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Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    To one of the godless, these arguments always sound like, how dare you have a different theological view. Yours is obviously wrong and you are a dunderhead for not seeing it. I respect Larrison, but I think he whiffs on this one. Then again abortion polarizes many people. Then again, again, criticizing the religion of Democrats is completely fair game.Report

  2. Avatar Chris Dierkes
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    says:

    I’m not entirely sure how this fits, but the key point about apophatic theology is that apophatic theology is an actual experience of unknowability. It is the mystical state of The Cloud of Unknowing. It is unknowing to the rational discursive mind. It is known (as mystery) to another part of our beings. Generally the doubt we refer to is at the individual mental and emotional level.

    Using apophatic theology to allow for doubt in the mental sphere is as Daniel says incorrect. Where I take more ED’s view is on the individual personal level where doubt/faith exist more as inter-related. As two poles of one continuum. I think the relationship between those two at that level is never-ending.

    The apophatic experience in a real sense is beyond that faith-doubt duality. It simply happens at a different level where those terms have no relevance.Report

  3. Avatar Bob
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    says:

    Here are the President’s words,

    “But remember too that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt. It is the belief in things not seen. It is beyond our capacity as human beings to know with certainty what God has planned for us or what He asks of us, and those of us who believe must trust that His wisdom is greater than our own.

    “This doubt should not push us away from our faith. But it should humble us. It should temper our passions, and cause us to be wary of self-righteousness. It should compel us to remain open, and curious, and eager to continue the moral and spiritual debate that began for so many of you within the walls of Notre Dame. And within our vast democracy, this doubt should remind us to persuade through reason, through an appeal whenever we can to universal rather than parochial principles, and most of all through an abiding example of good works, charity, kindness, and service that moves hearts and minds.”

    I fail to see what is so onerous or out of line in the above. In fact it seem fairly run of the mill religious oogedy-boogedy. A quick google search, or searching for books on Amazon dealing with “faith and doubt” finds massive amounts of such literature.

    In 2007 when Time Magazine did a cover story on Mother Teresa and the letters she wrote expressing her doubts it was a pretty standard defense of her to point out that moments of doubt go hand in hand with faith.

    As one of the godless I’m no doubt missing the beauty of the Talmudic like parsings beloved by people of faith. I don’t begrudge Larison or Dreher or anyone the joy of debating the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin, or the nature of faith and doubt. What I will object to is somehow using President Obama statement as foreign to mainstream religious thought.

    E.D., you are correct.Report

  4. Avatar Michael Drew
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    says:

    I’m truly surprised to hear Larison saying this. I must have misapprehended his view on faith in a pretty big way to this point. Granted, it’s not the part of his writing I examine in the closest detail, but still I tried to piece it together in a general way, and boy was I not in the ballpark. nevertheless, Larison remains The Man among ‘heterodox’ cons.Report

  5. Avatar Kyle R. Cupp
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    says:

    The word “doubt” has a fairly wide application, but in the context of this discussion, I would oppose doubt not to the virtue of faith, but rather to certainty. Many of the saints had a strong faith and yet were plagued with doubt. Their doubt and experiences of darkness served as environments for their faith to take place.Report

  6. Avatar Bob
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    says:

    “The word ‘doubt’ has a fairly wide application, but in the context of this discussion….

    Well I take the context of this discussion to be President Obama’s remarks on faith and doubt made at Notre Dame. He was clear. Again his words, “But remember too that the ultimate irony of faith is that it necessarily admits doubt.” In the same paragraph he asserts that we can’t know with “certainty” God’s plan for us.

    It’s clear to me that Obama was speaking within well-worn theological traditions.Report

  7. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    I would agree, Bob. Now – I would say Obama is probably not as theologically traveled as Larison, however I think few public officials are, and few people in general take theology as seriously as Larison does. Nevertheless, on this count I think Larison is mistaking the purpose of doubt. Perhaps this is because he has none – I don’t know. But as Kyle says above, many of the Saints were plagued with doubt, and it inevitably led them to a stronger faith.Report

  8. Avatar Bob
    Ignored
    says:

    “But as Kyle says above, many of the Saints were plagued with doubt, and it inevitably led them to a stronger faith.”

