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Atheists sue to keep 'In God We Trust' off Capitol Visitor Center


Achilles
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I'm just going to throw this out there:

 

1) Why should how we feel about someone personally be a factor in whether or not we agree with them? Does it make them any more or less right or wrong?

 

2) Since when did the Supreme Court of the United States have the authority to determine whether or not a policy is hypocritical?

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I’m against “In God We Trust” and I am not an Atheist. First, I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state. 2nd as a Christian I believe it is us that should be suing to keep God’s name off the Capitol. Isn’t that kind of degrading to the name of God?

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1) Why should how we feel about someone personally be a factor in whether or not we agree with them? Does it make them any more or less right or wrong?

 

Great point. Unfortunately, it seems that objectivity isn't the virtue it once was. :(

 

2) Since when did the Supreme Court of the United States have the authority to determine whether or not a policy is hypocritical?

 

If you mean what I think you mean, the answer is: since the Constitution was written.

 

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They have the authority to determine whether or not a policy is constitutional, yes. In this case I'd say that they were wrong.

 

They have no authority over the definition of hypocrisy, however.

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They have the authority to determine whether or not a policy is constitutional, yes. In this case I'd say that they were wrong.

 

And I would agree.

 

They have no authority over the definition of hypocrisy, however.

 

I agree here as well, however I don't think that defining hypocrisy is the topic at hand. I would say that judicial review does allow the court some leeway to decide whether something is hypocritical or not, but I think we're also being very liberal with the term.

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"In God We Trust" clearly has no place on government buildings or coin. That it is the national motto, replacing the more relevant and unifying e pluribus unum, is itself a violation of Church-State separation and gives favor to a single, monotheistic superstition. There are other superstitions held by American citizens that are marginalized which is unfair. Americans have the right to pursue religious beliefs without government favor, regardless of what their superstitions are (or aren't). What if someone believes in multiple gods? Or a god that isn't to be named? Or a blue elephant? These propositions are equally valid and just as likely as that of any Judeo-Christian cult.

 

Moreover, the Republican from California pushing for this should be ashamed and embarrassed given the cost. $100,000 could do a lot of charity. Feed a lot of kids. Pay for a lot of immunizations and health care in community. But he'd rather purchase four words.

 

The suit filled by the FFRF is patriotic and righteous. Let's hope the case is once again review by the Supreme Court and the motto itself found unconstitutional.

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Moreover, the Republican from California pushing for this should be ashamed and embarrassed given the cost. $100,000 could do a lot of charity. Feed a lot of kids. Pay for a lot of immunizations and health care in community. But he'd rather purchase four words.

 

I'm sure he'll feel about as ashamed as any pol who "wastes" tax payer money on any kind of boonboggle. ;)

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I think atheists are capable of acting like a superstitious cult like the best of us, but if they want to try this, good luck to them!

 

 

Oh wait, they don't believe in that either (most of them anyway, not to generalize). ;)

 

Nothing happens to me either way if such a motto appears on a building or coin, or doesn't, so I don't really have a stake. I think the main reason people are interested in stuff like this is the legal precedents that can affect long term trends, etc.

 

Don't forget, ALL costs could be used to feed hungry children or spent on something else, and that goes for any cause! One can always argue there is something "more important." Just sayin'!

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I think atheists are capable of acting like a superstitious cult like the best of us, but if they want to try this, good luck to them!
Of course they're capable. They're human. It's just not as likely or prevalent. :-)

 

Nothing happens to me either way if such a motto appears on a building or coin, or doesn't, so I don't really have a stake. I think the main reason people are interested in stuff like this is the legal precedents that can affect long term trends, etc.
That is one of the primary concerns, as well as the re-writing of American history. Modern religious conservatives seek to dominate government and, ultimately, insert their superstitions into law and policy. This isn't just a rant or an opinion on my behalf, but an admission and a statement of fact by these religious conservatives themselves. Its necessary to counter this from a rational and realistic perspective in order to preserve American ideals and history not to mention protect the religious freedoms of future generations.

 

Don't forget, ALL costs could be used to feed hungry children or spent on something else, and that goes for any cause! One can always argue there is something "more important." Just sayin'!
Very true. And the funds Lungren wants to spend are general taxpayer money. The funds the FFRF is spending is donated to their cause specifically for just such legal action. Many of FFRF's donors also donate to worthy causes and all of their American donors pay taxes. We (FFRF supporters, of which I'm proud to say I am) are fully prepared to feed and help the needy and we do.
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Of course they're capable. They're human. It's just not as likely or prevalent. :-)

 

And if you believe that..... :lol:

That is one of the primary concerns, as well as the re-writing of American history. Modern religious conservatives seek to dominate government and, ultimately, insert their superstitions into law and policy. This isn't just a rant or an opinion on my behalf, but an admission and a statement of fact by these religious conservatives themselves. Its necessary to counter this from a rational and realistic perspective in order to preserve American ideals and history not to mention protect the religious freedoms of future generations.

 

Just how big is that soapbox you're on anyway? Are you asserting that progressive liberals are really any more innocent. :rolleyes:

 

Very true. And the funds Lungren wants to spend are general taxpayer money. The funds the FFRF is spending is donated to their cause specifically for just such legal action. Many of FFRF's donors also donate to worthy causes and all of their American donors pay taxes. We (FFRF supporters, of which I'm proud to say I am) are fully prepared to feed and help the needy and we do.

