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Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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103 Responses

  1. Avatar James Cameron
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    says:

    I always viewed the current major monotheistic religions as a clever way to solve problems of race and class in the ancient world in a liberal way. The essential Jewishness of the Jews damages the implementations of a caste system, Christianity was started of the poor and socially disadvantaged of the Roman Empire (especially in their colonies), and Islam created their movement of the back of the poor and disadvantaged as well (unifying tribes, etc). But then, I could just be imposing a modern lens.Report

  2. Avatar Robert Cheeks
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    says:

    A rather plaintive essay, Mr. RTod.
    A man searching, seeking, questing all of which are good things unless the seeking is perpetual. Sometimes its easier not to have to choose, and, of course, you don’t have to choose, ever.
    Another thing, at least about Christianity, is that there’s an element of accountability, which puts off the universalists something fierce. My, my that evil, ol’ Christian God will put ’em in ‘ell, just as soon as look at ’em.
    The thing about all that violence and killing, murder, and torture that my friends imply is caused by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is that it’s just not there, can’t find where the Lord said, “Go ye forth and slay the Muslims,” or “Torture libruls until they convert.” I’d look again, but hey, why don’t you? Then you can let me know what you find, that really pisses you off.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Robert Cheeks
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      says:

      “A rather plaintive essay, Mr. RTod.”

      Is it? I certainly had not thought it so, or intended it to be so. It might be because of the different lenses each of us bring to the table.

      “Sometimes its easier not to have to choose”

      I think perhaps another lens issue; I don’t see my not believing as not having made a choice.

      As for the rest, I agree that the text of Christianity doesn’t instruct one to go out and do evil. But I do think it taps into the tribal part of our brain, and that people are then able to use it as justification for committing evils. The posts that Jason directed us to may not have come from direct fiat from the Book of John, but it is that Book’s believers nonetheless that chose to openly, with their names attached, voice those sentiments.

      But I want to be very clear (I thought I was in the post, but perhaps not) that I don’t think this is a Christian thing, or even a Religion thing. It’s a human thing, and unchecked it can poison the thinking of any world view.

      I chose not to mention it because of the tone of my post, but one of the most brilliant satires I have seen on this is actually a South Park episode: Thousands of years in the future, the descendants of our time (um… they happen to be, well… otters) are divided into different factions of atheism, each believing their own interpretation of the works of Richard Dawkins is the True Word of Dawkins. They are perpetually at war.Report

  3. Avatar Tom Van Dyke
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    says:

    Why is there something rather than nothing?

    —We can never know. It’s a waste of time thinking on it.

    OK, fine. Hope you don’t mind if the rest of us do.

    Since most of these atheistic “confessions” tend toward the solipsistic, there’s really not much response that can be made from the outside.

    As for the “tribal” aspect to religion, certainly there is one. However, it’s also trans-tribal—belief, not blood—so it opens the door to a greater inclusiveness and less strife.

    In theory, at least. John Adams, no fan of organized religion in the least, said

    “Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been on the point of breaking out, “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!” But in this exclamation I would have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean Hell.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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      says:

      Tom – Did you read my post?

      I’m guessing not, as I’m not sure where any of these came from:

      “Why is there something rather than nothing?—We can never know. It’s a waste of time thinking on it.”

      I thought I was pretty clear that even though I don’t believe I am drawn to the big questions. I think you would have had to have read, I dunno, all the way to the second paragraph to learn this about me.

      “OK, fine. Hope you don’t mind if the rest of us do.”

      Umm… What part of my post, exactly, was it that lead you to believe that I want everyone to believe as I do? Was it the glowing way I talked about my wife’s faith, or my son’s? Or how I wrote about valuing getting to share in the life experiences of my friends of different faiths? Or was it this: ” I have no desire to “prove”[anyone’s] faith wrong … In fact I find the very thought that I might take pleasure in doing so deeply unsettling.”

      Regarding your writing off my belief as simple solipsism… Was it the aforementioned delight I get in other’s faith? Or was it this: “So which of us is right? It seems obvious to me with our complicated humanity that we are both in equal turns humble and guilty of hubris with our world views. The great trick, I think, is to be able to recognize both your own hubris and your fellow man’s humility and adjust accordingly, regardless of belief.”