    There is no day light among us regarding the above. All three of us agree. (I guess.)

    But I want to make one thing clear,E.D., I’m agreeing with you.Report

  9. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Totally, Bob. That was clear enough. I mean, I think amongst believers or non-believers of whatever tradition this still holds true. Doubt is just an essential aspect of our existence.Report

  10. Avatar Chet
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    says:

    If doubt is so great, why not doubt the very existence of God and become an atheist?

    Isn’t the point of faith to set some things beyond all doubt?Report

  11. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Chet – how does one set something beyond doubt without first confronting doubt? And how can one really appreciate the faith they accept without first tackling the struggle of doubt? I am not advocating nihilism or despair. There’s a difference.Report

  12. Avatar Chet
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    says:

    And how can one really appreciate the faith they accept without first tackling the struggle of doubt?

    But if you construe “doubt” as something to be struggled with, tackled, and ultimately vanquished – and then put behind you – I don’t perceive a difference between you, Larison, and myself. Doubt is an obstacle to faith; therefore, the purpose of faith is to vanquish doubt.

    I don’t believe doubt should be vanquished; I believe that doubt is superior to faith. But Larison, you, and I seem to agree that doubt and faith cannot truly co-exist; that one only increases at the expense of the other. That would seem to be confirmed by the truism I imparted above; the ultimate expression of doubt is to doubt the existence of God, and be an atheist.

    I am not advocating nihilism or despair.

    Strange; I never accused you of it. Is “nihilism” and “despair” what you hear when I say the word “atheist”? Bizzare.Report

  13. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Doubt, to my mind, is something that we carry with us. It is ongoing – probably not “vanquished” though certainly there is no reason you can’t get the upper hand. The difference though is that Larison looks at doubt itself as a failure, whereas I look at succumbing to doubt entirely as the failure – not struggling with it, which is what Thomas did. He did not succumb, but rather traveled through his doubt.

    And no, I don’t think of nihilism or despair when I think of atheism. Atheism requires its own faith, doubt, etc.Report

  14. Avatar Chet
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    says:

    And no, I don’t think of nihilism or despair when I think of atheism.

    So it was just a non sequitur? Help me understand.

    Doubt, to my mind, is something that we carry with us.

    And yet the point of faith seems to be to help you ignore the doubt you carry with you. Otherwise, why not doubt the whole enchilada, and be an atheist? I keep asking that question, it’s not meant to be facetious. Why don’t you give a stab at answering it? It would help me understand.

    He did not succumb, but rather traveled through his doubt.

    And then stopped doubting. You seem to be ignoring the end of the story, the conclusion – where Thomas gains faith in the resurrection (what kind of faith that could be, I don’t know, since at that point he believes not in things unseen, but in things he’s seen for himself. Thomas doesn’t really arrive at faith in any real sense.)

    And the Jesus upbraids him. Better to have not seen and yet believed, says Jesus. That seems significant, to me, and I sense Larison’s theology addresses the entirety of the Thomas story in a way yours doesn’t seem to. (But, in my experience, fundamentalists usually have a more comprehensive and Biblical theology than moderates.)Report

  15. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    What what happens when atheists start experiencing doubt?

    Perhaps during a sunset, they experience a deep abiding sensation of the oneness of all.

    Perhaps during a prayer before supper, they have a sensation that people have been thanking the gods for their food for thousands of years and with that a sensation of thankfulness that overwhelms them?

    Would not such a sensation inspire doubt? If not these, could anything inspire doubt in an atheist?Report

  16. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    So it was just a non sequitur? Help me understand.

    Let’s see. Atheism for those who once believed is a result not only of doubt, but also of having that doubt replaced with a new sort of faith, certainty, etc. Despair and nihilism seem the result of having nothing certain left at all, no commingling of doubt and faith (or un-faith) at all.

    Re: Thomas. Yes, he did stop doubting. As did many faithful throughout history. But do we really consider their moments of doubt to be failures?

