SCIENCE VS RELIGION

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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Tim Raven
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Tim Raven » Sat Oct 25, 2014 6:13 am

Ben W., I wrote this diatribe in a fit of passion yesterday and then held off posting it until I could read it again. Please don't take the tone of my post to be a direct attack on you, in my opinion you have comported yourself well in this thread. My anger in the post comes from frustration with religion in general, and it also comes from a resentful fear that people will read my words and then condemn me for not believing in God. You have to admit, saying out load that you don't believe in God marks you in the eyes of the Believers. Thanks!



I’m with a woman and we are having sex. Does this mean that a random Christian religious fanatic can force us to have a baby? In today’s world, yes, they could force me to raise that child. They are capable of forcing me to raise a child against my will if my partner gets pregnant unintentionally, either by chance or by mistake. In the U.S. specifically, Republican Christian religious fanatics can force me to have that child if I am within their State’s pro-theocracy sphere of influence.

Why is this? The religious fanatic would say that they can force me to raise a child against my will because life is sacred, their God has decreed it to be that way.

If I reply that the child was a mistake, and I’m not ready to raise and support that child? Their response is that I’m obligated to raise that child because I had sex, and unwanted pregnancies are punishment for having sex. Not only unmarried sex, mind you, but also married sex.

Are children’s lives, all children’s lives sacred? Supposedly the Christian God commands his minions to value all life. There are millions of children living in this world starving to death TODAY. On THIS very day. Are Christian religious fanatics making any serious efforts to ease these children’s hunger? No, they are not. The Vatican is one of the wealthiest organizations in existence, it has been for centuries. Why haven’t they spent every dime of that wealth on relieving the pain of their constituents? Why haven’t they? I’m asking you,The Believer, to explain that particular circumstance. I think that, rather than being divine representatives, they hoard the wealth because they are normal, regular, run of the mill greedy humans.

Separation of Church and State. Detailed in the First Amendment. The first one, that’s how critical it is.

This is just one egregious example of religion, specifically the Christian religion, ruining people’s lives in the U.S.. I hate religion in general because no matter how entrenched and normal it seems in a certain culture, it is still undeniably and without a doubt based on a lie. It’s not a clever analogy, it’s not to be taken “figuratively”, no it’s a straight up fucking lie. Made up. False. A fairy tale. As are all religions. All of them.

What is there left to debate? Religion, warts and all, is OK because it relieves our angst over dying by providing a sugary lie?

Come on!

And don’t get me started on Muslim fanatics. Today they kill unbelievers when they can get away with it, just like Christians did not that long ago. Throughout history, religion has been an excuse to murder the strangers who live on the other side of the fence. Religion has no value in today’s world.
At all.
Humanity, one day, will be glad to see the last of it.

I have not insulted anyone during this statement. I've spoken in plain fact. If you are a religious person and don’t like the characterizations I've written then debate facts with me. But it is no debate to say “I have faith that (insert name of religion here) is true. Therefore it has undebatable value to the people of the world because it’s source is divine.”

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Ben W.
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ben W. » Sat Oct 25, 2014 4:21 pm

"How dare you leave us with nothing!" As if you're under any obligation to embrace my ideas.


I'm not under any obligation, no, but it's apparent that any kind of contradiction on my part will result in swift and decisive group retaliation in this particular thread. Rest assured, any rage I've displayed has been at the exact same level as your own, and I'm referring to Ezra, Mr. Tiedemann, Rick Keeney, Tim Raven, and Lori. Speaking of which:

I can only speak for myself, but if everything I say offends you in one way or another, whose got the problem me or you?


Remember this?

Ben's most recent post is an example of one of the things that seriously pisses me off when it comes to religion. Despite who or what encouraged him to stay alive it was ultimately his choice to do so. Why is it that god gets credit for everything good in my life but I have to take the blame for all the bad shit that happens?


That wasn't my belligerence, it was your own. Granted, you were reacting to a needlessly provocative statement I made, i.e. "because there are times when reason only leaves the worst kind of desolation and despair in its wake", but keep in mind my quote was also a response to another provocative statement by Steve Evil:

In its strongest form, faith is indistinguishable from willful blindness.


