REPLY #17b TO
are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text
and are prefaced by my initials (MB)
This is the second of a three-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.
(R) Your argument that all religious believers bear the "mantle of responsibility" for the actions of a few is the biggest bunch of hooey
you've spouted yet.
(MB) You forgot the last -- and most important -- half of my statement, which
was "...and does not take those individuals to task for what they say". Your
out-of-context complaint attempts to change the entire meaning of my point.
(R) Germany is seeing a resurgence of the
Neo-Nazis movement, does this mean all Germans are guilty of
racism and violence? What about our own Ku Klux Klan? Does
the fact this group exists make all Americans guilty of the same
things? The simple fact is, as long as we live in a free society,
unless a Nazis or Klan member does something illegal, nothing can
be done about them. Your claim that all those with religious beliefs
are responsible for the actions of a few is worse than ridiculous. I
can't believe you would use such an argument.
(MB) If somebody asks me what I think about any of the things you mentioned, I
will condemn them in no uncertain terms. If nobody condemns such things, then
they are given implicit support. Don't you want your own beliefs to be free
from nonsense and black clouds? Should religious beliefs be exempt from the
same standards as any other beliefs?
You say that my criticisms don't apply to all religious people.
If that is so, I'd like to know where a church can be found that
teaches its congregation that God is nothing more than a "personal
(R) Your criticisms apply to only a very small percentage of
religious persons, although you continually try to claim they all hold
(MB) Once again, here's a refusal to answer a direct question.
(R) God is not a "personal preference," although belief or non-belief in
him is, so you won't find a church which teaches such nonsense.
(MB) What's the difference? If God is not a "personal preference", then he is a
fact...and we've already covered that ground.
(R) But you will find lots of loving, tolerant churches which recognize
everyone's right to their different beliefs.
(MB) So long as those "beliefs" are only about minor things -- like whether
grape juice or wine should be used for communion. Is there a "loving, tolerant"
Christian church which will host a convention of atheists or Satanists or would
allow a religious service to be celebrated by any group that does not worship
God? What about the "right to different beliefs" of those people?
(R) Next time you're in Las Vegas, spend an hour on Sunday morning and take in a
service at Central Christian Church. I guarantee you'll be impressed. The
pastor, Gene Appel, is one of the best and most original public speakers I've
(MB) Why would I attend a church service when I don't believe in the religion
that is being practiced in that church?
(R) You also might do a web search under "Universalist-Unitarians" (I
think I've got it spelled right) and see what you find out. It'll give
you some idea of the diversity of beliefs out there.
(MB) I'm already aware of the diversity of beliefs out there. That should be
abundantly clear by now. BTW, you've got it backwards, it's "Unitarian
Universalist". They are one of the Christian sects that, among other things,
does not believe in the divinity of Christ.
One needs not be a fanatic in order to hold the
same beliefs. A fanatic is one who is strongly involved in
promoting those beliefs -- sometimes to the extent of using
violence, threats, or other aggressive tactics that do nothing to
further support the actual beliefs themselves.
(R) I agree with this definition of a fanatic. What does it have to
do with inserting honesty and eliminating bias from your Essay on
(MB) Nothing at all. My essay is already honest and bias-free. The fact that
you disagree with what I say does not change that.
Why would you be saddened or worried if somebody
doesn't share your beliefs?
(R) It's not about them sharing my specific beliefs, is has to do
with the possible consequences of a denial of God's existence. I'm
saddened and worried for anyone who engages in any type of
potentially self destructive behavior. I worry about the effect such
behavior has on themselves and others, and am saddened by the
suffering of fellow human beings. If you lose your eternal soul
because of your beliefs, I will be grieved. Would you rather I be
happy about it?
(MB) I would rather that you give me some reason to believe that such things as
"souls" - eternal or otherwise -- actually exist. Something that doesn't exist
cannot affect me no matter what I choose to believe in. The fact that you can
express any worries at all indicates that you have some reason to think that
such things as souls actually exist. What evidence supports this belief?
Same for getting upset with any attack upon them. If you are
secure in your beliefs, you would be immune to criticism --
especially since they are just personal preference in the first place.
(R) I believe America is the greatest country in history, and
although I acknowledge that there is much (as in any nation, or
indeed, humanity itself) in our past to be ashamed of, I also know
there is just as much of which to be proud. I am perfectly secure in
this belief, but if anyone slanders America, I will be upset and will
surely respond. This is true of my other beliefs as well....and is also
true of you and your beliefs.
(MB) While I certainly respect and agree with your views about America, it is
also clear that there is abundant evidence to support such views and to give
one good cause to be secure about them. If you consider your beliefs about
religion to be comparable to your beliefs about America, then there must be
comparable amounts of supporting evidence. Is there?
Once again, it's not the belief itself that I critique. It is the
conclusions and arguments that are developed from those beliefs.
