Race and Why Christopher Hitchens is an Embarrassment to Good Atheists Everywhere

I don’t know if many of you have been following the Romney-Sharpton debacle. The strange part about this is that the comment Sharpton made about Mormons was in the context of a debate with Christopher Hitchens, author of the new book God isn’t Great. Sharpton’s comment was a rebuttal to Hitchens’ scathing remarks about Mormons and their racist past. To a certain extent, I can see where Sharpton’s explanation about his unfortunate remark is coming from, though it is obviously highly problematic. However, I want to focus on the other person in this controversy, namely Hitchens.

I have been watching Hitchens appear to promote his book on a few different programs. Every time I see him I just have to cringe. His argument against religion is about the equivalent of an 8th grader’s. I have yet to see him give a single factual statement about any of the religions that he speaks about. For instance, in a vulgar discussion of sex on one talk show he claimed that every single major God had been born from a virgin and how this is misogynistic. Uh, not only is it not true about every single god (not many, actually), but also it makes no sense how this is in any way against women. I had to chuckle when John Stewart actually called him an a**hole during their interview. There are plenty of good atheists out there who have well-thought out, sophisticated comments about religion. Hitchens is more like a joke whose arguments are so easy to knock down that as a sympathetic non-atheist, I can’t help but be embarrassed for him.

Fast forward to the most recent controversy with Mormons, specifically his Lou Dobbs interview. Hitchens claims that it is Mormons who are bigoted because they believed up until 1965 (sic) that black people were inferior to others. Sharpton has also accused Mormons of “segregation” prior to 1978. These comments have got me thinking about the nature of pre-1978 racialized policies. There is no denying that there is a generally “racist” element to the policy of “one drop” and the priesthood ban. However, it strikes me that this policy does not always easily fit into the larger discourse of racism.

First, the LDS policy was never directed against any other races except those of African descent. There was no sense of white superiority either by nature or by divine grace. In fact, Mormons were strong advocates of missionizing to all peoples, with very early missions to India, China, Polynesia, etc.

Second, Mormons never practiced segregation. To the extent that there were black members of the church, they always worshiped alongside other members. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find out that today Mormon congregations are less segregated than many denominations (prorated to numbers of members of different races).

Third, while there are certainly instances of comments that were based in scientific racism (the belief that some races are innately superior and others are innately inferior on an evolutionary continuum) by church leaders, this is really not the basis of either the Hamitic doctrine or the other popular explanations of the priesthood restriction. Even still, the Hamitic doctrine in Mormonism was used substantially differently than it was used by other 19th and 20th c. Christians. There cannot be a simple understanding of the Mormon case by just looking at how other Christians invoked this doctrine. Mormons really were different in tone, if not in tune. This might be disputed, but it seems to me that the most vocal voices in this issue seemed to emphasize God’s love for all of his people and argue for an eventual lifting of the “curse.” This is much less like a belief in superiority/inferiority, but I am not entirely sure how to characterize the difference.

I think that Romney’s engagement with charges of “bigotry” have unfortunately opened up this debate in a way. No doubt many will continue hurling charges of past (and present) racism at Mormons. The question is whether any of these charges will be made carefully and responsibly, since the nature of the Mormon past with racial difference does not fit into the normal American discourse of racism. Further, I hope that the claim of persistent Mormon racism will be exposed as nothing more than senseless slander.

61 Replies to “Race and Why Christopher Hitchens is an Embarrassment to Good Atheists Everywhere”

  1. The irony of him bashing us on Lou Dobbs is that Lou Dobbs does not like us for being so nice to illegal immigrants. They are both bigots in their own special way

    Hitchens has made a career for himself by making ridiculous and outrages claims that make for interesting appearances on talk shows. The best example being his vocal support for the Iraq War . Nobody takes him seriously. He is sort of like Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees on American Idol last night: washed up and forgotten. We just assume that they would stay that way.

    I personally am skeptical of most religious institutions. As a political liberal I am very worried about the evils committed under the banner of religion throughout history and today. However, I find it hard to dismiss personal faith (both mine and that of others).

    “I hope that the claim of persistent Mormon racism will be exposed as nothing more than senseless slander.” Institutionally this claim might very well be correct. However, it is still very true about a large number of Mormons as individuals. Of course they like to pretend that their racism is just good old conservatism.

  2. Hitchens is more like a joke whose arguments are so easy to knock down that as a sympathetic non-atheist, I can’t help but be embarrassed for him.

    I agree. In fact it dawns on me that this might explain why he is being given so much attention. He is such a buffoon that even the theists don’t mind him parading his clown act around because he serves as such an embarrassing ambassador for atheism.

  3. To comment on Hitchen’s statement about all the wars fought, believer against believer, I’m having a tough time remembering all those wars. Yes, there were a few of them (Islamic terrorism of today, the crusades, a few others I would guess), but as far as I know, most wars have been fought for conquest, land, and other reasons, not religion.

    I think it’s silly that this same tired argument is still used against religion. I’m reminded of last November’s Southpark, where Cartman freezes himself into a future where everybody is atheist, yet still fighting wars.

  4. Jason,

    Your kidding right? Religions may not have been the real reason, but the history of Europe is the history of wars waged in the name of God. Our wars against Native Americans may have been about land but it was couched in terms of religion (purging the heathens). Nazi Germany may not have acted in the name of God but the Holocaust was the culmination of centuries of genocide perpetrated against the Jews in the name of Christianity. The bloody wars between Catholics and Protestansts and England inspired Hobbes and Locke to look for state authority outside of religion. The civil wars of Indian and the later conflicts between India and Pakistan. Heck, even Pres. Bush uses religious rhetoric to justified our conflict in Iraq.

  5. Chris H,

    Don’t you think that invoking the name of God in one’s power or land grab is different than actually being motivated to go to war over religion? I see you point that religion is often in the mix but that is different than the point Jason was making as I understood it. His point at thee end is a good one — if there was no religion and we were all atheist there would surely still be way too much war.

  6. Of course, even Islamic terrorism is about political power/struggle and not faith. I guess we could say that religion itself has not really been about faith but instead about control and power. Is this not why there was a need for a restoration. I just think that we often forget that The Church was found in part out because of Joseph’s skeptisism about the religions of the world.

    I do not think that world-wide atheism is the answer. That is why philosophy answers these question better than idiots like Hitchens. I do not have time to fully explain. Peace and Love.

  7. TT–If you don’t think Mormons never segreagated their congregations I would refer you to the notorious talk that Elder Mark E. Peterson gave at BYU back in the 1950s where he described black members who were asked to not attend services due to the objections and sensitivities of the white members of a ward—he never criticized the bishop for acceding to the request, he just thought it remarkable that they continued to tithe. Peterson further stated that the purposed of civicl rights adn integration were to achieve mixed-blood or non-pure races. Couple that with Elder Benson’s conference talk where he claims that the civil right movement was part of the worldwide communist conspiracy and you have the racist face of the pre-1978 practice in all of its disturbing fullness.