    Jesus’ upbraiding of Thomas seems to be more based on the fact that Thomas only stopped doubting because he was presented with evidence that his doubt was wrong. Most people do not have that luxury – we do not see, and yet choose to believe. We do not ask for miracles to prove to us God’s existence. Our doubt is not a failure. Neither was the doubt of Thomas, but rather his failure to come out of his doubt by any other means than actually seeing Christ.Report

  17. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Jaybird – as I’ve often said, atheism is essentially its own faith. And yes, I think many atheists experience this sort of doubt.Report

  18. Avatar Chet
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    says:

    What what happens when atheists start experiencing doubt?

    Atheists always experience doubt. Doubt – even in atheism – is the universal experience of the atheist.Report

  19. Avatar Chet
    Ignored
    says:

    Atheism for those who once believed is a result not only of doubt, but also of having that doubt replaced with a new sort of faith, certainty, etc.

    That doesn’t describe atheism as I experience it, or as any atheist has ever experienced it. “Certainty” is not a feature of it at all. Not in the least.

    Even arch-atheist Richard Dawkins isn’t completely certain about his atheism – he says so, clearly, in his book and in interviews. There’s no faith in atheism.

    Talk about faith all you like, Kain, but is it truly necessary for you to malign and misrepresent atheism?Report

  20. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Atheists always experience doubt. Doubt – even in atheism – is the universal experience of the atheist.

    I disagree. Disbelief perhaps, but doubt? Atheists don’t (at least in principle) doubt God’s existence. They believe that God doesn’t exist. They may sometimes doubt this conviction, but describing doubt as the “universal experience” of atheism seems way off the mark.Report

  21. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    I get this feeling like we’re talking past each other Chet.Report

  22. Avatar Chet
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    says:

    I get this feeling like we’re talking past each other Chet.

    We’re talking past each other because I’m talking about atheism, and you’re making things up. Your understanding of what it means to be an atheist is fundamentally flawed and inaccurate, and it’s most likely a defense mechanism to preserve your faith.Report

  23. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    “Atheists always experience doubt. Doubt – even in atheism – is the universal experience of the atheist.”

    Bullcrap, dude. I’ve known more atheists who were more into The Great Commission of bringing the Deep Abiding Truth Of Atheism to the Unwashed Theists than atheists who merely did not believe in God.

    We all know the joke “if atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby”, right? Well, the problem is that there are a lot (perhaps a preponderance?) of atheists out there who have the hobby of explaining how dumb stamps are, how useless collecting stamps is, how they don’t collect stamps, and somehow manage to bring the topic of the uselessness of stamp collecting into conversations with random strangers.

    Doubt? Pshaw. Pshaw pshaw. (Now, of course, I’ve met a handful of atheist folks who are *NOT* like that in the slightest… but, generally, if I know that someone is an atheist, it’s because they point it out to me pretty early in our relationship. If I know that someone’s a theist, it’s because they confide in me that they are one because they assume I’m one too because I’m willing to throw down with the evangelical atheists.)Report

  24. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    So – are you pulling out the atheism fundamentalist card now? Your definition of atheism trumps all others? That’s funny. I in no way intend to “malign” atheism for one thing. It is a form of certainty, or else it would be agnosticism. Dawkins may not know whether or not there is a God, but he has a great deal more certainty in his belief that there isn’t than he has doubt.

    You are welcome to be any sort of atheist you please, of course. But I’ll tell you this – nobody “owns” the definition of atheism. You may say my understanding of it is “fundamentally flawed” but I fail to see anything you’ve written that backs that up.

    Any other atheists want to chime in?Report

  25. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    “Your understanding of what it means to be an atheist is fundamentally flawed and inaccurate, and it’s most likely a defense mechanism to preserve your faith.”

    FREE PSYCHOANALYSIS!Report

  26. Avatar Chet
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    says:

    Well, the problem is that there are a lot (perhaps a preponderance?) of atheists out there who have the hobby of explaining how dumb stamps are, how useless collecting stamps is, how they don’t collect stamps, and somehow manage to bring the topic of the uselessness of stamp collecting into conversations with random strangers.

    I don’t understand the argument. Does doubt mean you can’t speak your mind? Can you only write a book and advocate for your position – or, you know, just defend what you believe from those who, like Kain, are determined to misrepresent it – if you’re only absolutely certain?