(R) You seem to be making a claim here that you do not criticize
anyone's belief in God, but you do little but heap ridicule on such
(MB) Wrong again. If I heap ridicule on anything, it is not the belief itself,
but the notion that it is just as good as, or superior to, any other belief
about the nature of the universe. Is that hard to understand?
If one wants to believe in the Great Green Arkleseizure, that's
his business and more power to him.
(R) No one believes such a thing, because it is fictional. I
challenge you to find a single person who actually believes in the
Great Green Arkleseizure, or any other of the fictional (note I said
fictional) paraphernalia you have used in an attempt to denigrate a
belief in God.
(MB) And, if I did find such a person, how would your argument change? How can
you be so sure that no such person exists?
If, however, he seeks to challenge science by claiming that his
belief that the universe was sneezed into existence by such a being
is equal to the theories of science, that's when I will take exception
(R) Once again, this is not a contest between God and science,
but between God and no-God.
(MB) No, it's a contest between sense and nonsense.
The facts are that there have been several state and
local laws passed which have prohibited the teaching of
certain scientific theories (usually evolution) in classrooms --
either outright or unless Christian mythology is given equal
time and status. Many have, indeed, been struck down in the
Supreme Court and none that have challenged have survived.
(R) Absolutely the way it ought to be, and the way it will
undoubtedly continue to be, despite any cries of "Wolf!" by
alarmists such as yourself.
(MB) The alarm arises from the very fact that such laws have to have been on the
books prior to any challenges of them in the Supreme Court. Do you oppose the
Supreme Court decisions or support the efforts to enact the laws in the first
place? Don't you think that the success of such efforts is a cause for concern?
However, they are not all yet off the books and there are still
schools where science is still unwelcome even though it is
"legally" permitted. Funny how the "equal time" argument
doesn't apply in the churches of those communities, eh?
(R) My wife is an elementary school teacher by training, although
she currently works as the director of a very large child
development center (she gets mad at me if I call it a day care
center). She has worked in school systems literally all over the
world during our travels, and she has never heard of anything like
what you claim.
(MB) I wasn't aware that your wife was the definitive source of information on
this topic. In any case, here in the Deep South, one can read in the newspaper
a few times each year about school systems or teachers who have gotten into
trouble for interjecting religious beliefs into science classes.
(R) My mother was a high school teacher for 40 years,
throughout the Mid-West, and she has heard of no such thing,
either. Until you provide a specific example or examples of such a
school system, your claim is nothing more than unsubstantiated
innuendo -- as is much else of what you say.
(MB) I never resort to such things. The most famous case resulted in the 1987
Supreme Court decision known as Edwards v Aguillard which overturned the
Louisiana Creationism Act. Similar laws in Tennessee and Arkansas have also
gone down in the courts in the past decade. I'm sorry that your mother hasn't
heard about them.
After this case, the Creationists were forced to change their tactics and try to
position their beliefs as being "science" instead of "religion". If they are
successful in getting enough people to believe that approach, new attempts at
pro-Creationist legislation could not be attacked as violating the separation of
church and state.
(R) Yeah, and a boogyman lives in the bushes behind my house.
(MB) I suspect that this belief is nothing more than "personal preference" as
(R) The Supreme Court didn't have a unanimous decision on it, eh?
(MB) The "so what" is that the decision was not unanimous despite the
overwhelming evidence against the Creationists and the self-contradicting and
discredited testimony of their own witnesses.
(R) How many unanimous decisions do you think the
Supreme Court has made in its more than 200 years in existence?
I'll bet it's far fewer than an average of one per year. Most
Supreme Court decisions are much closer than 7-2, due to the fact
that only the most divisive and complex issues ever make it to the
court. By its standards, 7-2 is an overwhelming majority.
(MB) And you accuse *me* of unsubstantiated innuendo? In the 1996-97 term,
there were 80 signed opinions issued and 38 of them were unanimous verdicts.
(R) The fact remains that only a constitutional amendment, ratified by
three quarters of the states, will allow any legislation of this nature
to survive. The chances of such an amendment ever passing are
slim and none.
(MB) Incorrect. The Creationists attempted to succeed by painting their brand
of religion as "science" and they got the law passed on that basis. The law
stayed on the books for five years before the glacial legal process even got it
argued before the Supreme Court. This means that five years' worth of students
in Louisiana high schools were affected by the provisions of that law before it
Yes, they can, but that's not good enough for them. They don't want anyone
else's children to learn science, either.
(R) More innuendo. Once again, we have your nebulous, ill-defined "them." You
aren't by any chance a conspiracy theory buff are you?