That's how this all started. With that said, perhaps I should have gone out of my way to emphasize "there are times". Reason should always have its place in the human mind, but it's an excess of one or the other that results in total oblivion.

Mark Tiedemann
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Sat Oct 25, 2014 4:58 pm

Reason should always have its place in the human mind, but it's an excess of one or the other that results in total oblivion.


I can agree with that. In all things, balance seems the sanest course. But that means that, where appropriate, certain things should be set aside. I'm having a hard time with the standard adherents of faith where they can justify any instance in which faith can be set aside, when it is perhaps inappropriate, and that, way back at the beginning of much of this contest, is where it began.

I recall a rather well-done psychology paper once on the functionality of the Vulcan adherence to logic. (Yes, I know, Vulcans are fiction, but their philosophy can still be examined just as any philosophy can.) The conclusion was that a species that attempted to be rid of all emotion and adhere entirely to logic would in short order be functionally insane. Psychotic. (This was published before the TNG resurgence and the work evidently came to the attention of Roddenberry, et al and the character of the Vulcans began to change.) Emotions are necessary. We cannot be ALL reason, we blow apart. Just as we cannot exercise conscious control over all decision-making. It has been shown to be unworkable. Sometimes you gotta let the unconscious do its thing...and trust it will all work out.

But again, I am unaware of any religion or religious advocate anywhere, at any time, who even suggests that there are times faith is not useful and should be set aside in lieu of reason.

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Ezra Lb.
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ezra Lb. » Sat Oct 25, 2014 10:55 pm

retaliation? rage? Jeez...somebody should try the decaf.

You guys tell me when you see an "excess of reason" out there. Wouldn't mind seeing that at least once!

Well since my question seems fated to be ignored I'll move on.

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“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
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Steve Evil
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Steve Evil » Sun Oct 26, 2014 11:00 am

Well, I did say in its strongest form. . .

Which is true. That's the very nature of faith. By definition, faith is belief without reason. If one ceases to believe, then one's faith couldn't have been that strong. What is it that drives young-earth creationists if not stubborn belief? It's the refusal to stray beyond one's belief, to adapt to changing circumstances or contrary evidence. That's the essence of powerful faith.

That's not the same thing as an intuitive belief in something transcendent or immaterial - I'd wager there are very few people who don't believe in something. But the insistence that they know exactly what this something is, and the dismissal of anything contrary - to me that is blindness.


There are a great many things in this universe I do not, and can not know. I try not to bother with it. I concentrate instead on what I can know, and derive from that what comforts I can.

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Sun Oct 26, 2014 12:18 pm

I have a theory that young Earth creationists and their kin, evolution deniers, are driven by fear. Fear of insignificance, which is odd since religious belief comes prepackaged with a doctrine of individual insignificance (and I don't think that is necessarily always a bad thing). The bigger and older the universe is, the less important they are and by extension the less likely they are to be their god's focus of attention. As for evolution, one of the fundamental conclusions to be drawn from it is that we are not the pinnacle of creation and that we can and probably will be replaced. Again, it dethrones us from the center of attention they preach their god bestows on those who believe. The rational, pattern-making part of their minds is still operating in the face of their belief, but the conclusions that must necessarily emerge from both these things---evolution is true and the universe is 13 + billion years old---are incompatible in their imaginations with a god who did it all for them. Simple logic tells that they really don't matter.

Now, this is important when you stop to understand that for the hardcore fundie---the biblical literalist---metaphor is a foreign language. They draw their self-worth from a picture of creation made by a god that fits inside the tight confines of bronze age mythologies. The vastness of the universe and the wonderfulness of how life evolves aren't in those parables and they can't do the imaginative work of seeing them as metaphors, allegories, as in fact what they are---literature.

So all this reality scares them and they pray harder and cling tighter and deny.

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Rick Keeney
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Rick Keeney » Sun Oct 26, 2014 1:57 pm

I have it on good authority that a Deity (whom shalt remain nameless) okayed the NASA Soundcloud Project.

