Paul Kurtz - Ethics for the Nonreligious

December 21, 2007

Paul Kurtz, considered by many the father of the secular humanist movement, is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo. As chair of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), the Council for Secular Humanism, and Prometheus Books, and as editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry Magazine, he has advanced a critical, humanistic inquiry into many of the most cherished beliefs of society for the last forty years. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has been featured very widely in the media, on topics as diverse as reincarnation, UFO abduction, secular versus religious ethics, communication with the dead, and the historicity of Jesus.
 
In this discussion with D.J. Grothe, Paul Kurtz talks about ethics from a nonreligious perspective, how morality develops, the moral education of children, and whether or not ethics can ever be more than just self-interestedness. He also explains how the question of God’s existence should be immaterial to any discussion of human morality.
 
Also in this episode, Free Inquiry magazine editor Tom Flynn explores the “reason for the season” as a secular humanist.

Books Mentioned in This Episode:


Related Episodes

Paul Kurtz - The New Atheism and Secular Humanism
September 14, 2007

Comments from the CFI Forums

If you would like to leave a comment about this episode of Point of Inquiry please visit the related thread on the CFI discussion forums

Summed up in one sentence, Paul Kurtz suggests to sidestep the God question and to focus on the ethical questions.

I much applaud that approach because the God question - as well as those nebulous Why? questions which he also derides - are so easily brushed aside.
Here is how I suggest how to argue effectively against the concept of a deity.

It’s short and two-pronged:

One: many people can be brought to realize that belief in a personal God who decides your every step, and at the same time judges those very steps is simply childish and does not stand to reason. All atheists and deists, and open minds, can make short works of such ideas.

Two: With the personal God down, still standing is the Deist god, the Creator who kicked it all off and has since been AWOL. This looks at first like a way to rescue the concept of god, but it becomes instantly apparent that nothing ethical follows from such an idea. Nothing.
It’s too far away in time and consequentiality. Way too far.

Farther than, say, some 11th century rape that, generations upon generations and a millennium later brought myself into existence. Or the coincidental success of homo sapiens over co-evolving hominds, or the discovery of penicillum that allowed my recovery from an otherwise deadly childhood infection, or…

We don’t even owe a nod of gratitude, because we’re only guessing a creator. If still we feel some psychological need to acknowledge our luck to be alive it may be because we’re social animals, used to find ourselves inside hierarchies of mutual obligations, and generally ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’.

None of the ‘deep’ questions humans ask themselves can be anchored in a Deist god, and draw substance from one.
What are we here on earth for?
What does is all mean?
What is good?

Nothing derives from positing a creator to provide even a glimmer of an answer. There is no connection.
It’s like standing up in a research seminar in the particle physics department and saying: “My great great grandfather once drank a glass of milk. That explains it all, doesn’t it?!”

If people still think they want their ‘deep’ questions answered, they’ll have to find source material other than this empty postulate.
Or dispense with the questions. Perhaps we should go with Wittgenstein’s (early) postulate: that of which one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
Or look for mutually agreeable, and in that manner of speaking: humane, concepts to guide our behavior.

So there were are, back in play, no longer fixated on milking a stone but willing and able to make coexistence work.

Posted on Dec 21, 2007 at 10:25pm by moreover Comment #1

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Posted on Dec 22, 2007 at 7:54am by zarcus Comment #2

That, whether or not god exist we still live and that there are moral principles that we can discover and it is important to recognize that.

Exactly, the way I put it was: nothing follows from the existence of god.
I know, breaking out of a lifetime of religious indoctrination is not easy, but given that this observation is so basic, clear, and unadorned, yet true should provide a lever to crack open such indoctrination.

(Totally unimportant side note: yet again my post counter is stuck at a long past number, 76.  For months it was 52. I’ll be an eternal newbie on this board…)

Posted on Dec 22, 2007 at 8:04am by moreover Comment #3

Excellent episode!  Thank you so much DJ and Paul.

Humanist ethics should be the center of what defines humanist activity.  This is the arena that attracted me to humanism from the outset and it ought to be one of our most primary areas of focus.  We are kind, caring, compassionate humans and we are deeply concerned and committed to the wellbeing of others- good health, ethical decency, pursuit of eupraxsophy, and social outlets that are free of dogma and destructive forms of tribalism.  We need to show this to others by example and positively assert our values within society.

This ought to be a primary focus of our dialog.  It is more than a bit refreshing to see Paul steering us on such a positive track.

Posted on Dec 22, 2007 at 8:23am by erasmusinfinity Comment #4

RE: Tom Flynn.

Of course, I respect Tom’s right to do as he chooses for his own personal reasons, but I couldn’t disagree more with his assertion that the secular-humanist community is served well strategically when he does not participate in popular holiday cultural events such as Christmas.

One reason is contained in Tom’s own editorial.  In the same way that the Christians have Christianized pagan holidays and traditions, our humaist participation is secularizing the Christian holidays and traditions. As a non-Christian participating in Christmas, I am secularizing Christmas.

Another reason we <u>should</u> participate in such community holiday celebrations is that through our participation we maintain healthy avenues for dialogue within our community. Just the opposite of Tom’s assertion that secularists disappear during the holiday season by participating in the holidays, it is those secularists <u>who do not</u> participate in community holiday celebrations that are the ones being marginalized.

Take advantage of this time of year when so many people in your community have decided to take a few days off of work.  Use the time-off to throw a holiday party of your own. Let your neighbors and friends know that you enjoy a good time even though you don’t share their religious beliefs. Let everyone know that this time of year is not owned by Christians.

If every house on your street is lit-up with holiday lights and it is known that not all the houses are Christian households, then the lights no longer represent a statement about Christianity. It’s a good thing, not a bad thing to participate. As long as there are enough others like me hanging holiday lights for no other reason than because they are pretty and it brightens-up the season (at a time when it gets dark here in Wisconsin at about 4pm), then the lights will not be a symbol of Christianity, but instead a symbol of community spirit shared by all.

Posted on Dec 22, 2007 at 10:37am by Riley Comment #5

We are kind, caring, compassionate humans and we are deeply concerned and committed to the wellbeing of others…

Who is “we”? :bug:

Posted on Dec 22, 2007 at 11:25am by George Comment #6

We are kind, caring, compassionate humans and we are deeply concerned and committed to the wellbeing of others…

Who is “we”? :bug:

You and I George.

Posted on Dec 22, 2007 at 11:33am by erasmusinfinity Comment #7

“Who is we?” is a legitimate question. Humans can be altruistic and benevolent but they don’t have to be.  They can also reserve their altruism to their “In-group” and screw everybody else. The “planetary humanism/altruism” Paul Kurtz is calling for is not easily achieved.

Remember Lawrence Kohlberg? This Harvard psychologist looked at moral development (unfortunately, he fell into depression and killed himself). One of his students, Georg Lind, now a professor at Konstanz University in Germany, has applied his ideas to the real world and has experimented with model schools where democratic self rule is guiding principle and practice, and where students learn to confront their (arbitrary) beliefs in discussions of moral dilemmas. Apparently this approach has had some success.
Moral dilemmas are a very powerful tool. If you work through one you’ll realize what your values are, whether they are all that useful, what happens if you allow them to be your sole guide, and why people with other values will chose differently. It kind of squeezes dogmatism right out of you.
You can read about Prof Lind’s work here in English: http://www.uni-konstanz.de/ag-moral/about.htm
It should be noted that this is not some provincial third rate stuff but that Lind has made huge waves in Germany and abroad for his work on building moral competency. I find it very promising.
Compare that to the utter waste of money in the US which every year prints millions of “inspirational posters” so that students can (rightfully!) spit on them in school corridors.
Why do I mention this? Because altruism, fairness, concern for the needs of others must be fostered, developed and taught. It has to be part of education, which happens outside the reach of parents for 80% of the waking hours of a child. But at school - and even at elementary school! - the corrupted US school system focusses on test scores instead of teaching. Go figure.

Posted on Dec 22, 2007 at 7:58pm by moreover Comment #8

OK guys.  Sure.  It is a perfectly valid point to question a “we” formation given that you may not identify with what I was asserting.  As you can see iif you look again at what I had written, I was referring quite specifically to “humanists” when I said “we.”  And I assumed, perhaps falsely, that you considered yourselves to be “humanists.”  Identify with the term or not as you like.

I also used the words kind, caring, etc. as concepts that I associated with the word label “humanist.”  As far as I’m concerned those are fundamental qualities, on a semantic level, of what the word “humanist” means.  You may not agree that being a “humanist” involves, to a certain degree, being kind, caring, etc.  If this is the case then I question whether or not you understand the meaning of the term “humanist” in its conventional context.  You also may consider yourselves to be unkind, not caring, etc.  If this is the case then I am utterly baffled, not to mention that I feel sorry for you (and the people toward whom you behave unkindly, without caring, etc.).

I actually still suspect that both of you, George and moreover, do consider yourselves to be all of these positive qualities and are just playing devil’s advocate here.  So let me play devil’s advocate for a moment.  Do you have an inherent problem with being placed in any “we” group, even if it does perfectly well describe you?

And, moreover, of course I don’t think that people “have to be” altruistic or benevolent.  Just that I consider myself to be altruistic and benevolent, that these qualities are part of what is meant by the word label “humanist,” that this is part of why I personally identify with the word label “humanist,” and (perhaps incorrectly) I assumed that you see yourself in this way too.  And my point was that this was the starting point for working constructively rather than just critiquing stupid religious beliefs.

Posted on Dec 22, 2007 at 9:03pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #9

RE: RE: Tom Flynn.

Riley commented: “If every house on your street is lit-up with holiday lights and it is known that not all the houses are Christian households, then the lights no longer represent a statement about Christianity.”

If that is true, never mind the secular humanists. So much the worse for any Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists living in that neighborhood, who have just been deprived of a way to affirm their identities as non-Christians.

My first big lesson about religious diversity was being one of the only Catholics in a majority-Protestant elementary school back when they still had King James Bible readings over the school PA system. (See Chapter 2 of my book THE TROUBLE WITH CHRISTMAS if you’re curious.) My second big lesson about religious diversity was when my family moved from a city neighborhood that contained no Jewish families and moved to a suburban neighborhood with a substantial Jewish population. (Amazing but true, I knowingly met my first Jewish kid only in 5th grade.) It was amazing to ride around in the back seat of the family car of an evening, looking at Christmas lights, and seeing all those houses without lights ... and knowing that each such house marked a family whose religious commitment was so different from my own. (OK, now I realize some of those lightless homes probably belonged to atheists or adherents of Eastern religions; at the time I thought they were all Jewish homes, and that was enough to rock my world.)

