this percept in mind a judge can do justice to all men; he needs no other law-books. Let him think of himself as the plaintiff, and consider what judgment would satisfy him.” The King, in his preamble, explained modestly that “I have not dared to presume to set down in writing many laws of my own, for I cannot tell what will meet with the approval of our successors.” The Laws of Alfred, continually amplified by his successors, grew into that body of customary law administered by the shire and hundred courts which, under the name of the Laws of St Edward (the Confessor), the Norman Kings undertook to respect, and out of which, with much manipulation by feudal lawyers, the Common Law was founded. The principle of which has guided much of the world.

        link to englandandenglishhistory.com

        I suspect that Christianity has played an more important role in the development of the Common Law than you give it credit for.

    • gladiolys
      July 19, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      “Did the Renaissance arise in an Islamic country or among primitive tribespeople?

      Actually, the Renaissance used many ideas from islam… where do you think the words “algebra” “algorithm” “alkali” “alchemy”, and , naughty boys, “alcohol” come from?

      Islam is a stupid religion like Christianity, but that does not mean that it comes from a stupid culture (Christianity and the Renaissance being a good parallel).

      Brilliant piece, Longride.

      • July 19, 2011 at 1:45 pm

        a stupid religion like Christianity

        Sigh. Takes all sorts, doesn’t it?

        • gladiolys
          July 19, 2011 at 2:13 pm

          Sigh. “Takes all sorts, doesn’t it?” Even those who wish to be superior to people who hold different points of view.

  2. July 19, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Yes, agreed, but… “Religion does tend to rely on liberty though”??

    Wot? Islam seems to be doing OK, doesn’t it?

    • July 19, 2011 at 9:11 am

      Depends on the context. Where there is an Islamic theocracy, then it is irrelevant. Where it is the minority religion, then yes, it does rely on liberty to exist.

      • July 19, 2011 at 10:13 am

        Precisely, LR, it depends on the goodwill of the predominant philosophy and tradition to exist and in our case, that’s the Judaeo-Christian tradition, mixed in with Common Law and all sorts of goodies which make us so tolerant.

        I’m with you on the way the State usurped the Church to provide a two-headed oppressive regime, using selected passages to back up the rightness of a a ruling elite. It was the common man living a Christian life, not the corrupt up above. And where did the oppression, inquisitions etc. come from – from Them, the oligarchical elite.

        This elite did not define the sense of freedom [and incidentally, fair play] – it was the way people lived which did that. And these people were, by and large, Christian in the real sense.

        • July 19, 2011 at 10:19 am

          LR, fair answer.

          JH, you now stumble towards the truth – the ruling oppressors awarded themselves a semi-divine status, and tricked people into thinking that if only they take out a big enough mortgage that they do will be able to join this anointed class.

          This is reflected by the mantra “An Englishman’s home is his castle” which is about as accurate as Mugabe telling his people that “A Zimbabwean’s cup of rice is his feast”.

          • July 19, 2011 at 8:38 pm

            MW, it’s a statement about the Rule of Law.

        • July 19, 2011 at 1:26 pm

          The oligarchal elite of the time, were the Catholic Church who were happy enough to use the threat of eternal damnation to keep the king in line ;)

          The divine right of kings was a double edged sword.

        • Voice of Reason
          July 20, 2011 at 3:42 am

          It was actually the opposite in the Germanic tribes. Pre-Christianity, the leaders were selected for skill, not ancestry. Then came the missionaries, who explained the ‘divine right of kings’, from which came the idiot royalty that we see.

  3. July 19, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Many of our common laws derive their inspiration from the Old Testament, e.g. Exodus, Deuteronomy. It was not unusual for some courthouses in the US to have the Ten Commandments displayed somewhere near the entrance. In the 1970s, a number of atheists complained and most, if not all, have since been removed.

    WRT the United States, all the Founding Fathers — deists or not — would have known the Bible very well. Until the 20th c., people would have studied Scripture from an early age along with classic literature and philosophy. (The further back in history one goes, the smaller the group — from the ruling class gradually progressing to everyone.) If one book was in a family, it would have been the Bible, often used to teach children to read in the home prior to state education.

    It would seem that the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ may have developed in the US, where Americans are aware of the Scriptural notion of Imago Dei — that God created man in His own image. Furthermore, Mosaic Law deals not just with hygiene and ritual laws for Jews but also with handling various legal matters and showing mercy to those in need:

    Deut. 15: Freeing slaves after seven years and making sure they have sufficient provision of livestock to earn their own livelihoods as freemen.

    Deut. 16: Lays out the mandate for judges to be impartial. Bribes and perversion of justice prohibited.

    Deut. 17: Homicide and assault addressed — witnesses to a crime are necessary in order for justice to be meted out. No foreigners to rule over one’s own nation.

    Deut. 19: Murder differentiated between accidental and premeditated. Property boundaries addressed. More on witnesses.

    Deut. 20: On waging war.

    Deut. 21: Unsolved murders. Inheritance rights.

    Deut. 23: Against prostitution, usury and theft.

    Deut. 24: On divorce, newly-wed couples. Parents are not to suffer punishment for their children’s crimes.

    Deut. 25: Honesty in conducting commerce.

    And so on …

    • July 19, 2011 at 11:24 am

      Deut. 15: Freeing slaves after seven years and making sure they have sufficient provision of livestock to earn their own livelihoods as freemen.

      True, but we might dwell on the implied approval of slavery in there. It’s also missing the next bit, which says that if a slave should turn down freedom they’re to be nailed to a door by their ear (v16-17, every version I’ve ever checked apart from my old and rather sanitised for a PG audience Child’s Bible).

      Deut 17, since you mention it, also approves death by stoning for being a bit tight with the old sacrifices, and because of modern day tax implication I’m rather glad that’s not made it into Common Law. Or the bit of Deut 21 that mandates rape of female PoWs, Abu Ghraib notwithstanding. Could be worse, I suppose, because Numbers 31 ordered the rape of young girls too.

      Or Deut 22 where it says that rape victims, if they live in cities, are to be stoned to death because it’s assumed she could have screamed for help if she wanted. Probably would cut false accusations down a lot but on balance I’m glad it didn’t make the cut. Or the other bit in Deut 22 which seems to say that women aren’t allowed to wear trousers. Not a big thing but Mrs Exile would go to battle over it, let me tell you.

      Then there’s Deut 13 on the topic of religious freedom – death by stoning for being a ‘false prophet’, death by stoning for simply suggesting people worship a competing god, and for living in a city where someone else suggested people worship another god… surprisingly not death by stoning but death by being hacked apart and the whole place smashed to bits and then burned down. Again, I can’t honestly say I’m sorry that didn’t make it into Common Law.

      And so on… ;-)

      Sure, some of what the Bible says is properly good stuff and I’m all for it, but not only does it often sit alongside stuff which is, no offence, properly crazy, it’s also not unheard of for it to be contradicted elsewhere. Sometimes contradictions occur even in the same chapter of the same book – in one edition (sorry, can’t remember which) two consecutive verses mandated exile and death as punishment for working on the Sabbath. Okay, but which is it? Does it matter since in other versions both verses say death? Elsewhere there’s stuff about being cursed to the tenth generation and so on despite that bit of Deut 24 that you mentioned about parents not having the blame for the children, and vice versa. If it’s really the word of a loving God I can’t help but feel it’s been very badly mistranslated by the brain of fallible Man somewhere along the line.

      So while some of it may have inspired parts of Common Law a lot of it was omitted, and a good thing too. But that what clearly wasn’t right for the time or relevant to society was left out makes me wonder if we can really say our Common Law liberties owe that much to religion. Perhaps, but it seems to me that even more is owed to whatever thought process, I’d say probably secular, that chose to leave so much of it out.

      • July 19, 2011 at 1:24 pm

        The Bible was written in Aramaic or Greek before being translated into Latin and subsequently English – with a little “editing” along the way. Anyone who has learned a foreign language will realise just how tricky meaning can be when trying to switch an idiom from one tongue to another. Given that this is essentially a collection of bronze age myths and legends passed through the filter of the Catholic Church of the fourth century, is it any wonder it is a mass of contradiction and outright absurdity?

        • July 19, 2011 at 2:37 pm

          Yes — I was just pointing out that common law has some basis in the Old Testament.

          Christians generally (although not always, depending on the denomination) put more weight on the New Testament, although that has no legal guidance in it. Therefore, the abolitionist movement — led by an Anglican — is in line with Christ’s teachings.

          Today, slavery and stoning persist in only one world faith (and it’s not Christianity). Would that more weight and insight were levelled against it.

          A lively debate nonetheless — many thanks.

          • July 19, 2011 at 4:45 pm

            Understood, Churchmouse, and in turn I was just pointing out that since it’s only some basis it could be argued that there was, or at least may have been, a secular element involved – what do we keep, what applies here, what’s irrelevant to an English peasant who’s never going to be further than 50 miles or so from his birthplace?

            Yes, I realise that Christians rate the NT above the OT, but forgive me if I say that bits of the NT is up there with the OT for crazy. Titus 2:9 implies slavery is still okay; in Luke 14 disciples were expected to hate their parents, siblings, children and wives; 1 Corinthians 7:12 says that women must cover their heads in church unless they want them shaved. On top of all that in Matthew 5:17 Jesus said he wasn’t there to change the OT but to fulfil it, which may suggest that stoning was still fine since there was so much of it in the OT (though of course Jesus also stopped a stoning). But look at other parts then, like the OT, there’s quite reasonable stuff that you really can’t disagree with.

            See the problem for us non-religious types? You can’t simply accept the whole shebang and make law out of it, not if you want it to end up anything like what we’ve got. You need to question each bit, test it, ask if it’s applicable (and of course sometimes it’s readily apparent that the answer is yes). And that’s arguably a rather secular approach if compared to saying it’s dogma so we’ll take the lot.

            You want credit where it’s due for the influence of Judeo-Christian doctrine on law. Speaking just for me I’m happy to give it (though I’d add that it’s not an essential part – have a good read of Buddhist scripture and compare with the Bible) but perhaps some credit to secular thought for not including death for so many trivial offences might also be appropriate?

          • July 19, 2011 at 5:02 pm

            Angry Exile:

            in Luke 14 disciples were expected to hate their parents, siblings, children and wives

            That’s bollox.

            You’re trotting out old chestnuts which have been covered over and over and come down to the translation of the word hate.

            The ridiculousness of using “hate” in a modern sense is that it does not accord with the sense of the surrounding text in the gospel.

            This is simple scholarship. You can’t go searching for a word like that and take it out of context, then use that out of context-ness to make comment on the Christian message.

          • July 19, 2011 at 8:41 pm

            James, the word was ‘hate’ and it’s used in my Bible and every version I’ve checked online. Agreed, it doesn’t make sense in context of the rest of the passage. Mistranslation? Maybe, don’t know, though I’d have thought being written in something as well known as Greek that it could have been better put since. Luke’s original source then? I had to study Luke long ago but I’ve forgotten lots of the background, but in any case the correct meaning is incidental as my point really had nothing to do with disciples having to hate their families. Firstly it was that along with all the good stuff the Bible has no shortage of things you really don’t want leaving its pages in a literal form and being applied to everyday life, secondly, since Churchmouse brought it up, that this is not confined to the Old Testament, and last, that fortunately that didn’t happen and what was taken was pretty much only what was applicable. This was just an example. Even if the meaning of that passage was completely unambiguous the last part, applicability, would still apply.

          • July 20, 2011 at 4:24 am

            the Bible has no shortage of things you really don’t want leaving its pages in a literal form and being applied to everyday life

            1. This is why bibilical scholars spend lifetimes studying it and we are amateurs who dip into it.

            2. The gospels are the basis of Christianity. Not Paul, not the OT, although they give background. In fact, the return of JC was for that reason – to correct things which had happened. So what would you not follow in the Sermon on the Mount?

            3. The “Bible” is a collective name for a lot of ancient books all gathered together.

            4. The reason many scholars read in the [close to] original Greek is to try to minimize the errors.

            5. Anti-Christians try to take the gospels apart by pointing out anomalies and inconsistencies in the texts. Hell, if there were none, there’d be deep suspicion. I twas how four people saw it and remembered it and you know, even from police investigations, how details vary.

            The scholastic approach is to look at the whole and see the sum total of all the educated critics, over time who don’t have an anti-Christian barrow to push. Then the thrust of the thing is apparent.

            For example, I see that gnosticism is satanism, sugar coated. I have to read the apologists first, much as it churns the stomach and see where they’re generally agreed. Then the detractors and go from there.

            No one said scholarship was easy. Then you publish and address the comments which come in. That’s how we do it as bloggers too.

          • July 20, 2011 at 6:53 am

            This is why bibilical scholars spend lifetimes studying it and we are amateurs who dip into it.

            Indeed, and that’s my point – it requires that kind of study, thought and interpretation. It’s not desirable, it’s essential.

            The gospels are the basis of Christianity. Not Paul, not the OT, although they give background.

            We’re not talking about what part of the Bible is the basis for Christianity. We’re talking about what parts are the basis for laws, and more specifically Churchmouse’s comment about laws from the Torah/Pentateuch.

            What I would or wouldn’t follow from the Sermon on the Mount is by the by, the point being that before taking anything from anywhere some thought is given to its applicability, which (I think) we’re agreed has been given to other parts rather than taking the whole lot at face value and making it law. But to answer the question (and without going to the trouble of re-reading it so this is off the top of my head) the Lord’s Prayer and the bit at the end about striving to be as perfect as God are pretty irrelevant to someone who doesn’t believe, but when I think someone’s batting a sticky wicket I’ve been known to refer them to motes and beams. No doubt I could find more examples of both.

            Anti-Christians try to take the gospels apart by pointing out anomalies and inconsistencies in the texts.