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Ezra Lb.
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ezra Lb. » Mon Oct 27, 2014 10:42 am

One of my cousins' daughters (which would make her my 2nd cousin, right?) had her 16th birthday over the weekend. Haley is a good kid, bright and vivacious. But her parents are the two biggest fundamentalist Christian fanatics in my extended family which is full of such. I know how it was for me as a teenager. Things are never exactly the same of course but everyone is raised in the world created by their parents. You either learn to navigate it or succumb to it or escape it. I would never directly challenge her parent's authority or obviously try to undermine it. But I know how at that age I would have loved to have had someone older than me at least show me there were other ways of living. Just knowing that would have saved me years of grief.

We fight with the weapons we have at hand. So I wrapped up a handful of Colette's novels and sent them to my brother to give them to her directly as a birthday present from me. I had no confidence her parents would pass on any mail with my name and address on it without opening it. Sad.

The novels included Colette's famous The Vagabond, which takes as its theme a woman's struggle to maintain her independence and control over her own life even at the cost of personal unhappiness. I have women friends who've told me reading Colette was very influential on them when they were young.

Perhaps it will come to nothing. Who can say? I have no illusions whatsoever. But call it...planting a seed...maybe a chink in the armor.
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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Ben W.
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ben W. » Mon Oct 27, 2014 8:25 pm

You guys tell me when you see an "excess of reason" out there. Wouldn't mind seeing that at least once!


I don't think we share the same understanding of the term. I'd be happy to cite the Marquis de Sade or Unit 731 as examples of the final endgame of faith-free thought. But oddly enough, I feel Woody Allen sums it up a little more succinctly:

But between the fawning questions and well-placed witticisms and rote answers (I’d already read a variation on the “beautiful women and charming men” bit in the same 2006 interview that provided the “escapist films” quote), there were some bits of insight, accidental though they may have been. At the end of his treatise on the meaningless of life, Allen offered up a solution to dealing with the essential emptiness of existence: distraction. “You get up,” he explained, “you can be distracted by your love life, by the baseball game, by the movies, by the nonsense: Can I get my kid into this private school? Will this girl go out with me Saturday night? Can I think of an ending for the third act of my play? Am I going to get the promotion in my office? You know, all this stuff. But in the end, the universe burns out.”

Later, he tied his own work more directly into that idea: “I think it’s my job, or the artist’s job, to try and find some solution or some reason to accept things. But given the grimmest reality, I feel the grimmest facts are the real facts, the true facts. You know, you’re born, you die, you suffer, it’s to no purpose, you’re gone forever, ever, ever, and that’s it. And facing that massive, massive, overwhelming, bleak reality, to find a good way to cope with that — I feel it’s the artist’s job to do that. I’ve never found a good solution to it, and the best that I can offer is distraction.”


http://flavorwire.com/468574/the-best-i ... n-the-room

If you can provide your own reasons for disagreeing with Allen's universal nihilism, I would be overjoyed to hear them. The problem is, you can't disagree with Allen. Not really...at least, not within the parameters of reason and rock-hard fact. You could provide "distractions" from Allen's views, much as he makes movies to distract himself/his audience, but you can't outright defy it.

This is what I would call "excess of reason".

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Tue Oct 28, 2014 6:32 am

Of course I can disagree with Allen.

We are here, now, with things to do, experiences to enjoy. We have a choice. Feel gloomy that we can't keep doing all these wonderful things forever or immerse ourselves in the wonderful things. What makes them less wonderful because you only have a short while to do them? Given the finiteness of life, they should be more wonderful. Too many people put off doing what they want because...why? And then they're dying and they regret not having done them. Regret is the biggest waste.

And by doing wonderful things we make a wonderful world for those who follow. What more "purpose" do you need?

What I think, all this god stuff is about, people want approval for what they do and it's not enough for them to get it from their fellow creatures, because maybe they don't really like their fellow creatures.

I think most of us have the telescope turned round the wrong way.