  8. Further, I hope that the claim of persistent Mormon racism will be exposed as nothing more than senseless slander.

    The ranting of hucksters like Sharpton aside, I am not sure at all how allegations of persistent Mormon racism can be considered “senseless slander.” Official church-sanctioned racism is one thing, but unofficial racism is another, and although most (white) Mormons I know state that they are not racist, what does that mean when they don’t know or associate with anyone who isn’t white (other than the illegal immigrants they hire to do yard work for $20/day)?

    In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find out that today Mormon congregations are less segregated than many denominations (prorated to numbers of members of different races).

    What are you basing this assertion on and what denominations are you wanting to compare us to? If you are referring to main-line denominations taken as a whole, you are almost certainly wrong. On the other hand, if you are looking at Black Baptist congregations vs. other Baptist congregations you may be right. But, given the geographic model of LDS congregations, such comparisons tell us little about how members would congregate on a voluntary basis.

  9. 8.
    About how LDS would congregate on a voluntary basis, instead the geographic model tending to bin congregants by local ethnicity, here are a couple observations:

    1) When I visit the Southwest Los Angeles (Watts) branch, there is a significantly more-diverse congregation than the local neighborhood would suggest. Last year, I (euro genes) stood in the doorway with Pres. Allen (Af-Am) and Br. Garcia looking at the black Baptist church diagonally across the intersection and at the Hispanic Pentecostals across the street and I asked, when did *we* become the diverse church?

    2) The NY Times article about the new LDS chapel in Harlem included this, “But last Sunday, as usual [in the old building], the 150 chairs were filled and people stood at the back. Also as usual, the room was one of the most racially integrated in Harlem, with about equal numbers of white and black worshipers. (The Mormons have separate congregations for Spanish speakers.)” Here’s the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/02/nyregion/02mormon.html?ex=1130212800&en=3b984001abe44410&ei=5070.

  10. I recently watched an illuminating debate on some of the issues under discussion here.
    http://www.booktv.org/ram/feature/0207/btv020407_4.ram (you need realplayer to watch)
    Apparently, this Harris fellow is something of a banner carrier for militant atheism. How disappointing it must be for thoughtful atheists to have the likes of Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, et al trumpeting their cause. I’m curious, though. I’m assuming that there are in fact sophisticated atheists out there whose arguments are not based upon deconstructing rather laughable straw men which they label “religion.” Who are they?

  11. Nina,
    As you can probably tell from my post, I don’t have much patience for these over-reaching reductions about racism. Whatever one may think of the LDS church’s history on race, the KKK is in no way a suitable comparison. Not all ideologies of race are the same thing and I think that people should be much more responsible about the way they bandy about these charges. But then again, I don’t see any merit in simplistic thinking. The KKK has always been based on white supremacy, which the LDS church clearly has not. Indeed, liberation theologies in Mormonism frequently emphasize the Book of Mormon’s roots in the glorification of Native American populations over Europeans, themes which still have a great deal of currency in Mormon culture! My entire point here is that the comparison of white supremacist/scientific racism to LDS history cannot be made by any responsible person.

  12. So you counter Hitchens’ inaccuracies with comments like “I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find out that today Mormon congregations are less segregated than many denominations.” Speculation will get him. Oooo, good one. It’s also very big of you to call him out for not making factual statements by rebutting with some opinion based statements of your own. Christopher Hitchens is one of the most brilliant journalists of our time. Your so biased you couldn’t possibly hear a word he’s saying. You’re lost in your false life.

  13. Chiplee,
    The reason that I say that “I wouldn’t be surprised” is not because I am merely speculating, but because I have pretty good first-hand experience on this issue. You’re right that I can’t point to official studies that demonstrate this, but only because such studies don’t actually exist. My point is that Hitchens’s claim that Mormons are racist is NOT based in any factual data, not only because he is only speculating where no data exist, but also because it doesn’t correspond to my own experience. I am undoubtedly more of an expert on Mormons that Hitchens is.
    I don’t have any problem listening to what Hitchens is saying, provided that he knows what he is talking about. I am perfectly comfortable with critiques of religion, but when such critiques are nothing but distortions, lies, and reductionistic cheap shots, I am forced to conclude that Hitchens is neither “brilliant” nor a “journalist”, unless that is meant as an insult to journalists.

  14. ok, well Christopher Hitchens is far from alone in his opinion of Mormon racism of the past. You didn’t counter any of his points though. You only bashed him for making them, stated that none of his opinions were based in fact, and then proceded to express your own opinions that were also NOT BASED IN FACT. That’s not a strong arguement my friend. I don’t even know what site I’m on. I just stumbled across this thing looking for Hitchens article in the slate about Mormons. Here’s some more info about mormon racism though http://www.lds-mormon.com/racism.shtml

  15. Chiplee,
    I think that you are having difficulty distinguishing between opinion, fact, and argument. I have not said that Hitchens is the first to say that Mormons were racists. Indeed, I concede this argument to a limited extent. Instead, I argue for a more nuanced understanding of what did and does continue to happen in Mormon circles, and to distinguish between different kinds of racialized thinking, a more precise context in which to understand the quotes that you link to. The arguments I make about Mormons are all based on factual statements. Hitchens, however, is wrong on even the basic facts like when the priesthood ban was lifted, why it occurred, what it meant in practice, and the conditions under which LDS officials changed the policy. If you are really looking for a good resource on Mormons and race, I would suggest Armand Mauss, All Abraham’s Children”, which is the definitive work on the subject. Check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/All-Abrahams-Children-Changing-Conceptions/dp/0252028031/ref=sr_1_2/102-6586250-6706563?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1182201950&sr=8-2

  16. Smallaxe,
    sorry so slow to reply, i was on the road for the weekend. I knew about Christopher Hitchens long before I knew his stance on things. Perhaps reading publications like The Economist made him a little more likely to “stumble upon” but he’s been regarded as “among the most brilliant” journalists of our time repeatedly. I went to the troube to find a few sources but what makes anyone brilliant? You’re not brilliant until people say so in our society and people say so about Chris Hitchens. I personally think he’s a arrogant blow hard but he is so unbelievably correct on so many issues that it would be foolish for us to attempt to shut him up. The world needs more men like Chris Hitchens calling it like it is even if they’re wrong every once in a while.

    In a review of his new book, “Christopher Hitchens, described in the London Observer as ‘one of the most prolific, as well as brilliant, journalists of our time’ takes on his biggest subject yet–the increasingly dangerous role of religion in the world.”

    And this from the washington post’s book world/washingtonpost.com. The reviewer hated the book and still admitted Hitchens is a brilliant journalist. “Christopher Hitchens is a brilliant man, and there is no living journalist I more enjoy reading. But I have never encountered a book whose author is so fundamentally unacquainted with its subject. In the end, this maddeningly dogmatic book does little more than illustrate one of Hitchens’s pet themes — the ability of dogma to put reason to sleep.”