      And this – “As for the “tribal” aspect to religion, certainly there is one. However, it’s also trans-tribal—belief, not blood—so it opens the door to a greater inclusiveness and less strife. In theory, at least” – was exactly what I said for, like, 25% of the whole piece.

      Seriously, I can’t tell if you saw that I was writing about my faith and decided for yourself what I was going to say before you read anything and filtered accordingly, or if you didn’t actually bother to read the post at all.

      What’s up with that?Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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      says:

      I wonder, Tom, what is this nothing in lieu of which we have something?Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Chris
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        says:

        That’s either too deep or sophistic for me to answer, Chris. I cannot conceive of nothing.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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          says:

          If you can’t conceive of it, then why is it a question of not having it?Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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          says:

          Tom, the larger point is, what underlies the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” Aside from a conception of something and nothing (without the latter, your question is nonsensical, so you might as well ask, “Why is there something rather than dkaslkfjdlasfkls,” though I admit “nothing” is easier to pronounce), the question requires conceptions of cause and reason, and with them concepts of necessity and contingency. Since these things admit different conceptions, treating your question as something that must, of necessity, be reckoned with by any world view is the sophistic position. It is a deep question, but its depth hides much that makes it a problematic one.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Chris
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            says:

            The question is being, not creation as such, Chris. Neither are concepts necessarily reality as much as man’s closest approximation. Words are even worse, an approximation of concepts.

            You may declare dkaslkfjdlasfkls as synonymous with nothing, but “nothing” does just fine without unnecessarily dkaslkfjdlasfklsing it.

            But I think man-as-contingent-being gets to some of the heart of it [we do not create ourselves, nor do we hold our own atoms together], “contingent” being the most accessible of the words you have reproduced here.Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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              says:

              Tom, I only substitute dksakjkdsakskakj or whatever for “nothing” if “nothing” has no meaning. As of yet, you’ve failed to provide one.

              I am perfectly content with treating human beings as contingent beings. I can’t conceive of them otherwise. However, the contingency of humans says little about the contingency of anything else. And it is certainly not the case that our contingency need rest on something necessary. There may be a need for something necessary at some point, but our being contingent doesn’t require it. Nor does the contingency of any other particular.

              Anyway, I think we can dispense with “Why is there something rather than nothing” for now, since we’ve yet to receive a good reason for asking it.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Chris
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                says:

                Chris, you can’t play both litigant and judge in a dialectic or colloquy. The gentle reader shall decide which questions have been addressed and which should be dispensed with.

                Agreeable fellow that I am, I took up your use of “contingent” although I’m disinclined to continue with anyone who’s not a good sport. YOU are a contingent being unless you want to explain how you created yrself and keep your atoms cohering. Consider that a Get Out of Solipsism Free card, unless you’re a brain in vat. [Or some sort of Turing program.]

                [Even Thrasymachus abandoned the floor after he was done scorching the earth, and indeed he and Socrates rather became pals. Even if Thrasymachus won the debate part of Republic with his first foray. Some suspect he did.]

                As a good sport, I even accommodated yr use of gibberish, trying to save us from the ultimate destination of your reduction/deconstruction, which is to reduce a fairly straightforward question to gibberish.

                To yr point, such as it is, although I cannot conceive of nothing-as-void anymore than I can conceive of God in his fullness, I use the terms and concepts anyway in full knowledge that as a man, they are only approximations.

                Although it’s merely language, the good sport has no trouble atall knowing what I mean.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                says:

                Tom, it’s clear now that you don’t have the slightest idea what I’m saying. It’s disappointing that you raised the question and don’t even know the terms (like “contingent”) that it depends on. I’d suggest reading some Leibniz, but if you can’t get this discussion, Leibniz is going to go way over your head. Perhaps you could start with an encyclopedia article on your question. It might help you figure out where you are.

                The reason the question “Why is there something rather than nothing?” resonates, Tom, is because it touches on the intuition that the “something” is contingent, and that there must be something that’s not contingent that is the ultimate cause of it all. The point I was making, which it appears you have missed altogether, is that the question itself only makes sense if you hold certain assumptions about contingency, causality, the principle of sufficient reason, etc. These are not my terms. These are the terms that have been associated with the question since Leibniz posed it (and in fact before: these get at the cosmological and ontological arguments which predate Leibniz).

