Last Friday (4 September) regular commenter on Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True website Ben Goren, wrote a guest piece: The One Question a Christian Can’t Answer. It was about the big problem with Christian belief: why God doesn’t intervene to help – the problem of evil. It’s a great piece and provoked an enormous amount of discussion. I was having a bad day and didn’t feel up to commenting myself beyond letting Goren know I thought it was excellent. It’s a subject I do have strong opinions on though, and it also brought back a memory of a childhood incident, so I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts here.
Goren’s piece started like this:
Imagine you find yourself in one of any number of calamitous situations — somebody you’re with clutches her chest in pain and falls to the floor; you hear, coming from the far end of a dark alley, the voice of a frightened old man crying for help; a tree falls as you’re driving down a lonely road, missing you but smashing the car following you.
In all such cases, the very first thing you — or anybody else — would do is call 9-1-1 [Goren lives in the USA]. By now, it’s practically an instinct, even to the point of being unthinkable that you wouldn’t make that call. You might not know CPR; you might not be a big and burly cop; you might not have a MEDEVAC helicopter … but the 9-1-1 dispatcher has people standing by who meet all those qualifications and more, and will make sure they get where they’re needed the most as fast as humanly possible.
He went on to talk about the possible excuses someone who didn’t contact emergency services in such a position might use, and how, whatever the circumstances, any excuse would likely sound hollow and most people would consider it unacceptable. In fact, he pointed out, many of the excuses a person might use for not helping would see them in prison. Whatever the situation, most people would do their best to help.
But that’s not what God does, and His failure to help is not just one occurrence. In Goren’s words:
Now, imagine that it’s not just a single incident you observed and yet stood silently by, but every such case everywhere. Never mind the fact that you’d be a pervert for looking in everybody’s bedroom windows, but to look in a bedroom window, see a lit cigarette fall from sleepy fingers and catch the curtains on fire and then not call 9-1-1 to get the firefighters on the scene before the baby in the crib burns to death in uncomprehending screaming agony, well, that would go unimaginably far beyond mere perversion and move solidly into the worst brand of criminal psychopathy. There are those who get their kicks from so-called “snuff” films, in which victims are murdered on camera for entertainment purposes, but you’d be hard pressed to imagine a more horrific type of criminal mind than the one who would seek out or produce such.
Yet that is exactly how every god of every religion is described. Most modern religions claim an all-knowing ever-present all-powerful deity, but even the ancient gods were far-seeing, far- and fast-roaming, and very strong.
Theologians offer all sorts of obfuscatory excuses on this subject, with an entire field of “study” devoted to it: “theodicy.” In common language, it’s the “problem of evil,” or, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” But the official discussion leads far astray from the reality of everyday life, getting tangled up in obscure questions of “freedom of the will” or placing the blame on an ancient ancestral maternal progenitor who procured culinary counseling from a speaking serpent.
(Isn’t that last bit a wonderful description of Eve? “… ancient ancestral maternal progenitor who procured culinary counseling from a speaking serpent.” Goren often writes like that in his regular comments, and I love it. But back to the matter in hand!)
The main example Goren used was that of the appalling abuse perpetrated on children by religious leaders, and how those children are threatened with eternal torment in hell if they tell anyone of the suffering being visited upon them.
What thousands of children go through because of the failure of a supposedly loving God to intervene is unimaginable. Because of the religious brainwashing those children go through, it’s likely most of them are perpetually praying to that same god to help them and stop what’s happening to them. If the abuse stops, that has nothing to do with the child’s prayer or any unsought intervention by a loving god who sees a child in need. And even if it was, why didn’t that god stop it happening in the first place? Was he perhaps too busy making sure some sportsperson won the competition they were taking part in? Or that an actor got that role they desired?
Those of you who follow US politics may remember a candidate for the senate in the 2012 election called Todd Akin (R-Missouri). He made the following comment during an interview:
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Mr. Akin said of pregnancies from rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something: I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.” (Source: New York Times)
What he means by “attacking the child,” is terminating the pregnancy. He apologized for the comment, but continued to hold the opinion that rape wasn’t a valid reason for a termination – babies come from God, and so abortion is never an option. (According to Politico, via the Washington Post, Akin has since said he should never have apologized in his book called Firing Back: Taking on the Party Bosses and Media Elite to Protect Our Faith and Freedom, released in 2014.)