            Ah, I think I see where we’re stuck here. Yes, I do the same thing, but the intention is not to try to take them apart or to break someone’s faith in them. I’m just highlighting the problem with literal interpretations – slightly oxymoronic way of putting it but you get the picture – of the Bible’s contents. My contention as far as this debate goes is that some serious thought is essential before taking something from the Bible and making it into a rule. You say that a scholastic approach to the Bible is necessary and it’s not always easy. Frankly I’m struggling to see where we disagree – it seems like we’re both saying that you can’t simply treat it all as dogma and CTRL+V the whole lot (and I’m not making any criticism of Christians in general just because a minority of them do try) but need to give it careful thought. For spiritual purposes that thought is of course going to be about intents and deeper meanings of this or that passage, but for wider applicability in secular society it’s also about asking if if can be applied and whether it’s needed at all.

        • July 19, 2011 at 3:33 pm

          Anyone who has learned a foreign language will realise just how tricky meaning can be when trying to switch an idiom from one tongue to another.

          Oh come on – that’s really an answer to:

          I was just pointing out that common law has some basis in the Old Testament.

          ?

          That’s the oldest one in the book which the leftists use – change the meaning of a word or claim that we can’t know what words mean. Thous shalt not kill – pretty unequivocal, it seems to me, however meaning has slightly altered over time.

          • July 19, 2011 at 4:05 pm

            Wasn’t it ‘murder’ rather than ‘kill’ originally? Still unequivocal but with very different implications. Important to know which if we’re to credit religion with its inclusion in law, I feel. If it’s ‘kill’ and that’s the reason where we may not kill in self defence, then I’d say religion blotted its copybook. If ‘murder’ even though it’s routinely learned as ‘kill’ then a point in Judeo-Christianity’s favour, though that’s not to say that one must be a believer to have worked that out for oneself.

          • July 19, 2011 at 4:50 pm

            So you haven’t tried to translate any local idioms into another language and realised that what you said meant absolutely nothing to the locals – or caused raucous laughter because it meant something rather different when translated to what you thought, then? I have. Even professional translators find themselves stumped from time to time when trying to convey meaning from one language to another. My statement was a simple observation of historical fact. The Bible as used today is a mish-mash of double translation, dubious editing and omission of scriptures the Church presumably decided were inconvenient.

            As a document it is an interesting window into the society of the ancient Hebrews and provides some evidence that their civilisation adopted the golden rule – but that is all it is. A piece of interesting archaeology. Nothing more, nothing less. My stance has nothing to do with left wing dogma.

            Actually, I think you will find that it was thou shalt not murder – it is okay in certain circumstances to kill, as God exhorted his followers to do on numerous occasions ;)

            Oh come on – that’s really an answer to:

            I was just pointing out that common law has some basis in the Old Testament.

            No, it wasn’t. It was a response to AE’s statement about some of the crazy stuff in the Bible.

          • July 20, 2011 at 4:36 am

            As a document it is an interesting window into the society of the ancient Hebrews and provides some evidence that their civilisation adopted the golden rule

            That is, of course, bollox, in the sense that it begins right but deliberately stops short of the truth. It certainly is evidence of the way they lived but the whole point of the return was to correct errors which had crept in to that society – universal questions well beyond any one civilization.

            Things are usually judged, in history, by the quality of the idea. The Constitution of the U.S.A. has stood because it is essentially, with flaws of course, a good document.

            So have the gospels endured and permeate all talk of social contract and the human condition – over a much longer time frame. That you can’t see it yourself is neither here nor there – it’s just prejudice, as this post has been.

            He’s a big enough boy, G-d, to take care of Himself. I’m no guardian angel but let me quote from my own “About” section at my place and this is what Churchmouse was referring to:

            He’s a private Christian, detesting fundamentalist bigotry but will burst into print when rubbish is spoken or written about the Christian message. Someone has to set the record straight amid a sea of guff.

            I also said in another comment here that you’re not to blame – you’re the product of your learning. For example, if I’d taken what I’d learnt at university as gospel, I’d be a raving marxist. I do give you credit for thinking – you set up this blog for a start but there are these strange gaps where you go so far then close the eyes and refuse to see.

            This then makes me unpopular and seen as arrogant for just stating something like this. However, we’re not in it for popularity and as you also said – we agree on far more than we disagree on.

      • Revolution Harry
        September 22, 2011 at 10:24 pm

        I think some distinction needs to be made between the Old Covenant made between God and the Israelites and the New Covenant between Christ and Christians.

        The key to understanding this issue is knowing that the Old Testament law was given to the nation of Israel, not to Christians. Some of the laws were to reveal to the Israelites how to obey and please God (the Ten Commandments, for example). Some of the laws were to show the Israelites how to worship God and atone for sin (the sacrificial system). Some of the laws were intended to make the Israelites distinct from other nations (the food and clothing rules). None of the Old Testament law is binding on us today. When Jesus died on the cross, He put an end to the Old Testament law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15).

        In place of the Old Testament law, we are under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), which is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). If we obey those two commands, we will be fulfilling all that Christ requires of us: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40). Now, this does not mean the Old Testament law is irrelevant today. Many of the commands in the Old Testament law fall into the categories of “loving God” and “loving your neighbor.” The Old Testament law can be a good guidepost for knowing how to love God and knowing what goes into loving your neighbor. At the same time, to say that the Old Testament law applies to Christians today is incorrect. The Old Testament law is a unit (James 2:10). Either all of it applies, or none of it applies. If Christ fulfilled some of it, such as the sacrificial system, He fulfilled all of it.

        “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). The Ten Commandments were essentially a summary of the entire Old Testament law. Nine of the Ten Commandments are clearly repeated in the New Testament (all except the command to observe the Sabbath day). Obviously, if we are loving God, we will not be worshipping false gods or bowing down before idols. If we are loving our neighbors, we will not be murdering them, lying to them, committing adultery against them, or coveting what belongs to them. The purpose of the Old Testament law is to convict people of our inability to keep the law and point us to our need for Jesus Christ as Savior (Romans 7:7-9; Galatians 3:24). The Old Testament law was never intended by God to be the universal law for all people for all of time. We are to love God and love our neighbors. If we obey those two commands faithfully, we will be upholding all that God requires of us.

        link to gotquestions.org

    • Voice of Reason
      July 20, 2011 at 3:45 am

      That only applies to Jewish slaves, by the way.

      As for the common law, most derives from the English common law, which is Germanic and pre-Christian – the 12 men of the jury were the tribal elders, etc.

      That’s also where felonies and misdemeanors came from, the former punishable by death.

    • Revolution Harry
      September 22, 2011 at 9:18 pm

      Just an observation. The word ‘slave’ as used in the Bible had a very different meaning to how we commonly understand the word today.

      “Slave” could be used to refer to a subordinate in the social ladder. Thus the subjects of a king were called his “slaves,” even though they were free citizens. The king himself, if a vassal, was the “slave” of his emperor; kings, emperors, and commoners alike were “slaves” of the gods. Even a social inferior, when addressing a social superior, referred to himself out of politeness as “your slave.”

      link to christianthinktank.com

  4. July 19, 2011 at 9:52 am

    … I realise that atheistic movements have been responsible for mass slaughter in recent history…

    I think that in at least some cases this was because the atheism was not an absence of religion and belief but a replacement for it – you were expected to believe in The Party or The State or The Motherland or The Great Leader or even all of the above. I’m not sure that atheists who’ve merely deified the bloody state actually count as being atheists in any real sense, especially when those who did not believe or whose devotions were questionable could be persecuted with the kind of zeal and quasi-religious fervour that the Inquisition would have approved of.

    • July 19, 2011 at 10:32 am

      the atheism was not an absence of religion and belief but a replacement for it – you were expected to believe in The Party or The State or The Motherland

      Exactly.

      • July 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm

        Which means we can argue about whether it was really atheism or something else. Anti-theism perhaps? Certainly they could be pretty anti certain theists. Whatever we call it, even if we stick with atheism, it was something which bore many similarities with religion, principally the belief in something, and that that something was infallible and made commandments which were to be obeyed. All rather religious in tone, and that which we call a rose blahblahblah.

        • July 19, 2011 at 1:18 pm

          The party, the state yes, possibly a replacement for religion. In itself not atheism.

          • July 19, 2011 at 3:48 pm

            Yep, that’s what I was trying to say.

  5. Robert Edwards
    July 19, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I think that many or most of us would accept many or most of the Ten Commandements. Many of us would accept some or all of the Sermon on the Mount or the Sermon on the Plain (Luke). But not all; there have been many who see the roots of Puritanism (and worse) in the selective use of the New Testament.

    The smiley Puritanism which offends us all so much now is a robust thing and seems to hinge upon banning things. In the UK it has drifted into the ‘European’ model whereby the permission of the state is required, not assumed (as it often has been here), before a certain act or deed is contemplated by an individual or group.

    But the Liberty, Equality Fraternity mantra is not based on Biblical or Talmudic principles, but was founded on Terror and coercion – cynical and ill thought out, by those who merely wished to usurp. Likewise, the Communist agenda (and the runt of its litter, Socialism) springs not from a ‘religious’ agenda, but from a thin mix of Puritanism and Humanism which, once a wider franchise was stirred into the mix proved hard for many to resist.

    What we can say with some safety is that, historically, Liberty must be fought for, either by mass protest or quiet revolution. Or, if push comes to shove, open warfare.

    Which brings me back to the Sermon on the Mount.

    I think that those who attempt to grow one culture from another will always be selective.

    My own values are fairly ‘Militant Anglican’, for reasons which I hope are evident, and are best summed up by ‘Fuck Off And Leave Me Alone.’

    But even that is now so extremely attenuated by opportunism and Political Correctness that Libertarianism (or Cavalierdom) seems the only sensible route to take.

    There are snippets of it floating aroud; that it’s OK to be rude, to laught AT people for being stupid/misguided/ignorant, that taxation is a moral issue, that the state should shrink (and rapidly). Always recall that Joseph and Mary were where they were because of a Census…

    • July 19, 2011 at 10:34 am

      Thanks, Robert. That sums it up well.

    • July 19, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      I think that many or most of us would accept many or most of the Ten Commandements.

      Actually, no, I don’t. Only two of them have any place in a codified legal system. The rest are either about worshipping God or interference in the private lives of citizens.

      • July 19, 2011 at 2:46 pm

        Four (in Protestant belief) concern God and worship; the other six do not: honouring one’s parents, not murdering, not committing adultery, not stealing, not lying and not coveting the neighbour’s wife. Those surely lead to an orderly society, even in a humanist’s book.

        • July 19, 2011 at 2:57 pm

          Theft and murder are the only two that require anything involving law. Lying – or libel is a moot one as it has been argued with some logic, I think, that we could do away with it completely thereby passing the burden of proof to the accuser otherwise he will be ignored. I could go halves with you on it, as I’m ambivalent about the doing away with the libel laws.

          The rest are a matter for individual conscience. I really don’t care if someone commits adultery. That is between them, the others directly affected and their conscience. Not me. Not the state. As for the coveting stuff – that’s pure thought-crime, so, no, I wouldn’t touch it with the proverbial bargepole. As for honouring one’s parents, that rather assumes they are honourable people. Mine are. Plenty aren’t – again, it is a personal matter and nothing to do with anyone else other than those directly involved. So, theft and murder it is, then.

          • July 19, 2011 at 3:17 pm

            What about lying under oath in court, though, which that commandment also encompasses (even in those days)?

            I’m not sure where adultery and honouring one’s parents are legislated against in the present day.

            Taking adultery, though, if everyone were doing it, then we would end up with a less stable society — not dissimilar to what we have today.

            It seems you have a concern about a future Christian theocracy (highly unlikely to happen and, if it did, thoroughly undesirable). There is a much greater religious threat but not from Christians. And that really will be oppressive.

            It doesn’t matter to me whether you are an atheist, I’m just defending the Christian position here. However, a fundamentalist Muslim will judge — and possibly penalise — you according to your belief or lack of it.

          • July 19, 2011 at 3:42 pm

            The thing is, Churchmouse, you can present fact upon fact but LR does not wish to know.

            He flatly refuses to acknowledge the tradition which gave him the freedom to even be having this discussion and the fact that aspects of scripture are interwoven through common law in spirit are simply denied.

            Credit is not given where credit is due. The proof of the assertion that Christianity is being suppressed in conjunction with personal freedom will become apparent soon enough when the State eliminates all opposition and everything will be relative.

            Another thing other than freedom which Christianity offers is Hope. That is also on the way out – witness the disillusionment everywhere. All the things happening in the NOTW hacking thing and the way it’s unravelling are because there were no ethics, in our terms.

            In the Muslim, world, a contract means nothing after it’s served the Muslim’s interests. The JudC tradition, permeating the law, says that a contractual obligation is a contractual obligation.

            That’s one small example how we differ from what we’d regard as less ethical societies. And wehther you’re an atheist or whatever, this thinking derives from our Judaeo-Christian past.

          • July 19, 2011 at 3:46 pm

            Looked across the Atlantic recently? A nation of 300 million, about 80% of whom profess to be Christian, which despite its constitutional position wrt church and state appears so incapable of electing a president who is not overtly Christian (ignoring the conspiracy theory stuff about the current one) that all candidates feel the need to pitch up in church for the cameras during campaigns. A nation with a couple of million men and women under arms in one of, if not the, most advanced militaries in the, as well as the largest military budget and a substantial nuclear arsenal. A nation that inserted a reference to God into its Pledge of Allegiance barely half a century ago where before there wasn’t one. And Moody I’madinnerjacket has got what? A pile of buggered centrifuges, some copied old Russian weaponry, maybe a handful of obsolete F14s the Yanks flogged to the Shah when I was still collecting money from the Tooth Fairy, and probably a bunch of headcases willing to crash planes into things… except that that’s probably not a trick that’s going to work twice and everyone knows it.

            Sure, the Americans aren’t likely to develop into a threat to everyone else while Moody and his mob probably dream of it, and of course the thought of what the world would be like if those positions were reversed simply doesn’t bear thinking about. Still, if it comes down to capacity to hurt everyone else if they did decide to, who would give us most to fear?

            Mind you, before long they’ll need the bank manager’s permission to fire anything bigger than a shotgun. :mrgreen:

        • Voice of Reason
          July 20, 2011 at 4:19 pm

          Watch George Carlin – ‘covet’ is the root drive for our capitalist system.

