Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hit That Horse Again

...I drug the dead horse in myself, too. Despite knowing full well the horrific tale of Miguel Servetus,* I got into an argument about religion.

For the record: I don't care what you believe or how you believe it, as long as you don't use it to push other people around. Whatever it is you believe in, I don't; not because I think it is evil or necessarily wrong (just unprovable) but because whatever it is in you that responds to the thrilling tales spun by preachers and the various and sundry rites and rituals of your faith, I haven't got. (I can't dance, either). It's like being tone-deaf or totally colorblind.

All I have to go by is the output of the process and the effort invested; I will point out that even for most people so inclined, time spent in work is greater than that spent in religion by roughly ten to one and the work produces a hugely larger tangible result.

Most of the religious appear themselves to be made very happy by their practices and no sane, decent person would begrudge them that. If they'd all treat others as they wish to be treated, it would be a happier world.


Given my 'druthers -- and in this place and time, I am free to follow 'em -- I'd rather invest my time in science and technology. How you -- peaceably! -- spend your time is your own business. My approval is not required and my censure is meaningless, especially if you're certain $DIETY is on your side.

Still -- how many meals has religion fed you and how many has science and technology? Can you prove your figures? I believe in what I can measure; it may not be better (doubtful) but it's all I have to work with.
* Slow-roasted. Go read the linked article, wonderfully written by a 19th-Century theologian with a low opinion of all the principal players.


John B said...

you mean there's a science & technology soup kitchen?

Religion has fed me once or twice. But, for every spoonful of soup, one must endure two spoons of theology. Some of the soups were quite flavorful, the theology is usually indigestible...

Really! Where's the science and technology soup line?


og said...

"how many meals has religion fed you "

A surprisingly large number, actually.

"Can you prove your figures?"

Absolutely. But you wouldn't be interested in hearing the proof anyway.

"All I have to go by is the output of the process and the effort invested"

That is demonstrably untrue, you have made your own religion out of seeing what you want to see and denegrating the religious at will. And I don't care, but don't expect to not be called on it. You can do or be whomever you want, and if you are afraid to be called on your beliefs, shoot me an email that says so, and I'll hit the road and never come here again.

One thing about prayer, though. It does work. And you neither have to want nor need nor be accepting of my prayers, you're gonna get 'em anyway. And any other assistance I have that I could ever offer, because that's what ACTUAL Christians do, not the cartoon Christians you imagine.

Roberta X said...

I don't imagine anything at all about 'em, nor have I ever spurned anyone's offer to pray for me (or others dear to me). As long as it doesn't keep people from seeking practical help, what harm can it do? There are no solid studies showing that it helps the sufferer but I have to think it helps the people doin' the praying.

Og, you lay all of your defensiveness about your religion on me; what you miss is that I am not attacking it, just pointing out that the benefits it provides to those with the knack to appreciate them are intangible and for those of us who can't directly perceive them, the downside appears to outweigh 'em. Believe yourself up a storm! Have a fine old time! Witnesseth on the streetcorners! You don't need my permission or approval for it -- and you have no call to require me to bow down to it, either. I respect the other person's religion like I respect all of her or his other notions: not as much as my own. So do you.

I don't have a religion. I'm not even an atheist. No, wait, I have one belief I can't really back up: I loathe questions that can only be answered by playing let's-pretend. Lay your immortal soul right here on the table and I will believe in it; otherwise, I'm not convinced. --This is not to say you ought not believe you have one. That's not my worry. I just never yet saw one or even a photograph and I am not gonna pretend. If it's not testable, it's pointless as far as I'm concerned -- and it's wrong to kill folk over it, but the planet has no shortage of those who will.

Every real thing religion does -- build schools in the jungle, clothe the nekkid, whatever -- relies on people doing real things in the real world, not hymns or prayers or even faith. Soup kitchens are highly reliant on technology; a vast number of preachers preaching a huge number of sermons fills not a single belly, but any dam' fool, religious or not, with a stove, a stewpot and some knack for scrounging can feed dozens.

John B: the line starts at the dumpster behind Mickey D's, and winds past modern agriculture and transportation, which puts a vast array to tasty, nutritious (or at least filling) foods before you at astonishingly low prices. Welcome to Western Culture, where even poor people have problems with obesity. It's unprecedented!

D.W. Drang said...

