Where are the honest atheists?


Atheism is more than just the knowledge that gods do not exist, and that religion is either a mistake or a fraud. Atheism is an attitude, a frame of mind that looks at the world objectively, fearlessly, always trying to understand all things as a part of nature. Emmett F. Fields

They are everywhere.

I am not able to tell if Damon Linker is religious or not. Not that this is important to my thesis, but one gets tired with writers who think there is a right way to be atheistic. They behave as if they have a divine right in telling us how to live our godless lives. At such times I say stick it up.

Having said that, Linker writes, in part

It’s quite another to claim, as these authors also invariably do, that godlessness is not only true but also unambiguously good for human beings. It quite obviously is not

and I will gladly tell him that a thing isn’t obvious doesn’t make it wrong. The world has progressed simply because some men and women have dared to be different, to challenge what was believed as true. It is not to be construed as a weakness that the majority have not found atheism as true. It is to be blamed on their education and state of mind.

I disagree when he writes

If atheism is true, it is far from being good news. Learning that we’re alone in the universe, that no one hears or answers our prayers, that humanity is entirely the product of random events, that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter, that we face certain annihilation in death, that our sufferings are ultimately pointless, that our lives and loves do not at all matter in a larger sense, that those who commit horrific evils and elude human punishment get away with their crimes scot free — all of this (and much more) is utterly tragic.

on the contrary it isn’t tragic if atheism is true because it is only on the recognition that we are alone that men and women will work towards building healthier societies here. It has to be borne in mind that not many people have the capacity or the wherewithal to commit horrific evils, whatever this maybe. Sad as it may seem, such people don’t last long and they are not many. And what does Linker mean when he says random events? Isn’t this another way of saying events he is ignorant of? And why is Linker involved in this ego trip? Why should our lives matter in a larger sense? Is it not enough that it matters to us?

And I find it ridiculous that he mentions Nietzsche and goes ahead to say he is the rank and file of the few honest atheists. But Nietzsche the sham smasher held that we should kill gods so humanity could prosper. That the love of gods and by extension faith is the antithesis in the search of truth and in all cases is opposed to progress. Belief in gods require that man surrenders everything to god. To tell us the death of god presents a bleak picture for humanity is not to have read Nietzsche and to undervalue human initiative.

That some atheists are nostalgic about the glory of god doesn’t in any way make god belief true. All we can deduce from it is they wish for a god to be, not that a god is or even that a god is necessary.

When Linker writes

To reject religion does not merely entail facing our finitude without comforting illusions. It also involves the denial of something noble. It is perfectly fitting, Larkin seems to say, for an atheist to lament his lack of belief in a God who bestows metaphysical meaning on the full range of human desires and experiences.

I must ask, how does getting rid of a delusion or a lie be less than noble. Why should we pretend that there is something noble in a lie, even if the lie is 2000 years old? There is nothing for the atheist to lament and if he must lament, then it should be for the lost time believing in ghosts. That is worth lament and sorrow, but the freedom from delusion, nay. That deserves celebration. Man can now raise themselves high knowing they having no overbearing overlord to fear and it is all up to them to build their kingdom.

And I contend, there is no truth that religion conceals as Linker wants us to believe when he writes

It is a striking image, capturing at once the dignified beauty of religious ritual and its capacity to conceal the truth under a layer of intricate artifice: The whole point of the liturgy performed on the church altar, Larkin implies, is to seduce us with the beautiful and supremely fulfilling illusion that our worldly compulsions have cosmological meaning and significance.

I contend that Linker is stretching the truth when he says

It is a need, a hunger that never can be permanently satiated. But religion tries, understanding and responding to this crucially important aspect of humanity perhaps more fully than any other institution or practice.

for in the contrary, all religion does and manages to achieve is blind obedience to absurdities. And if in its dealings it appears to eschew any such qualities, it is to be remembered that it is not religion per se but that it wants to associate with such human qualities. It is this association with the greatest of human needs that has enabled religion to last so long.

I contend that Linker has failed in his attempt to demonstrate atheists, new atheists as he refers to them, are dishonest. What he has managed to demonstrate by an about way is that many people are not ready to accept the truth of atheism and its tidings. This I say has nothing to do with atheism itself.

Where are the honest atheists

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

145 thoughts on “Where are the honest atheists?

  1. Mordanicus says:

    There’s of course the option that god does exist, but does not care about humanity at all. I wonder what the likes of Mr. Linker prefer: no god or an indifferent god.

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  2. archaeopteryx1 says:

    Being the intellect I find you to be, Mak, I ran across something today you might want to consider – this is part one, which, in and of itself is very informative, but if you wish to go further, the links are provided within the video:

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  3. Veracious Poet says:

    I think Mr. Linker has a point. A world without religion will be worse.

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    • makagutu says:

      What if I may ask is your understanding of religion and how does its absence portend a worse world.

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      • Veracious Poet says:

        The vast majority of the “untrained mind” understand nothing but religiosity. They had better not be let lose and godless without much enlightenment. Let me ask you a question: how has godlessness helped in the betterment of the world? At least the religious takes part communal work because his god “ordained” it.

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        • Your argument appears to be based on the argument that everyone, but you, should be controlled by lies. You seem to prefer the idea to teach people lies rather than teach them the truth.

          There is no “enlightenment” in religion. It requires ignorance, obedience and fear. The lack of belief in gods has allowed humans to leave behind the false beliefs that diseases are from gods and should not be cured lest we offend the gods, that we should not question because we might offend the gods, etc. Humans now can conceive that humans are equal rather than believe in the lie that some humans are “chosen” by gods and thus have more rights.

          The vanishing few “good” things about religion can be had without religion and its hatreds and ignorance. We see that in secular societies today. Tell me what religion can offer that nothing else can.

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          • Doug Fo says:

            Tell you? Actually there are: false hope of infinite existence for both you and the one’s you love, universal justice, and a made up answer to justify suffering. So basically happy fuzzies. Doesn’t exactly begin to make up for the costs of religion.

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        • makagutu says:

          How is this different from saying people with bad tooth shouldn’t have them removed because they have gotten used to having bad tooth and removing them may mean they can eat well?

          All the men who have fought for human progress did so against religion

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          • Veracious Poet says:

            Pal, the difference is that atheists are saying all the teeth should be removed when in fact only few are infected. More importantly, we have been eating delicious meals with this teeth, even in its infectious state, since infancy. How sweet will life be if all our teeth is to be removed and replaced with nothing?

            Religion, though not faultless, is still necessarily.

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          • makagutu says:

            Religion isn’t necessary for it is based on a lie

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          • Veracious Poet says:

            It is still necessary. Lying to oneself makes us happy and happiness is the ultimate.

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          • makagutu says:

            Well, we differ on that point. Pursuit of truth, whatever it might be, is a greater ideal

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          • Veracious Poet says:

            NO! the greatest ideal is the happiness of mankind which lies in the pursuit of the inspiring truth – truth that brings aspiration not the one that tells us we are all animals and that life has no meaning.

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          • makagutu says:

            well, I will tell you we differ from our approaches to life. You seem to me comfortable with charlatans. I, on the other hand, have no patience for parsons

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  4. “The whole point of the liturgy performed on the church altar, Larkin implies, is to seduce us with the beautiful and supremely fulfilling illusion that our worldly compulsions have cosmological meaning and significance.” So, then, it is, once again, the christian god we’re speaking of. The Muslim god says the christian god is a sack of lies and blasphemy, so is this acceptable to this theist? To the Muslim, the christian is the a-theist because his “god” is false, unreal, blasphemous.
    Is it a belief in any god or gods that is so much better and more correct than non-belief, or must one believe in the christian god alone to not be an a-theist? Muslims and Jews are atheists in terms of the christian god. Is this what this theist means by a-theism? A disbelief in his god? Are the Muslims, Jews and Zeus worshipers who deny the divinity of Jeebus a-theists too? Arguments like this are impotent and devoid of any meaning because they are arguments, not in favor of a general theism, but arguments in favor of the christian faith, and even then, a specific take on that faith. There is no such thing as simple “theism.” There are people who believe in very specific deities and faiths who deem those not believing the same thing as non-believers, blasphemers, and a-theists. Define exactly what “god” is and why one “god” is more accurate than another first before one starts bashing those who do not believe in such nonsense or shut the fuck up already. $Amen$

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    • makagutu says:

      You are right. It’s just an argument for the Christian god nothing more

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      • And thus, totally impotent to every other person on the planet, even other theists. I’d respect these idiots more if they were just honest and stated that, not only is their faith the “right” faith, but their interpretation of it is objectively the only “right” one there is as well. Spineless.

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      • Barry says:

        I disagree. An atheist doesn’t believe god(s) exist, so therefore Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Polynesian pantheists, Shintoists, etc are not atheists. Buddhists might qualify as atheists.

        And why should any of these religions be considered better than atheism? They shouldn’t be. And apart from a small number of toxic Christian sects I don’t believe most Christians believe theirs is the only “correct” religion. Most probably believe theirs is the “most correct” religion, but proselytising is very rare here, apart from American based churches.

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        • Christian apologetics is an argument for the christian god and the christian bible. It is disguised as talk about a “god” or “gods” in general, but most definitely is NOT. Find me a christian apologist who states, “There is NO God but Allah, and Mohammad is His prophet.” Find me an Islamic apologist who states, “Jesus Christ IS God and there are Three Gods in One.” You will not be able to do so. I hear over and over and over in America how Islam is a false religion and no different than atheism. Sorry, My friend, but to the American christian conservative, Muslims are atheists. They do not believe in the “real” god. Thus, the asinine statement, “Obama is a devout Muslim AND an atheist,” can regularly be heard at Republican political rallies. Islam and the Koran flat out say Jesus is NOT god and the three in one shit is blasphemy. Thus, to the Muslim, the christian is not a believer in the “real” god, Apologists of either side must first define what is the “real” god before they can proceed as if they were defining “god” in a liberal, general term. They are NOT even remotely doing that. Apologetics are an impotent and meaningless group of arguments. Honesty is totally lacking in them, as is common sense. Mak here is posting responses to christian apologists who, believe me, do NOT see Islam, Hinduism, or Thorism, as being any different than atheism: all are false systems of viewing the world because they are not THEIR system of viewing the world. There may well be liberal theists who openly welcome all beliefs as equal and peachy-keen, but in America, I’ve not meet them.

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          • Barry says:

            The religious group I belong to has no dogma or creed, because such things become rules and stifle growth. It holds that what you believe is between you and God (whatever you perceive God to be, and if you don’t believe in god, substitute conscience for God)

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          • Very un-American, that is. 🙂

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          • makagutu says:

            You are right brother. The apologist argues only for the truth of his religion, all others are false. WLC does not quote the Koran. Reza Aslan does not quote the bible.

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        • So, you are arguing that the Christian bible is wrong when it says that everyone is damned except those who believe in Jesus Christ? And that Christians don’t really believe that?

          atheism can apply to one god or many gods. A Christian claims that no god except his exists, or at best, other gods are demonic things.

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          • Barry says:

            The bible isn’t right or wrong. It’s a collection of ancient texts and oral history whose authors had a very different world view from us in the 21 century. I don’t consider it literally “God’s Word”.

            I’m sure many Christians believe that everyone is damned except those who believe in Jesus Christ. But I would argue that more would not hold that view (I can’t speak for American Christians).

            There are a number of interfaith and multi-faith organisations here as well as organisations made up of humanist and religious bodies. They couldn’t exist if other beliefs were viewed as bad or evil.

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          • Do you consider the bible figuratively the word of this god?

            What evidence do you have other than your personal wishes that Christians agree with you and not their bible? There are indeed interfaith organizations. This does not mean that the Christians on them are not sure that anyone who disagrees with them are damned. Would you agree that people can be willing to work with each other for a common good, but still be sure that the other will be damned regardless of their actions? Christians often ally with Jews but their religions differ entirely at the base and must assume that the other is damned.