  6. Robert Edwards
    July 19, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Thank you!

    But:

    “When men stop believing in God they don’t believe in nothing; they believe in anything…”

    GKC…

    • July 19, 2011 at 11:48 am

      Still not what I’d call atheists. Believing in the absence of something is still belief, just the flip side of the coin that is believing in the existence of that very same something. That’s something about Richard Dawkins that really gets on my thrupenny bits – he’s still asking me to believe, just like every theist on the planet does. Perhaps I’m being a bit ‘considerably more atheist than yow’ with Dawkins but not being a faith-y type of person I think of atheism as being a lack of belief one way or the other while just getting on with life. I occasionally joke that I’m an apathnostic – don’t know if there is a god or gods and really not that fussed – but in it’s literal sense, that of simply not being a theist, I am an atheist. I don’t believe in nothing, I just don’t believe.

      • Robert Edwards
        July 19, 2011 at 12:20 pm

        I totally agree with you re. Dawkins. He irritates me beyond measure. He’s asking us to believe in him, of course, as if he himself might even be ome sort of minor Diety. He as a self-regard which borders on a self-built personality cult. He has books to sell, of course. But his persona serves the swivel-eyed agenda of the modern meeja.

        Well, he can fuck off; I’ll go back to the well and read Darwin and Wallace, thank you very much…

        When I find any moral or philosophical issue upon which I need to take a view, I simply check out the editorial posture of the BBC and go some distance in the opposite direction. It hasn’t let me down yet.

      • RTS
        July 19, 2011 at 12:50 pm

        You’re mixing up atheist and agnostic. An atheist believes there is no God and is thus as non-rational as any religious person (belief is always non-rational). An agnostic doesn’t believe… in anything.

        Note that belief (or faith) in this context is definied as “accepting something as true without sufficent evidence to determine it as a fact”.

        Just a point of order.

        • July 19, 2011 at 2:39 pm

          I think there’s more than a touch of semantics in this and of course people use both terms to mean the same thing. Certainly I went for a long time describing myself as agnostic since I do think it’s unknowable, but it was pointed out to me that an atheist in the most literal sense of the word is simply someone who is not a theist. I am not a theist, and while I say we can’t know I’d add that it all seems unlikely, so I feel it’s at least as accurate to say that I’m an atheist as an agnostic (perhaps I’m still that too, again in the literal sense of the word, since I am no more a gnostic than I am a theist).

          But I’d disagree that an atheist must believe in the non-existence of something. That would mean an atheist requires every bit as much wholehearted faith as the most devout theist. Certainly people who have that faith call themselves atheists but like the Communist nutjobs who deify the state they often take an awfully religious stance on it, especially on proselytising their faith. I reckon there’s room for those who simply don’t do God at all to call themselves atheists, though I don’t object being labeled a secularist or a humanist if you prefer. Semantics, like I said. But I do want to point out that atheists who go around professing their faith in the non-existence of any gods and try to covert everyone else, theists or not, to that belief are basically just practising another religion.

        • July 19, 2011 at 2:41 pm

          Sorry, should clarify that I’m not pointing it out to you since we’re clearly singing from the same hymn sheet on that ;-)

  7. July 19, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I had a feeling this one would stir up the hornet’s nest.

    Firstly, as an atheist, I do not “believe” there is no god any more than I “believe” that Ahmun, Odin, Apollo or the leprechauns do not exist. Yahweh is just another example of ancient mythology – the bible provides an interesting insight into a bronze age Hebrew society and its belief system, but it isn’t a lifestyle guide for the modern world by any means (God forbid!). I do not have to have any belief whatsoever to reach that conclusion. That people like Dawkins proselytise does not mean that the rest of us follow suit. I do wish he’d put a sock in it sometimes…

    Those who believe in god(s) have the burden of proof. Your claims require some remarkable evidence – the resurrection of a man three days after death, for example. Demonstrate to me how necrosis that sets in some minutes after death didn’t happen – explain the biology, because it defeats me and when you’ve done that, perhaps you can get around to demonstrating how he flew into the firmament centuries before manned flight was invented. I could go on, but you get the picture. Fantastic claims require fantastic evidence to support them. Not believing does not require belief on my part. Indeed, it requires nothing. You have faith. I do not share it.

    GKC was talking bollocks of course. Indeed, it is a pretty risible comment; one I find impossible to take seriously given the evidence that contradicts it. It is the same kind of nonsense preached by the US Christian fundamentalists; that atheists are bad people. Failure to share his belief in a deity does not make one a bad person. Atheism is the default position (as already stated). If you want me to believe in your Yahweh, Ahmun, Apollo, Odin, flying spaghetti monster, pink unicorn or orbiting teapot – then provide some evidence. Otherwise, I remain sceptical. See, no belief required.

    This is not the agnostic position which is subtly different. The agnostic is saying, “well, maybe, matybe not. We cannot know for certain.” Indeed we can’t – just as we can’t say for certain that Ahmun doesn’t exist…

    • July 19, 2011 at 1:46 pm

      Firstly, as an atheist, I do not “believe” there is no god

      Ah, then not an atheist but a-believist.

      GKC was talking bollocks of course. Indeed, it is a pretty risible comment

      Which is bollox and a risible comment in itself. GKC said many wise things, as did CS Lewis. Let’s see you have a go at him. Interesting how otherwise sane people make statements like this. Denial runs deep. ;-)

      • July 19, 2011 at 2:50 pm

        Please explain why the comment makes sense. I do not believe in gods – and know plenty of others who likewise do not believe in gods. I am not aware that any of us will believe “anything” as we tend towards scepticism, which is the precise opposite. I accept the laws of the natural world – physics, maths, biology and chemistry, for example – these things do not require belief as they use falsifiability, unlike god, who requires unthinking faith. Frankly, if you believe in supernatural beings who made the world in seven days, then you might just be inclined to believe any nonsense… See what I did there? :twisted:

        If you follow GKC’s reasoning, then atheists have no sense of right and wrong (believing anything), no moral compass, no inner guidance. That is demonstrably untrue. Hence, it is a risible comment. It’s the kind of soundbite uttered by someone who hasn’t given a great deal of thought to what he is saying. It sounds good, but is ultimately trite nonsense when subjected to any examination. That he may have said wise things as well, doesn’t make this one of them. It clearly isn’t.

        • July 19, 2011 at 3:25 pm

          Though you and I seem to be pretty similar in the nature of our ‘not-beliefs’ I don’t read Chesterton’s remark the same way. I thought he was saying that people in general have a need or a desire to believe in something, which seems plausible given that religious beliefs are so widespread, and if you take their current belief away a lot of people are as apt to believe in the first lot of utter horseshit they come across as to believe in nothing at all (or to stop believing altogether). But I’m really not up on his stuff and have no idea of the context, so I stand to be corrected on what his meaning was.

          • July 19, 2011 at 3:34 pm

            Well, certainly some people do believe in some wacky stuff, so in that context maybe. However, the overarching statement makes no sense whatsoever as it is demonstrably false.

            I believe in very little. I certainly don’t believe in “anything”.

          • July 19, 2011 at 3:56 pm

            Likewise, but it wouldn’t have been the same if he’d qualified it properly. “When they stop believing in God a lot of people, maybe even most but obviously not everyone, but quite a lot of people all the same…” /shrug/ To be honest I’d have generalised too.

    • July 19, 2011 at 2:43 pm

      To be fair, LR, I think the guy had a point. My homeopath gave me a crystal that detects all the ley lines necessary to prove it. :smile:

      • July 19, 2011 at 2:51 pm

        I once managed a signalbox in Wiltshire. Very odd place. Ley lines had much to do with that, I suspect ;)

    • RTS
      July 19, 2011 at 4:16 pm

      Longrider “The agnostic is saying, “well, maybe, matybe not. We cannot know for certain.” Indeed we can’t – just as we can’t say for certain that Ahmun doesn’t exist…”

      The agnostic is saying no such thing. The agnostic is saying pretty much everything you attributed to atheism.

      Atheism requires a bit more than remaining skeptical (the agnostic is hogging that seat) you must believe the other person is wrong and that there’s no amount of evidence that could shake that.

      I appreciate the origins of the word a-theist, but definitions change and I’m basing this on modern definitions of the words.

      I realise we’re off topic, so I’ll bring it back by saying I agree with pretty much everything in the original article which is rare for an argumentative bugger like me ;-)

      • July 19, 2011 at 5:03 pm

        I prefer to stick to the dictionary meaning of words. The theists have tried to turn the word atheist into something that it is not.

        • July 19, 2011 at 5:13 pm

          Out of curiosity I’ve just been to my Collins Dictionary: “rejection of belief in God or gods” and apart from etymology that’s all it says. Nothing about belief in the non-existence of them, and it’s a pretty recent dictionary. Of course other dictionaries are available, your mileage may vary, terms and conditions apply, your home may be at risk and so on. :smile:

          • July 19, 2011 at 5:26 pm

            I use the Collins dictionary as well. So that’s where I get my definition. I’m aware that some, such as the Thorndike Barnhartd give a different meaning. But that’s an American publication and they speak a different language over there… :D

            Actually, I want to revisit this point:

            Atheism requires a bit more than remaining skeptical (the agnostic is hogging that seat) you must believe the other person is wrong and that there’s no amount of evidence that could shake that.

            I don’t believe in gods, therefore I am an atheist. I have yet to see any evidence that convinces me of the existence of gods. This does not make me an agnostic as an agnostic says (paraphrasing) “we don’t know”. I’m not saying that. I’m saying “I don’t believe”, which is a positive statement. However, I am not saying that there’s no amount of evidence that could shake that lack of belief. That would be dogmatic. If someone was to present evidence that my position was wrong, I would change my mind. I would cease to be an atheist in that instance. I’m not holding my breath though, the evidence doesn’t support such a happening.

      • bnzss
        July 19, 2011 at 6:57 pm

        It’s petty simple, really.

        Start with empiricism. If you reason that the only things we can possibly know about the world arrive to use via sense data, and that even if you can’t trust your senses these are still the only data available to you, it makes sense to believe this data. That is a rational belief. For example, I can empirically say that I am typing on this laptop and believe I am doing so, and this is reasonable. Because it arrives to me via my senses.

        If something does not arrive to you via your senses, it does not, as far as you and your senses are concerned, exist.

        This is the atheist position. There is no reason whatsoever that one can arrive empirically at the conclusion that there are gods.

        The agnostic position is basically the same as the atheist one, only with less spine.

    • nemesis
      July 19, 2011 at 11:29 pm

      If you could prove it – you negate the very reason for it. Kind of catch 22.
      If an omniescent being wished to be freely acknowledged, proving his existance would take away that freedom.
      I dont think non-belief is the default position, since, as another poster has pointed out that throughout history all cultures have sought out a higher being or some sort of meaning to their existence.

      • July 20, 2011 at 10:09 am

        So, do you believe in the leprechauns just because I tell you they exist? I suspect not. Therefore disbelief is the default position as you would expect me to provide some evidence to back up my claims.

        Belief in a higher being was the default when mankind understood little of the natural world. That has changed somewhat. What was once attributed to gods is now recognised for what it is – earthquakes are the result of tectonic activity, for example, not the wrath of the gods.

        The free will thing is just a cop out, a rhetorical device to tie up any opposition. Sorry, that one won’t work. If there is a god and he, she or it wants me to believe, then I expect to see some clear verifiable evidence.

        I’m not holding my breath.

    • Revolution Harry
      September 22, 2011 at 10:32 pm

      Do you believe in evolution?

      • September 23, 2011 at 8:48 am

        Of course not. Evolution is not a belief system, it is a scientific theory with substantial evidence to support it. Belief doesn’t enter into it.

        • September 23, 2011 at 10:43 am

          In addition to which it’s falsifiable. Currently it’s plausible but if Haldane’s hypothetical pre-Cambrian rabbit fossil is ever discovered then it’s busted, or would at least need substantial revision. As Longrider says, belief just doesn’t enter into it.

        • Revolution Harry
          September 23, 2011 at 2:42 pm

          I was just wondering, that’s all. I was using the word ‘believe’ in terms of ‘to accept as true or real’. I assume then, that at this present time, you broadly accept evolution as true and real, whereas you would consider creation as untrue or false?

          See, the impression that’s often given is that evolution is scientific fact and essentially beyond question. Rather lazily I went along with this for most of my life. It’s only recently that I’ve studied the matter in some detail and the conclusion I’ve reached is that there are huge gaping holes in the ‘theory’. More than that, to me at least, the theory of evolution now seems quite ridiculous and intelligent design glaringly obvious. My personal feeling is, how could I have been so stupid as to believe that all I see around me is a result of random chance.

          My point being is that this seems to be an important consideration. If evolution is proved incorrect and evidence for intelligent design discovered then this would, or could, change everything. I think the evidence is there but it will never be given wider consideration because the theory of evolution is absolutely crucial and fundamental to everything that They are doing.

          This isn’t about debating whether or not evolution is true or not. We’d be here for ever if we tried to do that. It was more of an observation as to the importance of it when coming to certain conclusions.

          Thanks,

          Harry.

          • September 23, 2011 at 3:36 pm

            I assume then, that at this present time, you broadly accept evolution as true and real…

            No. I’d say that’s just belief by another name. I accept evolution as the most plausible of the suggestions currently on offer. I also accept that if someone happens to be digging up a half billion year old fossil rabbit as I type this then evolution is at best an incomplete answer and at worst total bunkum.

            … whereas you would consider creation as untrue or false?

            Again, no. It’s still belief, albeit belief in a negative. I would consider creation as an unfalsifiable, and so unscientific, theory. Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, though personally I think it sounds unlikely. Just means it can never be proven or disproven in this life. Evolution could be disproven.

            As an aside, my biology teacher at school was both an evolutionist and a Christian, and it was his personal belief that evolution was the mechanism God had chosen for creation. Not a bad squaring of that circle, I felt, but he did stress it was just a belief (this was a classroom chat rather than being taught as such). Neither the creationism or evolution part can be proven to be true, though if a 500 MYO rabbit turned up we’d know that evolution isn’t the right answer – but we still couldn’t know either way about the creationism part of his belief.

            ETA:
            See, the impression that’s often given is that evolution is scientific fact and essentially beyond question.