                As I said, I admit that we are contingent beings. We don’t cause ourselves. However, I see no reason to posit necessary beings as causes of us. No particular contingent being requires a necessary being as a cause. Of course, I say this eliding much that goes into the meaning of cause, but suffice it to say that the material cause of this contingent being is, itself, perfectly capable of being contingent (that is, it’s logically possible, and empirically probable).

                In short, you can’t ask a question as though it’s fundamental, and as though it must be asked, without, you know, showing why it is fundamental and must be asked. That we, you and I and every human on the planet, are contingent beings is not a good reason to ask the question. I know what caused me. I have a pretty good idea what caused you, too. I may not know what caused there to be contingent beings as an ontological category, but I’m not sure that question makes sense, and you’d have to tell me a bit about your metaphysics for me to believe that it does.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Once there was a boy
    Who woke up with blue hair
    To him it was a joy
    Until he ran out into the warm air
    He thought of how his friends would come to see;
    And would they laugh, or had he got some strange disease?Report

  5. Avatar Christopher Carr
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    says:

    I was thinking of posting this in response to Bob, but I have more stuff to add, so I’ll just go ahead and make a new thread.

    1. For what it’s worth, I think this is your best work so far at LoOG.

    2. Full disclosure: I’ve always been somewhat suspicious of the entire business of capital “P” Philosophy, and at different times in my life have found it pretentious, distracting, purposefully exclusionary, and a linguistic tool to reshape reality when your belief system is proven to be wrong.

    I profoundly disagree with this paragraph. Philosophy is the anti-ideology, as someone (I think it may have been TVD) pointed out in an earlier thread. Ideology is baseless belief. Philosophy attempts to establish reasons for things. It is the struggle to find better explanations than those we have received.

    Mostly though, my problem with Philosophy is its reliance on combat rather than collaboration.

    This is not true. The very concept of dialectic (the anti-debate and more or less what we do here) comes from Socrates.

    An example: In Jason’s recent post on the FOX Facebook page where thousands of Christians called for the death, rape and beating of atheists, I had what can best be described as a total disconnect with Tim Kowal. Tim’s initial assertion was that in order for my beliefs to count, I needed to come up with an entire system of epistemology, ethics and metaphysics that other atheists and agnostics could agree to*. Until I did this, Tim argued, we couldn’t debate and find a winner as to whose belief was correct. And while I grant that Tim’s approach to personal belief is quite common, I nonetheless find it an astoundingly bizarre way to approach a subject that is in turns a source of both communal connection and self-identity, deeply personal and often private.

    I’m with you on this. Anyone who rejects an institution like Christianity, which has thousands of years of intellectual history and refinement in multiple languages, is going to be at a disadvantage if debate is based more on elegance than it is on truth. This is why atheism, despite its relative intellectual sophistication (given its years), is always going to lose this argument if terms are defined as such. However, since atheism questions the premise of Christianity (or religion-writ-large if you will) – that God exists – none of what proceeds from that premise is relevant – no epistemology, no ethics, no metaphysics.

    3. You might be interested in this episode of South Park: http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s10e12-go-god-go and it’s conclusion: http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s10e13-go-god-go-xii

    4. I’ve always thought it’d be interesting if someone made a Mortal Kombat-style fighting game called GOD WARS. You could choose from characters like YHWH which initially takes the form of an old man with a beard but can turn into a burning bush whenever it’s time for a-smiting. Others characters would be Jesus, Buddha, Satan, Joseph Smith, Mohammed (yes, Mohammed would be included, but I’m not sure if it would be funny to censor him or not), Baal, who’d bludgeon his enemies with his massive member, Crom, Amaterasu, Cthulhu, Aslan, and Richard Dawkins would have to be in there as well. Of course, this game would offend literally every last human being alive for some reason or another. And of course, the people who weren’t offended and liked the game would be marginalized and accused of being un-American or somesuch.

    5. I get the hubris/narcissism thing from my relatives all the time. I don’t get it, because I think being uncertain goes hand-in-hand with humility. Not having a worldview where people who aren’t like me get righteously tortured for eternity should be a mark of empathy. It’s strange that it’s the other way around for most people.

