Atheism and pornography

If I were an atheist, I would be deeply offended by the UTSA Atheist Agenda ad campaign called “smut-for-smut.” The Atheist Agenda started this program on the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2005 and it has been stirring controversy and headlines ever since. The idea is that students bring their Bibles to the event and exchange them for pornography, thus conferring their message that the Bible, like pornography, is smut.

First of all, I know this is a hook to get Christians all riled up and defensive about the Word of God. So I want to look instead at the underlying message behind this campaign: that the Atheist Agenda sees nothing wrong with handing out pornography in exchange for the Bibles.

Granted, pornography itself is a controversial issue. Let’s just take religion out of it for a minute and look at the research. On one side you have research that pornography is a healthy outlet and does not affect crime. On the other side, you have the research linking pornography to sex crimes. “Research” in this case refers to medical, criminal, and sociological journal articles not linked in any way to religion.

So are all atheists in the pro-pornography camp? And are all atheists on board with the “smut-for-smut” program that happily hands out pornography in exchange for Bibles?

46 thoughts on “Atheism and pornography

  1. Well, it’s a fair trade. After all, isn’t the bible full of old men giving away their virgin daughters to perfect strangers, or others fornicating with several wives? Oh, but of course, that was just to breed and populate the land…

    But porn is certainly much safer than the dusty book on so many levels. Hopefully, if some priests of pastors trade their bible, at least altar boys (and not only) will be safer.

    Besides, why use your hands to pray when you can use them to masturbate? The latter is undeniably a much better, faster and safer response to your needs.

    Fair enough though, I don’t think the bible is worth anything more than an old porn video. That’s why it’s a good deal.

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  2. Hi Dom- so I guess you are on the pro-pornography side? Certainly the anti-Bible side, it seems. And the “fair trade” concept comes across loud and clear — that’s what this campaign is meant to convey.

    But I’m more concerned about the underlying concept condoning pornography. Handing out pornography is, by nature, condoning it. If I hand out Bibles, flyers, or Girl Scout cookies I would be agreeing with the principles attached to those items.

    So are all atheists really okay being attached to pornography in this way, condoning it as they condemn the Bible? Really?

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    1. Hi Anna — well, it’s not really being on the pro-pornography side (or not). Porn is a private matter, I guess. Like religion should be, actually. That’s why I see a meaning in that campaign — that I wasn’t aware of until I read your article.

      Unlike the bible, porn videos do not encourage anyone to discriminate, to dismiss or disregard human rights, etc… Nor do they stand as some dogma you should force feed anyone with, to the extent of imposing upon their rights, choices or lifestyles for example — something religion is constantly hammering this world with.

      I understand by what you write here that you have a problem “condoning” porn, but you don’t have such concerns with the bible (cookies are harmless), a book that actually condones murder, all sorts of discriminations, and the list of atrocities is very long, as you must know…

      Now, are all atheists ok being “attached” to porn in this way? I have no idea. I am not “all atheists”, I speak only for myself. But being an atheist, I do not feel particularly “attached” to porn because of that campaign. I rather see it only as what I expressed: fair trade. And very funny too.

      Besides, I’m also picky, so had I a bible to trade, it would have to be for a gay porn video to make it a cool deal.
      I know… Don’t faint.
      But you can sign yourself.
      Or laugh.
      Or both. 🙂

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      1. I guess I would have to disagree with your statement that “porn videos do not encourage anyone to discriminate, to dismiss or disregard human rights, etc… “. Not all pornography does these things, but certainly some does. Especially with internet pornography, following the links can often lead to something that disregards human rights. There’s a lot out there that encourages sexual violence against and domination over women and children (and perhaps men?). Many non-religious groups like women’s shelters and child advocacy groups are against pornography — that’s why I find it an odd choice for the atheist campaign. But I guess the shock value outweighs the implications?

        Does having a gay atheist commenting on my site mean I need to make the sign of the cross to protect myself? Perhaps sprinkle some holy water over my computer? I hope not because I’m glad you took time to comment. 🙂

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        1. You know, I was referring to what you mentioned specifically: I mean, of course there are some seriously f***ed up people abusing kids — but I seriously doubt that it’s the kind of videos that are handed for a bible. Contrary to what you say I doubt “there’s a lot out there [encouraging] sexual violence against women and children”. This said, were there only ONE that would be one too much, we certainly agree on that.
          But that’s where the argument and the thought are pretty stupid, I think, if some people are brainless enough to think that this particular campaign somehow promotes porn AND the filthiest at it. That’s where, I think, it is hilarious.

          Now, I can grasp that you find it an odd choice for a campaign — to some extent it is indeed —, yet seriously, is it really such an odd choice when everybody knows about the countless cases of child molestation belched from the sea of the faithful. Not only that, but also, things like male prostitution too — very recently, if you heard about it, within the high spheres of the Vatican itself.
          So, odd? Maybe, but not so far fetched. Religions (not only Christianity) absolutely deserve such a disrespectful mirror. Being the core to so many discriminations and unspeakable acts, they truly must be bitten that hard. Even more so, when their hypocrisy is so outrageous.

          Finally, I’m glad you have a sense of humor, because the last lines to my previous comment was absolutely made for fun. I didn’t think of sprinkling water on your computer, but now that you mention it… 🙂

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          1. “Religions (not only Christianity) absolutely deserve such a disrespectful mirror. Being the core to so many discriminations and unspeakable acts, they truly must be bitten that hard. Even more so, when their hypocrisy is so outrageous.”

            Strangely, I agree with this statement. I just think pornography isn’t the way to go. You know, one of the most ironic things to me is that many atheist rants against Christianity aren’t at all unique. Jesus Himself railed against the religious leaders who held others to a standard they themselves couldn’t attain. Jesus had a keen understanding of human nature and a deep-seated skepticism of church leaders.

            I have been following the Vatican story and sadly it doesn’t surprise me. I know what’s in my own heart and religious leaders have the same battles — only they are expected to be perfect. Not that I have done what they have, but I empathize with their humanity.

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  3. As an atheist, I can truthfully say, I hate it when atheist do things like this. The point that they are trying to make, as DOM does above, is that situations described in the stories of the Bible would be considered smut in other contexts.