 

Well, as long as the FFRF are going to pay ALL the costs of the lawsuit..;)

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And if you believe that.....
It isn't a matter of belief. It's a matter of logic.

 

Superstition is a necessary and sufficient quality of being a Conservative Christian who believes that there is not only a god we should trust but his/her particular notion of a god which is exclusive of the other hundreds of thousands of gods humanity has embraced in perhaps the last 100,000 - 160,000 years.

 

Just how big is that soapbox you're on anyway?
This is a form of ad hominem argument called poisoning the well. I don't usually encounter it unless the person with an opposing point of view is lacking in substantive or reasoned argument. Is this the case?

 

Are you asserting that progressive liberals are really any more innocent.
I don't care about politics. I find politics revolting. In fact, I find liberals and moderates to be problematic as well -too much tolerance for Islamic cults for example. I mention religious conservatives not so much in the political sense as in the degree of religiosity sense.

 

Well, as long as the FFRF are going to pay ALL the costs of the lawsuit..
They fund the legal costs they're responsible for.
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I don't think it's exactly correct to say that someone is necessarily superstitious because they are Christian, although I don't doubt it's likely that someone who is Christian is probably superstitious. Christianity doesn't necessarily entail believing in magic; e.g., God's actions are not magical, any more than my ability to walk is. Innate abilities, however amazing they might be, simply do not count as nature-defying magic. Nor does believing in Christianity necessarily imply fear of God, run contrary to evidence or entail ignorance.

 

I don't know if atheists act like superstitious cults more often than religious people do or not. I certainly don't hear about them as often, but then again, there are far fewer atheists available in general... particularly ones that would think it worthwhile to become a target for the fanatics' vitriol. It might be fun to be Dawkins for a while, but death threats probably aren't the fun part of the package.

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Christianity doesn't necessarily entail believing in magic; e.g., God's actions are not magical, any more than my ability to walk is.

 

I'm not sure why you're introducing "magical". Supernatural is both accurate and sufficient.

 

Perhaps you could help me understand the ways in which belief in a supernatural being is not superstitious?

 

Innate abilities, however amazing they might be, simply do not count as nature-defying magic.

 

Every claim regarding the judeo-christian god I've ever heard contains some element that is considered "nature-defying". Omnipotence and omnipotence seems like pretty "nature-defying" attributes to me.

 

Nor does believing in Christianity necessarily imply fear of God, run contrary to evidence or entail ignorance.

 

"Fear of god" is not a requirement for superstition.

 

Because god cannot be ruled out does not mean that we have good reasons for accepting that he/she/it does exist. Therefore accepting such a claim would be to do so from a position of ignorance.

 

It might be fun to be Dawkins for a while, but death threats probably aren't the fun part of the package.

 

Indeed. I remember getting a lot of emails from Sam Harris asking for donations for Ayaan Hirsi Ali's security fund. I realize the Dawkins has become something of a poster child, however I think anyone who takes the time to educate themselves will find that most everyone that speaks out against religion on a national/international level doesn't have to wait long for threats of violence to start rolling in.

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I'm not sure why you're introducing "magical". Supernatural is both accurate and sufficient.

 

Perhaps you could help me understand the ways in which belief in a supernatural being is not superstitious?

Certainly. I looked up "superstition" in the dictionary, and found that a Christian's beliefs need not fit the description (though they obviously can). That was where my list of "doesn't-have-to's" came from, actually.

 

Every claim regarding the judeo-christian god I've ever heard contains some element that is considered "nature-defying". Omnipotence and omnipotence seems like pretty "nature-defying" attributes to me.
Only if you consider those things to be against nature, which to a Christian they would not necessarily be. As in my example, the omnipotence thing can be explained as merely the result of the sort of being that God is, just as my ability to walk is the result of my being a human being that is reasonably fit. Neither of these can be called unnatural by any stretch of the imagination.

 

"Fear of god" is not a requirement for superstition.
See above.

 

Because god cannot be ruled out does not mean that we have good reasons for accepting that he/she/it does exist. Therefore accepting such a claim would be to do so from a position of ignorance.
If it were to go as you describe, sure, you're quite correct. But few people believe in God because evidence leads them to it. In fact, I do not think any evidence would be sufficient to prove God's existence. From what I can tell, the story goes: Get born, learn about God from your parents, sunday school, friends, see Jesus on the wall, pray over the table and before you go to bed, etc etc. In none of these activities resides the action of "looking to make sure God's there" or anything like it.

 

And then look at the sort of thing which usually facilitates conversions later on in life. Spiritual crisis, loss of family members, despair at being a good person / over addictions, etc. These also do not involve examination of physical evidence, but a "change of the heart". I think it's interesting that none of the writers in the Bible ever tried to prove God's existence philosophically; indeed, there's a defense of faith of sorts by Paul in Acts 22 which shows a method of justification extremely far from modern natural theology. Kierkegaard is an interesting read on the subject of despair and faith, and I recommend his "The Sickness Unto Death."

