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September 17, 2006

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What an amazing and resilliant thing the human psyche is. It fascinates me what elaborate mechanisms we construct to allow us our conceits.

I totally agree, the insistence that others govern their lives by my beliefs is anathema. It's also horrifying to realize that most zealots assume their beliefs are superior and therefore somehow magically immune to this universal -nee catholic- acceptance of other forms of worship (even non-worship). We all have a personal cosmology. I admit some of my beliefs are illogical -- EVERY belief is by definition, ILLOGICAL. So all are valid in my opinion, since illogical thought cannot supercede itself.

To be clear: Religious belief should not determine anything. Not the use of stem cells. Nor malpractice insurance, unless we're going to extend that coverage to ANY person who is found guilty of negligence, even the local priest. Nor the right to assemble and worship, even if you think my beliefs are stupid!!

Most people agree that we should keep ideas about 'right' and 'wrong' away from public policy. Unfortunately it is that huge percentage that insist upon that teensy caveat "Except for MY twisted/illogical way of thinking and look how (insert superlative here) these people are who also tout this way of thinking are. Certainly we deserve an exception to the rule when it comes to..."

Its odd to me that the worst offenders of this sort of intellectual bigotry and imposition are the self-ists, agnostics and atheists. Reasonable people can agree that creed should be exempt from government -- UNTIL men and women who claim an exemption to these boundaries (that keep personal convictions from imposing on the rest of us) decide that their "truth" is sooo profound that they simply INSIST upon enlightening the rest of us. Fanatical belief in the absence of God is just as corrosive as fanatical belief in the presence of God.

Eventually the human race will come to the conclusion that we must agree to disagree or we will simply kill one another to extinction arguing about it.

I dare to hope one day everyone can respect each other's right in that regard. I consider it my duty as a person committed to doing 'the next right thing' that I must practice that respect no matter how bigoted the response. May it blossom and multiply.

Namaste, Peace,
JH NY

benandante, I agree with you. Up to your comment about atheists and agnostics. Most of the people I know would be called "agnostics," because they don't subscribe to rigid religious beliefs and are willing to say "I don't know" when asked about God, life after death, and all that.

My experience is that agnostics and atheists are the most open-minded when it comes to discussing social and public policy issues. They base their opinions on observations of the world around us, not on hypotheses about an imaginary metaphysical world.

So I disagree that agnostics and atheists are as creed-bound as believers. The former believe in the world that we all experience, or nobody would stop at a red light. The latter believe in a world that is only experienced in their own minds.

Thus atheism and agnosticism unites people in the common bond of our shared humanity, while religion divides us into isolated cells of individual belief.

No seriously; the best you have to bring to the public square is Michael Ruse, Lewis Black and Playboy?

"Reason," related to "ration," from "ratio," is ultimately from the idea of counting. Similar to, but different from, the "measure/mother/matter" set of concepts. Look them up, it is fairly interesting.

So although we may like to insist that public policy and education should be established by reason and rationality, it is, in fact, not so.

And though we bewail that the irrational "should be seen as making it impossible for the rest of us to take their views seriously," it is unfortunately not so.

I don't think I can shout "facts" quite like Lewis Black shouts "fossils."

So now I have to admit that many of the concrete facts of my experience are based on irrationality: Rule of law, for instance, is sometimes capricious.

We want it different, but it is not different. So you say it is more healthy and genuine for me to rely strictly on my concrete experience, and I say I don't want to, and you say, but my way is not delusional and dangerous, and I say, the elves tell me otherwise. And that has become a ritual. Gay marriage/not; stem cell research/nay fellow; unilateral disarmament/forests for hamburgers.

It is a belief, and I think a false one, that reason and rational thought could become the only method of discourse that successfully changes our lives for the better.

Sometimes the elves know what they are talking about.

Brian, you said;

"So I disagree that agnostics and atheists are as creed-bound as believers. The former believe in the world that we all experience, or nobody would stop at a red light. The latter believe in a world that is only experienced in their own minds".

Brian I must disagree with your disagreement. I was a paid up subscriber to the UK National Secular society for over three years in my early twenties. The people I knew back then were anything but open minded or freethinkers (despite the society's journal called the freethinker).

Many would simply take the diametrically opposite ethical and moral stance to a religious pronouncement, just for the sake of being anti religious.

What led me away from the society is that it is a believing society, or to be more exact it believes in not believing. Or to be more exact it believes in some hybrid version of scientism meets materialism meets humanism. More and more belief and all of it as incapable of ultimate verification as the claims of religionists.

Despite what you say about the true experimental basis of true science, many of the scientifically inclined atheists I knew back then started with the non negotiable paradigm that any and all evidence for the supra/supernatural is utter delusion.

The only task remaining to science (for them) is to prove this to be the case. No question of lets investigate, see whats going on and modify hypotheses along the way.

No, simply a fixed and intransient belief structure that I eventually found as stifling as my Anglican upbringing.

Let me give you a run down of how such people view the world and in particular evidence for anomalous phenomena that have yet to be accounted for by most existing paradigms. It can basically be summed up as Absolute Truth for what they accept and Hoaxes and Hallucinations for what they don’t.

Theory of Evolution – Absolute Truth in every regard
Big bang theory – Absolute truth
Subjective mind comes from objective matter – Absolute Truth
Out of body experiences – Hallucinations
Near Death experiences – Hallucinations
UFO’s – Wow! Hoaxes and Hallucinations
Alien encounters – Double whammy again! Hoaxes and Hallucinations
Crop Circles – Hoaxes
Mystic experiences – Hallucinations
Psi and telepathy /remote viewing – Hallucinations and Hoaxes
Now not many people would say that the evolution and big bang theories are absolutely not true. What many would suggest however (without succumbing to Intelligent Design theory per se) is that there are grounds for accepting these theories couched within a framework of purposive, intelligent and conscious evolution. Some form of the Anthropic principle in other words and not just mindless fundamentalist reductionist metaphysics.

Hardly a scientific approach from many atheists I met and yet that was how these people viewed their world. It’s just another story we tell ourselves about how the world is and what we are doing here.
I ducked out of militant atheism because it is every bit as fundamentalist a faith as those religious ones you describe. I just wish we could see a bit more balance on this forum to reflect this reality, rather than seeing intractable belief structures as the province of religionists only!


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