    True enough.

    The thing is, I’m an atheist because it is the cry of my heart to be so. To me, the only explanation for the world I see around me is atheism, and to pretend see that which I do not makes me sick inside. Atheist are, like Christians just people, and often as not, we let the truth we want to proclaim get totally lost in the fight to make the line between US and THEM a little deeper.

    In the end, looking at a sunset and seeing the fortuneate result of chance, rather than the fingerprint of God is a heart issue. The meat and potatoes of heart change is having friends over for coffee and babysitting, and community activism. It’s showing people that atheists don’t have horns. This sort of publicity stunt BS makes the rediculous things many people believe about atheists seem true.

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    1. “Atheist are, like Christians just people, and often as not, we let the truth we want to proclaim get totally lost in the fight to make the line between US and THEM a little deeper.”

      This is a truly great statement. Why do we let the US versus THEM fight derail our best aspirations?

      “The meat and potatoes of heart change is having friends over for coffee and babysitting, and community activism. It’s showing people that atheists don’t have horns. This sort of publicity stunt BS makes the rediculous things many people believe about atheists seem true.”

      Another fantastic point. One of the things I have most enjoyed about blogging is the interactions I’ve had with people who don’t believe what I do. I once held some pre-conceived notions about atheists (and perhaps still do), but once we get past the initial “God is real/no he isn’t” debate there’s a whole lot we can learn from each other.

      “As an atheist, I can truthfully say, I hate it when atheist do things like this.”

      I feel the same way when some Christian shoots an abortion doctor or says ill-timed things about Haiti not a whole day after the horrible disaster.

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  4. Also if you read the two intros carefully, you’ll see its an apples to oranges comparison. Neither study shows a CAUSATIVE link. The first shows an association between with low sex crime based on porn AVAILIBILTY across HUGE, NORMAL GROUPS.

    The other shows an assocation between increased rates of return to pathology based on porn CONSUMPTION across a TINY, ABNORMAL GROUPS.

    Choose a random thing and you’ll see why this a false comparison. Saying the second disagrees with the first is like saying that the jury’s out on water being good for you, because while one international study of hundrends of millions of people says having access to pure water is associated with higher mortality age, a study of people with psychogenic polydipsia (water addiction) says consumption causes death due reduction of serum sodium. Both statements are true…they simply have no bearing on each other.

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    1. Totally agreed. Originally I wanted to post the full listing of articles I looked up, to give a more balanced view, but Pubmed wouldn’t let me. To see all the articles I viewed, go to Pubmed and search “pornography and crime” and “pornography and sex offenders.”

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  5. And FINALLY,

    I now hate 99% of porn. If I could watch real couples making love in a respectfully and lovingly to each other, I’d enjoy it. I love and respect my wife and my female friends, who I enjoy healthy relationships with. Many men, however, would debase themselves for a peak under a woman’s skirt. They resent women for “making” them feel that way, and so they want porn that shows woman more willing to debase themselves for sex they (the male viewers) are. As I grew to respect myself, I found I respected woman more and more…and eventually 99% of porn became very unapealing to me.

    I reserve the last 1% for the tiny, tiny bit of truly beautiful work showing the real majesty and beauty that sex can provide such as a handful of 17th, 18th, 19th, and early 20th century paintings, and few clips from various movies, such as the moment between the king of Sparta and his queen in 300.

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  6. Pornography seems to be irrelevent… this seems like a direct ploy to get Bibles out of the hands of who might read them?

    Who needs to examine their fears here? Christians are fallible and many eagerly profess so. It’s in our nature to humble ourselves enough to say we aren’t perfect. It is what our King teaches.

    Porn is wrong not because of crime, but because of it’s capacity, like so many other worldly things, to anchor us in this world and its priorities.

    Systematically, the world will steal your soul, whether you believe you have one or not. It’s not an overnight process. First you prioritize a career let’s say. This strains your marraige, and then it becomes ok to prioritize looking once in a while. Then it become more often and you go to a bar. Then you are desensitized more and begin to talk to other women… well, we know where this goes.

    I’ve quit drinking caffeine hundreds of times in my life… it’s always to one cup of 1/2 caff that brings me back to drinking the entire pot!

    The question isn’t the morality of the pornagraphy and it’s link to our judicial system. the question is about what this priority takes presidence over. and I’d say it’s presiding well if it drives someone to ask soemone else for their spiritual grounding in return!

    GREAT post topic!!!!

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    1. Cindy — I can so sympathize with your coffee statement. I too have quit but the one cup always brings me back. I love your point about presidence and priority. How much money, time, energy, etc is spent toward pornography nationwide? Scary.

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  7. Hi! Ok, so I am what you would call undecided on the religion/spirituality front. Probably the best descriptor would be agnostic, but I have had several friends who are atheist and can understand how they can be so. I agree fervently with Rageomatic above. I hate when a select few atheists use their stance in society to put this kind of confusing, unnecessary, and inflammatory message out there. Same goes for Christians and other religious groups. This one seems particularly unnecessary, disrespectful and ignorant. To me, it seems like one of those ideas where the group was sitting around one night, had a few drinks, and someone threw out this idea, “Hey! I know! Oh man, this is genius! Let’s trade porn for bibles! Oh yeah dude, this would be awesome!” One of those ideas that a person throws out on a whim, some people in the group may laugh about, but they really should have just moved on. The one guy who thought it was a great idea was the only one who spoke up so they started doing it in 2005, and because on a COLLEGE campus, the majority of people who see Free PORN on a sign will be attracted, they got tons of response.

    I grew up in church, Catholic church, my entire life, and have continued attending into my adult life, even though I don’t really know how much of it I agree with on a basic level. My point is, I know the bible, maybe not as well as others, but I know it. I have respect for it. Basically, it’s about hearing my grandmother’s voice in my head, even as an adult. “You should know better.” Seriously, did these kids not have that voice in their head telling them, “Hey, you may think this is a funny idea, but you should know better?”

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    1. Hey Kitt — I agree this was an idea that never should have made it past the drawing board. I’m not an atheist of course, but it just seems too divisive, and perhaps counterproductive.I have enjoyed “talking” with atheists online and initially was surprised to find that they were not the immoral heathens the Christian community has made them out to be. But the “smut-for-smut” campaign plays right into the stereotype, and I find that to be sad. Thanks for commenting!

