REPLY #46b TO
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prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
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and are prefaced by my initials (MB)
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Uh-huh. So, making a wild and purely speculative guess is justification for an
expressed personal opinion about atheism?
(R) My statement is not speculative because it is based on something
personal experience. It could be wrong. Maybe I've just been unlucky in the
atheists I've met.
(MB) Your experience is not speculative, but the extrapolated conclusion you've
drawn from those experiences is. As I suggested previously, I'll bet you've
actually met more atheists than the ones whose behavior prompted you to remember
them. I doubt you'd have much reason to delve into somebody's religious beliefs
(or lack of them) unless motivated by a desire to connect them with a reason for
certain observed behaviors.
(R) I have yet to see you step up to the plate with a similar statement, though.
You've made plenty of "All religious believers do such and such" type
statements, but you've backed them up with nothing. That's
(MB) Generalizing about the behavior of a given population is not the same thing
as saying that *all* members of that population exhibit that same behavior. I
don't say that *all* religious believers do anything, good *or* bad. That is
your contribution towards misunderstanding.
It's also instructive to note that your disputes have almost always been
directed at the scope of a behavior instead of at the behavior itself. This is
an example of a logical fallacy whereby one attempts to conclude that one
contradictory example somehow invalidates all conforming examples. For example,
if it is argued that "Being a Fizbin is bad and all fish are Fizbins", offering
a counter-argument that there is one fish that is not a Fizbin does not prove
that this is the case for the remainder of the population nor does it
demonstrate that being a Fizbin is good. In actuality, such a counter-argument
is a tacit acceptance that the population does actually exhibit the problematic
behavior under consideration -- making the counter-argument itself rather
This is why all of your quibbling about scope does nothing to answer the
larger questions of substance and, in fact, tends more to support what I've said
rather than to refute it.
Islam itself is not ruthless in its demands -- it is just strict. It doesn't
fall apart or splinter into hundreds of sects because it is internally
consistent and honest.
(R) As has already been discussed, Islam has two major divisions, two other
major sects, and over 70 smaller ones.
(MB) As has already been discussed, Christianity has splintered into at least 20
times more sects than the number you give for Islam. In fact, there are probably more sects of
Christianity than there are combined sects of all other religions in the
(R) It is 600 years younger than Christianity, so perhaps in time it will
produce even more.
(MB) Christianity is over 3000 years younger than Judaism and Hinduism, yet it
is vastly more fractured, splintered and confused. Clearly, the age of a
religion has no direct correllation to how intact it remains in comparison to
(R) After all, the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches were the only divisions
in Christianity until the 16th century and it is only over the last 200 years
most of the other sects have arisen.
(MB) Actually, the rapid acceleration in the number of sects of Christianity
coincides with the beginnings of Protestantism. It remained relatively intact
prior to that event primarily due to the strong centralized authority of the
Pope -- from which Protestantism broke away. Once free of that central
authority, Protestants were free to "roll their own" versions of Christianity
and create sects which promote their own versions of doctrine, dogma, and
(R) I don't know that Islam is internally consistent and honest, --it may be.
So are the teachings of Christ.
(MB) There are numerous examples from the Bible itself that Jesus didn't always
practice what he preached. As examples:
- He preached, "Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you." (Luke
6:27, 6:35). However, he seems not to practice that himself as concerned the
Gentiles, Pharisees, moneychangers, and disbelievers -- referring to some of
them as "fools" despite specifically admonishing others not to use that term
under threat of being liable to the "fire of Hell" (Matthew 5:22, 23:17).
- He preached against anger, saying "Anyone who is angry with his brother
shall be liable to judgment" (Matthew 5:22), yet he openly displayed anger on
several occasions, (e.g., Mark 3:5, Matthew 21:12-15, Mark 11:12-14, Matthew
12:22-31, Luke 10:13-15).
- He preaches the virtues of the Old Testament commandment: "Honor your
father and mother", yet there are no recorded instances of his treating either
Joseph or Mary with honor and the Gospel of John tells of at least two instances
where Jesus was disrespectful to his mother (John 2:4, John 19:26).