That whole controversy got me so riled up, I was inspired to join Twitter. Here’s my first ever Tweet*:
I had no followers at that stage, and still managed to get a retweet! 🙂 The controversy carried on with several GOP candidates making revolting comments about women. Another who got it badly wrong was senate candidate Richard Mourdock (R-Indiana) with the remark, “I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” That prompted a couple more tweets:
I understand that many people are opposed to abortion, and for most of those it’s also a fundamental part of their religious faith. There is, of course, absolutely nothing wrong with that. The problem comes when they want to force their belief on others. Abortion is a legal medical procedure. Too many anti-choice activists act as if pro-choice people deliberately get pregnant in order to have an abortion, use abortion as a form of contraception, or want to make abortion compulsory in certain circumstances. The emphasis is on the word “choice.” I find it ironic that the political party in the United States that is all about individual liberty and has a strong libertarian bent, spends so much time interfering in the personal lives of others when it comes anything related to sex.
The attitude that women are second-class citizens is endemic in most religions. In the Bible they are considered the property of their husband or father. As much as modern Christians like to insist women are treated equally, the reality is they aren’t. This is exposed most often when it comes to matters of contraception, pregnancy and childbirth.
Several Christian denominations have no problem with the idea of forcing a woman to to continue an unwanted pregnancy. In the United States they are constantly lobbying state governments to reduce the availability of abortion. Especially in those states controlled by Republicans, they have been very successful. In North Dakota it was even made illegal to terminate a foetus with Downs syndrome two years ago, and Ohio is currently considering doing the same. The governor of Ohio, John Kasich, is one of the stronger candidates in the 17-strong Republican field for presidential nominee. He has passed several laws making termination more difficult since his election, including the requirement that all women obtain and view an ultrasound before going ahead. (He hasn’t yet stated his position on the latest Bill.) Clearly, prayer isn’t going to help any of these women.
But why should prayer ever be expected to help anyway? The Christian God has a plan. Everything that happens is according to that plan. Christians are told He knew them before they were born, and they’re going back to him when they die. So whatever is going to happen has already been decided – why would God change the whole deal just for some women in the process of being impregnated during a violent rape, no matter how plaintive and heartfelt her cries, and how deep and sincere her belief?
In fact, as believers like Richard Mourdock pointed out, God wanted that violent rape to happen so the woman would get pregnant. He’s up there watching and enjoying it as she begs for His help to save her. Governor Scott Walker (R) has given his opinion on such situation too – he’s opposed to terminations in the case of rape. He says they’re just not needed because women forget about the rape in the joy of the progression of the pregnancy.
When I was a kid I went to Girls’ Brigade. I didn’t like it very much. I wanted to join the Girl Guides, because they did more fun things. But Girls’ Brigade was held in the Methodist church hall just around the corner, so we could walk there without adult supervision. We started off with prayer, and the equivalent of a sermon, then we split into groups according to our ages. I don’t remember much of it – it was all pretty boring – but there’s one occasion when I was about eight I still remember quite clearly.
We went off to our group in a side room and had a leader we’d never had before. I don’t remember her name, but she was something to do with the Methodists, as most of our leaders were. (We went to a Presbyterian church and Sunday School, and the general idea was that us, the Methodists and the Anglicans were pretty much the same.) There were six of us, and the leader gave us a puzzle – she asked us to show her what we’d do if the walls started closing in, and the door and window were locked. “If they don’t stop,” she said, “you’ll be killed.” All of the others started pushing on the walls, I started moving furniture to try and brace them. “It’s not working,” she said, “the walls are still closing in, you’re going to die if you don’t stop those walls.” We just kept doing what we were doing.
Eventually we were allowed to sit down and stop our attempts. The leader told us she was very disappointed in us all. Why? None of us had got down on our knees and prayed. I clearly remember thinking what a waste of time that would have been and what a stupid idea it was, and I really wanted to say so. But the ingrained respect for my elders wouldn’t allow me to, so I kept my mouth shut.
She went on a bit about our failure to put our trust in God, and I was getting more and more annoyed – I could see some of the other kids were getting pretty upset. Eventually, I couldn’t take anymore. I was scared to answer her back but I managed to mutter, “God helps those who help themselves.” It wasn’t quite what I wanted to say, but it stopped her in her tracks. She looked down her nose at me (or maybe it just seemed that way because I was so small) and said, “Well, yes, He does.” A couple of the other kids looked at me so gratefully. When I look back with adult eyes, the whole thing had obviously affected them quite badly.
The Presbyterians, Methodists and Anglicans are some of the more moderate churches in New Zealand. I don’t feel like I suffered because of my childhood experience with religion. In fact, it’s given me a lot of knowledge I’m not sure I’d have without it. However, my not suffering probably has more to do with the luck of having an eminently practical and sensible mother than anything else. There are plenty of children who have parents more like the leader from Girls’ Brigade who wanted us to pray when things went wrong.