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  8. As an atheist you might not be thrilled about the UTSA stunt, but it cannot be denied that it was (and still is, as this blog seems to indicate) a very effective way to get the most despised group of people in the US some needed media attention.

    Last year we had the Texas Freethought Convention in San Antonio with a record attendance of 250 atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and secular humanists from all over Texas and beyond. Unlike the Bibles for porn exchange program, which had extensive media coverage, there was no mention of the convention in the papers or on TV.

    I seem to recall that the UTSA exchange program was intended to draw the attention to the hypocrisy of those who believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, but at the same time completely ignore its more juicy parts. I am referring to passages like Ezekiel 23:20 “There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses” (NIV). Is this not pornographic?

    The standard apology is that I am reading these passages out of context. If that were indeed the case, who decides how the Bible should be read? And why, if this is God’s word, did He not convey His message in a clear and unambiguous way?

    The UTSA atheist group could perhaps ensure full support from all atheists if next time they were to give out copies of Jefferson’s Bible in exchange for the real thing. Of course, by the time that ever happens, Texas college students might not even know who Thomas Jefferson was, that is if the religious righteous State Board of Education has its way.

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    1. Hi Leon —

      Thanks for commenting.
      It’s true that controversy makes headlines. I’ve had more hits on this post than on any of my love or prayer posts. Some atheist-writer even highlighted it on About.com. Gotta love controversy!

      The point of the campaign doesn’t elude me — I understand it is meant to devalue the Bible. But I am still disappointed that intelligent, thoughtful atheists would use pornography for this purpose.

      Also, the Bible is very clearly a sexual book and no serious Christian would say otherwise. And you can also find naked people and sexual language in just about every eighth grade biology book, not to mention reproductive and medical literature. But it is a question of INTENT.

      Webster’s defines pornography as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.”

      So what does pornography do in the hands of rapists and pedophiles? Did the UTSA campaign screen for these psychiatric issues before handing out porn?

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  9. Hi Anna,
    I understand that people don’t want to be told what they can and can’t do by us religious folk, and I guess this is where the atheists are coming from.
    Having sat on both sides of the fence and as one who in times past was into porn, I can say that it didn’t really offer me what I needed, only what I wanted.
    In my case the fulfillment of viewing porn was only every temporary and is a little like feeding an appetite that was never satisfied.
    Invariably one finds it difficult to be satisfied with soft porn alone, and the desire for different, exotic, more stimulating is often the course of this journey.
    When my wife would not perform like a pornstar I wondered what was wrong with her.
    When I was angry, porn was often the response.
    I am speaking for myself but I also know of many similar, that it so often leads to bondage and damages healthy relationships rather than strengthening. Yes I’m sure that a few will say that it has helped their sex lives.
    If there were anything I could say it’s this, that I now know that the love of God in Christ has shown me that pornography was not a blessing to me, but a curse, a bondage and to me an addiction that had no positive or constructive influence on my life except for the temporary fulfillment of my desires. Reality is I didn’t actually work that out until I met Jesus, who’se desire for us is for good. Who honestly does care about His creation and desires to allow men to be set free, and is not simply making up rules for rules sake.
    Sorry for the long post…
    Bless you
    Tim

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    1. Hi Tim — thank you for your courageous and heartfelt comment. I am so grateful that the love of Christ frees us from all the things that ensnare, and gives us strength for the battle of each day. May He give us eyes to see ourselves as He sees us, and a grateful heart for that freedom.
      Anna

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  10. Seriously, folks, why is it, just because we (christians) believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, automatically means we need to check our intelligence at the door? Or perceived to have done so by others?

    The Ezekial reference is AGAINST the idolatry of sexual deviation. But, see, my God is big enough to share straight out the dangers out there, He leaves the idols and lets us choose.

    So choose. Taking AWAY a Bible and replacing it with pornography doesn’t leave a choice. If all ‘free- thinking” can offer me is erotica, well… knowing my choices… I choose the Bible.

    I am sorry to anyone who never gets the choice.

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  11. What a sad smear attempt, linking “porn” and “atheist” together. This is a great example of the sort of dishonesty and rudeness upon which religious and specifically Christian apologetics is usually based.

    I guess if I thought the same way, I would just lump you in with all the pedophile religious leaders. Fortunately, as an atheist, I am not mentally constrained in the same way that you appear to be.

    You have no idea what you would think “if you were an atheist.” Very few theists possess the mental capacity and the empathy for others required to do this, based upon observing comments like yours.

    Fortunately, your religion in dying off in educated societies, and will be a minority belief in my lifetime where I live. Your country will lag behind by a few decades, as it does with most other social issues. And then, like the ancient Greek, Aztec, Viking, etc gods, your ancient Jewish god will be confined to the scrap heap of primitive human imagination, where people like you can no longer use it to justify your prejudices against those who don’t share your need for a fictional afterlife mythology.

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  12. Anna,
    A couple of weeks ago in melbourne Australia we hosted the 2010 Atheist conference. Clearly this is a growth industry. There was no swapping of bibles for porn, thanks goodness. But I read a few comments and heard a few things said by the speakers and clearly one of the issues that Atheists struggle with is the belief that if God were omnipotent, he would do something about famine, war, suffering and all manner of evil that is so rampant in our world.
    So they figure that either He is not omnipotent, as Christians believe or he is malevolent, or just doesn’t care. And knowing full well that if God existed He would care, therefore they can conclude that He does not exist.
    How quickly they forget that the very nature of Christ’s death on a cross represents Gods hatred of all evil and wickedness.
    The son in that moment represented the weight of human sin, and it pleased the Lord to crush Him.
    Wickedness, evil, sin, call it what you like, was dealt with at the cross, and in this He the omnipotent God commands all men to repent, to turn away from wickedness. Yes, He does care.
    One would have thought that Athiests would find this to be good news, WOW a God who hates evil! Would this not be in keeping with the very values they hold to in their hearts. A desire for global justice and truth and mercy, and a hatred of evil.
    Yet it remains foolishness to them, and something to mock and belittle.
    Bless you…
    Tim

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  13. “How quickly they forget that the very nature of Christ’s death on a cross represents Gods hatred of all evil and wickedness.”