  17. TT,

    again, sorry so slow to reply. I think I understand what you’re looking for but it’s difficult for me to entertain the notion that the “nuances” of racial discrimination are going to sway anyone very far when it comes to justifying the mormon past. Blacks are the primary target of what you would have considered “real” racism in America. Apparently in your eyes Mormon racism is some lesser “racialization” vice actual racism. I can see why you’d want that to be the public perception but I’m just not sure attacking this thing in the context of “well relative to “real” racists, we’re not bad at all” is going to be a good plan. I didn’t really intend to go down that road with you though. I meant only to point out what I said above about criticizing someone for sloppy facts with sloppy opinions. For example if you’re going to say “he claimed that every single major God had been born from a virgin” and then counter it with the words “not many, actually” you might do well to find out exactly how many, 12 if you don’t count the Greek Gods but I’ll concede that Buddha is the only “Major” god widely considered to be born of a virgin so Hitchens’ use of the word “most” might have been careless. Pointing this out however, without disecting it, like they do at this website http://www.religioustolerance.org/virgin_b1.htm is just a lazy argument, I’m sorry. The only other thing I’d offer is your bickering about specific dates and details really doesn’t do anything to weaken Hitchens’ claims either. Much of his source on the Mormon article in the Slate was the actual newspapers no doubt read on micro film at a library or something. Dates that are over 100 years ago adn off by a month or sometimes even a year are common. That doesn’t debunk his arguement. I’m not saying you can’t neutralize him. I’m just saying you’re not going to do it this way. Do as much research as he has, or more, on the various religions of the world instead of just your own, and then come back to fight him when you’re ready. I just don’t think you’re ready yet, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

  18. I went to the troube to find a few sources but what makes anyone brilliant? You’re not brilliant until people say so in our society and people say so about Chris Hitchens.


    A certain segment of society’s opinion isn’t necessarily grounds for qualification of brilliance. Brilliance is a matter of persuasiveness. Tell me which of Hithcens’ arguments you find persuasive and why. You are the one who stated Hitchens is “one of the most brilliant journalists of our time”. Now persuade me that this is case.

  19. Chiplee,
    I am not trying to “justify” the Mormon past. I am just trying to contextualize it. If we disagree, it is with respect to the utility of nuance. You’re right that I do think that different theories of racialization and racism are relevant to moral evaluations. I think that Malchom X is a different kind of racist than Hitler, and both are different from the subconscious racism that many Americans harbor today, and I think that it is important be aware of those differences.

    As for my facts, it appears that your citations corroborated my claims in each instance. As far as Hitchens being wrong about the dates, I highly doubt he did any archival research from 100 years ago! In any case, I am not talking about a few months, but 13 years off on the lifting of the priesthood ban. I’ll concede that this isn’t necessarily important, but it goes to show that he is no expert if he can’t even get the right decade. It is characteristic of his poor research and lack of command of even basic facts.

    With regard to the virgin births, I am not really sure why you consider this to be such an important point, since not only am I correct again, but it is ancillary to the main point of my post. Look, I am not claiming that the virgin birth is unique. There are a few shared stories. However, among the 12 you cite, only a few of them are “gods” (neither Buddha nor Zoroaster). These lists do include the Greek gods, though some are misspelled (Quirinus). Additionally, you seem to be unaware of who “major” gods are, since all but a few of these are extremely important. Further, I hate to burst your bubble, but check out wikipedia on each of these figures (or any ancient history text book). You’ll find that hardly any of them had virgin births. I am sorry, but these are just factually false claims regurgitated by dogmatic propagandizers. I encourage you to do some actual research.

    As far as me not being “ready” to argue about religion with Hitchens or anyone else, I respectfully disagree. I completely share the Washington Post reviewers conclusion that Hitchens knows nothing about religion. It just so happens that I do.

    Please come back when you have something interesting or true to say.

  20. TT, we can agree to disagree because I really don’t have time to keep coming back here. But a statement like “I hate to burst your bubble but check out wikipedia on…[insert basically anything here]” is honestly laughable, and will serve for me as a good place to exit the conversation since you’ve revealed the depths of your ignorance by ASSerting that you can get reliable enough information to “burst someone’s bubble” from Wikipedia. Wikipedia has been the object of joke after joke for its absolute lack of “encyclopedia” like accuracy. Burst my bubble all you want, but don’t do it with wikipedia information.

  21. With a comment including such orthography as “ASSerting”, I think wikipedia is the least of Chiplee’s worries…

  22. Chiplee,
    The only one who should be embarrassed about their sources is you. The website you reference is pretty amateur and is full of factual and interpretive errors. My reference to wikipedia is for your benefit, not mine. I figure that your house doesn’t have loads of religious studies books and that you don’t have skill in any of the relevant ancient languages, so I spared you the bibliography. I’m happy to supply one if you want, but since most people I know with a 9th grade education know that Buddha isn’t a God, and anyone that knows even a little bit about the ancient world can easily spot the mistakes in information that your link contained, you don’t have to go much deeper than wikipedia to figure that out.

  23. TT,

    I really do need to move on from here since I still haven’t even bothered to find out what website I’m on, but I’ll offer the following. You people seem to be believers. You seem to have found a way to believe in god. I have not, and on that I’ll not likely waiver. TT, The difference between you and I is that I’d openly tell you I don’t know any “relevant ancient languages” while you’d loosely imply that you do. I’d also openly tell you that I have a pronounced character flaw that prevents me from respecting people who believe in god. I don’t expect you to care, but I do expect you to be respectful or witness or testify or whatever it is that you do. Doesn’t your faith give you grace like that? Why are you attacking me? Why aren’t you sweet and kind an welcoming? Not that I really care. I don’t mean to change the subject, but until we get to the bottom of why you believe, and why I don’t believe, I don’t think we’ll be able to exchange ideas on any meaningful level. So here goes: I don’t believe in god because religions of the world view the earth and more specifically humans, as the central purpose of life. In 2003 when the Hubble telescope starred at a blank piece of nite sky where no stars were visible to the naked eye. The telescope starred for 11 days basically collecting light. What it saw was approximately 10,000 galaxies more or less like our milky way galaxy. I happen to have enjoyed astronomy as a child and ended up understanding distance in the universe at a very early age. At least as well as an average human mind like mine can be expected to understand distance in the universe. I came to understand that the universe was big, REALLY BIG, UNIMAGINABLY BIG!. As an example, and as your answer to my question in the other thread, the earth averages approximately 93 Million miles from the sun. Astronomers call that distance one astronomical unit so that they can scale down distance to something imaginable for the purpose of explaination in classrooms and such. If we make one astronomical unit equal one foot, meaning 1 foot equals 93,000,000 miles, the approximate furthest distance to pluto, from the sun, is 50feet. That 50×93,000,000=4,650,000,000miles to pluto which is right here in our solar system. There are approximately 500,000,000 stars in our Milkyway galaxy. Many of them with planets, and each of those planets with a chance to be in the correct proximity to its star to support life. Life might have existed in the past, or might exist in the future. Or it might not have but we don’t know this any more than we know if God made life here. I’m going to explain why it’s infinitely more likely that life has existed on other planets that it is that God created life here on earth. I’m no atheist, but I think athiests are more LIKELY to be correct than believers. You won’t listen though so I forgive you already. If you’ve given up on me already will you please just watch this video?