There are plenty of religions where the situation is much worse. Those of you who have read Jerry Coyne’s Fact vs Faith will remember some of the horrific stories he recounted of parents who relied on prayer when their children were ill. It’s also a subject he’s written about on his website, Why Evolution is True. There are plenty of believers who’ll tell you that prayer works, that they have “proof.” None of them have empirical proof, all they have is belief – “belief in belief” as Daniel Dennett said.
Here are some more accounts of children who have suffered because of a reliance on religion and prayer:
There are at least thousands of children who suffer like this every year – because the parents who are meant to protect them have been brainwashed by religion to believe they can do that through prayer.
Goren finished his article thus:
And that, at last, brings us to the question that nobody from any religion can satisfactorily answer — at least, not if at least one of its gods (however many there are) has enough awareness and ability to answer the simplest of prayers—or, for that matter, merely has a cellphone and the compassionate instincts of even a young child.
Why doesn’t Jesus ever call 9-1-1?
I can only endorse the sentiment.
Well, I thought I could only endorse the sentiment.
A fly has settled in the proverbial ointment …
While I was writing this an item on the TV in the background caught my attention.
According to Yahoo News, Police departments in several US states including Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia, have started putting “In God We Trust” decals on their patrol vehicles. The Freedom From Religion Foundation say they have received dozens of complaints about the situation, but they’re having trouble finding people who are prepared to make a complaint against the police.
Let’s just hope that the police in these jurisdictions don’t rely on prayer in the face of an armed assailant.
* You can find your own first tweet by going: here.
To find your other old tweets, use the following format in the Twitter search box:
@username since:yyyy-mm-dd until:yyyy-mm-dd
Well said. Goren’s piece reminded my of another phrase: “Why won’t God heal amputees?”
It get’s at the same notion – the problem of evil, or theodicy. The question has it’s own web site:
The Republican party in the U.S. is gross on indecent. It makes me wince just to think I share a homeland with the likes of Walker, Kasich, and that whole gang of rogues.
Yeah, the “Why won’t God heal amputees?” is a good one. There’s a US female pastor who claims her finger has been regrown. She was on Twitter saying so about a year ago. I asked for proof. I was blocked. Dozens of atheists did the same thing that day – each time they would immediately be blocked. We had a bit of fun with the women that day, but she’s probably still out there convincing people it’s for real.
In fact finger tips can be regrown. Not if the ax fell too far back, but some noticeable extent of the tip area, I think that includes some bone, can be regenerated. Probably somewhere between the last knuckle and the tip.
But, you’d think if that was the case she’d be willing to undergo an interrogation. Looks to me like she flat out fabricated the event for the sake of her parishioners and her career.
That’s what I assumed, and it’s interesting to know that – thanks. Although I don’t know much about such things, the fact she was unwilling to undergo any questioning about her claim is what made it clear to me that whatever happened, it was a completely natural process.
When I was 12, I shut my 2 yr old bros. finger in car door. His finger was cut off between last knuckle and finger nail. The end of his finger grew back, although it is now flat tipped not rounded!
Well put. Your description of the Sunday School teacher whose lesson plan was to render the students powerless and dependent on the divine was especially chilling. I wonder how she’d react if she had had an heart attack then and there in class, and the students, rather than call 9-1-1, fell to their knees in prayer and did absolutely nothing as she writhed on the floor in agony. You kids weren’t simply demonstrating superior morality to Jesus; you were demonstrating superior morality to the teacher….
Cheers Ben. The thing I now find interesting about that episode is that to speak to children that way is considered completely normal, and still is. I have a pic somewhere with a mother threatening a child with hell forever for misbehaviour in one frame, and in the other with being put in the furnace in the basement. One is considered OK, but many children, especially those brought up in a very religious environment, can’t tell the difference.
“I wonder how she’d react if she had had an heart attack”
A wonderful thought. I can imagine the look on her face as the last thing she heard was the mumbling prayers of the children as her life leaks slowly away.
Horrible image too, though. Now I feel guilty. But in a good way.
Maybe she would feel happy that she is about to die and go see Jesus in Heaven. How do you know how the teacher will feel?
What a splendid post – really well done 🙂
Thanks. I appreciate the support. 🙂
Sent to Heather’s site by Jerry Coyne. Heather’s humor is frightfully contagious, and I’m thoroughly infected. We must kidnap her and bring her to USA, and elect her to the presidency before the Lizard Queen or one of the barbarous Bronze Age Republicans gets the job! Heather is a sunbeam in the growing shadow of industrial feudalism. Laughing hard. Ribs hurt.