    What drivel. This is just a Bronze Age myth. It is beyond understanding how religionists give their god a pass when an earthquake kills people, yet claim “he” “cares” in the aftermath.

    This is the difference in how religionists think, and how realists think. This isn’t about religious belief. It’s about one group of people who use evidence to form their opinions, and another group who discard evidence when it contradicts their opinions. The gulf between them cannot be bridged. The mental gymnastics, denial, self-delusion, etc required to compartmentalise your thinking like this is not something that all people are willing or able to do. Yes, religionists do it, due to the indoctrination they receive from infancy. But Tim, not everyone else can turn their brain off in this way.

    People have been calling the unknown “the gods” for 10,000 years. However, today we know how volcanoes work. There is no need for anyone with a high school education to continue with the pretence that some god “cares” about earthquake victims.

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  14. Amen seathanaich, you do indeed see the work of God in your midst. Drivel, foolishness, stupidity from your perspective, but to those of us who are being saved, the power of God unto salvation.

    It is an unreasonable gospel from the perspective of many, I do not argue that, for this has always been the case.

    For the message of the cross is foolishness (drivel) to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
    For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness (drivel) of what was preached to save those who believe. 1 Corinthians 1:21

    The job of the Christian is to share this gospel (drivel) with you as lovingly as we can. I cannot convince you with reasoning just as I myself once counted the message as foolishness (drivel).
    But one can no longer deny to be true what they have found to be true. If for example I said to you that I met Christ, how then can I now say anything else.

    Drivel! Amen, now your beginning to see the truth, and in this I pray you might find the way of escape.

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  15. Tim, you speak like someone from the middle ages, or the Middle East. It’s hard for those of us outside of that box to tell the two groups apart, because they think the same way. Like I said, the gulf between realists and someone like yourself is difficult to bridge, because you are incapable of understanding how others think, and see no value in attempting to do so.

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    1. Hi Tim,
      Interesting story — thanks for linking to it. CS Lewis was also an atheist for a while, and then became a leading Christian writer when he converted. I may be wrong, but sometimes I think God passionately pursues the atheist heart. A converted skeptic is a powerful witness indeed.

      Sorry it took me so long to reply — I haven’t been blogging or commenting much lately but hope to return soon!

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  16. CS Lewis was not “an atheist for a while”. In his own words he was “angry at God”. That’s not an atheist – that’s an angry theist.

    CS Lewis is also a terrible writer. While no doubt persuasive to those who are already believers, his work is very second rate in terms of apologetics. For example, he makes constant use of false premises in his “conclusions”. Although there are no Christian apologists I would consider persuasive, at least a few of them (Dinesh D’Souza comes to mind) try not to utilise logical fallacies in their arguments, something Lewis was either incapable of doing, or did knowing that his target audience was existing or wavering Christians, not the very few atheists who existed in his day.

    Yahweh doesn’t “passionately pursue the atheist heart”, although there have been several gods throughout history whose adherents did use human and other animal hearts in their rituals and ceremonies. Your claim that your god does is a wish-fantasy rather than an evidence based opinion.

    A “converted skeptic” is usually able to make money by flogging things to fellow believers, but such people are not terribly persuasive to those whose opionins they do not share; although I can understand that it is comforting for many people to want to believe otherwise.

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    1. Hi Anna,

      I hope you don’t mind me putting my two bob in.

      Seathanaich may actually have a point. I believe that CS Lewis probably always was an angry theist, it’s just that the simple faith of the child was lost along the way by misunderstanding God’s higher purposes. Specifically that all is committed to corruption, and furthermore this unbelief was compounded by a secular humanistic belief system in his college years.

      I recall that Lewis recounts an experience he had as a child where he seemed to behold a momentary glimpse of God/heaven. And if I am correct he held to that belief but could not make it fit in a world subject to pain, sorrow and suffering. i.e. the painful loss of his mother at an early age. Hence the anger. Therefore on this point probably true.

      However, as I myself am a converted skeptic and for most of my life up til the age of 35 counted myself agnostic, I must contend that their has been no gain, no “flogging of things” for monetary return, no increase in popularity, influence etc in holding to the faith of Christ. And though many today may seek to gain something from the Christian faith, and much of the church portrays Christianity this way, it is not in accordance with the biblical Christ, who makes it clear that the faith will for the most part gain you nothing in this world, and may in fact add to your troubles.

      I feel quite sorry for you Seathanaich because their is such confusion as to what Christianity is today, what God is like and what He is not. And for the most part the face of Christianity today does a very poor job of representing God.
      But well dare I say, this is where the bible told us it would end up. Babylon, a land of confused voices.

      Your cynicism concerning the “flogging of things” is not unreasonable.

      Tim

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  17. Hi Tim.

    “Seathanaich may actually have a point. I believe that CS Lewis probably always was an angry theist,”

    Thanks for saying that (sort of). If you could say it without the condescending “actually” it would demonstrate real intellectual honesty and true acceptance of other views on your part.

    Lewis was an angry theist. So, that being the case, either he didn’t know what an atheist was, which makes his comments on atheists and atheism either suspect or biased; or he is being intentionally dishonest, which is a common thread in most religious apologetics. Neither of these options is particularly flattering.

    “I feel quite sorry for you Seathanaich”

    Yes, this is the usual manner in which Christian contempt, hatred, or bigotry (varies from person to person) towards those who don’t share their particular religion is usually expressed. I know you hate me and my opinions. Most (fortunately not all) theists share your hatred for the “other”, because we see their contempt in what they write and think, as you have shown here.

    In contrast, I don’t feel sorry for you. I understand the societal and historical forces which have created the religion you belong to, and the various tapestry of individual emotions and thought processes which both keep people in the religion of their parents, or lead them to new ones. It seems to be a lot easier for an atheist to not hate those who don’t share his religious opinions than it seems to be for most theists, as your comments demonstrate.

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  18. Seathanaich,

    You say “I know you hate me and my opinions”

    You presume much. I do not hate you at all, in fact I have been praying for you. Is this is a sign of hatred?

    Can you pray for me? Can you say that you earnestly desire my good?