    6. If I were to offer any solutions à la Hitchens/Dawkins et al., rather than saying religion is bad for society, have a society and culture where only actions matter. I can say and think whatever crazy shit I want, so long as I don’t burn down your house or falsely imprison you or suicide-bomb your children or whatever.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Christopher Carr
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      says:

      Christopher-

      Wow. That is some serious, serious feed back; pretty rich in content. If it’s OK with you, I’m going to take my time answering, and might even do so in separate comments. Though I will take the time now to thank you for your compliment at the top – I’m a little embarrassed at how much that made me smile.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Christopher Carr
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      says:

      Regarding the Philosophy stuff…

      You might be right; certainly most intelligent people I know would agree with you. It might just have to do with the way I have always learned Philosophy (all in college and long ago) and how I see it get pulled out and used. Which brings me to it being combative and not collaborative.

      It might be that I just don’t get it, but I think of philosophy as a tool used to prove your opponent wrong. Even entire one voiced treatises seem to me to be a way to prove everyone else wrong.

      The part that I don’t like about this is that it seems wasteful, and to a certain degree an academic exercise designed to weigh heavily for the philosophic academic. For example, you might have a geology major debate a philosophy major about continental drift. I feel reasonably confident that the philosophy major wins that debate hands down 9 out of 10 times based on his style, command of various epistemologies, elocution, verbiage, and everything else that goes into the socratic method that has evolved with philosophy itself. The problem, of course, is that debate aside the philosopher doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about: the geologist is totally correct about continental drift.

      But this is one subject I would be happy enough to be convinced otherwise about, so if you have directions you might point me to see Philosophy in a better light I would welcome it.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        To get back to your assessment of religion, and to tie that in a little bit, religious people often take the tack of citing scripture in the same way a geologist might cite the axioms of continental drift. Ultimately it takes philosophy to effectively argue that the premises on which scripture stands, that the world was created by God or whatever (although I’d argue scripture is so vague and contextual and mutated by time and language that it can be – and has been – used to effectively argue anything), are faulty premises.

        Unlike religion, science has embraced philosophy as a check on its own premises. So, for example, there are some theories that compete with continental drift. If a hypothetical philosopher were engaged in debate with a hypothetical geologist, I imagine the hypothetical philosopher would focus on where the axioms of continental drift derive from and how certain we can be of the value of these axioms. For example, a philosopher might say that continental drift cannot predict earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, so it is useless as a theory. The theory of magnetic movement or whatever is more parsimonious. The geologist would probably focus more on nuts and bolts of the prevailing theory of continental drift, data, and relating these data to existing conceptual frameworks. It is the philosopher’s job to question the methods used to obtain those data. So, while the geologist certainly knows more about continental drift, it may be that continental drift is not a good model for how things actually work. It takes philosophy to point this out.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Christopher Carr
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          says:

          OK, I confess you’re winning me over…Report

        • Avatar Kyle Cupp in reply to Christopher Carr
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          says:

          @Christopher Carr

          Unlike religion, science has embraced philosophy as a check on its own premises.

          Religion has done this as well, to some degree. Some religions may uphold “God says” over and at the expense of what can be discerned through logic and reason, but not all religions do this. Thomas Aquinas, for example, relied heavily on philosophical thought in the development of his theology. The previous Pope developed his personalist philosophy, which had implications for how he approach his faith, largely from a dictum of Immanuel Kant.Report

          • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Kyle Cupp
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            says:

            You’re absolutely right. That was unfair of me to say. I should have qualified my statement with “fundamentalist religion” or “the kind of religion that we’re talking about”.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Christopher Carr
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      says:

      Regarding the other stuff:

      First off, that game totally rocks. I wonder if you could even play it as a role playing game, where, like, Baal would have really high Charisma points but really low Reasoning points. (You could have Dawkins be at the other end of those point scales.)

      The idea of a culture where only actions matter is good on its face, but potentially troublesome. I say this because my observation of people and history is that big scary Evil is rarely done by folks deciding to be evil, but rather by folks deciding to be really good and fight evil.