- He preaches the virtues of honesty, equates lying with evil (Matthew
15:19) and proclaims both "My testimony is true" (John 8:14) and "I am the
truth" (John 14:6). In John 18:20, he says "I have spoken openly to the world;
I have always taught in the synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come
together; I never spoke secretly". Yet, he taught in many places other than
synagogues and temples and told his disciples that they alone would be given the
"secret of the kingdom of God" while all others would be kept in the dark about
it through the use of parables, so that those others would "see but not
perceive" and "hear but not understand" (Mark 4:11-12). There is also a case
recorded in John 7:2-10 where Jesus lied to his brothers. They had urged him to
accompany them to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Tabernacles, but Jesus told
them that he would not be going. Later, however, he went secretly to Jerusalem
- Christians claim that Jesus is God and that his purpose was to die for our
sins. If so, why does he cry out "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?"
while on the cross? (Matthew 27:46)
- Jesus taught "With God, everything is possible" (Matthew 19:26, Mark
10:27, Luke 18:27) yet the Gospels record instances where Jesus was unable to
perform miracles allegedly because of the unbelief of others (see Matthew 13:58,
These are certainly
enough examples to cast doubt upon the "perfection" of Jesus and the unfailing
honesty and consistency of his teachings (and there are many more which could be
presented). Most of his secular teachings are not even original with him and
are found in many societies and other religions which predated him. In fact, a
great many can be found in Hinduism in the stories of Krishna.
Sure, it is used by ruthless leaders as a way of maintaining control. But, so
are Christianity and practically every other religion.
(R) I couldn't agree more, but in any case, this doesn't mean all religion is
suspect because of the actions of a few ruthless individuals.
(MB) True. Religion is suspect because of the inconsistency and incoherence of
its doctrines. When religion is used as justification for questionable actions
of leaders, that justification tends to become accepted by those being ruled.
After all, what common person is going to doubt the wisdom of God as revealed
through the person he has (supposedly) chosen to lead them? We still see this
today in the ability of TV evangelists and cult leaders to inspire devotion.
Without religion, how would people like this gain control of any number of
people and get money (or other considerations) from them?
The strictness of the religion doesn't necessarily prevent one from letting down
his hair when he is away from its influences.
(R) Doesn't Allah look down on Bahrain? If the religion is strict, it is
strict, period. If you can break the rules and get away with it, it's not
(MB) Don't confuse a lack of enforcement with any lack of strictness of a given
religious doctrine. Islam requires much of its adherents. If a Muslim decides
to stray, that doesn't change the basic doctrine of his religion nor does it
equate that religion to one that is undemanding to the point of being lax, such
Any Desert Storm veteran will tell you about the restrictions placed on the
American troops while in Saudi Arabia. Those same restrictions weren't in place
in Turkey, nor are they in Bahrain.
(R) I know. What does this have to do with anything? Does it illustrate that
Islam isn't strict in Bahrain and Turkey?
(MB) No, it indicates that enforcement of Islamic doctrine is stricter in Saudi
Christianity has also had a far more active missionary tradition than has Islam.
Today, Islam is the fastest-growing major religion in the world.
(R) Christianity has an extremely active focus on missionary work and continues
to grow. Much of Islam's growth came from conquests during the first hundred
years after Mohammed -- the rate slowed considerably after that.
(MB) Obviously, it couldn't continue at the same rate forever. The end of the
glory days of exploration pretty much brought the concurrent rapid expansion of
the religions of the explorers to an end, as well.
(R) Its modern growth is probably more a function of population increase than
(MB) Considering that there are no more unknown lands to explore and discover
and no countries that have not already largely adopted one of the major
religions, this really isn't saying much. However, Islam is making inroads into
Christian nations much more than Christianity is converting Muslims. In fact,
according to a recent CNN report, there are now more Muslims in the United
States than members of any sect of Christianity except for
(R) Christianity is a very attractive religion, for a number of reasons, and it
is highly unlikely Islam will ever catch up in numbers.