    If you have detected a tone of hatred in my words it is toward your athiestic godless doctrine. But I do not hate you!

    Can you separate that in your thinking?

    Parents love their children but hate it when they lie, cheat or steal. Do you have children? if you did you would understand this concept. It is possible to hate and love at the same time.

    Can you see that God loves, but at the same time he hates. Is this so profoundly hard to reconcile. For God so loved the world that He was willing to place His son on a cross, Why, because he hates the wickedness of men, but delights in mercy and is loving toward men.

    Yes it’s true in this same context. I hate godless atheistic belief systems. But hate you….these words you put in my mouth.

    You have a unique ability of twisting ones words to construe them according to that which you prefer to see. After all if one who confesses God can be proved to be full of hatred then the faith of Christ is made mockery of. If I can be proven to be full of hatred toward you then I am a hypocrite and Christianity is nothing.

    Seathanaic, your house is built on sand. Do I say this to condemn you or because I hate you, no. But rather for your good.
    The day is coming when God in Christ will judge the living and the dead. And many shall arise to life, and others to condemnation.

    It will be a fearful day for so many. God is just and must hold to the same justice which you yourself would desire. You either accept that Christ has paid the wages of your sin, or you pay the wages of sin yourself.

    No doubt you will find some way of perverting my desire for your good as some dark, evil and bitter hatered toward you. But I pray that you might see that is not the case at all.

    Therefore I make it plain for you. I do not hate you, but I do hate your godless suppositions. Especially in light of the fact that atheism will lead many to the pit of hell.

    Tim

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  19. Hi Tim

    “You presume much.”

    I presume nothing. You have told me that “I feel quite sorry for you.”

    You have been taught, from birth, that this is a positive thing. It is not. In this context it is the contempt and bigotry of the religious for those who do not share their beliefs. Muslim terrorists share your feelings for those they disagree with, it’s just that in their societies they still use methods which were acceptable in European societies a few centuries ago, but no longer are: coercion, mysogeny, fear, torture, murder, etc. Expressing pity is a socially acceptable way for the religious to express their contempt for those they disagree with. It is a manifestation of the the fear that religionists have when faced with people who don’t share their beliefs – the fear that their beliefs might not be true; that their afterlife myth – the only real reason they practice their faith and its rituals – is really just a comforting security blanket invented by cave men who knew less about how the world really works than my elementary school aged children do. I understand that this is a scary thought, but that doesn’t justify or excuse being contemptuous of those who disagree with your beliefs.

    This gets denied ad nauseum by believers, but those outside the religious bubble can see it for what it is, just like the friends of an alcoholic can see his denial for what it is. Religious contempt and bigotry towards “the other” is what it is.

    “if you did you would understand this concept.”

    Presumptuous, arrogant condescenscion. Which again illustrates the hatred that you have been told since birth is “love”. It’s not real love to be condescending, belitting, etc towards individuals. That’s why Christian “love” is always in parentheses. I’m still waiting for a Christian who can criticise ideas in an adult matter which does not include the sort of personal insults you make, like the one quoted above.

    “You have a unique ability of twisting ones words to construe them according to that which you prefer to see.”

    No, I have a way of pointing things out that makes you uncomfortable, because it applies to beliefs you hold, and you can’t find a logical way to support and defend them when they are bluntly called out for what they are. Religions of all types need an absence of criticism in order to survive. No matter how honest or deferential criticism of religion is, it is still intolerable to most religionists, because it’s very existence is a huge threat to groupthink and collective acceptance of religious indoctrination.

    “Especially in light of the fact that atheism will lead many to the pit of hell.”

    Yawn. The Jewish mythology holds no terror for those who recognise it for what it is, just as Aztec and Viking myths surely hold no more terror for you than for me. Do you spend an equal amount of time concerned for Hindus? You should, there are a billion of them. And they’re a better target, because they are already preconditioned to believe irrational, supernatural modes of thinking rather than rational, logical, evidence-based ones. But of course, Christianity is not melting away from conversion to Hinduism. Religions are cultural contructs, and Hinduism is not a threat to Christianity. The threat to all religions is education and the freedom of choice which our society has. This is why militant Islam, like Christian extremism, fights against both education and freedom of individual choice, by whatever means are socially acceptable, and often beyond those constraints. This is why religions from Gaza to Cleveland teach their adherents to “pity”, “feel sorry for”, etc those who don’t share their beliefs – to create a barrier which prevents adherents from learning that those who don’t share their religious beliefs neither deserve, nor need, their “pity”.

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  20. Seathanaich,
    Clearly there is no meeting of minds in this discussion. Perhaps we could start over.
    Why don’t you ask me a question, perhaps about my faith, and I’ll seek to answer it.
    And I’ll ask you a question about your beliefs, and you seek to answer it.
    Maybe we can find something to discuss that moves beyond the realm of stone throwing.
    Up to you….. If this idea is to your liking I can send you my email address.
    Tim

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  21. “Perhaps we could start over.”

    Sure, if you like. Or, you could address one of the many points I have raised. They have all been made in response to statements or claims you have made, or the manner in which you have expressed them.

    “Maybe we can find something to discuss that moves beyond the realm of stone throwing.”

    I’m not throwing stones, though maybe that’s what you think you are doing. I’m making points in response to yours. Again, feel free to address any of the points I have made.

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  22. Seathanaich,

    Ok that’s fine. I’ll seek to address a particular point that you have made, and then perhaps you could respond to a further question about that point.

    One of the areas that you refer to in your posts is a limited mental capacity of theists.

    I guess perhaps what you mean is that we (theists) are unwilling to open our eyes and see that perhaps there is no loving God. As you say, we are unwilling to see that God cannot possibly love when men suffer and perish in earthquakes etc.

    And so from this point I presume a dividing line is drawn between Atheists and Theists, that we (theists) are willing to believe in the irrational, but Atheists are only willing to believe in the rational.

    I agree that theism, from an atheistic perspective must seem irrational. Sometimes when people are prayed for we see miraculous healings. Sometimes we don’t. One of the things I have seen a few times is people prayed for and various manifestations like different voices and all manner of foul language and abuse come forth. Not quite head spinning like the exorcist…. but not far off.

