So much wrong: a reader’s comment:

December 2, 2012 • 5:25 am

A comment from reader agathosozoe, which I’ll put above the fold.  I don’t want to respond at length; I’ll allow the readers to do this as it was a comment addressed to the readers.  But be polite, as I ask when you address another commenter.

The more I read the comments here, the more I hear that from the atheist perspective, error has no rights. Thus, many that follow Jerry Coyne are convinced that I am in error.  You see, I am a theist of the ilk where my world view begins with “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. If there were no prohibitions, would you then begin to burn at the stake folks like me?  Will you ensure that I can’t teach my children, that I can’t get a job as a teacher?  So then, such evil practices have “evolved” from the religious community of the middle ages to the secular community of today? Think about such a world – I for one, would not want to live in such a world where error has no rights.

Historically, mankind has primarily been religious, spiritual, and accepting of metaphysical ideas.  Although Evolution does not properly deal with biopoiesis, I am confident that if you are an atheist this branch of science is also fully accepted as fact – it had to occur if there is no supernatural realm.  Granted – pure naturalism is the framework by which you start your analysis of reality.  However, how did you get here? As a theist I admit, easily enough, that major tragedy and evil has occurred in the name of God.  Yet, the principles of freedom, by which the political and scientific trajectory that that entire western world has jetted from, started from good, creative, and investigative aspects of theist.  Theistic scientist of the past may not have been Christians or Jews or Muslims (some were), but they practiced their craft and performed their investigation based on the belief that God gave the universe order and structure that can be discovered. If there is no God, they were wrong, BUT this is the perspective they had and this has given us the foundation of our modern society.

So, as you enjoy this supposed victory of mandating that evolution be taught as a “comprehensive and coherent scientific theory” and as Jerry as stated, you take this to mean “fact” (which I don’t – it’s strictly a comprehensive and coherent theory – valid science with valid questions, corollaries, and guidelines, but nonetheless, it is a theory), I ask you – take the high road.  Don’t become that which many atheists have despised in our shared history about religious oppressors. I don’t want a new dark-age where all of human life is forced to fit into some scientific, deterministic, calculated, complex set of scientific canons, creeds, and maxims. Love, relationship, care, compassion, empathy, grace, forgiveness and the like need the freedom to exist without being codified as some complex psychological outgrowth of evolutionary necessity.

Just three remarks:

1.  Who ever said we’d burn people at the stake for their beliefs, keep them from being teachers, or ensure that he can’t teach his children? It’s the religious people who do stuff like that!  We fight religion with words and writings, don’t prevent anyone from being teachers so long as they don’t foist their religious beliefs on others in the public schools, and feel (but don’t legislate) that it’s abusive to indoctrinate children with religion. And really, in an atheist world “error” would have  rights? (Well, there would be no right to teach creationism in public schools!) What about what religion does when, as in Iran or Saudi Arabia, it gets the upper hand? Do women have a right to drive in Saudi Arabia, a right to go to school in Afghanistan, or do Catholics have a “right” to engage in homosexual behavior?

2. Historically, “mankind” has oppressed women and minorities, killed strangers, and tortured animals.  What was characteristic of the past isn’t perforce correct. This person should read Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature.

3. If evolution isn’t a fact by this reader’s lights then neither are viruses and bacteria that cause disease, or atoms as a fundamental chemical unit of matter.

The reader’s concern is duly noted. I commend agathosozoe into your hands.

455 thoughts on “So much wrong: a reader’s comment:

  1. This seems to be a classic “projection” on from the commenter. I’ll speak for myself: first and foremost I am a freethinker; I’d never force anyone to say that they agree with me.

    Hopefully people will be convinced by the arguments and evidence that is submitted.

    Of course, when it comes to the teaching of science in the classroom, only science should be taught without regards to religious sensibilities. For example, I’d never give credit for an answer: “d/dx e^x = xe^(x-1)” even if someone told me that their holy scriptures told them that was the correct answer. 🙂

    1. There are classrooms where it makes sense to discuss religion. After all it is, as agathosozoe mentioned, a huge part of our human cultural development that can’t be ignored or forgotten. I wouldn’t like to see classes saying “this faith is true”, but comparative religion and the history of religion remain worthy of study.

      But we must say that in a biology classroom, only legitimate biology should be taught, just as is true with math, chemistry, and physics.

      1. There actually is a very appropriate place for Creationism and even Intelligent design in a biology classroom.

        It’s a good idea to have the first lecture of an introductory course be a whirlwind tour of the history of the field, from as far back as you can go to the present day. And, in that context, you’d (briefly) describe astrology in an astronomy class (including a bit of expansion on the history of the constellations and zodiac and the like); in chemistry you’d give a tip o’ the hat to the alchemists and perhaps note how their dreams of transmutation were wildly off-base but that nuclear transmutation is actually an important topic that we’ll get to late in the semester; and, in biology, you should note that creationism ruled the world until Darwin, with very few exceptions (whom you should also mention). After spending as much time on creationism as as astronomer would on astrology, you might note in passing the Dover trial’s conclusion that Intelligent Design is not significantly different from Creationism and that both religious philosophies were deemed unconstitutional for presentation in taxpayer-funded institutions as the modern factual understanding of biology.

        The fact of the matter is that creationism is very important in the history of biology as a science, just as important as alchemy and astrology were to their respective fields. For a very long time you basically couldn’t be a biologist without being a creationist, and that’s important to understanding the history of the field.

        It’s also a fact that shouldn’t take but more than a few minutes of an introductory lecture to explain.

        It might help some students with creationist leanings put the concept in its proper perspective. It might cause some stridently creationist students to make an issue of it; that’s fine. Get it out of the way up front and make it clear that these five minutes are all that creationism is going to get, and they’re welcome to see the principal (that is, stop disrupting class) if they have a problem with that.

        Regardless, treat it as any other failed theory: briefly mention it to put it in its proper context and move on.



        1. Agreed. It is important and interesting to look at science in its historical context and to understand the development and progression of ideas. But of course the supposed “controversy” is a fiction that in science classes is not a controversy at all.

        2. I see what you’re saying, but I’m not sure. Could it depend on the cultural context?

          The reason I’m not sure is my generation received a good-enough evolution education in primary school in a way that connected it with the rest of the natural sciences course without mentioning creationism. But then, there is no strong creationist background in our culture as catholicism is the dominant religion and they more or less tolerate the idea that we came from monkeys.

          In the American context, I can see that if you don’t mention creationism at all, you’re putting people out there who aren’t prepared to deal with the realities of the world. They are going to find creationism, no doubt. Ideally, a good education would make them able to see creationism for what it is —putting it into perspective, as you say— but perhaps it is too big a chance to take.

          1. “they more or less tolerate the idea that we came from monkeys.”
            But sadly the base canard that “we came from monkeys” makes it easier to tolerate it less. The meme should be that “we are (distant) cousins of apes”.

            1. Here you go. An estimate of when the lineages of humans and rhesus macaques began to diverge. Are you going to tell me the members of that species we and the rhesus come from weren’t monkeys?

              1. “Are you going to tell me the members of that species we and the rhesus come from weren’t monkeys?”

                I’d call it a primate of some sort. It was probably more monkey-like than human-like, though. But that’s just a quibble. The problem with “we came from monkeys” is not that is technically wrong, but that it leads to misunderstanding. It implies one modern species descending from another modern species. “We are (distant) cousins of apes* ” Is more illustrative of the branching nature of the tree of life.

                *or monkeys, if you prefer. Cousinship of varying distance is true for all species.

              2. We can say both things, for both are true. We don’t need to pick one, really. One focuses on the branching part; the other focuses on the transformation part, because it is true that species change over time and that species give birth to other species different from the originals.

                It implies nothing about modern species. We say this all the time about other groups. We say tetrapods came from fish, plants with flowers came from plants without flowers, birds came from dinosaurs, butterflies came from moths, dogs came from wolves, dolphins came from terrestrial mammals, etc.

                Giving due attention to branching is great, but let’s not lose perspective of what evolution is after all: change over time.

        3. Actually, in India, where I went to high school, it is common practice to have a couple paragraphs on various religious/historical beliefs and the theory of “special creation” in the chapter on origins of life. The books then usually politely declare these attempts to be not scientific enough, and venture into current forays into theories of abiogenesis. If I remember correctly, a similar structure was followed for evolution too, starting with special creation, and then moving on to Lamarck’s theories before finally discussing Darwinian Natural Selection in detail.

    2. Actually I don’t think you should give them credit for the answer d/dx e^x = xe^(x-1) regardless of where they got it, because it’s a wrong answer. d/dx e^x = e^x. But I understand your point…

        1. Ah I see. I interpreted his post as saying the student gave the right answer for the wrong reasons (implying that the poster thought the answer he gave was in fact the correct one). But who cares? We’ve wasted too many valuable Internet bits on this already…

      1. Well, I guess that is a bait for outraged mathematicians, and then for you to perhaps re-respond with a silly quotation from John Barrow.

        I’ll just ask you to kindly provide a few examples of that dogma you refer to, and maybe pontificate on whether empirical science suffers equally or more from that same curse of dogmatism suffered by religions, and hence, by humans.

        1. Who’s John Barrow?

          Examples? I was thinking of the nine in ZF. With C for the schismatics like me.

          Maths need not be grounded in empirical observation. Of course, our axioms are chosen to best model reality as we see it, but maths is more than that.

          1. Barrow is an approx. 60-year old British physicist/cosmologist of some repute, undoubtedly on wiki if you want more, but also a ‘Templetonite’. I was thinking of one particular quote, apparently by him, though I got it 2nd-hand, as follows:

            “If a ‘religion’ is defined to be a system of thought which contains unprovable statements, then Godel has taught us that not only is
            mathematics a religion, but it is the only religion able to prove itself to be one.”

            To me it is easy to say things that apparently agree with this and others that apparently disagree. It is more-or-less meaningless, but moderately entertaining.

            1. Even if his argument were right, would any believer grant him his premise?

              Anyway, the argument only works if religion is strong enough to define arithmetic. Which I doubt, given that Christianity at least requires 1+1+1 to be equal to 1.

              1. Yes, the premiss is silly. Religion might be better characterized (in one way) as an activity whose adherents must accept statements which are disprovable, not merely unprovable. Of course religions are all pretty obviously inconsistent, to the extent that there is any precision at all in the statements of dogma. And so everything would be provable, including the negation of whatever you just finished proving 5 minutes ago.

        1. These dogma might be the Peano axioms and their foundation, the Zermelo-Fraenkel axioms. Any good non-planotic atheist knows that math isn’t true, just useful. Consider the philosophy of mathematical fictionalism.

          1. I wonder how once can call ZFC or PA “mathematical dogma”, especially when mathematicians of a certain ilk work so hard to come up with systems in which they can be proven consistent (indeed, a check of references shows that this as already been done with PA).

            No mathematician I know takes ZFC and PA to be “dogma”. We know, and acknowledge, that they can’t be proven consistent with themselves if they are consistent. We continue using them till no inconsistencies are discovered. I know of no religion (with the possible exception of some Indic ones) which admits that its “dogma” could possible be wrong.

            I don’t know what the “philosophy of mathematical fictionalism” is, but as a practicing mathematician (who was also once religious), I can confidently attest that there is no such thing in mathematics as “dogma” in religious sense of the word.

            1. I readily concede that there are different degrees of dogma and to equate math’s fundamental axioms with the dogmas of religious belief is a great disservice to math and mathematicians.

              But I do object to math being called truth – it is knowledge that is internally consistent given the assumptions upon which it is founded. Even then, it can branch off (given further assumptions such as the parallel postulate) into things that don’t even seem like truth, but are internally consistent (and often prove to be useful).

              Surely you remember from your math history studies the conundrum over imaginary numbers.

              If you want more on fictionalism or other thoughts in the philosophy of math, Stanford is a good source:


              1. “But I do object to math being called truth – it is knowledge that is internally consistent ”

                I am sorry, but I find this strange, because this is a self-contradictory statement. Whenever someone says something about math being truth, all they are saying is that that a given theorem (say) is true. When you “unpack” all the notation, all the theorem is really saying is that the conclusion of the theorem logically follows from the axioms of the system in which the theorem is being proved. Now, that, you seem to be willing to grant as a “true” statement (I am not aware of a definition of “true” in which it would not be “true” either),but somehow you are not willing to accept a shorthand description of the same?

                “Surely you remember from your math history studies the conundrum over imaginary numbers.”

                I do not know what this “conundrum” was. Also, most mathematicians do not have to formally study the history or philosophy of mathematics. With due respect, I would also point out that what little I have seen of the philosophy of mathematics (logic excluded, but I doubt one could call it philosophy) has convinced me that philosophy of mathematics is about as useful to mathematicians as philosophy of science is to natural scientists.

              2. Of course anything proven from and within the foundations of math is “true” within the mathematical context.

                That says nothing about the TRUTH of mathematics itself.

                For most people the question does math = truth is a philosophical one.

                The question is math useful is completely different.

                And I agree, the philosophy of math has no real applicability to working mathematicians. But it might be applicable to people wanting to discuss the role of mathematics in discerning, not what is proven true within math (or might one day be provable), Truth.

                Read the first few paragraphs of the link and I think you will see where I am coming from. If my ideas still offend you, well, I’m sorry.

          2. If, as you possibly imply, the Peano axioms are implied by the set theory axioms, then the former are surely no dogma in your naive sense.

            So your set theory axioms are your example, I imagine, which maybe I shall unoriginally abbreviate to ZFC (better not forget the “C” in case you know to what I refer). Thank you for responding as requested.

            But now surely Theorem Z of mathematics is just short for the assertion
            “ZFC implies Theorem X”.
            That would seem to destroy your example to me, so may I be enlightened as to how, if at all, I may have gone wrong?

            1. Who could ever forget “C”

              “Thank you for responding as requested.”

              What do you mean, I didn’t say anything before that? If requested, I missed it.

              What example of mine was destroyed? I don’t remember providing one.

              1. Sorry, I had asked the original poster, who claimed math to ‘be’ dogma, for examples. I mistook you for him when you responded essentially to that request. Pardon for not checking responders’ names.

                In the meantime, your example of ZFC as dogma appears to be destroyed by more than one responder to you. To those, you can only respond yourself by writing “Truth” with an upper case “T” and leaving it at that.

                I am quite familiar with a philosopher who wrote her thesis on the fictionalist philosophy of mathematics. I have every sympathy with her personally, but believe she is entirely mistaken. In fact her naive, rudimentary knowledge of 20th century logic and mathematics is shared by every other advocate of that ‘fictionalist philosophy’ to the extent that I am aware, and that includes the contributor of the Stanford blurb on the subject.

                It is revealing that he fails to include Penrose among the mathematical platonists. I have read all but 1 or 2 of his references. As far as I can make out, other serious philosophers of mathematics do not seem to even bother responding to these people.

                To generalize about the latter source, I am afraid that there are several topics where I know some technical things, matters with respect to which that Stanford encyclopedia is little better, sometimes worse, than Wikipedia, despite the very high level of that institution.

              2. Educate me (sincerely).

                Do you believe that there are abstract mathematical objects such as numbers and shapes that have characteristics such as even and prime that exist outside and independent of material reality?

                I so, I would ask the same question of anyone else that believes in non-material things that exist independent of human knowledge…what is your evidence.

                If not, I would hope that you could point me to a philosophy of mathematics where these numbers and objects are both real and not real at the same time or otherwise help me clarify my thinking.

                For me, I don’t believe in TRUTH that exists outside of material reality, and the truth (facts) about material reality I consider provisional.

                What am I missing?

              3. I guess what I am saying is that to believe that mathematics is “true” is a metaphysical statement and a far different thing than to say that the assumptions and grammar of mathematics are internally consistent and produce results that can easily be agreed to and are sometimes useful to scientists in creating explanations/approximations of how reality works.

                To say mathematics is true, to me moves quickly into some sort of panenthiesm where all emerges more and more densely from Original MIND, and that mathematical “truths” such as the platonic solids or Phi and Phi emanate from this Mind — or even to dualism where Mind/God is separate from material (such as Christianity).

                What am I missing?

              4. Do you have a good reason to believe that the material universe is not an abstract object? If it is, there is apparently no difference between abstract existence and material existence, or at least the latter is part of the former. If it is not, and you are sure of that, tell me why. At first sight, this sounds either ridiculous, or so simple as to be trivial. But the physicist Tegmark (with plenty on his webpage, papers from a decade ago and earlier in serious journals) has proposed this and more. I do not want to belabour this again, after a lengthy exchange with Ben Goren which also strayed a long ways from the existing topics of responding to Coyne’s post. But the arguments here against a platonist philosophy of mathematics can be quite shallow (in my opinion), and at least I am giving serious references to real scientific work, and indeed, to a point of view about cosmology which is falsifiable according to Tegmark.

        2. Strictly speaking, “these dogmata” but I doubt that one English-speaker in a million speaks that strictly today. The common plural is “dogmas”.

          (But I like the idea of a single dogmum. Wouldn’t that be a bitch?)

          1. “…dogmum. Wouldn’t that be a bitch?”