(MB) It's anything but innuendo and/or conspiracy. Read the Creationist
literature for absolute proof of what I say. In fact, pay attention to *any*
argument based in religion that seeks to prevent certain things from being
taught in schools. These folks echo much the same thing you did earlier in that
they are all "worried" about the "consequences" of doing other than what they
You see the same approach in the crowd who always
protests the content of certain TV programs. Yes, they could
choose to turn off the TV or to watch other channels, but they
also feel the need to try to "protect" other TV watchers --
even those who choose to watch and enjoy those same
(R) I feel pretty much the same way as you do about decency
leagues. However, they don't have much success, do they? That's
because what they are trying to do is unconstitutional.
(MB) They don't have much success? Have you noticed the ratings system that has
been forced into use on TV now? When's the last time you watched a movie on
non-cable TV where certain words and scenes haven't been "bleeped" out or
censored? These groups pressure advertisers into pulling support from
controversial programs and succeed. It's even illegal to show somebody drinking
beer on a TV show. Unconstitutional or not, they have a great deal of success
in forcing their beliefs and morality upon the rest of us.
There's another issue here, as well. Are parents doing their
children any favors if they force them to go to a school that
teaches the myths of one particular religion in place of real
science? Are the parents so afraid of how those myths would
stand up to basic science that they feel they must prevent their
children from getting a complete education?
(R) Any parent has the right to send their children to the school
they wish, or to home school them. The only requirement of
truancy laws is that children receive a set number of years of
instruction in certain basic subjects. Not you, not me, and not
society as a whole has the right to make these decisions for parents.
I certainly would not want to live in a place where the government
took control of such decisions. The former USSR comes to mind.
(MB) Amazing! All those words and not one of them even begins to answer the
questions I asked. I'll assume that you must agree with parents allowing their
religion to supplant their children's science education.
Yet, most schools still do a lot of little things that
imply support for God and/or Christianity and few even bring
up the fact that other religions exist unless those religions were
practiced by some nation or tribe that was utterly defeated in
a war or was converted to Christianity.
(R) This has changed quite a bit in the 25 years or so since you
and I were in high school. Cultural divisiveness is the current buzz
word, and although its criticized by some, its a good thing.
(MB) "Multiculturalism" doesn't change any of the things I mentioned. Schools
still have Christmas observances, but don't teach the true history of Christmas.
They still take Easter breaks, but don't observe or teach about Ramazan.
They're anxious to teach or respect different cultures, languages, and ethnic
heritages, but non-Christian religions need not apply.
On the other hand, when I was in school and learned about
the Crusades, it was taught from the perspective of
"cleansing" the Holy Land from the invading, infidel Muslims.
Of course, no mention was made of the rather shady nature of
the Papacy in those days...*grin*
(R) I don't remember anything about cleansing the Holy Land
during my study of the Crusades in high school. Must have been
sick that day.
(MB) It was probably sterilized of its true purposes and presented as nothing
more than another series of wars.
(R) My subsequent study of history has taught me the
Crusades were part of several centuries of sporadic warfare
between the peoples of Europe and the Middle-East. Islam put
great pressure on the Iberian Peninsular in the centuries
immediately after Mohammed's death, at one point reaching as far
as modern day France.
(MB) I think you're confusing some of the minor wars fought between papal
contenders in the 13th century with the Crusades that were fought exclusively
over Muslim control of the Holy Land. Muslims never occupied more of the
Iberian peninsula than the southern half of Spain and Portugal (part of the
Dominions of the Almoravids).
(R) There was also constant warfare with the
Byzantine Empire, the former seat of Eastern Orthodox
Christianity, finally culminating in the conquest of Constantinople
by the Turks in the early 15th century. The Muslims were an
avenging, conquering host throughout most of this period, giving
their defeated foes three choices: convert to Islam, pay heavy
tribute, or be put to the sword. Under the circumstances, it's not
surprising the Catholic Church launched a counterattack.
(MB) Were the Muslims "wrong"? Certainly they felt that their religion was
"right" and all others should be converted or killed. Jerusalem was bound to be
a bone of contention since it is a holy city for Judaism, Christianity, and
Islam. Certainly, the Christians would oppose exclusive Muslim control of the
city and the attendant interference with pilgrimages. Yet, school textbooks
tend to paint the Crusaders as "holy" while the Muslims are "infidels".
(R) The Crusades were not admirable, particularly the bungled 2nd Crusade,
but they are perhaps understandable when considered in context
with other events. As in much of history, it is difficult to lay
absolute blame for anything at the feet of any particular group or
(MB) Correct, but if history is taught objectively and completely, not only can
we reach proper conclusions, we might also be better able to avoid the errors of
(R) The shady nature of the Papacy is a salient point. Religion has
been used through the ages by those with ulterior motives. It is an
excellent vehicle for whipping up popular support for a cause.
(MB) Which goes to show that emotion is more popular with the masses than is
(R) However, it has been hugely surpassed by political, economic, and
social forces during this century.
(MB) Perhaps. But, a visit by the Pope still produces a bigger public response
than a visit by anybody else - including the President. Also, politics tends to
seek extra support by appealing to religious beliefs.