Always nice how my site stats shoot up when Jerry features one of my posts. Thanks 🙂
The question of “why does God allow bad things to happen” has been taked about ad nauseam for centuries upon centuries by theologians and philosophers, so I am not going there.
I don’t think ANY religion says people should just sit and pray and not take any action themselves. So if people are dying because they just prayed and didn’t use their brains to think, then that is their stupidity, and not the fault of their religion.
Maybe you will write a post some day on how people in the West have been brainwashed for decades that they must cut down on saturated fat to cut cholesterol, when it now seems very likely that this in fact incorrect.
I wonder how many people died because they were brainwashed into thinking they need to cut down their saturaged fat.
There are religions that say people should pray and not take action. One is the Christian Scientists. Most of them are fundamentalist Protestant religions. The Christian Scientists even have sanatoriums where patients go to be prayed over. There is no medical care beyond basic nursing care. Not even paracetamol for pain. I think they’re able to have broken limbs reset, and visit dentists and optometrists, but nothing else.
Well, it’s an offshoot of a religion. And it doesn’t have many followers.
Ok, so you found one</i<. And even then, there are grey areas – people are free to seek medical help, no one tells them they are sinning if they do.
It still isn’t the case that millions of religious people around the world are sitting around doing nothing because their God will answer their prayers.
BTW, that picture of “it really is that simple” must have come from a “New Atheist” – only a NA (or religious fundamentalist) can reduce something very complex to something binary. Oh, I also love the way “Logic” is thrown in to try and make the argument appear more credible – really made me laugh, as I actually have a postgraduate degree which focused on Logic so when I see people wildly throwing around things like “logic” and “straw man” and “non sequitur” without having the faintest idea of what they’re talking about, I just can’t stop laughing!
AU – in a sense I think you are right. Christianity has been so watered down and marginalized that Christians everywhere run to doctors and gyms and Multilevel vitamin sales clubs precisely because 2000 years of history proves that prayer is as effective as talking to the ceiling. Compare this to groups like ISIS who actually believe the stuff they read.
This is why I fear New Atheists more than Islamic fundamentalists. Both have a binary viewpoint of the world, but at least with Islamic fundamentalists, the majority of people in the West know they’re complete tools and nothing they say should be taken seriously, but with New Atheists, they shroud themselves in a cloak of respectibility, and people actually take them seriously.
How can we possibly tackle problems like ISIS and Islamic fundamentalism if you don’t understand it? We can’t. So when I see a NA going around preaching to people what ISIS are and are not, I find it scary – it means a future of nothing but perptual wars.
Erm…you managed to spectacularly miss the point.
It’s most emphatically not, “Why do good things happen to bad people?”
Rather, it’s, “Even the most incompetent amongst us at least sometimes manage to do the bare minimum expected of a decent person…but the gods can’t even figure out how to call 9-1-1 in an emergency. How totally useless is that!?”
You can blather all you want about how all-omni-everything this or that god is…but if a god can’t even be arsed to drop a dime on its official agents when it sees them raping children, why would you bother pretending it deserves respect — let alone worship?
Actually, no, I didn’t spectacularly miss the point – you spectacularly missed the point I was making.
This is what I love about the Internet – when someone thinks they’re smart, insults someone else, and then … you know the rest.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, I said, suggested the above. You spectacularly missed the point of my post. May I suggest that in future, before you go around saying to others they spectacularly missed the point, you actually take a closer look at yourself first?
As I said before, this has been discussed ad nauseam – and in your article, you mention how theologians have discussed this, well, actually, philosophers who do not believe in any higher being have discussed it too. Maybe you in future you should research a subject before writing an article on it.
Except, of course, for your opening sentence. Which, of course, read:
Then educate a stupid evil atheist.
Find for me but one single theologian who explains why no god has ever alerted any human first responders in any crisis, has never assisted police in any criminal investigation of the god’s own representatives, has never even made any public announcement to address confusion in the ranks of the religious.
Mere mortals do all that all the time. Yet the gods, who we are to believe are so much more able and caring than any human, don’t even have a single example to cite in their favor.
If this really has actually been discussed to death, you should have dozens of examples at the tips of your fingertips — and I’m only asking for one.
I think you are very confused. Your article states:
That is complete nonsense. You don’t even know what theodicy is. It isn’t “why do good things happen to bad people?”. It is “Why does God allow evil to happen?”. The two are not the same and if you cannot see this and I have to spell it out to you, then you are someone I could probably not have an intelligent debate with.