    If those 10,000 galaxies viewed by the hubble are on average even roughly like our galaxy then that means that each of them will have roughly 500,000,000 stars and each of those stars has the possibility of planets and each of those planets has the possibility of being the extremely rare correct proximity to its star to support life. If you imagine all the other black spots in the night sky containing even half as many as 10,000 seperate galaxies the numbers start to get pretty staggering.

    we get to a point where it is virtually statistically impossible for life NOT to exist on other planets somewhere in the univers. If there is but a 1 in a 100,000,000,000 chance that life will exist on any given planet, that means that life will exist on approximately 100,000,000,000 planets all over the univers. Perhaps the odds are even more severe than 1 in a 100 billion against life happening. It doesn’t matter. Say there’s a 1 in a 100 trillion chance that life will happen. Say there’s a one in a googol chance, or a one in a googolplex chance that life would happen. there are enough planets in the universe to make it statistically impossible for life to happen on only one. It might not happen close enough for us to see it, or even during the same time that it happened here, but it will happen. It has happened, it will happen again and religion doesn’t address it. If there is a God he created this universe, and the system of universes that ours resides within. Perhaps there are universes in a larger unknown system just as there are galaxies in our universe. Perhaps god created that system, or the one bigger than that. We don’t know but either way, religion makes the idea of God TINY. It makes humans the point of god. If God made the universe, I assure you he isn’t watching your every move and noticing your every sin and judging you one at a time and expecting you to belive in him. I don’t believe for these reasons. Why do you believe.

  24. Poor chiplee. I was impatient with you after you stumbled onto my post and called me “biased,” having “sloppy opinions,” that I need to “do my own research,” and attempted to expose the “depths of my ignorance.” If you are going to come here flailing your arms about trying to show how stupid and uninformed I am, don’t act surprised when you get the fight you picked.

    Look, the difference between you and me has nothing to do with the fact that I believe and you don’t. This is the worst kind of diversion which attempts to reduce our entire discussion. This has nothing to do with anything. I have stated numerous times in this thread that I am highly sympathetic to a certain kind of atheism. I am not some fundy nut. The real difference between you and me is that I don’t let my ideology lull me into a comfortable arrogance where I can happily exist as if everything some “brilliant journalist” says becomes gospel truth.

    I have no intention of engaging you in a debate about whether God exists. For me, this is irrelevant to the topics we’ve discussed and I really don’t care about this question, especially not if the issue under debate is a series of “ifs” and “perhapses” about how life on other planets or the existence of other universes somehow proves that God doesn’t exist.

  25. Hehe. I’ve been watching the thread from afar and I have to chuckle at how badly Chiplee has been getting her(?) butt handed to her so far. This last attempt to score points (#27) further reveals her depth of ignorance about who she is talking to. This site is run by Mormons — the folks who have canonized scriptures wherein God describes the “worlds without number” and “the inhabitants thereof” he has created/managed over the eternities. So trying to score debate points by pointing out how vast the universe is and how likely it is that there are other inhabited planets is ridiculous with this audience.

  26. This site is run by Mormons? Holy cow! I saw that south park episode about you guys and I gotta’ say I learned most of what I knew about you at the time from that show. I’ve learned a little more since then with perhaps alot more to go but I never pretended to know you. You pretended to know me, and my type. I considered the original topic closed once we started arguing over the validity of each other’s crappy internet sources. I will in fact be comfortably arrogant in the knowledge that wherever I go, believers in my midst will have lower cognitive ability than my own. I wanted to offer you a chance to disprove that by hearing your thoughts on how you justified giving up on reason to believe in God. there’s just no debating that you say so I will indeed throw my hands in the air and walk away. to believe is to surrender logic. I refuse to respect people willing to do that on any level. With no outside influence of any sort, no parental influence, no social influence, no TV, no news media outlets or human interaction of any kind, people of average intelligence presented with two “possibilities” creation or evolution, would choose evolution. You are some how able to abandon logic in this one case, while you apparently embrace it in many others. I was honesly quite impressed with TT’s ability to comprehend and present viable opinions with strong basis in logic and rationality. That is inconsistent with belief, so I asked why you believe. Sorry if I “reduced” our entire discussion but if it weren’t for that one fundamental difference I imagine we could be great friends despite this thread.

  27. Oh and I’m not a girl. I’m a Marine fighter pilot who took an interest in world religions after I killed my first dozen terrorist insurgents in Iraq in 2005. I dropped bomb on a house in Fallujah and realized I didn’t even know how to spell fallujah. I didn’t particularly care or feel bad about killing those people, but I did feel obligated to correct my lack of understanding about them and their way of life. I couldn’t even see the ground, or the house when I bombed it. I input the coordinates passed to me by the FAC on the ground and waited for him and his Marines to move away from the area and I pushed one red button. about 40 seconds later, no more enemy fire was received from that house, and the Marines proceded down the street. I went home to the USS Harry S Truman, flew an “OK” 3 wire and went to the dirty shirt for a slider. Didn’t lose a wink of sleep until a few months later, when I lost about one wink and decided I should at least look up fallujah on the internet. That started a book a week reading frenzy about religion. I read “The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither side is winning the Creation VS Evolution Debate” “Guns Germs and Steel” “The Panda’s Thumb” “Letter to a Christian Nation” “Understanding the Koran: A quick Christian Guide to the Muslim Holy Book” “Breaking the Spell” “The God Delusion” and “Mere Christianity” To name a few. I haven’t finished “Cosmos” or “The Purpose Driven Life” yet but I own them as well as “Atlas Shrugged” and “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” and I intend to fit them in but have to get to the other side of some professional reading right now. My point is that while you assert your intellectual prowess over men like Christopher Hitchens with speculative “sloppy” facts, I simply asked for more intellectual integrity and got attacked for it. Yours is the belief system that dictates you remain kind in the face of aggression and it clearly has failed you in that regard. I never pretended to have the time it would take to learn enough to call Christ Hitchens and embarrassment to atheists, you did, and I told you it was ballsy business.

  28. Chiplee,

    The problem is with your simplistic distinction between “believer” and “non-believer”. It’s reduces people to two types when the truth of the matter is that there is a wide spectrum with everything in between. Just about every “believer” I know is more than comfortable with the assertion that “life” exists on other planets. Your line of reasoning would lead to the conclusion that all astronomers are “non-believers” which is certainly not the case. This problem (which I believe you share with Hicthens) over essentializes “religion”. It takes one part (the most irrational, illogical, fanatical, etc.) and makes it the whole. In reality there are all kinds of “religions”. In addition to what you’re reading you may want to try something like Smith’s “The Meaning and End of Religion”. Written a couple of decades ago, but at least it provides a more nuanced picture of religion. The only thing that matters on this blog is your ability to persuade, which, to be honest, is somewhat lacking. Please note, we have not claimed that you should beleive. Only you have implied that we should not.