    I’m very aware that there are atheists who are outspoken. Why, in your view, is that inconsistent with doubt? Must a lack of certainty preclude participating in the conversation?Report

  27. Avatar Chet
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    says:

    Your definition of atheism trumps all others?

    Being one, it certainly trumps yours. You could certainly do your homework, though, and read a book like The God Delusion where Dawkins explains that he’s a 6 on a scale of 1 to 7. Look, if even Dawkins isn’t certain, who can possibly be?

    Look. Can you even find one single prominent atheist who has ever said “I have complete and utter certainty that there is no such thing as God, any god”? No, of course you can’t – because doubt is a critical feature of atheism. You just can’t imagine the sort of person that can live his life without certainty.

    It is a form of certainty, or else it would be agnosticism.

    But agnostics are atheists. That’s why it’s called “agnostic atheism.”Report

  28. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Dude, they can *TOTALLY* speak their mind! They should absolutely and totally do so!

    It’s just that the degree *AND NATURE* of the outspokenness belies a certain lack of doubt.

    You *HAVE* heard the comment that “if atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby”, right? If you haven’t, please read that paragraph you quoted of mine in the context of that statement (which it was intended to be).

    There are folks who BUT FOR THE CONTENT OF THEIR DECLARATIONS are indistinguishable from Focus types. They’re big into witnessing, planting seeds, and thrill at the thought of conversion.

    These are religious behaviors, dude. “You need to change your life and be more like me” is more than being merely outspoken, it belies a complete and total lack of doubt.

    And, hey, I’m not saying they need to change. Heaven forbid! Everybody needs a hobby, after all.

    I’d just say that my experience of doubt has led me to a “whatever lets you sleep at night” place rather than a “dude, I totally need to get more people to think the way that I do!” place.

    Which, I need to point out again, is not me telling you to change.

    Whatever helps you sleep at night.Report

  29. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Being one, it certainly trumps yours.

    I’ve been one, does that mean my opinion counts again? Give me a break. Your fundamentalism is oozing off the page. “I’m in the club and you’re not, so my two cents count more than yours!”
    Point 2 – I’ve read the God Delusion.

    Point 3 – Who is talking about “complete and utter certainty”? Didn’t I say upthread that most atheists probably do encounter and experience doubt? Does this mean that they are constantly in a state of doubt? You seem quite certain that they are. I disagree. Then again, you are also quite certain that unless I am an atheist I certainly have no right to argue about atheism. So, end of discussion that.

    No, it seems we’re back into the “unkowability” quotient on this one. Just like Christians accept the “unknowability” of God, so do atheists. That does not mean that either does not operate within their own sphere of faith….

    Point last – agnostics are not atheists. Some agnostics are, as you say, “agnostic atheists” just as some atheists are actually “anti-theists” but one size does not, in this case, fit all.Report

  30. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    “Being one, it certainly trumps yours.”

    Hee. I’m one too. I daresay that mine is much better than your own. But it has little to do with my being one. My being one has nothing to do with my definition of it.

    There are two major kinds.

    (a)(theism) vs. (a)(the)(ism).

    Without theism vs. the ism of being without theos.

    The former tends to be bundled with doubt. The latter tends to be bundled without.

    The atheists who follow The Great Commission? They’re totally in the latter category.

    This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind. But it is, certainly, a phenomenon that exists.Report

  31. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    (a)(theism) vs. (a)(the)(ism).

    Without theism vs. the ism of being without theos.

    The former tends to be bundled with doubt. The latter tends to be bundled without.

    That was brilliant, Jaybird. Like Dr. Seuss discussing atheism.Report

  32. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    I have my moments.Report

  33. Avatar Chet
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    says:

    It’s just that the degree *AND NATURE* of the outspokenness belies a certain lack of doubt.

    I still don’t understand. Dawkins has written one book about atheism. Is one book one too many books to still have doubt? Even though the book is full of Dawkins saying “I can’t know for sure there’s no such thing as any god”?

    I’m posting on a blog. It takes basically no effort on my part to type words into a computer. Truth be told I’ve said all this stuff before, to other people who didn’t understand atheism, so it’s not even like I’m doing anything but repeating myself. Not all that hard.