The fact that no one even pointed this out to you at Coyne’s blog just goes to show how much they know about religion. Although to be fair, it might be that someone did point it out and Coyne didn’t let the comments through.
So, yes, you have no idea about the subject matter you are talking about, you have not studied it, and I am not here to teach you, I only have 5-10 minutes to comment now and again, if you go away, do your reaserch on the subject, and then want to have a discussion, I will be willing to make time to discuss this topic with you, but I am not going to sit here “debating” with someone who has no clue about a topic, just like I would not debate Geology with a Christian who believes the Earth is flat because the Bible says so.
Well put…in his place.
We are here to take care of ourselves. This is a test to see if we are worthy souls or not.
Atheists love to hump strawman arguments.
You’re not very good at this, are you?
First, this was discussed at Jerry’s Web site. Had you read that discussion, you’d know that I wrote the inversion for rhetorical effect…and had you even pretended to give the subject in general the slightest thought — which you’ve by now rather emphatically demonstrated you haven’t — then you’d understand that tyrants undeservedly enjoying their unjust rewards is at least as troubling as the suffering of the worthy…and that the combination of the two clearly paints a picture of the divine, if it existed, of loving evil and hating good.
And your excuse for not offering even a single reference of a theologian who addresses why no god has ever demonstrated even the bare minimum level of response in a crisis that we expect of humans…well, if I were confronted by a Flat Earther, as you analogize, it would take me far less than five minutes to find a YouTube video of an orbit from the ISS, or to dig up Eratosthenes’s Wikipedia page. And I’d have no trouble explaining all the ways we know the Earth is an oblate spheroid with a ~8,000 mile radius off the top of my head.
That you can’t do the same for your gods tells the rest of us how little you know truly about them, how profoundly ignorant you are of the subject.
Chances are superlative that you’ll stay true to form and continue to blather and bluster and not even pretend to address the trivial question of why Jesus never calls 9-1-1, not even when he hears the desperate prayers of children being raped in his own house by the very men who conjure up his own flesh and blood. So, rather than further clutter up Heather’s homily home, I’ll give you the opportunity for the last word.
If you wish to continue the discussion, provide a direct answer to why Jesus doesn’t ever call 9-1-1 in any crisis situation. Your own words, a copy / paste of somebody else’s, a link to something, whatever.
Lacking such a direct address of the question, I’ll not reply to you again, and your failure to address the question will be a clear admission that even you yourself are fully aware that Jesus really is one heartlessly evil motherfucking sonofabitch.
Still better than you!
I very briefly skimmed the comments, I just assumed it wasn’t pointed out. My mistake. I was wrong.
LOL! No you didn’t. You were confused, and now you’re just having to dig a bigger hole because you didn’t admit you were confused.
Nope. The old trick of “I will accuse someone of something I am guilty of to hide my own deficiency” isn’t working. You have demonstrated you haven’t thought this through.
LOL! As I said, the hole is just getting bigger.
Had you admitted you haven’t really studied this subject and thought it through, that you wrote your post in haste, and that you were wrong in your definition of theodicy, we wouldn’t be where we are now, where to justify your mistake, you are having to come up with all sorts of nonsense.
Let’s imagine there is a Divine – let’s take the Christian God. Let’s take Gaddafi, a tyrant. Now Gaddafi was undeservedly enjoying his rewards for many years. What happened to Gaddafi? He got overthrown, publicly humiliated, and executed. Where is Gaddafi now? According to Christian doctrine, Gaddafi is now going to spend the rest of eternity burning in Hell. Yet you’re trying to tell me that the Divine loves evil Gaddafi? Brilliant!
This is why there is no point having a debate with you. You’re not obective, you’re a fundamentalist. A New Atheist fundamentalist. I don’t have debates with Muslim fundamentalists, or Christian fundamentalists, so why would I have a debate with a New Atheist fundamentalist? I wouldn’t. I just expose the stupiditiy of your aeguments, and then leave it at that, because one cannot have an intelligent debate with a fundamentalist.
Flat earthers are flat earthers because they will continue to believe the earth is flat no matter what evidence you show them. They are not interested in honest debate. They have a view of the world and that view must be defended at all costs. Any evidence you show them will be dismissed – “the YouTube video is a fake”, “there is a global conspiracy against Christians”, blah blah blah. You cannot have a debate with fundamentalist people.
My “gods”? LOL! No, it tells the “rest of us” absolutely nothing of the sort. Instead, it tells us what a simple minded person you are – in your world, just because someone highlighted that you don’t have a clue about theodicy, it implies that person must be a theist defending his gods!