    Speaking personally, “believing” is something that is the “right of the believer”. In other words, being presented with the same evidence people can choose to believe or not (although this doesn’t address the complex question of belief in “what”). Some people choose to believe, other’s don’t. I don’t think either position can be proved “rationally”.

  29. Smallaxe,
    I don’t think either side can be proven rationally either. I just think one side can be considered much much more likely to be correct. As for you comments about the varying degrees of belief I’ll only add that no matter what degree to which you believe, you’re still going to have to abandon logic in at least some small way to get there. I think it’s safe to say that astronomers who believe rarely believe in any organized religion. They tend more toward agnosticism or deism or belief in a creator of the universe vice a Christian God figure fixing or f’ing up there lives at will. You’re correct in that I could be more careful about my generalizations. It is, after all, religion with which I disagree and not specifically belief. Belief I can almost accept, as long as it’s not in any particular God who would intervene in your daily life. That notion is so absurd I can hardly stop myself from laughing in the faces of people who say they believe it, even members of my own family, of which there are many. For all my presumed reasoning and logic as I see it, I still get to a place where I can’t imagine something coming from nothing. Even if you believe that humans could have just evolved from primordial soup, you still have to answer how the soup could have been made of stuff that could some how build a human one day. I’m not equiped to make that leap of faith any more than I’m equipped with what it takes to make the creator god leap of faith, but the former is unfortunatly infinitely more likely than the latter, so I choose to “believe” the soup theory for now, until more information comes in. If you don’t agree then I want to here how you made such a HUGE leap of faith, when a somewhat smaller leap was available. I can only assume in the case of most humans that it’s sheer ignorance of the details of that much smaller leap (evolution) that prevents them from choosing it over creationism. As for everything else you said, I agree and thanks for the tip on the book. I’ll try to check it out.

  30. TT, I can’t believe I forgot. Of course you can sympathize with certain kinds of atheism. You’re an atheist yourself to all Gods but your own. You have to be. You can’t worship false gods. We agree on all 6000 or so Gods that are worshipped all over the world. I just go one god further and don’t believe in your god either. I would think people of faith would me more inclined to associate with atheists than with believers of other faiths or religions. I think if you go back far enough in most major religions you’ll find a call to kill or otherwise abandon people who preach to you about there faith. An atheist can be considered to have taken the first important step toward accepting your God. They’ve denied all false gods, now they just have to accept yours. People who believe in other gods will first have to deny that God and then come to believe in yours. How are atheists so bad in the eyes of believers? Most Christians would rather associate with a Muslim than an atheist. I don’t get it.

  31. Chiplee,
    If you want to be friends, that is fine. I don’t generally consider it good manners when someone insults me and then informs me about how my religion requires me to treat them with more respect than they have given me (not exactly the best ad for non-theistic ethics), but I appreciate that you have attempted to continue our dialogue.
    As for Hitchens, if you still aren’t satisfied that I am right on every point I raised, then I encourage you to find out the facts for yourself. I have given you some relevant material and I am happy to provide more if necessary.
    I find your personal story very interesting. I am glad that you have attempted in your own way to understand religion and I wish you the best in your continued study. If you are interested in learning more about Mormonism, I recommend that you contact a pair of missionaries (www.mormon.org). They certainly won’t be able to answer all of your questions, but they will be able to give you basic information and tell you why it is that they believe. However, if you are really at the stage of laughing in the face of your own relatives, this doesn’t give me much hope in the productivity of any discussion that you are trying to bait me into. That, and the series of contradictions (is religion inherently violent or does it require that I be nice to you? If atheism can’t be proven rationally, how can you claim that religious people abandon logic?). If you want to know more about what and why I believe, you are free to read this blog. I repeat that I have no interest in topic of whether or not God exists.
    For the record, I don’t think anyone here is a creationist, so this is a moot point. You’re bound to find other Christians who will be happy to debate you on this point, but it seems that you and I agree on this issue at least in part.

  32. Chiplee,
    Let me upack a little more about the question of “belief” as far as it applies in your recent comments. As far as I see it there are two problems with your position: First your overconfidence in the power of rationality to serve as a measuring stick for the validity of human experience. Secondly, you’re inconsistent in your distinction between belief and organized religion.

    In dealing with the second issue first, your problem with religion is its apparent illogical claims, yet you are fine with belief (as long as for you it doesn’t require too large of a leap of faith). This seems a little contradictory to me because if rationality is your measuring stick, the distinction between belief and organized religion shouldn’t matter so much. I know plenty of people that do not associate with an “organized religion” yet their beliefs would not come close to your standard of “rationality”. Conversely, I know numerous people that belong to “organized religions”, that would disagree with few of your points: evolution, life beyond Earth, etc. I hope your association here is showing you that there is a wide variety of “believers”, and you cannot lump all into one category. My hunch is that your experience in dealing with peoples of faith, is actually much more limited than you assume it to be.

    As for the first point, you are over essentializing the notion of belief by trying to tie it to some point of irrationality and make that the core of someone’s belief. “Belief” in a sense is much broader than those points you are trying to push toward. “Belief” for many is also an action of associating and participating in a certain community that brings joy, support, and harmony into one’s life. Belief is about creating a relationship with a text or series of texts that generate some meaning in life, and is not always tied to the actual historicity of the claims of the text. Belief is about engaging in practices that bind families together and interconnect them more into each other’s lives. Belief is also sometimes about personal experience with is not necessarily publicly accessable. In other words, who are we to judge someone’s experience with what they claim is the divine? Belief is always changing for most people. What is irrational now may seem rational tommorrow and vice versa. Belief, hopefully you can see, is not simply concentrating on those “large leaps of faith” as you would make it out to be. Even within an organized religion, you can find people of differing beliefs.

  33. Smallaxe,

    Who are we to judge someone elses beliefs? that’s the thinking I used to use to help myself sleep at night. Now I consider myself perfectly suited to judge others for not believing as I do. You raise valid points about my simplifications. I have no right to put you in a box with radical Islamics or fundamentalist Christians. Or do I? Who says what I have the right to do? Religions of the world say what their members have the right to do if they want to avoid hell. Pointing out to me that belief for some is about creating a relationship with a text to generate some meaning in life and admitting that the historical authenticity of said text isn’t entirely relevant plays right into my hands. As long as the governing texts of religions are open to interpretation by current members I will have a problem with religion. Clearly no one, short of fundamental independent baptists and Radical Islamic Terrorists would interpret the bible literally right? I don’t care one lick about what you use the bible for. What you gain from it in the way of joy and support and harmony means absolutely nothing about its validity. If your joy and comfort and harmony come from a lie, no matter how well intensioned, it still comes from a lie, and it is wrong. It stifles human intellect and progress to take comfort from false things. How can you even keep a straight face while you type the words, “NOT ALWAYS TIED TO THE ACTUAL HISTORICITY OF THE CLAIMS OF THE TEXT” without thinking to yourself, “I should get a better text around which to base my life if I don’t even think this one is accurate” I like christmas, I like family, I love christians. I think wonderful things come from religions all over the world, especially mormonism. But I will not live a comfortable lie just to make myself feel better. I will not listen to blathering about well this belief or that belief doesn’t necessarily require full surrender of rationality or logic. BUNK!, all of it. If you believe, you surrender logic, period.