Fuck Woody Allen's nihilism. He's been obsessed with his own mortality his entire life. What exactly is so bad about the fact that we have 60 to 90 years to live and then it's over and we make room for someone else for a while? Nothing. But we're acquisitive critters and we always want more. More more more. Tough.

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Rick Keeney
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damned Baptists

Postby Rick Keeney » Tue Oct 28, 2014 8:23 am

For the record, I'm offended by none of ya'll.

And for the record, I find my faith more confusing and confounding than your logic.

Fundamentalist Christians and some other groups at their worst are really really yucky. Especially so are groups who mask their hate with religious gowns.

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Ezra Lb.
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ezra Lb. » Tue Oct 28, 2014 8:27 am

Ben if you think de Sade or Unit 731 are examples of "reason" then yes we have a different understanding of the term.

I'm always fascinated by "functionalist" defenses of religious belief. Your "argument" is an example of a logical fallacy called "appeal to consequences". Your perception that lack of belief in god causes negative consequences is not evidence that god exists.

I know that "evidence thing" is often a monstrous buzzkill. It does keep me from believing in lots of fun things like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster or that I'm the sexiest man alive (although the jury is still out on that last one). Critical thinking is hard. And I've never been much more than mediocre at it. But I try. I do try.
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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Steve Evil
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Steve Evil » Tue Oct 28, 2014 9:18 am

I'm not convinced that religious thought would have prevented Unit 731. No ideology has a monopoly on evil (I'd almost argue they all lead to the same place, but that's a complicated argument for another time) - evil people will find a way to do evil, whatever their beliefs suggest.

Personally, I think the eternal torture of hell-fire at the heart of many religions is a far greater evil than anything man can come up with. Yet so many believers see no contradiction between this and the vision of an all loving God.

Which is it to be?

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Ben W.
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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Ben W. » Wed Oct 29, 2014 5:10 pm

Mark Tiedemann wrote:Of course I can disagree with Allen.

We are here, now, with things to do, experiences to enjoy. We have a choice. Feel gloomy that we can't keep doing all these wonderful things forever or immerse ourselves in the wonderful things. What makes them less wonderful because you only have a short while to do them? Given the finiteness of life, they should be more wonderful. Too many people put off doing what they want because...why? And then they're dying and they regret not having done them. Regret is the biggest waste.


Well, yes, but again, you're attempting to undermine Allen's rationale with a very old stand-by: "If life has no meaning, we'll just project our own meaning into life." That's all well and good, but it's also the equivalent of attempting to dry yourself with a towel in the middle of a rainstorm. If it works for you personally, that's fantastic. I envy you. However, for some people, it's just not enough. Considering life is finite, I'd argue it becomes even MORE difficult to enjoy the wonderful things out there, as the mind is constantly preoccupied with the sense of waiting for the anvil to fall.

Fuck Woody Allen's nihilism. He's been obsessed with his own mortality his entire life. What exactly is so bad about the fact that we have 60 to 90 years to live and then it's over and we make room for someone else for a while? Nothing. But we're acquisitive critters and we always want more. More more more. Tough.


So you're basically saying that anyone who wastes his time on earth pursuing transcendent possibilities is a greedy asshole? That's a new one. I loathe the worst aspects of capitalism as much as you do, but it's not spirituality that leads to all-encompassing greed. It's materialism. The terrifying figure of Wilky's father in Saul Bellow's SEIZE THE DAY (using a literary example) is the inevitable dead-end of materialism. Dr. Adler firmly believes the only way to unlock genuine happiness on earth is through money. Without money, life turns to poverty, and from poverty to misery. Money is an inevitable necessity. Money is reality. But what comfort does that reality have to offer Wilky? None. The man is damned.

I'm not convinced that religious thought would have prevented Unit 731. No ideology has a monopoly on evil (I'd almost argue they all lead to the same place, but that's a complicated argument for another time) - evil people will find a way to do evil, whatever their beliefs suggest.