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          • Barry says:

            clubschadenfreude: No I don’t consider the bible figuratively the word of god.

            I don’t live in the USA. People here are more accommodating of differences. Sure there’s Christians who think I will burn in hell. So what? They probably think, Roman Catholics or Methodists or anyone who isn’t of their specific faith will have the fate. They are a distinct minority.

            Going back a decade or so, the New Zealand Council of Churches changed its method of decision making to accommodate our membership. They used to reach decisions by voting. We wouldn’t join until decisions were made by consensus. That’s unlikely to have happened if we weren’t viewed as Christian would it?

            It seems to be a peculiarly American characteristic that differing viewpoints are not valid. a sort of “if you’re not with us, you’re against us” mentality. This country was a direct victim of that when we passed our anti-nuclear legislation in the 1980s.

            If the Presbyterian church here can accommodate one of their highly ordained clergy claim there was no physical resurrection of Christ, and that God isn’t a person, then anything is possible. I think most Christians here consider religion a belief system, not a set of indisputable facts.

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          • Again, it is your belief that those who are sure that others will go to hell are a “distinct minority”. All of the evidence is against that belief.

            It is interesting that you are evidently a Christian (“our membership”) but have claimed that you don’t believe that the bible is a literal or a figurative instance of the word of your god. So, what informs your religion?

            Again, if you are a Christian your bible says that anyone who does not accept Jesus is damned. No ifs ands or buts. You seem to have created your own version of Christianity if you can say that parts of the bible are wrong and parts that you have invented are right. I am rather fascinated that you claim that the New Zealand Presbyterian church doesn’t belive in a physical resurrection or that God isn’t a person. I was raised a Presbyterian here in the states. Do you have any links by this “highly ordained clergy” that go into detail on their beliefs. Those particular ones certainly aren’t typical Presbyterian dogma. It seems that you find those beliefs rather heretical too if you mention the accommodation of such things in a Christian church. A belief system is a set of indisputable facts that one believes are true. For instance, you seem to think that there was a physical resurrection of Christ and that God is a person. These certainly seem to be indisputable facts to you.

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          • makagutu says:

            He lost me a long time back. Am christian but we don’t have to believe all these things

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          • Barry strikes me as a fairly typical Sophisticated Theologian type Christian who wants Christianity but doesn’t want to admit that it isn’t anything special, *is* ridiculous in its claims, and doesn’t want to admit that his fellow Christians are not all sweetness and light.

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          • Barry says:

            I don’t live in the USA. There are roughly the same number of atheists as there are Christians in this country. Of those Christians, less than 15% attend church on a regular basis. Many Christians here, take a very liberal interpretation of what “believe in Jesus” means. For many, “belief in Jesus” means having a set of values that support the teachings of Jesus whether the person knows of Jesus or not. And of course, those teachings can be interpreted in many different (and sometimes contradictory) ways.

            So, what informs your religion“. I assume you mean a source of authority? Essentially none, but perhaps I could phrase it as being God’s Spirit or Light, within and beyond ourselves. It’s a metaphor, but it’s the best I can do.

            How many times do I need to repeat that the Bible isn’t right or wrong. It’s a collection of ancient works that reflect the thoughts and beliefs of the people of the time. For the 21st century it’s not suitable as a book of rules nor an accurate source of history.

            I am rather fascinated that you claim that the New Zealand Presbyterian church doesn’t believe in a physical resurrection or that God isn’t a person“. Again you are constructing “facts” that simply are not there. The New Zealand Presbyterian church has room for clergy who don’t believe in the physical resurrection and don’t believe in a personal god. Mainstream churches in NZ are, in general, quite tolerant of dissent. The episode I touched on occurred in the 1960s when tolerance was much less than now. And most of the opposition came from the laity, and not the clergy. It was however a catalyst for a more liberal theology that has grown slowly throughout much of NZ since. It was possibly also the catalyst that gave rise to more fundamentalist sects as those of a more conservative nature left the mainstream churches:
            Lloyd Geering – God and Me

            I used “accommodate” because I couldn’t think of a better word. And I used the word in relation to the church, not to myself.

            you seem to think that there was a physical resurrection of Christ and that God is a person. These certainly seem to be indisputable facts to you“. You are reading more “information” into what was written than is actually provided. I never made any claims, nor did I infer, that I believe in a physical resurrection or that God was a person. Your assumptions are incorrect.

            As to a belief system being “a set of indisputable facts that one believes are true“, I have to disagree strongly. I think of a belief system as being like a theory. It’s a construction made up to fit the available information, and is constantly refined or modified in the light of new information. I believe it applies equally to individuals and groups.

            Because of my autism and chronic migraines, commenting on blogs can be a slow and tedious task. I started this reply at 3:30 pm NZ time, and it is now 7:50 pm. For me that is not really a productive use of my time. I would be more useful in supporting the same causes you support by using other means. Some of the attacks against me personally on other fora have been extremely vitriolic, including claims of knowing who I am and where to find me (some of which are not too far off the mark), and while I don’t believe the threats will be carried out, they are, none the less, disconcerting.

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          • Are you a Christian or not? Do you believe that people can only be saved by belief in Jesus? If not, and as you say, my assumptions are incorrect, what do you believe? Answers to this and my other questions would help clear up what you are trying to claim about other Christians. I can understand why Christianity becomes more and more vague because there is no evidence for its claims, not even some magical “light”. As I have asked, what is your evidence that most Christians believe as you claim they do? I have seem similar arguments made when Christians don’t want to be held accountable e.g. we don’t hurt anyone so don’t question us.

            You are the one who decided to comment on a blog. You decided it was a productive use of your time. To now claim that it isn’t when your claims are questioned isn’t surprising at all when you evidently haven’t any evidence for your claims. I have no idea why you are complaining about threats when none have been made here. Is it that you wish to claim that anyone who questions you is making a threat?

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          • Barry told Mak he (Mak) writes too much about god and that he was disappointed in all the blogs he visited recently where folks argue and debate such things. Then he told Mak he was leaving and going back to his perfect NZ hole where life is grand and the faithful welcome all with warmth and open arms. In other words, he doesn’t like us here. No one insulted this perfect fellow here. He went out of his way to come by and comment. He then insults the blog’s host. and says (in a sense) that this blog and its topics were beneath him so he was going back to his perfect hole to stay because he doesn’t like it here. And yet, here he is again writing long, defensive statements implying both his perfection and his innocence in insulting people. He’ll write a long comment in response to this too. He can’t NOT do it. Watch. He can’t help himself. He’s the same song being sung in a different tune. Next time Barry, when you say you’re leaving, just go. But you won’t, will you? Perfect people like you never can. Last comment I’ll make about, or to, this fellow. Any credibility he had is gone.

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          • Barry says:

            Are you a Christian or not?. Members of my faith do from time to time debate whether or not we are Christian. As yet, no consensus has been drawn. The faith started 350 years ago. Whereas Catholics believe in the authority of the Church, and Protestants believe in the authority of the Bible, we believe in the authority of that which we experience. In the early days, the bible was considered an important source of inspiration, but it was never a set of unquestionable instructions. As we have no creed or dogma, and no authoritative text, belief has evolved over the intervening years to the point we are at now. We come from a Christian tradition. Mainstream churches accept us as being Christian. Fundamentalist and evangelical churches consider us to be a dangerous heretical Satan led cult. Take your pick.

            what do you believe?” That’s akin to asking what do atheists believe apart from their non-belief in a deity. I can answer only from a personal perspective, but my beliefs are probably a generally held belief among followers.
            Do you believe that people can only be saved by belief in Jesus?” No. We are not born “into sin” so don’t need “saving”. Our beliefs are based on personal experience, not from any book. And in case you’re wondering, no my faith isn’t any better than any other, or no religion at all. It’s simply a way of life that suits its followers including me.

            Did you read the speech by Lloyd Geering I gave a link to? Is he still Christian? Even if you believe he’s not, he is till invited to speak to congregations of all faiths. Perhaps that wouldn’t happen in the USA, but it does happen here. Many (but not all) churches allow same sex marriages. My own faith has supported the rights of the LGBT community even in the days when homosexual acts were a criminal offence.

            Many who claim they are Christian have indeed harmed many people. It would be foolish to deny it. I would argue that such people will use any source available to justify their actions. And it’s probably still happens from time to time here in NZ. I have no interest in what someone’s faith is or isn’t, harming anyone is wrong. Period.

            You are the one who decided to comment on a blog” Yes indeed. I decided to to comment on this an numerous other blogs, and they all seemed reasonable and friendly. Unfortunately I discovered some were not to my tastes, and some, not this one I must point out, turned out to be anything but friendly. If you consider “I know where you live and I’m going to send you and your bitch to Hell” not a threat, please tell me what is. I didn’t complain. I was simply saying why I am no longer comfortable taking part in such discussions, and why I was ceasing further comment.

            While I support the cause for atheist rights, ceaseless questioning of what I believe theologically is wasteful and irrelevant. Firstly it’s like trying to nail jelly to a tree, and secondly, whether or not I believe Jesus walked on water has no bearing on my challenging discrimination whether it’s based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, or ability (and in case you come to an incorrect conclusion, no I don’t believe Jesus walked on water).

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          • You’ve invented your own religion and insist that you know some truth just like every other religion. Congratulations. I do agree that trying to get a straight answer from you is very much like trying to nail jelly to a tree. It seems that you are very much trying to not give a straight answer to a simple question. I’ve encountered this attitude from many theists when they don’t want to admit their claims are baseless; taking refuge in vagueness to keep faith alive.

            It doesn’t surprise me that you, like all other theists, are sure that only your version is correct and that others only call themselves Christian. Their actions are just as Christian as your actions since you each define your Christianity as whatever you want.

            It is also no surprise that you wish that no one would question your claims. It is not “wasteful or irrelevant” to point out that your claims are no more valid than your fellow Christians. You might believe that this character is a teacher of morals. And you pick and choose what morals you want this character “really” meant to teach, just like every other theist. You may indeed challenge discrimination and claim that it’s some moral truth based on based on a god.

            Your mentioning of threats that never happened on this blog as a reason to avoid commenting is rather silly.

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          • Barry says:

            clubschadenfreude:
            You’ve invented your own religion” Of course I’ve invented my own religion. All religions are man made. Always have been and always will be. Question: Have I ever implied that religion wasn’t man made?

            and insist that you know some truth just like every other religion” At no time have I claimed I know the truth. What I believe is simply what I believe. It is not the “Truth” as you call it. It is how I make sense of the world I live in. No more and no less. Question: Where have I insisted I know any truth?

            It seems that you are very much trying to not give a straight answer to a simple question. I’ve encountered this attitude from many theists when they don’t want to admit their claims are baseless; taking refuge in vagueness to keep faith alive.” What simple question? Do you mean a yes or no answer to me being a Christian? I am Christian in so much as other Christians in NZ identify me as being Christian. You state my claims are baseless, Question: What baseless claims have I made?

            It doesn’t surprise me that you, like all other theists, are sure that only your version is correct and that others only call themselves Christian. Their actions are just as Christian as your actions since you each define your Christianity as whatever you want. ” I make no claims that my beliefs are correct. It’s possible they are completely wrong. I am not a theist, nor a deist. I’m not even a pantheist. I have no idea if god exists or not, although I experience something that I call God. To me it doesn’t require defining. Question: What actions do you believe I might take or support that would be contrary to actions you would undertake or support?. In other words, what action would I do or support that can only be attributed to a religious belief?

            You might believe that this character is a teacher of morals. And you pick and choose what morals you want this character “really” meant to teach, just like every other theist” I presume you’re referring to Jesus. Look, there’s very little concrete evidence to support that anything he supposedly said came from his lips. I don’t choose moral values because he taught them. I have values which happen to be in line with many that are ascribed to Jesus. Question: What makes you think that I would choose certain moral values just because one person is supposed to have said them?