            Agreed, that is often the impression given and it’s incorrect. Theories should be something we’re prepared to drop instantly if something turns up that disproves it. The problem is with a theory that simply cannot be disproven – you can’t drop it, and any competing unfalsifiable theories can’t be dropped either even if they’re contradictory.

            It’s only recently that I’ve studied the matter in some detail and the conclusion I’ve reached is that there are huge gaping holes in the ‘theory’.

            Doesn’t mean it’s wrong, just means there are gaps. Have you come across the term the God of the Gaps?

            More than that, to me at least, the theory of evolution now seems quite ridiculous and intelligent design glaringly obvious. My personal feeling is, how could I have been so stupid as to believe that all I see around me is a result of random chance.

            Fair enough. My personal feeling is that if the human body is a result of intelligent design I’d hate to see what stupid or incompetent design would have come up with. I mean, I’m not expecting perfection or anything ;-) but there are various vital components that have no backup and single points of failure. If we’re designed then we’ve been designed in such a way that two essential processes, eating and breathing, can conflict and result in choking to death. Just the female body alone, according to Mrs Exile, could do with some improvements, not least of which is that if we have children she’s expected to push something the size of a medium fire extinguisher through a particularly sensitive area that is vastly smaller. She doesn’t think much of this or one or two other features, and she’s said that if it was designed she would very much like to speak someone to see if there’s any kind of warranty.

            • Revolution Harry
              September 23, 2011 at 10:23 pm

              Thanks for taking the time to reply to me. I promise these are my last two questions. Firstly, have you looked at much of the intelligent design or creationist material? Secondly, do you think it’s fair to say that your position is that you consider blind chance more plausible than intelligent design?

              • September 24, 2011 at 12:33 pm

                I have read some ID stuff. An acquaintance of my mother in law wrote a fairly detailed book on the subject and she asked me to read and comment. I remain unconvinced.

                Darwin’s theory follows standard scientific process. As mentioned, it is falsifiable. So far, the evidence supports the theory. The Origin of Species merely posits that organisms are subject to their environment. They either adapt to changes or they die out. His experiments were thorough and can be replicated – again an important part of scientific endeavour. He demonstrated that there are relationships between organisms and the mechanism that cause one type of organism to survive and other to die out. Evolution is not about chance, it is about the survival of the fittest.

                Religious belief in this context is irrelevant. Darwin was himself a Christian – although his faith was sorely tested by the loss of his eldest daughter who died aged ten. It is possible that after that point, he had no faith, of course.

              • September 26, 2011 at 11:53 pm

                Sorry for the slow reply, RH. To the first question, I’ve talked to creationists and looked at some of the ID arguments, but how much is much? More to the point, how much do you need to look at when ID/creationism is fundamentally unfalsifiable? Once you realise that you can never prove it one way or the other even if you checked the whole universe, which of course we can’t, the question becomes moot. And since believers can believe what my teacher believed, that there is a creator/designer and that evolution is the mechanism this entity chose, not only is the question moot but it’s not even the same question as whether evolution is happening.

                So to the second question, and since ID and evolution aren’t mutually exclusive and since blind chance and evolution aren’t the same thing it’s a hard question to answer. A literal answer would be no, I think ID is more plausible than blind chance, but the thing is I don’t think blind chance is actually what’s going on. To roll a billion dice and get all sixes would be incredible, for one person to take a billion dice and simply pick each up and put it down to show a six is less so. However, evolution is more like getting a billion people to roll one die each and leaving all the sixes that result in place, and then getting all the people who rolled any other number to give the dice to one of their kids to roll again. Within a few generations there would be a billion sixes, entirely as the result of random dice throwing. Now did someone tell all those people to keep rolling dice until they had a six? If yes then we have an ID analogue and if no, because our model universe is an odd one in which having a die with a six is advantageous but you only get one throw in your lifetime, then we don’t. Either way it doesn’t affect our evolutionary analogue of reaching a billion sixes by means of completely random throws.

                So I see them as two distinct questions: is there a creator/designer and is evolution happening. I’d say that the first question is unanswerable but that I don’t see a need for there to be a creator/designer, and that for everything that appears so wonderful as to seem designed specifically for its purpose you can choose something else and ask “Seriously? It had to be done like that? Was that really the best they could do?” The second question is answerable since a 500 MYO dead rabbit would settle the matter, though for now the best that can be said is that there’s evidence to make it a pretty plausible theory. The true, objective answers may be yes and yes, yes and no, no and yes and even no to both, though I can’t imagine what’s been going on if evolution and ID are both false. My subjective answers are don’t know but don’t see a reason why there should be, and in the absence of pre-Cambrian rabbits, probably.

            • Revolution Harry
              September 27, 2011 at 12:57 am

              Thanks AE,
              I didn’t have an option to reply to your last comment so I’m doing it here.

              I’m not sure if you spotted my last reply to Longrider. I have issues with the alleged process of evolution but when I mentioned blind chance I was thinking more of the origins of life. Your dice analogy surely assumes that it was just blind chance that the dice throwing began at all and that it needed to be a specific number and for a certain number of times, however long it took.

              As I said, I put some of the ‘anti-evolution’ pieces that I was impressed with up on my blog. They’re worth a look if you’re interested.

              link to revolutionharry.blogspot.com

              There’s one in particular that I think you’d enjoy which deals with this idea of blind chance. It’s a scientific discussion and not purely opinion. Perhaps the main thrust of his presentation is that there are two types of genes. The genotype and the phenotype. The phenotype are the genes that are actually expressed. Natural selection can only happen at the level of the phenotype. The genotype are all the available genes/DNA that could be expressed. He looks into the incredible complexity of the gene and asks the question, chance or design. It’s really very good if you fancy watching.

              link to amazingdiscoveries.tv

              “This fascinating lecture includes examples of irreducible complexity, discusses the core of genetic problems involved in the evolutionary process, and is presented in simple terms so that even non-scientists can understand the principles involved.”

              Cheers,

              Harry.

              • September 27, 2011 at 11:26 pm

                Your dice analogy surely assumes that it was just blind chance that the dice throwing began at all …

                Nope. Per my old teacher’s belief, and I doubt he’s the only one, it makes no assumption at all about beginnings. You seem to be asking the equivalent of whether, in our model universe, the impetus to throw first die was internal or external, and that’s not the same question as whether a billion dice are being thrown randomly with favourable results kept. Like I said, the dice throwers may have a reason to want to throw dice until sixes appear or they may have been told to do it by some person external to the experiment (or whatever you’d call a billion dice throws), but it doesn’t change what they’re actually doing. To put it another way, what the impetus was is a distinct question from what the process is. More to the point the process of random dice throws with retention of favourable results does not demand the impetus to be one thing or the other any more than the theory of evolution demands an absence of a creator/designer.

                I feel that many ID adherents miss this important point because their belief does actually demand the presence of the same creator/designer that is an opt in/opt out doesn’t really matter feature in evolution. Perhaps you really do need to be an atheist to find this puzzling but it’s very hard for me to understand why the theory of evolution is so controversial when nothing about it actually excludes a creator/designer. Whether there is a creator/designer behind it all is an inherently unanswerable question and no genuinely scientific theory, including evolution, makes any attempt to answer it for or against. At a push I can see that accepting evolution as likely is problematic if one wants to take the whole Bible (or any other holy book) literally, word for word, but that also means believing in a young Earth and that many trivial transgressions and victimless crimes must be punished by death. The vast majority of theists seem happy to accept that their holy books require interpretation, and if you’re going to interpret one bit, for instance the gospels, then what’s to say that another bit, such as Genesis, is off limits?

                Of course none of this answers the question of whether life arose on its own or was begun and is possibly maintained by a creator/designer, though as I’ve said the creator/designer part simply can’t be tested. Such an entity would be capable of creating things in such a way as to make it look as if they occurred spontaneously and maintaining them so as to look like evolution, so we’re banjaxed – even if you could test positively for evolution and be absolutely sure it was happening it still wouldn’t exclude a creator/designer outside the universe making it look that way from inside. Believing in one is a personal choice and I feel comes down to how we look at the world around us. Those who look at an eye and think it must be a designed thing naturally think there must be a designer, though they can’t test it and have to believe in it instead, and of course that belief means believing that life was created. Those who look at things like the way the windpipe and oesophagus are arranged so that choking to death is a distinct possibility or, if you’re a smutty minded type like me, some of the messy, uncomfortable, painful and sometimes even downright dangerous aspects of human reproduction might feel that it looks more like a lash-up that was thrown together and kind of works most of the time. The kind of lash-up, in fact, that one might expect if life began by accident and evolved into its present state.

                It’s this particular aspect that makes evolution seem plausible to me. Other evidence too, yes, sure, but the fact that if life was designed it came out with a bug list so long that the collective efforts of the software industry to drive us all bananas seem perfectly forgivable (and you could make an argument for software production to be an evolutionary process anyway). It’s not just structural faults like the risk of choking and the way almost all mammals apart from marsupials produce their young in a painful, risky and physically process but also little things like male pattern baldness that aren’t really problems but aren’t really a good idea either. If we believe that’s the result of design it raises the question of why so much of the design really doesn’t show any intelligence at all, but if they’re evolved features and traits there’s a straightforward answer. It predicts that although really disadvantageous traits should mean the death of individuals without passing that gene on much traits which stick around needn’t necessarily be advantageous to the species. The shared opening of airway and oesophagus is a bodge but choking to death doesn’t happen often enough for there to be the evolutionary pressure to change it, male pattern baldness is not an evolutionary advantage but it stopped being a disadvantage sufficiently far back in our past that we slapheads aren’t being bred out, and so on. All the heritable diseases and all the anatomical weirdness the world has to show us is entirely consistent with the theory of evolution, but if it’s designed to be that way then it’s fair to ask why the creator/designer released Life 1.0 with such a long bug list.

                Unless of course we’re actually the beta. ;-)

            • Revolution Harry
              October 9, 2011 at 11:53 pm

              Apologies for the delay in replying. I’ve had a rather nasty cold that left me bereft of any sort of energy.

              I suspect we will end up going round in circles here. I specifically honed in on the beginnings of life because that, for me, is the most interesting and the weakest part of the evolution theory. That said I’m amazed as to how little evidence for evolution there actually is. The fossil record doesn’t have any (there are no intermediate species discovered) and none of evolution’s claims have been successfully scientifically replicated. I can’t honestly see where your ‘billion dice throws’ is even shown in the existing theories. Surely the ‘theory’ is something like this.

              “Aristotle believed that decaying material could be transformed by the “spontaneous action of Nature” into living animals.  His hypothesis was ultimately rejected, but… Aristotle’s hypothesis has been replaced by another spontaneous generation hypothesis, one that requires billions of years to go from the molecules of the universe to cells, and then, via random mutation/natural selection, from cells to the variety of organisms living today.  This version, which postulates chance happenings eventually leading to the phenomenon of life, is biology’s Theory of Evolution (1997, p. 105).”

              I suppose what you’re saying is that after billions of dice throws the first simple creature arose and from then on there were multiple billions more that eventually resulted in man. The truly incredible nature of this claim is perfectly summed up in the following quote.

              “The major links in the molecules-to-man theory that must be bridged include (a) evolution of simple molecules into complex molecules, (b) evolution of complex molecules into simple organic molecules, (c) evolution of simple organic molecules into complex organic molecules, (d) eventual evolution of complex organic molecules into DNA or similar information storage molecules, and (e) eventually evolution into the first cells.  This process requires multimillions of links, all which either are missing or controversial.  Scientists even lack plausible just-so stories for most of evolution.  Furthermore the parts required to provide life clearly have specifications that rule out most substitutions.”

              link to trueorigin.org

              If you’d watch the Walter Veith video I linked to earlier (it’s really very good) you’d see the breath taking complexity of human DNA. Forget billions of dice throw, the number required to get from the ‘cosmic soup’ to DNA is the in the multiple billions. Even then, from this common, simple cell, that is our ancestor we arrive at all we see around us. All by pure, random, chance and with no discernible purpose.

              There are many other anomalies as well, all of which, since I looked at the subject with an open mind, has changed my opinion.

              Christianity is really a separate discussion. The first realisation for me was that there was indeed evidence for intelligent design. That was only one of many factors that lead me to a greater appreciation of Christianity. I’ve seen some extremely good explanations for a young earth but that would be a separate discussion. As for ‘trivial transgressions and victimless crimes [being] punished by death’, they were Jewish laws strictly for Jews only. Remember also the Old Testament deals with the Old Covenant and the New testament deals with the New Covenant, delivered by Jesus.

              I’m not that sure that bugs you list are really just that. In general the windpipe and oesophagus functions very well. Surely, if anything, it’s an argument against evolution because we either wouldn’t have evolved these things in the first place or we’d be in the process of improving the process.

              On the subject of male baldness and evolutionary advantage there is an important point to be made. Often evidence of slight variations from generation to generation is proffered as evidence for evolution. It’s usually referred to as micro-evolution. In reality all that’s happening is there is variation in the gene pool. Hair may be long, non-existent, red or brown, curly or straight but we’re never going to evolve fur, even in the coldest climes.

              As for diseases and other things we could wonder what affects the process of variation in the gene pool. Poor or inappropriate diet? Unnecessary vaccinations? Overuse of antibiotics and other ‘drugs’? Fluoride in the water? There are many unanswered questions. Of course, any Christian worth his salt will tell you that all this has come about because of the fall of man. We weren’t supposed to now death etc. Please don’t expect me to discuss this though, I don’t feel qualified to do it justice ;-)

              • October 10, 2011 at 5:51 am

                Just a few quick points since we seem to be at cross purposes in places.

                I specifically honed in on the beginnings of life because that, for me, is the most interesting and the weakest part of the evolution theory.

                I’d say that strictly speaking it’s not the weakest part of the theory of evolution because it’s not part of the theory at all. Well, not this contentious point of whether initiation of life was spontaneous or external. This cannot be tested and therefore cannot be part of any scientific theory, evolution included. A scientist may have an opinion on it, but that should not be confused with being part of the theory.