    Is that too much work to indicate doubt? I don’t see how it can be.

    You *HAVE* heard the comment that “if atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby”, right?

    Sure, it’s kind of a joke. Like “atheism is a religion like being bald is a hair color.” But it’s kind of a half-truth; atheism is not a religion but atheists are protected under Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.

    There are folks who BUT FOR THE CONTENT OF THEIR DECLARATIONS are indistinguishable from Focus types.

    “Folks”? (Sure) But untrue. The difference between Dawkins and, say, Kain is that Dawkins has told us – has a whole book about it – what evidence he would need to see to believe in God. In other words, he’s not only willing to change his mind, he’s told us what it would require.

    Someone like Kain, though, will openly tell you that nothing could change his mind; that nothing could convince him that God exists.

    They’re big into witnessing, planting seeds, and thrill at the thought of conversion.

    I don’t understand. Does not being certain mean you can’t try to convince someone you’re probably right?

    These are religious behaviors, dude.

    What, convincing people? Seriously? You survey the whole history of religion and come away with the conclusion that the primary characteristic of religion is that the religious occasionally say “hey, this worked for me; why don’t you try it?”

    I guess you think commercials are religious?

    I’d just say that my experience of doubt has led me to a “whatever lets you sleep at night” place rather than a “dude, I totally need to get more people to think the way that I do!” place.

    I wish you luck with that. When you’re denied employment, or run out of town, or find you can’t possibly be elected to any public office because you’re an atheist but you live and let live, you may wish that you had been a bit more outspoken earlier, when it turns out that people’s misperceptions and misrepresentations about your beliefs lead to dramatically negative consequences in your life.

    But it is, certainly, a phenomenon that exists.

    And, yet, not a single example can be found – only people who, like myself and Dawkins, are trying to educate people who have misperceptions about what atheism actually is.Report

  34. Avatar Bob
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    says:

    For me chemistry, astronomy, history, rationalism scream “no God.” But yet I have an infinitesimal doubt.

    I think E.D. is correct about talking past each other. Everyone here acknowledges doubt. So I think the discussion has gone a bit off the track, that is, off Chet’s initial point that faith should banish doubt. I think that was his point.Report

  35. Avatar Chet
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    says:

    Er, “doesn’t exist”, I mean. Sorry, typing fast.Report

  36. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Someone like Kain, though, will openly tell you that nothing could change his mind; that nothing could convince him that God exists.

    ….

    But I do believe that God exists. Am I missing something here?Report

  37. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Oh I suppose I could be convinced, but why would anyone want to convince me of that? And why should I wish to be convinced?

    I’m a pretty open minded person, but I have my faith too.Report

  38. Avatar Chet
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    says:

    Oh I suppose I could be convinced, but why would anyone want to convince me of that?

    Right and wrong have no meaning to you? Delusion is just as good as truth?Report

  39. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    “But it’s kind of a half-truth; atheism is not a religion but atheists are protected under Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom.”

    And, of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Except there are atheists for whom atheism is a religion. Having them slam their prefered book on a table and point out passages that explain that atheism is *NOT* a religion may be sufficient for you to say “okay, sure, it’s not a religion. Who better to diagnose than people swimming in it?”

    From my perspective, it’s indistinguishable from someone slamming their prefered book down on a table and explaining that Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.

    I’m not telling you that you need to change, mind.

    Though I do appreciate your attempts to try to get me to be a better atheist, one more in tune with the needs of the atheist community.

    For me, atheism is like not collecting stamps.

    I don’t need to hang out with the “WE DON’T COLLECT STAMPS” club to validate that and certainly not discussing the venerated texts written by the best non-collector since B.R. Himself.Report

  40. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Right and wrong have no meaning to you? Delusion is just as good as truth?

    Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.Report

  41. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    “Right and wrong have no meaning to you? Delusion is just as good as truth?”

    Congratulations! You’re no longer a Christian! Here’s a list of books you have to read regularly, here’s a list of taboos, and here’s a list of virtues to replace the old one. You can be pleased that it’s much longer than the old one you’ve abandoned! We have weekly discussions congratulating ourselves online. This week’s topic is “aren’t you glad we’re better than people who aren’t like us?” See you there!Report

  42. Avatar Chet
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    says:

    Except there are atheists for whom atheism is a religion.