            Surely, the ‘dogma’ would be the bitch (or the dam, so I can proceed). The ‘dogmus’ would then be the sire (now you see why—unfortunately ‘dog’ is both general and referring to males, I understand). Maybe ‘dogmum’ is the name after either has been ‘done’, as they say (‘neutered’ for non-English speakers).

    3. “d/dx e^x = xe^(x-1)” surely is to be given no credit simply because it is incorrect, with any reasonable interpretation of the notation as usually used.

      If you instead wrote down a correct mathematical statement, but asserted it correct because it agrees with your holy scripture, surely you’d lose marks if the question asked for justification, but only get a rap on the knuckles if it didn’t ask.

      On the other hand, “d/de e^x = xe^(x-1)” is sometimes actually correct (and might be asserted by an intelligence from ‘outer space’), though the notation is pretty bad relative to what we here almost all use, culturally bad but not mathematically bad, taking “e” as a variable, and “x” as a constant.

      Is there a holy scripture anywhere that gives the value of ‘pi’ correctly, whatever giving a “value” means here?

      1. The Bible (old testament) gives 3.

        “And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one rim to the other it was round all about, and…a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about….And it was an hand breadth thick….” — First Kings, chapter 7, verses 23 and 26

        The Shulba Sutras, considered part of the Vedic canon, give an approximate method of constructing circular altars of the same area s a square altar (“squaring the circle”) which is equivalent to π = 3.088. But the Shulba Sutras are real mathematical texts (they even contain the Pythagoras theorem, a few centuries before Pythagoras) and it is only an accident of history that they are considered part of a religious tradition.

        However, they are both beaten by Archimedes (π ≈ 3.142) and by Aryabhata (π ≈ 3.1416).

  2. “I don’t want a new dark-age where all of human life is forced to fit into some scientific, deterministic, calculated, complex set of scientific canons, creeds, and maxims.”

    But you do already live in an old dark-age where all of human life is already forced to live in a theistic, deterministic (Calvinist and Predestinationist and “God’s Law”-ist), calculated and complex set of priestly strictures in which your very thoughts are monitored by Christian and Islamic Thought Police and Apostles’ Creeds and maxims. You are nopt even allowed a bit of healthy lust after a pretty girl without having “committed adultery in your heart”. It’s a wonder Gentle Jesus allowed anyone to get married at all.
    –and you call this freedom?

    1. She has it backwards, of course. The deterministic, complex set of scientific cannons, creeds, and maxims are in fact forced to fit with reality – that’s what makes them “scientific”. What she “wants” is completely beside the point.

  3. //Who ever said we’d burn people at the stake for their beliefs?//

    Well, just to play devil’s advocate for a moment (insert audience groan here), PZ Myers *has* been quoted as saying if he ran things, he’d kill anyone who expressed a belief in God.

    Of course, that’s coming from ‘Mr. f*** him into the ground’ himself, so I guess one should probably consider the source.

    1. I find that statement very hard to believe, and request that you provide a link to it. If it’s merely a second-hand quote, it loses credibility, of course.

      I really, really doubt that P.Z. said that or believes it.

      1. Jerry, I have read the comment as being attributed to Myers; I believe it was on the ERV Periodic Table of Swearing thread a while back. I won’t swear it’s an exact quote of his, but it was given as such.

        I’m attempting to Google this remark, but my powers of google-fu are not that great; if and when I find a direct link I’ll be certain to post it here.

        Not trying to be a troll, and I don’t at all agree with Agathosozoe’s quoted comments. However, I do count myself as an atheist who frequently has not much patience with Myers’ brand of atheism. Although I do think he’s made responsible and intelligent statements with regard to to the subject, I also think he’s shown himself to be possessed of something of a streak of rather mean-spirited intolerance, and I’m not utterly certain I believe him of being as totally incapable of making a remark like the foregoing as you and some others here might.

        1. Ah, I see.

          You’re too lazy to actually confirm your source before you quote it as fact but that’s OK because PZ has “shown himself to be possessed of something of a streak of rather mean-spirited intolerance” and you believe he was capable of making this remark.

          And just exactly how are you different from agathosozoe ?

          If you are looking for an actual example of “mean-spirited intolerance” try re-reading your own comments.

          1. I’ve ben reading PZ for many a year now and I don’t recall him every saying this. Please provide a link, if you can. If you cannot, I suggest you retract this.

            1. As I stated, my reading of the remark came from a quote which was posted on the old ERV thread sometime back. I’ve been an avid reader of that thread for some fairly long while, so I trust my memory of the quote as having been presented as being from Myers as correct. However, since the original thread is now history, finding the direct comment from which it came has been elusive thus far. Anyone who wishes to take that as proof positive that Myers therefore never made the remark is welcome to do so; however, I respectfully decline to retract it, and also wish to point out that I was careful in my original remarks to qualify the fact that I was not presenting the statement as direct quotation, but rather as a remark I had seen as being attributed to Myers. As stated, if I can find a surviving link to this, I’ll be more than happy to print it.

              At any rate, I daresay there is no one here who will quarrel with the authenticity of Myer’s “F*** him into the ground” remark as regards his dealings with Gelato Guy–a remark which does not exactly denote peaceful or benign intent on the part of Myers’ attitude toward believers.

              1. Well, if you don’t retract your wholly unsupported and nasty remark, we know how much you like a real discussion.

                Begone, troll!

              2. I’ve been an avid reader of that thread for some fairly long while, so I trust my memory of the quote as having been presented as being from Myers as correct.

                Given your source, I have little trouble believing you read that.

                I have equally little trouble believing it’s been fabricated out of thin air.

          2. Steve’ I’ll do you the courtesy of acknowledging your remarks, but after that I’ll let the somewhat silly tone of them speak for themselves.

            1. And Steve, let me now point out my recognizing my typo of misplacing an apostrophe for a comma in the above, lest you seize upon it as some manner of further validation of your remarks, as avid followers of Pharyngula seem to be somewhat prone to do.

              1. Why would you assume I’m an avid follower ?

                I would defend you in exactly the same way if you were to be subjected to unsubstantiated accusations.

                For what it’s worth, I do read his website on a regular basis, I agree with much (but certainly not all) of what he says, I find the general tenor over there to be very rough and tumble and I certainly have taken my own share of spirited criticism from others on that site.

              2. Excellent comment. I mean, the ERV comment thread as a source of legitimate information? I can hardly believe Joad even attempted to make a point using a PZ-hating site.

            2. I don’t think Steve’s remark is silly at all. There is such a thing as treating others with good faith and courtesy. Spreading rumors about people just because you don’t like them doesn’t qualify. In fact, I’d put that behavior into the mean-spirited category myself.

              1. Relaying a printed quote does not precisely equate to ‘spreading rumors’, D’oh.

                And I have no ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ of Myers himself, as I don’t know the man. My ‘dislike’ is purely confined to the realm of disagreement with his particular definitions of atheism. So please–let’s not try to project this into the realm of the personal, okay?

              2. Repeating uncritically an unverified quote seems pretty much the epitome of spreading gossip.

        2. Sorry, but you HAVE to provide a reference, and if you can’t, you must apologize and say that you can’t find one.

          1. Sorry Jerry, but I won’t go the route of grovelling that because I have not had a reference spring immediately to hand, I must now carry coals of being in blaphemous error heaped on my head.

            I have stated, in good faith, that when I can access the quote or source of same, I will be glad to supply it. IOW, I’m more than willing to state I have not as of yet found it, as there’s no shame in acknowledging the inability to trace a quote on the internet. I don’t however feel a need to take that to the length of requiring a full-dress admission of utter error in having posted it in the first place.

              1. Holy pork on a bible, guys. This whole argument between Rosasharon Joad and.. everyone else comes down to this:

                Joad: I think I heard P.Z. Myers say he’d kill believers if he had a chance. Also P.Z. is kind of a dick, anyway.

                Everyone else: REPENT AND APOLOGIZE AT ONCE!

                You’re not calling Joad out on something he *already qualified* as a mere thought. You can’t demand evidence when he started by apologizing for not having the evidence! Unless you’re going to say people can’t even mention *thinking* they heard something of the sort, you people need to chill out cuz you sound ridiculous.

              2. Classical accommodationist projection of nastiness, based on denial of reality, which in turn is based on religious belief in belief.

                Nasty, if irrevocably confused, customers.

            1. Well, excuse us if we can’t accept your good faith on faith.

              That you don’t (won’t?) understand why confidently attributing borderline-genocidal remarks to somebody on nothing but your own (obviously faulty) recollection is a problem; that you keep defending it and refusing to admit error compounds it.

              I doubt you’d accept “I read it on the internet as being attributed to him” as evidence that someone you admired has advocated wholesale slaughter of his opponents; promulgating such rank hearsay about someone you clearly dislike speaks to a clear integrity deficit.

              You aren’t the only person with a PZ-shaped chip in their shoulder and very little he says goes unnoticed; if he’d ever said anything remotely like your “attribution”, more than one person would’ve brought it to the attention of the entire internet by now.

        3. “I am a troll, and everything I say has the sole aim of insulting people and causing meaningless controversy.”-Rosasharon Joad

          While my google-fu skills aren’t strong enough to find this quote, I am certain it is something Joad would say because he acts like a troll, makes derogatory comments about people with no evidence to back them up, and has added absolutely nothing to this conversation.

          1. Rosaharon is a ‘she’ and likely acts like a ‘troll’ because that’s the standard reaction of many internet posters to having a bit of information they don’t care to hear cross their cerebral membrane, Maverick.

            Glad to see you behaving true to form.

            1. It’s not “a bit of information” if you cannot provide a citable source. You must give references and evidence, otherwise you are merely making personal observations which you are elevating to the status of facts, but without proof.

            2. I apologize for misstating your gender.

              The point of that comment was to show that a conversation where people make statements, especially about other people, that are poorly evidenced but that match their expectations or desires is not enjoyable for anyone.

              You don’t like PZ and/or his style, but you eschewed legitimate criticism for a baseless libel.

              I didn’t like that or your reaction to getting called out on it. Yet that’s insufficient reason to label you a troll, and you appear to have had a justifiably negative response. Eliciting such a response was the purpose of the comment.

              A certain civility and manner is requisite to have any conversation that is enjoyable and productive for those involved. You don’t like when others breach it, so don’t do so yourself.

              1. I agree, in the main,with your points, Maverick, and am in agreement also that I probably shouldn’t have posted the alleged remark without having a source reference ready to supply with it first.

                The best I can say is that I have read the remark as being attributed to Myers, and, judging by some of the recent, rather unpleasant remarks that verifiably have emanated from him, I didn’t (and don’t) find the possiblity of his having made such a statement as completely out of character. I should probably also make it plain that while I find these remarks of his unpleasant, I also pretty much consign them to the category of sarcastic hyperbole that I think they likely belong to.

                I’ll ask that my citing of this remark, true or not, be also consigned to the category of sarcasm regarding Myers, and will be quite willing to drop the subject–at any rate until such time as I can supply a direct reference–in the interests of not further derailing an otherwise most interesting comment thread. Be assured that that was never my intent here.

              2. “The problem with the internet is that you can never believe what you see on it is actually true” Abraham Lincoln (attributed).

        4. Over at the Slymepit ERV has just commented on your comments starting HERE

          QUOTE: “I dont think he [PZ] ever said that. I dont remember it and it seems like a point we would have archived”

          I am certain that Abbie would instantly recall such a remark from PZ

        5. Ermagawd.

          I so much do not care about what your thoughts are about PZ Myers, sourced or otherwise.

          It’s not the topic at hand, and there are abundant blogs where you can express yourself.

          Go to one of them, and express yourself.

    2. Yes, I too would like to see a legitimate citation for this. PZ is often more direct and ‘in-your-face’ than Jerry, but in several years as a loyal reader of Pharyngula I’ve never heard him advocate killing anyone.

      1. Pete, if you’ve managed to slog through a decade’s worth of the Pharyngula’s choicest commentariat, including such rational and calm leading lights of the site as Caine Fleur du Mal, Jadehawk, Nerd of Redhead, and et al., then my hat’s off to you. You have a rather stronger stomach than I, not to mention a higher threshold of tolerance for snark masquerading as intellect.

        My own feeling is that one *is* somewhat known by the company one keeps, and there is little doubt that Myers has been keeping some dubious company of late–as a reading of his own blog can attest.

        1. My mistake. The remark ‘a decade’s worth’ was based on my misreading your ‘several years worth’ as ‘ten years worth’.
          Even so, I still doff my hat to your degree of patience in following a pretty wide river of doggerel and poor reasoning skills that too much of FtB Pharyngula represents.

          1. Rosasharon Joad,

            Your first comment on this thread, and your subsequent dissembling, have destroyed any credibility that you could have had here (from where I sit).

            1. Ah well, I suppose I’ll have to live with your disappointment at my ‘dissembling’, Jeff D.

              Somehow, I think I can manage to pull that off.

          2. Rosasharon Joad: ‘It is just to hard for me to keep track off all the hateful things you people say’ and ‘the interwebs is just too hard for me’….

            I also suck a computing skills, and I also get offended by… a whole bunch of stuff, too! If something really offends you, just take a screen snapshot of it and save it. If you have a computer, you have this ability. Consider learning how to use it. Please.

            1. Since I read the comment at least a year ago, suwise 3, I didn’t think to snapshot it for the day I’d need to present in a debate on a WEIT thread that I *of course* should have known would be coming up in the future.

              As a rationalist, I would suppose you have no stock in such phenomena as precognition; nevertheless, I’ll do my best to bone up on my psychic skills for my next encounter with you.

              (Let’s see…I predict I will meet up with suwise again on March 28th of 2016, in a debate on the accuracy of the science presented in ‘Jurassic Park’, Film the First,
              so let me start marshalling my screencaps of Michael Creighton quotes *now*…)

              1. You got all hot and bothered about some quote by someone you disliked and now you want US- meaning anyone other than you- to do the research to “prove” it. Your “excuse” that you that *you didn’t think* you might need it again, so you didn’t bother is bullsh1t.

                This is NOT 1960: you could have BOOKMARKED, SCREEN-SNAPED, or PRINTED the damn thing out. When I go off on a rant on a website- which I am wont to do- I have all the evidence there in one folder, and if I later decide it’s not worth it, I just don’t use it.

                Snapshots are easy to do and take up extremely little space on your computer. And, even though I didn’t think I’d need it at the time, let me say that the comment you made about the lecture last year was in extremely poor taste. You don’t remember meeting me, do you. Doesn’t matter.

            2. Hey, guess what. I looked through my stuff and it WASN’T you who made that comment sometime somewhere! Must have been someone else. O well! My bad….

          1. Um, who said anything about “not being able to handle Pharyngula”, Rob? I don’t recall saying that I read only the comments and not the body of PZ’s posts themselves.

        2. Oy.

          I reject this argument in total, including the punctuation, thereof.

          Not content to limit yourself to a slander of PZ Myers out of wholecloth, you’ve moved on to the people who comment there, and you’ve done the lot of it without presenting a scintilla of evidence that any of your claims are valid.

          Your purpose here in these comments amounts to no good.

    3. you can believe whatever you want. What you can’t do is determine public policy by your dogma … atheists aren’t trying to demand that politicians and teachers be atheists — we insist that they be secular. Big difference. Use secular principles to work out what is best for people in the material world.”

      1. RJ gave PZ credit for making “responsible and intelligent statements[.]” Call it a matter of taste – or of time pressure – if you want, but I gave up reading Pharyngula a long while ago. To me, at least as he exists on Pharyngula, he seems to be a love-him-or-hate-him kind of guy, and it wasn’t worth the time it took to wade through the bad stuff to get to the good stuff.

        1. Sure, people can not like the guy in general. I don’t like a lot of people. All I was doing is providing real info that points in the opposite direction to what she was saying.

    4. I can imagine PZ saying this in jest only, in a context where it is obvious he is being facetious for some reason. And it’s perfect quote mining fodder for some disingenuous person to lift out of context.

      PZ believes in human dignity, and it’s totally inconsistent with all of his opinions that I’ve seen expressed to claim he would support such a notion.

      1. Precisely my feelings as well. Not that PZ needs my humble validation.

        Perhaps Rosasharon thought such a comment would fly over here. I’m very gratified to see that the WEIT commentariat hasn’t let it.

      2. Agree. And I’m a regular at Pharyngula, and have been for years.

        I understand that the quote was only provided with the explanation that there was no source and thus it might be wrong, but it’s a very, very strong charge. It’s also out of character for PZ (unless it was part of an obviously humorous take-off).

        Tone is not content. Swearing at people and telling them to “take a hike” in so many words is very different than appearing to advocate a totalitarian execution of the religious. Agathosozoe appears to think this is a mainstream or at least largish fringe position held by atheists. If you’re going to tacitly support this point, you really shouldn’t play the “I’m just sayin'” card and humbly admit a lack of certainty.

      3. For the sake of minimizing unnecessary disingenuity, may one also reasonably imagine him taking the additional, reasonable step of stating, “I am, of course, being facetious or jestful,” or “I am, of course, speaking in a specific context”?