                The fossil record doesn’t have any (there are no intermediate species discovered)…

                What? There have been heaps of transitional fossils found. Evolution may not be the only explanation we could come up with but that doesn’t mean ignoring what’s been dug up. We may not have a full set for any given species’ ancestral line but since fossilisation is extremely rare and usually requires hard body parts that’s not surprising. It’s perfectly possible that of the >6 billion of us living at the moment not one of us will end up in the future fossil record, and so one of the most widespread vertebrates could leave a gap. As for intermediate species, as a nearest approximation 100% of species are extinct, and if evolution is correct it’s either because they’ve evolved into something else or because they were the end of a line. If that’s so wouldn’t everything be either an intermediate species or the end of an evolutionary line? Wouldn’t transitional fossils be all you should expect to find?

                …and none of evolution’s claims have been successfully scientifically replicated.

                True to an extent, and one reason why evolution is a theory. But there is no shortage of things which we can see and check and verify repeatedly that are consistent with that theory. Doesn’t prove the theory – strictly speaking no theory is ever proven, they just remain unfalsified. Of course ID also explains things, but we’ve covered the point that ID cannot be a scientific theory.

                I suppose what you’re saying is that after billions of dice throws the first simple creature arose…

                No. I repeat, my dice throwing analogy applies to events subsequent to the rise of life. As I understand it the theory of evolution offers an explanation only of how we got here rather than how it all began, the route we took as opposed to where the car was bought from if you will. And as I’ve already said more than once it certainly does not attempt to answer whether the impetus for life to begin was spontaneous or external. The question is fundamentally unscientific.

                Re your quote (I’d be interested to know the source): yes, there are indeed many gaps and areas of the discussion of proto-life where science does not even have a theory. This is not evidence for ID or theism – it simply means that at the present time we do not know. Big deal. We once didn’t understand fire either.

                Nor is understanding and having theories to explain things evidence against ID or theism. This is the point that really bamboozles me. I simply cannot understand why any theist (except those who insist on the most literal interpretations of their preferred holy book) sees the theory of evolution as a threat to their beliefs. Let me put it to you like this: imagine that tomorrow evidence was found that confirmed evolution (as far as is possible given what I said earlier) and put the question beyond doubt – would that turn you into an atheist? I’d say it certainly should not because the question of whether evolution was part of a divine plan would still be open, and being one that science can never answer would remain open forever. This is the ‘God of the gaps’ stuff I brought up before.

                Christianity is really a separate discussion.

                Yes. I’ve tried to be careful to discuss things in broader terms. I see it as a theism thing rather than a specific brand of theism, though as above I do not see it as a theism vs science thing. The two are distinct and some, though clearly not all, theists can reconcile both evolution and their beliefs. I suspect the ones that can’t are under the impression that evolution is denying their gods in some way, when in fact it does no such thing.

                I’m not that sure that bugs you list are really just that. In general the windpipe and oesophagus functions very well.

                That a critical failure doesn’t occur all that often doesn’t mean it’s not a bad design. Chernobyl #4 and other reactors of that design worked fine for years, and some are still running today, but it was still a bad design that allowed a pretty significant failure. Bottom line, if you were designing you probably wouldn’t mix feeding and respiration that way – take a look at any car and see where the air and fuel intakes are.

                Surely, if anything, it’s an argument against evolution because we either wouldn’t have evolved these things in the first place or we’d be in the process of improving the process.

                No. Evolution allows for getting things wrong and introducing bad ‘designs’ – in fact that’s an essential part of the theory. Features that are really disadvantageous, things that crash the whole program shortly after launch if we’re still using the bug analogy, get removed because the individual rarely gets a chance to breed and pass on the trait. Features that merely aren’t all that good but rarely kill individuals before they can breed can and will get passed on.

                On the subject of male baldness … Often evidence of slight variations from generation to generation is proffered as evidence for evolution. … In reality all that’s happening is there is variation in the gene pool. Hair may be long, non-existent, red or brown, curly or straight but we’re never going to evolve fur, even in the coldest climes.

                I don’t think I explained properly. I’m not talking about minor generational changes here, I’m saying that there is currently no pressure against selection of baldies where once there would have been. It’s not inconceivable that there might one day be pressure again but it’d require the collapse of civilisation, or at least that part of it that deals with hats, wigs and central heating. Incidentally, what makes you rule out evolving fur? Again, there’s no evolutionary pressure to at the moment, and arguably there’s been a long period of pressure against it, but if something happened that caused a return to a stone age existence (possibly as a result of Al Gore and his crew :lol: ) any hairier individuals might have an advantage. Granted, it’d probably require us to forget how handy animal skins are as well but if evolution is going on becoming furry in that situation would not be out of the question.

                As for diseases and other things we could wonder what affects the process of variation in the gene pool. Poor or inappropriate diet? Unnecessary vaccinations? Overuse of antibiotics and other ‘drugs’? Fluoride in the water?

                With the exception of diet those things have been going on for far too short a period. Fluoridation in the water supply? Please – not everybody has running water yet, and not everyone who has has fluoride in it. Similarly a significant minority of the world hasn’t been exposed to antibiotics whether used in excess or not, and in any case they’ve only been in use at all for two or three generations. Poor diet has probably been the norm for most of our history and still is in places. For any of these to be an explanation you’d need to show that evolution, or what we’re mistaking for evolution, is happening in a population where it is a factor that is not happening in other populations.

                Of course, any Christian worth his salt will tell you that all this has come about because of the fall of man.

                Yes, and as I said I can’t see why adhering to this belief conflicts with evolution. Nowhere does it say there are and can be no gods. Nowhere does it say that if there is one or more gods or designers or whatever they couldn’t be using evolution, or something we could not distinguish from evolution, to achieve their ends. That so many theists, and I have to say they mostly seem to be Christians, spend so much of their time treating the idea as a threat rather than seeing where it gels with their beliefs seems very strange to me, especially when historically they’ve done rather a good job at absorbing things (e.g. winter festivals around the solstice) from outside their original traditions.

                Edit: sorry, turned out not to be a few quick points after all. :oops:

              • October 10, 2011 at 1:00 pm

                You appear to be conflating evolution with abiogenesis. The two are different things.

                The theory of evolution merely posits that living organisms adapt to their environment or die out – and that interdependencies occur to strengthen organisms’ chances of survival. Darwin carried out replicable experiments to demonstrate this. This has nothing to do with the creation of living things.

            • Revolution Harry
              October 11, 2011 at 10:56 pm

              Perhaps we should focus on the issue of evolution rather than get too sidetracked by Christianity or possible man-made causes for genetic change. These exchanges are long enough as it is : )

              As I understand it there are six different generally held meanings of evolution which can be broadly summed up as follows:

              Cosmic evolution: the origin of time, space, and matter from nothing in the “big bang”.

              
Chemical evolution: all elements “evolved” from hydrogen.

              
Stellar evolution: stars and planets formed from gas clouds.

              
Organic evolution: life begins from inanimate matter.

              
Macro-evolution: animals and plants change from one type into another.

              
Micro-evolution: variations form within the “kind”.

              I think you have been discussing the latter while I’ve had a combination of roughly the first five in mind

              As Kent Hovind succinctly puts it:

              “Only the last one, micro-evolution, has anything to do with real science. For all of human history we have observed variations within the kinds such as 400± varieties of dogs coming from a dog-like ancestor such as a fox or a wolf. Dogs produce dogs and corn produces corn. There may be great variations within the basic kind but that is NOT evidence that dogs and corn are related! Every farmer on planet earth counts on micro-evolution happening as he develops crops or herds best suited for his area, but he also counts on macro-evolution NOT happening. Anything other than minor changes within the kind is not part of science. Evolution as defined as macro-evolution is a religion in every sense of the word. People are welcome to BELIEVE the first five types of evolution, but they are not part of science or common sense.”

              link to drdino.com

              His ‘creationist challenge’ is worth a look.

              link to drdino.com

              “Even if evolution takes millions and millions of years, we should still be able to see some stages of its process. But, we simply don’t observe any partially-evolved fish, frogs, lizards, birds, dogs, cats among us. Every species of plant and animal is complete and fully-formed.

              Another problem is how could partially-evolved plant and animal species survive over millions of years if their vital organs and tissues were still in the process of evolving? How, for example, were animals breathing, eating, and reproducing if their respiratory, digestive, and reproductive organs were still incomplete and evolving? How were species fighting off possibly life-threatening germs if their immune system hadn’t fully evolved yet?

              Scientist Dr. Walt Brown, in his fantastic book “In The Beginning”, makes this point by saying “All species appear fully developed, not partially developed. They show design. There are no examples of half-developed feathers, eyes, skin, tubes (arteries, veins, intestines, etc.), or any of thousands of other vital organs. Tubes that are not 100% complete are a liability; so are partially developed organs and some body parts. For example, if a leg of a reptile were to evolve into a wing of a bird, it would become a bad leg long before it became a good wing.”

              link to english.pravda.ru

              As for transition fossils:

              In the link below a Dr. Colin Patterson, senior paleontologist at the British Museum of Natural History, states in correspondence:

              “I fully agree with your comments on the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them. You suggest that an artist should be used to visualise such transformations, but where would he get the information from? I could not, honestly, provide it… Gradualism is a concept I believe in, not just because of Darwin’s authority, but because my understanding of genetics seems to demand it. Yet [Stephen] Gould and the American Museum people are hard to contradict when they say there are no transitional fossils… It is easy enough to make up stories of how one form gave rise to another, and to find reasons why the stages should be favoured by natural selection. But such stories are not part of science, for there is no way of putting them to the test.”

              Harvard Professor, Stephen Gould himself says:

              “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.”

              It was this that lead him to, what seems to me, the strange theory that is ‘punctuated equilibrium’. Even Gould’s claims of ‘extreme rarity’ don’t hold up under close scrutiny or at best are highly debated.

              Please also see phyla graph in below link.

              link to rae.org ;-) ;-)

              • admin
                October 11, 2011 at 11:18 pm

                Following this with interest.

              • October 12, 2011 at 5:32 am

                Perhaps we should focus on the issue of evolution rather than get too sidetracked by Christianity…

                To be fair, RH, have a look back in this sub-discussion about evolution and see who brings up Christianity. As I recall I’ve mentioned a teacher who was both a Christian and an ‘evolutionist’ (a poor term for the man’s actual opinion, but it’ll do for now) but other than that I’ve stuck mainly to theists. As I said, opposition seems to be a theist thing – though interestingly by no means all theists – and it doesn’t make a lot of difference what kind of theism. However, the most vocal opposition to evolution does seem to be largely from Christians so I don’t think that we can drop theism in general and Christianity in particular from the discussion without exploring what it is about evolution that some theists, particularly those Christians, find so terribly threatening about it. I’m not saying you do, but certainly some of your co-believers do. Still, before we go on let me ask you again:

                If evidence was found tomorrow that proved (inasmuch as a scientific theory can be proved) the theory of evolution and put the question more or less beyond doubt would you personally become an atheist? Please explain your answer.

              • October 12, 2011 at 6:32 am

                By the way, yes, I’ve been aware that we’ve been discussing different things, and I’ve tried to keep things within boundaries by repeatedly pointing out that evolution does not say how life began and that no scientific theory has anything at all to say about creationism since it’s beyond proof either way. There is more than one kind of evolution, agreed, but generally the word evolution on it’s own just refers to the theory that different kinds of organisms develop from earlier forms. Of the six you mention – and I don’t think evolution is a good term for most of them – we’re discussing the fifth of the five you’re discussing. What you call micro-evolution is perhaps part of it too, and certainly involves genetics and heritability, but it sounds more like selective breeding to me, getting fruit flies with funny coloured eyes and dozens of breeds of cat which are all nonetheless Felis catus and so on. I’m not sure why you want to discuss so many areas of science and treat them as parts of a single theory also called evolution but I don’t think it advances things. Evolution is quite distinct from discussions of Big Bang vs Steady State vs Creationist Preferences (though IIRC the Church of Rome loved Big Bang theory and pronounced consistent with scripture) or stellar evolution, and what you call chemical evolution and organic evolution would be more readily recognisable if you’d said nucleosynthesis and abiogenesis. Happy to talk about them and personally I think there’d be a lot more common ground, though of course there are still various gaps in understanding in all those areas and some are very poorly understood indeed (usual caveats re: God of the gaps applies). But I don’t think they’ve got anything more than the most tangential relevance, if any at all, to a discussion on the theory of evolution.

                Sorry for the extra comment. :oops: Feels like it looks like trying to comment carpet bomb you into submission, but honestly that’s not the intent.

            • Revolution Harry
              October 18, 2011 at 11:42 pm

              We are discussing different things then. It’s my understanding of evolution, as generally understood, that it includes the origins of life. Even Darwin’s book is called ‘Origin of the Species’ and Dawkins includes this in his particular view on things, as do others. On the Wikipedia ‘evolution’ page, referring to the ‘origins of life’, we read:

              “Highly energetic chemistry is believed to have produced a self-replicating molecule around 4 billion years ago and half a billion years later the last common ancestor of all life existed.”

              Surely the generally held theory held by Dawkins and others is that all living things came from a single common ancestor or even a single cell that came out of the primordial soup. This is where the real dispute lies.

              That said, I’m not sure even your narrow definition withstands scrutiny. That being, ‘different kinds of organisms develop from earlier forms’. I don’t think anyone’s denying that horses developed from horses or birds from birds. The creationist would call that micro-evolution or variation in the species. What there is no evidence for is macro-evolution or birds developing from fish or fins becoming wings or something similar. Can you give me a few concrete examples of ‘earlier forms’ that then went on to become ‘different organisms’? I’m not altogether sure what you mean.

              Taking your view, as I think I understand it, we still have the question, where did the ‘earlier forms’ come from? This is the question that interests me and which is probably the fundamental area of disagreement between ‘creationists’ and ‘evolutionists’ such as Dawkins. ‘Evolution’ had to begin somewhere.