            You may indeed challenge discrimination and claim that it’s some moral truth based on based on a god.” I make no claim that my moral values are based on a god. There are moral lessons in all forms of literature – even Dr Seuss. No, I don’t believe Yertle the Turtle is real, but the story can help illustrate that everyone deserves equal rights. I don’t believe in equal rights because of Dr Seuss, but I agree with that message. Question: Do you believe I place the bible above any other book?

            Your mentioning of threats that never happened on this blog as a reason to avoid commenting is rather silly.” No, threats never happened on this blog. Perhaps it was foolish of me to mention those here. And perhaps I didn’t explain my reasons clearly. I’m not dropping out of making comments from time to time (if makagutu will allow me). I am dropping out of commenting on theology, because what I say is often misunderstood by many, especially non NZers, This can result result in quite vicious comments at times, and the occasional threat which is hard to ignore. While I don’t mind my beliefs being questioned, I do find tedious the baseless assumptions that I believe the opposite to what I say. I also object to personal insults. You may not think that it’s an insult to suggest that I crawled out of a hole because the stench was too great, but I do (and that was in a comment on makagutu’s blog). Thank you for not resorting to that type of comment.

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          • makagutu says:

            Barry, there is only one person who isn’t allowed to comment here and he knows it.
            Theology posts are often heated and I don’t blame either side for their views. On one side you are likely to find believers who think atheists need salvation and can’t be moral and what nots and you find atheists who have been religious and feel, rightly so, that they wished they had not been brought up religious.
            Now, it does seem that the conception of Christianity that you hold and if it is prevalent in NZ is strange to most of us. You remember I once indicated that I don’t think one can claim the title of christian and declare very boldly, which I admire as you do, that the bible, religion is work of man and will always be. I have on occasion told you are way cooler than your creed. I will not ask you to drop your creed, far from it. But at least you understand where these heathens are coming from. In the places where they live and even mine believers want to erase the line between secular state and church. In Tenn. their congress passed a bill to make the bible the state book. I don’t know how that works, and like you, I don’t know what it is with American evangelicals.

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          • Barry says:

            Perhaps an explanation why liberal Christianity is so prevalent in NZ is that at the time European settlement began here, liberal theology was on the rise. I didn’t realise until a few days ago, that liberal Christianity was the dominant form of theology in American mainstream churches at the start of the 20th century. It seems to have all but disappeared in the USA by the the end of the century, whereas it continued to flourish here. It’s only in the last few decades that American fundamentalism has started to creep in, but because organised religion plays such a small part in our lives, they are unlikely to have any significant influence here. Even a hundred years ago less than 20% of the population attended church. Now it’s a fraction of that.

            As for not asking me to drop my creed, I don’t have one, nor does the the religious group I belong to. Creeds and dogma stifle growth, whereas being open to new knowledge, allows us to explore new paths as they arise.

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          • makagutu says:

            Now that makes a lot of sense though am afraid if the fundamentalists start making inroads, their rise will be hard to stem and it may not happen in your lifetime but it sure can alter the Religious landscape of NZ

            Liked by 1 person

          • Barry says:

            Fundamentalist growth is mainly from the most conservative members of the mainstream churches. They have a very small pool to dip into. Once that pool has dried up, they will be not be able to grow any further.

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          • makagutu says:

            I hope it remains that way.
            America seems to export bad habits everywhere else. Intolerance, religious madness and drones

            Liked by 1 person

          • Barry says:

            They should keep all those things inside their borders.

            I find it fascinating that Americans as individuals are very nice and interesting people, but when combined as a nation, far less so. It’s an enigma.

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          • makagutu says:

            Indeed.
            Or export just the best they got

            Liked by 1 person

          • Barry says:

            I don’t think intolerance, religious madness and drones are ever likely to qualify as the best. But the US does have other redeeming features, which are fine in moderation.

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          • So you agree your claims of any god existing have no basis? It’s curious if you make claims, complain that others speak too much about god, and then try to claim that you “only” believe what you believe. You believe that such things are true. it is fascinating to watch someone claim that they believe in something but then try to insist that this isn’t important. There is a reason you are misunderstood, that’s because you make claims and then run away when asked questions, complaining that no one understands you and making no effort to try to see that they do.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Barry says:

            So you agree your claims of any god existing have no basis?” I haven’t claimed that God exists.
            You believe that such things are true” Because I believe something, doesn’t make it true. I might make some assumptions about your personality based on our discussion here, but that doesn’t mean my assumptions are correct.
            There is a reason you are misunderstood, that’s because you make claims and then run away when asked questions What claims have I made? In fact the only claim I have made is that lumping all Christians or all atheists together is unhelpful and can be distasteful to me. If I have made any other claims, please elaborate.
            [you are] complaining that no one understands you and making no effort to try to see that they do.” They don’t need to understand me any more than I need to understand you. I’ve been living with my wife for 44 years. I still don’t understand her, but I certainly miss her when she’s not here. Some things don’t need to be defined precisely. In fact some things can’t be defined. What I don’t do is make baseless assumptions about what someone else believes.

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          • Oh my. “I haven’t claimed that God exists”. and “What claims have I made?” This is a written medium, Barry, we can see them. This isn’t some solipsistic post-modern version of reality. I’m not going to play the game of you trying to redefine words.

            Please, please do make some of these assumptions about my personality. I do want to see how that works out.

            I’m sorry you don’t understand your wife. That’s rather sad. I understand my husband very well as he does me. That happens when you pay attention and don’t decide that the only way you can retain your nonsense is by declaring no one can know anything.

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          • Barry says:

            As this is a written medium, I’m sure you are able to point me to something I have written that supports a claim that I believe that a deity or supernatural being or spirit exists. As for redefining words, the meaning of words change over time and can have subtle differences in meaning depending on where one lives, and in some cases have totally different meanings. Having visited America, I am only too well aware of how familiar words and phrases can have totally different meanings.

            I will not make assumptions about you based on our conversation threads here. Any such assumptions would be unsafe. I don’t know your background or how your past influences your current beliefs. I don’t know enough about your beliefs to make any sort of judgement call. I don’t know if you were immersed in the extreme forms of “Christianity” that so many Americans seem to have been at some part of their life journey. I don’t even know what part of the world you come from. I assume you have strong feelings against all forms of religion, but I might be reading more into this thread than I should. I assume you have a reason why you ignore my requests to provide some support for your claims that I have a belief in the supernatural, but I’m not going to make any assumptions about why you have made that choice. I assume you think think that “being religious” requires an obedience to some sort of dogma or creed, or a requirement to believe in myths as historical fact. I make such assumptions based on statements such as “Oh my. ‘I haven’t claimed that God exists’ …”. I assume it means you don’t believe me, but I can’t make any assumption as to why you don’t believe me as you haven’t provided any clues.

            I will never fully understand my wife (or anybody else) for that matter), but life is a journey and discoveries are frequent, exiting and mostly wonderful. That especially applies to my relationship with my wife. If you think it’s sad that I still discover new things about her almost every day, then you and I will never be on the same page.

            Please don’t tell me I don’t pay attention. Do you struggle on a daily basis to comprehend the nuances of social interaction between friends, family and strangers? Do you frequently find yourself physically and mentally exhausted while paying attention to those you love? I’m probably safe to assume you are like 99% of the population who don’t. Otherwise why would you assume that I don’t pay attention?

            The truth of the matter is that I will probably never fully understand her just as I will probably never fully understand the society I live in. I am 65 and still don’t understand much of what I experience. I can’t read facial expressions or body language, or the subtleties of written or spoken language that you probably take for granted, and no amount of explaining by you or anyone else will make any difference.

            Again you make a vague reference to “nonsense” I supposedly believe but fail to identify even one such belief, even when challenged. As for “declaring no one can know anything“, I am truly curious to know where I might have made such a declaration. Perhaps you can make an exception this time, and point out where I made such a claim. Please.

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          • Well, barry, everytime you say you believe in something, that is a claim that something is true according to you. If you didn’t think it was true, aka a fact, then you couldn’t believe it. So, when you say that you believe in a god, you think that there is a god. You of course will not define this god, though you claim you are a Christian and say that others consider you Christian. If they thnk you are Christian, there has to be a reason. What is it? If it is that you believe that the son of god came to teach humans, then that’s pretty darn standard Christian.

            When one claims belief in something, it the claim that something is true. If I say I believe that the US landed men on the moon, then I am saying that I am certain it is a fact. That is what you are doing when you make claims about your religion. You seem strangely afraid of actually stating what you believe, as if you do not want to be shown you are wrong and you are afraid taking responsibility for your beliefs. Now, can religions change? Yes, they do, when they come up against reality.
            It’s always fun to watch someone try to excuse their attempts to redefine words by citing history. You are correct, words do change meaning over time. What theists do is that they try to redefine what religion and god means, so their nonsense can exist and they can cling to their faith a little while longer. Your faith may be 350 years old. If it isn’t one of the old faiths, it is an indication that someone thought someone else was wrong. Religions are man-made but they claim that they know some divine truth. They cannot demonstrate this.

            I also find it hilarious that you of course won’t voice your assumptions about me, but you have no problem in trying to cast aspersions about me by mentioning such assumptions. Why even bother?

            Oh, I don’t ignore your request for evidence. I was hoping you would read your own post and realize what you have done. If you want evidence that you have made claims about Christianity and god, etc, I have no problem in doing that at all. As I have said claiming belief in something is claiming that you think that nonsense is true. You may alter the belief but it is considered a truth you believe.

            “The religious group I belong to has no dogma or creed, because such things become rules and stifle growth. It holds that what you believe is between you and God (whatever you perceive God to be, and if you don’t believe in god, substitute conscience for God)”

            Religion aren’t about conscience, that’s not how the word is defined. They are about the worship of supernatural entities, which you apparently have a perception of this god). Now, here I suspect I’ll be told that football(either kind) can be a religion. Not in the sense we have been discussing. You’ve been asked what religion you have. You have done your best to avoid answering. And it seems that the only reason is that you won’t want to have your beliefs shown to be wrong, so you think you can hide them so no one can question you.

            “That’s unlikely to have happened if we weren’t viewed as Christian would it?”

            The question here is why do these other Christians accept you as Christian? It seems that you indeed share beliefs with them. These beliefs would be that Christians accept Jesus Christ as the son of a god. Do you accept this as truth or not, Barry? If not, then to make any sense you need to reveal yourclaim of truth if they differ from Christians.

            “I think most Christians here consider religion a belief system, not a set of indisputable facts.”

            Again, a belief system is based on the acceptance of claims as facts. Most Christians, if not all, do consider their beliefs true. That’s what belief in something means.

            “For many, “belief in Jesus” means having a set of values that support the teachings of Jesus whether the person knows of Jesus or not. And of course, those teachings can be interpreted in many different (and sometimes contradictory) ways.”

            This is such nonsense. If these teachings can be interpreted in many different, contradictory ways, then how can these “many” define this set of values that support the teaching of Jesus. Nice claim, but wow, what a fail on how it could possibly work.

            “Members of my faith do from time to time debate whether or not we are Christian. As yet, no consensus has been drawn. The faith started 350 years ago.”

            So you do have a faith, that started 350 years ago. And again, you make claims of a faith, a belief in something that you think is true, and again you are evidently terrified of actually naming it. All theists are fundamentalists, in that they are sure that their beliefs are true and others aren’t. If they thought others were true, then they’d believe in them. I’m going to make an educated guess that you are a Quaker. They have dogma and claims of truth too. But of course, you can always correct me if I am not correct. Will you?

            “And apart from a small number of toxic Christian sects I don’t believe most Christians believe theirs is the only “correct” religion. Most probably believe theirs is the “most correct” religion, but proselytising is very rare here, apart from American based churches.”