Last word? I couldn’t give a hoot about last words, I’m an adult, not a child. I just love exposing the lies and bigotry of fundamentalists, when I get bored of you, I’ll stop. You are free to have the “last word”.
I am not having a “discussion” with you. I am just exposing the fact that you wrote a post on a subject that you have little clue about and haven’t thought through. That’s all. Once you go and admit your mistake, go and read up on the subject, and come back and demonstrate to me you now understand the subject matter, then we can have a discussion.
No. You will not reply to me again because I have shown you did not know what theodicy is, you got confused, and that you are now coming up with really silly arguments to defend your mistake. You know you cannot possibly defend your mistake logically, so you will now just pretend that you are not replying to me because of blah blah blah.
I bet you wrote that feeling really happy, because you think I am a Jesus-loving Christian, and so that would really hurt my feelings. Oh, if only you knew 😀
Sorry Heather – my screen is jumping like a rabbit. I think I just posted a blank comment.
AU – you have nothing to fear from atheists old or new. Or even agnostics like myself. I’m happy for people to enjoy their beliefs. I just prefer that they don’t invite me to join in with them by writing laws forcing me to do so or by chopping off my head if I choose not to grow a beard.
Rather than just sticking our tongues out at each other like third graders will you support something you wrote above? I think it’s pretty daft and indefensable but you can straighten me out.
“(re ISIS) the majority of people in the West know they’re complete tools and nothing they say should be taken seriously.”
I’m not sure at all that the majority of people anywhere beleive this and belive that a lot of people take them quite seriously. *You* might think they are tools and dopes and entertainers for CNN but a lot of people around the world see them as a very unsettling blip in the center of an unsettled part of the world.
And really(!)don’t be worried about this one:
“”So when I see a NA going around preaching to people what ISIS are and are not, I find it scary – it means a future of nothing but perptual wars.””
No atheist old or new has a rat’s booty’s chance of getting into elected office where they could have any real say (is Bernie Sanders a beleiver?) So you can feel safe leaving wars and rumors of wars to the peace loving Christians who have guided our nation for the last several decades. So take a deep breath – if you’re happy with what we’ve had you’re going to see lots more of it. Thank the Christians and Muslims. They been calling the shots for a couple thousand years.
LOL! Who the hell said I fear atheists? I don’t. I fear fundamentalists. Fundamentalists can be religious or atheists. The fact I fear atheist fundamentalists doesn’t imply I fear atheists. This is very simple logic.
I am talking about the West, not the world. So why are you talking about the world?
And, yes, the majority of people in the West think that intellectually ISIS are complete tools, they are incoherent, illogical, fundamentalists, backwards. This isn’t what I think people in the West think, this is what they actually think.
AU – Dude! Or Dudette! You are priceless (in the entertainment sense!)And so damned tiresome. Why can’t I get one theist to actually answer one damned question? There are some decent answers – you should learn them.
I don’t know where you got your ‘postgraduate degree’ or if you even have one. But if it ‘focused on logic’ I would ask for your money back and learn how to have a conversation. Cheers!
And Heather? Great post. You just keep getting better. The graphics are spot on. Keep it up. Who knows? You might just make the world a little better!
Thanks so much Dennis. Your ongoing support means a lot. 🙂
I like that AU keeps coming back too, even though he hardly ever agrees with me. It’s good that he’s always willing to engage in the debate, and those who disagree make me think about how I express myself.
That isn’t true. That’s just your confirmation bias kicking in.
Say I keep hearing people saying that fat women are always eating in public. I am on my way to work, I get out of my house, walk to the station, get on the train, and walk down the carriages to the front. So far on my journey I have come across 30 fat women, none of whom were eating. I have also come across 30 slim women, 5 of who were eating, but because in my subconscious mind, a slim woman eating in public isn’t something worthy of registering, I don’t even take notice that they were eating. I am then about to sit down, and I see the woman next to the seat where I am about to sit down is a fat woman who is … eating. Suddenly my confirmation bias kicks in – “oh, look, another fat woman eating in public”!
Just remember – for every one thing that I disagree with from an article of yours, there are probably nine things in that same article that I agree with.
It’s not really conformation bias – if I categorized all your comments, I wouldn’t find 90% of them agreeing with me. You speak up when you don’t. Which is fine of course. 🙂
I agree. I just wish both sides – of any debate – would slow down, take a deep breath, and explain one single bleedin’ point. I hate the Gish Gush and accrimonious deluge of non-points.