Ever since I’ve had a powerful appreciation for the power of public refusal to “just go along” with popular symbolism. We need very much for holiday lights to continue representing a statement about Christianity, so that kids and adults today can have the same learning experience I did. As non-Christian orientations spread—Judaism, atheism, Islam, utterly apathy, you name it—it’s critically important that everyone be able to see that there are a few less houses lighted up each year than there were the year before. That’s powerful support for individual non-Christians, one more reminder that they are not alone—and a powerful reminder to those still Christian that they need to conduct themselves in the public square with greater humility.

It saddens me to think that large numbers of non-Christians will start thinking of Xmas lights as “holiday lights,” just go putting them up willy-nilly, and so increase the false impression held by many non-Christian Americans that “I’m the only one like me I know.” Dark houses during the Christians’ holiday season raise consciousness. IMNSHO we should think twice about throwing such a powerful tool away!

Tom Flynn, aka The Anti-Claus

Posted on Dec 22, 2007 at 9:07pm by Tom W. Flynn Comment #10

It saddens me to think that large numbers of non-Christians will start thinking of Xmas lights as “holiday lights,” just go putting them up willy-nilly, and so increase the false impression held by many non-Christian Americans that “I’m the only one like me I know.”

Ah, but Tom… doesn’t tree lighting predate christianity?  My understanding is that it is an acceptance of a hijacking to call them “Xmas lights” as if they truly have anything at all to do with some sort of “Christ Mass.”  Isn’t the terming of the traditional lighting of a tree for the winter solstice as “xmas lighting” at least as superficial as naming it as a Hannukah lighting or a Divali lighting and considerably more dishonest than, say, a Humanlight lighting?

After all, the celebration of the winter solstice is truly what the lighting of the tree is all about, and truly what all those other silly and superstitious “holy” days are about.  No?

Posted on Dec 22, 2007 at 9:33pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #11

Erasmusinfinity writes, “Ah, but Tom… doesn’t tree lighting predate christianity?  ... After all, the celebration of the winter solstice is truly what the lighting of the tree is all about, and truly what all those other silly and superstitious ‘holy’ days are about.  No?”

Lighting trees indeed predates Christianity. If you want to generalize it as using pine boughs and candles together in seasonal decor, the tradition can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt. Hanging lights from the eaves and planting illuminated reindeer-shaped bundles of birch twigs on the lawn? Those are more recent, and have no apparent connection to anything but Xmas.

As I mention in the book, I’ve never understood the allure of the winter solstice. If we secular humanists are not Christians, we’re not pagans either. (Heck, even Christians reject paganism, why should we restore a belief-set that folks who still believe in, oh, the Trinity can see through?) To my mind, the solstice and its variants like HumanLight have three important problems that render them unfit for celebration by moderns. First, if you understand a little astronomy it’s evident that the solstices and equinoxes are nothing special—they’re automatic consequences of living on a spherical world with a tilted axis that orbits a star. Big deal! Second, most of us have central heating; many of us live in warmer climes. A message of hope that winter will one day end doesn’t carry the resonance it did in ancient or medieval times. Again, big deal! Third, any winter solstice celebration is inescapably parochial: it only “works” for people living in the north temperate zone. For folks who live in the tropics, it’s immaterial; for folks who live in the south temperate zone, it’s reversed. The British Empire had no scruples about inducing its colonists in Australia and New Zealand to celebrate Christmas at the crest of summer heat. Secular humanists who aspire to be “citizens of the world” ought to know better.

Humanity has outgrown the solstice. It’s time for more non-Christians, especially those who left Christianity during their own lives, to recognize that they’ve also outgrown Christmas.

Tom Flynn

Posted on Dec 23, 2007 at 6:44am by Tom W. Flynn Comment #12

Hi Tom, and thanks for coming by the forum to chat!

I do see where you’re coming from here, and certainly support your decision to do whatever you darn well please during Xmas or any other time of the year. That said, I’m assuming you take the weekends off, even though the seven-day week (AFAIK) comes from Genesis ... (And one could go on with these sorts of arguments, of course).

The problem is also that people do tend to enjoy parties and celebrations, and however we schedule them, they do tend to come around once a year. Why do we need any particular justification to get together with family and friends and have a party? If a secularist decides to have a party on December 24 or 25, well, why not? You will say that by doing so they give weight to the general cultural notion that everyone is Christian; I do see your point. But there are at least a couple of issues that come to mind. First, I live in NYC. I am surrounded by non-Christians. Nobody will know we are having a party except my family and friends, and perhaps their immediate neighbors, many of whom are probably Jewish and couldn’t care less. So there’s that, for at least some of us.

Secondly, weren’t the Puritans themselves Christians? I mean, do we really want to come across as cheerless nannies? Implying that we should not organize any fiesta that cannot be justified on purely secular grounds does, you will have to admit, seem rather puritanical in spirit.

;-)

Posted on Dec 23, 2007 at 7:10am by dougsmith Comment #13

Thanks for responding to my post Tom.  I very much respect your decision and I certainly don’t think that everyone ought to have a celebration at the time of the winter solstice in the same manner that I do.  Or at all if they don’t want to.  You are no exception, and you make excellnt points as to why you don’t.

I find your third point to be particularly interesting.  I should think that persons living in the southern hemisphere could just as easily celebrate their reverse solstices at corresponding times.  Perhaps it would be most globally aware of us to celebrate the two solstices of the two hemispheres simultaneously, in due respect for the fact that it is the opposite solstice somewhere too.  What an excellent opportunity, I should think, to increase our global awareness by considering other parts of the world.  Of course, this point becomes a bit more complex when we consider equatorial and tropical regions.  Particularly non-western countries that now have established christian traditions as a result of a western colonialization that has superficially imposed christian holidays atop non-corresponding seasonal structures.  But, in my mind, this presents only a problem of implementing alternative celebrations within the currently established ones, not a question of whether or not the goal is worthwhile.

Maybe I just haven’t grown up yet, but if growing up means not taking part in any sort of ritual than I feel no desire or need to grow up as such.  I enjoy celebrating both Winter Solstice and Humanlight.  The first because that’s what is actually happening and the second because it’s a nice way of expressing solidarity with other humanists.  I will even admit to picking and choosing ritualistic elements freely from christmas and hannukah celebrations while stripping them, to the best of my ability, of their religious meaning.  I realize that this is nothing more than theater, but after all… “all the world’s a stage.”

A celebration of nature is what all of those other holidays are really all about, underneath their religious pageantry.  I’m just a naturalist who loves a good party.

Posted on Dec 23, 2007 at 7:50am by erasmusinfinity Comment #14

Do you have an inherent problem with being placed in any “we” group, even if it does perfectly well describe you?

I know many religious (and non-religious) people who are much nicer people than me. I am not a humanist. I believe we are all as carrying as we can afford to be. And yes, I personally do have a problem with being placed not in any group, but in some groups: it just sounds a little too naive to me to think that I’ll be more carrying if I call myself a humanist.

Posted on Dec 23, 2007 at 8:05am by George Comment #15

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Posted on Dec 23, 2007 at 8:31am by zarcus Comment #16

Well then George, I was not talking to you when I said “we” in reference to humanists emphasizing humanistic ethics.  :tongue:  I also know many religious persons who are very nice.  Although, I think that is quite despite their being religious and I wouldn’t use the word “despite” in the case of humanists.  I also happen to think that you are very nice, at least so much as I have gotten to know you on this forum.  ;-)

Posted on Dec 23, 2007 at 8:34am by erasmusinfinity Comment #17

One thing I can’t wrap my brain around, is Kurtz’s comment that morality is something that can be discovered like any other type of knowledge.  I just can’t agree with this.  He talks about being good just because of conscience- but what is conscience?  In my opinion, conscience is taught and caught - just like any other knowledge, and isn’t a reason to be good.
Another reason he gives for being good is because of our obligations to fellow creatures.  Why should I be obligated to act or do anything?  I didn’t ask to be born, why should I live by someone else’s rules?  If what I do ends up getting me killed, or imprisoned, then that’s my choice.  But to act in a certain way because I have some sort of obligation to those around me to live as they see acceptable doesn’t seem like a good reason to be good.  I think the only reason to do anything is because you want to.  Otherwise don’t bother.  But I have always had a problem with the terms ‘should’ and ‘obligations’.  I don’t refrain from killing my neighbor because I feel obligated to - I don’t kill my neighbor because I have no reason to kill him.  And if someone brings me a pie when I move to the neighborhood out of an obligation feeling, I don’t want the pie.  I only want it if the person baked it because they wanted to, not because they felt they owed it to me as a new neighbor.

I am surprised to even hear the term good being used - this is a subjective term, and I don’t think you can stamp a behavior, idea, etc as ‘good’ in any case.  If a person believes in God, isn’t it good that they impart their wisdom on this to their kids, rather than letting them burn in hell?  I would question a Christian parent who didn’t.  Is it good to let someone live who has killed someone I love?  What if they kill someone else?  Is it better that I let them live and possibly kill again, or should I kill them myself?  Or should I let someone else do that ‘dirty work’ for me?  I just don’t personally believe in right and wrong, I think that for my own emotional well-being, to be true to my own values is the best I can do, and the best I can ask of any one. 
It’s definitely possible I’m missing the point some where here - but though I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in one true morality that is yet to be discovered by all, either. 

That said, I don’t want to live in a violent place.  I appreciate a society that creates laws as best we can.  But to say that these laws are based on truths… I’m just not sure.

Posted on Dec 23, 2007 at 2:20pm by Jennifer Grayson Comment #18

George, I appreciate that you are not making a saint out of yourself. As much as I appreciate the concept of Humanism I have to accept, tolerate, face that others adopt a decidedly more selfish approach to life. Just because Humanism sounds like a desirable approach and of which one might imagine could be adopted by a large majority under ideal circumstances doesn’t mean it will happen. Anyone who has ever run into a bone headed “Dagobert Duck” type capitalist or libertarian can attest to that.

Posted on Dec 23, 2007 at 3:28pm by moreover Comment #19

I am far from being a saint. :-) If you’re a moral person consider yourself lucky. We act morally because it’s convenient for us. The moment we can’t afford to be nice, we’ll act like animals. I am sure if somebody was trying to kill your kids you wouldn’t start quoting to him Marcus Aurelius. All this humanistic moral mumbo jumbo reminds me of the Communists trying to persuade me as a kid that we can all live in peace if we only try a little harder.