    That’s pretty easy to say; can you point to one?

    From my perspective, it’s indistinguishable from someone slamming their prefered book down on a table

    So now it’s slamming books around that makes it a religion?

    Has it ever occurred to you, maybe, that you not only don’t know what atheism is – you don’t know what religion is, either? The things you ascribe to religious belief are really just a function of human passion. Isn’t there anything you’d slam a book about, Jaybird? Anything at all? You’re certainly working pretty hard to convince me of the existence of religious fundamentalist atheists.

    Does that mean that’s your religion? Why or why not?

    I don’t need to hang out with the “WE DON’T COLLECT STAMPS” club to validate that

    I’m glad. I’m glad you live in a place where people don’t tell you you’re immoral because don’t you collect stamps. I’m glad you don’t have members of your family whom you pretend to collect stamps around, because otherwise you’ll be blamed for ruining Christmas. I’m glad it doesn’t bother you when people like Kain misrepresent people who don’t collect stamps.

    I’m glad, really. But the reason you can not collect stamps without being bothered by it is due to the efforts of all the people out there, like Dawkins, saying as loudly as they can to everyone who will listen: “you know, it’s ok if you don’t collect stamps.”

    I think there’s a place in atheism for both kinds of people, that neither is any less atheist or more religious than the other. The difference is one of passion and temperament, not certainty.Report

  43. Avatar Chet
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    says:

    Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

    Well, good luck with that, Kain.Report

  44. Avatar E.D. Kain
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    says:

    Well, good luck with that, Kain.

    **sigh**

    I hate adding the /sarcasm tag when I use it but perhaps I was being too vague. FYI my statement was intended as sarcasm. The fact of the matter is, I do not care for your *version* of the truth, nor do I believe that your opinion on what constitutes delusion is in any way meaningful to me. That is not because I do not care about the truth etc. etc. etc. but rather because I believe in a “to each their own” take on life. Far be it from me to convince atheists or buddhists or any other that my truth should also be theirs. I only hope for the same others.Report

  45. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    “Can you point to one?”

    Dude. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.

    “You’re certainly working pretty hard to convince me of the existence of religious fundamentalist atheists.”

    I’m just trying to get you to see one, my man.

    “Does that mean that’s your religion? Why or why not?”

    Nah. I gave up on post-theism in my 20’s. I worked through my post-post-theism in my early 30’s. I’m currently enjoying my post-post-post-theism too much to really contemplate post-post-post-post-theism, but, hey. Maybe someone will write a book about it that I can yell about and I’ll be a convert.

    Or, maybe, I’ll backslide and become a post-post-theist again.

    “I’m glad you don’t have members of your family whom you pretend to collect stamps around, because otherwise you’ll be blamed for ruining Christmas.”

    Once I realized the joy found in watching others open presents that I worked pretty hard to pick out in the hopes that they would say “wow, what a delightful present!” and actually be pleased, I realized that that was a *LOT* more fun. Going to Christmas Eve at the home of a loved one and talking about them is so much more wonderful than going there and talking about me.

    But that’s something that I had to discover for myself.

    Oh, and little kids opening presents is really sweet too. Get them a bucket of dragons/dinosaurs and yell “RAR RAR RAR” for 20 minutes. That’s the *TRUE* meaning of Christmas. And, hell, even if it ain’t, it’s a damn sight better than spending a few hours saying “You’re Doing It Wrong”.

    That’s what Easter is for, anyway.

    “But the reason you can not collect stamps without being bothered by it is due to the efforts of all the people out there, like Dawkins, saying as loudly as they can to everyone who will listen: “you know, it’s ok if you don’t collect stamps.””

    My atheism predates your venerated book. I was actually one of the people yelling loudly to whomever would listen, actually. I stopped yelling when I looked in the mirror and realized that I looked no different from the Focus types I was yelling at.

    “I think there’s a place in atheism for both kinds of people, that neither is any less atheist or more religious than the other. The difference is one of passion and temperament, not certainty.”

    Sure there is. I’m not telling you to quit! Knock yourself out!