  34. TT, I was in the middle of another long reply for you and my computer crashed. I’m going on vacation in the morning though so I don’t have time to write it out again. I’m sure all these issues will be here waiting for us when I get back. thanks for your time so far and have a happy independence day.

  35. Chiplee,
    Just a couple of points, since it’s getting late for me. Please note I never said we could not judge other’s beliefs, I said that we cannot judge their personal experience; by which I mean we do not have the capacity to disprove certain things (whether or not, for instance, what one experiences is some type of communication from a transcendant being). There are certain things that lay beyond what you are calling “rationality” or “logic”. Those cannot be judged, at least not with the tools you are posing. Anything else, feel free to judge away…

    In regards to your point about text and historicity, perhaps you’re misunderstanding what I mean. I’m not saying history is irrelevant. I’m saying that history is not always relevant. Whether the Earth was really flooded and a guy named Noah really built a boat that really fit two of every animal on it, is relevant in only a limited number of contexts. This doesn’t stop the story from having meaning beyond those contexts. If you assume that religion is about finding a text that completely covers every fact accurately in history and answers every question that could ever be conceived, then you are bound to see only the tip of the iceberg as far as relgion is concerned.

    Thirdly I think we disagree on the relation of the part to the whole. And frankly speaking, you are flat out wrong. Your claim that ALL logic must be surrendered, period, to be religious, my view is that the real scene is much more complex. If you haven’t discovered this by now through dialoguing with us here, I’m not sure how else to convey the idea. By your logic, scientists who are religious are irrational, nobel prize winners who are religious are irrational, CEOs of companies who are religious are irrational, Yale PhDs who are religious are irrational, etc. Give me a break! Wake up to the fact that this is not an either/or situation–you are not either rational or irrational. The notion of rationality or irrationality depends on the context. You argument is akin to me saying, “All military personnel are homophobes because the military doesn’t allow homosexuals.” We both know the argument is much more complex than that.

    Please continue to deepen your understanding of the varieties of religious belief that exist in the world. You’re opperating about ankle-deep when the pool goes miles down.

  36. “Smallaxe wrote: If you assume that religion is about finding a text that completely covers every fact accurately in history and answers every question that could ever be conceived, then you are bound to see only the tip of the iceberg as far as relgion is concerned.”

    No you want to be disassociate with the fundamentals of religion because you consider yourself above certain of its more embarassing traits. What I’m bound to see though, if I reduce it to its fundamentals, is that religion is a joke. It consoles the weak. It’s politically correct to be religious so of course high level people “say” they believe. CEOs, Nobel prize winners, Yale PHDs and whoever else you might bring up are faking it just like 90% of in churches in America. Hell Francis Collins (head of the human Genome project) is a believer. I could find a “way” to think believing was more logical than not believing but it wouldn’t involve any modern religion or ancient religion for that matter. I can understand how people get to “belief” but I can’t understand how they get to religion. religion is stupid by all accounts, to me. saying “I think we disagree on the relation of the part to the whole. And frankly speaking you are flat wrong” really shows how ridiculously sure you are that it’s “OK” to be religious. Trust me, it’s not OK to be religious. It’s a really really big mistake. No matter what good comes of it in your life or the lives of those around you, it’s a real big mistake.

  37. Chiplee, you are becoming increasingly ridiculous, which I didn’t think was possible. C’mon, you think “high level” religious people are faking it??? Well, I think atheists are faking it. Deep down they know they believe!
    Admitting that really good things come from religion, but then asserting that it must be a mistake makes even less sense than your claim that logic cannot disprove religion but religion is illogical.

  38. Chiplee,

    Ironically you’re about as illogical as you paint religious believers to be. How can you determine that prominent individuals are simply “saying” they believe, when in reality they don’t? You revert back to the distinction that we previously agreed doesn’t make sense (between believers and religious people)? You want me to accept that religion is all bunk by “trusting” you, without providing some “logical” reasoning?

    Your claims are tantamount to someone saying: The Armed Forces are bunk because you must obey your superior. You must accept their command, not because they can justify it logically to you, but because they simply say so. Thus, all military personnel are irrational.

    I’m assuming we both agree that this scenario is ridiculous.

  39. Yeah, it’s normal for a delusional person to consider someone who speaks truth to sound ridiculous. I won’t hold it against you. Who could deny the fact that good things come from religion? No one. What’s that got to do with religion’s correctness or truth? The fact that good things come from religion does nothing to make it less of a mistake to be religious. it does nothing to make it less of a lie. thinking so is truly “ridiculous.” In short, the means are not justified by the ends. In less short, if you have to live a lie to be a contributing member of society, you’re still living a lie, no matter what you contribute, and in my assessment, you’re weak. No matter what prize you win or how your life is enhanced by religion, religion is no more “correct” or based in truth because of your contributions or prizes or happiness. thinking it is, is ridiculous. You guys are way more brain washed by your belief than I ever thought when I first popped in here.

  40. Way to bow out by totally sidesteping the issues that have been raised in playing by the very rules you wanted to establish as the grounds for communication–namely, rationality.

    We’ve refuted every point you’ve raised, and your only response is to persuade us on grounds of “trust”, to shift the argument back and forth, and accuse us now of being “brain washed”. If you’d like to know how I’d respond to your last comment, replace “religion” with “military”, re-read it, and talk it over with yourself.

    I don’t think the military is about irrationality and being brain washed; and I suspect you don’t either. So why don’t you take some of the same “rationality” you would use in that argument, and apply it here.

  41. Yeah, it’s normal for a delusional person to consider someone who speaks truth to sound ridiculous.

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    In all honesty, I think that probably our main difference has to do with differing notions of truth. The irony here is that you share a lot of assumptions about truth with the fundamentalist religious people that you hate so much, namely, that you have it, that it is discoverable, and that anyone who thinks different is simply wrong. I have been far too convinced by philosophy and by my religion that such a secure, stable truth is nothing but an illusion. It shocks me still that there are true believers in scientific rationality as a source of ultimate truth after Thomas Kuhn and Michel Foucault, but ignorance persists.

  42. So then you concede the point?. That religion’s positives do nothing for its credibility is going to have to be a default truth in this discussion for me to consider continuing it. No matter what good comes from something, using that “good” to justify the something’s falseness or nastiness is the stuff genocide is made of. When I owned you on that point you both just chose to skip on to something else. But I’m the reductionist who you claim to have refuted on every point. If you’ve refuted me, I’ve addressed it and conceded, or rebutted as intelligently as I can. When I refute you, you move on to something else and hope no one will read that part.