Posted on Dec 23, 2007 at 4:35pm by George Comment #20

Nobody’s perfect.  I’m certainly not, and I am a bit disappointed by the indirect implication that I am somehow being self-righteous for wanting to promote good ethical conduct.  When it comes to morality, it is unreasonable to expect anything more from oneself or others than to try.  But it is also important that our fear of appearing self-righteous does not confuse the validity of our aspiring to be righteous.  Is not disapproval of self-righteousness a moral judgment in itself?

More importantly, is it not self evident that it is good to try to be good?

Of course humans can live in peace if they try a little harder.  There are countless examples of small and large populations of people doing so successfully.  I don’t expect all people to get this, but it is a noble and worthwhile thing to hope for and work for.  And it is undoubtedly worth striving toward good ethical conduct within oneself.

Posted on Dec 23, 2007 at 5:02pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #21

I should think that persons living in the southern hemisphere could just as easily celebrate their reverse solstices at corresponding times.

No way!!!. I like the open air parties, the swiming pool at night, the asado (a kind of barbecue) :lol:

I don’t see any trouble with the xmas celebration. I enjoy sharing a party with my friends and family, the christmas is a good oportunity to be together, eat, drink and exchange gifts. It doens’t seem a religious celebration at all (at least, it doens’t seem a catholic or christian celebration), even the people who identifies themselves as religious don’t seem to be thinking in a religious way (well, maybe it could pass as a pagan celebration).

The christmas has lost its original meaning (a conservative newspaper here today complained about the fact that the consumism fever had hidden the true christmas spirit) to end up by being just a kind of popular party.

Posted on Dec 23, 2007 at 5:08pm by Barto Comment #22

No way!!!. I like the open air parties, the swiming pool at night, the asado (a kind of barbecue) :lol:

I don’t see any trouble with the xmas celebration. I enjoy sharing a party with my friends and family, the christmas is a good oportunity to be together, eat, drink and exchange gifts. It doens’t seem a religious celebration at all (at least, it doens’t seem a catholic or christian celebration), even the people who identifies themselves as religious don’t seem to be thinking in a religious way (well, maybe it could pass as a pagan celebration).

Southern hemisphere Xmas sounds like fun!

:grin:

Agreed. Our celebrations, such as they are, aren’t Christian either ...

Posted on Dec 23, 2007 at 7:26pm by dougsmith Comment #23

Of course humans can live in peace if they try a little harder.

Tomorrow is Christmas, so let us pretend we can do this: Peace to all people of goodwill! And Merry Christmas to you, erasmusinfinity!  :grin:

Posted on Dec 23, 2007 at 7:55pm by George Comment #24

And a happy Humanlight to you George.  :lol:

Posted on Dec 23, 2007 at 7:57pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #25

Christmas is also a chance for couples to have sex while the kids are occupied with their new toys (the drawback: it might lead to more kids).

Posted on Dec 25, 2007 at 9:28am by moreover Comment #26

Dark houses during the Christians’ holiday season raise consciousness. IMNSHO we should think twice about throwing such a powerful tool away!

I owe many thanks to the Christmas holiday.  If it were not for that famous early lesson in critical thinking, finding out Santa Clause was not real, I may not have been able to raise my consciousness to other supernatural frameworks.  I find that I am biologically tuned to learn from narratives and human experiences.  I have no problems teaching my future children the varieties of folk lore and traditions that exist.  Studying human activities and messages can be a very effective learning method.  I prefer to stress inquiry into all holidays, not just Christmas.  Consciousness can also be raised with a well lit manger scene with characters of Middle Eastern decent & dress, decorated tree of knowledge or maybe a focused theme on winter astronomy.  However, a depending on how far you take this and your neighborhood, a dark house could lower your chances of vandalism.  Besides, everyone can benefit from a break from work, time with family & friends and some rest and relaxation (some more than others).  Happy Holidays!  :)

Posted on Dec 26, 2007 at 9:58am by retrospy Comment #27

RE: Tom Flynn.

Of course, I respect Tom’s right to do as he chooses for his own personal reasons, but I couldn’t disagree more with his assertion that the secular-humanist community is served well strategically when he does not participate in popular holiday cultural events such as Christmas.

I have to agree with Riley. I find this similar to Sam Harris’ unrealistic suggestion that we not use the word atheist. It’s remarkably unrealistic coming from a group whose ads ask us to join the ‘reality-based community’.  On the plus side it is food for thought—just like Sam’s speech.

Christmas is increasingly secular and does not have strong religious overtones.  We see Peanuts and Winnie-the-Pooh decorations on people’s front lawns more than nativity scenes—I’ll take a ‘census’—I found one house with a manger scene and one with a manger scene on a ‘banner’. But there were 4 with large inflatable secular items and many houses with just lights (like ours)

I was struck by Tom Flynn’s comment that he goes in to work on Christmas.

Posted on Dec 27, 2007 at 2:14pm by Jackson Comment #28

D.J. was interviewed by Derek Colanduno over at Skepticality for their Christmas episode on the topic of how skeptics and atheists may or may not participate in the holiday season.  While it appears that Skepticality was unable to run the interview, you can find the recording from our end below.  D.J. disagress with Tom Flynn on a number of points which some of you may find interesting.

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/uploads/dj_grothe_skepticality.mp3

Posted on Dec 27, 2007 at 3:05pm by Thomas Donnelly Comment #29

D.J. was interviewed by Derek Colanduno over at Skepticality for their Christmas episode on the topic of how skeptics and atheists may or may not participate in the holiday season.  While it appears that Skepticality was unable to run the interview, you can find the recording from our end below.  D.J. disagress with Tom Flynn on a number of points which some of you may find interesting.

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/uploads/dj_grothe_skepticality.mp3

Thanks for uploading that, Thomas.

That was a nice interview with DJ and I go along with much of what he said in the interview. I’ve challenged Flynn’s stance on christmas here before along with thanksgiving and so on and I feel his “anti-claus” persona does more harm than good. I “celebrate” christmas with my wife and daughter without any of the trappings of religion. We don’t go to christmas mass but we sure do love all the christmas carols. We feed the capitalist machine by giving and getting piles and piles of gifts and engage in various levels of gluttony as we put on the pounds while eating anything and everything in sight. Santa is still very real to my daughter and that’s OK with us.

My biggest issue with Flynn is that he has blanket categorized any atheists who “celebrate” christmas as “bad atheists” or people who “need their consciousness raised.” To me, that smacks of arrogance. Going in to work on a day where we are all encouraged to be a little nicer and use the time to reconnect with family and friends is just a little too self-righteous for me.

I agree with DJ and many others here who think it’s a far better idea to embrace the celebration and supplant it from within. We’ve managed to take the religious aspect out of Thanksgiving. It is just as easy to do it for christmas too. I and many of my “bad atheist” friends have done it without any issue.

Posted on Dec 28, 2007 at 8:05am by jeofvita Comment #30

Since threads have gotten crossed, I wanted to include my post HERE as a response to the discussion on this thread.

Posted on Dec 28, 2007 at 11:21am by erasmusinfinity Comment #31

D.J. was interviewed by Derek Colanduno over at Skepticality for their Christmas episode on the topic of how skeptics and atheists may or may not participate in the holiday season.  While it appears that Skepticality was unable to run the interview, you can find the recording from our end below.  D.J. disagress with Tom Flynn on a number of points which some of you may find interesting.

http://www.centerforinquiry.net/uploads/dj_grothe_skepticality.mp3

Thanks for uploading this. I also like the Skepticality podcasts.

I think that Christmas is gradually getting merged into a general end-of-the-year celebration. In our neighborhood ‘secular’ displays of lights and non-religious characters (including Snoopy, Winnie-the-Pooh, and snowmen) dominate anything with manger scenes, but this probably varies around the country.

Posted on Dec 30, 2007 at 11:05am by Jackson Comment #32


Also in this episode, Free Inquiry magazine editor Tom Flynn explores the “reason for the season” as a secular humanist.

I would like to comment that Tom Flynn’s references to Republicans rubbed me the wrong way.  I don’t think there is a benefit to such stereotyping.

Posted on Dec 30, 2007 at 11:17am by Jackson Comment #33

Jackson wrote:
I find this similar to Sam Harris’ unrealistic suggestion that we not use the word atheist. It’s remarkably unrealistic coming from a group whose ads ask us to join the ‘reality-based community’.

Actually, I think Sam Harris’ suggestion that we not use the term “atheist” is right-on. But I agree with you that it’s probably not realistic to think we will stop using the term. Tom Flynn’s assertion that we should not participate in traditionally religious celebrations is probably unrealistic too, yes, but more importantly in my opinion it’s not a good idea (strategically speaking) to begin with.

Sam is right to note that the secular movement is hindered by use of the term “atheist”. Continued use of the term is especially dangerous because “atheism” has as a result become identified as a world view for many people. When a lead figure declares: “religion poisons everything” under the banner of atheism, atheism ceases to be simply a position concerning the existence of a god, and that’s a problem we should be concerned about. Because of people like Christopher Hitchens, I can no longer deny a comparison between the atheism movement and the late Bolshevik Soviets.  The Bolshevik Soviets under Stalin’s rule abused a great number of religious people <u>explicitly in the name</u> of a similar world-view claim concerning religion.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 8:49am by Riley Comment #34

Riley,

I am quite refreshed to hear another voice in support of not using the term “atheist.”  Although, I’m not sure how you equate Bolshevik Soviets under Stalin with the rantings of Christopher Hitchens.  Hitchens talks firmly and questionably offensively, but I have never seen him call for any sort of violent action with regards to religion or atheism.  On the contrary, I have heard him speak at length against violence- condemning religion for it.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 9:27am by erasmusinfinity Comment #35

The Bolshevik Soviets under Stalin’s rule abused a great number of religious people <u>explicitly in the name</u> of a similar world-view claim concerning religion.

In the name of what? In the name of Communism, an idea based on faith and greed just like any other religion. A war between two gods: Marx and Jehovah.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 10:06am by George Comment #36

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Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 12:06pm by zarcus Comment #37

George, to associate the idealistic egalitarian idea of communism with greed - the hallmark of winner takes all capitalism - is idiotic. That is not an insult but simply factual.

As for the atheism argument: there’s the marketing aspect, and then there’s the truth part.
Fact is: religions have no privileged way of knowing stuff. Their alleged “knowledge” derives from positively unreliable sources and come down to hearsay and dubious claims of personal revelation. In other words, the truth status of their professions is individualistic and arbitrary at best, but false, misleading, unfounded, and poisonous by design and in actual practice.
At some point a thinking person will notice. As they say, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. Why not dispense with the lipstick and go straight to the heart of the matter?