    I’m just telling you that passion and temperment belie the amount of certainty. When you start hammering the table and raising your voice? You’re doing a very good job of hiding your doubt under a bushel.

    But, as I said, everybody needs a hobby.Report

  46. Avatar Chet
    Ignored
    says:

    The fact of the matter is, I do not care for your *version* of the truth

    The truth doesn’t have versions. Look, either God exists or he doesn’t. Persons concerned about having the most accurate picture of reality seek out evidence, opposing views, and are willing to follow the evidence where it leads.

    Persons much more concerned about preserving the cherished beliefs they need to grapple with uncertainty in their lives say postmodernist things like “your version of truth” or “to each their own”, which are weasel phrases that allow them to dismiss contrary evidence or arguments they can’t digest.

    Like I said, good luck with that. I wasn’t being sarcastic, just indicating that the gulf between us can’t be bridged. You’d rather believe than know. I’m the exact opposite.Report

  47. Avatar E.D. Kain
    Ignored
    says:

    You’d rather believe than know. I’m the exact opposite.

    Yeah, must be the mysterian in me I guess….Report

  48. Avatar Chet
    Ignored
    says:

    Dude. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.

    I guess what I’m asking is this – can you point to a prominent atheist, someone with public thoughts on his atheism, that you think is the kind of atheist you’re trying to convince me exists. Then I can look up their thoughts and writings, and see if you’re right about their atheism being religious, or whatever.

    Belief really should have nothing to do with it.

    Going to Christmas Eve at the home of a loved one and talking about them is so much more wonderful than going there and talking about me.

    Like I said, I’m glad you have the freedom not to talk about yourself. Your family is clearly not burdened by evangelical Christians. Sadly, mine is.

    My atheism predates your venerated book.

    Sigh. Don’t miss the forest for the trees, ok? Dawkins wasn’t the first. He’s just an example. Unless you’re more than 3000 years old, the point is that it was the mouthy, won’t-shut-up-about-it atheists who created the space you live in now, the space where you can be an atheist and nobody cares about it. (Though I suspect that some of the people who know you don’t actually know you’re an atheist and would care very much that you are. Probably some people in your family, too. Since you never talk about your atheism, apparently, you haven’t discovered which among them are primed to give you a hard time about it. Try coming out of the closet sometime.)

    I’m just telling you that passion and temperment belie the amount of certainty.

    And I’m telling you that’s pretty stupid. There’s little connection between the two.

    You’re doing a very good job of hiding your doubt under a bushel.

    Woah woah woah! Somebody stop those goalposts, Jayhawk is trying to run away with them!

    We were talking about having doubt, not hiding doubt, remember?Report

  49. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    “Your family is clearly not burdened by evangelical Christians. Sadly, mine is.”

    Snort. Dude. There are issues of Focus on the Family magazine that contain names of relatives of mine. On the masthead. I have had relatives appear as guests on Doctor Dobson’s show. Featured guests.

    I have done Christmas Eve at their houses in the past. I reckon that I will do Christmas Eve at their houses in the future. And you know what? My atheism will not come up. This is due to my not using phrases that begin with “You People” anywhere *NEAR* as much as I would like to and instead changing the subject to stuff like “grandkids” or “nephews” or “cats”.

    Yelling “HEY BUDDY! WANNA PLAY DINOSAURS?” to the nephew and playing dinosaurs helps. Not saying “you know that these things existed millions of years before the first humans” and instead saying “RAR RAR RAR” during play also helps.

    “Since you never talk about your atheism, apparently, you haven’t discovered which among them are primed to give you a hard time about it. Try coming out of the closet sometime.”

    Wow. My first inclination was to write something like “go fuck yourself” and then I realized that I must have stuff back there that I haven’t dealt with yet if such a response immediately comes to the fore.

    Hrm. I still have work to do.

    Anyway, I will instead point out that atheism, for me, is like not collecting stamps. There isn’t a God. This really isn’t that interesting enough for me to get people to stop believing that they’ll see their dead loved ones again in order to… I don’t know. In order to prove a point.