        As one insincere and manipulative Jezebel once craftily opined to me, “Email [and, I gather, blog postings] is SO one-dimensional.”

    5. “…what I want to happen to religion in the future is this: I want it to be like bowling. It’s a hobby, something some people will enjoy, that has some virtues to it, that will have its own institutions and its traditions and its own television programming, and that families will enjoy together. It’s not something I want to ban or that should affect hiring and firing decisions, or that interferes with public policy. It will be perfectly harmless as long as we don’t elect our politicians on the basis of their bowling score, or go to war with people who play nine-pin instead of ten-pin, or use folklore about backspin to make decrees about how biology works.” That is a real PZ Myers quote. I found it in 30 s at WikiQuotes. This does not sound like a person who would have said what you claim. If he had, I’m sure someone would have added it to the collection.

      1. Roshaharon Joad is just making stuff up. Or reporting something that someone made up.

        ERV isn’t a reliable source for anything. She went off the deep end long ago and I won’t waste time on her blog.

        RJ isn’t a reliable source either. She couldn’t back up her statement because it never existed.

        Poster Dave has an authentic PZ Meyers quote on religion. I remember reading it when he first wrote it.

        1. Joad is rightly being castigated for spreading unsubstantiated rumour. You take him to task for that and then throw a REALLY inflammatory, unsubstantiated remark about ERV in there.

        2. RJ’s assertion is also not worth the time and effort required for an exhaustive search and I didn’t do one. The quote given is one Myers might easily have made, from what I know of his writings.

          Today’s little episode is a fine example of religious tactics: make an unsubstantiated claim – there is a gawd, you’re going to hell, someone said such and such … – then leave to others to do the heavy lifting to disprove it. It may be dismissed by reasonable folk but it’s out there; it is the way character is so easily assassinated and reputation destroyed.

        3. You justifiably, IMO, take Joad to task for spreading unsubstantiated rumour, and then proceed to throw a very inflammatory, unsubstantiated grenade at ERV. Don’t take sideswipes like that when the host has repeatedly requested that you do not.

    6. BTW, it isn’t uncommon for US fundie xians to call for atheists to be killed. Below is one such of many.

      News Hounds: Fox News Facebook Fans Want To Kill Atheists
      www. newshounds. us/…/fox_news_facebook_fans_want_to_kill_athe…

      9 Aug 2011 – Fox News Facebook Fans Want To Kill Atheists … reside in “real” America are proud pro-life, conservative Christians who have no compunction …

      Unlike Roshasharon Joad, I just supplied a verifiable source. This was a thread on Fox News Facebook.

      8 states have laws prohibiting atheists from holding public office and/or serving on juries.

      Just who are the murderous bigots here.

        1. That is because I disabled it. I don’t usually put live links into comments because they can get caught in filters.

          Just put relevant words into google and the well known story comes up.

          If you have any more trouble, find a reasonably competent third grader to do it for you.

      1. I believe it was a tweet by PZ regarding the manager/owner [?] of the Gelato Mio near the Skepticon 4 conference who put up a sign at his door saying atheists not welcome [not a quote].

        That is my hazy memory & corrections are welcome

        1. Thanks. I see how that’s completely equivalent to demanding the immolation of the faithful.

          How blind I’ve been.

  4. Your remarks and the first comment already covered almost everything that occurred to me while reading agathosozoe’s comment. The fact that he/she could even suggest that we’d inflict a burning at the stake shows a major disconnection from reality.

    I would just add one thing: agathosozoe, like quite a few theists I have encountered, would like to give credit to the theists for the “principles of freedom”. It is quite the opposite. Religion had Europe in its grip for thirteen centuries: thirteen centuries in which it could have instituted freedom of expression, outlawed slavery etc. But it didn’t. The freedoms we enjoy only began when the grip of religion was weakened.

    1. In fact, one of the most pernicious forms of slavery, the feudal system, was established and perfected in christian Europe, with the full support of the churches, and persisted into the nineteenth century.

      My holiday wish for agathosozoe is simple: may he truly learn the difference between a hypothesis (which he calls “theory”) and a scientific theory as in “theory of evolution”. Bad terminology is at the root of many problems.

  5. Although I am a theist, I have no issue with science nor do I impose my way of thought upon anyone. Spiritualism is unique to the individual. Each person has a different perspective of how they view themselves as a spiritual being.

    Of course, spiritualism cannot be proven through physical means. There is no measure or reference point to gauge it. Human consciousness consists of energy which mankind has not quite yet begun to comprehend.

      1. Linda, scientists have been known to engage in self-deception which they had firmly convinced themselves was grounded in sound scientific theory.

        The eugenics movement was certainly widely accepted by many scientists who’d engaged in the self-deception of certainty that its neccessity was firmly rooted in then-current theories of genetics and heritability of intelligence. The medical promoters of the lobotomy ‘craze’ that swept America in the mid-twentieth century also acted out of what seems to have been somewhat willfull self-deception regarding what was known about the functioning of the prefrontal lobe at the time.

        Theists, to put it bluntly, are very far from being the *only* ones in a society capable of large-scale self deception. As long as we are human, even the ‘best and brightest’ among us can give themselves over to allowing wishful thinking and incomplete knowledge to trump their intellectual processes.

        1. The difference is that science is self-correcting.

          There have certainly been wrongheaded, even dangerous, misuses of science, and instances of self-deception. The most recent pretty much all involve the buying of “research” by parties who are not disinterested.

          But, there will always be other scientists who review others’ work, or try unsuccessfully to replicate results, or who just express doubts.

          Try doing that in a church and see where it gets you. L

          1. I’m willing to concede you the point, but I *do* feel it’s a constant neccessity to highlight the errors of reasoning that science is not infrequently prone to; I find too often on rationalist sites that there is a rather blind complacency among the majority that science is error-proof, or inevitably ‘self-correcting’ in the idea of acceptance of faulty reasoning among its practitioners, as well as a somwhat blithe minimizing of the very real harm that was done to individuals during the periods that this faulty reasoning held sway.

            I prefer a world of rationality as governing force to a world of theocratic governance any day of the week, but I feel it’s very much needed to remind people that what can be currently accepted as scientific ‘rationality’ is all too often as open to the corruptions of the irrational as the beliefs of the theists can be.

            We must never become too comfortable with what we think (or even firmly believe) we know in any given field.

            1. If sciences is so irrational and blindly complacent as you claim, then it should be easy for you to list a dozen accept scientific facts or paradigms that are, in your view, erroneous and stem from “errors of reasoning” and “corruptions of the irrational.” I don’t know of any scientific theories that have derived from irrationality.

              Please give me a dozen of them. First you misquote P.Z., and claim you can’t find evidence for what you say he said, now you claim that science is widely corrupted by the irrational. If you can’t document anything you say, you’re verging on being a troll.

              1. RJ tries to conflate the discipline of science with the humans who try to practice it. I know of no other discipline that has, as a guiding principle, Feynman’s dictum that ‘the first principle is: try not to fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool..’ It’s very true that many scientists have managed to fool themselves, even others, for a time; but time is the universal solvent, and it always removes poor science.

            2. Shall we compare science and religion (mythology) when it comes to understanding our world?

              Has any religion ever given us anything useful, verifiable, and true before science? EVER?!

              Why do you imagine that no religion ever told us about germs, DNA, mental illness, optical illusions, other planets, the fact that the male determines gender of offspring in mammals, the location of dinosaur bones, the DNA double helix structure, etc.?

              The most parsimonious explanation is it’s because there is nothing divine– the divine beings that people believe in as imaginary as the ones they conclude are myth.

              People confuse their own thoughts with messages from gods when they have been indoctrinated to believe in such things. I think that the knowledge and technology science has given you, could make you indistinguishable from a god to the people who wrote your holy book.

              1. lamacher attempts the same lame rationalization for scientific error that I’ve seen time and time again–namely, that the ‘discipline’ of science somehow exists out there in the space/time continuum, unsullied by the messy practices of fallible human beings. Unfortunately, no ‘discipline’ exists without humans to devise and then implement it. The failings of science are a direct result of the humans who facilitate its practice in the first place.

                And if science is as perfectly self-correcting as you blissfully believe, lamacher, then what do you have to say about one of its most pernicious ‘gifts’ to the twentieth century and beyond–atomic weaponry?

                Oh yes, my bad–the discovery of the destructive powers of the atom was discovered by cloud-dwelling Laputians who had no connection to the messy realities of the war being waged at the time–and all later misuses of it are due *entirely* to the fault of humans, acting totally without the benefit of backup by science and scientists. If pure ‘science’, acting all by itself without the intervention of humans to mess it up, held sway there’d be nothing to worry about, correct?

              2. Scientists, as both scientists and human beings, stand or fall on their own merits, or at least ought to.

                Regarding nuclear research and development, have you heard of physicist Leo Szilard (who, standing at an intersection in an eastern European capital in the 1930’s catching his breath, upon realizing the consequence of firing slow neutrons at uranium atoms), in relation to Einstein, Franklin Roosevelt Hitler?

                Feel free to similarly opine about politicians, and about capitalists who will do anything for a buck, both of whom view scientists as subordinate handmaidens.

              3. I am sure there is no Platonic “discipline of Science ” out there, as your straw man statement tries to argue. Science is a good deal less messy than religion, which is why it has discovered so much, and religion has not This implies that the humans who created it are a good deal less messy than the religious ones who didn’t.
                As for nuclear weapons, I am quite sure that if the Crusader fanatics had discovered them there would have been few survivirs on either side.
                Don’t forget the atomic bomb ended WW2 and allowed you and your ancestors to stay alive since then, by making nuclear war unthinkable.

        2. “The eugenics movement was certainly widely accepted by many scientists who’d engaged in the self-deception of certainty that its neccessity was firmly rooted in then-current theories of genetics and heritability of intelligence.”

          Aren’t you just as, if not more, obligated to mention, in this eugenics context, politicians and religiosos?

          1. This conversation depends on what the word ‘spirituality’ means. It’s meaning is vague and differs from person to person.

            Spirituality is what gives me piece of mind.

            Ambiguity: is spirituality the only thing that gives peace of mind, or is spirituality defined as anything at all that brings peace of mind? An atheist poet could use “human spirit” as a metaphor. We understand it to mean something like an abstract essence. Bach’s cello concertos are a product of the longing of the human spirit, longing for love, longing for truth, longing for peace. These things are part of the essence of human consciousness, a product of biology and evolution.

            I get peace of mind listening to Bach’s cello concertos, and religious claims to truth are deceptions that trouble me.

            If yusufoo1 means something else by “spirituality”, then there is lots of explaining to do.

            The idea of spirit as a metaphysical object is purely unfounded speculation. We have all kinds of powerful emotions: love, lust, anger, jealousy, hatred, grief, joy. And we have curiosity and longing. I feel that the kinds of feelings people describe as religious, as sensing the presence of God, are various combinations of the longing to know and the longing to be loved. These are natural feelings in any human infant, and they persist as we become adults. They are useful motives in parent child bonding and developing mastery of the environment, so they are obviously useful from an evolutionary point of view. These kinds of explanations are so much more satisfying and plausible than traditional religious guesses that maybe the heart is an antenna receiving signals from a distant all powerful father or mother that the human child in us longs for to some degree even after we become adults and no longer see our parents as filling the role of all powerful teacher and protector.

            1. Even so, using “spirituality” to describe it is unnecessarily confusing. “Peace of mind” is preferable.

    1. Human consciousness is a state machine which we are beginning to comprehend.

      You seem to be arguing the woo equivalent of god of the gaps. How about supporting your arguments instead?

      1. //Human consciousness is a state machine which we are beginning to comprehend.//

        That’s not quite what I wrote but if you have some insight into human consciousness that’s based on scientific fact I’ll be happy to read it.

        1. The ink is hardly dry on your comment where you claim to adhere to a belief system that “cannot be proven through physical means”.

          You appear to hold the belief systems of others to a higher standard than your own.

          What say you provide “scientific fact” to back up your world view.

        2. You are inflating the idea of “consciousness” by calling it “human consciousness”. It is very easy to establish whether any organism is “conscious” or “unconscious”: if a danger is present (e.g. fire) they move away from the dangerous threat. Even ants and worms have enough consciousness to self-preserve. If a homo sapien dies in bed during a housefire, that is a definite sign that they were unconscious.
          What you seem to be chasing is the idea of “self-awareness” which has been found present in many non-human species (seeing a mark on one’s face in the mirror, and attending to it, is one test).
          Abstract reasoning is also another level of brain function that is not strictly human. Bird “A” that’s hiding food, having observed Bird “B” watching where Bird “A” is hiding the cache, then pretends to hide the food, but moves it elsewhere.

          If you want more information on exploration of the human brain, Paul Allen’s institute’s papers, at

          is a good for in-depth stuff.

          Science News has had some really good articles as well:

  6. Error has no rights, people have rights. You have the right to be wrong and to defend wrong beliefs and to proselityze and try to convert people into wrong ideas. Ray Comfort has multiple books and DVDs doing exactly that.

    What error doesn’t have either is immunity, so we are going to try our best exposing your wrong beliefs, why and how they’re wrong, and which are the right ones instead. Fair is fair.

  7. While I think that agathosozoe is misinformed and mistaken in her views, I can see where the feeling that atheists are following a path towards fundamentalism comes from. Many of the comments that I’ve read here are so condescending and some outright insulting to those who believe in the supernatural that I often wonder if these people would be as rude if they had to face the people they were addressing in person.
    I don’t advocate giving the faithful any special considerations, just simply the common courtesy of civility and maybe even for those who claim to value reason over superstition to show the ability to disagree without getting aggravated. In my opinion it would do wonders to show the weakness of many religious arguments if we didn’t let them pull us down to a level of conversation that is unbecoming of reasonable people.

    1. You know, considering the bad science and superstitions that we discuss here often, I don’t see the comments as condesending. And when they become insulting to other people I try to stop them.

      But yes, those who believe in superstitions without evidence are fair game for having their beliefs mocked. And that mockery (and criticism) is one reason why new atheists have been so successful. Making nice to religious people isn’t a useful strategy.

      And, for crying out loud, have you looked at any religious website? Those people are far, far more “condescending and insulting” then the readers here.

      Civility is for people, not for arguments.

      But thank you for your tone trolling.

    2. I’m fond of observing, for example, that the Bible opens with a story about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry wizard; includes a talking plant (on fire!) that gives magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero; and concludes with a bizarre zombie snuff pr0n fantasy that has the king of the undead commanding his vassals to fondle his intestines through his gaping chest wound.

      Snarky, yes. And condescending.

      But those who hold the opposite belief go on the airwaves and purchase billboard advertising saying that people who don’t believe that the Bible is literally true will be subjected to infinite eternal torture, and that that’s by the design of an all-powerful loving overlord. And their forebears have a very long history of hastening those who don’t believe as they do to their doom.

      If you don’t see the difference…well, then, I ain’t got nuttin’ for ya.


      1. Those who hold the opposite belief go a damn-sight further than hosting radio shows and buying billboard space. The harm they wreak against real people and the planet on which we live is why I care so much about the issue. If religion didn’t entail so many dire consequences, I wouldn’t care.

    3. Many of the comments that I’ve read here are so condescending and some outright insulting to those who believe in the supernatural that I often wonder if these people would be as rude if they had to face the people they were addressing in person.

      Atheists would take centuries to be as insulting as xians.

      Atheists haters are dime a hundred. Fundie xianity is based on pure, raw hate.

      Like a lot of scientists, I’ve been getting hate mail and death threats from xians for over a decade. On a good day, PZ Meyers has gotten up to 100 death threats.

      Atheists can’t be elected dog catcher or anything else in the USA.

      8 states have laws prohibiting atheists from holding public office and/or serving on juries. These were ruled illegal and not that long ago. The states won’t remove those laws because the xians would go ballistic.

      There is one bright spot though. The fundie xians created the New Atheists. They’ve made themselves scary and repulsive enough that a lot of people are leaving the religion at several million a year. Like most atheists, I was a xian up until recently myself.

      1. Culbert Olson, an open atheist, was elected Governor of California in 1938. He sponsored a bill for Universal Health Care in California during his term (he was a New Deal Democrat) which both Democrats and Republicans joined together, to defeat….
        …too “socialist”

    4. This is an argument for symmetry, but the question of religious beliefs versus the absence of adhering to religious beliefs is …


      It gets down to the simple example:

      If playing golf is a sport, is “not playing golf” a sport??

          1. I’m reminded of, “Mind if I not smoke?”.

            reminds me of a not Steve Martin routine…

            I tried to not listen to that routine but I gained a lot of weight.

    5. How do you think theists treat those with conflicting supernatural claims? How do they treat those who believe things that they think are crazy? How should one treat people who believe that others are possessed or witches? What about the schizophrenic? The brainwashed? How about those who imagine the voices in their head are messages from god? What if those messages cause them to do things that cause the suffering of others? What is your method for moving humanity away from the myths and superstitions of the past?

      Are you unable to see the danger of encouraging millions of people to imagine the voices in their head are coming from the creator of the universe who control everybody’s eternity?