      It’s funny about getting the hubris thing from relatives, I don’t get it there. The most I got was from my mom and dad, who in an effort to get me converted over time in stealth fashion used to constantly say “You should come to church. You can make some great business contacts that way!” I might have preferred dealing with the hubris line.

      And lastly: South Park otters rule.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        Don’t get me wrong. I think a multi-layered and contentious moral milieu is best for all, but I do think if people focused on proper action, on not doing any harm, instead of the righteousness of their own ideals, the world might be a much better place. I agree with you that history’s greatest villains were all certain that they were doing was good. Freddie deBoer likes to make this point and still gets a lot of pushback for it.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Christopher Carr
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      says:

      I’ve always thought it’d be interesting if someone made a Mortal Kombat-style fighting game called GOD WARS. You could choose from characters like YHWH which initially takes the form of an old man with a beard but can turn into a burning bush whenever it’s time for a-smiting. Others characters would be Jesus, Buddha, Satan, Joseph Smith, Mohammed (yes, Mohammed would be included, but I’m not sure if it would be funny to censor him or not), Baal, who’d bludgeon his enemies with his massive member, Crom, Amaterasu, Cthulhu, Aslan, and Richard Dawkins would have to be in there as well. Of course, this game would offend literally every last human being alive for some reason or another. And of course, the people who weren’t offended and liked the game would be marginalized and accused of being un-American or somesuch.

      This is a brilliant idea. And the best part for me is that I can like it all I want since I’m effectively immune to charged of being unAmerican (since my lack of American-ness is objectively established).

      The only change I’d suggest is to put PZ Myers in for atheism instead of Dawkins. Dawkins may be the better known, but PZ has 2 advantages:
      1) Cephalopod-based attacks.
      2) The special “Pharyngulate” attack, where the target is dog-piled by hundreds of thousands of science geeks.Report

      • Avatar Christopher Carr in reply to James K
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        says:

        Ha. I had to look that up that PZ Myers bit to realize just how funny it was. You could have similar “summon” functions for several of the characters actually. Mohammed could summon a thousand ululating terrorists. Jesus could summon a thousand missionaries who’d club his opponent to death with their Bibles , etc. The offense would never end.Report

  6. Avatar Tom Van Dyke
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    says:

    Appy-ologies, Tod: My comments were directed at the entire discussion hereabouts lately. The key point being, the provisional answer to “knocking on the door” should be “no one’s answered yet.”

    Indeed, there are many folks who turn away from their provisional answer that someone did answer the door, but decide it was just self-delusion afterall and return to Square One. It’s the nature of the thing.

    That you are moved by the faith of others is of course the opposite of solipsism, and perhaps an echo from inside the room.

    As for the hubris question, and what is a departure from the pluralistic tone of yr post, I realize it’s meant in self-defense, but the human equation happens to take that as an attack on faith, that believers are gullible or delusional. It may be unfair, but that’s the way it is. Hence, the charge of hubris. Those secure in their faith [or even secure in their own insecurity, acknowledging that doubt is part of the process] are not so threatened.

    I think it’s safe to safe the worst thing about Christianity is Christians, Islam Muslims, etc. Humans mess up the divine, pretty much by definition.

    Nice post, sorry for junking it up a bit.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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      says:

      “Appy-ologies, Tod: My comments were directed at the entire discussion hereabouts lately. ”

      No worries. I have done this same thing. (Really, who hasn’t?)
      “I think it’s safe to safe the worst thing about Christianity is Christians, Islam Muslims, etc.”

      Boy is that ever true. Emphasis on the etc.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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      says:

      After all, if your faith is strong you are not just arguing that God exists. You are invariably arguing that all who have come before you who had a faith slightly or greatly different from yours were wrong, and that the hundreds of millions of people today that believe, but believe differently than you, are wrong, and that you and a small number of your associates alone have cracked the Great Mystery and have an inside line into the Mind of the Creator.

      I’m not sure this is accurate or fair. It is accurate for those who adhere to their particular flavor of orthodoxies, dogmas, rituals, and the other trappings of religion. These are the ones for whom the tribal instinct is strong. This is sometimes what you get in a street argument.