 

So, my understanding of the question, in its natural environment, is that it is not empirical, and given modern Christianity, necessarily so; if there is no possible difference in evidence between two options, then appeals to a decision based on which side has the most evidence are nonsensical. The statement "God exists" effectively turns into an attitude towards life and declaration of the way the believer will go about living. Interpreting it strictly as an empirical statement is to ignore the whole surroundings within which the belief was formed and given meaning. Paul's conversion and faith did not consist of "I didn't believe [that Japan is on the other side of the world] and now I do"; instead, it was "I will change my entire life."

 

Given this, your criticism is too limited to address the normal reasons for believing that a normal Christian might have, and for some people it may not address any of their reasons at all. It also would mean that belief in Christianity does not require a position of ignorance, since knowledge of evidence or proofs does not necessarily come into play.

 

Nietzsche provides criticisms of Christianity that could be effective in ways the empirical criticism is not, but they (from my limited reading, and I assure you it's very limited) seem to work mostly by persuasion, not "brute force" logic. Perhaps Jonathan7 could comment on those; I know he's read more of Nietzsche than I have.

 

My main point, however, was only that I disagreed with Skinwalker over his use of "superstition" as a necessary component to Christianity. I'm sure the two coexist quite well most places.

Edited by Samuel Dravis
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Certainly. I looked up "superstition" in the dictionary, and found that a Christian's beliefs need not fit the description (though they obviously can). That was where my list of "doesn't-have-to's" came from, actually.

 

I guess I'm still not seeing it.

 

Christians believe that jesus was the son of god, born of a virgin, who died for our sins and was resurrected after three day to ascend into heaven.

 

That part alone hits every single branch on the way down out of the superstition tree.

 

Only if you consider those things to be against nature, which to a Christian they would not necessarily be.

 

Well certainly there are all manner of things that I cannot rule out. We have yet to observe omnipotence or omniscience in nature. That doesn't mean that they don't exist. But that also means that we don't have good reasons to think that they do.

 

So if one were to suggest that we should accept those claims without observing them in nature, then they must remain supernatural constructs until such time that we can move them into the "natural" column.

 

And, obviously, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim in the mean time.

 

As in my example, the omnipotence thing can be explained as merely the result of the sort of being that God is, just as my ability to walk is the result of my being a human being that is reasonably fit. Neither of these can be called unnatural by any stretch of the imagination.

 

As per above, I'm still not seeing it.

 

Locomotion is rampant throughout the animal kingdom. Many species are capable of bi-pedal locomotion. There is a naturalistic explanation for why it is that you can walk, run, waltz, tango, break-dance, etc. Surely it is amazing in the same way that our opposable thumbs allow us to efficiently utilize tools. You are right to say there is nothing "unnatural" here.

 

But where is the rationale for omnipotence? Where do we see vestigial parts in the evolutionary chain of history? We don't. It's...supernatural. One "being" alone allegedly possesses this trait (depending on who you ask) and we have absolutely zero evidence that any of it is true.

 

You're saying that christians don't have to believe in the supernatural to be christians. My question is, how in the heck can you still call them christians if you take away all the christian doctrine? What is left?

 

If it were to go as you describe, sure, you're quite correct. But few people believe in God because evidence leads them to it. In fact, I do not think any evidence would be sufficient to prove God's existence.

 

Surely an omnipotent being would be able to do something to convince you, Mr. Dravis. Even my skepticism doesn't go that far.

 

From what I can tell, the story goes: Get born, learn about God from your parents, sunday school, friends, see Jesus on the wall, pray over the table and before you go to bed, etc etc. In none of these activities resides the action of "looking to make sure God's there" or anything like it.

 

And then look at the sort of thing which usually facilitates conversions later on in life. Spiritual crisis, loss of family members, despair at being a good person / over addictions, etc. These also do not involve examination of physical evidence. Kierkegaard is an interesting read on this subject, and I recommend his "The Sickness Unto Death."

 

I understand but these are all horrible reasons for belief. They are understandable reasons, but that doesn't excuse that they are horrible reasons.

 

As such, I direct you back to your own source:

 

"a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation"

 

Unless I'm missing something, christianity is superstition per your source and your argument above.

 

So, my understanding of the question, in its natural environment, is that it is not empirical, and given modern Christianity, necessarily so; if there is no possible difference in evidence between two options, then appeals to a decision based on which side has the most evidence are nonsensical. The statement "God exists" effectively turns into an attitude towards life and declaration of the way the believer will go about living. Interpreting it strictly as an empirical statement is to ignore the whole surroundings within which the belief was formed and given meaning.

 

Okay, and how is this not special pleading?

 

Given this, your criticism is too limited to address the normal reasons for believing that a normal Christian might have, and for some people it may not address any of their reasons at all. It also would mean that belief in Christianity does not require a position of ignorance, since knowledge of evidence does not come into play.

 

Wow.

 

My main point, however, was that I only disagreed with Skinwalker over his use of "superstitious" as a necessary component to Christianity. I'm sure the two coexist quite well most places.

 

Per my arguments above, I maintain that you might be missing the point. The argument is not that superstition is a necessary component of christianity. The argument is that christianity is itself superstition. There is no duality to separate and contemplate individually.

 

Again, I am open to seeing arguments to the contrary, but in the mean time I maintain that if you attempt to remove the superstition from christianity you will find that there is nothing left after you are finished (you may have some nice stories promoting secular humanism, but that's it).

 

Thanks for the interesting discussion, Mr. Dravis.