              If we start at the beginning, the origins if you like, or even the Big Bang, then all of the six very much are linked. I only mentioned them so as to show the differing elements of the overall evolution theory. I’m not sure you can separate the type of evolution you refer to away from the others in the overall scheme of things, though neither am I tempted to widen this discussion any further : )

              What amazed me when I looked into this was the incredible complexity of the cell, as well as the differing cells having different functions. Add to that the mind boggling complexity of DNA. See for a few minutes in this video from 31.40 (though, as I suggested before, the whole thing is worth watching).

              link to youtube.com

              It’s here we have a chicken and egg scenario. There is no ‘evolution’ even in the simplest definition of variation in the species, without the DNA to express it. It seems we have two choices for the creation of cells and DNA. Chance or design. This is what I was getting at. The ‘chances’ of them just happening, eventually, out of the primordial soup are much much greater than one in a billion.

            • Revolution Harry
              October 19, 2011 at 12:02 am

              It probably was me that bought it up but what I was getting at was that the argument for intelligent design or even God creating everything need not necessarily lead to belief in Christianity. That said, you’re quite correct, Christians are very vocal in opposition to the broader sense of the theory of evolution that includes the origins of life. This is unsurprising when the Bible gives specific details as to the creation of the world and all life in it. It’s the creation element where the great dispute lies.

              In answer to your question we should first decide on what we both consider to be the theory of evolution. If you mean species change over time then I already agree with that, as do many creationists. If you mean one species can change into another then I see no evidence for that and neither do I think it will be forthcoming. If there did happen to be unequivocal evidence of this then that would prove macro-evolution to be true but it still wouldn’t explain the origins of life. I might then still believe in a creator but it would cast doubt on the Biblical story of Genesis. As I said, the ‘evolutionist’ theory of the origins of life is:

              “Highly energetic chemistry is believed to have produced a self-replicating molecule around 4 billion years ago and half a billion years later the last common ancestor of all life existed.”

              If this were proved true, by replicating it in a scientific experiment of some sort, then yes I may well become an atheist. That said, I don’t think it’s true so I don’t think it’ll ever be proved.

              • October 19, 2011 at 12:37 pm

                Thanks, Harry, though I have to say it saddens me a little to see you say that you’d doubt Genesis if evolution was proved and would probably become an atheist if the spontaneous rise of life was proved. There’s already more than enough reason to doubt an über-literal reading of Genesis, and since so much else in the Bible (OT especially) requires interpretation there seems no reason not to interpret and reinterpret Genesis as discoveries are made. It’s interesting that some faiths view the world as it appears to be as the work of their god and accept that their holy books are the work of imperfect men, yet with Christianity it sometimes seems to be the other way round. For some it seems The Book must always be right – where it disagrees with creation it’s creation that has it wrong.

                Anyway, it’s by the by. I keep coming back to this point: nothing about the theory of evolution, and ditto abiogenesis, rules out the possibility of there being a god of some kind behind it. I don’t think it’s that likely but no scientific theory, can absolutely rule it out. Whether either is true has no bearing on the other, it is not a zero sum game. That being so, what’s the problem with evolution for those theists who do have a problem? Where’s the threat? Clearly the Young Earth types and other biblical literalists don’t like evolution since it requires vastly more time than their belief accounts for. Fair enough, an understandable concern because it really is a zero sum game for them, but they’ve got bigger problems than evolution anyway. Such as why they don’t take the whole Bible literally (see earlier discussion about some of the madder OT laws and how interpretation rather than literalism is required) or geological evidence for an old earth or how come some cultures have been telling their own creation myths for longer than the Young Earth people think the world has existed.

                As an extreme example, you brought up Kent Hovind, a man who insists on the universe having been around for some 30,000 years less than the Aborigines here have been passing down stories of the Rainbow Serpent. Hardly surprising that he can’t cope with the idea that DNA, an incredibly ancient and universally shared molecule, might mean kinship across all life, albeit at an unimaginably distant remove. Since you tell me he also says that we may believe in “the first five forms of evolution” – though four aren’t part of the theory of evolution and have their own names, and none at all are belief systems – but says that they’re are not science even though they are falsifiable, and since he’s also apparently offered a cash prize to anyone who can prove evolution, I find him hard to take seriously. It seems he doesn’t understand the scientific method, can only see theories as beliefs to be stood by rather than ideas to be dropped if falsified or if a better one comes along, and doesn’t realise that theories can never be proven but only ever disproven. His position is a religious one and his arguments assume that science is also a religion (granted, some treat it as such, but it is absolutely not a competing belief system). Even his challenge is to be expected from someone who insists that everything he sees is fully formed and has nowhere to go from here and is unable to conceive that his god might be up there saying “Just you come back in fifty million years when these fish are complete”, let alone that it could be happening anyway. It’s understandable that he’d see evolution as a threat to his world view. Everything that says that more than a few thousand years have passed is a threat to his world view. If I were any kind of creationist I’d be looking for a rather better appeal to authority than Hovind.

                But the rest, the ones who don’t insist on literal interpretations, what’s the problem for them? And why is ‘them’ almost always Christians, and almost always non-Catholics? I know we’re both trying to get away from Christianity here, and I so want to stick to the term theism, but the more I look into things the more I find that most theists, whether Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews or RC Christians (Anglicans too, perhaps, but I’m less sure – we may be zeroing in on the more evangelist Protestants but I don’t like to single out groups) are perfectly able to hold their preferred creation beliefs and also accept that evolution could be as much a part of that creation as anything else. Just like my old teacher, in other words. I’ve even come across a term for it: theistic evolution, and many theists are fine with that. I always knew my teacher wouldn’t be the only one. It’s not that big a deal for them that their god(s) may be using evolution as a tool to make the world, which is why I’m so fascinated by those for whom it is a big deal and claim that no way could/would their god be doing it like that (though I don’t see why- surely a god could create in any way he chooses). Has faith become so fragile that something that actually makes no case for or against gods can shake it? Or is it that deep down they don’t really believe anymore but wish they did, and so choose to reject a theory not for attacking what they want to believe but for failing to confirm it? Perhaps some see it as a barrier to the second favourite activity of theists, proselytisation, but there’s no reason why that should be when it’s as easy to say, as so many theists already do, that if evolution is happening then your god is behind it. Maybe a lot of them just reject it because someone who taught them their beliefs rejected it, though that just raises the question why that person did so – maybe beliefs evolve and are heritable, hey? ;) Probably quite a lot have been told that evolution denies god(s) and creation, and getting angry about that is more important than finding out that actually evolution has absolutely nothing to say on the matter and leaves as much room for creationism as there was before. I guess there’s probably no single reason but I’m fascinated about why some believers are so defensive about evolution and some other theories, as well as why such otherwise pious and humble people place restrictions on when and how their god did his creating. Or so it seems to this atheist.

                ETA: In response to points from your other comment, ‘On the Origin of Species…’ is a famously misnamed book since it doesn’t actually say how species originate (so I hear – I admit I haven’t read it, though I have it in my e-reader). Supposedly the rest of the title is more apt: ‘…by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.’ Why’d he call it that? Dunno. He was probably a believer himself and certainly his wife was. A headline grabber, perhaps, especially as he was concerned about priority for it.

                My narrow definition of evolution is not mine at all but came straight out of a dictionary. I forget which but I think Collins, Webster’s or OED since they’re what I have to hand, so if it’s a narrow definition then it’s one in very widespread use. And I think it’s one that’s appropriate since hereditary traits and genetics has bugger all to do with star formation and nucleosynthesis, which in turn is only tenuously related to Big Bang / Steady State (delete as applicable ;-) theory, and so on. Nor, as I have to keep saying, does lack of understanding in any of them mean anything more significant than a lack of understanding. I hate to keep saying ‘god of the gaps’ but if your argument for there being a creator is no more than that we don’t know how X, Y and Z began then it’s a very poor outlook for your god. The unfortunate fella enjoys faith for no more time than it takes to answer humanity’s last questions before getting the spiritual version of a P45, is that it? I don’t know whether to start believing in him or just feeling sorry for him.

                Add to that the mind boggling complexity of DNA.

                DNA’s not so complex. Four bases that go together only two ways? It’s almost binary, complex only inasmuch as you can make the sequence as long as you like (not hard to conceive of when there’s billions of years available). Nor is everything with DNA complex (DNA viruses for instance – not even really alive) and nor is the amount of the stuff an organism has any indication since the record holder for genes is a water flea (≈10,000 more than us) and the record holder for chromosomes (>1200 to our 23) is a fern. Do we know what it’s doing with all that DNA? Nope. What does that mean? Just that we don’t know, no more and no less.

                The ‘chances’ of them just happening, eventually, out of the primordial soup are much much greater than one in a billion.

                And one in a billion chances are practically inevitable given long enough. Doesn’t prove spontaneity or creation – an eternal being existing outside the universe would be able to wait that long, no? Such a being would also be able to just do it in such a way that anyone on the inside couldn’t distinguish choice from chance?

                Again, I find it fascinating that creationist arguments place limits on their gods, generally to fit in with literal interpretations of old and repeatedly translated texts – texts which otherwise they usually insist must be studied, interpreted and nuanced to distinguish what’s meant from what it says – while at the same time atheists agree that a creator would be able to do absolutely anything at all, even things which would defy laws of logic inside the universe. It makes me wonder if some who believe they are Christian don’t really believe in their god but just in their book.

            • Revolution Harry
              October 20, 2011 at 12:32 am

              Genesis is pretty specific in the sense that God creates the earth and everything in it, including man. If it was then proved that this wasn’t the case, that man, for example, evolved from apes who in turn evolved from something else then Genesis isn’t true. Similarly, if it was shown that abiogenesis is proven, then the story of Genesis is factually incorrect. How can it be otherwise? There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of ‘interpretation’ in this. With regards to a ‘God’ other than the Christian God then I did say ‘I may well become an atheist’. What I meant was I’d give it some serious consideration and I wouldn’t rule it out. Having said all this I still don’t think either evolution (not including variation in the species) or abiogenesis will be proved true. Christians may appear to be the most vocal regarding evolution (in its wider definition) because the evidence to prove otherwise just isn’t forthcoming.

              My road to rediscovering Christianity has been a strange one. Indeed my research into the creation/evolution debate was in part my way of confirming to myself that Christianity couldn’t be true. It had the opposite effect. Even the idea of a ‘young earth’ has an interesting theory that *could* show it’s possible. That’s apart from other creationists who dispute current attempts at geological dating.

              link to youtube.com

              I’m not at all sure what you mean by ‘DNA, an incredibly ancient and universally shared molecule, might mean kinship across all life…’. Of course all creatures on the earth have DNA, which in that sense they ‘share’, albeit in different sequences. Hovind would say that this means we all have the same creator, he certainly wouldn’t deny that we all have it.

              What Hovind means by evolution theories being religious is that many of the claims aren’t supported by the science and therefore require a form of faith. He’s just having a little dig at his detractors. His view of evolution is that of many others which includes everything from the ‘Big Bang’ onwards. In that sense all six are part of this but let’s agree to disagree on this specific point. Hovind makes his points well and his challenge is there to be taken up by anyone who wishes to. Prove abiogenesis or that birds came from fish and the money is theirs.

              I take the conspiratorial view of history. That view concurs with the Protestant Reformers that the Church of Rome is pagan, occult, ‘Mystery Babylon’ and not at all truly Christian. Evolution is the establishment view and is heavily funded for good reason. Explaining why I think this is the case would take far too long.

              The difference between us really boils down to two things. I look at the incredible complexity of the cell and DNA and see intelligent design and the extreme unlikelihood of random chance, let alone scientific impossibility. That in turn bolsters my developing interest in true Christianity. You, it appears, see a chance occurrence out of the ‘cosmic soup’ or whatever you’d like to refer to it as, or am I wrong?

              When you say, ‘just you come back in fifty million years when these fish are complete’ that indicates a belief that all species ‘evolved’ from lesser forms. I’ve seen no evidence for this and I also feel it’s an unlikely scenario. At what point in those fifty million years did fully functional fins form or indeed any other part of a fishes anatomy that defines it as a fish? How long did it have a part fin, or part gills? How did this creature function while these things were still incomplete and ‘evolving’? What exactly was it before it was a fish and why did it ‘decide’ to become one? Where are all these partially evolved creatures in the fossil record?

              I’d also still like to see a few concrete examples of ‘earlier forms’ that then went on to become ‘different organisms’.

              I wasn’t a Christian first who then had to defend the creationist position. Like most I assumed that evolution was a given. It was to my amazement to discover it wasn’t. Not only that but creation was the more plausible idea, at least to me. It’s up to evolutionists to prove otherwise. Something that, so far, they have failed to do ;-)

        • Revolution Harry
          September 25, 2011 at 9:47 pm

          There wasn’t a reply to your last comment so I’m doing it to this one. When I mentioned blind chance I was thinking more of the origins of life rather then the alleged process of evolution when it finally developed. I put some of the ‘anti-evolution’ pieces that I was impressed with up on my blog. They’re worth a look if you’re interested.

          link to revolutionharry.blogspot.com

          There’s one in particular that I think you’d enjoy which deals with this idea of blind chance. It’s a scientific discussion and not purely opinion.

          link to amazingdiscoveries.tv

          “This fascinating lecture includes examples of irreducible complexity, discusses the core of genetic problems involved in the evolutionary process, and is presented in simple terms so that even non-scientists can understand the principles involved.”

          Cheers,

          Harry.

  8. July 19, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    What about lying under oath in court, though, which that commandment also encompasses (even in those days)?

    Okay, I’ll concede that one.

    I’m not sure where adultery and honouring one’s parents are legislated against in the present day.

    They are not, but that wasn’t the question. Robert made this statment:

    I think that many or most of us would accept many or most of the Ten Commandements.

    My response regarding law is that there are only the two – okay, three – that have any place in society deciding what is, or is not permissible. Otherwise, no, I don’t accept them.

    What concerns me about the ten commandments is that it is not up to anyone to tell others how they will live their lives – not the state, not me, not you and not the Church. So matters such as adultery, coveting others wives or belongings and such is a matter for the individual and no one else. Therefore, I do not accept the commandments as what they proscribe is no one else’s business.

    • July 19, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      Okay, but where do you stand on Sharia law, which 40% of Muslims in the UK would like to see nationwide? Are we likely to see a debate on that in a future column? It would affect everything Britons do and would involve prohibition, censorship, extra tax as well as cruel and unusual punishments.