            Here we get to see you attack other Christians as wrong, calling them “toxic”. Again, your belief is a claim of what is true and what is not true.

            You didn’t say that you didn’t understand your wife fully. You said you didn’t understand her, period. This statement seems to have been made to support your claim that no one needs to understand anything completely and they don’t need to understand you because you choose not to actually explain what you believe. I don’t have to discover new things about my husband, he’s quite nifty as he is.

            One other thing to tell you. Yes, I do indeed struggle on a daily basis to deal with people. I’m very likely on the autistic scale too, based on my childhood and my adulthood (unfortunately, I suspect you will claim I can’t be). I have had to consciously learn how to deal with people. I don’t do it automatically at all. Every interaction is planned, thought out and then implemented. You again make baseless claims that I make vague use of the word “nonsense” and have nothing to support them. You have tried to claim that you do not understand your wife, that no one can really understand your claims of “god”. I’ve cited them above. I suspect this will then become a claim that you never said something word for word. You may have not meant this, but from what I have read, it seems, to me, that you do mean what I have indicated because of the statements I have noted.

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          • Barry says:

            OK, we seem to be coming from different angles. I don’t equate “believing” with something factual. For example: a week ago a friend asked me where my wife was. I told her “I believe she’s travelling from Sendai to Tokyo today”. All I had to go on was a fragment of a conversation I had with her a few days earlier over a substandard telephone connection. It was an assumption (or perhaps faith) that she was in fact travelling, but I had absolutely no no way of knowing for certain. Likewise, I believe the Big Bang theory is a probable (and most likely) explanation for the beginning of the universe based on our present knowledge. But I can not state with certainty that the Big Bang occurred. On the other hand, if I hit my thumb with a hammer, I can state with absolute certainty that it hurts – belief isn’t required.

            I agree religions are man made. I have stated so on numerous occasions. As to whether I accept Jesus Christ as the son of a god: I thought I had already made that abundantly clear. I repeat: I don’t believe god is a being; Jesus is as much the “son of god” as any other human being; I believe there probably was a Jesus, but the evidence is not sufficient to claim categorically that he existed. If you insist on a single word answer, the answer is No.

            I apologise if you thought I was casting aspersions about your character. That was not my intention, I was trying to illustrate why I won’t make assumptions based on incomplete information. It would appear that I made a bad choice of examples. Rightly or wrongly I felt your comments were antagonistic. But how I feel about your comments is not grounds for making assumptions (forming beliefs) about your intent, or your character. If anyone else thought I was casting aspersions, it was not and is not my intention to do so.

            I disagree that religion requires worship of supernatural entities. To be honest, I’m not sure that I can define what religion means to me. Perhaps being in awe of something beyond my comprehension? Perhaps I could say an awareness of the divine, but then I would need to define what I mean by “divine”. Perhaps a reverence for the potential good of mankind?

            No, I don’t believe football can be a religion. At least that is something we can agree on. Why would you think otherwise?

            I don’t believe I have been asked to which religious group I am affiliated with. You have asked about specific aspects of what I believe, and I have answered them as best I can, but obviously not in a way that makes sense to you. But that’s simply because I don’t feel the need to define it, and no matter what words I choose, they seem to be inadequate, and open to interpretations and definitions I don’t intend. I’d have just as much difficulty if I was asked to describe/define my love for my wife, children or grandchildren. It is not trying to avoid the issue. Some things are simply not describable/definable (to me at any rate).

            I fail to see the problem in different groups interpreting the same message in different ways. One only needs to look at a more modern document such as the American Constitution and the right to bear arms. While most Americans probably believe that’s a right that must not be tampered with, there is plenty of argument as to what it actually means. I’ve seen arguments ranging from it meaning anyone can carry any type of weapon anywhere at any time, to only being acceptable as part of a militia. In my own country, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the Crown and Maori 175 years ago, but there is still disagreement over the meaning of the most important clauses relating to sovereignty and governance. If there can be disagreement over legal documents as recent as these, surely, there can be conflicting interpretations over a collection of ancient writings.

            I dispute your claim that “All theists are fundamentalists, in that they are sure that their beliefs are true and others aren’t”. I agree that many theists, particularly the fundamentalists, do think that way, but from my personal experience that is not the majority view in mainstream churches here. As for myself, My wife’s family practice Shintoism and Buddhism and I consider those beliefs are just as valid and true as any other belief, including my own. When my daughter’s family recite a karakia before every meal, do I think they praying to false gods? Some people may think of it as invoking spirits or worse, but don’t see it that way at all. When my son-in-law presented me with a hei tiki, a ceremonial blessing was required – a solemn and religious occasion that had as much meaning to me as it did to him. I’ll acknowledge that some Christians might believe such practices are “heathen” and therefore the work of Satan, but some Christians believe the earth is 5000 years old, and heaven and hell are real places.

            Had I grown up in another part of the world, I would probably define my beliefs in totally different terms that might or might not involve god(s). I grew up in a laissez faire (live and let live) Christian-based society, so it’s natural that I express my beliefs in terms that I am familiar with. If I express my world view in terms that appear theistic to you, so be it. It’s of little importance to me whether I’m considered Christian, atheist, pantheist, panentheist, theist, deist, or whatever. Other people often make a big deal out of it. I don’t.

            The use of “toxic” is in terms of harm some groups cause their members or other parts of society. Claims that “God hates fags” or claims that a failure to believe X, Y, or Z means you’re destined for hell, are toxic. Hatred is toxic. Intolerance of differences is toxic. To me that is a fact. Whether it’s based on religion or not, if it harms a part of society or attempts to place one section of society above another then it is toxic. So yes, some groups that call themselves Christian are toxic.

            Your educated guess is indeed very nearly correct. The religious group I feel is my home is the Religious Society of Friends. Am I a Quaker? Probably. I avoid specifying a particular faith, because too often assumptions are made that I must therefore hold specific beliefs, and discussion goes off on tangents that I consider irrelevant. But I’m not going to hide my affiliation. Simply by mentioning my affiliation, I have been accused by both atheists and Christians of proselytising, something I want to avoid.

            I am trying to find any dogma or claims of truth you say Quakers have. As belief in a deity is not a requirement, I’m wondering what you mean by dogma or truths. There are some values that are commonly held, but there’s no dogma, creed, rule or law that requires one to hold such values. It wasn’t my intention to discuss Quaker beliefs here, but as I have long forgotten why this discussion started, if you have specific questions, please ask.

            As to why other mainstream Christian faiths accepts Quakers as Christian, you’d probably have to ask them. That the (now defunct) NZ Council of Churches altered their constitution specifically so that Quakers could feel able to join, speaks to the fact that they accepted Quakers as fellow Christians. On the other hand some Christians believe Quakers are a dangerous cult that brainwashes followers into worshipping the anti-Christ. Take your pick. I have in jest described myself as a non-theist Christian or a Christian non-theist, If you prefer a different label, feel free to use it.

            As to understanding my wife, I discovered long ago, that that more I learnt about her, the more I realised I didn’t know about her. Part of that is probably due to being on the autism spectrum, but the fact that she spent the first 24 years of her life in a totally different and to me quite alien culture is at least as important. When we were married about 10 years, I thought I mostly understood her. Now I can acknowledge that with every new understanding comes two new mysteries. That’s why I can comfortably say I don’t understand her. You are reading more into what I wrote than I intended to convey. Unfortunately, my reader isn’t letting me pull up the entire thread, so I have been relying only on your responses as to what I wrote previously. I acknowledge I am clumsy with words, and often what I intend to convey isn’t what I actually say or write.

            Why would you suspect that I would say you can’t be on the autism spectrum? I fail to see how you could make such an assumption The simple fact is that most people aren’t. You will notice that I did say “probably” when referring to the 99%. There is a lot of stigma attached to being on the spectrum, so if someone is prepared to acknowledge that they are on the spectrum (even if self-diagnosed) then they have my respect. I was diagnosed when I was 60, and for quite a while I was reluctant to accept that I was autistic. It took even longer to “come out”, so to speak.

            It’s clear to me that you and I see the world through different eyes. It seems that you believe my world view is full of nonsense. I don’t. You believe your world view is better than mine, Perhaps it is. As neither of us believe in an afterlife, there’s little likelihood of knowing for sure.

            May I now ask you some specific questions? You have asked a lot about what I believe, which is far removed from the original discussion which was that all theists believe anyone who doesn’t hold their particular belief is an atheist.
            (1) did you read the transcript of Lloyd Geering’s Speech I referred to previously?
            (2) if so, do you believe he is a Christian?
            (3) if not, do you believe it odd that he is a popular speaker in churches of many denominations?
            (4) Do you believe the Presbyterian Church in the USA would allow a person holding such views to remain an ordained minister?

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          • I’ll be back to address the rest of this later. What I do wish to point out now is that you said that you believed that your wife was doing “x”. You thought it was true, and yes, you based it on a fragment of information. You certainly didn’t believe that she was flying to the moon on the back of a goose.

            Liked by 1 person

          • just a note to let you know that I’ll be back. hurt my hand and I’m behind on responses.

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          • makagutu says:

            Get well quick, dear friend.

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          • thank you 🙂

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          • As I said, you do seem to be equating believing with something factual since you don’t actually think your wife is flying to the moon on a goose. You have based your claim on reality, not on some impossible nonsense that I’ve invented.

            You can state with a degree of certainty that the Big Bang occurred. Can you be absolutely sure, no if one wants to split hairs, but there is no reason to claim that the universe came out of the burp of some magical being because no fact supports that. This the same as you hitting your thumb with a hammer, or as in my case, my cat biting my hand to give me four puncture wounds just below my right thumb. We both have facts. We both know that the universe isn’t some Seussian nonsense that caused my hand to start dripping blood everywhere or your thumb to be in pain from no causation. There are facts e.g. evidence for the Big Bang, my cat, my sore hand and your thumb.

            You say that you don’t believe that the Christian God is a being. So what do you believe it to be, for it must be something to exist. If it has no qualities, then it doesn’t exist, not even as a thought. You still hedge your words like many theists do, wanting to claim that “religion” is man-made but there is some “thing” you claim exists.
            To claim that you won’t make assumptions based on incomplete information seems to be to be a selective claim. I am sure that you make plenty of assumptions without complete information. Can you be entirely certain that the sun will appear to rise in the east? Per your own argument, no one can be certain of this, yet you act like this will happen every day. You don’t know for certain that Godzilla won’t possibly come out of the nearest large body of water, but you don’t live your life as if it did. You assume it won’t..
            Religion has a certain set of definitions. All words do and that’s how humans know what each other is talking about. I think you do have a great alternate definition of what religion is, awe dependent on not understanding. If you do not believe in the divine, another term that does have a perfectly fine definition, then you do not have a religion. If you have a belief in human potential, there is another good word for that: humanism. No religion needed at all.

            I would think that some theists would claim that anything can be a religion because I have had theists insist that everyone is religious. It’s a common attempt from some theists to insist that everyone is like them, so they can claim that no one should call them on their nonsense.