One approach to wean people off religion is to display the options:
Suppose you were a female alien stuck on earth for good, and your visa requirement was to select a “spiritual association”.
Would you select Muslim Wahabism over Paganism? Calvinism over The Church of John Coltrane? Hinduism over Aboriginal tribal religion?
They’re all waiting to be chosen - would you really pick a cruel, coercive bunch of mythological junk over, say, the life affirming, tolerant, and dogma free humanistic principles of the Unitarian Universalists ( http://www.uua.org/visitors/6798.shtml ) or the Secular Humanists, or other happy atheist heretics?
Sure, the pig with lipstick works for many people (the Muppet Show was a hit, after all).
But given the non-toxic alternatives, why stick with the pig?
I’d rather have a roast!

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 12:20pm by moreover Comment #38

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Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 12:25pm by zarcus Comment #39

I’m not sure how you equate Bolshevik Soviets under Stalin with the rantings of Christopher Hitchens.  Hitchens talks firmly and questionably offensively, but I have never seen him call for any sort of violent action with regards to religion or atheism. On the contrary, I have heard him speak at length against violence- condemning religion for it.

All I mean to say is that a justifiable comparison can be made between the Soviet Bolsheviks and those atheists now preaching “religion poisons everything”; the two groups made and are making similar claims. Of course, there are also important distinctions to be made as well, as you have correctly pointed out. Similarly, to be fair in a way that Hitchens seem unwilling to acknowledge, the same type of justifiable comparisons and important distinctions are there to be made between Muslims who in the name of their religion advocate the murder of apostates and the multitude of other religious people (Muslims included) who speak at length against violence - also in the name of their religion.

For the record, I don’t advocate such comparisons at all. They don’t support any arguments for or against religious claims, and worse they contribute to bigotry and group allegiance.

The Bolshevik Soviets under Stalin’s rule abused a great number of religious people <u>explicitly in the name</u> of a similar world-view claim concerning religion.

In the name of what?

in the name that:
Religion is a tool used for the “exploitation and the stupefaction” of the masses.

It was in the name of this claim concerning the negative impact of religion on society (which is not unlike the claim that “religion poisons everything”) that the Soviet Bolsheviks oppressed and murdered many religious people. Yes, they also killed and oppressed a lot of people for a lot of other reasons too. It’s complex.

An even closer comparison could be made between the approach taken by the “religion poisons everything” atheist crowd and the approach of the Soviet Bolshevik “League of the Militant Godless”. The League was a movement that encouraged ridicule and harassment of all religious believers. Like the “religion poisons everything” atheist crowd today, the League did not advocate violence, and yet their approach created a culture of bigotry which dehumanized religious people; an important enabling component of the oppressive Soviet regime.

Of course, again, I’m not saying there aren’t important distinctions to be made as well. Very important distinctions. But the comparisons are certainly there to be made by defensive religious people - and justifiably so. I’m not sure what argument such comparisons could support, but the comparisons are there.

My larger point is that it would be a lot easier to spread awareness concerning the flaws of bad claims (e.g. god, the bible, etc) if we weren’t bogged down by difficult-to-defend “Atheist Movement” world-view claims (e.g. “religion poisons everything”). Such claims are counterproductive distractions.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 12:28pm by Riley Comment #40

I remember hearing a podcast from the Humanist Network News where that question raised by Harris was specifically put to Dawkins. I dimly remember that he said that he pays close attention when high profile advocates alert him that what he does can be counterproductive. I think he responded that he’ll is aware that he not always manages to heed their advice, partly because he disagrees with their analysis, and partly because a plurality of approaches is what is called for.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 12:32pm by moreover Comment #41

George, to associate the idealistic egalitarian idea of communism with greed - the hallmark of winner takes all capitalism - is idiotic. That is not an insult but simply factual.

I am really tired of this topic. All of our family’s real estate was taken by the communists. I don’t care if they confiscated it because of some idiotic ideal or because of greed. I know it was taken from us against our will, justify by the same nonsense that the Inquisition used to steal the fortune from the rich “witches.” Communism in Eastern Europe had nothing to do with Marx’s BS, which, BTW, made no sense either.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 12:37pm by George Comment #42

Atheists come across as spoil sports, party poopers, and worse.
That’s tragic, because on the contrary, the atheist analysis unlocked, once and for all, the door to freedom and the possibility for the brotherhood of humankind.

We should find a term that signifies that cage free mind.

My own inclination is to go with small h humanist, without the qualifier ‘secular’.

Being a humanist means we are concerned with humans and humanity, that our ethics must be derived at by humans and geared toward humans (not dictated by some ethereal entity whom we ‘serve’).
It also insinuates that we acknowledge the diversity of human philosophical and religious imagination, that we appreciate (to varying degrees) the rich and colorful psychological experience that humans exhibit. Being human means to have a subjective inner life that has a reality of its own, and we acknowledge its subjective relevance, sometimes affirming it, sometimes proving it wrong.

Such a ‘denomination’ sounds less pretentious and less aggressive, but also less flat and anaemic than that of a harsh naturalism which describes humans as intelligent machines with software defects.

So much for words. But the facts remain: religions push arbitrary dogma that they declare as true and divine without proof and in the face of contradictory evidence. Their adherents are typically not pleased to see their claims denied by anyone.
There is not that much you can do about the psychological discomfort that is sure to ensue.

Just imagine how difficult it is to tell an employee (or a superior!) that he has really bad breath!
I picked the example on purpose: bad breath is not necessarily his fault, and yet chances are he feels terrible about having been called on it, and may get defensive.

But there often is a point where one needs to take action and tell the truth, regardless of whether some egos gets hurt.

To my mind, it’s unquestionably true: Religions do hurt people.
Given the arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in the possession of religiously possessed leaders (not to mention religiously motivated ‘worst practices’ which affect billions) people with liberated minds, such as humanists and atheists, can easily derive the responsibility to act against them.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 1:34pm by moreover Comment #43

When I see people talk about not using the term “atheist”, I can’t help but wonder if they completely understand why Harris is advocating disuse of the term.

I will admit that I may not understand entirely what Sam Harris is advocating with regard to disuse of the term.  My interpretation is and has been that atheism does not necessarily mean anything other than a state of being “non-theistic” (Ie. it is bankrupt as a philosophy because it says nothing about a person or their beliefs) and that in taking on a label, such as atheist, validates theistic nonsense argument.  This is something that I believe.  It may be or may not be a correct interpretation of what Sam Harris has said.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 1:39pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #44

George, I disagree. I’m reasonably familiar with the oppressive history of the Soviets. My father escaped in 1959 from the German ‘Democratic’ Republic after his big mouth had made his life dangerous. But as long as the rich don’t share the wealth (which most inherited in the first place) poor people will try to take if from them. What Marx observed was a cruel practice of exploitation that was crying out for a revolution. Some of his philosophical ideas, especially the Hegelian notions, were false, but to call his analysis bullshit misses the mark by a very wide margin.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 1:51pm by moreover Comment #45

All I mean to say is that a justifiable comparison can be made between the Soviet Bolsheviks and those atheists now preaching “religion poisons everything”; the two groups made and are making similar claims. Of course, there are also important distinctions to be made as well, as you have correctly pointed out. Similarly, to be fair in a way that Hitchens seem unwilling to acknowledge, the same type of justifiable comparisons and important distinctions are there to be made between Muslims who in the name of their religion advocate the murder of apostates and the multitude of other religious people (Muslims included) who speak at length against violence - also in the name of their religion.

While I do not personally think that religion poisons “everything,” I do think that it poisons a great deal, and that there is nothing whatsoever that religion has ever done that is any good.  Religion does much bad and doesn’t do anyone any good.  I see no meaningful connection, of any sort, between Soviet Bolsheviks who just happened to be atheists and Muslims who blew themselves up because of their particular religious beliefs that compelled them to do so.

The Bolshevik Soviets under Stalin’s rule abused a great number of religious people <u>explicitly in the name</u> of a similar world-view claim concerning religion.

Much propaganda by theists tauts this absurdity.  Don’t by into it.  The Bolshevik Soviets under Stalin’s rule did nothing as a result of their “atheism.”  “Atheism” is a lack of a thing.  A person can not do something because of something that they do not believe.  People do things because of what they do believe.  The “explicitly in the name of” part that you underlined is something that has been placed there superficially for more sinister and dishonest theistic purposes.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 1:57pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #46

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Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 2:00pm by zarcus Comment #47

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Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 2:16pm by zarcus Comment #48

George, I disagree. I’m reasonably familiar with the oppressive history of the Soviets. My father escaped in 1959 from the German ‘Democratic’ Republic after his big mouth had made his life dangerous. But as long as the rich don’t share the wealth (which most inherited in the first place) poor people will try to take if from them. What Marx observed was a cruel practice of exploitation that was crying out for a revolution. Some of his philosophical ideas, especially the Hegelian notions, were false, but to call his analysis bullshit misses the mark by a very wide margin.

moreover,

I find that the fundamental problem with Marx’s communism ideal is the same as with the lunacy taught by Jesus, for example: our minds are not a tabula rasa when we are born, and we cannot be re-educated according to some bogus ideas with a climax to be found in a haven on earth or a government run by the “people.” The principal ideas of Christianity and Communism are equally false, and I don’t therefore care much for any of their other possible hidden wisdom.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 2:20pm by George Comment #49

[...] there is nothing whatsoever that religion has ever done that is any good.  Religion does much bad and doesn’t do anyone any good.

erasmusinfinity, to proclaim this opinion as a fact without sufficient evidence is dogmatic.

The Bolshevik Soviets under Stalin’s rule abused a great number of religious people <u>explicitly in the name</u> of a similar world-view claim concerning religion.

Much propaganda by theists tauts this absurdity.  Don’t [buy] into it.  The Bolshevik Soviets under Stalin’s rule did nothing as a result of their “atheism.” “Atheism” is a lack of a thing.

I agree! The Bolshevik Soviets under Stalin’s rule did no thing because of their “atheism” (i.e. their lack of belief in a god). But you’ve missed the essential distinction I’ve made between “atheism” (a lack of a thing) and an atheist movement <u>which adopts a belief</u>, for instance the belief that religion poisons everything. By definition, atheism should be as you say it is: just a non-belief, but atheist activists aren’t apparently satisfied to leave it at that.

A person can not do something because of something that they do not believe.  People do things because of what they do believe.  The “explicitly in the name of” part that you underlined is something that has been placed there superficially for more sinister and dishonest theistic purposes.