      I suspect you just aren’t used to religious brands of magical thinking being treated the same way we treat other crazy notions and so you interpret criticism of religion as being much more “strident” than it actually is.

      If believers in crazy notions are troubled by having their beliefs mocked, maybe it’s time to get new beliefs. Maybe it’s time they question the meme that “faith is good”… and that there’s an invisible guy who will reward them in some afterlife if they have the right faith. This virulent meme has caused untold harm generation after generation, and it’s time for humanity to mock such beliefs back into the ugly little closet they belong in.

      Theists like Agathosozoe use arguments that those with faiths that s/he finds dangerous or crazy (Islam and Scientology, say) could use just as well.

    6. It seems that some took my comment to mean that we aught to tip toe around the religious, making sure not to offend. That’s not what I meant though.
      Far be it from me to try and dictate what’s appropriate for others to say (or write). I simply wanted to point out that I think that many of the moderate christians get the idea that atheists are overly intolerant by the tone of conversation on websites such as this.
      And no, I don’t think that atheists are nearly as intolerant or offensive as many of the religious. I never said I did. I don’t base my idea of what’s appropriate on or offensive on how others conduct themselves either though. The religious can act as badly as they like, I try and not let it effect how I conduct myself. If I need to defend myself, I do so. But I still try and do so without letting my anger get the best of me (albeit with varying degrees of success).
      Again, I understand that many feel that a in your face approach is better. And it may be because it definitely get’s more attention. But on a person to person level, I find it will get you nowhere.

      1. I simply wanted to point out that I think that many of the moderate christians get the idea that atheists are overly intolerant by the tone of conversation on websites such as this.

        one, they are correct. Most websites that deal with reason or science are RIGHTLY intolerant of unsupported nonsense.

        two, there are thousands of other websites that evidently the religious will also label as “intolerant” that are anything but.

        sorry, but this discussion inevitably leads nowhere.

  8. Just so much wrong here I don’t know where to start. It makes my head hurt the bizarre beliefs this person has about atheism that come out of nowhere. Let me try one by one:

    1. “If there were no prohibitions, would you then begin to burn at the stake folks like me?”

    No. Why would an atheist burn you at the stake? What justification would we have for that? Where did you even get the idea that atheism has any relationship to “no prohibitions”?

    I have neither the desire to kill another person (an evolved trait of social animals) nor any rational justification for why I should be allowed to kill them/you and yet they/you should not be allowed to kill me or anyone else. As even you suggest, who would want to live in a world where anybody can just kill anybody for any reason. I wouldn’t. So why do you think any atheist would support “no prohibitions”? A system of laws we all agree on for peaceful coexistence is critical for a world we all do want to live in. Emphasis on “agree on”, not “divinely assert”.

    2. “Will you ensure that I can’t teach my children, that I can’t get a job as a teacher?”

    No. What reasoning would justify that? You might be a fantastic teacher. However, you can’t get paid by public funds or in an institution paid by public funds to endorse your personal religious beliefs. Likewise, an atheist teacher cannot try to teach children there is no god. They can only teach that which is demonstrable through empirical evidence, such as evolution.

    3. “Historically, mankind has primarily been religious, spiritual, and accepting of metaphysical ideas.”

    Yes, because civilization was in its infancy and was attempting to explain things while lacking sufficient information, the same as a child does not yet understand the world. Historically people also suffered from disease, violence, rape, slavery, hunger, warring tribes, and religious imperialism. Then we learned to study how the world actually works and things got much, much better despite constant resistance from those who want to hang on to civilization’s childhood beliefs. We’ve reached the age where we no longer need to believe in our cultural “Santa Claus”.

    4. “Although Evolution does not properly deal with biopoiesis”

    In the same way that it doesn’t properly deal with my tax return. Evolution by natural selection describes how living things change over time, not how living organisms come from nonliving matter. That is covered by the field of abiogenesis which has many workable hypotheses though we don’t yet know if any of them accurately describe how it happened in our case. But that has no effect on the very measurable process of evolution by natural selection.

    5. “Yet, the principles of freedom, by which the political and scientific trajectory that that entire western world has jetted from, started from good, creative, and investigative aspects of theist.”

    Excuse me? I think you are confusing a belief held by some theists with theism AS the source of the belief. Pretty much everybody wants to be free. It’s largely a biological instinct. No slave or oppressed person of any belief in history has likely ever desired to be oppressed and enslaved. The principle of freedom has nothing to do with theism other than people who like to claim it for their own.

    6. “it is a theory”

    You are committing honomym confusion. There are two meanings for “theory”. Common use differentiates between “an unproven idea” from a fact which is “a proven idea”. In science, the former is an hypothesis, not a theory. A scientific theory is a detailed explanation/model that explains observations (“facts”) through building up a large body of evidence. We have things like “gas turbine theory” which explains how they work, not that we aren’t sure they exist.

    In common terms, evolution is as much fact as anything is. That is what Jerry means by fact. As a scientific theory (explanation with a solid body of evidence), it is better understood than even gravity.

    1. On #6, admittedly the terminology isn’t as clear cut as all that. It is best to define one’s own usage.

      [For me, a hypothesis is an isolated prediction, while a theory is an interconnected set of them.]

      But: yes. I would say that a theory is an observation of a process, constrained and tested exactly as hypotheses/observations are.

      The existence of the observed process is thus a fact.

      For example, isolated species aren’t an observation of evolution, a tree connecting their traits/genomes is. And the tree was a prediction of the theory. Historically too, Darwin made it in connection with presenting the theory for the first time.

      As soon as you have an inkling that you are observing a process, you have the seeds for theories on it. But there is no simple one-one relationship between a process as a fact and a verified theory as another.

      However when you have a verified theory you know science have a process that it is observing. So “evolution (the theory) is a theory” means “evolution (the process) is a fact”. No fossil bones about it.

  9. “So, as you enjoy this supposed victory of mandating that evolution be taught as a “comprehensive and coherent scientific theory” and as Jerry as stated, you take this to mean “fact” (which I don’t – it’s strictly a comprehensive and coherent theory – valid science with valid questions, corollaries, and guidelines, but nonetheless, it is a theory)…”

    Yes. It is a theory…and by theory we mean something which explains the OBSERVED FACT of evolution….sort of like the theory of gravity explains the observed fact of gravity.

    Is there some ignorance here that needs to be corrected?

  10. The burning at the stake is projection. If reason burns like Holy Water on a possessed person, it’s psychosomatic.

    There are consequences to believing false things. For example, a political party can take advantage of those false beliefs to manipulate voting patterns and society suffers because said party might put Dunning-Kruger poster children on the Science Committee.

  11. I am not quite sure what the commenter wants to say. What does have teaching science in a classroom have to do with “love, relationship, care, compassion, empathy, grace, forgiveness and the like”? Is she/he suggesting that teaching evolution endangers those values? Or that teaching evolution as a “fact” leads to atheism, which in turn endangers those values? If that’s the reasoning, then she/he needs to be informed that atheists do know love, relationships, compassion etc etc, thank you very much.
    I am confused about the references to history. Is the idea here that because many scientists in the past were theists, we must honor the theistic way of thinking? In what way? By giving it equal time in the science classroom? Also, the commenter seems to be keenly interested in avoiding being “burned at the stake”, but I have no idea what this dramatic metaphor is supposed to mean.
    And a (not so) minor point: as many before her/him, this commenter doesn’t seem to grasp the notion that evolution is both a fact (i.e., a well documented set of observations regarding the common ancestry of species and their change over time) and a scientific theory (the comprehensive explanation of the mechanism of this process by random mutations and natural selection). Thus, the claim  “it’s just a theory” doesn’t make sense in this context. In science, theories are the best thing we have. 

    1. Brygida Berse #11 wrote:

      I am not quite sure what the commenter wants to say. What does have teaching science in a classroom have to do with “love, relationship, care, compassion, empathy, grace, forgiveness and the like”?

      In simple terms (terms suitable for a simple idea), the commenter is saying that “love, relationship, care, compassion, empathy, grace, forgiveness and the like” are supernatural. They could not and can not exist in a world which is fundamentally physical, where they are reducible to mindless mechanisms and can be “codified as some complex psychological outgrowth of evolutionary necessity.” They are special, and deserve their own category where they are “free” to simply be what they are.

      Like comes from like.

      A lot of the problems theists have with evolution comes down to problems they have with the kind of reality which science describes. And they have problems with the kind of reality which science describes because they can’t handle the conceptual jumps between the concrete and the abstract, the physical and the psychological, and the brain and the mind. They don’t want levels of explanation which blend into each other: they want different realms.

      God is apparently made out of “love, relationship, care, compassion, empathy, grace, forgiveness and the like.” So it anchors all these things in an “explanation.” No need to figure out how anything is put together, works, or got the way it got. You put it into simple terms, and deal with it simply. This is considered to be “satisfying.”

      Or “deep.” I’m not sure it’s even shallow.

  12. “Granted – pure naturalism is the framework by which you start your analysis of reality. However, how did you get here?”

    The value of naturalism as a means to understand the world and problems we encounter is something we all (you included) started learning from the moment we were able to learn. We learned that the blocks in our crib topple over due to a push, not a prayer. The jack-in-the-box pops up when we turn the crank, not when we say “abracadabra”.

    A better question is, how did you come to believe in a non-natural reality? How is it that you look around at a world full of sickness, famine, and suffering, and conclude that prayer works? How do you conclude that the unsubstantiated super-natural claims of ancient fisherman and goat-herders should be accepted as fact?

    1. And it is terribly backwards.

      Physicalism (aka “pure naturalism”) is an observation that has taken centuries to verify. It is not a widely embraced observation, by the way – no consensus.

      And before that, the methods of science (aka “naturalism”) were again observations of what worked, which took centuries to arrive to.

      In fact, the writer knows this, but he can’t connect the facts. Denial of science and refusal of admitting religion is not working to predict the world prohibits him.

  13. I will not comment on my beliefs other than I’m on team Darwin… Go Neanderthals…
    But I will say… This was handled extremely well… It’s tough not to explode all over a comment like this…

  14. How did I get to naturalism? By reading and thinking and then by observing what I can of the earth and the universe and considering these mighty phenomena under the aspect of science. Yes, the world-view I hold to is ‘only probable’–but to the best of my thinking it is highly probable. As Wordsworth said, our notions of things are ‘what we half perceive, and what create.’ Perception, imagination, ratiocination: these in concert make a credible whole that is atheistic.

  15. “I for one, would not want to live in such a world where error has no rights.”

    Seriously? You already recognize your error and still demand the right to persist in it?

    How about not wanting to live in a world where ignorant people can force the teaching of error?

    “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities” – Voltaire

    (That handy quote was quoted by Pinker btw, on The Better Angels of Our Nature, which I’m currently reading.)

  16. Although Evolution does not properly deal with biopoiesis, I am confident that if you are an atheist this branch of science is also fully accepted as fact – it had to occur if there is no supernatural realm.

    I had to lookup “biopoiesis” – it turns out that it refers to life from non-life.

    At present, we only have hypotheses as to how that might have happened. We don’t have facts. Personally, I think it highly likely that life develops out of non-life, under suitable conditions. But I do not consider that a fact. As for how else life could be possible – well it is possible that life of some primitive form has been present for as long as the universe existed. Your statement “this branch of science is also fully accepted as fact” is surely wrong, because there are only hypotheses, not facts. Some might take it to be a fact that life did arise out of non-life, but I have no idea why you would describe that belief as “this branch of science.”

    Science is far more tentative than you take it to be.

    1. Life from non-life is a logical conclusion.

      We have evidence of current existence of life. And we have indirect evidence that there was no life in the past (the planet could not support life; there was no planet at all if you go back far enough). Since there was no life before, then life must have come from no-life.

      The only alternatives are:
      1) life had no precursors, it just popped into existence from nothing.
      2) life had always existed from the beginning.

      both of these alternatives do not carry any shred of logical believability much less evidence.

      Now, how exactly life came about from non-life – the mechanism – is the area of which we have at best only hypotheses. But the belief that life came from non-life is a “fact” as sure as any scientific fact.

    2. I have to disagree.

      Of course the observation is immediate with the constraint of standard cosmology. The universe started out simple and lifeless and now we see life, so life came out of increasing chemical complexity.

      Until recently I didn’t believe that thermodynamics could on its lonesome predict that, but it turned out I was wrong. 2010-2012 may well be the years that the process from chemical to biological evolution got its generic theory.

      Here is why:

      1. A cooling planet would have a thermodynamic selection for enthalpic enzymes. RNA ribozymes are such. [“Impact of temperature on the time required for the establishment of primordial biochemistry, and for the evolution of enzymes”, Stockbridge et al, PNAS 2010.]

      2. A stratified mechanism building increasingly larger chemical networks on an enzymatic basis would appear, driven by thermodynamics. [“The structure of autocatalytic sets: evolvability, enablement, and emergence”, Hordijk, W., M. Steel, et al, Acta Biotheoretica 2012.]

      3. A pool of random ribozymes (see #1) would have a thermodynamic force that would take it from a replication “melted” to a “crystalline” state with replicators based on measured RNA properties. [“Thermodynamic Basis for the Emergence of Genomes during Prebiotic Evolution”, Woo et al, PLOS Comp Biol 2012.]

      4. So far the only known replicator sufficiently stable to make reasonably robust cells without being too stable to pass the thermodynamic bound to make replicators is RNA (with ~ 4 years half life against hydrolyzation). Variants like the later evolved DNA are too stable to make initial cells. [“Statistical Physics of Self-Replication”, Englund, to be published in Science (IIRC).]

      And we know that spontaneously assembled, growing and dividing lipid membranes would allow a pool of ribozymes to grow enclosed, ensuring best replication. Diffusion of phosphate activated RNA nucleotides through the membranes would make it so. (Shoztak cells).

      This is of course tested by all the phylogenetic tests of RNA/protein at the root of all life.

      And, finally, now I believe we may understand the time scale!

      #3 shows that RNA replication crystallizes on the order of ~3*10^4 year.

      Shoztak cells need hydrothermal vents for the cold-hot cycles that cycles RNA strands through acting as templates and then release of reproduced strands. Those vents have a maximum lifetime of ~ 10^5 years today.

      At the same time the free ocean water cycle through such a vent’s sterilizing core in ~ 10^4 years. This IMO ties cells as at least part time found in the porous walls of vents, precisely as Shoztak cells would prefer to cycle, or they would perish too fast.

      [But I would like to see models predicting that as well. What is the next step up from “handwaving”? “Typing really fast”? =D]

      Now we know we have plenty of time for crystallized reproducing cells to appear. And they would randomly seed the waters for tens of thousands of years as some are lost to drift away. Some of them would in turn easily manage passive drift to nearby vents under the RNA half life time to continue evolving.

      But by now we have left chemical evolution which is thermodynamic driven and entered classical biological evolution which is driven towards increasing fitness.

      The fitness increasing pathways from a replicating to a translating (gene) genome are legion in the literature. [Cf “Hypothesis: Emergence of translation as a Result of RNA Helicase evolution”, Zenkin, J Mol Evol 2012.]

      The gene sets increase and diversify by the usual mechanisms and recorded in fold phylogenies. Cells ought to tie themselves to control the underlying metabolism simply because such control increases fitness, consistent with the record. Such capable cells would over time evolve to become independent of the vents for reproduction, and eventually other chemoautotroph sources for energy and nutrients would be utilized.

      I don’t see any obvious large gaps in there, reaction rates and concentrations should be there. (Except perhaps for #2 which I haven’t read yet, and for phosphate activation as of yet.) So yay.

      I’m sure there will be more consistent pathways that are constrained by experiment and tested by observation (here RNA world). (In fact, wasn’t Wächterhäuser proposing one early on? But it fails on rates, I think.) But at the moment I’m pleased as peach.

      1. “And they would randomly seed the waters for tens of thousands of years as some are lost to drift away. Some of them would in turn easily manage passive drift to nearby vents under the RNA half life time to continue evolving.”

        Oh yeah, need models here too. This is a potential dealbreaker, we need sufficient survival.

  17. Agathosozoe: How did you arrive at your conception of “how it would be if atheists were in charge”? Have you had actual life experiences that tell you this?

    Your description really smacks of what psychology calls projection. The short description of that is if that’s what you would do, that’s what we would do, too.

    But, that’s a really large part of the problem. Just because that’s how religious people would behave (and DO behave) when they have power over others, does not mean that that is true of everyone.

    I don’t want to kill anyone, and I pretty much don’t want to limit others’ freedoms, right up until they want to limit mine. My life experience tells me that religious people, in general, are far more violent, willing to attempt to control other people, and self-absorbed than religious people.

    I have had two really horrible experiences in my life where religious people, and in one case, a church organization, came after me for committing the heinous crime of having an opinion that was different from theirs. And when I say “came after me”, I mean to the point where I had to get a lawyer to defend myself. In the first instance, the people who defended me (and I ASKED NO ONE TO DEFEND ME, either time) were my atheist and skeptic friends. They came forward on their own. My Christer friends, to an individual, all said, “I’m not getting involved.” The second time, the same thing happened, with one exception on either side: one atheist friend backing off, and one Christer friend sticking up for me.