            You have been asked what religious group you are affiliated with. If you don’t think so, let me ask you now: What religious group are you affliated with? And you still do not answer. It’s amazing to see you intentionally avoid answering again and again. It’s a dodge to say that your religion was created 350 years ago and then again refuse to acknowledge what it is. It seems that you have no wish to take responsibility for what you do believe in. Your actions are no surprise at all. To try to dance around the subject if you are a Quaker, by saying “probably” just makes me shake my head. You evidently do hold “specific beliefs” because if you disagree with those of others, then you are indicating that you think that they are wrong. Not hard to find dogma and belief that Quakers have, just by doing an internet search for Quaker beliefs. A site: http://www.quakerinfo.org/index Now, I am finding that you are doing your best to ignore the definitions of dogma and belief in order to try to claim that Quakers have no such things. Dogma: a belief or set of beliefs that is taught by a religious organization. Creed: a statement of the basic beliefs of a religion. http://www.quakerinfo.org/quakerism/faithandpractice

            The American Constitution, nor the Treaty of Waitangi, are not claiming to be inspired from a magical objectively true source. So your attempt to compare it to the claims of your religion fail at that basic level when you try to claim it’s okay for different people to interpret the same message in different ways. Christians claim that the bible is from a magical being, and pick and choose what parts are “really” from it and are not. If you don’t claim that the bible is divinely inspired, then of course people interpret the message in different ways, because it is just human nonsense that has no evidence to it, even less coherent than the Constitution or the Treaty. This is the problem: people claim that their and only their interpretation is correct because God approves and they harm others over it.

            All theists are fundamentalists because each of you are sure that your beliefs are true and others aren’t. If they thought other beliefs were true, they’d be following them, right? If you believe Shinto and Buddhism are true and accurately describe the universe, then why aren’t you a Shinto or Buddhist? Because what they claim is not what Christianity claims, and again, well, we have no idea what you claim since you refuse to say. You seem to be a universalist, which want to claim that all gods are “really” their god. Is this true?
            You are right, Christians don’t agree. I have one that I am debating with right now that has claimed that Christians sects are more the same than different but when asked if he’d obey a theocracy run by another sect than his, he says he’d rather die, taking up the path of Thomas Moore, Catholics against Henry the 8th and the Anglican church.

            I agree, I am sure you only ape the religious society you are in. Refering to gods is indeed theistic, since that’s again the definition of the word. You want to complain that others don’t talk about gods the way you want them too and then claim you don’t care what others consider you to be. It would seem that you do care, or you wouldn’t complain.

            I have no problem in being intolerant of many things. I am very intolerant of people who claim that others are less than human. Should I just smile and let them continue on their way, unopposed? Am I “toxic” if I stand up to the skinheads in my city? The problem with one group of Christians claiming another is “toxic” is that they are both using the same bible to support their claims. I can call them toxic by comparing them to humane treatment, but one sect calling the other toxic is amusingly hypocritical.

            Considering that Quaker websites mention Christ, I’d say that’s a pretty good reason that other Christians call Quakers Christians.

            I would suspect that you would say I can’t be on the autism spectrum since you said probably and made some claim that 99% of humanity isn’t.

            One doesn’t need to have an afterlife to know what reality is and to know that just “anything” can’t happen.

            Yes, I did read the transcript. Any questions about it? I’ve also read other ones. Mr. Geering is no more or no less Christian than anyone else who claims to be so. He reinterprets what he wants to believe, and ignores the parts he doesn’t like. I’ve known plenty of universalists, who want to keep the believe in some supernatural unknowable “thing” and to believe that everyone is worshipping the same “thing”. There are plenty of Christians who have declared that their god is some unknowable “force”, “ground of being”, etc. I have no idea if the Presbyterian churches in the US would accept him as a preacher, there are more than a few versions. What I have noted that many Christians make their religion vaguer and vaguer to avoid the problems in the nonsense the bible teaches, where the nasty parts are declared to be not biblical, or to be metaphor, anything to keep external validation up and the coffers full.

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          • Barry says:

            Our comments are getting too long, my reader allows me to see a maximum of four short lines and drops random characters while I’m typing, so I’ll break my response into separate sections.

            All theists are fundamentalists because each of you are sure that your beliefs are true and others aren’t. If they thought other beliefs were true, they’d be following them, right?
            I disagree. Religion isn’t a set of facts. Religion is a way of interpreting, or making sense of one’s experiences of life. It doesn’t require a set of rules, creed or dogma, although it often acquires these. I can’t speak for others, but as far as I am concerned There is no such thing as a right or wrong religion, unless aspects of that religion does harm to adherents or others. Then I’m prepared to call those aspects toxic.

            My wife’s family practise Shinto and Buddhist religions because they are the dominant religions where they live. The practices, myths and legends of those religions are meaningful to them. I did not grow up there, so such practices and beliefs do not fit easily with me. I recognise their beliefs and practices are meaningful to them, just as mine are meaningful to me. I honestly do not know how to make this point any more clear. “True” or “false”, “right” or “wrong”, in the sense I think you mean it, is irrelevant when it comes to religion as far as I am concerned.

            Religion has a certain set of definitions. All words do and that’s how humans know what each other is talking about.
            Partially true. If I mention the word “biscuit” do you think of (1) this or (2) this?
            If you see the word “Bach” what do you think it’s referring to: (a) this, (b) this or (c) this?

            layby, bush, twink, kiwi, rubber, entrée, chips, stubbies, napkin, dairy, biscuit, and crib are just a few non-slang words commonly used in NZ English that have a different meaning in some other English speaking countries. Likewise, God, the divine and similar words have different meanings/interpretations in different faiths.

            You have been asked what religious group you are affiliated with. If you don’t think so, let me ask you now: What religious group are you affliated with? And you still do not answer.
            Please re-read my previous comment. I answered you very clearly there: “The religious group I feel is my home is the Religious Society of Friends.“. I attend meetings for worship as and when I can, which is about 2 to 3 times a year due to constraints caused by health and distance. I am not a member, but when health permits I participate in Quaker activities. I have never hidden my affiliation when asked, but for the reasons I mentioned in my previous comment and in the comments on Lest we Forget: Quaker Peace Statement I prefer not to shout it from the rooftops. Likewise I have stated in numerous forums that to the best of my knowledge there is nothing in the NZ version of Quakerism that conflicts with my own beliefs. Having said that, Quakerism isn’t about what you believe theologically, it’s about how you live spiritually. It’s for that reason I used the term “probably” when saying whether or not I am a Quaker. I appreciate you seem to have a problem when I include a level of doubt in my answers, but that’s the way I am. I have no opinion or belief that I hold as being absolutely true. They are all open to re-evaluation in the light of new knowledge.

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          • I agree that religion is a way of interpreting, or making sense of one’s experiences in live. This is done by declaring that there are facts that explain these experiences, e.g. that a god exists and wants “x”, that there is some supernatural “force” that the believer refuses to define, etc. Religion by definition requires rules, creed and/or dogma. Most religions claim that all beliefs but theirs are wrong, and you have indicated that you do not agree with other religion’s claims, even if they aren’t what you define as “toxic”, by saying that you agree with belief “x” but not with belief “y”.

            It strikes me that you want to use the word “meaningful” when you describe your religion and that of your wife and her family to avoid saying that you and the others find your and their beliefs true. How are they meaningful if one doesn’t find them true? What meaning do those beliefs have?

            I know that the term biscuit can mean a couple of things. Religion has changed from belief in gods to one different definition, based on that belief in something is overarchingly important, e.g. “His religion is football.” I believe I have mentioned earlier that theists have tried with me to claim that I was religious too in order to make believe that I was no different from them to excuse their belief in nonsense. You seem to be doing the same thing, to try to redefine religion to fit what you actually do believe and still keep a term that doesn’t match that at all. I have found that many people equate religion with the idea of good, and this would give a reason why someone would cling to a term that no longer defines what they are.

            Definition is also dependent on context, so giving stand alone examples of how words can difference across cultures is trying to avoid the point. I will know what you mean if you say biscuit and I know you are from the UK. If you are claiming that you have some sense of the supernatural, what you claim you cannot define, as in control, then religion in this context means belief in such a “force”, just like “divine” means one thing in context. Your stance reminds me much of so many Sophisticated Theologians who try their best to redefine their beliefs so they do not have to deal with the problems of their religions, trying to claim that anyone but them is not believing in the “right” way, and thus their religion can’t be blamed for the problems it causes. Karen Armstrong is one of those, sure that religion can never be a malignant force, and its only everyone else’s misunderstanding of it that causes such problems.

            I am sensitive to attempts to redefine words since I do have problems in interacting with humans. I depend on definitions and context to know what another human is talking about. When one side chooses to make up a new definition and intentionally ignore the established definition, it seems to me as an attempt to intentionally confuse the subject maliciously.

            Quakerism is both what one believes theologically and how one lives spiritually. Again, it seems that you want to keep the terminology of religion but you wish to redefine it for some reason. To believe in a spirit is to believe in a supernatural force. All of the definition of spiritual and similar words is dependent on religion.

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          • makagutu says:

            Club, I think, when you grant

            I agree that religion is a way of interpreting, or making sense of one’s experiences in live

            you allow room for redefinition of words till they lose meaning. Religion strictly speaking has to do with the belief in the supernatural. Interpretation comes later

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          • I did not mean to do so and don’t think I did since I said

            “I agree that religion is a way of interpreting, or making sense of one’s experiences in live. This is done by declaring that there are facts that explain these experiences, e.g. that a god exists and wants “x”, that there is some supernatural “force” that the believer refuses to define, etc.”

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          • makagutu says:

            My apologies, club,

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          • no need to apologize. 🙂 it’s what you saw I said. nno problem with that.

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          • Barry says:

            You state that religion by definition requires rules, creed and/or dogma. If you are correct, then I’m not religious, nor are many fellow Quakers in NZ. However, I and the majority of Quakers would disagree with that definition. I agree that many religions claim that all beliefs but theirs are wrong, but I don’t hold that view.

            Let me put it this way: to me religion is an experience, not a set of beliefs. People can and do create belief based on their experience, but I’m not convinced that it’s required. When I say I experience God, it has meaning to me. It cannot have meaning to anyone else. Having that experience does not require that I start building a belief system around it. It doesn’t require that I construct a deity, or proclaim someone walked on water or that homosexuality is a sin. Morality, theology and religious experience are independent of each other in my view.

            You may well know the difference between a US biscuit and and a UK biscuit, but most people don’t. When my daughter was an exchange student in Spain, she and a number of English speaking students from the USA got together frequently. On their first introduction she offered to share some biscuits she had brought from NZ with the American girls. They all declined assuming 4 day old biscuits would be inedible. When she produced them they all exclaimed “Oh, you mean cookies!”. The “cookies” were then shared. Similarly when my daughter innocently asked if any of the other girls had a rubber she could use, the look of shock on the other girls’ faces was apparently something to behold. They started to lecture her on why casual sex was inappropriate. She had no idea that a rubber was an American colloquialism for an entirely different object than the one she had in mind. All she wanted was an object to rub out (erase) a spelling mistake.

            I agree that religion can be a source of harm, but then so can capitalism or socialism if taken to extremes. None, in themselves are harmful, but can be made not only harmful, but dangerous as well.

            I don’t believe I have tried to redefine any words. It is not I who have defined them. What is meant by God or gods has been in constant evolution since the invention of theology thousands of years ago. I’m sure early Christians would not recognise the modern versions of Christianity as being their own and probably would scoff at the concept of the Trinity. Even if The Quaker belief in God was not significantly different from mainstream Christianity in the seventeenth century, I think 350 years is sufficient time for what one understands by the term “God” to have changed without the term having to be “reinvented”. The concept of God has changed gradually, and in all likelihood will continue to change.

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          • Barry, if you believe in a certain thing to be true, basic beliefs like that there is some magical “force” you do have a creed, especially when you tell me that people who don’t agree with you are “toxic” aka “wrong”. Again, your “fellow Quakers” (so you are claiming to be a Quaker now?) do have creeds and theologies since they have what they think are the correct way to worship, etc. Pacifism seems to be one big one; if someone did not support the concept, I would certainly question if they were a Quaker. Again, here it seems that there are indeed very religious statements by Quakers: http://quaker.org.nz/frequently-asked-questions

            I noted this on the website you showed me: “Wary of being caught up in debating abstractions that are not connected with life, Advices and Queries reminds us that “Christianity is not a notion but a way.” This strikes me as the usual doubletalk that theists engage in when they don’t like to be reminded that their religion is just the same as all of the others. A “notion” is an idea. A way is a method to put into action an idea. It’s like when Christians want to claim that they don’t have a religion but a “relationship”. It’s an attempt to ignore that their religion, a concept that they still have no matter how they try to redefine the word, isn’t all they would claim it to be.