Yes, people don’t kill in the name of “a lack of a thing”, but they do kill to defend their strongly held beliefs, and they definitely have killed in order to eradicate society of something they consider to be a “virus”, especially when they publicly assert that this virus is poisoning everything. And now, under the banner of atheism, people are claiming they believe just that.

There is now a prominent movement of atheists and atheist organizations proclaiming passionately their belief that the world would necessarily be a better place if only religion were not in it. Maybe that belief is true, maybe it’s not.  But this <u>is</u> the same claim that the Bolshevik Soviets made and that <u>is</u> the same belief that they explicitly used to rationalize murdering and enslaving a great many religious people. That’s the connection I can’t deny to the theists.

If prominent atheists and people like yourself would stop making these hard-to-defend claims which go way beyond the simple atheist position that there is no god, then the comparison would not be reasonable. As it is however, they have a reasonable basis to point out connections they observe between violent anti-religion atheist movements and anti-religion atheist movements in general. Or at least they have no less a reasonable basis than those who point out a connection between violent religious movements and religious movements in general.

I advocate we condemn dogma wherever we find it and be satisfied to leave it at that.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 3:05pm by Riley Comment #50

[...] there is nothing whatsoever that religion has ever done that is any good.  Religion does much bad and doesn’t do anyone any good.

erasmusinfinity, to proclaim this opinion as a fact without sufficient evidence is dogmatic.

These are facts:
Fact #1 - There is no good that can be attributed exclusively to religion.
Fact #2 - There is much bad that can be attributed as the direct cause of religion.

Would you say that your disagreement is an opinion that you are expressing without sufficient evidence?  ;-)

By definition, atheism should be is as you say it is: just a non-belief, but atheist activists aren’t apparently satisfied to leave it at that.

Many “atheist activists” are responding to christian dogmatists who are not satisfied to just leave it at that.

I advocate we condemn dogma wherever we find it and be satisfied to leave it at that.

I do too.  This is why I condemn religion for the dogma that it fundamentally is.  I am satisfied to leave it at that.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 3:24pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #51

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Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 3:39pm by zarcus Comment #52

Fact #1 - There is no good that can be attributed exclusively to religion.

1) A person nearing death has their emotional suffering eased by a belief that they will join loved ones in heaven.
2) A belief in Karma leads people to do good deeds when they otherwise would not.

Fact #2 - There is much bad that can be attributed as the direct cause of religion.

Yes. But you are guilty of generalizing. Those beliefs and practices exclusively attributable to a particular religion are not a necessary part of religion in general.

.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying that I know you are necessarily wrong in your final assessment about religion. I’m just saying there is insufficient evidence for you to assert your opinion as fact, especially your opinion that “there is nothing whatsoever that religion has ever done that is any good”.

By definition, atheism should be is as you say it is: just a non-belief, but atheist activists aren’t apparently satisfied to leave it at that.

Many “atheist activists” are responding to christian dogmatists who are not satisfied to just leave it at that.

And that’s the problem. Atheist activists are behaving like Christian dogmatists in this regard. By making belief claims of our own instead of simply condemning religion for the dogma that it fundamentally is, we are stepping out of line and unnecessarily opening ourselves up to comparison with other anti-religion atheist movements such as the Bolshevik movement in the Soviet Union.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 3:47pm by Riley Comment #53

It is unrealistic to expect much good to flow from false assumptions and ludicrously arbitrary dogma.
Two minuses making a plus works in mathematics but is a hazardous strategy in life.

I insist that our chances for peace, coexistence, and ultimately survival on this planet are hindered by proclaiming that false, arbitrary dogma were true and offered solid guidance for human interaction.

We have to get away from accepting childish false imaginations as true and normative.

I’m reminded of the old philosophical joke about the drunk who is looking for his house keys under a street lantern. A helpful stranger asks him whether this is where he lost the keys. He replies, “No, but at least there is light here!”

Similarly, people fool themselves with the subjective impression that they can obtain religious ‘knowledge’ because their own seducible mind suggests they can. They are mistaken, and the gazillon contradictory neural exitations masquerading as religious revelations attest to that fact.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 3:58pm by moreover Comment #54

Fact #1 - when you say “exclusively”, what exactly do you mean?

Which lead to

Fact #2 - are these opposites? Is #2 saying there is much bad that can be shown exclusively to be the result of religion?

Here I am thinking other pressures from politics, environment, tribal disputes etc.

Also, it appears you are making a rather specific claim but still use a term such as “much bad”.

Fact #1 - I mean that which is not most logically attributed to something other than religion.
Fact #2 - Are not politics, environment, tribal disputes, etc. intrinsic features of religion?  Also, can someone truly be a jihadist without their religion?  A suicide bomber, yes.  But a suicide bomber who bombs, in their own words, for the sake of their belief that allah wants them to?  (A fact that is inseparable from their religious belief.)

Of course they are not opposites.  There is a vast difference between the cherry picking that might be used in attempts to counter fact #1 and the sort of rotten apple picking involved in fact #2.  Religion entirely separate from the cherries (Ie. humanists and other non-theists can and do build wonderful architecture, works of art, and engage in various ethical causes) and is inseparable from the rotten apples (Ie. jihad can only be carried out by a muslim.)

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 4:46pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #55

1) A person nearing death has their emotional suffering eased by a belief that they will join loved ones in heaven.

Death is not a failure.  It is natural and OK.  And knowledge of death does not necessarily lead to suffering.  Fantasies about joining loved ones in heaven do not ease emotional suffering.  A deliberate self-delusion about ones impending death illustrates a view that dying is something horrible.  Indeed, a source of suffering that is based on the same religious conception of living and dying that is supposed to ease.

2) A belief in Karma leads people to do good deeds when they otherwise would not.

If they would do these “good deeds” believing in a religious sort of karma, then they would do them if they did not believe in this sort of karma.  The golden rule is not religious.

Fact #2 - There is much bad that can be attributed as the direct cause of religion.

Yes. But you are guilty of generalizing. Those beliefs and practices exclusively attributable to a particular religion are not a necessary part of religion in general.

I am not generalizing.  I said “much” bad.  There is also “much” in religion that is benign.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that I know you are necessarily wrong in your final assessment about religion. I’m just saying there is insufficient evidence for you to assert your opinion as fact, especially your opinion that “there is nothing whatsoever that religion has ever done that is any good”.

Facts are facts.  They speak for themselves.

Atheist activists are behaving like Christian dogmatists in this regard. By making belief claims of our own instead of simply condemning religion for the dogma that it fundamentally is, we are stepping out of line and unnecessarily opening ourselves up to comparison with other anti-religion atheist movements such as the Bolshevik movement in the Soviet Union.

I agree in the sense that some atheist activists behave rudely, with chips on their shoulders and in ways that will not achieve much for anyone.  My fundamental issues are with the notions that counter-dogma is a form of dogma, which it is not, and the idea that atheism can be equated with any sort of behavior at all.  Particularly of the slanderous sort.  I hear enough of that trash talk from the likes of Pope Ratzinger and Osama Bin Laden.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 5:22pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #56

  Hitchens talks firmly and questionably offensively, but I have never seen him call for any sort of violent action with regards to religion or atheism.  On the contrary, I have heard him speak at length against violence- condemning religion for it.

I’m not sure if this would apply, but…

This is a good point zarcus.  I won’t concede that he is condoning violent action here but, whatever he means, it is not good of him to allow himself to have his opinion equated with that of a jihadist.  The big question is “what is he hoping to do (and for us to do) in order to ‘destroy’ his enemy?”  Is he speaking about fighting intellectually, or is he talking about using his fists.  Not a violent action I should hope.

I would not be surprised if he came out with a promotion of violence in the near future, considering his views on the Iraq & Afghanistan wars.  Which I absolutely do not agree with him about.  You may just be swaying me yet in my perspective of Christopher Hitchens.

I never said that I saw religion as the only source of evil, nor that atheists are not capable of horrible things.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 5:45pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #57

1) A person nearing death has their emotional suffering eased by a belief that they will join loved ones in heaven.

Fantasies about joining loved ones in heaven do not ease emotional suffering.

On what basis do you claim to know one way or the other?

2) A belief in Karma leads people to do good deeds when they otherwise would not.

If they would do these “good deeds” believing in a religious sort of karma, then they would do them if they did not believe in this sort of karma.

Again, on what basis do you claim to know one way or the other?  Karma is not the “golden rule”. Karma involves the promise of a reward and the threat of a punishment.

Fact #2 - There is much bad that can be attributed as the direct cause of religion.

Yes. But you are guilty of generalizing. Those beliefs and practices exclusively attributable to a particular religion are not a necessary part of religion in general.

I am not generalizing.  I said “much” bad.  There is also “much” in religion that is benign.

If you cite an example of a ‘bad’ that is uniquely attributed to a specific religion, but is not a necessary element of religion in general, and then generalize that ‘bad’ to all religion, you are guilty of generalizing. You didn’t do this, so I’m admittedly jumping the gun. My bad.

Can you name a ‘bad’ that can be attributed to religion and that is also a necessary aspect of religion in general?

I can imagine a religion with beliefs that are at worst entirely benign. Maybe such a religion is only possible in theory, but I certainly wouldn’t make the claim that it was in fact impossible without evidence.  Where are your facts? All I’m getting from you are assertions to facts, not the facts themselves.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 6:12pm by Riley Comment #58

On what basis do you claim to know one way or the other?

Are you asking what basis I have for claiming to know that they will not see their relatives after they die? (1)
Or, why their suffering about dying is not genuinely eased by religion? (2)

1. I know that they will not see their relatives when they die because they will be dead.
2. Their suffering will not be meaningfully eased because their religion caused their suffering to begin with.

Again, on what basis do you claim to know one way or the other?  Karma is not the golden rule. Karma involves the belief in a reward and the threat of a punishment in the next life - it’s not the same as the “golden rule”.

The burden of proof is on you because you are the one claiming that belief in Karma can keep someone from doing wrong.  My assumption about a hidden “golden rule” is at least as good as yours that Karma has nothing to do with the “golden rule.”  Regardless, you have not established that Karma, in and of itself and without any possible connection to anything else, has ever been a cause for “good” behavior.

Can you name a ‘bad’ that can be attributed to religion and that is also a necessary aspect of religion in general?

I did not say that there was a ‘bad’ that is a necessary aspect of religion in general.  I only said that there was no good that can be attributed exclusively to religion and that there is much bad that can only be attributed as the direct cause of religion.  If we wish to infer from this that religion, in general, is bad then that would not be all together irrational.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 6:41pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #59

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Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 7:53pm by zarcus Comment #60

zarcus,

I had assumed that those quotes came from Hitchens and not the other three.  Hitchens has some exceptionally witty arguments.  But that’s his best point isn’t it- his wit.