    Smallaxe, I actually bothered to re-read what I wrote and insert “military” for religion and that would have been a really dumb reply so I’m glad you didn’t type it all out. Comparing a modern day fighting force that exists largely “because” of wars caused by religion to a religion is silly. It ignores the fact that I know and would gladly tell you that the US Military is a JOKE. You think your organization is beyond question, in no need of repair, and nearly infallible. I’d tell you to your face about the rampant abuse, fundamental policy errors, and downright stupidity of the actual “organization” with which I’m affiliated. You merely consider the “people” in your organization to be fallible, but the organization itself to be perfect if followed correctly. I consider the organization itself to be all kinds of wrong, on almost all levels. Keep comparing mormanism to the military if you want to keep making my points for me. Otherwise come up with something valuable before you start typing again. You guys believe a lie. I believe this country needs people who will fight for it because there are people all over the world who believe a slightly different lie than you believe and they’re willing to kill you (and me) for the fact that you believe “slightly” differently than you do. You go on perpetuating the lie and my brothers and I will go on dieing for your right to do it despite the fact that your weak minded endulgence into the happiness and comfort of christianity is amoung the biggest reasons we need the military. It’s the biggest and most obvious contradiction there is but you need it so badly that you can’t even see it. For people like you, stopping belief would be like stopping breathing. It’s become such and integral part of you, such a part of your survival that it would actually physically hurt for it to even cross your mind to stop believing in the supernatural. I got lucky, and never really believed that much in the first place. What we’re seeing on earth today though is intellectual evolution. The increasing secularization of the planet will lead to peace. the only other option for peace is that one of the some 6000 religions on the planet finally wins over all the other religions. That means muslims become christians or christians become muslims. How likely do you think that is to happen soon? You’re the devil if you “testify” to them about your god and they’re going to hell if they don’t convert you to islam. They believe it with all their hearts, and so do you. So why don’t you guys just kill each other? You say your’s is a peaceful religion. Well too bad. You better kill them because they absolutely will kill you if they can get to you. So fight or die, or give up believing and try to get the rest of the world to do the same. I choose the latter. religion poisons everything isn’t just the title of hitchens’ book, it’s reality

  43. I move that we ignore chiplee from now on. He is simply repeating himself, contradicting earlier concessions, evidently uninformed about nearly everything he is talking about (especially secularism), and arguing against the figments of his imagination. It mostly just makes me sad at this point. All in favor?

  44. Chiplee,
    If you think we’re conceding your point, then you must have mis-read much of this discussion. Here’s a brief recap on this issue, bacause you’re apparently not getting it: You think you’ve discovered the “truth about religion”–that’s it’s built on a lie. That the good things it does, cannot make up for this fundamental weakness.

    We’ve objected to this on the grounds that one cannot reduce religion to one thing regardless of its truthfulness or falsness. You have failed to provide a reason as to why we should, let alone why we should reduce it to what you are arguinh for. We’ve pointed out that your claim that you have somehow discovered the core of religion, examined it, and found it false, to be utterly ironic because you use the same “logic” that you are arguing against–namely that truth is out there to be discovered, that it’s knowable, and one either has it or does not, there is no middle ground. Chiplee, you’re in the same boat they are.

    You think your organization is beyond question, in no need of repair, and nearly infallible…. You merely consider the “people” in your organization to be fallible, but the organization itself to be perfect if followed correctly.

    I must have missed where we claimed either of these things; and this is my entire point of the military analogy–organizations such as these are complex entities. They serve multiple functions and cannot be reduced to one word catch-alls, be it “bunk”, “joke”, or even “truth”.

  45. I move that we ignore chiplee from now on.

    Shucks. You must have posted while I was composing. I’m on board, unless he has something new to say.

  46. classic, run away then. I’m sure it hurts to consider the possibility that I’m correct. When i consider the possiblity that you’re correct I just feel dumb.

  47. The previous reply was for TT.

    I never said I found religion to be false or discovered anything real or provable. I said I found it to be extremely unlikely to be correct. Then I asked you, or should have asked you, to explain to me how you came to believe something so unlikely. You want to use its good side, which is obvious and undeniable, to lend credibility to it, and I want you to concede that that is not a reasonable thing to do. It feels good to snort cocaine too but you’d easily agree that’s not wise. religion does absolutely amazing and wonderful things for people. I personally, ACTUALLY love it for that. I appreciate the fact that religion is probably the only reason we have society as we know it today. None of this does ANYTHING WHAT-SO-EVER to lend credibility to religion. In fact it is only evidence to the power of psychological comfort know matter where it comes from. Rock concerts and drugs and alcohol and sex all bring people to euphoric places. So does child birth. So does religion. It falls into an explainable category that is an obvious result of observable natural human traits and needs. That it is not obvoius to you, and especially that you will not even entertain the possibility that I’m right, is very telling of how much each of you needs the comfort that comes from your religious beliefs. Get a grip, and just consider the ‘REMOTE’ possiblity that I’m right and you’re wrong. Just for a second, just consider it. Don’t even bother telling me you considered it. Just consider it. You’ll grow as a human being. Trust me.

  48. Chiplee,
    It certainly does hurt to consider the possibility that you’re correct, but only because it hurts to consider the impossible. I am perfectly happy to engage you in a productive dialogue, but you have continually proven unable to do so. You haven’t shown an original thought yet, just regurgitated popularized propaganda. Every time we raise an objection, you come back even stronger with wild imaginations about how all religions are trying to kill each other. Your accusations about us personally are not on topic and completely baseless. You don’t seem to follow a logical argument from beginning to end. In one post you say that religions are going to go to war to kill everyone and then in the next post you say that religion is the only reason we have a peaceful society. In short, I don’t have the interest in rehashing sophomoric debates with you.
    As for the increasing secularism that will bring peace, tell that to the millions killed by the secular regimes of the 20th century. Have you ever heard of Mao and Stalin?

  49. I will add that a point Christopher Hitchens could stand to get more comfortable with is that just as religion’s “goods” do nothing to prove its truth, religion’s bads do nothing to prove its “un-truth”. I just want it looked at the way anything we do would be looked at, with an inquiring mind. I just want people to be consistent with the way they apply logic to their lives. We use our logic for everything “BUT” religion. Religion gets and unfair shake. It is a huge faux pas to question religion. the religious should want to have their beliefs questioned. The scientific want their beliefs questioned. The questioning process has tended to get them closer to truth. Not AT truth, but always closer and closer and unfortunately that’s the best we can really ever expect to do in our lifetime. You want to go straight to truth without passing go, and I honestly think you’re coping out for doing it. Join the club and ACTUALLY seek the truth, please.