    I have no doubt that there are religious people who would burn me at the stake, or throw acid in my face, or limit my rights in whatever way they could because those things happen now. The people who tried to put me in jail for crimes they KNEW I hadn’t committed would gladly have killed me if they thought they could have gotten away with it.

    From my viewpoint, I DO think it’s cruel to fill kids’ heads with baloney. As Jerry has pointed out many times, the “teach the controversy” nonsense can be shown for what it really is just by asking why “teach the controversy” is only confined to areas that conflict with the Bible. Suppose, for instance, that a religious group believed that 2+2=5. Would you and yours condemn your children to a lifetime of not being able to balance their checkbooks or verify a grocery receipt? I’m betting you would.

    When you have something verifiable to show us, come back. We’ll all be willing to hear you out then. L

  18. I just love a good evisceration on a Sunday morning. Now I am off to watch the Patriots eviscerate the Dolphins from the nosebleed seats in Miami.

  19. “Granted – pure naturalism is the framework by which you start your analysis of reality. However, how did you get here?”

    We tried all sorts of stuff and we just kept the stuff that worked.

  20. All excellent rebuttals thus far. Sadly, I think it unlikely that agathosozoe will be convinced by any of them. From his/her commentary it seems to be that his/her misunderstandings of atheism, science and evolution are so deep and wide that he/she may not be able to climb out of the religious pit in which she/he has plunged. I sincerely hope I am wrong.

    Agathosozoe please read the posts here carefully and with a deep sense of reflection. Please jettison all the ugly and untrue things other theists have told you about atheism, atheist, science and evolution. Please set aside, at least long enough to see the thinking mistakes you have made, what your religion tells you must be true about atheism, science and evolution, and examine all three in a light free of religious dogma. It won’t be easy, but just maybe you will discover at the end of this intellectual exercise just how egregiously and enormously wrong is your thinking and commentary on these matters.

    “The more I read the comments here, the more I hear that from the atheist perspective, error has no rights. Thus, many that follow Jerry Coyne are convinced that I am in error.”

    Your intellectual journey needs to begin with your very first sentence. No atheist has ever, I am certain, said this. That you have drawn this as a conclusion indicates a serious need to reevaluate your use of logic. You have likely been told by atheists or heard or read atheists telling theists they are in error about their beliefs. But no one has told you that you have no right to be in error. We atheists have a right to inform you of your error and to attempt to aid you through argumentation to abandon your error. But not one of us has advocated legislation that would deny you the right to be in error. Not one of us has advocated the use of the power and authority of the government to deny you the right to be wrong, nor to punish you for being wrong.

    Additionally, your first sentence is structured as a logical statement, as a syllogism. But your conclusion does not logically follow from your premise. Even if your premise, “… the more I read that from the atheist perspective, error has no rights…” were true (it of course is not), it does not follow from this premise that “Thus, many that follow Jerry Coyne are convinced that I am in error.” The two have no connection to one another. Even if Jerry Coyne never existed, and thus everything he has ever said or written had not been written or said, this atheist, and I suspect every other atheist, would still think you and other believers to be in error. We derive our conclusion that what you and your fellow theists believe is incorrect not from what Jerry Coyne has said about (although he masterfully skilled in pointing out the errors and refuting them), but rather from our examination of theist arguments and the evidence used to support those arguments. We don’t need Jerry Coyne to determine that you are in error. (Although, I must add, we are very fortunate to have Jerry Coyne as a champion and defender of atheism, science and evolution.)

    So, again Agathosozoe, I implore you to reexamine what you have said and believe in light of the comments posted here. Your thinking on these matters is seriously clouded by misunderstanding, fed, I think, by the religion that appears to be the source of a great deal of error that shackles your critical thinking faculties, at least on these subjects.

  21. HL Mencken addressed your worries nearly 90yrs ago during the Scopes trial:

    “True enough, even a superstitious man has certain inalienable rights. He has a right to harbor and indulge his imbecilities as long as he pleases, provided only he does not try to inflict them upon other men by force. He has a right to argue for them as eloquently as he can, in season and out of season. He has a right to teach them to his children. But certainly he has no right to be protected against the free criticism of those who do not hold them. He has no right to demand that they be treated as sacred. He has no right to preach them without challenge.”

  22. Agathosozoe is quick to play the persecution card. First of all the UK is not prohibiting the teaching of creationist beliefs, it is merely withdrawing government funding from those that do. You are still entitled, as much as I may dislike it, to indoctrinate your children with whatever twaddle you might believe. Also, the UK still has ‘religious studies’ as part of the curriculum. In the past this was known as ‘religious education’ or ‘religious knowledge’ but most state schools now examine the beliefs and practices of many religions. Like it or not religion has been a part of our culture for millennia and unless you know something about it you cannot fully appreciate great archaeology or art. But that does not mean that any of it is true.

    Although mankind may well have historically been religious, that was largely a way of explaining things for which there was no known cause. However, any moderately intelligent person should recognise that Religion (with a capital R) is merely a human construct. Even if there were a creator, the idea that it might interact with a few individuals on a small planet orbiting an average star in one galaxy of the billions and billions of galaxies that we now know to exist is a grand conceit. If you wish to rely on a creator for the universe then Deism is about as rational as it gets.

    But atheists are not automatons, we still love, see wonder, care for both our fellow humans and the other amazing life on Earth. Evolution does not codify that, whereas Religion often does. Evolution helps us understand why things are, not how things should be.

  23. Agathosozoe thinks atheists are preventing him from becoming a teacher. Not so. The law prevents him from becoming a teacher if he intends to teach religion in a public school science classroom.

    He thinks evolution is interfering with “…care, compassion, empathy…” These are attributes commonly associated with effective treatment of the ill and afflicted; in short, with modern medicine. Without evolution, there is no modern medicine, just the millenia of ignorance that left humanity suffering through the ages. It wasn’t religion that cured the suffering, it was science based on evolutionary principles.

    1. // If there were no prohibitions, would you then begin to burn at the stake folks like me? Will you ensure that I can’t teach my children, that I can’t get a job as a teacher?//

      Even though I don’t agree with agathosozoe’s position, I can’t say that I extracted he “thinks atheists are preventing him from becoming a teacher” from the above quote. He’s extrapolating, likely erroneously, but he’s not saying anything as hard and fast as your use of his quote would seem to suggest.

      1. That is exactly what he is saying. He complains that “from the atheist perspective, errors have no rights”. He then complains about Jerry, and other atheists, ensuring his not being allowed to teach, either his own children at home or other children in a school. In his mind, atheists are preventing him from engaging in the teaching profession because of his religious beliefs. His religious beliefs clearly lead him to oppose science.

      2. You’ve now made 25% of the comments on this thread. Your next comment better be scientific documentation of the many scientific hypothesis that stem from irrationality, as you mentioned above.

        I’m serious. You can’t back up your claims, which impugn people and science, and yet continue to make them.

  24. Will you ensure that I can’t teach my children, that I can’t get a job as a teacher?

    Of course you can teach your children anything you want, but don’t expect that their science teachers will tiptoe around your superstitions so that they remain undisturbed in your children’s brains. I would, however, be happy to prevent your getting a job as a teacher if it’s a public-school biology instruction position where you would try to insinuate your dogma into the syllabus.

  25. Hello agathosozoe,

    Fist of all: Most atheists would say that you may say and believe whatever you want. You may not be allowed to force this bullshit into our schools without any kind of scientific proof, but what you believe at home, in church, with your neighbors or in your own TV show is completely up to you. Any good atheist might laugh about you, but he will not burn you for it. On the contrary, many atheists would fight to allow you to say what you believe – compared to some religions, that would like to see any speech that doesn’t agree with them banned, that’s pretty nifty, isn’t it?

    Then: What you teach your children is up to to, which may be unfortunate for the children, but the best solution there is. And you can get any job you want – as long as you stick to the rules. You may become a teacher, but you will have to teach the official things. Or would you like a pedophile allowed to teach children that having sex with elder men is preferable? If you are a teacher, you are there to teach to official stuff and not the things you prefer. If you want to be a preacher, don’t try it as a teacher.

    It’s funny that you try (like many others) to imply that evolution is “just” a theory, but you forgot to mention, that religion is NOT EVEN a theory in this sense. Gravity (and Relativity) is also “just” a theory and it brought people on the moon. What did religion do? Oh, yes, religion tried to force us into believing that the sun goes around the earth, I remmeber…

    So many religious people seem to believe that atheists want to forbid religion, when the complete opposite is true: Many atheists (the majority of those who speak out about it) will fight for your religious freedom, while religions only want religious freedom as long as they are not the dominant one – as soon as there’s a majority for one religion, all the others suffer. In a secular nation everyone will be allowed to practice their religion freely – in a religious country, only the members of one religion will be. That’s the difference. I think religious people are wrong in their opinion about the existence in god, but I would fight for their right to say it.

  26. A software glitch with people that argue for religion is the assumption that everthing is a division of naturalism verses god. In the eyes of the believer the world of the known is science and materialim that should be placed within the realm of provisional assent and the the world of the unknown is god and should be placed within the realm of absolute, unimpeachable truth. It can be in the best interest of those with this strange perspective to bolster their belief by resisting criticism, denying fact and seeking out ignorance.

  27. Aw, agathosozoe just wants a hug. Hugs, sozoe, and you too Jerry. You sound as if your patience is being tried on this thread, I want you to be your usual happy foodie boot-loving self. Sozoe, I think, is just another kid on the playground worried that the clique standing over there doesn’t like her and is planning on swiping her lunch money. Nobody’s burning anybody at the stake nervous Nellie, relax.

    1. “Nobody’s burning anybody at the stake nervous Nellie, relax.”

      Well, not now, so far. 😉

      Agathosozoe, if I recall correctly, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for asserting that the Earth is not the center of the Universe and/or that the Earth revolved around the sun, as holy scripture asserted, and – if I correctly recall – he was still some kind of Christian believer, put to death by other Christians, who first hammered a large nail through his tongue and jaw so they wouldn’t have to further hear his intemperate yammering.

  28. Love, relationship, care, compassion, empathy, grace, forgiveness and the like need the freedom to exist without being codified as some complex psychological outgrowth of evolutionary necessity.

    These things are fundamentally human, and they existed before religion did, and will continue on after religion.

    We can scientifically analyze food, cooking, and metabolism down to the last physical and chemical detail, and it doesn’t stop people from enjoying cuisine, warm dinner conversation, or the pleasure of eating. The same is true of love, sex, kindness, generosity, compassion, or any other human quality. Knowing about it and understanding it does not somehow undercut or destroy the human living of it.

  29. If you limit the ideas here to a plea that science (if it ruled the world) would be just as intolerant of deviation as the church has been, then this man has a point. In the history of mankind there have been very few exceptions to this behavior. There must always be a balancing idea (in the social arena) lest there be consensus bulldozing. The public does not support concepts, it responds to events–with emotion, not reason. Such are we–undeniably.

  30. If there were no prohibitions, would you then begin to burn at the stake folks like me?

    First, that’s just stupid. Second, persecution is the provenance of religion, not atheism. We want to be left alone and for you to stop corrupting rational society with superstitious behaviors.

    But when it comes to religious persecution (such as burning at the stake) that’s something no Christian can pretend isn’t part and parcel of their historical behaviors. So, if you want actual STAKE BURNINGS, we’ll leave that to Christians and their history of burning ‘heretics,’Jews, pagans and witches.

    Will you ensure that I can’t teach my children, that I can’t get a job as a teacher?

    As long as you’re not shoving them down my (or any other) children’s throats, of course. It’s no stretch to assert that the majority of teachers are Christians and yet DO NOT SHOVE THEIR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS DOWN THE THROATS OF OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN.

    Thus, no problem. In fact, it’s only the tiniest of miserable, self-important jerks that push this issue.

    And, BTW, is this not a good thing? Would you want YOUR child instructed that Allah is God and your religion is false? Or Unitarians that tell your children that the Old Testament doesn’t belong in the Bible?

    Of course not. You’d be out there with torches and pitchforks.

    So then, such evil practices have “evolved” from the religious community of the middle ages to the secular community of today? Think about such a world – I for one, would not want to live in such a world where error has no rights.

    I’m sorry, but those are carried out by religions today. Just because you don’t see it in America (or the West) doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Religious conflict is part-and-parcel of society in huge swaths of the planet.

    Anyway, I’m sure nothing I say will matter, so I’ll stop here.

    1. I think that one of the problems with telling the religious that we don’t want their religious beliefs “shoved down the throats of other people’s children” is that they sometimes seem to think that prefacing a statement of their religious belief with some sort of humble-seeming “now not everyone agrees with me here and you may not agree either” absolutely absolves them of the accusation or danger of “shoving their beliefs down someone’s throat.” To the literal-minded, they almost seem to visualize this as an actual scenario. So they didn’t do this. They give the kids a choice.

      Of course, one of the other problems is that a lot of creationists have trouble telling the difference between their “religious” belief and “what’s really knowable and not (just) religious.”

  31. There’s a couple of important things going on in this comment.

    One is that it reminds us of the difference between atheism and naturalism. Atheism is so minimal as to have no logical implications about traditional questions of politics, ethics, society, law, and so on. People who believe in a heliocentric solar system (something that seems as obvious to me as atheism) don’t, because of that belief alone, persecute anyone, although they rightly require that institutions whose job it is to teach facts teach that fact.

    The other, and somewhat more interesting in this context, is the question of whether a naturalist-dominated government would be likely to oppress non-naturalists. I doubt that it would, partly because atheists at least are (in general) smarter and better educated than theists. We know our history. Similarly, atheists tend not to buy into the general conservative kind of obedience to authority that makes people carry out the wishes of evil leaders. If you believe God commands you to slaughter the Amalekites, and you carry out that order, it means among other things that you are the kind of person who carries out such orders, and that tends to go much more with people who think it’s a good thing that we have a God giving us orders.

    Nevertheless, we can recognize that an atheist non-naturalist government might be less likely than an atheist naturalist government to commit wrongs against its citizens, since naturalism is sometimes or usually thought to be inconsistent with the idea that there are objective, irreducibly normative ethical obligations. Atheists who are objective moral realists believe in a reason not to oppress citizens that most atheist naturalists do not.

  32. What’s the problem of people like agathosozoe believing in some kind of interventionist creative agency?

    The problem is that a faith-based belief is not equivalent to what’s possibly true; it’s equivalent in all ways to “I don’t know.”

    When believers fail to appreciate that it is intellectually dishonest to pretend that a faith-based claim is possibly true, on the merit that it is believed to be true, they are in effect substituting their beliefs, their pseudo-answers moored entirely to their faith, to be arbitrating reality rather than allowing only reality (and the best method we have for determining it) to arbitrate claims made about it.

    When conflicting claims about reality from these two methods arise – and they always arise when the faith-based claims are found to be at odds with knowledge-based claims – we don’t find believers typically being honest, backing up, and reminding all that the personal belief is really just a replacement for “I don’t know;” instead, we find an unreasonable and dishonest attempt by believers to elevate their pseudo-answers to be equivalently respectable to answers that have been arbitrated by reality, arbitrated by compelling and historical evidence of an understanding that works to produce new knowledge, reliable technologies, efficacious therapies, and useful applications for everyone everywhere all the time (none of which has ever been equivalently produced by the method of religious faith arbitrating reality).

  33. The real enemy of agathosozoe and the fundie xians isn’t Jerry Coyne, PZ Meyers, science, or scientists.

    It is reality itself.

    Reality is what it is no matter how many lies they tell or how many scientists they persecute, fire, or burn at the stake.

    Their secondary enemy is…fundie xians like agathosozoe and Roshaharon Joad. When xian became synonymous with liar, ignorant, crazy, hypocrite, and sometimes killer and terrorist,…a lot of people didn’t want to be one any more. Which is why I left the religion.

    Due to recent demography, most atheists are ex-xians. While xianity is losing 2-3 million members a year, the Nones are rapidly growing.

    1. Trust me, I’m as liberal as anyone, and even the name Ayn Rand makes me a little sick in my mouth, but, under the rubric “even a blind pig finds an acorn every once in a while,” I can’t help requoting this quote from her that I read just a couple of days ago (possibly on this very web site?)”
      “You can ignore reality, but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.”

  34. Blogger stated:
    “Who ever said we’d burn people at the stake for their beliefs, keep them from being teachers, or ensure that he can’t teach his children? It’s the religious people who do stuff like that!”

    That is not true. Historically, governments burned people at the stake for violations of what were temporal laws. The religious had no government authority.

    Remember the British monarchs and the Holy Roman Emperors and Kings (who routinely sent people to their deaths) were government authorities, not religious.

    Remember also that our Lord Jesus Christ taught us to love God fully and each other as ourselves. This can not be misinterpreted to mean “Kill your brothers when they make a mistake.” So, there is no basis for saying “burning at the stake” is a religious device.

    Your post is just, well, biased and lacking in historical rigor to be honest with you. Learn more that you may understand.