He has always rubbed me wrong with regard to his misguided beliefs about the Iraq & Afghanistan being wars for democracy and secular freedom.  He is as deluded as Bush to think that “they hate us for our freedom” just as he is to think that there are secularists in charge of the corporate war machine.  And if he wants to hurt anyone, then he is most certainly as bad as the very worst thing that he criticizes.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 8:06pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #61

Jackson wrote:
I find this similar to Sam Harris’ unrealistic suggestion that we not use the word atheist. It’s remarkably unrealistic coming from a group whose ads ask us to join the ‘reality-based community’.

Actually, I think Sam Harris’ suggestion that we not use the term “atheist” is right-on. But I agree with you that it’s probably not realistic to think we will stop using the term. Tom Flynn’s assertion that we should not participate in traditionally religious celebrations is probably unrealistic too, yes, but more importantly in my opinion it’s not a good idea (strategically speaking) to begin with.

Sam is right to note that the secular movement is hindered by use of the term “atheist”. \

As we know, Sam Harris gave the talk at the 2007 conference of [Atheist Alliance International] (AAI 07) and suggested that we shouldn’t use the word ‘atheist’.  I still don’t know if he was serious or whether this was a useful, attention-getting rhetorical device to talk about atheism.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 8:39pm by Jackson Comment #62

He must have been serious in some respect.  He has defended it more than once sense then.  I’m still trying to decide if he meant that we just weren’t supposed to use the word (or any similarly functioning word) or if he meant that we should not organize.

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 8:45pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #63

I don’t think this is about rational as much as effective atheism.
Arguing with Hitchens about style is futile because pompous hostility and an arrogant show of his perceived mental superiority is his bloody trade mark.
Dennett has said (on POI) that he works closely with religious students and has respectful conversations all the time.
Harris is harsher in writing than when he speaks. I heard him in Boulder and found him to be thoughtful, respectful, not playing for effect.

I’ll repeat what I said before: Some people will always be offended, and how could it not be so?! Folks like us point out - whether politely or with gusto - that they cling to false mythologies. Some will curse us and fight us, some will at some point realize that we have a point.
Sure, civility has its merits, but so has shock value. I despise Hitchens sycophantic political views (the Right pays for his Martinis at the Ritz, how else could you explain that a self proclaimed intellectual lip-syncs with G.W. Bush and his team of professional liers). But I will always treasure his trashing of the vile nun from Albania and the glorious title he chose for the book: The Missionary Position. People really needed to be shaken, not just stirred, to come to their senses with regard to “Mother” Theresa. Contrary to popular myth, she only served her weird god, and not so much people.
Hitchens did a number on her, and I’m grateful: that’s effective, too, in its own way.
As for those who’ll tell the likes of me to burn in hell: ignore them or use them for debate target practice. Most likely you will not change their fucked up minds.

(BTW, the Shermer letter is here: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa006&colID=13&articleID=423C1809-E7F2-99DF-384721C9252B924A )

Posted on Jan 03, 2008 at 8:46pm by moreover Comment #64

On what basis do you claim to know one way or the other? [quote author=“erasmusinfinity”]Their suffering will not be meaningfully eased because their religion caused their suffering to begin with.
Again, I would guess that you have insufficient evidence to assert that you know that their “suffering will not be meaningfully eased” and that “religion caused their suffering to begin with”. Moreover,  you’ve shifted the premise of “Fact#1” away from the claim that “there is no good” to the claim that “the net result is not good” ... it’s a different claim. My response was to your original “Fact#1” claim that: “There is no good that can be attributed exclusively to religion.” The feeling that “life has a purpose” has been shown to mitigate the emotional suffering associated with facing death. Lots of published literature supports this.  For those people that are otherwise unable to feel that their life has purpose without their belief that “death is not the end”, this relief from suffering (this ‘good’) is exclusively attributable to that particular religious belief. It’s not necessary for the belief to be true. I could be wrong. Maybe everyone is capable of feeling that their life has purpose without needing to resort to beliefs based on insufficient evidence. The only thing I’m fairly sure about is that no one yet knows for sure; more evidence is needed before asserting definitively one way or the other. Maybe like universal literacy, it is possible to achieve in theory but not in practice. [quote author=“erasmusinfinity” date=“1199428876”>
Again, on what basis do you claim to know one way or the other?  Karma is not the golden rule. Karma involves the belief in a reward and the threat of a punishment in the next life - it’s not the same as the “golden rule”.
The burden of proof is on you because you are the one claiming that belief in Karma can keep someone from doing wrong.All I’m claiming is that there remains reasonable and unexamined possibilities that cast doubt onto your claim to facts. On average, is a person who believes with certainty that she will eventually be rewarded for good deeds and punished for bad deeds, more likely to do good deeds and less likely to commit bad deeds than another person who does not believe they will be punished or rewarded?  I don’t know, but there’s good reason to believe that they might. <u>The burden is upon you</u> to provide evidence that they are not more likely before you assert your opinion in this matter as a fact.
Can you name a ‘bad’ that can be attributed to religion and that is also a necessary aspect of religion in general?
I did not say that there was a ‘bad’ that is a necessary aspect of religion in general.  I only said that [...] there is much bad that can only be attributed as the direct cause of religion.
There is much bad that can only be attributed as the direct cause of <u>A</u> particular religion, probably, but are they necessary attributes <u>OF</u> religion? I don’t think so. At the very least that’s yet to be proven, and that’s my point. Your “Fact #2” relies I think (I don’t know because you haven’t actually defended it) on generalizing the ‘bad’ acts of specific religions to all religion. At best I think you can claim your “Fact#2”  applies to a specific religion. For example, certain Islamic sects encourage female genital mutilation, and as such that is one example of a ‘bad’ directly attributed to those Islamic religion sects. Genital mutilation however is not a necessary component of “religion”; it’s not even a necessary component of Islam. I could be wrong. Maybe you do have evidence to support your “fact #2” as a fact, but I’ve yet to see it. All I’m claiming here is that there is insufficient evidence to support your claims and some reason to doubt your claims. ————————————————To sum up: ————————————————Specific practices of specific religions are not generalizable to all religion. In my opinion, the only absolutely necessary component of religion is that there be a world-view based on a strongly held unfounded belief. But such world-view beliefs are not necessarily a particular problem. For example, a religion need not be anything more than a strongly held benign world-view like the unfounded Deistic belief in a “Nature’s God”. The problems occur when people start asserting that their unfounded beliefs are facts and using them to support other arguments. In other words, the problems occur when unfounded beliefs become dogma. But dogma is not a necessary component of all religion, and it is not unique to religion. Yes, religious beliefs do often fester into dogma in the minds of many people holding such beliefs, but not necessarily so. And yes, in cases when a religious belief system becomes part of a government, dogma is almost always the result. But in both cases religion is just a common carrier of the disease; dogma <u>IS</u> the disease. To primarily focus on religion is dangerous because it distracts attention away from the underlying causes of dogma. For instance, political movements in general, not just religious movements, seem to be highly susceptible to infection by dogma. Let’s find out what is causing the dogma, in order to get at the dogma itself. That’s my world view. I’ve said everything I can say on this issue. cheers.
Posted on Jan 04, 2008 at 12:00pm by Riley Comment #65

First Krauss, now Kurtz. Really, really nice guys. Why not change the name from Center for Inquiry to Center for Being Nice? I.Q. is controversial, and “M.Q. (moral quotient)” is important? And psychopaths (or at least some) behave the way they do due to a defect in nurturing? And there is the rest of the show: yeah, we return the $10 we borrowed from a friend so that we don’t become unpopular and because moral sense is a mere product of evolution, but there is the “other” reason: THE CONSCIENCE! :gulp: What is this mysterious thing called the “conscience” that obeys the mysterious laws of moral realism? Is this not “also” just part of the product of evolution? How could it be? Evolution is blind, conscience is, well, you kind of have to have a high M.Q. to get the point. Really inspiring episode. (Flynn’s absolutely horrifying comment regarding Christmas was probably included in this episode to balance Kurtz’s moral romanticism.)

Posted on Jan 04, 2008 at 2:12pm by George Comment #66

Speaking of ethics, wouldn’t it be safe or reasonable to say that really honestely working to be nice to others whether they deserve it or not, contributes to expanding oneself, since being nice can be a challenge sometimes if not most, but not being so nice can takes no effort whatsoever? also being nice, ethical—I wouldn’t say moral because moral as far as i am concerned is very corrupt word—builds and contributes to society/community in a positive way. Isn’t that a good basic enough of a reason to keep it in perspective? One can link it to self control and self control is precisely what sets us apart from the animals (don’t get me wrong anyone, I am an animal lover), self control is what got us here. I personally think being ethical with a capital E has the potential of taking mankind to heights we have yet to reach or experience since ethics are hewn into every aspect of our existence?

In regard to Hitchens supporting the war, I’m thinking his doing so might have to do with the fact he has been naturalized citizen last year (nothing wrong with displaying some patriotism even when it’s fake, and who can blame him? bush is fake)? the guy is too freaking aware not to see beyond the bush scheme.  Or maybe, just like the rest of us, he is biased enough to claim blindness there as any of us would in other areas? or can one safely assert that everyone has a price including him?


In regard to Christmas celebrations, I think an atheist who does celebrate Xmas simply does out of fear of being left out during those times, nothing more. And it kind of sucks to be out kind of looking in knowing that few billions of people are out there, at it full throttle, as far as celebrations are are concerned. Beside Christ wasn’t even born in Christmas, I am being told His birthday has been moved there to overshadow pre-existing different pagan celebrations. So is Xmas really Xmas regardless of how it is marked?!
Eating turkey, chocolate candies, drinking wine, partying, exchanging presents, etc. can be done anytime throughout the year.

Posted on Feb 26, 2008 at 10:09pm by Daisy Comment #67

In regard to Christmas celebrations, I think an atheist who does celebrate Xmas simply does out of fear of being left out during those times, nothing more.

I think an Atheist who intentionally ‘scrooges’ through the Xmas season makes it unnecessarily hard on themselves.  For many of us the season is quite secularized, and it’s not a question of ‘fear’—why not take a holiday at the end of the year, share presents, get together with friends?