Edited by Achilles
spellin'
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I guess I'm still not seeing it.

 

Christians believe that jesus was the son of god, born of a virgin, who died for our sins and was resurrected after three day to ascend into heaven.

 

That part alone hits every single branch on the way down out of the superstition tree.

I'm not sure you've quite understood the point I was trying to get across. Those are religious concepts, but not necessarily superstitious ones. As per my definition, they do not arise from fear, misunderstanding of biology, etc. They are taught to a person and incorporated into their lives, like any other cultural phenomenon.

 

One can believe in the virgin birth without being superstitious because it is taught to one as something given. --Well, is it possible that you could have a virgin birth? But that was never in question; it happened, and that's that. Sort of like criticizing Zeus' ability to fire lightning bolts by saying, "No one can do that; it's ridiculous to even think about it." You'd have missed the point at any rate.

 

Well certainly there are all manner of things that I cannot rule out. We have yet to observe omnipotence or omniscience in nature. That doesn't mean that they don't exist. But that also means that we don't have good reasons to think that they do.

 

So if one were to suggest that we should accept those claims without observing them in nature, then they must remain supernatural constructs until such time that we can move them into the "natural" column.

 

And, obviously, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim in the mean time.

I have absolutely no clue what "evidence for the omnipotence" of God in nature is supposed to mean. There is a religious mythology which includes a God which can do anything it wants, i.e, omnipotence. The closest thing I can come to within that religion is the existence of the universe - often a favorite among theologians - but that is obviously not scientific evidence of any sort. But this sort of investigation is the wrong direction to look in.

 

God is often said, for example, in Psalms to be almighty. There's a tendency to take this at face value, though, which would be simply wrong. Reading the whole of Psalms, you discover it is a book of praise from ancient times, similar to how a supplicant might address their Emperor. "Oh almighty Caesar, with such purply robes and esteemed forehead...."

 

And we're to take such a thing as if it were to mean that Caesar is an omnipotent being? Not only that, but we want to find evidence for the hypothesis that Caesar is an omnipotent being? You see my point.

 

Incidentally, St. Anselm was guilty of this exact mistake when he formulated his ontological argument. The Psalms were written long enough before he came around that he was able to pass over (accidentally, I'm sure) what was actually being said in them and create metaphysics where there was none.

 

As per above, I'm still not seeing it.

 

Locomotion is rampant throughout the animal kingdom. Many species are capable of bi-pedal locomotion. There is a naturalistic explanation for why it is that you can walk, run, waltz, tango, break-dance, etc. Surely it is amazing in the same way that our opposable thumbs allow us to efficiently utilize tools. You are right to say there is nothing "unnatural" here.

 

But where is the rationale for omnipotence? Where do we see vestigial parts in the evolutionary chain of history? We don't. It's...supernatural. One "being" alone allegedly possesses this trait (depending on who you ask) and we have absolutely zero evidence that any of it is true.

 

You're saying that christians don't have to believe in the supernatural to be christians. My question is, how in the heck can you still call them christians if you take away all the christian doctrine? What is left?

You're treating Christianity as if it were something other than what it is: religious teaching. I'm sure you know how people come to believe in it as well as I do. Why equate that with information gleaned from more modern rationalistic methodologies?

 

There are two ways to treat any subject of knowledge. Either you can look at it subjectively, i.e, in this case through the eyes of the believer, or objectively, i.e., study what causes people to say what they do in order to understand what it means for them to say it.

 

You ask what the rationale is for God's omnipotence. Here's the objective treatment: that's how it is in Christianity. You can poke around and find reasons why this is so from a nearly unlimited supply of theologians, the influence of Aristotle on Christian thought in the middle ages, interpretations of Biblical passages, from the history of the Jewish people and their religion, from how their culture was in antiquity and how it changed through time.

 

Now compare this with your "looking for evidence of omnipotence". You're interested in getting to the truth of the matter, undoubtedly. But if that's so, then your questions should not ignore your knowledge of modern-day religion as a long-running historical and sociological phenomenon. Doing so would be similar to making the mistake Anselm did: extracting a word from natural discourse and divorcing it completely from the original context, and then becoming confused at why it was so hard to justify.

 

I agree with you completely that Christians believe in the supernatural. I just don't see that belief in the supernatural entails superstition. Modern Christianity has changed so much - I'm sure others would say, "insulated itself against criticism" - that belief in it does not necessitate belief in magic or what-have-you. The common idea that "nothing bad can ever really happen to me as long as I believe in God" is not contradicted by getting into a car accident.

 

Surely an omnipotent being would be able to do something to convince you, Mr. Dravis. Even my skepticism doesn't go that far.
I'm sure it could persuade me. But it couldn't prove to me that it was God, in the sense that doubt would be logically excluded. Once you start proving/giving evidence for things, doubt always enters the equation as a matter of conceptual necessity in English.

 

I understand but these are all horrible reasons for belief. They are understandable reasons, but that doesn't excuse that they are horrible reasons.
Horrible reasons for what? Yes, they're quite horrible reasons for believing in something. Touchyfeely nonsense, that would be. But my point with those paragraphs was that a religious conviction does not necessarily arise from reasoning, nor is it necessarily dependent upon reasoning. It's just something that people do.

 

As such, I direct you back to your own source:

 

"a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation"

 

Unless I'm missing something, christianity is superstition per your source and your argument above.