      • July 19, 2011 at 5:04 pm

        Okay, but where do you stand on Sharia law, which 40% of Muslims in the UK would like to see nationwide?

        Where do you think I stand? ;)

        It just happens that James and Luikkerland were arguing from a specifically Christian viewpoint, so that was why I was taking a pot shot at Christianity. For me, all religion should be outside of the state and remain a private matter.

        • July 20, 2011 at 4:12 am

          For me, all religion should be outside of the state and remain a private matter.

          Which is precisely what I was saying! It was another question altogether that the death of freedom is accompanied by the suppression of Christianity and you can stick your head in the sand all you like over that.

          That’s why we’re in the impasse we are. The PTB are not interested in suppressing Islam. Why? Think about it, LR. It’s also a reason why you can’t conflate that and Christianity – they’re based on two entirely different ideas – one oppressive and one recognizing free choice.

          You’re a rational man – why is that so hard to see?

          • July 20, 2011 at 10:02 am

            I’m not having any difficulty seeing anything. The political elite got themselves into a difficult situation with their policy of multiculturalism – specifically a Labour party scheme to undermine a Tory resurgence. They assumed, with some logic, that Islamic immigrants would overwhelmingly vote for them rather than the Tories.

            What they didn’t account for was the baggage that came with it, hence their being caught between the horns of a dilemma. In order to achieve their aims, they encouraged an alien, hostile ally that will remain an ally only so long as they remain useful. I could almost feel sorry for them… Almost.

            On the other hand, there is no evidence that the government is trying to suppress religious belief. Some people get the wrong end of the stick and impose a rule that doesn’t exist, or someone bans the singing of Christmas carols at a local school for fear of causing offence, but this is not government policy and it does not cause offence to Muslims. it is a consequence of the same stupidity exhibited by people who use health and safety to ban things. You cannot point to these incidents and claim a conspiracy as these are isolated incidents. Without clear evidence of a controlling force, you have nothing more than that.

            Again, I challenge you to provide evidence of cause and effect. Without it, your whole argument is built on a logical fallacy.

            • Revolution Harry
              September 22, 2011 at 10:36 pm

              “…specifically a Labour party scheme to undermine a Tory resurgence.”

              You don’t really believe that do you? Immigration hasn’t stopped or even really slowed down since the Tories came to power. Immigration and multiculturalism was always a policy of Them.

              “What they didn’t account for was the baggage that came with it…”

              Again, do you really think the PTB or even the Labour hierarchy weren’t fully aware of the nature of Islam?

          • james Higham
            July 20, 2011 at 1:50 pm

            No it doesn’t. Not in the least. What a wild statement – “whole” argument built on a logical fallacy?

            Ok, just a quick one to be going on with:

            link to americanthinker.com

            The same argument the whole time – the protestant ethic is what gave rise to individualism and free choice.

            Now my challenge – disprove it. I challenge you. ;-)

            Here’s another:

            link to bigpeace.com

            Reference after reference to our culture. Another:

            Russian dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn knew what freedom is better than most Americans today. He said in his commencement address at Harvard in 1978:

            “…[In early democracies, as] in American democracy at its birth, all individual human rights were granted on the ground that man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. . . . Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual be granted boundless freedom with no purpose, simply for the satisfaction of his whims.”

            I await your fisking of Solzhenitsyn.

            I admit this one’s a bit OTT:

            “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” – Patrick Henry

            “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” – U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Jay

            Or …

            … the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

            South Africa:

            On August 10, 1996, an acting judge ruled that the Bible could not be considered to be a part of the law of a church denomination (and thus of an independent local church as well) (Signposts, Vol.19, No.2, 2000).

            Or …

            … When nurse Shirley Chaplin refused to remove her cross, for example, she was prevented by the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust from working with patients.

            Or …

            … I’m an atheist but even I find the bias between how different faiths are treated quite alarming. Good for George Carey for standing up for the overwhelming faith of this country and shame on you Rowan Williams for your silence!

            - DeeDee, Hut 5, Stalag Halifax

            Or …

            … If anyone calls themselves British and refuse to accept that the foundation of this great country was based on Christianity, then I think they need to retrace their roots. Amazing how ‘British’ attack Christianity even on their own land. I’ve never known a true Arab speaking against Islam, reason they defend their beliefs to their last breath.

            - Austin, Coventry, 12/4/2010

            Or …It is the organized nature of secularism that worries Mark Steyn, author of America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It. He said atheistic humanism is “the organized rejection of God – not the freelance atheism of individual skeptics but atheism as an ideology and political project in its own right.”

            … As Steyn noted, “The meek’s prospects of inheriting the earth are considerably diminished in a post-Christian society. … [C]hances are they’ll just get steamrollered by more motivated types.”

            This is enough to be going on with for now. The last one – that the worry is the organized nature of it, is a key factor. If it was an atheist here or there, then that would be natural but there is a concerted effort, mentioned in so many sources, to stamp out Christian values and the origins of our society.

            There are very good political reasons for this. The JudCh tradition supported the very values that the global marxists want stamped out. That right secularists are happy to do a Niemoeller and say or do nothing as Christianity is stamped out is to their eternal shame.

            That libertarians could support this by the Burkean failure to speak or do is doubly bad.

            Whatever happened to freedom of worship?

  9. July 19, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Are we likely to see a debate on that in a future column?

    Quiet Man has made reference to this but it does need further looking at, to be sure.

    • July 19, 2011 at 4:04 pm

      Thanks — and for your comment further upthread, also! I’ll look for Quiet Man’s post.

  10. Voice of Reason
    July 19, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    To begin, it isn’t the Renaissance that I find important, it is the Enlightenment, the idea that we could discern how things worked without attributing things to God(s). That is what made the Scientific Revolution possible (no matter how many scientists were pious in their own lives, they did science).

    As to the mass slaughters attributed to atheism, I assume that you include the Holocaust. Hitler clearly stated that he was doing “God’s work” by persecuting the Jews, and the camp guards were mostly Lutheran and Catholic. He was following in the vile footsteps of Martin Luther, and executing a plan (gassing the Jews) suggested by the Kaiser in WWI.

    For an eye-opener, look at how London eliminated the Jewish population at one time (stranded them on an estuary waiting for a boat that never came).

    As for other modern massacres, they are tribal and religious – the Armenians, Sbrenica, Rwanda all had religious overtones.

    • July 19, 2011 at 4:27 pm

      it is the Enlightenment, the idea that we could discern how things worked without attributing things to God(s)

      The greatest scam in recorded history [before the climate scam]. Nothing to do with enlightenment because it was hijacked, as all great movements are, by the same forces who created the current situation we’re in, running about rudderless, not even knowing what words are meant to mean any more.

      link to schillerinstitute.org

      • Voice of Reason
        July 20, 2011 at 3:47 am

        This is not your first reference to ‘the climate scam’. On what do you base your strong opinion?

    • July 19, 2011 at 4:34 pm

      Re ‘mass slaughters related to atheism’, see as a starting point ‘Mass killings under Communist regimes’ in Wikipedia.

      From the introductory paragraph (emphasis mine):

      ‘As of 2011, academic consensus has not been achieved on causes of large scale killings by states, including by states governed by communists. In particular, the number of comparative studies suggesting causes is limited. The highest death tolls that have been documented in communist states occurred in the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin, in the People’s Republic of China under Mao Zedong, and in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. The estimates of the number of non-combatants killed by these three regimes alone range from a low of 21 million to a high of 70 million.’

      Hitler was no practising or true Christian, no matter what is written today. Nor was Stalin, who was in seminary when he joined his fellow travellers.

      • Voice of Reason
        July 19, 2011 at 4:47 pm

        Hitler may not have been a believer, but the accounts from Elie Wiesel and many others show clearly that the ones who ran the camps were.

        The difference is the cases of Stalin and Mao (which were cults of personality, amounting to secular religions), is that the killings were not generally because of atheism. At least, I have found no source that indicates that.

        • July 19, 2011 at 4:55 pm

          Yes, but they were perpetrated by atheists. Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were not religious people.

          Re Hitler — moving the argument away from the leaders to the executioners is adding another dimension to the debate.

          • Voice of Reason
            July 19, 2011 at 5:11 pm

            Again, this is a standard dodge. There is no evidence of which I am aware that Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot were motivated by their atheism. There is plenty that the German people were motivated by their Christian beliefs. You could ask my mother (if she were still alive), who lived through that period in Germany.

          • July 19, 2011 at 5:35 pm

            When someone forms a personality cult demanding the same type of behaviour as a religion it becomes a rather fuzzy line that divides them. If it looks like a lot ducks, sounds like a lot ducks and acts like a lot of ducks, especially when it comes to swimming in the same ponds, how important is it that the one leading them is actually a goose? For that matter wasn’t Stalin also banging on about the Motherland all the time, not to mention The Party and himself – bit of an unholy trinity right there if you ask me. They even had their own festivals in May Day etc. Similar arguments can be made about the others – not religious people, true, but they were sure as hell believers in a very big way.

      • July 19, 2011 at 5:03 pm

        I don’t want to send this in circles, but per earlier comments I’m not sure how atheist such regimes really are when they are effectively deifying the state or its leader. It might not have been belief in a god that drove them but sure as hell belief was very much involved. Belief in the Mother/Fatherland’s need for you to just shoot all these people over here, belief that it must be the right thing to do because the Fuhrer or the Great Leader or whatever lunatic is the focus of the personality cult has said it’s the right thing to so, and so on. There may have been a massacre happy atheist regime that didn’t do this but I can’t think of one of the top of my head. Khmer Rouge, Stalin, Nazis, North Korea, the various Maoists, they all have their quasi-religious attitudes, dogma and veneration of an inverted commas god, generally either a bad idea or, if a person, a massive tool. Sometimes both.

        • July 19, 2011 at 5:20 pm

          They worshipped the Party, which essentially becomes their ideology as well as their god, family and church.

          • July 19, 2011 at 5:39 pm

            Exactly. No god in the traditional sense but there was still belief, dogma, rituals, something to stand where a priesthood would, the whole kit and kaboodle. Instant religion kit, batteries and god not supplied, justice available separately.

  11. LJH
    July 19, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    As Judeo-Christian belief has pretty much run its course intellectually, it’s probably time to exhume the Stoics: honesty, duty, loyalty, trustworthiness precisely because the universe is a pretty bleak meaningless place unless one makes moral choices. Give me Seneca over Mother Teresa and Richard Dawkins any day.

    • July 19, 2011 at 5:09 pm

      Indeed. I think of Seneca when my day turns to ratshit.

      • Uncle Badger
        July 19, 2011 at 8:19 pm

        I’ve come late to this debate and had despaired, until I read the two statements above, at the woeful ignorance of the classical world of those who believe Judeo-Christian philosophy is solely responsible for the development of morality in Western society.

        • LJH
          July 19, 2011 at 9:17 pm

          The most productive part of my school education was Latin. In my disillusioned middle age it has revealed itself as a better resource than the religion of my childhood, the miscellaneous of my youth and earnest marxist theory of my early adulthood. I am now trying to teach myself classical Greek (it keeps me out of trouble).

  12. July 19, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    The thing is, Churchmouse, you can present fact upon fact but LR does not wish to know.

    He flatly refuses to acknowledge the tradition which gave him the freedom to even be having this discussion and the fact that aspects of scripture are interwoven through common law in spirit are simply denied.

    That’s because you are trying to apply cause and effect without the evidence to support your assertion. Common law evolved separately in one small part of Europe and peculiar to the English speaking world. The evidence suggests, therefore, that there was something different going on in our culture. Given that at the time, the religion was exactly the same across Europe, it suggests something independent of that religion.

    You are going to have to do better than that.

  13. July 19, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Likewise, but it wouldn’t have been the same if he’d qualified it properly. “When they stop believing in God a lot of people, maybe even most but obviously not everyone, but quite a lot of people all the same…” /shrug/ To be honest I’d have generalised too.

    Which is why I tend to dismiss generalisms. They are easily refuted. It only takes one person who does not believe in god to not believe in “anything” to demonstrate that Chesterton’s generalisation is false. I don’t beleive in “anything”, I base my observations on examination of the evidence. Therefore, Chesterton’s statement is false.

    • james Higham
      July 20, 2011 at 1:45 pm

      Specious sophistry. Means nothing and you have specified nothing.

      • July 20, 2011 at 3:39 pm

        I don’t have to. Chesterton’s comment was a wild generalisation. As such, it’s nonsense, a trite soundbite. Frankly it’s utter, utter tosh a statement of supreme conceit and arrogance. I am aware from my own experience that it is false. Generalisms generally are.

  14. July 19, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Again, this is a standard dodge. There is no evidence of which I am aware that Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot were motivated by their atheism. There is plenty that the German people were motivated by their Christian beliefs.

    Quite so.

    Sir, I admit your general rule
    That every poet is a fool.
    But you yourself will serve to show it,
    That every fool is not a poet.

    A Pope

    Or put another way, because some atheists indulged in mass murder it does not follow that atheism is in any way responsible for their behaviour. It’s a non sequitur.

  15. July 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    And there goes the comment record held by How Do You Solve A Problem Like Shariah?

    • July 19, 2011 at 6:00 pm

      Well, we certainly know which buttons to press. :evil:

      • July 19, 2011 at 8:46 pm

        Hey, it was you who walked into the minefield, buddy. The rest of us just follo… ah. :oops: :lol:

        • July 19, 2011 at 10:17 pm

          There’s a saying about fools going where angels fear to tread or something…

  16. bnzss
    July 19, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    I wonder how many Christians here have read the book on which the Judeo-Christian tradition is based? Yeah, if you’re deriving your morality from that tradition, then perhaps you should look at taking another path…

    And claiming liberty and its ideas as some kind of child of that tradition is extremely fatuous. Just because a beautiful flower can grow towards a chink of light in a dark room does not make that dark room responsible for the flower’s beauty.

    • July 19, 2011 at 10:04 pm

      And claiming liberty and its ideas as some kind of child of that tradition is extremely fatuous.