Posted on Feb 27, 2008 at 4:03am by Jackson Comment #68

In regard to Hitchens supporting the war, I’m thinking his doing so might have to do with the fact he has been naturalized citizen last year (nothing wrong with displaying some patriotism even when it’s fake, and who can blame him? bush is fake)? the guy is too freaking aware not to see beyond the bush scheme.  Or maybe, just like the rest of us, he is biased enough to claim blindness there as any of us would in other areas? or can one safely assert that everyone has a price including him?

Actually it’s rather the other way around. Hitchens became a naturalized citizen because of his approval of the US constitutional separation of church and state, and because of our vigorous prosecution of wars like that in Iraq, as I understand it. He appears to see the war as against fanatical Islam, and for that reason supports it.

In regard to Christmas celebrations, I think an atheist who does celebrate Xmas simply does out of fear of being left out during those times, nothing more. And it kind of sucks to be out kind of looking in knowing that few billions of people are out there, at it full throttle, as far as celebrations are are concerned. Beside Christ wasn’t even born in Christmas, I am being told His birthday has been moved there to overshadow pre-existing different pagan celebrations. So is Xmas really Xmas regardless of how it is marked?!
Eating turkey, chocolate candies, drinking wine, partying, exchanging presents, etc. can be done anytime throughout the year.

Fear? I don’t think atheists celebrate Xmas out of fear. I certainly don’t. I celebrate Xmas, as with any holiday, because I like having a nice party every once in awhile. You are certainly right that there is no evidence whatever that Jesus was born on Dec. 25; it’s a pagan holiday celebrating the turn after the shortest day of the year, basically. But I’m no pagan either.

;-)

Posted on Feb 27, 2008 at 5:32am by dougsmith Comment #69

Speaking of ethics, wouldn’t it be safe or reasonable to say that really honestely working to be nice to others whether they deserve it or not, contributes to expanding oneself, since being nice can be a challenge sometimes if not most, but not being so nice can takes no effort whatsoever?

Yes Daisy.  Ethics/morality are fundamental to the “expansion” of oneself,” both interpersonally and intrapersonally.  Indeed, the two are linked because we are a socially dependent species.  To deny our “conscience” is nothing less than to suppress an innate quality within ourselves.

In regard to Christmas celebrations, I think an atheist who does celebrate Xmas simply does out of fear of being left out during those times, nothing more.

I agree.  People in countries that are dominated by religions other than christianity are not made to feel that they are party poopers for not celebrating christmas.  Those feelings only exist in America because there is a collective sentiment that a person is supposed to.  And yes, on-religious persons in America like good, non-“christ"mas parties too.  In general, I think that ours tend to be much more fun.

Posted on Feb 27, 2008 at 5:33am by erasmusinfinity Comment #70

 
I think an Atheist who intentionally ‘scrooges’ through the Xmas season makes it unnecessarily hard on themselves.  For many of us the season is quite secularized, and it’s not a question of ‘fear’—why not take a holiday at the end of the year, share presents, get together with friends?


You can do that any time of the year. Also, giving along with the rest doesn’t have a set time. By giving around Xmas, you are helping reinforce the principle that giving is a purely Xian thing. Beside if you are not afraid of feeling left out, you are celebrating the end of a christian year, and in doing so you are confirming your chrisitianity my friend wether you are aware of it or not. I personally have no objections to that since I am Christian myself. 

  Actually it’s rather the other way around. Hitchens became a naturalized citizen because of his approval of the US constitutional separation of church and state,

I understand that. bush and scheney used false guilt to manipulate the masses into bending over to him going to iraq so he could steal some oil. He didn’t have to go to war to clean out the terrorists, he could very well have the CIA get to work as it always does. Hitchens knows that. When United States Senators voted for war they didn’t believe in out of pure pressure, do you think Hitchens is going to be above such pressure to support the hoax.

and because of our vigorous prosecution of wars like that in Iraq, as I understand it.

True and bush is not the one who put such system in place. In fact, if it was up to him, he’d turn this country into a 1st class dictatorship.

He appears to see the war as against fanatical Islam, and for that reason supports it.

If he is really for that, he could have written an other book looking into how and why bush let the benladens fly out of the country right after 9/11, especially when the rest of the country was grounded.

Fear? I don’t think atheists celebrate Xmas out of fear.

we do have fears we are not even aware of at times. If one takes the time to investigate this, it would not surprise if it gets confirmed. But I might be wrong as I often am.

I certainly don’t. I celebrate Xmas, as with any holiday, because I like having a nice party every once in awhile. You are certainly right that there is no evidence whatever that Jesus was born on Dec. 25; it’s a pagan holiday celebrating the turn after the shortest day of the year, basically. But I’m no pagan either.

;-)

one thing that will absolutely not be on my list about you Doug, is you being a pagan, rest assured.


Yes Daisy.  Ethics/morality are fundamental to the “expansion” of oneself,” both interpersonally and intrapersonally.  Indeed, the two are linked because we are a socially dependent species.  To deny our “conscience” is nothing less than to suppress an innate quality within ourselves.

Salute! the only thing I would disgree on is the how of the application of ethics vs. that of morality. I am nobody but I think ethics stem from ones’ conscience (at least for the most part), but morality starts from without going in. Morality is basically a mold that one puts on to either project an image of themselves, regardless of wether they are actually living up to it or not,  or use as a tool to control others’ behavior as well as thinking.

I agree.  People in countries that are dominated by religions other than christianity are not made to feel that they are party poopers for not celebrating christmas.  Those feelings only exist in America because there is a collective sentiment that a person is supposed to.  And yes, on-religious persons in America like good, non-“christ"mas parties too.  In general, I think that ours tend to be much more fun.

I feel if one celebrates Xmas, I think they aught to give Christ a place in it, the majority of those who do don’t even utter single prayer on Christmas morning. What kind of Xmas is this? the label is basically becoming meaningless.  And I think if atheists don’t do it out of fear then, it could be that they do it to join in the commercial party. Either way, I think some might be misleading themselves.

Posted on Feb 28, 2008 at 12:04am by Daisy Comment #71

I feel if one celebrates Xmas, I think they aught to give Christ a place in it, the majority of those who do don’t even utter single prayer on Christmas morning. What kind of Xmas is this? the label is basically becoming meaningless.  And I think if atheists don’t do it out of fear then, it could be that they do it to join in the commercial party. Either way, I think some might be misleading themselves.

Christmas was heavily discussed on this forum back in December.  I couldn’t find the thread, so here is my essential perspective.  Although I do not celebrate christmas as “christ"mas, I do respect the choice of most non-theists to celebrate christmas as a non-religious holiday.  I celebrate both the natural occasion of the Winter Solstice and Humanlight.  I take whatever non-religious elements that I want from so-called christmas rituals and incorporate them into my solstice celebration, just as jews often do with hannukah.  But I don’t like the word christmas and reject christian elements outright.

I can appreciate Doug’s rejection of the term “fear” and I don’t think that there is necessarily a direct sort of “fright” emotion involved in non-theists calling their solstice celebration “christmas.”  More so, I think that feelings of needing to celebrate christmas, in all of its established ways, have more to do with in group out group pressures and enculturation.  Also, from the natural desire to have some sort of celebration during the midwinter season.

Of course, the midwinter is celebrated in various ways across world cultures that lie in regions of the world that are marked by strong summer to winter seasons.  And there is nothing particularly religious about having a party or an intimate occasion with ones family at that time of year.  But I do think that reflective non-theists ought to analytically consider christmas rituals, and do some dissecting.

Posted on Feb 28, 2008 at 5:40am by erasmusinfinity Comment #72

 
I think an Atheist who intentionally ‘scrooges’ through the Xmas season makes it unnecessarily hard on themselves.  For many of us the season is quite secularized, and it’s not a question of ‘fear’—why not take a holiday at the end of the year, share presents, get together with friends?


You can do that any time of the year. Also, giving along with the rest doesn’t have a set time. By giving around Xmas, you are helping reinforce the principle that giving is a purely Xian thing. Beside if you are not afraid of feeling left out, you are celebrating the end of a christian year, and in doing so you are confirming your chrisitianity my friend wether you are aware of it or not. I personally have no objections to that since I am Christian myself. 

I see your point!

I agree with Bishop John Shelby Spong
[author of Born of a Woman, which I recommend]
that many of the Christian stories are not literally true and were originally intended as metaphors.

Being a 21st century Episcopalian means you can enjoy Xmas without believing in it.

Posted on Feb 28, 2008 at 5:55am by Jackson Comment #73

Yeah, FWIW I don’t celebrate Xmas with anyone who is a devout Christian, and in fact in NYC I feel no local pressure from Christianity. I’d say my neighbors are a mix of Jews, Christians and “et cetera”, including a large group of secular folks.

I suppose I look at it the same way I do the “sabbath”. I appreciate the vacation and if it’s an excuse for a nice lunch or dinner, so much the better.

:lol:

Posted on Feb 28, 2008 at 6:00am by dougsmith Comment #74

Is it Christmas time again? Stop it, guys!  :angry: It’s only February. Christmas doesn’t start until late August.

Posted on Feb 28, 2008 at 6:43am by George Comment #75

MERRY CHRISTLESS INDEED!

GODLESS US ... EVERYONE!

Posted on Feb 28, 2008 at 10:56am by jeofvita Comment #76

 
Christmas was heavily discussed on this forum back in December.

I am sorry my intent was not to focus on Xmas, as you can see on the post, it came third, what I wanted to really comment about are ethics and Master Hitchens.

I couldn’t find the thread, so here is my essential perspective.  Although I do not celebrate christmas as “christ"mas, I do respect the choice of most non-theists to celebrate christmas as a non-religious holiday.

that is your prerogative and I have no problem with it, there are 2 important points though, the first is Christmas is about Christ, that’s how it all started, Dec 25th is supposed to be His birthday. The second point is not only non-theists but good if not great # of theists also celebrate Xmas as non-religious holiday. My question is, since Xmas is getting to be more about partying and less and less about Honoring Jesus, not only for non-believers but for believers themselves, is it as an important Xtian date getting to be irrelevant and Christ along with it? the answer seems to be if not yes, that we are at least getting there. Considering the increasing irrelevance, why do we have to continue calling it a name that is turning into more of an empty shell?

I celebrate both the natural occasion of the Winter Solstice and Humanlight.  I take whatever non-religious elements that I want from so-called christmas rituals and incorporate them into my solstice celebration, just as jews often do with hannukah.  But I don’t like the word christmas and reject christian elements outright.


then why do you continue to refer to it as ” ‘Xmas’ “? what prevents you from calling it what it is to you: Winter Solstice and Humanlight Celebration? put an add on the newspaper and call for a major gathering. I might be wrong but it could be that if you in fact go for such label, that might cause you to be alienated and of course you don’t want that, you perhaps subconsciously prefer to stick with the masses. Who wouldn’t? I am by no means attacking you here but simply pointing that out due the masses unreadiness to confront such brand of perspective.