My personal experience with being Christian when I was younger fit none of the above. I was taught religion, that's it.

 

Okay, and how is this not special pleading?
I did give you reasons not to consider religion and religious statements as if they were some sort of science. Just the way both ideas are learned should demonstrate that they're obviously not.

 

Wow.
:D

 

Per my arguments above, I maintain that you might be missing the point. The argument is not that superstition is a necessary component of christianity. The argument is that christianity is itself superstition. Their is no duality to separate and contemplate individually.
Okay, I'm just trying to make this clear again: I am not, and have not, attempted to argue that all of Christianity is unsuperstitious.

 

I merely disagreed with the label of superstition for Christianity because a social practice is not necessarily superstitious, even if it includes supernatural elements. I attempted to show how this is possible by giving you a different idea of how people "learn" their religion, or are converted into it. The reasons people may enter into a religion may not fit the definition of being superstitious. They do not have to be ignorant of science or logic, they do not have to be afraid of the unknown, they do not have to trust in magic or chance, they do not have to have a wrongheaded idea of causation-- and they can still accept something like Christianity. Why? Because it is not necessarily a replacement for the other ideas we may already have. It's a way to live your life-- something additional.

 

People accept these mythological stories and they provide background and direction to their lives. They don't necessarily expect those beliefs to come to any actual difference between the course of their life and that of an atheist's.

 

Again, I am open to seeing arguments to the contrary, but in the mean time I maintain that if you attempt to remove the superstition from christianity you will find that there is nothing left after you are finished (you may have some nice stories promoting securlar humanism, but that's it).

 

Thanks for the interesting discussion, Mr. Dravis.

I'm not interested in removing the supernatural from Christianity, I'm merely pointing out that belief in Christianity is not necessarily superstition. Thanks to you, also.
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I'm not sure you've quite understood the point I was trying to get across. Those are religious concepts, but not necessarily superstitious ones.

 

And my argument is that there is no difference. :)

 

As per my definition, they do not arise from fear, misunderstanding of biology, etc.

 

Per my earlier post the former is not a requirement. Regarding the latter, it might not "arise" from such a misunderstanding, but the misunderstanding is there, nonetheless. Your source mentions nothing about having to be derived from misunderstanding, only that erroneous belief is present.

 

They are taught to a person and incorporated into their lives, like any other cultural phenomenon.

 

And that's fine, so long as you aren't positing that people cannot be taught to be superstitious. I suspect that our difference here is that you believe that someone has to be aware that what they believe is superstition in order for it to be so and I do not.

 

One can believe in the virgin birth without being superstitious because it is taught to one as something given. --Well, is it possible that you could have a virgin birth? But that was never in question; it happened, and that's that. Sort of like criticizing Zeus' ability to fire lightning bolts by saying, "No one can do that; it's ridiculous to even think about it." You'd have missed the point at any rate.

 

See above. Having been indoctrinated into a belief does not mean that the belief is not superstition. All it means is that people can be indoctrinated into superstitious belief.

 

I have absolutely no clue what "evidence for the omnipotence" of God in nature is supposed to mean.

 

Unless I misunderstood your point, the argument was that god's omnipotence is as natural as your being able to walk. My point is that if you look at the animal kingdom one would expect to find locomotion and would not be surprised to see bi-pedal locomotion because it's everywhere. There is nothing exceptional (in the literal usage) about it.

 

Omnipotence on the other hand is another matter entirely. Therefore I find the comparison erroneous and the argument fallacious.

 

Again, if I am missing something, please let me know.

 

There is a religious mythology which includes a God which can do anything it wants, i.e, omnipotence. The closest thing I can come to within that religion is the existence of the universe - often a favorite among theologians - but that is obviously not scientific evidence of any sort. But this sort of investigation is the wrong direction to look in.

 

God is often said, for example, in Psalms to be almighty. There's a tendency to take this at face value, though, which would be simply wrong. Reading the whole of Psalms, you discover it is a book of praise from ancient times, similar to how a supplicant might address their Emperor. "Oh almighty Caesar, with such purply robes and esteemed forehead...."

 

And we're to take such a thing as if it were to mean that Caesar is an omnipotent being? Not only that, but we want to find evidence for the hypothesis that Caesar is an omnipotent being? You see my point.

 

Incidentally, St. Anselm was guilty of this exact mistake when he formulated his ontological argument. The Psalms were written long enough before he came around that he was able to pass over (accidentally, I'm sure) what was actually being said in them and create metaphysics where there was none.

 

No doubt that you and I could go on all day about how christian doctrine came to be what it is today. My concern is not how we got here, but what we can determine about the claims (and doctrine) we see today.

 

You're treating Christianity as if it were something other than what it is: religious teaching. I'm sure you know how people come to believe in it as well as I do. Why equate that with information gleaned from more modern rationalistic methodologies?

 

With regards to your first point, you are absolutely correct. I am treating christianity as a series of claims about history and nature. Furthermore I am positing that those claims are superstitious in nature. I thought that's what we were discussing :)

 

With regards to your question: I pit these claims against modern rationalistic methodologies because adherents not only insist that these claims still have relevence, but that they are superior to all others. In other words, I do it because they ask me to :)

 

There are two ways to treat any subject of knowledge. Either you can look at it subjectively, i.e, in this case through the eyes of the believer, or objectively, i.e., study what causes people to say what they do in order to understand what it means for them to say it.