            You believe that your experiences are true, correct? You have constructed a belief that your experience comes from something called “God”. I do agree that morality does not require theology or religious experience. However, theology and religious experience require each other. If you don’t have a theology: e study of religious faith, practice, and experience : the study of God and God’s relation to the world, then one can’t claim an experience is religious e.g. believing in a god or a group of gods and following the rules of a religion. The theology might not be very complex, but it is there to provide the reason for the experience.

            I agree that capitalism, or most anything, can be a source of harm if taken to extremes. Religion is particularly pernicious in this because most, if not all of them, make the claim that their way is the only right way. There is no one saying some magical being is telling the one true way of capitalism and to kill anyone who doesn’t agree. To claim that religions “in themselves” are not harmful is simply ridiculous. Many religions make claim that anyone who doesn’t agree with them are “evil are by definition “evil” not of the “force” or “light” that is supposedly all-good. These religions and their gods say that those who don’t agree should be harmed. They aren’t just “made harmful”, those religions command their believers to harm others. It’s like saying that there is nothing in the Bible or in the Qu’ran that commands such horrors, when it is very easy to point out those very claims made in the name of some god. http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/says_about/nonchristians.html http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/quran/says_about/religious_tolerance.html I will guess that you will not read this information.

            I do agree that Christianity would be very altered in the view of the earlier Christians. The trinity is something claimed to be Christian but we know that not all those who would be called Christian agreed on this claim. Again, this shows that there is no reason to believe anyone’s claim of some objective truth or that some “light” tells you what to do. I have shown how you have tried to redefine words. If you wish to ignore that, well, no one can hold your feet to the fire to do so. Quakerism is Christian, even your NZ Quakers say this “Before applying for membership, one needs first to have an understanding and acceptance of our Quaker Christian heritage, and the principles and practice of the Society, especially our manner of worship, and be willing to take on the responsibilities of membership.” It doesn’t seem like they are reinventing too much. Quakers do seem to believe in the trinity, calling Jesus the “Christ”, and invoking the holy spirit. I can agree that some probably don’t, but again Christians didn’t agree on this at any period. To claim that something can be changed but not “reinvented” seems to be a contradiction, especially when making claims about the Christian god. It has been claimed to be a being that has petty jealousies, is genocidal, is an existential being with feet, etc. And then it is claimed to be some “light”(a term right out of the bible for this god/jesus) or as some christians say a “ground of being” some vague force that doesn’t have all of the baggage that the bible god has. This is why I find it questionable when people say that they worship God but not “that” God. It is an attempt to reinvent this god so one doesn’t have to deal with the problems that appear at in the root of the religion. I do agree that the concept of this god has changed. It’s why it has changed that makes me have no reason to believe in the claims of theists and to always question them when they make those claims.

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          • Barry says:

            Nowhere have I implied that those who have different beliefs are wrong or “toxic”. Beliefs that cause harm to others are “toxic”. I don’t understand why you have difficulty understanding the difference between “different” and “wrong”. Quakers don’t believe that their way of worship is the correct way to worship. For Quakers it is what suits them best. I know of Quakers who occasionally attend other churches because the enjoy the pageantry, ceremony and music that’s present. There is no conflict in that.

            The caution is about being wary of debating”. Debating has an implied suggestion of trying to persuade someone to your point of view (proselytising). Each of us has a different “notion” as to the nature of God – ranging from myth to metaphor to an omnipotent and omnipresent being. Religious “notions” are personal. Aspects of life, on the other hand, are universal and worthy of discussion and action. Live one’s life as an example to others.

            I don’t believe in the supernatural. For all I know my experience of “other” might just be part of the evolutionary process of being human. We have a unique regard for the well being of other human beings, even total strangers, that is not found in the rest of the animal kingdom. “Other” or “Spirit” or “that of God” might simply be how some people perceive a human instinct of considering the welfare of other individuals. It doesn’t have to be something separate from mankind.

            Non-violence is certainly a Quaker way, and I agree that if one believed that violence was an acceptable way of resolving differences, then one would have a great difficulty claiming to be a Quaker.

            A way is a method to put into action an idea“. True, but does it matter what the “source” of that idea is? I don’t think it does. If one one lives and behaves in a way consistent with Quakerism, then one in all likelihood would be welcomed as a member. The theology that causes one to live that way is not important. In most liberal Quaker meetings, whether one believes in a deity or not is unlikely to be grounds for accepting or refusing membership. In fact it’s unlikely that one would be asked if one believed in God, let alone what one means by “God” What one does with one’s belief (how one lives and behaves) most certainly would be considered in a membership application.

            The passage you quoted regarding membership refers to (a) to understanding and accepting the Christian traditions found in Quakerism. It doesn’t demand a specific set of beliefs. (b) Quaker worship has accepted practices. There are no pastors and anyone who feels called to do so may minister during worship. Spouting theology, speaking too long, debating a previous speaker, or otherwise not respecting silent worship would not be acceptable. (c) Responsibilities of membership refers to to such things as attending Meetings for Worship, attending Meetings for Business, being engaged in committees etc. In other words, taking an active part in the life and community of the Meeting. Nowhere is there a requirement that one believe in an omnipotent and/or omnipresent God, or that creation occurred in six days, or that Jesus died for our sins, or even that he was a real person, or that God is three persons, or that Moses parted the Red Sea, or that wives must be subservient to their husbands, or that heaven and/or hell exist, or that the bible is literally or figuratively The Word of God.

            With regards to to the pages on the Skeptics Annotated Bible Web site, yes I have read them. I’ve checked with a couple of Christians as to what the passage from Dt.13:6-10 means and got two different answers: (1) “It was referring to followers of Osiris(?) who attempted to convert Jews, but doesn’t apply to Christians since its an old law which has since been replaced by Jesus’ covenant.” (2) “It’s not to be taken literally any more than Jesus’ instructions to remove one’s eye or chop of one’s limb to to prevent oneself from sinning. It’s a poetic metaphor which Jews at that time would have understood as referring to the seriousness of apostasy.” Both of them claim that it didn’t/doesn’t apply to non-believers in general, but to those who attempt to convert someone away from the “true” faith. But you’d need to discuss this with a Jewish or Christian scholar. If someone claimed that it must be interpreted literally, then I would be very concerned.

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          • You yet again try to claim that you have supposedly “never implied” that those who have different beliefs are wrong or toxic. That is such nonsense. You have repeatedly said that those beliefs that you do not agree with are wrong e.g. “toxic” aka poisonous. “Beliefs that cause harm to others are “toxic”. You don’t agree with them, right?

            Hmmm. “a testimony is not the same a specifying a belief or a theology”. Let’s see, a testimony is a claim of what someone sees as a truth. So, how is this not specifying what one believes? It seems that again you are indulging in further attempts at redefining words.

            I see that any discussion with you is fraught with nonsense like the above. You don’t think the source of an idea matters. You don’t think someone’s theology matters. You make claims counter to what I can read verbatim on another website. You try to claim that since Quakers belived in pacificism for a long time and supposedly didn’t mention it, that this must mean that they accepted homosexuality too, but forget to mention that Quakers often mentioned pacifism and never mentioned their acceptance of homosexuals in those years before 1982 and 1992.

            If you don’t’ believe in the supernatural, then there is no reason to use terms that are only used to describe the supernatural when it comes to religion.

            I’m bowing out of this discussion. It’s gotten too silly for me to go on.

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          • makagutu says:

            You two have had a very interesting conversation.

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          • it’s certainly been a weird one.

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          • Barry says:

            Thank you clubschadenfreude for the time you spent in this discussion. I’m sorry it hasn’t been fruitful for you. I have learnt that for me words are a totally inadequate means of conveying abstract ideas.

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          • Barry says:

            If you have a belief in human potential, there is another good word for that: humanism. No religion needed at all.
            I agree that religion isn’t needed, but for some people like myself, it adds another dimension. Are you saying I should deny myself the experience because you believe it’s nonsense?

            You evidently do hold “specific beliefs” because if you disagree with those of others, then you are indicating that you think that they are wrong.
            We keep coming back to this same issue over and over again. Once more, I repeat: just because I don’t hold a particular view doesn’t mean I think it’s wrong. It is simply that I don’t hold that particular view. Your statement implies that I believe atheism is wrong because it’s a belief I don’t subscribe to. Nothing could be further from the truth. For many people atheism is the right choice. Why should I try to persuade them otherwise?

            You seem to be a universalist, which want to claim that all gods are “really” their god. Is this true?
            As you define universalism, no. According to your definition, atheists are left out in the cold. Provide a different definition that includes atheists and doesn’t presume that all religions ultimately have the same deity, then I might be able to agree that I’m a universalist.

            You want to complain that others don’t talk about gods the way you want them too and then claim you don’t care what others consider you to be
            I complain about people presuming I have specific beliefs when I have made no such claims. If I haven’t claimed a belief in an afterlife, don’t assume I believe in heaven or hell. Labels are one thing, But assuming I believe B because I believe A is going too far.

            one sect calling the other toxic is amusingly hypocritical
            So I’m being hypocritical if I condemn the actions of ISIL, or if I criticise the Gloriavale Christian community for banning contact with family members who leave the community? If one sect is doing harm to its adherents or others, why is it hypocritical to call them out on it? How about if it was my own sect? A political party? A commercial enterprise? A government? One of my children? Just where should I draw the line? Unless of course, you consider my beliefs toxic as well? If that is the case, please say why they are toxic, and we can discuss them specifically.

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          • What “other dimension” does religion add to life? I am not saying that anyone should deny themselves an experience. I am asking what this experience is. I am also asking why you ignore a word that is exactly what you seem to believe in favor of claiming that it is religion, a word with a different definition.

            You have claimed that other people’s ideas are “toxic” i.e. containing poisonous substances. Can you tell me how this isn’t considering them “wrong”? You ask “why should I persuade them otherwise?” when it comes to people who hold beliefs that you do not, using atheism as an example. Well, I would try to convince someone who I disagreed with that they were making the wrong choice because a wrong choice conflicts with reality and can cause harm. Let me ask you, would you be unwilling to tell a racist bigot s/he was wrong and that they should change? Or would you just say that their beliefs are the right choice for them?
            A universalist, as I was using it and as is used by others, is one who thinks that their god is everyone’s god and that everyone will be welcomed to some positive afterlife. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universalism Even atheists, with the common claim that once we’re dead, atheists will realize that we’re wrong and of course accept what the universalist claims. This seems an extreme form of the need for external validation, in my opinion.

            Barry, people presume that you have specific beliefs and you go out of your way to refuse those beliefs and also refuse to tell anyone what you do believe. We’re left with pointing out what you have said and you insist we’re wrong again but never tell us a truth we can work with. I can make an educated guess why you do this, that you don’t want to defend what you do indeed believe, whatever that is. If you won’t respond, then don’t complain when people make informed assumptions.

            Yep, you are being hypocritical when you say, as above, that you won’t question someone if their belief is the “right choice” for them, but then you say that people’s ideas are “toxic”. If ISIL’s beliefs are right for them, why condemn them, Barry? The same for the Gloriavale Christian community? It strikes me that you want to criticize me when I condemn someone but you find it okay if you do the same thing. I find your beliefs vague and baseless, because you have chosen to make them so.

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          • Barry says:

            What other dimension? I’m not sure. Perhaps like being moved by a piece of music, or the awe when gazing skywards on a cloudless, moonless night, or seeing the delight in a small child when she makes a new discovery. Only more so. Again, This is my personal experience. It may not apply to anyone else.