      That’s a bizarre statement if, as you claim, you’ve read the gospels. Have you heard of the expression “the truth will set you free’? The whole idea behind those four books is that man is set free from his chains but of course, He was referring to spiritual chains. It’s impossible, in the current era, with so many who can only see one half of reality, thanks in no small part to the hijacked enlightenment, to conceive of what He was really going on about.

      Those from a previous era, of which Churchmouse and I are obviously part, have no problem seeing the totality of reality. What He says at points in the gospels makes perfect sense and it did to many august people over the years – not zealots, not fanatics, not state churchmen, not the corrupt, not the American Religious right but scholars and philosophers.

      It’s a noble tradition we’re arguing from, whereas many here today are arguing from a blinkered, modernist position which is not their own fault – they’ve grown up knowing nothing else and consequently, have an amazingly negatively slanted view.

      The next few years are going to alter the whole face of the debate anyway, as people begin to discover what the beginnings of a USSR style society is really like and I’d imagine there’ll be more than a few looking around for protection and a way out.

      Liberty is an illusion unless there is something quite powerful and generally acceptable backing it up.

      • July 19, 2011 at 10:29 pm

        I’m of a similar age to you. I was ostensibly brought up in the Anglican faith and was confirmed as a teenager. When I started to think about it for myself and questioned the teachings along with the contradictions in the Bible, I rejected it. It’s nothing to do with a slanted view – it just doesn’t stack up. The more I explored the world about me; history and science, in particular, biology and physics, the less sense the superstitions and myths made to me. They are interesting stories. Some of them are supported by archaeological evidence, but the miracles and visitations from God? Oddly enough, they ceased at around the time that the scriptures were last written.

        Some years ago, Jeremy Bowen did a documentary exploring the evidence for the life of Jesus Christ. When it came to the resurrection he was faced with a simple choice, given that the whole concept flies in the face of biological fact; either you believe it or you don’t. Given my understanding of biology, I don’t.

        I don’t need faith. This is not borne of ignorance, rather it is borne of having been there and followed the teachings. To be fair, the Anglican version of Christianity is probably mostly harmless, unlike some of the more virulent strains. And, given that understanding, I am well aware that liberty doesn’t need religious belief to underpin it – and I do not use the term religion in a negative sense. Christianity is a religion so the use of the term is descriptive, nothing more. However, as I stated right at the beginning, freedom of religion does need liberty to thrive.

        • July 19, 2011 at 10:38 pm

          I was not referring to not having faith as ignorance – that is your choice. I was referring to certain statements made above which were errors of fact and have now been corrected.

          • July 20, 2011 at 9:53 am

            Er, no they haven’t as I have no made any factual errors. All of my reasoning is based entirely upon the evidence and nothing but the evidence. That you do not agree does not mean that I have made any factual errors. Apart, that is, a slight shift of opinion on one of the ten commandments – although it’s arguable that the principle could be covered elsewhere.

  17. July 19, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Bnzss — If you are speaking of the Bible, yes, I have read it in its entirety — many parts more than once. Yes, I used to be a moral relativist but no longer. So, thanks, I’ve been there, seen it, got the t-shirt.

  18. nemesis
    July 19, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Just to end on a flippant note (and I think Im on fairly safe ground here)
    Why is an English Summer like a Muslim?
    Sometimes its Sunni and sometimes its Shiite.

    • July 20, 2011 at 10:21 am

      Mostly the latter.

  19. July 20, 2011 at 5:05 am

    My last word:

    Longrider might have thought I’d disagree with:

    We tread on dangerous ground when we start to talk about positive liberty backed up by regulation, permission or religious codes. Liberty is merely you leaving me alone to live my life as I see fit – regardless of whether it offends your religious sensibilities.

    I both agree and disagree. Certainly liberty is leaving each other alone – classical liberalism and I’m a subscriber to this. So I don’t go shoving Christianity down your throat. Like the Gideons, I point to the book and leave the rest to you but with one caveat – the message is in a bottle in the gospels. All the rest is explanation and interpretation by people, inspired or not inspired, depending on how you see it.

    The state should be no more involved in a “state religion” than it is in every other aspect of people’s personal lives. We say to the state – leave us alone and get on with what we elect you for – defence, social security for the genuinely unable etc.

    However, if my esteemed colleague thinks that we exist in a cocoon where we can simply decide to do this or that and no force or power impinges on that, then that is to fly in the face of reality. Even in the visible sphere it’s quite clear – just look at the EU and hear Nigel Farage on their antecedents.

    Read about the Club of Rome and start exploring their connections and it’s not long until it’s clear that this was a bloody great conspiracy and people like Wilson and Heath knew fullwell what they were letting us into. That referendum was a scam, the way it was put, just as voters were scammed in 1997.

    So yes, there is a force about and you’re welcome to define and interpret it as you wish. I define and interpret it this way:

    For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

    Or as Wilson said:

    Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men’s views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.

    We all, on this blog, wish for these things to stop and to be left alone to live our own lives. You might say we can do that by ourselves, by taking to the streets, by showing solidarity. I say there has never been a time in history where a popular uprising did not result in some further oppression of a different kind.

    There are victories along the way, e.g. An Outbreak Of People Power In Stony Stratford and I’m happy to have my name listed in support of that, for the purposes of being picked up by the Thought Police but overall, we’re up against something much bigger which so many of us are not quite aware of – that force Wilson [and others in a position to know] wrote of.

    Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t be associated with this blog if I wasn’t into supporting the guys and gals in fighting for freedom for all of us – I’m thinking of taking up smoking, just to spite them but always with that other thought [above] in the back of the mind.

    No reason not to try though and take out a few of them along the way.

     

    • July 20, 2011 at 6:05 am

      However, if my esteemed colleague thinks that we exist in a cocoon where we can simply decide to do this or that and no force or power impinges on that, then that is to fly in the face of reality.

      That’s true, but should we be? Or perhaps the question ought to be why shouldn’t we be?

      • July 20, 2011 at 6:50 am

        Couldn’t agree more, if I understand your point right. There is no natural reason anyone should be laying their crap on us and making us do things their way.

        • July 20, 2011 at 6:59 am

          I was thinking more about the idea of absolute freedom up to the point it restricts someone else’s absolute freedom, which I’ve always pictured as being some kind of metaphorical bubble or cocoon in which the only rule is not to shrink anyone else’s bubble or cocoon. Same thing said differently, I guess.

          • July 20, 2011 at 7:10 am

            Again – fair comment.

  20. Caernunos
    July 20, 2011 at 10:59 am

    ” I realise that atheistic movements have been responsible for mass slaughter in recent history” although, just in case you were thinking of Hitler… he was a Christian, and yes, he was claiming such even towards the end of the WWII, he never lost his faith, persecuting those Jewish murderers of Christ.

    “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.” Adolf Hitler, 1941

    • Caernunos
      July 20, 2011 at 11:02 am

      Perhaps I should be clearer in writing ‘persecuting those Jewish murderers of Christ’! Not my view point, I genuinely don’t care.

    • July 20, 2011 at 11:50 am

      Just not a very good Catholic ;-)

      • July 20, 2011 at 11:57 am

        Oh, I don’t know. He’d fit in well with the Borgias :D

  21. July 20, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    No it doesn’t. Not in the least. What a wild statement – “whole” argument built on a logical fallacy?

    You have repeatedly claimed causation and effect. The evidence does not support that assertion. Other cultures and religions have similar approaches to freedom. Buddhist and Hindu cultures for example will tolerate minority religions as has been pointed out to you.

    Also, as has been pointed out, we also owe much to the ancient classical cultures of Rome and Greece that pre-date Christianity.

    Without a direct and provable link between the cause and effect it’s a non sequitur.

    • July 20, 2011 at 4:20 pm

      I just presented you with half a page of it. this is the blue sky defence the leftists use. You’re not leftist but they do use it. One presents a load of evidence in response to a challenge and two things happen:

      1. The person flatly denies it. “I’m no convinced.” End of story.
      2. The challenge one has issued oneself is sidestepped.

      Now, I’ve presented you with plenty, on topic, from respected sources. I then issued you a challenge to disprove that:

      1. liberty and Christianity are both under attack and there is a link;
      2. That we come from a Jud-Ch tradition which embodies the values we’ve been talking about.

      You wrote: “Without a direct and provable link …” OK, I now await your direct and provable link to show that what has been said by so many on this is bollox.

      Good luck. ;-)

      • July 20, 2011 at 4:27 pm

        Opinion and assertion are not the same thing as verifiable evidence.

        Liberty is most certainly under attack by the state. Religion is not. Sorry, but the only evidence for that is the same evidence that we see with over zealous health and safety – people who do not understand the legislation or are afraid of the consequences of using their own common sense. And, of course every winter some idiot church leader bleats on about the mythical war against Christmas… Ye Gods!

        All recent legislation has been enacted in favour of protecting religious groups not suppressing them.

        So, no you haven’t demonstrated a link. As someone else said to you on this discussion, there are some coincidences, nothing more.

        As I’m not the one making claims of such a link, I am not obliged to prove anything, just as I am not obliged to prove the non existence of god. Your claim, your burden of proof.

        • Voice of Reason
          July 20, 2011 at 8:26 pm

          In this case, you are both partially correct. In Britain (where I grew up), and in the US, Christianity has enjoyed a particular advantage until now.

          It is only natural that, when people in the US assert their rights not to have religion forced upon them, the Christians should feel aggrieved. Of course, it is more complicated in the UK, having an official religion.

          While I was on the ‘right’ side growing up (C of E), I did see and despise the exclusion of the ‘others’.

  22. Voice of Reason
    July 20, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    All of these arguments that ‘the Truth will set you free’ and ‘Christianity leads to freedom’ seem to fly in the face of what the Bible and theologians tell us to do – turn off our brains and believe. Consider Luther’s ‘Reason is a whore’ discussion.

  23. Voice of Reason
    July 20, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    @James Higham – you discuss the Declaration of Independence, which mentions God only to indicate that the King doesn’t have ‘divine right’. More importantly, what does the Constitution say about religion? 1. No religious test can be used to hold office and 2. The first amendment’s ‘freedom of religion’, which must also mean ‘freedom from religion’, or it has no use.

    As for quoting Patrick Henry, how about looking at what franklin, Paine, Adams and Jefferson had to say on the subject?

  24. Robert Edwards
    July 21, 2011 at 10:31 am

    It’s worth mentioning a few things we would not have had it not been for a belief in God. I am not, by the way, a believer in God myself, but I’ll take exception to any rudeness anent GKC.

    We would not have:

    The Matthew Passion (or indeed any music of the Baroque)
    The Gothic Cathedral, that glorious Bridge to God.
    The Country church.
    The Sistine Chapel (or indeed any important Renaissance Art).
    The King James Bible.

    It’s worth considering what we would have had instead.

    Just a thought…

    • July 21, 2011 at 10:48 am

      The answer to that is; who knows? Art and music will happen anyway as will architecture – it’s just that we would have seen it expressed differently. The King James Bible, we can happily live without, though. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a mish-mash of double translation and politics from the fourth century. An interesting insight into the times, but hardly a lifestyle guide for the modern world – unless stoning and mass murder are okay all of a sudden. I’d miss the Gregorian chants, mind.

      As for my comments about the GKC quote, I remain firmly behind my stance. His comment was crass, arrogant and conceited – indeed, I would argue that anyone who is prepared to believe in a supernatural being invented by a bunch of bronze-age desert dwelling goatherds is likely to believe in anything. Two can play that game ;)

      As an addendum to your thought, I also find the minarets of the Islamic world fantastically attractive, so where would we be without Islam? Or the temples of Asia? Where would we be without Buddhism?

      Just a thought.

    • caernunos
      July 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm

      We would not have constrained art, culture and critical thinking for centuries. Ive been to some museums showing art from the Renaissance – 100′s if not 1000′s of pictures all on the same topic, the virgin, the baby, yawn. Imagine what could have been achieved if the great minds and thinkers from the ancient world, Aristotle, Plato, Pythagoras et al had been used as the basis of civilisation (standing on the shoulders of giants) rather than the dark ages of Christian domination.

  25. Robert Edwards
    July 21, 2011 at 11:15 am

    Well, you don’t get an argument out of me about any of that. I think GKC was referring to belief – faith – in general. People like to believe in something, after all. It gives them purpose.

    For some, (not me) it is a God of some sort; for others it is a system, a state, a politician, a sport, even a rock star. But these are ephemera. They too will pass; they always do. But it is unarguable that we are where we are (for better or worse) because of some belief system somewhere, because a sense of religion has always been a mainspring for human progress.

    I have spent a lot of time in Asia, was indeed brought up in Malaya, which then was a mixed Hindu/Moslem/CofE/Dunno culture. Nobody actually argued about religion that I can recall; it was simply part of life, like getting your hair cut, having clean fingernails and being polite to strangers.

    I agree that codes of behaviour are an abomination (who are these people to tell me what to do?) against our perceptions of Liberty, and yet, the descendants of those Bronze age goatherds seem to be alive and well – all over the place. Codifying proper behaviour is merely a social instinct, after all. We all approve/disapprove of something.

    So I don’t know either what life would be like without these stimuli, as we can call them. All I know is that without the Bach family, or John Milton, or Donne, or a host of others, my life would be much less full.

    • July 21, 2011 at 11:54 am

      I agree – I will happily walk into a cathedral and admire the workmanship involved. I don’t need faith to do that and I don’t need faith to recognise the influences. Mozart’s requiem sends a shiver down my spine, yet I don’t believe. I don’t need to to appreciate the sheer beauty of the music and recognise that his muse came from his faith. But, Mozart would have written beautiful music anyway.

      While it’s true some folk have transplanted faith in gods to something more corporeal, I am not one of them. I don’t have any faith in anything. I take the world around me as I find it. If I do have faith, it is that there will always be some bastard who thinks it is his place to tell me how to live my life. So far, I haven’t been disappointed.

      • Robert Edwards
        July 21, 2011 at 12:00 pm

        Well, I pleased that we are finally singing from the same page of the hymn book! :lol:

  26. September 22, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Well done, Harry. Setting the record straight.

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