And the complete lack of belief reduces the potential of evil? Technically speaking, if you're an atheist, you simply don't have any right to use the word "evil". If there is no objective morality, "good" and "evil" become offensive ideas. To call anyone or anything "evil" is essentially saying (however indirectly) that an atheist won't believe in God, but bizarrely, has no problem believing in the Devil.

Personally, I think the eternal torture of hell-fire at the heart of many religions is a far greater evil than anything man can come up with. Yet so many believers see no contradiction between this and the vision of an all loving God.


You're falling back on a very simplistic conception of hell, probably because it's the most convenient for your argument. Why should "hell" be a place of fire, especially if the condemned soul is a pyromaniac? Everyone has their own notion of what hell could be. If it's a zone of eternal suffering, just about ANY kind of environment could apply under that description, depending on the nature of the individual.

Also, I think the notion of God voluntarily sending soul after soul to hell is another simplification. Rev. Robert Barron offers an interesting analysis of the Catholic notion of hell in the following video. (He begins talking about the topic at 7:06, by the way.) Please don't fly into a rage at the sight of a man in a clerical collar until after the video is finished, if you can help it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmsa0sg4Od4

If you find Father Barron's argument laughable, I'd like to point out the character of "Mr. White" from Cormac McCarthy's THE SUNSET LIMITED. (I don't even consider this guy as an entirely fictional creation, as I've met so many individuals like him in real life.) Life, for this man, has become hell, and he didn't even have to die to get there. No, he didn't do anything wicked or abominable himself, but his own preoccupation with a Godless reality has put him in a horrible and desolate place where non-existence is the only real form of escape to be found. I'd be ready to argue that ANYONE whose committed atrocious acts throughout their lifetime, be they Nazis or serial killers or religious fanatics, eventually find themselves in the same landscape of absolute all-encompassing doom as Mr. White....regardless whether that revelation comes to them before, or after their final demise.

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Re: SCIENCE VS RELIGION

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Wed Oct 29, 2014 5:47 pm

If it works for you personally, that's fantastic. I envy you. However, for some people, it's just not enough.


It's not a question of "what works" but of what is. Yes, we project our own meaning, especially through the artifice of religion. Why have there been so many incarnations of gods? Because we keep reimagining it trying to come up with one that actually meets expectations. What are you doing if not projection your own meaning onto a deity which by definition you cannot understand?


So you're basically saying that anyone who wastes his time on earth pursuing transcendent possibilities is a greedy asshole?


Of course not, but that's not what I got from Woody Allen's statement. For him, transcendence as a pursuit would seem to be just another distraction. It would sound from the quote you posted that he's not looking for transcendence, only a way to avoid the inevitable. Which is consistent for Allen. So you misread my intent. Perhaps I didn't say it properly. If you';re so busy worrying about your impending death and whether or not you've scored enough points to make it to heaven, you've probably missed the main point of being alive, that's what I meant.

Considering life is finite, I'd argue it becomes even MORE difficult to enjoy the wonderful things out there, as the mind is constantly preoccupied with the sense of waiting for the anvil to fall.


Well, I disagree, but we could have a solid debate about this. I'm working on a novel now that deals somewhat with exactly this question and I've come to the conclusion that effective immortality would have three plausible consequences in this regard. The first is a gradually increasing procrastination, a putting off of doing things because, after all, "we have all the time in the world." As this continues, or even during it, a certain ennui will likely set in---nothing is thrilling because it's relatively unimportant. And finally, a deep-seated fear of losing the very immortality that one would like to take for granted. I think this is probable, so the exact opposite is the case for we mere mortals. Life is short, see, do, taste, hear, love, experience, and the brevity of life makes it all the more important. That is, if we get out of own way and let ourselves seek transcendence where it actually occurs---in our minds and memories.

Seeking an afterlife in lieu of this one is not, to my mind, a road to transcendence but a short flight to oblivion. The religious experience itself is a transcendent one only in the moment, here, with the equipment we have now. Perhaps it's true some seek to prolong it through a quest for an immortal afterlife, but we want that state we imagine, and for that we need to be alive. It's a paradox, unresolved as far as I know.

In my opinion, it is kin to Woody Allen's distractions.


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