Erm, that isn’t true at all. I like to speak out against bigotry and speak up for the minorities. I see no point in coming here and saying I agree with such and such, considering most of your audience here already share your views. Therefore, I only speak out against the things I consider are biased and bigoted against religious people, who happen to be the minority at your blog.
If you and I were at some Christian fundamentalist blog, and they were all attacking your views, then I would speak out for you where I thought you were right, because in that case, you’d be the minority.
So, yes, I actually agree with quite a fair bit of what you say. Even though I’d classify you as a New Atheist, even amongst New Atheists there are different types, and you are to me the “good type” – I think you have a good heart, you are not driven by self publicity, and you genuinely care about making the world a better place. You are also pluralistic, and intellectually honest.
BTW, when I come to your blog, I just type it in Google (I only bookmark sites I visit daily, and typing it in Google is easier than typing it in the address bar as I often do typos and Google will automatically correct it. This week when I typed Heather Hastie, I noticed that a Christian site had responded to this post of yours. In that post, they mentioned you create your graphics – now, I made a very rude comment about one of your graphics in this post, I’d just like to say, I just thought you find these graphics on other websites and reuse them, it never occurred to me you create them yourself. So I’d just like to say, I might have been too harsh, I don’t think you’re illogical or whatever else I might have said.
I didn’t say I didn’t believe that you agree with me most of the time, just that it’s not evident from your comments. That’s why it’s not confirmation bias. And actually, there’s no reason why it should be. You’ve got plenty to say, so why waste it agreeing with me? Just get straight to the nitty gritty. I’ve got not problem with that.
Most of the graphics I use come from elsewhere. Some I create myself. Those two flowcharts came from Twitter. Mostly you can tell which are mine because they have no source info under or on them, but those two flowcharts I’ve had since long before I had a website, so I didn’t collect source data when I saved them. The stuff that’s most likely to be mine is the poll data, which I’ve made easier to read, or wanted to format differently for the website, or just needed a bit of pimping.
Thanks so much for your kind words – I appreciate it. 🙂
Thanks. I think the same of you – your “logical” arguments are giving me a right larf 😉
And here is a prime example of one such logical argument!
Your simple-minded (and incorrect) logic is that if someone is afraid of New Atheists, or someone exposes that a post on theodicy was wrong, then that inplies that person must be a theist! LOL!
OUCH! I’m so hurt, someone over the Internet hurt my Internet feelings 😀
I bet you wrote that thinking it would hurt me, it seems you are the kind of guy who gets hurt when someone shows a deficiency of theirs, like I showed with your ridiculous logic, and so you are probably projecting your behaviour onto others without realising that a lot of us don’t have insecurity issues and couldn’t give a hoot about what others say about us!
But even if we assume for the sake of argument that I do care what people over the Internet say about me, and I would get very hurt if someone said I didn’t have a postgraduate degree which focused on Logic, I still wouldn’t get upset if you said it because you have clearly demonstrated you do not have a grasp of the basic tenets of Logic and therefore, you are in no position to judge whether someone else is logical or not. Now that’s logical 🙂
So, let me try again.
If someone says they are scared of Muslim terrorists, it doesn’t imply they are scared of Muslims.
If someone says they don’t like Christian fundamentalists, it doesn’t imply they do not like Christians.
If someone says they don’t like aggressive people, it doesn’t imply they do not like people!
If someone says they are scared of New Atheists, it doesn’t imply they are scared of Atheists.
This is really simple Logic, and for you to think I fear atheists because I fear New Atheists just shows what a poor grasp of Logic you have, and I don’t say this in the mean way, I say it so that you might learn and improve your thought process.
Super post, Heather! Most well written and with delightfully subversive graphics! 😀
Cheers Diane! I appreciate it. 🙂
I think I forgot to sub…!%#!
What exactly is the evidence for the extraordinary claim that “There are at least thousands of children who suffer like this every year”? And where does this allegedly take place?
So you believe that all children have wonderful lives? There are hundreds of millions of children of Christian parents in the world, many of whom have been taught to pray when things are bad. Statistically it’s likely that at least thousands of the children who are suffering in our world are praying to God for that suffering to stop.
Your graphic gives a handful of examples — over some unknown period of time and unknown geography — of heartbreaking but undeniably weird and newsworthy cases that you go on to claim without a shred of evidence are somehow representative of “at least thousands”. Contrary to your comment on Coyne’s site, the above graphic says nothing about sexual abuse.
You seem like a nice lady and definitely too intelligent to be an atheist.