  50. TT, so you consider it “IMPOSSIBLE” that any other religion, or “non-religion” for that matter is correct. You’re so sure of your particular belief system that you would sit there and declare all other religions of the world impossible. Then in the next breath you’d say that I’m illogical? I beleive we, as a society, might be very very different if we hadn’t invented religion to impose social controls. Now we have police for that. Now we also have radical islam. Pointing out religion’s evils is in fact a weak argument for reasons I just mentioned in my previous post. A negative outcome from a thing doesn’t “necessarily” mean the thing itself is bad or wrong. A positive outcome from a thing doesn’t necessarily mean the thing itself is good or correct. I don’t think all religions are trying to kill each other. I’m trying to breifly explain that as long as the govering text of each major world religion dictates to its followers that people who worship false gods, or gods other than your own, are the devil, we will have the potential to regress to “crusade like” efforts as revivals of religious faith occur. I recognize the possibility that the increasing secularization of the world will cause such a religious revival and fear there will be a devastating outcome from it. I’m willing to take that risk. My arguments seem illogical to you because I’m overestimating your ability to fill in the blanks where I try to cut corners in the interest of time. I assume a logical person would be able to follow my line of thought but apply my version of logic to you and end up seeming illogical. That’s my mistake and I’ll be more careful in the future. For all my efforts to check out of this conversation though I have to admit I seem fully committed to it and feel I’m gaining valuable perspective from each of your inputs. I hope you’ll be willing to continue to share them no matter how nasty it ends up getting from time to time. After all, it’s only the oldest debate topic known to man we’re trying to hash out here.

  51. Chiplee,
    Somehow, you have softened my heart. There are moments when you really do seem sincere and I am sympathetic to that. Further, I suppose that I am going to have to deal with undergrads who are like you during the course of my life. Thus far, I think simply blowing them off has been my strategy, but perhaps this is too harsh. At the same time, it seems that these conversations constitute a major waste of time for me since I am really not interested in them at all and most interlocutors make no sense. Therefore, I will indulge you for a little while as long as you agree to adhere to a few reasonable guidelines for the conversation.
    1. I insist that you to have a thesis statement. Most of what you have said thus far has been a series of baseless accusations. Instead, I want you to have an argument and to provide evidence for your claims. At this point, I am seriously unclear about what you even think that you are arguing for. Is it that religion is bad, religion is good and bad, religion is a lie, religion will cause wars, or that belief is irrational? Pick an argument (aka, thesis) and give the reasons for that argument.
    2. I think that if you number your points, it will help you to organize your thoughts. This will help you from flying off on tangents that have nothing to do with anything.
    3. Please stop talking about “Religion” as if it were an agent. Religion cannot do anything. Religion doesn’t think anything. Religion doesn’t require anything. Why? Because “religion” is an abstract principle. Religion can’t poison anything because it only exists in our minds. Some religious people do things, others do other things. People are agents, not religions.
    4. From time to time, I might suggest some bibliographical resources to you (including wikipedia) in order to answer some of your questions or claims. I would like you to follow up on these suggestions before continuing our conversation.
    5. Refrain from telling me how I feel, what I believe, what would cause me pain not to believe, making assumptions about what I have considered and haven’t considered, and who I want to kill.

    If you can agree to these provisions, I will happily discuss with you. Now, what is your thesis?

  52. TT,

    Your condescension is hilarious but very typical and exactly representative of the high and mighty, “all knowing” arrogance I’ve been so unfortunate to witness in the religious ever sense I started trying to understand this nonsense. You’re on to something about the need to organize thoughts but what I’d hope you’d take from this is your own personal need to become more able to be aware of more than one concept at a time. I suppose I could consider the general lack of free thought among the religious to be an explanation for your limitations but you occasionally seem slightly above that. So maybe you could just read more carefully. Maybe I could too. Asking for organization is a neat way to try to impose controls similar to the ones you’re used to living your life under but I’m not a pawn like you are. The absurdity of your demands is truly telling though so I do sincerely appreciate the brief glimpse into your world where one person is able to dictate to another person terms upon which a conversation is going to continue. I can only assume you were joking. All of the seemingly contradictory ideas I’ve expressed can easily stand together as coherent thought when one is able to remain in an elevated state of consciousness about the issues. If you’re having trouble with that I’d be glad to offer assistance or advice about how I do so well at it. You’d like to think my thoughts are random. You’re either faking your inability to follow the general gist of what I’m asserting to divert the conversation and make me explain more, or you’re not too bright.

    I’ll say it again, and you can accept this as your “thesis” if you want. Religion and the religious don’t deserve the special credit they get from the rest of society. I want religion looked at in the same way any other observable phenomena are looked at. I want it evaluated by the same standard. I don’t want it to be a faux pas to question someone’s religion. I don’t agree with credulity and religion says the more credulous you are the better you are at being religious. All other supernatural things are laughable to most. WHY? Religion is every bit as laughable to me. Everything I’ve said other than that was meant to support the argument that religion doesn’t deserve to be put on a pedestal of any sort. If a scientific look at religion happens to reveal that religion is very likely to be correct then so be it. If science decides it’s very likely to be incorrect then so be it. I don’t care. I’m just tired of evangelical leaders in this country bending the ears and swaying the opinions of high level political leaders on Sunday and having gay sex on Wednesday.

  53. Chiplee: Your condescension is hilarious but very typical and exactly representative of the high and mighty, “all knowing” arrogance I’ve been so unfortunate to witness in the religious ever sense I started trying to understand this nonsense.

    I think it is obvious to everyone but you that religion has nothing to do with that last comment by TT. If he is being condescending it is as an academic/intellectual and not as a theist. The real problem seems to be that TT is asking you to be more intelligent than you actually are. What he really ought to do is ban you as a troll (and a numbskull).

  54. I never said I found religion to be false or discovered anything real or provable.

    Comment #44 Chiplee: Yeah, it’s normal for a delusional person to consider someone who speaks truth to sound ridiculous.

    Rock concerts and drugs and alcohol and sex all bring people to euphoric places. So does child birth. So does religion. It falls into an explainable category that is an obvious result of observable natural human traits and needs.

    I’m not sure why you think I would ever deny this. I think we may disagree about what religion actually is, and what it is actually trying to do. More on that below. You assume way too much about us. And this is my biggest problem with this discussion so far–to you religion equals something akin to fundamentalist Islam, and my point is that religion is actually much more.

    I just want people to be consistent with the way they apply logic to their lives. We use our logic for everything “BUT” religion.

    This actually isn’t true. What about literature, art, drama, personal relationships, etc. While these involve a certain amount of “logic”, it doesn’t seem to be their entire driving force. It’s only because you’ve placed religion in direct competition with science that it seems that religion lacks “logic”. This is because you assume that religion is a quest for “The Truth”. Please note that we have never said that such is the case. Personally speaking, religion is about meaning, and meaning can come from all kinds of sources. My life is not a quest for “Truth”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that religion does not involve truth, but my religion does not involve truth as you seem to define it. If I want an adequate explanation for the universe, I’m going to use science. If I want to know the history of mankind, I’m going to go to historians. If I want to know what those things “mean”, however, I don’t think science and history can tell us those things. I think meaning and truth can be similar yet separate things.

    TT, so you consider it “IMPOSSIBLE” that any other religion, or “non-religion” for that matter is correct. You’re so sure of your particular belief system that you would sit there and declare all other religions of the world impossible.

    Where do you get this from? We don’t believe that. Of course other religions or “non-religions” can be correct; but I’m not interested in questions of “correctness” as you are posing them.

  55. The name of the book is “god is not Great” not “God isnt Great”. Whenever Mr. Hitchens mentions the concept of a greater being, he uses the term god in lower case; this includes the title of the book.

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