 

You ask what the rationale is for God's omnipotence. Here's the objective treatment: that's how it is in Christianity. You can poke around and find reasons why this is so from a nearly unlimited supply of theologians, the influence of Aristotle on Christian thought in the middle ages, interpretations of Biblical passages, from the history of the Jewish people and their religion, from how their culture was in antiquity and how it changed through time.

 

Now compare this with your "looking for evidence of omnipotence". You're interested in getting to the truth of the matter, undoubtedly. But if that's so, then your questions should not ignore your knowledge of modern-day religion as a long-running historical and sociological phenomenon. Doing so would be similar to making the mistake Anselm did: extracting a word from natural discourse and divorcing it completely from the original context, and then becoming confused at why it was so hard to justify.

 

The claims that we are dancing around are not historical claims, sir. They are made right here and now. Every day.

 

Beliefs have consequences and we either have good reasons for the things that we believe or we do not. We can talk all day about how people tricked, duped, or indoctrinated into believing things for bad reasons, but that won't magically make them good ones.

 

I agree with you completely that Christians believe in the supernatural. I just don't see that belief in the supernatural entails superstition.

 

And perhaps this puts us at an impasse.

 

Per your own source:

 

an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God resulting from superstition

 

Tell me what's rational about christian doctrine and I will (hopefully) be able to see your point.

 

I'm sure it could persuade me. But it couldn't prove to me that it was God, in the sense that doubt would be logically excluded. Once you start proving/giving evidence for things, doubt always enters the equation as a matter of conceptual necessity in English.

 

Again, I'm pretty sure that a truly omnipotent being would be able to find a way. I may or may not lack the imagination to know what that would look like, but I'm pretty sure I'll never have to worry about it either, so...:D

 

Okay, I'm just trying to make this clear again: I am not, and have not, attempted to argue that all of Christianity is unsuperstitious.

 

Okay. :)

 

I merely disagreed with the label of superstition for Christianity because a social practice is not necessarily superstitious, even if it includes supernatural elements.

 

And I disagree. I think we both agree that social practices are not inherently superstitious. I also think we both agree that social practices can be superstitious.

 

I think that christianity definitely is a social practice that is superstitious. Your counter-argument (as I have understood it thus far) has been "well, many of them don't know that it's superstition, therefore it's not superstitious". My rebuttal is that it does not matter.

 

This is where I think we are right now. Please let me know if you see it differently.

 

They do not have to be ignorant of science or logic, they do not have to be afraid of the unknown, they do not have to trust in magic or chance, they do not have to have a wrongheaded idea of causation--

 

But christian doctrine is all of these things.

 

Pick any claim put forth by christian doctrine and it will meet one (or more) of these criteria. That the person accepting the claim is aware of this or not is irrelevant.

 

Thanks to you, also.

 

My pleasure. I am looking forward to your response. :D

Edited by Achilles
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And my argument is that there is no difference. :)
Okay.

 

But christian doctrine is all of these things.
See below.

 

Per my earlier post the former is not a requirement. Regarding the latter, it might not "arise" from such a misunderstanding, but the misunderstanding is there, nonetheless. Your source mentions nothing about having to be derived from misunderstanding, only that erroneous belief is present.
I was just demonstrating that it did not fit the first definition. As for the second definition, I'm not convinced one can call it a misunderstanding (or erroneous) if the belief does not necessarily entail the possibility of "steering one wrong".

 

For example, if the belief that a spell will protect you from physical harm leads you (or will lead you) to hurt yourself, that belief was superstitious (def. 1). But modern Christianity entails no such necessary gamble. As I said previously, the belief that "nothing can really harm you if you believe in God" is not a conditional belief; there exist no criteria that determine it one way or another. I don't believe the concept of truth even applies to such a statement. If it is not a true or false belief, what is it then? It's just there, previous to considerations of whether it's useful/helpful/good for X objective or not. It's a learned behavior, similar to how saying "my foot hurts" replaces cradling and pointing to your foot.

 

When one appeals to the rationality of a belief, it's necessary that there be an objective. For example, if you wanted your fence to be colored green, it'd be rational to go about doing things which would effect that purpose. Things like buying paint, brushes, going outside, putting the brush in the bucket and such would be rational in light of the objective. Taking an axe to the fence would be irrational.

 

Now, suppose you say that religion is necessarily irrational (by definition superstition is irrational belief). But the question then arises: to what purpose are we to think that religion is directed towards? As you state in your post, you believe it is to provide historical truths (and I acknowledge that many people believe this).

 

However, I don't believe that religion has an objective in this sense; or if it does, then the objective is itself. The stated end of their belief, for most Christians, is to live with God forever. Some things that align with this belief is the practice of following certain rules, like the Ten Commandments and various New Testament passages. But in what sense are these people who do these things "living with" anyone, or getting closer to anyone, or seriously entertaining the thought of living forever? No Christian I know of thinks that he will not die in the conventional sense. Everyone expects that. And yet, he asserts he will not die, that others have not died, etc. The reality of his physical death doesn't diminish his belief in the slightest.