If you’re seriously so far out of touch with the news about the private child prostitution racket the Catholic Church has going for its administrative staff…then you’d do well to watch this documentary when it makes it to a theatre near you:
At least she’s smart and mature enough to realize that books with stories about talking animals in an enchanted garden with an angry wizard are just faery tales — and that it’s a really bad idea to get your morals from faery tale anthologies in which the heroes make sex slave trophies out of the prepubescent girls of the rival tribes they conquer. Alas, such levels of cognition and moral intuition are, evidentially, beyond Christians.
But you repeat yourself. And strangely it doesn’t get less puerile with the repetition.
Yes, I much prefer the thrilling old Jewish fairy tales to the atheist cult’s bloodless bedtime lore, which seems to derive mostly from some aging nerd’s stash of vintage comic books.
In any case, the original claim about “at least thousands of children who suffer like this every year” said nothing about clerical sex abuse — and if that’s what it refers to, it’s wildly hyperbolic. Indeed, after years of reform on a scale that no other institution has undertaken, children are vastly safer in a church youth program than they are in a godless government-run classroom.
My original claim in my post wasn’t directly about clerical sex abuse, but those children abused by religious leaders are a subset of the “at least thousands of children who suffer like this every year.” When I wrote that, I considered the number “thousands” to be extremely conservative, and still do. Suffering children pray to God or Jesus or Allah or the Virgin Mary or the multitude of saints or one of the other supernatural beings their parents teach them, in all sincerity, will help them in times of trouble. If help comes, it is entirely coincidental, and bears no relation to how deep the child’s faith is, or how desperate their prayer.
There are plenty of wonderful stories of all types for children without having to revert to the horror of the tales in the Christian Bible. As for comic book heroes, most of them seem to me to have a far better values system than the God of the Bible. I would far rather a child absorbed the values of Superman or Wonder Woman than a God who seemed to spend most of his time urging his followers to murder, torture, xenophobia, rape, pillage, genocide, enslavement and the abuse of women.
In my country, children have always been much safer in state schools than those run by churches. Just this month the government, after trying to work with it for some time, was forced to shut down a church-run school where the children were physically abused by the teachers using so-called Biblical punishment. It is secular governments all over the world that have forced those religious institutions that enabled and covered up child abuse to clean up their acts. If the Church still had the power it did a century ago, I have no doubt the abuse would be continuing as before. The point is that the Church, instead of being a beacon of morality in the treatment of children, was one of the institutionalized abuse of children. Where was Jesus when those children were praying for His help?
Okay, thank you much for the clarification. So now we’re back to the initial question.
The claim is that there are thousands of suffering children whose suffering is due solely or primarily to their parents being “brainwashed by religion”. And the question is, what evidence is there of this, i.e., that there are thousands of cases of parent-brainwashing-induced suffering?
Simply guessing the number of suffering children who might turn to prayer doesn’t support the contention that it is the parents’ brainwashing that is actually the root cause of the child’s suffering in the first place. In any event, the handful of anecdotes cited seem to have more to do with a parent’s psychosis than with a parent being indoctrinated, and they have still less to do with the supposed futility of the child’s prayers. (Prayer would be more likely to increase hope than increase suffering, but either way you’d have to show whatever the case may be.)
Anyway, good luck with the comic books.
The whole premise of Ben’s article was that Jesus never calls 9-1-1, and therefore fails the morality test. That is still the case. The idea is to stop the suffering in the first place. There’s no “supposed futility” there’s just futility.
I’m pleased that you have at least stopped defending the way the Church responded when children were abused in their care.
I’ve already answered your question about the numbers. Basically we’re talking about any child in the world who is suffering, and is praying for that suffering to end, and it doesn’t. There are at least 4 billion religious people in the world. Who knows how many of them are suffering and praying for it to end at any one time? Whatever the number, their suffering continues. How about we just stick to the four million mostly religious people in and from Syria who are suffering at the moment? They could sure do with some help.
My post says that, and I agree – we are equal and neither is better nor more important than the other.
However, I disagree that praying for it to change will help.
I think of all the women who have suffered under the yoke of bad men for millennia, and still do. Most of them pray/ed for change, and most of them continue/d to suffer while men of the Church told them that God wants or wants or wanted them to suffer.
I think of all those women and children being abused by priests since the Church began. I bet each and every one of them prayed for God to stop it happening. Where was He then? The Church was protecting the rapists and other abusers. God is not the reason some of those priests are now being brought before the authorities.
Of course, it’s not just priests, and not just the Catholic Church. Many men in power take advantage of that power. Some women do too, when they get into positions of power, though it’s less common. We need a society where people are able to speak up and be heard, whatever their position. Among other things, that means it’s important to keep religion and government separate, so each can be in a position to hold each other to account.