            You are an atheist. You have no belief in a deity. I am not an atheist. I experience what I identify as God. I believe there is “that of God” in everyone. There is no more to my theology. Nadda. Zilch. Zip. Please don’t assume or insist there is more.

            You are taking my statement regarding people being free to have religious beliefs completely out of context by ignoring the important caveat regarding harm. And then you call me out as being hypocritical?

            Let me repeat again: I have no issue with anyone believing in a deity, heaven, hell, the Resurrection, an afterlife, Nirvana, kami, taniwha, or even the flying spaghetti monster. If those beliefs have meaning to them and help them make sense of this world we live in, then I believe it’s wrong of me to persuade them otherwise. However I draw the line when beliefs or ideologies impact others in a harmful way, be those beliefs religious, philosophical, political, economic or otherwise.

            Teaching that you will be condemned to eternal fire if you don’t believe in Jesus is harmful. So too is having communities where half the children go to school on an empty stomach, with no lunch and no shoes or rain-wear during winter. So too is legislation allowing zero hours employment contracts so that the government can boast they have lowered the unemployment figures.

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          • You seem to think that atheists can’t experience being moved by a piece of music or experience awe or take delight. Is this the case? Religion isn’t required for those things at all. And there is no evidence that anyone experiences anything better than those things because of some magical entity/force. How do you know your feelings are “more so” than mine? Where is this other dimension?
            You say that you believe “there is “that of God” in everyone”. I’d ask you again what does that mean but I am pretty certain you’d just avoid the question again.

            You claim that I am taking you out of context. How, Barry? You didn’t give a caveat regarding when you wrote “We keep coming back to this same issue over and over again. Once more, I repeat: just because I don’t hold a particular view doesn’t mean I think it’s wrong. It is simply that I don’t hold that particular view. Your statement implies that I believe atheism is wrong because it’s a belief I don’t subscribe to. Nothing could be further from the truth. For many people atheism is the right choice. Why should I try to persuade them otherwise? “ Now, if you do wish to invoke the caveat, I can agree with you.
            You mention a lot of relatively harmless beliefs, but you ignore the fact that religions aren’t just the harmless bits. One can pick and choose what one wants to believe that a religion’s god “really meant” and ignore those bits, but the problem is that the entire holy books are claimed to be inspired, or written or dictacted by the gods, not just the nice parts.

            I agree teaching that one will be condemned to eternal fire if one doesn’t believe in Jesus is harmful. However, that is at the base of Christianity; if you want to claim that God is good, then anything that refuses God is by definition evil, and that is what Christianity does. To say that God isn’t this, means that you have certainly reinvented this god.

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          • Barry says:

            You seem to think that atheists can’t experience being moved by a piece of music or experience awe or take delight.” It would have been a bit pointless to use those examples if I thought atheists couldn’t experience those things. I used them because most people experience them.

            And there is no evidence that anyone experiences anything better than those things because of some magical entity/force. How do you know your feelings are “more so” than mine?” I was trying to explain how religious experience feels to me compared to other experiences. It was a comparison of my experiences, not a comparison of my feelings to anybody else.

            “That of God” can be taken literally or metaphorically. I don’t subscribe to a literal interpretation. Some Quakers might take a literal interpretation. As long as no one insists or argues that their interpretation is the correct one, what does matter?

            You claim that I am taking you out of context. How, Barry? You didn’t give a caveat” In the very first comment I made on this thread I wrote “And why should any of these religions be considered better than atheism? They shouldn’t be.” I was supporting makagutu’s argument that indeed atheists can be honest. I didn’t think that a caveat was required. If it was necessary, then I apologise.

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          • Barry says:

            You say that you don’t believe that the Christian God is a being.
            I believe I said I don’t believe in the Christian version of God as a being. I thought it would have been obvious, that if I believe that religions are man made, then the deities belonging to those religions are also man made. Why are you so insistent on wanting me to define something which is (to me) a concept? Whatever structure I give to God, it is personal to me and not applicable to anyone else.

            I am sure you only ape the religious society you are in.
            I find the use of the word “ape” somewhat offensive. Just to be clear on the matter, my present beliefs evolved over several decades and had become more or less entrenched some twenty years before I discovered the Quakers. My wife was asked to act as an interpretor for a group of peace activists from Hiroshima who were visiting the Quaker settlement in the city where we lived at the time. It was there that I discovered how similar my beliefs were to the Quakers. It would be more than another ten years and the introduction of the Internet before I re-discovered the Quakers and made an effort to get to know them better. My theology hasn’t changed because I became involved with them, and from my experience neither has the theology of any of the other people that attend the meeting I go to. There are one or two who have a theology similar to mainstream churches, some who are univeralists, some who are agnostic, some who are atheists, some who have never expressed their theology, and one who I believe is wiccan.

            The website you referred to is run by the Earlham School of Religion. It’s designed for those seeking information about Quakerism. It’s not an authority for Quaker beliefs. The site can only describe Quaker beliefs in general terms, because theology is not particularly important to most Quakers outside of the USA and eastern Africa. The webpage on faith and practice clearly states “These books generally describe the practices and procedures used in the yearly meeting, offer inspirational extracts from Quaker literature, and contain “advices” and “queries” (guidance and questions to help Friends examine themselves and their lives as they strive to live more fully in the Light)“. Outside of the USA and east Africa they do not specify what one should believe. What is meant by God, that of God, the Light within or the Spirit is open to personal interpretation and not intended to be literal. They are terms used to describe relationships between individuals, and with the wider world.

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          • It is not obvious at all that you may belive that gods are manmade if you believe religions are manmade. Many Christians play the game that they don’t have a “religion” but a “relationship”, and they are still quite sure that their god as described in the bible is the accurate god. You of course again refuse to explain what you believe. No surprise there.

            I don’t much care if you find the word “ape” offensive. It’s a valid word to use, that you copy the religion of the society you were born in. If you have a theology, then you are a theist, correct?

            If a Quaker organization isn’t a authority for Quaker beliefs, who is? You claim that theology is not particularly important to Quakers outside of the USA, but when I look at Quaker websites outside of the US, they certainly mention the Holy Spirit, the Bible, etc. This fact is why I question your claims. For instance we have this site: http://www.fwccafrica.org/about/history It seems to contradict what you have claimed.

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          • makagutu says:

            You know, club, when a believer says they have a personal relationship with Jesus or god, I am left a little confused. How do you have a personal relationship with a being you don’t know existed, what it looked like… basically you know nothing except reports that apart from being absurd are contradictory?
            And how is it possible to be spiritual without believing in woo? I know there are atheists who say they have no issue with spiritualists. I want to know what it is to be spiritual.
            The christian who claims they are not religious but are spiritual, are for lack of a better word, idiots. Where else do they get their idea of Jesus separate from scripture and the attendant religion- belief in the supernatural?

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          • Barry says:

            Religions evolve, and inside each religion concepts evolve so that over time what is meant by “god”, “holy spirit” etc change. This is especially true of Quakerism as there is no authority. Yes, all branches of Quakerism use religious terms. Quakerism grew out of Christian tradition and most (but not all) Quakers are comfortable to continue using traditional terms.

            Some meetings have evolved so that they are virtually indistinguishable from traditional mainstream Christianity, with churches, pastors, along with creeds and dogma, and a belief that the bible is the Word of God. Evangelical Quakerism developed in the USA and was exported to Africa. As there are more Quakers in Africa than the rest of the world combined, this is the largest “branch” of Quakerism. I have no idea what their beliefs are, but I understand that their theology differs little from other evangelical and fundamentalist churches. I don’t know how evangelical Quakers are organised, so they may well have some form of “authority” apart from the bible.

            Outside the USA and Africa, Quakerism has taken a different and more liberal path (there are Quakers in the USA who have also taken a similar path). There is no authority when it comes to theology, As a consequence you’ll find traditional Christians, deists, theists, pantheists, panentheists, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Wiccans, atheists and more. There is no creed or dogma. Individuals, monthly meetings, and Yearly meetings, issue statements from time to time on a range of concerns. Corporate statements are issued only on the consent or “will” of all members (a majority is insufficient), and are not binding on any member. When I was a regular attender, I took part in meetings for business where corporate decisions are made, even though I was not an “official” member. I think one needs to spend some time with Quakers to understand how this can work.

            Take for example this statement by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Aotearoa New Zealand on same sex relationships issued in 1992. The majority of Quakers in NZ probably held that homosexuality was not a “sin” for decades, but it took until 1992 for all Quakers to come to a common consensus where that statement could be made.

            If you were to ask me what Quakers in NZ believe about God, I would have to answer I don’t know. From my experience, they tend towards pantheism or atheism, but you would need to ask each individually. It’s something I do not need to know, so consequently I do not ask.

            Like

          • Religions do evolve, and that is rather amazing since they claim to have the objective truth, in each of their changes. What is claimed to be objective is anything but. Quakerism is a religion so of course it uses religious terms, traditional or not. The retreat from those terms you would call traditional, is symptomatic of how Christians, and other theists want to ignore the past actions of their religions but want to keep the belief that they know something special about the universe.

            Every time I come up with an exception to your claims, you retrench the same arguments trying to ignore the fact that your claims were wrong. And it seems that you are back to insisting that those others are not to be considered true believers. Since Quakerism does require believe in the supernatural, in some “light” or “force”, I do question your claim that atheists are Quakers since the defining idea about Quakers is that they are guided by some magical force.

            I do also question your claim that “the majority of Quakers probably held that homosexuality was not a sin for decades”. How do you know this and if you don’t know its true, why do you claim it. If it took until 1992 to come to a “common consensus”, it shows that your claim is not probably true at all. If it took decades to come to this consensus, then the majority obviously did not hold the position you claim or it would have been done.

            You claim that you would say that you don’t know what the Quakers in NZ believe about God. The term God is a Christian term, “that of God” or the invocation of the Holy Spirit, another very Christian term. They are not using any other term on their website, not Goddess, Vishnu, Allah, Ranginui or Papatuanuku, or any other. The words on the website seem to be pretty clear on what they believe: “We believe that in every human being there exists the capacity to respond to God’s Spirit within ourselves and in others. We call this, “that of God in everyone” or “the Inner Light.” This belief arises from first-hand personal experience, found inwardly to be true and valuable. The experience of our Society has been that the truest and most valuable way of life is the religion of love taught by Jesus Christ. Friends believe that each person is precious, unique and of equal worth in the sight of God. It is the experience and discernment of inward Truth that guides our lives.” More here: http://quaker.org.nz/frequently-asked-questions

            Whenever I see something like this and I see you say you have no idea what the Quakers of NZ believe, that’s when I have to question your claims. Your words make it seem like you have intentionally not read what is out there to keep yourself intentionally ignorant. I do not understand that. There is no reason to ask each individually because calling oneself a member of the organization means that you agree with what it claims.

            Like

          • Barry says:

            will reply when migraine gone

            Like

          • Barry says:

            I am not a member of the Religious Society of Friends in Aotearoa. However, for 10 years up to around 2005 I was a regular attender and took part in all activities of the society at the nearest meeting. Since then, for health reasons, I have only been able to attend on infrequent occasions. I am fully aware what is on the NZ Quaker Website, and I don’t think there is anything on it that I disagree with. I fully understand the wide range of concepts that terms such as “God’s Spirit”, “that of God in everyone” and “the Inner Light” can have. Quakerism grew out of the Christian tradition and it uses terms and phrases from that tradition, but does not demand a belief in a deity or the supernatural.

            The argument that NZ Quakers couldn’t have believed homosexuality wasn’t a sin until 1992 doesn’t hold water. First, testimonies are often made, when the Society no longer can remain silent on an issue. For example the Peace Statement was issued in 1982 in response to a government white paper on defence and NZ’s membership of ANZUS. It didn’t mean that Quakers had suddenly taken a stand on non-violence. It has been a testimony of Quakers for 350 years.