 

So what is left, if not even the powerful image of death can overcome his conviction? What is left cannot be an opinion, because opinions involve the possibility of being wrong. But that is logically excluded: as per the above paragraph, there is no criterion that would demonstrate the belief's wrongness. The only event that could have disproven it - death itself - has been shown to be irrelevant to the belief. What is left is not the result of ratiocination, but neither is it irrational. It's just a fact of human life, a fact of nature. It is these facts alone which I am saying cannot be superstition.

 

Obviously such beliefs are open to criticism from other vectors. You raised, in my opinion, the most important one: the fact that beliefs have consequences in the way people live their lives. This is, I believe, what Nietzsche criticized in Christianity-- the consequences of its "slave morality", i.e., the moral code that enabled the weak to punish the strong. This is a legitimate criticism, but it requires that the reader be persuaded that such a revaluation of morals is necessary. One can easily imagine a new atheist, recently convinced of the "death of god" - to put it in Nietzsche's terms - might be willing to begin such a task. Most would not, however; I myself see little wrong with the current state of affairs, but maybe that's just because I'm not the Ubermensch Nietzsche was talking about. :D

 

I read the other day about how a combination of sex deprivation among young Muslim men due to societal pressures and the belief in the whole 72-virgin-afterlife thing made them significantly more likely to be suicide bombers than anyone else. Naturally I don't think there's any truth to their belief in the virgins (though I don't think it's not true), but I am more than willing to argue that the consequences of that belief are extremely bad for everyone involved. Fortunately most people are inclined to believe that killing people is evil.

 

No doubt that you and I could go on all day about how christian doctrine came to be what it is today. My concern is not how we got here, but what we can determine about the claims (and doctrine) we see today.
My point in all of this talk of history of Christianity was to show that the things said by Christianity are not necessarily claims about the nature of the world, even if they are couched in the terms common to such claims. As in my responses above, they might not even qualify as opinions, depending on how they're held. And that's the only thing I've tried to say: that some - not all, perhaps not even very many - Christians do not hold superstitious beliefs.

 

Naturally I wish to avoid things like the genetic fallacy. In this case I am not saying that the origin of these religious beliefs changes their current truth value; I am saying that their current truth value (or lack thereof) can only be evaluated through the social practices within which they exist-- and a look at the history of the phenomena helps bring this out.

 

And that's fine, so long as you aren't positing that people cannot be taught to be superstitious. I suspect that our difference here is that you believe that someone has to be aware that what they believe is superstition in order for it to be so and I do not.
I agree with you completely that people can be taught to be superstitious.

 

My belief in this case is that I think that in order to be superstition, a belief has to fit all, some, or any of the concepts classed under "superstition". For convenience I offered the M-W.com definition. Obviously I don't think that Christianity necessary utilizes those concepts, and so I don't think that Christianity is necessarily superstitious.

 

See above. Having been indoctrinated into a believe does not mean that the belief is not superstition. All it means is that people can be indoctrinated into superstitious belief.
You're right; indoctrination has nothing to do with whether a belief is superstition or not. I looked at the definition of "superstition" to find clarity on the matter in the first place.

 

Unless I misunderstood your point, the argument was that god's omnipotence is as natural as your being able to walk. My point is that if you look at the animal kingdom one would expect to find locomotion and would not be surprised to see bi-pedal locomotion because it's everywhere. There is nothing exceptional (in the literal usage) about it.

 

Omnipotence on the other hand is another matter entirely. Therefore I find the comparison erroneous and the argument fallacious.

I'm not sure why one would expect to find in nature omniscience, unless you were to include religious practices in "nature." God's omnipotence is entirely natural given the sort of being he is in the framework of the religions that describe him. This was what the analogy with walking was supposed to exemplify. Obviously even the most perfect analogy will not hold in every possible case, but that's just the nature of analogy for you; it's not the same as the thing it describes.

 

With regards to your question: I pit these claims against modern rationalistic methodologies because adherents not only insist that these claims still have relevence, but that they are superior to all others. In other words, I do it because they ask me to :)
All right, that's perfectly acceptable, and I leave them to your able criticism. :dev7: However, merely because some Christians try this approach does not mean all must, implicitly or explicitly.

 

Tell me what's rational about christian doctrine and I will (hopefully) be able to see your point.
Nothing's rational about it (at least not the subset I'm interested in). Belief in, e.g., the virgin birth is not the product of ratiocination.

 

There may be subsets in which theologians argue about one idea or another using logic and what-have-you, but the acceptance of those ideas, those "mysteries" is fundamentally not rational.

 

I realize that it's typical for something which is not rational to seem as if it were irrational, bad, or somehow lacking in rationality that it needs in order to be respectable. This is simply a metaphysical prejudice carried over from dualistic thinkers who held that (untenably) the mind was superior, or at least separate from, the body. Curiously enough, Christianity has been fighting such teachings at least since the Manichean heresy, roughly AD 387. Modern analytic philosophy has been trying to rid itself of dualistic ways of thinking for at least 70 years now; it's a lot harder than it sounds. Many ideas which seem very significant, like Descartes' "I think, therefore I am" (everyone loves that, I know), solipsism, and any other radically subjective ideas must be abandoned completely.