    I had dream one night concerning something quite specific that eventuated the next day. And I mean very specific. Like I dreamed that a woman gave our care ministry a cheque for $5000.
    This is one example of several very specific dreams.

    I cannot always present a rational argument for everything i experience, but that is not to say that the Christian faith is without reason. But I guess understandably theism, the belief in an unseen realm must seem quite foolish from an atheists perspective.

    But I have seen what I have seen. I cannot deny that.

    So I wondered perhaps from your perspective, how do you explain the supernatural?
    Is there room for that in Atheism?
    Thanks,
    Tim

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  23. Hi Tim. Great post.

    “One of the areas that you refer to in your posts is a limited mental capacity of theists.”

    Well, that is not the wording I have used. Mental constraints, societal conditioning, patterns of thought, lack of education – these are not synonymous with limited mental capacity (altough they can co-exist, of course). Blanket “group” insults, like the “you’re all evil/immoral/etc” ones which atheists see on sites like this, can of course cause people to lash back, but I try to avoid blanket claims like this towards others. Maybe I didn’t succeed here, and if not I apologise. However, I have clearly written “some” and “many” above as modifiers to avoid claiming certain traits for “all” theists.

    “a dividing line is drawn between Atheists and Theists, that we (theists) are willing to believe in the irrational, but Atheists are only willing to believe in the rational.”

    There’s no grammatical need to capitalise either “atheist” or “theist”.

    Atheism is just one facet of rationalism. In Sweden today there are more atheists than in any other country – 85% or so. Yet many of those people believe in “luck”, buy lottery tickets, read horoscopes, etc. I’m sure fewer do these things than in, say, Louisiana or Nigeria, because a non-religious culture is less superstitious; but atheism doesn’t mean one is rational in every aspect of life. After all, atheism is just disbelief in gods. You disbelieve in Zeus, Thor, Allah, Vishnu, etc already. Most people disbeleive in thousands of gods. That doesn’t make us all rational in every other opinion we hold. Rationality/irrationality is a continuum, upon which we all fit somewhere, but very few of us are on either end.

    For example, my and your ancestors of 500 years ago would burn both of us at the stake for being far too rational to exist in their communities. We’d both be heretics/atheists/insert your own perjorative term here, because neither of us uses magic to explain the unknown in the way they had to, due to limited knowledge and limited education. When all you know is what a cave man knows, magic is a convenient explanation. With education and the expansion of knowledge, it slowly shrinks in necessity until it can finally be discarded by people. That’s all atheists have done – discarded something that is now seen to be irrelevant. Atheism is a conclusion, not a starting point. People who are predisposed to rational thinking in other areas are generally going to end up less religious or not religious. But society and individuals being complex, this process isn’t a simple straight line. I think Raelians are “atheist”, and they are nutters who believe in aliens they have no evidence for.

    “I had dream one night . . .”

    Yes, and you’ve had thousands, perhaps millions of dreams that haven’t coincidentally happened in real life. You are providing an example of Confirmation Bias – where people take note of experiences which reinforce their pre-existing beliefs, yet reject (or don’t notice) all the far more frequent events that disprove or run counter to their pre-existing beliefs. Before I knew what confirmation bias was I woudln’t have had a reply, other than the opinion that your opinions were not evidence-based. But knowledge is power. When you take a few minutes to understand what CB is, and how it works, you can figure out that it is an example of irrational thought which makes sense if you are a cave man, but is no longer needed once you have a post-Enlightenment education.

    “Sometimes when people are prayed for we see miraculous healings. Sometimes we don’t.”

    Which tells the rational person that it is irrelevant, if you are open to forming a conclusion based upon that evidence, rather than continuing to hold opinions which run counter to evidence. The ability to adjust one’s opinions is also a necessary quality which rational people have, and which is sometimes hard for all of us to do.

    “So I wondered perhaps from your perspective, how do you explain the supernatural?”

    It is the imagination of humans. It is the method that people who didn’t know how the world worked used to provide mental “closure” for things they couldn’t control, or couldn’t understand. It’s an important tool in the intellectual growth of humanity, but one which we can discard as we slowly replace it with real knowledge.

    Primitive peoples used supernaturalism to avoid going crazy, or becoming depressed, about things they couldn’t control or understand. This is an interesting topic. I recommend Robert Buckman’s “Can We Be Good Without God?” if you want to further explore this topic.

    People used to think volcanoes, disease, and everything else unexplained were supernatural. Once we understand something, it ceases to be magic. The track record of supernatural explanations for things is terrible. Indeed, the “score” for the supernatural as a useful method of explanation is zero. Everything we know is rational. Absolutely everything. You don’t pray when your car breaks down. You’d be considered a bit daft if you did. So why do so when a friend gets cancer, or Haiti has an earthquake? Cave man thinking, meant to give people control when they feel helpless. Like a hug from your parents when you are a child. Given the “zero points” track record of supernaturalism, most atheists have realised that there is no reason to continue believing supernatural claims, which have been wrong on every past claim they’ve ever made. Rather than say “the gods dunnit” which is just another way of saying “i dunno”, most atheists have realised that it’s more rataional and more honest to just say “i dunno”, about things that we don’t.

    This is, of course, only part of the answer. The reality is that, for lots of things, we already DO know the answer. We’ve figured out volcanoes, diseases, etc, and continue to do so. Everything we know today adds to what we will learn tomorrow. Like Confirmation Bias, which I have noted above, and which people smarter than I am figured out. You and I can both find out about CB, and neither of us needs to think of your dream as “supernatural”, or “magic”. You have the same power, the same intelligence, the same education, and access to the same information that I do, and you can choose to use it to replace cave man thinking on the subject with rational, scientific thought, if you want to. In that sense, we live in far more exciting and “magical” times than those in the past who were forced to use supernatural explanations, because no other explanations existed. The cumulative power of what we learn, as a group, is incredible. I find far more wonder in it than the vague magical claims of ancient gods. And that is part of the reason why I have no use for those gods, and the thought process behind the ancient people who invented them in their imaginations.

    I hope that helps, even if you disagree with it. Cheers!