    Now, you may ask, why am I arguing with you, if I don’t care? Well, it’s like that scene in The Last Unicorn where the wizard is talking to the skeleton on the mantle. “Why do you want to drink wine? You’ve got no tongue, no belly.”

    Dude. I CAN REMEMBER.

    Any how, this argument is like that. I remember.

    “And I’m telling you that’s pretty stupid. There’s little connection between the two.”

    Heh. Sure. You’ll see, someday. Or you won’t. It’s all good.

    “We were talking about having doubt, not hiding doubt, remember?”

    I do indeed.

    And when you act with the same amount of certainty as the Focus Folks, when you mention your doubt like you’re reading off the Lord’s Prayer, when you constantly quote the texts that help you make it through the day… you are hiding your doubt under a bushel.

    But, dude. Don’t think that I’m telling you to change.

    I’m just pointing stuff out to you.

    He that has ears to hear, let him hear.Report

  50. Avatar Richard
    Ignored
    says:

    Eric Hoffer, “The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not”
    Me, I fall here. I don’t believe, but then again, I don’t give a damn if you do or not. Find peace in your belief system and leave everybody else the hell alone.Report

  51. Avatar matoko_chan
    Ignored
    says:

    My jesuit teacher in catholic school, taught that Jesus loved Thomas the best of all……because it was so much harder for him.Report

  52. Avatar Katherine
    Ignored
    says:

    Beyond this, it strikes me that much of conservatism in general is founded in some sort of skepticism or doubt, including Daniel’s own brand, which is very down to earth and critical especially of optimism in foreign policy. To simply write it off as a function of human confusion is to sell it short.

    I think you may be misunderstanding Daniel here. A vital part of faith is skepticism as regards human wisdom, and humility (which he cited as produced by faith) caused by an undestanding that human beings are deeply, deeply fallible. Forgetting the fact of human fallibility, particularly that of what Christians call original sin, is the key flaw in many political ideologies including communism, liberal humanism, and whatever you want to term Bush’s freedom-fixes-everything delusion. However, that comes coupled with faith in God’s complete infallibility; doubting God may be an irremovable part of faith, due to human weakness, but that does not of necessity make it a positive one.

    Absolutism, the absence of doubt, is not always wrong. Sometimes change can only be brought by those who recognize evil for what it is. On some things – slavery, torture, abortion – the only moral position is the one that states these things are wrong. How many people here think torture should be “safe, legal and rare” (more or less the PoV expressed by the memos)?Report

  53. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    That doesn’t describe atheism as I experience it, or as any atheist has ever experienced it. “Certainty” is not a feature of it at all. Not in the least.

    Even arch-atheist Richard Dawkins isn’t completely certain about his atheism – he says so, clearly, in his book and in interviews. There’s no faith in atheism.

    Talk about faith all you like, Kain, but is it truly necessary for you to malign and misrepresent atheism?

    You also should not speak for all atheists. E.D. is quite close to the mark in his representation of atheism. The adjustment he misses is the replacement of the concept of faith with belief, whch more aptly describes atheists relationship to God’s non-existence. I’m not sure if E.D. is insisting that whatever atheists believe about their beliefs about God, there is nonetheless an element of faith in them, which would be his right to contend if he believes it. But i don’t think he would deny that most atheists believe that they have persuasive reasons to believe that God does not exist. That is contrary to religious people, some of whom believe they have reasons to believe in God, but others of whom rely on faith. I think he is drawing an analogy, or at least focusing more on the similarity between belief and faith, rather than on the difference. But I don;t think he would deny the difference, since faith — independent of reasoned belief and despite doubt — is an important part of what we call “Faith,” i.e., belief in God.

    I think the point he means to press, however, is that however much we atheists believe in a godless universe, we also must encounter moments of doubt in that belief, and he is surely right, is he not?Report

  54. Avatar E.D. Kain
    Ignored
    says:

    I think the point he means to press, however, is that however much we atheists believe in a godless universe, we also must encounter moments of doubt in that belief, and he is surely right, is he not?

    I couldn’t agree more… 😉Report

  55. Avatar Lary Nine
    Ignored
    says:

    In Buddhism there is what is called a “doubt mass”, symbolically dispelled by focused meditation on some mounted animal horn.Report

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