 

Again, I'm pretty sure that a truly omnipotent being would be able to find a way. I may or may not lack the imagination to know what that would look like, but I'm pretty sure I'll never have to worry about it either, so...:D
I'm pretty sure I'll never have to worry about it either. Every bit of history and philosophy I know shows that "God" is a term only with use inside of a sociological practice. I have absolutely zero reason to hold the opinion that there exists extrasensory beings of any kind-- and I don't.
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For example, if the belief that a spell will protect you from physical harm leads you (or will lead you) to hurt yourself, that belief was superstitious (def. 1).

I'm just gonna add a Yes and No to that example as being superstition.

 

Yes, it would be superstition.

and

No, superstition does not require someone getting hurt, you or others, for it to be superstition. :p

 

So what is left, if not even the powerful image of death can overcome his conviction? What is left cannot be an opinion, because opinions involve the possibility of being wrong. But that is logically excluded: as per the above paragraph, there is no criterion that would demonstrate the belief's wrongness. The only event that could have disproven it - death itself - has been shown to be irrelevant to the belief. What is left is not the result of ratiocination, but neither is it irrational. It's just a fact of human life, a fact of nature. It is these facts alone which I am saying cannot be superstition.

I may very well have understood this incorrectly, but here we go.

 

The facts are, we are born, we grow (hopefully) and we die.

That's it. Those are the facts. Noone in their right minds can dispute this. It's an every day occurance.

 

And the only 100 prosent truth in this world, is that everyone will one day die. :)

 

 

As for dictionaries, I usually use dictionary.com myself: Superstition

 

I read the other day about how a combination of sex deprivation among young Muslim men due to societal pressures and the belief in the whole 72-virgin-afterlife thing made them significantly more likely to be suicide bombers than anyone else. Naturally I don't think there's any truth to their belief in the virgins (though I don't think it's not true), but I am more than willing to argue that the consequences of that belief are extremely bad for everyone involved. Fortunately most people are inclined to believe that killing people is evil.

I wonder if it specifically says female virgins myself. :D

Edited by Jan Gaarni
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I'm just gonna add a Yes and No to that example as being superstition.

 

Yes, it would be superstition.

and

No, superstition does not require someone getting hurt, you or others, for it to be superstition. :p

Well, the "getting hurt" bit was specific to my example, and it wasn't only that one must get hurt, but that one could.

 

 

I may very well have understood this incorrectly, but here we go.

 

The facts are, we are born, we grow (hopefully) and we die.

That's it. Those are the facts. Noone in their right minds can dispute this. It's an every day occurance.

 

And the only 100 prosent truth in this world, is that everyone will one day die. :)

I'm not so sure I'd be willing to eliminate psychological and evolutionary states of humanity from the category of facts of nature.

 

I wonder if it specifically says female virgins myself. :D
Well-- I'm sure there's been a lot of, er, scholarly research on the subject. :p Edited by Samuel Dravis
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WASHINGTON — A California Republican congressman wants to do a little writing on the walls of Washington's newest federal building. If Rep. Dan Lungren gets his way, Congress will spend nearly $100,000 to engrave the words "In God We Trust " and the Pledge of Allegiance in prominent spots at the Capitol Visitor Center.

 

In a time when we are in an economic crisis, spending taxpayer's money on something so insignificant as carving a quote is foolish. That alone should defeat the motion, but if there are people who would be offended by it; then all the more reason NOT to do it. They are public spaces and should not be carved up with public funding.

 

It is clearly stated that state and religion must be kept separate. In some cases it's not true, but this should be followed to keep the barrier between these two from being breached.

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I'm not so sure I'd be willing to eliminate psychological and evolutionary states of humanity from the category of facts of nature.

That may very well be the case, but as of today, it's not fact. It's still in the fictional category, only displayed in shows like Star Trek in the form of Q, or the Ancients in Stargate.

 

Well-- I'm sure there's been a lot of, er, scholarly research on the subject. :p

I can picture it now. Some dude just enters heaven after a suicide bombing:

:confused: "Are those my virgins?"

:ang2: "Yeah, why?"

:fist: "There's some ugly ass guys in here!"

 

 

:rofl:

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Am I the only one here who thinks that there are bigger fish to fry than worrying about what's carved on a wall? I think Californians should worry more about saving their state from going broke.

 

Personally, although I am no fan of the Christian right or organized religion for that matter, I couldn't care less if "In God We Trust" was displayed on or in a government building.

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That may very well be the case, but as of today, it's not fact. It's still in the fictional category, only displayed in shows like Star Trek in the form of Q, or the Ancients in Stargate.
I'm not sure what you mean by this. My intention was to show that some religious practices are simply natural results of the sort of creature human beings are. Much like if I, when angry, throw something on the ground. It's not that I expect anything to change because I do this-- it's just something that I do. It makes me feel better, true, but that's not why I do it. The best explanation I have is that such behavior is instinctual. So you see why I'm having difficulty understanding what you mean by saying it's fictional; I don't think that the practice of a religion rises from a belief, but that the two develop concurrently.

 

Of interest to this idea is this essay by Anscombe, particularly section I.

 

Obviously the idea that there exist some sort of invisible beings is flawed (I remarked there wasn't any reason to believe in such things), but that's not what I was interested in.

 

I can picture it now. Some dude just enters heaven after a suicide bombing:

:confused: "Are those my virgins?"

:ang2: "Yeah, why?"

:fist: "There's some ugly ass guys in here!"

 

 

:rofl:

:D
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