            Secondly, the statement was issued five years after homosexual acts were decriminalised in this country and before the widespread discussion on same sex relationships began. There is a huge difference between accepting that sexual activity between people of the same sex not being a “sin” and accepting a loving relationship between couples of the same sex. The statement affirms the latter, and to a large measure its purpose was to encourage considered discussion on the topic of relationships in the community at large.

            Thirdly, a testimony is not the same a specifying a belief or a theology. But perhaps the difference is not understood outside of Quaker circles?

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          • WOW! Another long comment from out of the hole! Geez! Guess your hole got REALLY smelly! You ain’t leaving then? Has Mak suddenly written about topics that meet your scrutinizing criteria? Say hi to Bilbo for me in there.

            Like

          • Barry says:

            The comments and questions were directed to me because of something I wrote. I am doing what I have been taught: do not ignore someone when they talk to you. If you ask further questions, I will answer them to the best of my ability. Please tell me if your comments and questions are rhetorical, because honestly I don’t have clue.

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  5. The point is, that for a large number of atheists, it plays a miniscule part in our lives which can’t be compared with the role that religion plays in the life of a believer. I for one, do not spend my life obsessing over the fact I don’t believe in a god. I don’t. And, um, that’s it. What’s for tea is far more important to me.

    As for Larkin, I don’t remember his atheist poems, probably for obvious reasons. I much preferred, ‘they fuck you up your mum and dad, they may not mean to’ etc

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  6. Where are the honest theists?

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    • makagutu says:

      Where are the honest Christians. I want them to raise their hands, I will count

      Liked by 1 person

      • You won’t need many fingers, Mak.

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      • Barry says:

        My hand’s up!

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        • makagutu says:

          Barry, I like you, but not your religion. And if you allow me, I will insist there is no honest christian if we are to grant that the bible records the teachings of Christ. For among others we have his answer to Nicodemus on what he must do to become a follower and apart from following the law, you must sell everything, I mean everything and give to the poor. Elsewhere he says you can’t be my disciple if you don’t hate everyone- your spouse, mother, father, brother and so on. Now I know there are theologians who have said all these are metaphors which then makes it difficult to even know what the fellow meant.

          So I will go with you being a honest man any day, but honest christian! Nah

          Liked by 1 person

          • Barry says:

            As I keep repeating the bible is a collection of ancient texts. It’s valuable insomuch as it gives an insight as to how religious belief developed over several millennia. One thing it is not, is a book of rules that must be obeyed. Other Christian denominations may hold different views, and that’s their prerogative, but I and my fellow worshippers, don’t hold that the bible is greater than any other piece of literature.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            And Barry I agree with you. I wish most people would see it as such

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Veracious Poet says:

    To be an atheist is to revolt against almost every doctrine, to question everything and practically believe in nothing and that’s antisocietal. Religion atleast puts the fear of god in people.

    Mr. Onyango Makagatu, it seems to me that for you reason alone is the highest form of thought. But I believe man has a spiritual need. I don’t need to deeply understand religions in order voice my opinion regarding my experience of them.

    All your arguments so far are against only one organised religion- christianity. Still authentic religions exist and help in the organisation of society.

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    • makagutu says:

      To be an atheist only, as far as I understand atheism is to lack a belief in the existence of gods. And to the extent that there is no evidence in support of a claim, why believe it? Fear gave birth to the gods. I don’t want men to live in fear of imaginary beings.

      Well, I have no problem with what you believe, except I think it is bunk.

      Name that religion which you think is authentic. I have written posts against Islam. I have written one on Deism. I write a lot about Christianity because it is in my face and I was brought up catholic.

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      • Veracious Poet says:

        There is no perfect religion just as atheism also does not lead to any inspiring truth.

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        • makagutu says:

          What truth is Atheism meant to lead to? You said to me, in all honesty, like the theist who argues that since atheism is unable to answer why I prefer something and not the other, it is not true

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        • Doug Fo says:

          There is no perfect belief in how peanut butter makes computers work better, but a lack of belief in peanut butter makes computer work better does not lead to any inspiring truth. However, it does end up with a lot less computers mucked up by peanut butter and some people researching other non-peanut butter methods that might make computers work better.

          Like

    • makagutu says:

      Somehow this comment went to spam

      Like

  8. Barry says:

    all religion does and manages to achieve is blind obedience to absurdities. OK, Mak, I belong to a religious group based on Christian tradition. I challenge you to name one aspect of the faith that requires or demands blind obedience or is absurd. But before you start, I must warn you that their commonly held view on atheism is that it is a valid and reasonable belief.

    faith is the antithesis in the search of truth and in all cases is opposed to progress. I disagree. If you hadn’t included “in all cases” I might not have responded, but making it all inclusive is like a red flag to a bull 🙂

    Throughout its 350 year history, the religious group I belong to has been at the leading edge of social and scientific progress. It sees no conflict between science and faith. In fact, faith should be held open to evaluation in the light of new knowledge.

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      Challenge accepted Barry.
      The christian who believes the bible to be the word of god must believe god was angry with Lot’s wife for being human but had no issue with Lot shagging his daughters.

      I have no problem with dissent, Barry, in fact I welcome it. In what way has faith contributed to progress?

      If the group has led in scientific progress, it is, I contend it is despite its religious leanings

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barry says:

        You’re arguing a cause that I and fellow worshippers don’t support. We don’t take the bible to be the word of god. What God and Lot supposedly did is what people at one time believed to have happened. Neither you nor I are required to believe it’s a true story.

        Active in the anti slavery movement. Active in the suffrage movement. Active in prison reform. Active in proper treatment of mental illnesses. Actively involved in reducing the causes of war. Active in the anti nuclear movement. Active in environmental protection, Active in fighting for the rights of LGBT. Active in promoting the Gay marriage legislation in NZ. Active in promoting the repairing of past and ongoing injustices suffered by Maori.

        Science brings new knowledge and understanding. Why would faith interfere with that? Faith isn’t a set of beliefs that is fixed for all time. It’s open to new interpretation in the light of new discoveries. That’s why for over 350 years we refuse to have a creed or dogma. They tend to become rules, which then get set in place, become outdated, and then will be argued over endlessly by those who want to change them and those that don’t. To me that doesn’t seem very fruitful. Better to be involved in new discoveries which can improve the lot of human kind than to be involved in needless arguing.

        Like

        • makagutu says:

          Barry, while I agree those are very noble cases, am confused as to why you would refer to yourselves as Christians in any sense of the word?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Barry says:

            I’m confused as to why you should think I shouldn’t refer to myself as Christian.

            Christians in the first century had a different theology than those that existed at the time Christianity became the official religion of Rome. And that in turn is quite different from the fundamentalist sects we see today. Why shouldn’t the understanding of faith be fixed for all time? Surely it should be allowed to evolve in the light of new knowledge.

            All mainstream churches here in NZ accept us as being part of the “body of Christ” and therefore Christian, albeit a rather odd one.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            Well I will go with an odd one.

            Liked by 1 person

  9. it seems that Linker wouldn’t recognize honesty if it danced on his nose. He seems convinced that lies, as long as they are pretty lies that tell him that he’s special, are fine.

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  10. Veracious Poet says:

    You failed to answer my question. What I am saying is that if you compare religious communities with atheistic communities, the religious are more cooperative and charitable. Whether they worship true or false gods, the effect is, to the society, good. I do not know of any atheist organisation that constantly promotes charity.

    Like

    • makagutu says:

      and how is charity a good thing?

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      • Veracious Poet says:

        Exactly, that’s the problem with godlessness. Nothing is good – which is a recipe for chaos.

        Like

        • makagutu says:

          You didn’t answer my question

          Like

          • Veracious Poet says:

            O, Pal, charity is a good thing because it sometimes prevents the poor and needy from stealing or committing suicide, if nobody helps. Charity homes have prevented many poor children from ruining their lives. THAT IS GOOD.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            Charity like philanthropy makes some class dependent on help. I prefer the philosophy of teach a man to fish instead of giving him fish

            Like

          • Veracious Poet says:

            So you will tell a five year old orphan to go get a job?

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            Why would I tell a five year old to get a job? I wouldn’t tell them to rely on charity either. That said though, in my response to Barry I made a concession that the problem would be with my conception of charity.

            Like

      • Barry says:

        Mak, How is charity not a good thing?

        Like

        • makagutu says:

          I believe in empowering people, not handouts that make them dependent on the handout giver.

          Liked by 1 person

          • The Republican party in America not only wants to prevent people from learning how to think and care for themselves, they are also succeeding at catching all the available fish and keeping them just for themselves. Evil personified.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            Most politicians try to do that to ensure they are permanently in office

            Like

          • The Republicans are succeeding quite well. They’re dismantling everything FDR did in the late 30’s to assist the poor and disabled in my country. The Democrats, while not perfect, are not doing this. Obama, though not perfect, has created a system giving millions of Americans affordable health insurance for the first time in their lives. Of course, if a Republican becomes President in 2016, this will end and the money for it will be given as hand outs to the rich in the guise of tax cuts. To think of these two parties as the same is very incorrect, and, very dangerous. Republicans, who wish the U.S. to be a theocratic government run by and for the wealthiest 1% of the country, are pure evil. The harm they’ve caused to me and people I care for is immeasurable. Pure, unadulterated, evil.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            I think the Republican party was the party of the great Ingersoll. It sure has changed since then. Am not sure he would recognize it if he could wake from his deep slumber.

            Like

          • No. He wouldn’t. It changed in response to FDR’s policies like Social Security and Medicare. Then, under Reagan, it just went NUTS! These people are not nice. I don’t see why you can’t be wealthy AND decent. Seems like the two are not compatible for far too many of the rich.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            Maybe it should be studied.
            Where is Victoria when you need her?

            Like

          • Yes. Victoria, where you be at, woman?! UKIP in Great Britain is their version of the Republican party here. UKIP, however, does not yet have the political power Republicans do here. It feels like pre-WW2 times all over again with fascist regimes rising into power whilst a stunned and very ignorant populace stands by and watches. Ugh!

            Like

          • Barry says:

            I think you have a very narrow view of charity. Take the expression “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. (a) teaching the man to fish is just as much a charity as feeding him, and (b) it’s not a very fruitful exercise if the man dies of starvation before he has mastered the skills, so feeding is still necessary. (c) Teaching him to fish may well be a waste of time and energy. because some large multinational fishery has reduced the available fish stock to the point where the man cannot sustain his family in what is left.

            Like

          • Great points, my friend.

            Liked by 1 person

          • makagutu says:

            Barry I think you could be right.

            Liked by 1 person

  11. […] has been interesting, especially when I have asked him if he would obey a Christian theocracy, and with Barry, someone who considers religion something other than believing in a deity and worshipping it, the […]

    Like

  12. archaeopteryx1 says:

    I ran across this and thought it might be of interest:

    As a moral atheist you have a number of rights and responsibilities. These include (but are not limited to):

    1. Have no gods.
    2. Don’t worship stuff.
    3. Be polite.
    4. Take a day off once in a while.
    5. Be nice to folks.
    6. Don’t kill people.
    7. Don’t cheat on your significant other.
    8. Don’t steal stuff.
    9. Don’t lie about stuff.
    10.Don’t be greedy.

    Remember, theists may condemn you for living by this code because you are doing it of your own free will instead of because you’re afraid that if you don’t a supreme being will set you on fire.

    Like

  13. archaeopteryx1 says:

    Sorry to go off-topic, Mak, but I’m watching Dr. Alice Roberts’ “Out of Africa” BBC series of videos again (I posted the first one on Nate’s site), and a sudden thought occurred to me – you live in Kenya and at least annually go on vacation, have you never visited Olduvai Gorge, where both Doctors Leaky worked? If I lived there, that would be high on my lists of places to visit.

    Like

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