(MB) I wouldn't be too sure about that. Since Islam is more popular in the
third world and that is where the world's population is growing at the fastest
rate, it will continue to gain on Christianity. Also, since Christianity is
weakening in the technological "Western" nations, the growth in numbers of
adherents in those nations is slowing and may well stop (or even reverse) as
non-religious beliefs become more acceptable and people "try out" other
I'm not sure that either college dorms or military barracks would be a great
choice of places to find informed opinions on heavy subjects. This is not to say
that there won't be a lot of freely-expressed views, of course. Many of them
normally arise after bouts of the aforementioned heavy drinking.
(R) Or during it. But even though these places don't compare to an Ivy League
philosophy department (how much time have *you* spent in one of
(MB) None. However, that is not required in order to be knowledgeable on any
subject that may be taught in those departments.
(R) ...the people in them are not fools and are just as capable of deep and
independent thought as you or I. I have on occasion heard pearls of wisdom as
good as any I've read in any book, and I've read some good ones.
(MB) Wisdom and knowledge are not one and the same, nor does an increase in one
imply a concurrent increase in the other. No pearl of wisdom will ever outshine
a gem of evidence in the pursuit of supporting a claim.
So, you've met "dozens" of atheists -- some in situations of dubious
intellectual environs -- and from this you can extrapolate the views of all
(R) The intellectual environment is probably no more dubious than anything
you've been in.
(MB) I guess this is an admission that I was
(R) Overall, I'd have to say I've gotten to know and talked with somewhere
between 100 and 200 atheists over the years.
(MB) Has every atheist you have ever met identified himself as such to you? In
other words, are you certain that you have never gotten to know and talk with
anybody who, unbeknownst to you, has been an atheist?
(R) No, I can't be certain of the views all atheists.
(MB) From what you've been saying, it seems that you can't be certain of the
views of *any* of them outside of the obvious fact that they do not believe in
(R) But I've never met a single one who didn't at one time or another express
the opinion that there is no God and if a specific behavior hurts no one, it's
(MB) Only the first opinion is ubiquitous among atheists -- in fact, it's the
definition of "atheist". The second is not tied to one's views on religion and
suggests the biased view that all atheists are immoral and that they are immoral
because they are atheists.
(R) They generally don't like to face up to the idea that the specific behavior
in question may in fact hurt others, though.
(MB) Nor does anybody -- Christians included -- who engage in any form of
cognitive dissonance to rationalize their chosen behaviors. Once again, this is
not correllated to a belief or non-belief in God.
(R) How about your own opinions? If you were to say you'd met several thousand
Christians, I wouldn't be surprised. Can you honestly say every one of them
thinks it's O.K. to bomb abortion clinics?
(MB) Of course not. However, I see no massive outcry from religious leaders or
congregations to stop the bombings and/or protests. When's the last time you
saw a church leader (or anybody else, for that matter) go before a crowd of
protesters and appeal to their religious faith and "tolerance" in order to break
up the protests and accept the abortion clinic's patients' and staff's right to
exercise their own views?
(R) Or that they believe teaching the theory of evolution is evil?
(MB) Of course not. That is a particular failing of the Creationists. However,
once again we fail to see any mainstream religious leaders telling the
Creationists to stop their nonsense.
(R) Or that they all feel anyone who doesn't believe exactly as they do is going
straight to hell.
(MB) That is a more prevalent view and is another one where you don't see any
religious leaders disputing it. You yourself have expressed concern for the
"consequences" which might befall somebody for not believing what you
(R) You can't say that, can you?
(MB) I can't say what you want me to say. I can only say what's actually going
on out there.
(R) Yet you have no difficulty lumping all religious believers in to the one
category and making such statements about them.
(MB) I've already shown that I don't do this -- despite the words you keep
attempting to put in my mouth.
(R) At least I base my opinions on *something.*
(MB) Yeah -- "personal preference". Other than that, you have nothing. Come to
think of it, even *with* that you still have nothing.
(R) You don't and what's worse, you seem to see no problem with
(MB) I base my opinions on the available evidence. If that evidence leads to
troubling conclusions, that's no reason to deride either the evidence or the