    1. And the catholic church is not an international criminal organization of pedophiles and kiddy fuckers, it does not engage in a policy of genocide in sub-saharan Africa through a beastial policy of supressing the use of prophalaxyis and birth control and it not actively engaged in trying to suppress the rights of women to exercise control over their own bodies around the world.

      How could I have gotten this so wrong ?

      Pray tell, please provide some more “historical rigor” and help clear up some of the misconceptions that I appear to harbour.

          1. That’s a good question. We would have to determine whether or not the Pope has made a formal statement “ex cathedra” which is to be held as universally binding on the entire Church.

            1. So, please enlightern us. Was it formal? I thought all Papal public statements which have larg-scale effects in the world were meant to be “ex cathedra”. Are you doing selective-cherry-picking?

            1. Trouble is, it does not really matter what one particular Pope says, whether he is speaking “ex cathedra” or not. What one Pope says can be reversed by another,–speaking “ex cathedra”; and in any case it is contingent upon Catholic Tradition,the evolution of Catholic opinion over the centuries, and not Biblical authority. Karen Armstrong (Catholic, and probably lapsed) once told me “do not believe everything you read in the Bible” (because the Catholic Tradition is the real authority isn’t it?

          1. Dear Steve – While I did not read the content at the link, you’re correct that the Church’s position on immorality has not changed, but here is a clarification on what the Pope intended in his interview. This is from a Vatican “Note” on the related topic:

            “In this regard, it must be noted that the situation created by the spread of AIDS in many areas of the world has made the problem of prostitution even more serious. Those who know themselves to be infected with HIV and who therefore run the risk of infecting others, apart from committing a sin against the sixth commandment are also committing a sin against the fifth commandment – because they are consciously putting the lives of others at risk through behaviour which has repercussions on public health. In this situation, the Holy Father clearly affirms that the provision of condoms does not constitute “the real or moral solution” to the problem of AIDS and also that “the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality” in that it refuses to address the mistaken human behaviour which is the root cause of the spread of the virus. In this context, however, it cannot be denied that anyone who uses a condom in order to diminish the risk posed to another person is intending to reduce the evil connected with his or her immoral activity. In this sense the Holy Father points out that the use of a condom “with the intention of reducing the risk of infection, can be a first step in a movement towards a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.” This affirmation is clearly compatible with the Holy Father’s previous statement that this is “not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection.” ”

            Here’s the link to the source.


            1. Maybe if sex was decriminalized, in Catholic eyes, then properly regulated brothels with regular health checks and mandatory condom use might avoid all these problems, including rape, and dare I say,-child abuse.
              Or if Christians stopped meddling in sex althogether and just kept to saying their prayers, we might all better off.

              1. I don’t think so. Prostitution is legal in the Netherlands; it is also one of the top markets to sell sex slaves (aka human trafficking).

              2. Prostitutes in Amsterdam are like barbers: independent business people licensed and health inspected by the state, not controlled by exploitative pimps. They have landlords and pay rent. Not an easy target for trafficking. Demand for trafficking thrives when prostitution is illegal and underground.

                I’m dubious about the claim that Netherlands is a top market for sex slaves. I would expect that to be in a more prudish country where sex is repressed. What us your source for that claim?

              3. Hey Jeff,
                I took it from this UN report (pdf), on page 20 you can see it’s one of the 10 countries listed under Very High Incidence for destination.

              4. Jose,
                I don’t believe the data from that report provides a meaningful basis for determining whether legalization increases or reduces the harmful effects of human trafficking. If you read over Chapter 4, especially the section on Limitations of the Data, you learn that their data is only recording mentions from a variety of sources of a country name as a source, transit point, or destination. It doesn’t record the number of cases or individuals involved, nor does it quantify or compare in any way the ultimate fate of victims arriving in various destination countries. So the conclusions one can draw from that data are limited. For example a country with a high rate of detecting and reporting incidents of trafficking would appear equal to a country with a low rate of detecting and reporting but a much higher rate of actual trafficking. In other words, if 90% of cases are detected and reported in one country, but only 9% of cases reported in another country with 10 times as much actual trafficking, these countries would have the same index rating in that data coding system. Also if one country involved reports with 5 to 10 victims, while another typically involved reports of 30 to 50 victims, these countries would not be distinguished in that data coding method.

                So I still would be surprised if a more detailed analysis didn’t lead to the conclusion that less overall harm to victims from trafficking, in both number and degree, results in a country where the demand for sex workers is met by legal, licensed, and regularly medically examined workers, and that overall harm is greater in countries where this demand is met covertly by underground unregulated criminal enterprises.

            2. Isn’t is lovely? The leader of a cabal of twisted celibates is finally making it clear while sex is a nasty business, if people must indulge, then he supposes that an attempt to avoid the transmission of a deadly disease in the process is OK – sorta, he guesses.
              Tell me, what has Benny done, by way punishment that is, to cardinals and other members of the church heirarchy who have told their parishioners that condoms are not effective at preventing the spread of AIDS?

            3. “immoral activity”.

              What “immoral activity”? Sex is moral in _all_ societies because that is how populations are sustained. Or, if not, they are bigoted and do it anyway.

              The pedohphile church is one example, since they procreate by brainwashing children. It is the children that it doesn’t take on that do sex for procreation (and of course common pleasure). While the priests … well.

    2. Francis Philip
      From my 55 years of studying Christianity I have learned th\t the Catholic Church hypocritically did not wish to sully its hands with blood, so they turned over heretics etc to the “secular arm”, to do their dirty work for them. The secular authorities were bound to obey on pain of being threatened with Excommunication; to the superstitious mind, this was eqivalent to being cast into hellfire if they did not obey the Inquisition and Papal authorities.

      1. That is incorrect in that it was never the official position of the Catholic Church. It is true that members of the Church’s hierarchy have made errors in judgment, but what you state is not actually true of the Church in general.

        We all have to work on setting aside biases so that we can understand what is fact and what is appearance.

        We saw and continue to see the same sort of problem in the fight between the Democrats and Republicans for power in the US Presidency.

        Bias would rather forgoe the facts for the sake of winning an argument or extending a grudge sometimes.

        1. “By their fruits shall ye know them”. The point is that the Catholic Church has always been an oppressive regime playing lip service to some of the things Jesus allegedly said some of the time (in beteween damning people to Hell). It is an institution dedicated not to Jesus, but to its own power and prestige; Jesus is just the figure-head. I suppose you will br using the “No True Scotsman ” fallacy next; “O but they weren’t REAL Christians?
          I believe it was Pope Leo who said,” What profit this fable of Christ has brought us”.

          1. Dear wads42,

            One of the great fallacies of those who are hurt by or upset at the Church is that they forget that the Church is led and made up of sinners who make mistakes sometimes. Priests and religious sin like other people in the world. Evil doesn’t avoid them; Evil seeks to destroy them even moreso than others in order to attempt to bring down the entire Church.

            So, you can be a sinner and side with the Church in order to help the people grow stronger and the Church to be a greater means of salvation OR you can try to cut Her down just like old Evil wants to do.

            I’m sorry that you feel hurt or angry at the entire Church. I can understand that feeling. I suggest that you seek ways to overcome it. One way that I overcome it is through exercises in humility: Who am I to judge the Church when I am a sinner? The Church simply seeks to save me while I, a sinner, often look to find ways which are counter to my own salvation.

            Bottom line: the Church is not the problem; sinfulness of some individuals inside and outside of the Church and Evil are the problems. The Church exists to save people…often from themselves.

            1. So if you are made up of sinners, what are you doing dictating morality to the rest of us?
              The invention of the concept of “Sin” itself if the real problem, and which carries all the baggage of the need for “foregiveness” and Redemption. If you just scrap the “Sin” notion altogether, and recognise that humans, for evolutionary reasons are a mixture of savage and social( largely for selfish reciprocal reasons, then we could concenttrate on repressing antisocial behaviour and build a better society based on true mutual interest and cooperation.

              1. Well, if you told a person with AIDS that we’re going to scrap the notion that they have a deadly disease, that disease would remain and continue to kill the patient.

                Likewise with sin. Sin really kills a soul; but many are too harden to know the difference.

              2. Silly silly man….unfortunately, I have watched people die of AIDS…it’s real.

                I have never seen a dead soul. Where do you keep them?

              3. What you call “sin”, we call people misbehaviouring. The remedy is not prayer and forgiveness, but locking them up for a while.

              4. “Soul” is just a religious fiction, probably invented by the Egyptians, they had at least three types of soul. But in its secularised version it is still quite a useful word to describe ones individuality.

              5. “Soul” is just a religious fiction, invented by the Egyptians, whio had at least three of them. The secular version is quite useful for describing ones individuality.

            2. Francis Philip wrote:

              One of the great fallacies of those who are hurt by or upset at the Church is that they forget that the Church is led and made up of sinners who make mistakes sometimes. Priests and religious sin like other people in the world. Evil doesn’t avoid them; Evil seeks to destroy them even moreso than others in order to attempt to bring down the entire Church.

              To paraphrase Stephen Fry’s reply when a Catholic theologian made a similar argument during a debate: “Then what are you FOR?” If the Catholic Church of course reflects the sin and evil found in the world, then what’s the point of claiming it acts as a model for morality? Many of the “sins” of the Catholic Church are not people in the Church refusing to obey the rules, but people in the Church making up poor rules. They didn’t know better. They were human. No doubt: human all the way up, and all the way down. As expected — but able to go down further, because not ultimately accountable to anything but God.

              That’s a sliding standard, since God is always translated by flawed sources. Even if it existed.

              If we are forced to evaluate the good of the Catholic Church according to the standards of secular humanism, then the Church provides no real or unique guidance — and does a great deal of harm. But if we must first accept the truth of Catholic doctrine to evaluate the good of the Catholic Church, then it gives us and sets us no standards at all. We in the world can’t evaluate it. It is a law unto itself.

              Can you see why the damned might find that dangerous?

          2. It is not the fruit of the Church which is bad; it is the fruit of some individuals inside the Church which is bad. There is a big distinction.

            This dinstinction applies to major commercial corporations as well. For example, while a grocery store may overcharge you for a product (perhaps through negligence), it does not mean the entire corporation is trying to steal from you. It could be one employee’s corruption or just a mistake.

            1. So what are you doing about these large numbers of rotten priests, (not just one cheating grocer). You appear to be just moving them around and sweeping the problem under the carpet.

        2. The secular authorities were bound to obey on pain of being threatened with Excommunication

          Francis responds That is incorrect in that it was never the official position of the Catholic Church.

          Au contraire: read the 1486 papal bull Malleus Maleficarum and then follow your own advice that is obviously biased and lacking in historical rigor and do try to keep up. Again, your own advice seems on point here: Learn more that you may understand.

          This catholic church is a criminal organization that is all about its own secular power and its exercise to serve its own ends.. Today’s followers are morally culpable of accepting its crimes against humanity as business as usual.

    3. That is not true. Historically, governments burned people at the stake for violations of what were temporal laws. The religious had no government authority.

      This is incorrect.

      The Catholic church killed tens to hundreds of thousands directly.

      During the witch hunt era, they killed a large number of alleged witches. No one knows the exact number but it is up to 100,000.

      The Catholic Inquisition also tortured and killed large numbers of people for being alleged witches, heretics, apostates, or atheists. Up until recently, being an atheist was a death penalty offense.

      That doesn’t even include the Crusades or Reformation wars which killed tens of millions.

      The Albingensian genocide ended up with around 1 million heretics dead. It was 100% successful. You will never meet a Cathar because the Catholic church found and killed every single one of them.

      If you add up all the people the Catholic church killed during its existence, it is in the tens of millions dead.

      1. You don’t know your history really. As I stated before, it was the governmental bodies which conducted executions, not the Church. The Church is not a “killing” istitution. Please study history in order to understand better the circumstances and facts of the times.

        1. They call it “vicarious” killing. I detect that you are hinting at the excuse that the Church was no worse than anyone else; they were only doing what others were doing. That won’t wash. A godly institution is supposed to set new standards of civilisation, not follow the worst atrocities of others, and then cover it up with excuses.

        2. You don’t know your history really.

          You are just making stuff up. The RCC controlled the governments at that time. They did what the church told them to do.

          Oh well. My distant ancestors did one thing right. They were Protestants who fought the Catholic church during the Reformation wars And won.

          This is somewhat diluted by the fact that some of those Catholics they were fighting were also my distant ancestors. My extended family is half Protestant…and half Catholic.

          1. Protestant Rebellion started by Luther because of one local bishop who was corrupt. And there has not been and will not be a victory as you state. The Church has been wounded – partly by the fault of individuals inside Her – partly by others who seek to destroy Her based upon the errors of a few individuals.

            The Church is healing today. It’s a very positive sign. 🙂

            1. I was under the impression that Luther was objecting to the sale of Indulgences;just by One priest you say? Who was he?

            2. The idea that Luther’s criticisms were so narrow in scope as to only apply to one local authority is wishful thinking on your part.

              Just one of his complaints, the widespread practice of selling indulgences, is enough to indict the entire Catholic hierarchy as a fraudulent predatory institution.

              I understand your points about human fallibility, and also that much good will exists in the church, however misguided it may be about metaphysical reality and what truths underlying their lives. But the extravagant claims of authority made by and for the Pope and the church simply are not at all confirmed by the boringly ordinary human behavior of church authorities right up to and including the Pope.

              I’m simply not impressed at all by glittering cathedrals or grandiose rituals. The very idea that the church would amass such tremendous wealth and decorate it’s altars with gold amidst the gripping poverty of the time is repulsive and antithetical to the teachings of that man they call their savior.

            3. I was baptized, confirmed and married in the Lutheran church.

              It is emphatically not the case that Martin Luther was annoyed with a single bishop.

              No one who has completed a sophomore college course in Western Civilization would agree with your assessment of the facts of the Protest Reformation, however.

              1. Considering how neutral and correct your references turned out to be, and this is sophomore knowledge, I have to assume history is as absolute as Martha puts it.

          2. I’m not making it up. I’m trying to get you to take history seriously.

            Take some Church History courses from a good Catholic institution and you will see.

            I recommend Dr. Warren Carroll’s “A History of Christendom” series of 5 volumes. He writes fairly.

            1. I am presently re-reading the long version of Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”; there is enough religious violence in that to satiate anyone; not forgetting poor Hypatia, brutally lynched by a Christian mob in Alexandria in 415,lead by Peter the Reader,and with the connivance of Archbishop Cyril.

              1. The most heinous crime ever instigated and committed (and solely) by religion, I would add.

                Science will never forgive religion.

      2. wikipedia:
        Albigensian Crusade – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
        en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Albigensian_Crusade

        The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade (1209–1229) was a 20-year military campaign

        initiated by Pope Innocent III to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc.

        “The last known burning of a person who professed Cathar beliefs occurred in Corbières, in 1321.[56]”

        Here is one of near countless atrocities perpetrated by the Catholic church. It is estimated that 1 million people were killed during the Albigensian genocide.

        The RCC was drenched in blood from its beginnings until we got sick and tired of it and took away their heavy weapons and armies.

    4. Does this inane history of yours also include such devout secularists as Increase and Cotton Mather?

      I can only hope that yours is the most idiotic post I read on the subject today. “Historical rigor”, indeed.

      1. Buy Dr. Warren Carroll’s “A History of Christendom” series in 5 volumes (I believe Christendom Press is the publisher).

        Also, try Steve Weidenkopf’s Epic series on Church History.

        A good course in Church History from a competent Catholic university (one that really is Catholic) would be very useful too.

        1. All biased xian and/or Catholic sources.

          Try wikipedia, google, or any real history books. Of which there are thousands or more.

          1. Yes, there is no point in reading any testament by Catholic historians, or Catholic Doctors, (the ones who confirm “miracles” like bleeding ststues and liquifying ancient blood).

              1. Besides being a childish response, it is not doable to put historians away. They are the experts, the apologists are both erroneous and willing dunces.

                But if we put the apologists away, the consistency of the fact finding goes up dramatically.

                So we have no choice, if we wan’t to be honest to history and religion both.

          2. If you wanted to know how the brain works, you would likely want to be taught by a brain surgeon. True?

            And so, if you wanted to know the truths about the history of the Catholic faith, you would go to the Catholic Church.

            If you want to know what others think about the history of the Catholic Church (i.e., Prostestant sources), you will never know the actual Catholic perspective on the sources for the Protestant’s faith. Everything Protestants believe came first from the Catholic faith…and has evolved in to many paths…

            1. That’s just absurd. A brain surgeon is not an expert on himself, he’s an expert on the physical properties of the brain. If the catholic church has been covering up rampant child-abuse for years and years, seriously, what hope of an unbiased, warts-and-all official history?

            2. There is much brain surgeons don’t know, just as auto mechanics can fix cars but can’t tell you much about the scientific foundations of internal combustion engines, namely thermodynamics.

              Letting the church teach us about religion is like letting Golman Sachs advise us on mortgage investments. Except that the church, while having conflict of interest, does not have the advantage of appealing to any metrics or empirical evidence to back up it’s words. It has to rely on pure faith. I’ve lived long enough, been swindled and conned often enough, to reject anything on pure faith. The more appealing it is, the less likely to be true.