      There are those who believe in the divine who do not insist that there is but a single path to whatever it is that they’re looking for (salvation, communion, union, enlightenment, whatever it is they seek). Such people, lacking the tribal instinct, seem to not bother speaking up all that much when others announce themselves.

      In cases where people who are thoughtful and intelligent wish to engage, there is still some tribalism going on (and it’s damnably difficult to resist reacting to it in kind) but it manifests in ways that purport to be subject to some kind of verification or check. E.g., reliance upon philosophy or the marriage of philosophy and orthodoxy called “theology.” There is tolerance and good faith and engagement, but ultimately there is a claim to superiority and an insistence that the non-faithful are in some sense erroneous.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Burt Likko
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        says:

        @Burt ” not sure this is accurate or fair.”

        For everyone of Faith? No, it’s not, and I wouldn’t claim it to be. But it may be anecdotal, definitional, or somewhere in between, but those people of faith that practice tolerance and good faith and engagement aren’t the people I have to make hubris counter-arguments to.

        My experience is that those that tell me it’s hubris not to believe as they do generally do fall into the category I stated. Or at least they have in my experience.Report

  7. Avatar Steve S.
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    says:

    “The most common criticism I get from the faithful about my lack of belief is that it is hubris. And from their point of view, I totally get this”

    I don’t. I don’t get how my failure to believe someone else’s religious belief X is in any conceivable way an act of hubris on my part. How many here have given !Kung San religion an honest shot? Is it “hubris” if you have not done so?Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Steve S.
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      says:

      The point being, though, that the true believers of !Kung San would think you guilty of hubris as well.

      We all think that we have a passable idea of who’s right and who’s wring in the big cosmic-y issues, even those of us who doubt. There is an inherent egoism built into that. And I’m not being critical of it; I think it is a very human trait, and is often what allows us to occasionally reach beyond our grasp.Report

      • Avatar Steve S. in reply to Tod Kelly
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        says:

        “The point being, though, that the true believers of !Kung San would think you guilty of hubris as well.”

        Not necessarily true. Ethnographers frequently describe how their subjects don’t seem particularly put off by the failure of the ethnographer to follow all the cultural practices. The idea that one’s own cultural beliefs are or ought to be universal is not a cultural universal.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Steve S.
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          says:

          “The idea that one’s own cultural beliefs are or ought to be universal is not a cultural universal.”

          Few things hold up on the “universal” order, I have found.

          I feel a little dumb, but I have to confess I thought the !Kung San were a theoretical device you are using to make a point. I hadn’t realized they were a real religion. I’ve obviously never heard of them. Out of curiosity, where are they from?Report

          • Avatar Steve S. in reply to Tod Kelly
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            says:

            !Kung San are an ethnic group, formerly called “bushmen”. I assume there are some nominal descriptions of their religious beliefs somewhere online, I myself have several dead-tree volumes on my shelf from back in the day. Regarding their religious beliefs Richard B. Lee made this interesting statement in “The Dobe !Kung”: “Whatever the nature of their gods and ghosts, the !Kung do not spend their time in philosophical discourse in the abstract (except when anthropologists prod them). They are more concerned with the concrete matters of life and death…”Report

  8. Avatar Robert Cheeks
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    says:

    Well Chris, the definition of philosophy depends on what era the definition occurs. Hegel saw it as the third great religion following Catholicism and Protestantism. Somehow I don’t think that’s your definition, which begs the question what is your definition?Report

  9. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    I came to my atheism after what could be described, for lack of a better vocubulary, as a “mystical experience”. It was the bottom of a bucket, falling through. Before that, I was the Christian who showed up for every Bible Study having read the text and argued with the teacher about them.

    I miss the church, many weeks. I liked the community. I liked the sermons. I liked the food.

    Given the absence of a God, I’m stuck with either lefty churches like the Unitarians or sleeping in on Sunday Morning.

    Maribou is not an atheist. For her sake, I hope she’s right.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Anyway, there’s an essay you might like to read. It’s by Walter Kaufmann (if you recognize the name, it’s because you recognize it from the translations of Nietzche you’ve read… or you remember me yelling about him). He also has a book that he wrote based on his essay that is also called Faith of a Heretic. When it gets down around $20, Maribou and I buy a copy. I must have given out ten of these things…

      Anyway, I think you’ll see some interesting stuff in the essay.