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  24. Seathanaich,
    That is a very gracious reply, thankyou. I suppose it is perhaps as you said in an earlier post, something to the effect of a bridge of great divide.
    Maybe the common ground is to be found amidst the rational and irrational, love.
    If I might impose a scripture “If I have not love, I am a banging gong, a clanging symbol”
    I do sincerely wish you the best.
    Tim.

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  25. Thanks Tim – great post! In a forum like this, differences are highlighted. But it’s also healthy to learn about other perspectives from a stranger than a friend, in many ways. Cheers.

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    1. Seathanaich, I might be too late on this post, but…

      You reference a rational/irrational continuum and imply religion sits on the irrational side of that continuum but that we all fit somewhere in between. I’m having trouble following the thought process there. People can fall in the middle, but religion has to fall on one end and science on the other? I’ve found some religions to be more rational than others, would you agree?

      And I’m not seeing how it is more rational to believe in a Big Bang of matter and energy that happened to exist then it is to believe in a creator? Or to believe that we at random turned into humans from an ape and before that an amphibian and before that fish…than to believe we were created for a purpose? Is there not some of the irrational in science?

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  26. Hi Brad.

    You are right, religion is an irrational method of thought. And it’s a big one. But it’s only one of many irrational beliefs one can hold. And religion varies from person to person, yet we use one big label for the whole thing, which is misleading.

    The “religion” of my very moderate modern Canadian deist neighbour is nothing like the Christianity of a witch burning, talking-in-tongues Christian of, say, 10th century Hungary. Everyone is different. No too Christians actually have the identical set of religious beliefs, any more than any two religionists do. The person who believes “prayer” actually affects events is more irrational than a member of the same church who does not. The person who actually carries out a suicide bombing is more irrational than their co-religionist who “merely” supports what they are doing. Add up a million examples like this, and we get a continuum of rational vs irrational. But it’s not a straight line – people pick and choose, often from both ends of the continuum. Right?

    Just saying “I choose science over religion” is just one of these issues. If the same person still thinks “deja vu” happens, then they may think they are completely rational, but they’re obviously not. Sometimes this is a choice, sometimes it’s just a lack of knowledge or education. Sometimes it’s just not yet having something pointed out to them as irrational.

    “I’m not seeing how it is more rational to believe in a Big Bang of matter and energy that happened to exist then it is to believe in a creator?”

    These are not two equally probable ideas. We have overwhelming evidence for a “Big Bang”, as is evidenced by the consensus on this issue by experts in this field of study. On the other hand, there is zero evidence for any creator. This concept is one we have inherited from cave men, who had no idea how the world worked, and who projected human-style intelligence onto inanimate objects because that was as complicated as their existing knowledge allowed them to be. So today people have an intellectual choice between evaluating the cumulative knowledge of humanity, or sticking with cave-man ideas which have a track record of being wrong about everything. That’s a pretty easy decision for me to make, but I find it odd how many educated people don’t come to the same conclusion, influenced by the indoctrination they received as children, coupled with societal reinforcement, and their own lack of curiosity or their fear of questioning their own religious beliefs.

    “Is there not some of the irrational in science?”

    No. Feel free to point some out – you’ll be the first person to do so. Science is a method, not a “thing” or set of ideas. It’s the method of orgainising information, and using evidence to come to conclusions, rather than starting with conclusions and then trying to explain how facts fit with them (for example, what evolution deniers do). It’s the opposite of irrational.

    “Or to believe that we at random turned into humans from an ape and before that an amphibian and before that fish”

    If you don’t understand how this works, then attend audit a university introductory biology 101 and anthropology 101 class, or buy an introductory biology and anthropology text published in the UK, Canada, or Australia (ie anywhere but in the USA). Take a few weeks or months to get an overview of what biologists and anthropologists know. There’s a reason why virtually none of the people who are experts in these fields believe in any gods, magic, etc.

    If you don’t understand how a car engine works, arguing that the Jewish god must have made it is ridiculous. Ditto for explaining what cancer is. Ditto for understanding how evolution works. I’ve yet to meet a person who actually understands evolution and also denies that it exists. Just like there isn’t a person alive who understands how innoculation works, and refuses to get immunisation shots. People who deny one are afraid of the other – uneducated and/or religiously indoctrinated people who don’t understand how things work, and rather than find out keep saying they don’t understand them. Of course you can’t understand how something works if you won’t take the time to read about it.

    So we all have a choice. We can find out about things, or we can be the modern equivalent of the people who burned you for claiming the earth was round. I hope I’ve explained that all well. Thanks for asking for clarification rather than making assumptions. Cheers.

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  27. Seathanich,

    “No too Christians actually have the identical set of religious beliefs, any more than any two religionists do. ”

    You have to agree with me that this is a pretty irrational claim, I mean you’ve spoken to every Christian at depth about their beliefs and can prove without a doubt that no two believe the same thing? The bible says we all should be working toward one faith, it doesn’t say we are there yet but I can promise you there are Christians who love God and love other people and do believe the same things.

    “Just saying “I choose science over religion” is just one of these issues. If the same person still thinks “deja vu” happens, then they may think they are completely rational, but they’re obviously not. Sometimes this is a choice, sometimes it’s just a lack of knowledge or education. Sometimes it’s just not yet having something pointed out to them as irrational.”

    This is about as close as you and I are going to come in our beliefs in this discussion.

    “Science is a method, not a “thing” or set of ideas. It’s the method of orgainising information, and using evidence to come to conclusions, rather than starting with conclusions and then trying to explain how facts fit with them (for example, what evolution deniers do). It’s the opposite of irrational.”

    Scientific “theory” is a method of evaluating an observed event or object and determining if it’s a scientific “principle” which is something factual and repeatable. There is a reason theories are still called theories, here are two scientific studies involving how the theories are not fact or repeatable…

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2008/03/god-particle/achenbach-text

    http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2008/dark_flow.html

    “These are not two equally probable ideas. We have overwhelming evidence for a “Big Bang”, as is evidenced by the consensus on this issue by experts in this field of study. On the other hand, there is zero evidence for any creator”

    See the above articles refuting both the overwhelming evidence claim and the consensus claim. Also consensus is not evidence, it is a gathering of people with the same opinion. Interesting enough the evidence now supports a heating and expanding of the ball of matter that just existed, scientists have a name for it “Inflation” but they have no explanation of what caused it. This sounds more like religion to me.