I can appreciate Doug’s rejection of the term “fear” and I don’t think that there is necessarily a direct sort of “fright” emotion involved in non-theists calling their solstice celebration “christmas.”

 
if one doesn’t believe in Christ that makes that name a decoy and cover. Maybe there is no feeling of fear or fright but there is one of alienation. Why so many atheists still refuse to come out? because one of the first consequences to them doing so would be an automatic alienation. That is a given in quite many regions or they at least think they will be alienated. Of course that might not be so obvious in highly intelectual environments.

More so, I think that feelings of needing to celebrate christmas, in all of its established ways, have more to do with in group out group pressures and enculturation.

True.

Of course, the midwinter is celebrated in various ways across world cultures that lie in regions of the world that are marked by strong summer to winter seasons.  And there is nothing particularly religious about having a party or an intimate occasion with ones family at that time of year.  But I do think that reflective non-theists ought to analytically consider christmas rituals, and do some dissecting.

couldn’t agree more ;-)  and thank you.

Posted on Feb 28, 2008 at 3:43pm by Daisy Comment #77

  I see your point!

I agree with Bishop John Shelby Spong
[author of Born of a Woman, which I recommend]
that many of the Christian stories are not literally true and were originally intended as metaphors.

Being a 21st century Episcopalian means you can enjoy Xmas without believing in it.

Interesting book, I added it to my list, thank you. I heard quite few things about episcopalians (good) :-) . And I personally believe there is a God, just not the one that is messed up pretty badly in the OT. The back then scribes had to mix their personal stupid biased flavor in with His, and considering it’s an incompatible thing to do, they ended up with a mess on their laps.


@ Doug,

nothing wrong with that.

Posted on Feb 28, 2008 at 3:49pm by Daisy Comment #78

then why do you continue to refer to it as ” ‘Xmas’ “? what prevents you from calling it what it is to you: Winter Solstice and Humanlight Celebration?

Maybe I wasn’t clear.  I celebrate the Winter Solstice and I celebrate Humanlight.  I don’t call either of them by the name xmas.

Posted on Feb 28, 2008 at 5:48pm by erasmusinfinity Comment #79

then why do you continue to refer to it as ” ‘Xmas’ “? what prevents you from calling it what it is to you: Winter Solstice and Humanlight Celebration?

Maybe I wasn’t clear.  I celebrate the Winter Solstice and I celebrate Humanlight.  I don’t call either of them by the name xmas.


sorry I am clueless as to what are they, my bad, I apologize.

Posted on Feb 28, 2008 at 7:08pm by Daisy Comment #80

Maybe I wasn’t clear.  I celebrate the Winter Solstice and I celebrate Humanlight.  I don’t call either of them by the name xmas.

Well I celebrate Newtonmass! :-)

Posted on Feb 29, 2008 at 4:03am by faithlessgod Comment #81

I like the ring of Newtonmass.  Maybe we should try to start a movement.  :lol:

Posted on Feb 29, 2008 at 6:06am by erasmusinfinity Comment #82

Maybe I wasn’t clear.  I celebrate the Winter Solstice and I celebrate Humanlight.  I don’t call either of them by the name xmas.

Well I celebrate Newtonmass! :-)

There is some mis-quoting theeere, and speaking of Newtonmass, I would love to learn about its ramifications and “rituals”.

it should show:

Maybe I wasn’t clear.  I celebrate the Winter Solstice and I celebrate Humanlight.  I don’t call either of them by the name xmas.

Well I celebrate Newtonmass! :-)

Posted on Feb 29, 2008 at 9:31am by Daisy Comment #83

There is some mis-quoting theeere, and speaking of Newtonmass, I would love to learn about its ramifications and “rituals”.


http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/03-12-19.html
http://impartialism.blogspot.com/2006/12/merry-newtonmass.html

Posted on Apr 09, 2008 at 12:09am by faithlessgod Comment #84

then why do you continue to refer to it as ” ‘Xmas’ “? what prevents you from calling it what it is to you: Winter Solstice and Humanlight Celebration?

Maybe I wasn’t clear.  I celebrate the Winter Solstice and I celebrate Humanlight.  I don’t call either of them by the name xmas.


sorry I am clueless as to what are they, my bad, I apologize.

Here, Daisy.  This may help:  http://www.humanlight.org/  (That’s all about Humanlight Day)

Winter Solstice: http://www.candlegrove.com/solstice.html  (there maybe sites better than this one)  The thing is, Christmas was not original with Christians.  It’s actually a pagan holiday, as is Winter Solstice.  Solstice means ‘sun stand still’ and to the naked eye, it’s looks like it does, for about three days.

Easter, which is set by the Spring equinox, is also a pagan holiday.  Nothing about it originated with the Christians and not to mention, Easter and Christmas show some of the astrotheology behind Christianity.

Posted on Apr 09, 2008 at 5:44am by Mriana Comment #85

There is some mis-quoting theeere, and speaking of Newtonmass, I would love to learn about its ramifications and “rituals”.


http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/03-12-19.html
http://impartialism.blogspot.com/2006/12/merry-newtonmass.html


Thank you so much, I read both of them and they both totally make sense to me.

Posted on Apr 09, 2008 at 10:33am by Daisy Comment #86

There is some mis-quoting theeere, and speaking of Newtonmass, I would love to learn about its ramifications and “rituals”.


http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/03-12-19.html
http://impartialism.blogspot.com/2006/12/merry-newtonmass.html


Thank you so much, I read both of them and they both totally make sense to me.

Thanks, in reference to the second link which is.. ahem.. my blog - maintained sporadically at the moment as I my available online time is spent testing ideas out such as in this forum :-)

Posted on Apr 09, 2008 at 11:14am by faithlessgod Comment #87

 
sorry I am clueless as to what are they, my bad, I apologize.

Here, Daisy.  This may help:  http://www.humanlight.org/  (That’s all about Humanlight Day)

Winter Solstice: http://www.candlegrove.com/solstice.html  (there maybe sites better than this one)  The thing is, Christmas was not original with Christians.  It’s actually a pagan holiday, as is Winter Solstice.  Solstice means ‘sun stand still’ and to the naked eye, it’s looks like it does, for about three days.

Easter, which is set by the Spring equinox, is also a pagan holiday.  Nothing about it originated with the Christians and not to mention, Easter and Christmas show some of the astrotheology behind Christianity.


How can I thank you Mriana?! I looove those links. Thank you so much for the list of events, I need it. The second site is outstanding, some fascinating places there, not to mention the celebrations’ related info.

Big genuine Hug.

Posted on Apr 09, 2008 at 11:36am by Daisy Comment #88

:)  You are very welcome, Daisy.  I’m glad they were very helpful to you.  *hug back*

Posted on Apr 09, 2008 at 1:16pm by Mriana Comment #89

Yes Mriana.  Thank you for those links.  Particularly the ‘Solstice’ link.  I had not been aware of it before.

Posted on Apr 11, 2008 at 6:01am by erasmusinfinity Comment #90


http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/03-12-19.html
http://impartialism.blogspot.com/2006/12/merry-newtonmass.html


Thank you so much, I read both of them and they both totally make sense to me.

Thanks, in reference to the second link which is.. ahem.. my blog - maintained sporadically at the moment as I my available online time is spent testing ideas out such as in this forum :-)

I went back there (blog), great page, I went through some of the links, beautiful worlds, thank you.

 

:)  You are very welcome, Daisy.  I’m glad they were very helpful to you.  *hug back*


they were more than ‘helpful’ Mriana, more like a treasures, that makes you a good hunter, treasure hunter, or hunter’ess :) ?

Posted on Apr 11, 2008 at 11:26am by Daisy Comment #91

On incremental step in changing the public view on Christmas would be to propose a change in dating.

As small business owners know, it can be problematic to set one’s calendar around Christmas as the date changes every year. Why not change Christmas to every fourth Monday or Friday in December?  This way, a three-day weekend is guaranteed and deadline-oriented businesses can better plan how they deal with such an imposition.

To religionists, it can be noted that the current date for Christmas is rooted (as are most xmas traditions) in pagan ritual. Even Easter falls on a Sunday every year. Why not Christmas?

Also, by making a small change, we pave the way for making future changes and perhaps eventually phasing it out as a recognized federal holiday.

It’s probably too logical.

Posted on Apr 14, 2008 at 9:16am by MountainHumanist Comment #92

Even Easter falls on a Sunday every year. Why not Christmas?

Easter celebration is based on a lunar calendar and Christmas on a solar one. You can’t start, stop or change a tradition over night. The Catholic Church, for example, has been trying to get rid of Halloween for almost two thousand years and I think they have finally given up.

Posted on Apr 14, 2008 at 9:45am by George Comment #93

Not suggesting an overnight change (never did).

Incremental is the key.

First, suggest it.

Next, round up support.

Next, deal with objections.

Next, influence policymaker, win over the public and “ta-da” a logical annual celebration.

Easter comparisons are useful to show that it is possible — it’s irrelevant which calendar each is based upon for the purpose of this objective.

Posted on Apr 14, 2008 at 9:48am by MountainHumanist Comment #94

I don’t want Christmas to be logical.

Posted on Apr 14, 2008 at 10:04am by George Comment #95

I don’t want Christmas to be logical.

Your wants are not driving my proposal. Mine are. I work in a business where we have to jiggle our schedule every year thanks to Christmas. I want an immediate solution on my way to the ultimate solution (as previously stated) of no more sanctioned Christmas.

Posted on Apr 14, 2008 at 10:15am by MountainHumanist Comment #96

Not suggesting an overnight change (never did).

Incremental is the key.

First, suggest it.

Next, round up support.

Next, deal with objections.

Next, influence policymaker, win over the public and “ta-da” a logical annual celebration.

Easter comparisons are useful to show that it is possible — it’s irrelevant which calendar each is based upon for the purpose of this objective.

How about starting with Easter. there are already two Catholic/Protestant and Greek Orthodox (maybe more for all I know)? How about revising this to a fixed Sunday in April? This would get over disruptions in school terms as they were affected specifically this year and so appeal to more people to want to resolve. After all if the Chinese can declare that the Dalai Llama can only be re-incarnated in China this can’t be that hard :-)

Posted on Apr 14, 2008 at 10:37am by faithlessgod Comment #97