      In the absence of a deity, it can be difficult to find a morality that doesn’t feel founded on sand.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        I’ll add this to the crash test dummies.

        It’s funny, though. This: “In the absence of a deity, it can be difficult to find a morality that doesn’t feel founded on sand.” This is a thought that I think might be unique to believers and ex-believers.

        I think we all have our own system of morality, and that they aren’t really that far apart. I imagine that believers often think they have this because of God, and for an ex-believer this is a hard foundational stone to replace. But having never believed, and having always felt in my bones the importance of morality in my life, my choices, and the way I treat others, the Divine piece never really feels missing.

        I could well be wrong, but I suspect I get my morality from the same place as, say, Andrew Sullivan, but he supposes it comes from God and I suppose otherwise.Report

      • Avatar James K in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        In the absence of a deity, it can be difficult to find a morality that doesn’t feel founded on sand.

        This may be true, but the security of the believer is a falshood. This is true, even if some kind of God actually exists.

        To explain why, consider the Ori. Now the Ori are energy being of great power. Their prophets (the Priors of the Ori) have miraculous powers, including near-invulnerability, creating deadly plagues from nothing, and raising the dead. They have created human life (not earthlings, but other humans on other planets). They also demand that all humans convert to worship them, and their followers will exterminate any humans that don’t comply.

        So far, so Old Testament. Here’s the question: The Ori aren’t omnipotent, but they would meet the definition of gods for many religions. So if an Ori ship sowed up above Earth tomorrow, would it be morally right to obey their commands?Report

        • Avatar Jon Rowe in reply to James K
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          says:

          James: Interesting. The “Ori” pretty well describes the way comic books incorporate the “gods” of the pagan pantheons. Except, as a long time comic reader, I’ve noticed, the gods in the Marvel and DC Universes — Thor, Zeus, etc. — never really human beings worship them. Sure they tend to see humans as beneath them; but their attitude seems more, let them worship us if they want, we’ve got better things to do than to care about that.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      So we both are from mixed marriages, if you will.

      i won’t push, of course, but I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t love to hear more about this mystical bucket experience some time.Report

  10. Avatar Tod Kelly
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    says:

    Thanks, Reba. My family is very accepting. I think we tend to view it not so much as any of us having a belief that is right or wrong, so much as a belief that is right or wrong for us, if you will.

    FWIW, I don’t know that I think of myself as an atheist. (Though most would insist I am.) I think of myself as being agnostic, but not agnostic about the God that any religion perceives. About that kind of God – the kind that listens to and answers prayers, picks winners an losers, decides which people he likes based on sacrament and ritual – that kind of God I am firmly in the atheist chair.

    Bit I do think there is much of a chance that there is some creator out there that we cannot possible comprehend as there is a chance that there isn’t. But whatever that might be, for our purposes, might as well exist or not.Report

  11. Avatar Tom Van Dyke
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    says:

    It’s been my internet experience that ex-fundies fall harder than most. I dunno if that applies to JB. He can do his auto-bio if he wants but I’m not in the therapy business. Tried, realized theology and psychology seldom meet if the subject is looking back rather than looking up.

    I defend the fundies on a theologico-political pluralism level, but it ain’t my bag.

    As for the ex-Catholics, similar, but not as vociferous. They just hate the Church and the men in it, bye-bye, not so much the theology because little attempt was made to explain it.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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      says:

      I’m not looking to go back, really. I am interested in moving forward, usually… but, as I get older, I find less and less momentum.

      If you’d like, you could see it as a manifestation of my processing of my father’s death (at a young age). Passing through adolescence with a God and then into young adulthood without one exactly mirrored my childhood with a father and then passing into adolescence without one.

      Easy enough to fix, I suppose. Inner Child therapy, I understand, works well with my particular affliction.

      Except it doesn’t feel like an affliction. It’s part of (but certainly not all of) who I am. It’s no more necessary than ex-gay therapy for someone who is 100% cool with being gay.Report

      • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        JB, I suppose a philosopher might say if you’re equally prepared to meet death whether there is a god [God] or not, you done OK.