    “This concept is one we have inherited from cave men, who had no idea how the world worked, and who projected human-style intelligence onto inanimate objects because that was as complicated as their existing knowledge allowed them to be.”

    Pretty sure if you’ll read your European anthropology book it will say nothing of what cave men believed. However it doesn’t really refute Judeo-Christian claims that God created humans. It would seem rational that if Adam and Eve walked with God and talked to God they would believe he exists and the same for Jesus’ disciples.

    “So we all have a choice. We can find out about things, or we can be the modern equivalent of the people who burned you for claiming the earth was round. ”

    I’ve questioned what I believe my whole life, I made A’s in Bioligy I and Biology II, I have a Bachelors of Science and I always can’t deny the fact that Jesus loves you. You can’t reason your way in or out of it. And he’s calling you, he’s calling you to Christian blogs to talk out your ideas and feelings. People, under the auspices of religion, have done terrible things throughout history but they were not any more Christian than you are. Christ came to give us something greater than we could find on our own and I hope you find it. Because when you do your life will never be the same.

    Blessings,

    Brad

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  28. Hi Brad.

    “You have to agree with me that this is a pretty irrational claim,”

    No, I don’t have to agree with you. Indeed, I disagree with you. It is from talking to people, and listening to what they say and think, that this opinion is based. Have you not noticed that there are hundreds of Christian denominations, and great difference of opinion within them? My uncle’s sect (I think they’re Pentecostal) gets a new set of rules every time they get a new leader.

    I’m sorry you don’t want to acknowledge the diversity of beliefs within your religion, but the reality is that it’s there. I could also point out that most Christians accept the reality of evolution, but some don’t; that some accept the equality of women and men, while others don’t; that some think a woman can have an abortion, while others don’t . . . do I really need to list another thousand differences to make this point?

    Having made it, is this reality a threat to your beliefs? If so, why?

    “I mean you’ve spoken to every Christian”

    Oh, I see. You’re pretending that this is a literal claim, to avoid having to deal the implications of acknowledging that there is virtually no agreement among your co-religionists on almost anything. All those hundreds of Christian sects, and thousands of contradictory opinions that Christians have – all dismissed by turning my turn of phrase into a literal – and ridiculous – absolute.

    “Scientific “theory” is a method of evaluating an observed event or object and determining if it’s a scientific “principle” which is something factual and repeatable.”

    Well, no. Scientific theories are not methods, they are explanations of how the world works. Religionists who are anti-science are told that “repeatability” is an essential element of scientific method – but if you think about it, you’ll realise that it isn’t. Every science can’t use the same methodology as chemistry. Indeed, lab experiments are the exception, not the norm within science. You can’t use them in any of the social sciences (economics, anthropology, history, etc), let alone all of the physical sciences (geology, biology, etc).

    “There is a reason theories are still called theories,”

    Ah, why am I not surprised that you have no idea what the word “theory” means.

    Fact: something we can observe or measure.
    Hypothesis: proposed explanation of how a bunch of facts fit together. Some hypotheses fail. Those that don’t graduate to the status of . . .
    Theory: a hypothesis which has proven to work, and to successfully predict. There is no single instance in which it fails to work when tested. If it does, it becomes a failed hypothesis. When people say “crazy theory” or “conspiracy theory”, they should really be saying “crazy hypothesis” or “conspiracy hypothesis”.

    People who don’t understand what these words mean often think that a “fact” is higher than a theory. It is precisely the opposite. A theory is the highest level that a scientific explanation can be. In the 16th, 17th, and 18th Centuries, scientists called all their theories “Laws”. In the 19th Century, they started calling them “Theories”. For example, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity expanded Newton’s Law of Gravity. “Law” and “Theory” are the same thing in science. With the exception of mathematics and physics, Laws are just older Theories.

    Scientific theories are both fact and explanation. The facts of evolution are things like the annually mutating flu virus, different breeds of dogs, or different species of birds. The explanation explains how this all happened, and continues to happen.

    The Theory of Evolution is about the change that all living things do. It is what ties the entire science of biology together, as well as related fields like medicine and agriculture.

    The start of life is not part of the Theory of Evolution. That is called abiogenesis. It is more chemistry than biology (or biochemistry). Lumping the two together is a common mistake.

    There is no university class on “Atomic Fact”. Chemists learn “Atomic Theory”. We study “Germ Theory” in medical departments, the “Theory of Gravity” in physics departments, and “Plate Tectonic Theory” in Geology departments. The Theory of Evolution will never “graduate” into the Fact of Evolution. It is already fact.

    “Proof” is only used in math and physics. In every other science, “evidence” is the standard that is demanded to establish the veracity of scientific claims. The same is true in courtrooms, by the way. Judges don’t demand “proof”, they demand “evidence beyond a reasonable doubt” to pass judgements.

    Facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don’t go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein’s “Theory of Relativity” expanded on Newton’s “Law of Gravity” last century, but apples didn’t suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome.

    So now you know. Evolution, gravity, atomic structure – they’re all theories that we all use every day in our lives, because they all work. Henceforth, if you say evolution is “only” a theory in a perjorative sense, you will be lying. Since that’s a damnable thing for a Christian to do, according to the words of Jesus, I know you don’t want to do that!

    “Pretty sure if you’ll read your European anthropology book it will say nothing of what cave men believed.”

    Well, if you’d ever read an anthropology text, or anything on mythology, you’d know that this is precisely what they discuss. You do spend a lot of time offering opinons on things you don’t know anything about. Doing so not only undermines your opinions, it undermines your credibility.

    “However it doesn’t really refute Judeo-Christian claims that God created humans.”

    Only ignorance of human history and mythology causes Christians to think that Jewish mythology is either novel or unique. This concept is ubiquitous in world mythologies.

    Your last paragraph was a pretty lame ending. Sorry.”You can’t reason your way in or out of it.” Any more than you can deny that Thor and Allah love you. See how childish that sounds? The fact that you are trying to have an emotion-based conversation with me, and I’m trying to have a thought-based conversation with you, illustrates the essential problem. If you are going to try to convert people, you have to approach the emotionally vulnerable. And that ain’t me. Cheers.

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