              And as Hitchens so astutely has often pointed out, there really is nothing so appealing about being a helpless subject to an infinitely powerful cosmic surveillance system whose punishments and rewards are interminable forms of suffering, one intense and the other relentlessly subtle, with no chance of escape ever. I long for the peaceful nothingness and finality of absolute atheist death just thinking about 40 million years in heaven.

              I’ve heard all the best arguments for God, faith, and Jesus, which I once believed in, and they are none of them convincing. The same is true with most every one reading this website. You are wasting your time on a lost cause, unless you have some new evidence that nobody has presented and that we can all verify for ourselves.

            3. “Everything Protestants believe came first from the Catholic faith.”

              Can one be sure that it didn’t first come from the Orthodox faith? (Re: Schism of 1054)

            4. “And so, if you wanted to know the truths about the history of the Catholic faith, you would go to the Catholic Church.”

              This is the functional equivalent of asking an accused axe-murderer if she was the one who used the axe.

            5. Good point.

              So if I want to know how the Nazi or Communist system works, I would go to a Nazi or Communist ?

            6. Francis Philip wrote:

              And so, if you wanted to know the truths about the history of the Catholic faith, you would go to the Catholic Church.

              I’m curious here. Would you also agree that

              *if you want to know the truths about the history of the Mormon Church, you would go to the Mormon Church?

              *If you want to know the truths about the history of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ church, you would go to the JW church?

              *If you want to know the truths about the history of the Church of Scientology, you would go … etc. etc?

              Obviously, it’s wise to check what groups say about themselves. You don’t just want to read the critics (ie what the JW’s say about Catholics.)

              But, by the same token, failing to look at criticism — or neglecting to look for scholarly and neutral sources — is probably an even bigger mistake … especially when “apologetics” is one of the major occupations of a church.

        2. There are many routes to becoming a Catholic saint.

          One is to be a serial killer.

          Saint Bellarmino is famous for burning Giordano Bruno at the stake and almost torching Galileo.

          Saint Thomas More made his sainthood by hunting down and hanging heretics.

          1. You may not have good sources of history. I have not read of these stories before.

            I hope they are not falsehoods. It is quite a sin to bear false witness, even against a man who has died an earthly death since his soul still lives on.

            1. wikipedia Saint Thomas More:

              In total there were six burned at the stake for heresy during More’s chancellorship: Thomas Hitton, Thomas Bilney, Richard Bayfield, John Tewkesbery, Thomas Dusgate, and James Bainham.[11]:299–306

              More’s influential role in the burning of Tyndale is reported by Moynahan.[25]

              Despite your claims, you don’t know anything or have any interest in finding out.

              Considering the astonishing number of lies you’ve told on this thread, if there were a hell you would be there someday.

            2. If you’re speaking clearly, and if I correctly understand you, you are not aware of the Girodano Bruno and Galileo incidents?

              Try Jacob Bronowski’s “The Ascent of Man” (I forget what episode), available on Youtube.

        3. I highly doubt I would find any utility in reading revisionist horseshit spewed by an assortment of xian apologists.

          And I find your abysmal ignorance of the history of Western civilization to be exceeded only by your pomposity. In the Dunning-Kruger bin you go.

    5. Really?…are you honestly trying to say that the laws that the so called secular rulers used to burn witches and homosexuals were not imposed by religion.

      Could you name a couple of those “secular” rulers?

        1. I have studied history and not just history as told by the Catholics, you on the other hand seem to only want to spout history as perceived by the catholic church, white washing all the crimes committed in the past and still being perpetrated by them on humanity.

          It may be the tail wagging the dog but at this point the catholic church is a criminal organisation hiding behind the few good things it might have accidentally accomplished.

    6. It’s true that state executions were done for non-religious reasons, but these were more often hanging,beheading, or the gruesome drawing and quartering, with possible live disembowelment.

      Auto da Fe was explicitly a religious penance, and the burning a religious purification.

      The loving religious authorities considered it an act of mercy that might enable a heretic to escape the more eternal fires of hell. And it was also a purification of church and society to stop the disease like spread of satan.

      Only such religious hysteria would drive them to waste all that wood. Otherwise chopping the head off was quite effective and economical from the state’s perspective.

        1. Prior to reformation the union of church and state in Europe was so tightly woven that your attempts to pry them apart to defend the church are useless. You may be technically correct that state subjects carried out the physical act of murder more often than not. The practical aspects would differ from kingdom to kingdom. This provides no cover for the church in those cases when the crime being punished was heresy. The authority of monarchs was considered to derive from God, monarchs themselves often acted out of the fear of God, and the blessing of the Pope was a required checklist item to secure ascent to the throne. Without it the church could create disloyalty to the ruler by simply denouncing him or her at the pulpit, so complete and penetrating was the fear of God instilled into people.

          I don’t care what your personal favorite books say, I’ve seen enough history to understand that the church may have adorned itself with a veneer of loving charity, but what it came to mercy it was not so forgiving. The core of it’s power was founded on fear and terror.

          These experiences are the very reasons our founding fathers so clearly understood the wisdom of separation of church and state, and to deny all the bickering sects access to real temporal power.

    7. Francis, please with the same rigor that you demand, show us that it wasn’t the church that burnt Giordino Bruno at the stake, kept Galileo under house arrest and lets go back even farther, is it not in the bible where god kills 99% of the animal kingdom in a deluge lasting several days or did we get this wrong?

      1. You definitely need to read and study the history:

        Dr. Warren Carroll’s “A History of Christendom” series in 5 volumes.

        Steve Weidenkopf’s Epic series (DVD/CD) on Church History

        Attend a competent Catholic university’s courses on Church History.

        All very helpful for you.

        1. When i have time to read those books I will but still you don’t answer my question of whether it wasn’t the church that burnt people at the stake or not.

              1. Are you serious? Here’s what Wikipedia states about itself:

                “Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.”

                Being careful and wanting to know reality, I would never rely upon a source with “anyone can edit.”

                Reliable means what it means.

              2. Actually the Wikipedia article on Wikipedia reliability is more interesting as the story didn’t stop there. But you want admit to bootstrap, I take it. :-/

                But it is enough to show that a lazy “can change” is not enough. Any fact source can be revised, and they better be. It is the tracking and the source references that is necessary.

                And Wikipedia has all that, enough to be comparable in some ways at some times and reject the lazy rejection.

        2. I would prefer to attend an unbiased objective history course at a secular university. Your Church has tried too hard to brainwash us all; now fewer and fewer people believe you; surprised?

            1. Or Satan’s…
              Or super advanced space aliens…
              Or we could be in a Matrix!

              Once you appeal to far-fetched or magical notions, an infinity of ideas is on the table… and there is not a way to tell a true unfalsifiable claim from the myriad of false ones humans can imagine.

              1. News flash: most atheists “have been taught” to trust. But we got wiser, for example by ignoring apologists that lie for their religion and go to fact sources.

      1. Hundreds of people (at least) were executed in centuries’ past by various government authorities for breaking laws which favored one religion over another. This unfair practice led, in part, to “separation of church and state” in the West. I do not know of a Giordano Bruno specifically. I’m sorry.

        1. Giordano Bruno is almost as much a household name as Galileo Galilei. His “sin” was that he suggested there might be other worlds, and with life on them. For this he was seized by Dominican Monks and burned alive.

          1. Again, I have no reference of a “Giordano Bruno” or of what actually transpired regarding this person. If you can give me the year or century pertaining to this person, I can do the research and then comment (perhaps a good period of time from now). Wikipedia is actually not a reliable source since anyone can write or edit a posting however they wish.

            1. Well I was going to suggest that you Google him, just like I have to. Nohing is perfect, but I am sure that on average Wikipedia has a lot more knowledge than I have, and to refuse to use it on the grounds that anybody can say anything, is just an excuse for not bothering to research a subject. Besides, you can always cross-check it with others sources,-Encyclopedias or other search engines,–which is what science does,-it cross-references and encourages peer review; it is how they find out things.   To save you the trouble here is a link:   In the final paragraph you will see that it actually contradicts the statement I made above (about suggesting new worlds),–which I must therefore have obtained from a different non-Wiki source.  Whether right or wrong, it shoes how we must be careful not to misintepret or rewrite history.  I got one detail slightly wrong–possibly. You appear to have eliminated Bruno from your enquiry altogether, as it is incompatible with your view of the Catholic Church as a paragon of virtue.


            2. How you can claim any pretense at being knowledgable about the history of the Catholic Church and not know about Bruno is utterly beyond me.

              But how ’bout Cardinal Angelo Sodano writing to the Pope in 2000? Is that a good enough reference for you that the Church had him executed and that the Church today thinks maybe that wasn’t such a good idea?


              And perhaps you could explain this one: why is it that Christians always know much less about their own theology, history, and Bible than the typical atheist?



            3. You really have the wrong idea about Wikipedia. Pages have moderators who actively monitor changes. Rather than operating on the Stalinist concept of an all powerful central authority, it uses the decentralized market or crowd source concept of a web of trust. This concept may be foreign to one used to accepting the infallible absolute authority of a massive hierarchical beaurocracy like the Catholic Church.

              You can experimentally test your hypothesis that anyone can change it however they like. Go to a page you know something about, say the Pope or the Catholic Church, and edit in a mistake intentionally. See how long before it is challenged and removed. This might give you more confidence in Wikipedia.

              In truth Wikipedia is a very good source of introductory information on any topic you want to learn about, complete with references and further reading. It is not a definitive source for reference in scholarship or professional use, but it is easily good enough for website comment threads and a great deal of general knowledge.

              1. Yes I do know how to spell bureaucracy. I just slip sometimes. A beaurocracy must have something to do with the fashion industry.

    8. “The religious had no government authority.”

      Hello!? A real live apologist, in this day and time.

      – The Vatican “State” 1929- ?
      – The Papal States 756–1870 ? “The Papal States comprised territories under direct sovereign rule of the papacy,”.

      “Your post is just, well, biased and lacking in historical rigor to be honest with you. Learn more that you may understand.”

    9. Francis Philip #36 wrote:

      Remember also that our Lord Jesus Christ taught us to love God fully and each other as ourselves. This can not be misinterpreted to mean “Kill your brothers when they make a mistake.” So, there is no basis for saying “burning at the stake” is a religious device.

      Yes, it apparently can be misinterpreted to mean that — and has been by many of the most respected Catholic theologians of the past. You see, there are other passages which put more emphasis on the importance of in-group vs. out-group.

      I also think one needs to keep in mind that according to the Church the theme of the New Testament, the atonement, and salvation is that that not all need be damned to a hell described by Jesus Himself as “the fire that never shall be quenched.” Not all. A few will escape the just punishment of eternal torture, for none are perfect and all are sinful.

      Not really a good start to establishing violence as wrong in principle, and mistakes as not terribly important, it seems to me. So I’m sympathetic to the confusion here.

    10. Oh, dear.

      In the first place, “blogger” = your host. That would be Dr. Coyne to you.

      In the second place, I wanted to stop reading when you wrote “our” lord, Jesus Christ. I’m not a Christian, Jesus Christ is not my “lord”, so speak for yourself.

      In the third place, remarks of the type “learn more that you may understand” are pompous and inflammatory, and make me want to run over them with my car.

    11. That is not true. Historically, governments burned people at the stake for violations of what were temporal laws. The religious had no government authority.

      Remember the British monarchs and the Holy Roman Emperors and Kings (who routinely sent people to their deaths) were government authorities, not religious.

      The government authorities were ordained by the Catholic Church. The Church was a major political player. The Divine Right of Kings was based on religious belief.

      If the Church charged someone with heresy and turned over to the authorities that they knew would execute the person, they are as guilty as the government.

      If the Church had taken a stand for human rights while threatening to excommunicate the government authorities who executed people for religious crimes, the practice would have been stopped. The practice was stopped only when the Church began to lose political power.

    12. “The religious had no government authority. ”

      History fail. Bishops and abbots in Catholic Europe were feudal lords with legal authority.

      1. There are usually exceptions to every argument. My bad for making an absolute statement. If a person holds a temporal title, he has a duty to carry out his office according to temporal norms of the time I suppose. It would not be fair to overly criticize them for that.

        1. In other words, even when religious office was directly responsible behind your smoke screens, and responsible for the “temporal norms of the time” to boot, they were not responsible.

          You’ve got yourself a good win-win denial of circumstances there.

          1. When a State sanctions a single Religion, it appears that it becomes inclined to prosecute those who disrespect that Religion – especially during times when enemies of a Religion were considered enemies of a State, as was very common centuries ago. The Catholic Church fully supports separation of Church and State and Freedom of Religion.

  35. Paraphasing Christopher Hitchens, show me a government that embraces enlightenment values that has outlawed religion. My response unfortunately to agathosozoe will not be comforting at all–he/she should worry but not for what they think might happen, but what is actually happening, that is, religious believers are encouraged to practice their beliefs in secular society based on enlightenment values, but at the same, they are being brought to task vigorously about their truth claims.

    When communistic regimes cracked down on religion, it went underground and grew strong. When religion is allowed to be practised, but not with privilege and exemption from criticism, that is when it is weakened, as it has been in western Europe.

    Important non-rational states like generosity, empathy, appreciation of beauty, etc. flourish without the irrationality of religious beliefs–another hard pill for the religious to swallow (paraphasing yet again Hitchens–tell me something that religion achieves that a secular, enlightenment-based society can not–no one has been able to meet that challenge yet).

    1. Yes, the French Revolution, often cited by the religous as an example of an atheist terror regime, actually wanted a purified State Christian religion (Robespierre’s idea). Thomas Jefferson a Deist, and one of the founding fathers of the American Enlightenment did not ban the Bible,-he just expunged it of all superstitious content, (there wasn’t much left).

  36. “The more I read the comments here, the more I hear that from the atheist perspective, error has no rights.”

    “Error has no rights” is a rather ear-catching locution.

    Pray, tell – does willful ignorance and denial have rights?

    1. “The more I read the comments here, the more I hear that from the atheist perspective, error has no rights.”

      Under US law, it does. This is a deepity, s superficially obscure saying, that is in reality meaningless.

      You can be as wrong as you want. In point of fact, agathosozoe was wildly wrong about everything. And will no doubt, continue to be so.

      You just can’t force it on the rest of us. That includes trying to sneak creationist mythology into our kid’s science classes.

  37. Projection. Ignorance of science. Strawmen for atheism.

    The usual.

    from the atheist perspective, error has no rights.

    Science is build on error. It has made more errors than religion, or at least I hope so or we haven’t been diligent enough.

    However, science and so atheists have learned how turn people from the error of their ways. Religion wants to keep its errors.

    And that is the problem, not the existence of error but the refusal of facts.

    1. Science LEARNS from it’s errors.

      When faith doesn’t work… religion tells believer’s it’s because they didn’t have enough faith!

      1. Thanks for spelling it out clearer. But I also mean that science uses uncertainty to be (reasonably) certain of things.

        But then you have to explain that it is like explaining vision to someone born blind. :-/

  38. Luke 19:27
    New International Version (NIV)

    Jesus speaking:

    27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

    BTW, when xians call for atheists to be killed or when they actually kill them and other nonbelievers, they are just following their namesake.

    Jesus in the bible has a quick solution for nonbelievers. He says when he comes back to earth, all those who don’t believe in him will be killed.

    1. Raven – you took that completely out of context. That is from a parable – a story he was telling in order to get across a very important point. He was not literally instructing his disciples to follow that practice.


      1. Raven – you took that completely out of context.

        No I didn’t.

        It is from the parable about a king who goes away and then comes back. And kills everyone who didn’t believe he would come back.

        And who is the King in this parable? It is Jesus himself.

        The quote says exactly what it means and you are wrong once again. So far you are zero for getting anything right.

        This is one main reason why US xianity is dying. They can’t tell the truth about anything.

          1. Jesus: bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

            Francis, which letter in the word “kill” don’t you understand?

            There are only three of them, “k”, “i”, and “l”.

            1. Then, you don’t understand.

              Take some time for some professional instruction. Who knows – the light might turn on for you if you try.

              It took me a while to come to the faith. The door can open when you least expect it. Just knock on that door and see what happens. 🙂

              In the mean time, do your best to love your neighbor. Asking God for help really helps.

              1. “Professional instruction” indeed. At least you’re admitting teaching Christianity is a business, complete with paid salesmen and a national marketing campaign.

              2. Francis the troll:

                It took me a while to come to the faith. The door can open when you least expect it. Just knock on that door and see what happens.

                This guy is exactly what he seems, completely delusional.

                Most atheists are ex-xians, including myself.

                We know all about xianity. That is why we are atheists.

              3. What’s your advice for unbrainwashing someone?

                What if someone believes they’ll be tortured forever unless they have faith in a certain story?

                What if that person believes they’ll live happily ever after so long as they have faith?

                What do you do about people who believe in gods that want them to believe a certain way? It’s a pretty intractable meme, wouldn’t you say? What do you do about people who imagine that faith is good– that it makes them better people?

                You know– like Muslims
                Or you?

              4. or maybe you’re just delusional….

                exactly like those who believe conflicting supernatural tales…

                and all those others with crazy beliefs who are just as sure that they are right as you are.