        Seems a reasonable proposition and not a bad way to approach this life, yes? It’s sort of what I get from Ben Franklin, a totally proper agnostic.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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          says:

          I have a co-worker who is a Catholic Deacon and, back when I smoked, we spent several cigarettes a week arguing theology.

          I told him a joke one week and then, two weeks later, he told it back to me… except, when I told him the joke, it involved Brahma. When he told it to me, it involved Saint Peter. I’ll tell you his version.

          An Atheist passes away. He finds himself standing in front of Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates. “Golly, I totally got that one wrong”, he said. Walking up to Saint Peter, he said “I suppose that this is where I find out the truth about Hell too”.

          Saint Peter checks his list and pushes the button and the gates open. “No, go on in.”, Saint Peter said.

          “There must be some mistake! I was an atheist!”, the atheist explained.

          Saint Peter looked at the guy and explained: “You spent every waking moment contemplating God, you spent many conversations exploring the concepts of God, and you forced theists to tighten their own thoughts about God. We have priests that didn’t manage that. There’s certainly room for you.”

          (Of course, maybe I like the joke so much because it’s fairly self-congratulatory.)Report

  12. Avatar Robert Cheeks
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    says:

    Praise the Lord!Report

  13. Avatar Kyle Cupp
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    says:

    @Tod Kelly

    The great trick, I think, is to be able to recognize both your own hubris and your fellow man’s humility and adjust accordingly, regardless of belief.

    I find it helpful, in this worthy endeavor, to imagine truth not as a possession, something I “have” and you don’t, but as something always ahead of both of us, something we both pursue and perhaps, in small but significant ways, touch through our thoughts and beliefs. This disposition is less comforting, arguably less fun, but, I hope, more inclined toward collaboration and truth’s attainment.

    Alas, when truth is caressed and not firmly gripped, it’s much more difficult to wield it as a weapon.Report

  14. Avatar Burt Likko
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    says:

    If we are standing in my front yard and you insist there is a dragon across the street that we can’t detect, you might well need to use linguistic gymnastics to define “reality,” declare how we know things to be True, and create an entire metaphysical system whereby your assertion that a dragon no one can detect is really there is “proven.” I reject that I have to do the same to reject your proposition. You might say you’re just being intellectually honest, and I might say that you’re using cleverness to be intellectually dishonest.

    In Tim’s discussion, I never got anything that seemed like a satisfactory response to my challenge to the first premise of the transcendental argument. In mentioning this exchange to a fellow non-believer, he indicated that he too had been challenged quite a lot over the past several months about “epistimology,” on occasion by people who he doubted really understood what that word meant. He and I wondered if these kinds of apologetic gambits come in waves, as though radiating out from a common source; in six months, will we be arguing on some other, more fashionable turf?Report

  15. Avatar William Brafford
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    says:

    As a note, I think “invariabley” is too strong here:

    “You are invariably arguing that all who have come before you who had a faith slightly or greatly different from yours were wrong, and that the hundreds of millions of people today that believe, but believe differently than you, are wrong, and that you and a small number of your associates alone have cracked the Great Mystery and have an inside line into the Mind of the Creator.”

    I think of Christian theology as a project with a consensus on some important things, but a lot of rough edges. Our understanding and interpretation of revelation grows and changes over time (regression is also possible), and though I could be wrong on some big issues I have to do my best. Does this mean my faith is weak? I hope not.

    I have passages along the same lines from theologians Karl Barth and Robert Jenson in mind but not at hand.Report

    • Avatar Robert Cheeks in reply to William Brafford
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      says:

      The last Christian ‘consensus’ was just prior to the arrival of that Augustinian monk in Germany.
      With that said, the real analysis is the one that examines the dichotomy between Christianity and Modernity. Now, it would be fun if one of our leaders take pen in hand with that question in mind.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to William Brafford
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      says:

      True, but remember the context: As I said to Burt, this is not a response that I use against, say, my family, or my friends that are Christian. This is a response to those that argue that not believing as they do is a sign of hubris; for those, at least in my experience, this tag generally fits.

      People of faith who are tolerant of others never look at my (pretty non-combative, I think you would have to agree) views and accuse me of hubris. The people who are also arguing that the Pope is the Anti-Christ are generally the ones that do, if you catch my drift.Report

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