                Let’s see– there are tons of data showing that humans are very easy to fool when it comes to supernatural entities as explanations for things that they don’t understand (see: Zeus, demons, sprites, etc.)– but NO evidence that any such entities exist anywhere but in the brain of living humans.

                If there were evidence that souls were real (or any other immaterial being) scientists would be testing, refining, and honing that evidence for their own benefit… as well as the benefit of humanity.

                The real question you need to answer, is why should we take your supernatural beliefs any more seriously than you’d take a Scientologists? Or a schizophrenics? Or a child’s truly held belief in Santa?

      2. Ah yes but; what do you think was the purpose in Jesus telling that parable in the first place? An amusing story to be ridiculed?- or was it his very important point that such a leader was on the right track? It is obvious that he was condoning such killing (even if only metaphorical). It is also entirely in keeping with his threats of hellfire and damnation, and his admonition to hate everyone, especially family, who might prevent you from following him.

        1. But … maybe Jesus meant that, in real life, the disobedient and nonchristian should be “killed with kindness.” Shamed into feeling guilty by how nice the real-life “king” is, so they become repentant and the “disobedient” are no more.

          Yes, that fits much better into my understanding of Jesus Christ, Humanist.

        2. What does “killing” even mean to theists– they don’t really believe in death… not for humans, right? They believe that death is the start of eternal life.

          Christians say silly things like Jesus “died” for them… but they don’t believe that… they just think it was a temporary death to appease god (who WAS Jesus) or something–
          Or maybe they don’t. I don’t think that they have any idea what they believe– they just think it’s good to say they believe it (or maybe they are afraid god will punish them if they don’t).

          Theism makes people feel proud of believing myths as truths… proud of pretending to know something they do not know.

  39. I have no problem with people believing in whatever magical things they want to believe in– witches, demons, gods, fairies, etc. I just think that Christians need to be as private with their magical beliefs as they want all those with conflicting magical beliefs to be– Scientologists, schizophrenics, believers in chupacabras, etc.

    I find such beliefs embarrassing. I don’t care about peoples’ imaginary 3-in-1 savior any more than I care about their bowel habits or fetishes. With access to the internet, I trust that their smarter spawn will move beyond the myths and superstitions of their ancestors(–especially the viral memes about invisible gods who will torture people for eternity if they don’t believe in the right unbelievable story.)

    Any real gods should be perfectly capable of getting humans to believe whatever they want them to belief if belief is important to them. (I suppose the same would be true of real demons and super advanced aliens.)And they have no one to blame but themselves if they are disappointed.

    Myself, I think it’s more than obvious that a material brain is required for consciousness of any sort. If you are going to imagine immaterial consciousness, you may as well assume rocks are conscious. At least rocks are material. Gods are indistinguishable from imaginary friends.

    1. Yes I know; that’s what you always end up saying. Whose afraid? We are just telling it like it is. If Church services are anything to go by, preachers are not used to being answered back. (It’s called freespeech and democracy).

        1. Now you are being patronising; insinuationg that I am “down” in some way and needing to see the light, no doubt. I am just fine. Atheists are free of superstitiion, dogma, control by priests, we can think whatever we like, do whatever we like within the law and the normal customs of personal and social intercourse, and not have to waste time in Churches except when I choose. I am free to sing in Churches and Cathedrals,- religious music and carols, -which I do, in two “choirs”, without having to treat the Latin or other words as anything more than just fiction. I have just sung in Karl Jenkins’ “Stabat Mater”;- great music. Thankfully the Latin (which I only half understand (without bothering to learn more), disguises the meaning of the generally silly and superstitious words.

    2. So says the troll with delusions of competence.

      Odd how you have failed to address nearly all of the matters put to you. Simply peddling books today?

        1. I have done the work, for well over forty years, in fact. Which is precisely why I know you’re full of shit and babbling utter nonsense.

          1. However, something is not right with your treatment of me. From where does your foul language and anger come, and why is it directed to me? If I met you in the grocery store or if you were my neighbor, would you really treat me that way – in public places like this one on the internet?

            1. Anger? Project much? To answer your question – if you we’re to approach me in public and spew the nonsensical shit you’ve spewed here, I would treat you the very same as I’ve done here. I live in Jesusland, so I’m very accustomed to dealing with god-soaked loons very directly. I find that civility only encourages them.

            2. How do you treat crazy people who demand respect and privilege for their crazy beliefs? Don’t you think the world would be much better if people were as private with their magical beliefs as they want those of other cults to be?

              If a Muslim was as obnoxious and self-righteous regarding their beliefs as you are here(including the belief that Christians go to hell for blasphemy for thinking Jesus was god)how would you respond?

              If a Mormon was trying to manipulate former Mormons back into belief by using the goofy things that worked to sway them, wouldn’t you find it smarmy?

              We outsiders don’t see you believers as the wonderful role models you seem to imagine you are. To us you just seem like those other people in other cults seem to you.

              You may feel drawn to make excuses for your god because you fear you’ll be punished if you don’t. But we don’t have that need. And we want to keep future generations from having to constantly spin tales in order to “keep the faith”.

    3. Pray tell what fear? and fear of what, if religion fanaticism and its disastrous and fatal effects, then yes. negativism to what if I may?
      in other news, we have a good laugh at how ridiculous religious beliefs are

    4. I am amazed at the fear and negativism in this community.

      I’m amazed at your complete inability to get anything right.

      Why shouldn’t I be afraid of xians? Xian terrorists have killed 8 of my colleagues and have been threatening to kill me for over a decade.

      I’ve had to take anti-terrorism courses, set up a security system, and deal with the cops and FBI. Who are on our side these days. Death threats are felonies.

      They do this a lot to scientists and I’m far from the only one.

      Besides my personal safety and continual existence, some xians like you have become enemies of our society and government. The christofascists openly hate the US, the US government, and will destroy both if they can. They have their own political arm, called the Tea Party/GOP and have come way to close to doing exactly that.

      Xians like Francis Phillips make more atheists in a day than PZ Myers and Dawkins do in a year.

      1. Dear Raven – I certainly understand your position. Religious extremists have done harm, but that is not what the Catholic Church is about and it is not the fault of the Church that individuals commit crimes.

        Individuals USE religion as a basis for their personal evil conduct and motives. We all know this from the likes of Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Osama Bin Laden. All the while, we also know that mainstream religions do not produce or follow people like that: individuals do.

        I’m very sorry about your negative experiences and hope things get better for you.

        1. You could quit bothering Raven and say ten-thousand silent Hail Marys instead.

          Wouldn’t that be more productive, in a Christian sense?

        2. It is the fault of the church for pretending to give people absolute unchallengeable truth, and installing in them the fear of God and the self-justifying self-righteousness needed by a human being to rationalize an act of murder as service to God. It’s called conspiracy to commit murder. Church leaders commit it every time they accuse anyone of being an instrument of Saran.

        3. “Religious extremists have done harm, but that is not what the Catholic Church is about and it is not the fault of the Church that individuals commit crimes.”

          Ratzinger is a religious extremist by his very position.

          The CC leaders have supported anti-abortion, fought homosexuals and condoms, whereby being responsible for many’s suffering and death.

          The CC church has organized aiding and abetting pedophiles, directed by their current mafia boss at least up to the time he took over the leader seat. Probably later, since the church doesn’t want to repent their ways.

          All of this organized activity, crimes against humanity, is the church responsibility.

  40. What does “error has no rights” even mean?

    Is that sort of like when a “loving” god tortures people forever for not believing the right unbelievable story?

    Or is that more like when a god makes imperfect people and then burns them in a lake of fire for all eternity for being exactly as he knew they’d be?

    In science, the only punishment for not “believing” facts, is ignorance (and failure to progress.)

    1. This fits somewhat with my definition of “religion”: If the penalty for apostasy is strong, then it is a religion (Islam=death, 10th Century Xtianity=death, Catholicism=excommunication). If there is no penalty for halting your belief (such as atheism, Roman or Greek Gods, ancient Egyptian gods, Norse Gods, Unitarianism) then it probably is more of the “bowling” ilk that PZ Meyers alludes to.

  41. Okay dear friends. I’m going to depart this blog today.

    Those of you I have interacted with – I have the best intentions for you in my heart. I truly hope that you feel better and find really good and healthy friendships which are helpful for you. I apologize if I offended anyone. I make statements sometimes to help you think or cosider things more directly. But my intentions really are good for you.

    1. I don’t doubt you are well intended. You have been patient and civil in the face of much heated opposition. I also don’t doubt that in spite of your good heart and good intentions you are deeply misguided on the facts of existence.

    2. Your intentions are really bad for you and your cause.

      Don’t let your religious arrogance hit you on your way out – religion doesn’t work to predict the world, you know, so you are all failures.

    3. I have the best intentions for you in my heart.

      But so do other members of other cults…

      Tom Cruise probably really believes that Scientology is the reason for his success and happiness…

      But a Scientologist’s eagerness to share his beliefs is not likely to go over well with you… or former Scientologists, or any of us. If your god exists, he didn’t give you or anyone else any reason why we should take your supernatural beliefs any more seriously than we’d take a Scientologist’s.

      Christians have an obnoxious tendency to imagine that their beliefs are knowledge; they claim to know things they cannot know. They imagine they “know” that god exists and that they know what he things, wants, did, and does. And when they don’t have an answer they say that it’s part of the “mystery” and that it’s arrogant to think we should understand. Christians also tend to think that others see them as righteous and loving as they imagine themselves to be. They don’t seem to realize that every religionist thinks that people of their religion are the nicest and most moral people of all– even those who belong to cults that they find hateful.

      You are confusing your own thoughts for god’s:

      And you imagine that your magical beliefs make the world better somehow, though statistically religiosity is associated social ills, not social health.

      You want us to consider that we may be wrong… but you are not able to consider this yourself. (Whereas, most of us were probably believers like you at one time; we may even have used the same “arguments” as you do.)

        1. I don’t know how to be sure if Francis is RC, or even a Christian. It seems unlikely he can be as stupid about the history of religion, or of wiki, as he portrays himself. It is clear he knows what to say to wind people up, but what can be certain regarding any beliefs he holds or does not? If he is RC — or some other sect o’ the sect — and is as blind in faith as he writes, engaging with him is like wrestling in a shit pit with a pig: the pig likes it, and one only gets filthier as the match goes on while the pig’s enjoyment increases.

      1. Marta, please! That should be,

        Respectfully, piss off, and take your sanctimonious and insufferably ignorant piousness with you when you go.

  42. I desire no limitations on what one can “teach” their children. I do think there should be laws against child-abuse.

    What abuse does to children is change their neurological development and imprinting and make it much more difficult for them to develop into highly-functioning adults. Abuse is ultimately about exercise of power through fear.

    Why would our laws differentiate between sexual abuse, physical abuse and mental abuse (such as fear-based religious indoctrination) when the net result of each of these is the same – emotionally and cognitively crippled adults?

    1. Just to illustrate the point…children are not abused when taught things that are not true – the learn to discern these things as they grow older…believing in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy does no harm.

      It is when fear is introduced into the formula, especially for the purposes of control (do what I tell you or Jesus will be unhappy and send you to hell) that is becomes abuse.

      1. Dear Lowen – actually, proper Catholic eschatology has that people choose to send themselves to hell – its their own choice – according to what is actually in their heart – their true attitude- at judgment time.

        So, there comes a time when one must choose; either one trusts in and is prepared for God at that time or one does not and is not. This is why it is very important for people to prepare themselves for their future spiritual reality. If you can understand how your soul can live on after you die an earthly death, then you can understand also that a soul can be ready (as an athlete prepares his/her body for a competition) or a soul can be not ready for what comes. And so, in the end, you either know God or you don’t – you are either friendly toward God or you are not. But there is apparently a final choice – a final judgment which will depend largely upon your true attitude and condition at that time. Did you try to prepare your soul for a future life, or did you spend your life dismissing a future life, and all available help, and so on?

        It’s actually your choice. No one is going to force you one way or the other. But you will be given ample chances prior in order to prepare. Either you choose life and love or you don’t. You can try to believe, you can ask for help, or just give up. It’s your choice.

        There is no coercion, and any ramifications are simply tied back to the choice which you made in this life.

        Bottomline: Christians want you to choose a happy and healthy future life of love with the loving God.

        1. “There is no coercion, and any ramifications are simply tied back to the choice which you made in this life.

          Bottomline: Christians want you to choose a happy and healthy future life of love with the loving God”.

          So what do you call being burned alive and tortured and imprisoned, ostracised and discriminated against?( not necessarily in that order)

            1. Does being a freethinker, philosopher and scientific theoriser make one a “troubled person”? Then I guess we are all troubled.
              Still, nothing is worth being burned alive for. I would have recanted but muttered under my breath,-like Galileo.

              1. Wads42, that was 400 years ago when secular laws prohibited heresy and the culture supported the laws. I think that people ought to rejoice instead about where we are today – in a world where separation of Church and State alleviate the sort of thing which causes so much fear.

              2. Laws against heresy are not secular laws. They come from religious infiltration and domination of society.

              3. One of the hallmarks of American democracy today is that it learned from the past error of a State sanctioning a single religion. When States sanctioned Religion, they prosecuted people who did not honor that religion. Not so today.

              4. Agreed. It is why America was founded on Enlightenment principles-of separation of Church and State. Do you really think the Catholic Church “suddenly” after 1700 years, of establising Catholic-friendly governments, and toppling those that weren’t friendly, (see the attempted assasinations of Queen Elizabeth 1st, (the Protestant Whore), the Gun Powder plot against King and Parliament, and the Spanish Armada),-do you think they volunatarily reversed their policy, and of their own accord disestablished the Church from secular government?

              5. When you do what Francis Phillip does and have a mentally magnetized religious organization like the CC, while mentally magnetizing all the darts of criticism to be of the same polarity, you will make sure that you accept that none will ever hit the target.

                Just like the CC itself, Francis accords all the fault that is the result of actions by the CC to always belong elsewhere. And when, in spite of all the mental forces arrayed against it, a critical bull’s eye is scored then either the CC is the unfortunate victim of successful secular plotting. What we don’t realize is how and why the CC is always unblemished by its own actions. Silly critics.

                I have little doubt that FP believes that this approach makes him a protector of his faith rather than a co-conspirator of and enabler for a criminal organization too busy avoiding any and all responsibility for its actions to be considered by any but the most faithful to be a voice of moral authority. FP has clearly demonstrated in this thread that his idol is the CC and it is this to which he is faithful.

              6. Yes, when I asked him what his Church is doing about paedophile priests, he evasively answered, “I don’t work there”.

              7. A state-sanctioned religion is bad enough but we’re talking about church-sanctioned states. The Catholic Church had more power than any individual state for centuries.

                The ideas you claim are now supported by the Catholic Church (such as human rights, free speech, opposition to the death penalty) came from outside of Christianity. The Church was the most powerful force on Earth for a millenium and could have instituted those principles at any time but failed to do so. It is the secular world that has brought those ideas to the world and the Church has been forced to acquiesce.

                If the Church ever regained power, they would go back to their core principles which come from certain 3000 year old writings. Religion takes such writings as being instructions from their deity. Secular thought sees ancient writings as attempts at regulating a working society through trial and error. Secular thought refines those trials after eliminating error. The Church reacts to new secular ideas only because they are forced to do so.

              8. O come on! Why should secular laws per se, be interested in heresy? As I thought we had already established, it was the religious orthodox dogma of the day which prohibited religious heresy (obviously!),–and they handed heretics over to the “seciular arm” (of the Church), to be dealt with.
                400 years ago is not really relevant; there is just as much religious proscription now as there was then. The only difference being that advances in secular humanist enlightenment thought mean that the Church can no longer “encourage” the law to prescribe execution by being burned alive.
                As I went to some pains to inform you,-there are other and impartial encyclopediae around as well as the Catholic one. You need to broaden your horizons.

              9. When Church and State were united in centuries past, secular laws would have been interested in heresy because an attack on the Church’s authority would have been an attack on the State’s authority since the State sanctioned that Religion and what it taught. Today, Church and State on separated and States honor freedom of religion.

              10. Yes agreed; the Church-State axis (undemocratically) imposed on the populace (see Tsarist Russia), was a win-win situation. The Church obtained miliary power (something it had lost when the Western Roman Empire collapsed), and the State gained the “authority of God” to rule despotically over their subjects (see “Divine Right of Kings”, and King Charles 1st). Just like Moses re-establishing his personal authority over the istaelites by pretending “God” had given him the stone tablets inscrined with the 10 commandments).
                One way or another, it is all a religious conspiracy to gain temporal power, using Jesus as the excuse.

              11. Wads42, that was 400 years ago

                …and yet the CC STILL has an arm of the inquisition active.

                the reason they don’t threaten to burn people alive any more is not that they choose not to, it’s that the CC was FORCED not to by… secular authority.

                just like pedophilia and the coverups within the CC have obviously not been addressed appropriately BY the CC, but only via independent secular investigation.

              12. in a world where separation of Church and State alleviate the sort of thing which causes so much fear.

                it tries to, at least. the church resists it kicking and screaming.