I make it a rule never to discuss religion, but I will observe that, in view of the fact that Roberta has discussed her refusal to vote in a primary election "against the rules" even though "They" can't ascertain whether or not she is following the rules (Indiana Primaries And Me and Primaries, Devisited) I think it safe to say that she will be unswayed by anyone's arguments or proselytizing.

If that is not what you intend, I apologize.

Jeffro said...

I'm hardly a paragon of virtue when it comes to religion, so take this for what it's worth.

I do pray every day, so being at least that much involved colors my thinking and actions. So, while I'll mention God or my faith at times, I'm really not trying to influence or change anyone. I understand where you are coming from - what the whole thing all boils down to is faith. I have enough to get by, and you have your doubts because you don't see quantifiable results. I cannot prove the existence of God even to my own standards, but I am invested in the idea that He does exist.

If it all turns out to just be an imaginary figure in the sky, so be it. My faith tells me differently.

And, I've never noticed that you show disdain or make fun of the average religious type. Extremists, yeah, but I do that too.

I can't dance, either.

og said...

"what you miss is that I am not attacking it,"

You are, in fact, attacking it. On a regular basis.

"I respect the other person's religion like I respect all of her or his other notions"

No, in fact, you do not. And you have proved it, once again, today.

You do have a religion, and it's very clear to me what it is. I'll leave now, and sorry to have troubled you. I will continue to hope and pray for good things for you, and if you ever want for anything I can provide, by all means, let me know and I will provide it. I cannot allow you to denegrate the church and not speak up, it endangers my soul to remain quiet. I have never, nor will never, try to convert you to anything, but when you tell outright lies about people who don't deserve to be lied about, well, I won't abide it. Better that I stay away than let you spout lies and remain silent.

Roberta X said...

That would be correct -- and yet I believe folks have a right to peacefully proselytize.

I will never understand why it is that people who believe in huge, unprovable things about the universe, about all of reality, get bent out of shape when I point to those notions and say they are unprovable; why people who can read history books just as well as I can will look at the long bloody history of religion and claim, variously, that it didn't happen, that it was the fault of the victims, that it was for the greater good, that others were at least as bad or that the end result justified the means. Or that all of written history is just one vicious attack on their own preferred religion (despite that for all the big ones, they've got more followers than ever before...thanks mostly to improvements in medicine and food production). The reason they'll give: faith.

I don't believe in things that can't be measured. I lack that "faith" thing. No amount of hectoring is gonna make it magically appear. Don't got.

Roberta X said...

(The preceding was to D.W. Drang).

Og, Name one lie I have told. Galileo locked his own self up? The Spanish Physician cooked himself? Vlad the Impaler never impaled anyone? The Roman Inquisition -- the last known act of which occurred in the mid-19th Century and involved kidnapping a Jewish child from his parents -- were just a bunch of happy guys who jollied folks along toward the One True Faith and never hurt nobody?

Commenters here have pitted religion against science. I'll take the side that gave us the Industrial Revolution.

rickn8or said...

Put me in the "Don't believe, can't dance" column also, but that doesn't stop me from being touched by a lady friend's assertion that she prays for my safety every day.

Practice your religion all you want, as long as you don't come knocking at my door or do anything noisy while I'm trying to sleep.

Joanna said...

I wonder what it means that I learned more about the reality of God from physics than from any other source? Far be it from me to push my views on you, but I do think there's a baby and some bathwater that need tending to.

Ed Skinner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed Skinner said...

Use the DELETE key, Roberta. (It's your blog, not theirs.)

Stingray said...

Apparently some folks prophet takes the form of a polite no-thank-you and it's just as blasphemous to reproduce an image of it.

LabRat said...

As I have railed before at some great length, religion and science and technology exist to server entirely different purposes. Can't pray up a cotton gin. Can't invent up the grace to handle life's curveballs without throwing your glove in someone's face and stomping off the field, though I do note that grace is far from exclusively any one religion's product or even religion's product alone.

That said, I also can't think of any religion whose instructions to witness to the heathen include "thou shalt be pissy in my name".

LauraB said...

If there is a God the glory is in the work that MAN does - not in the constant supplication for this benefit or that hope fulfilled. I have to think, if that bandwidth were applied to actual work, a great deal more would get done.

The following have always reflected my feeling on the matter, written by much wiser men:

Well, I tell you, if I have been wrong in my agnosticism, when I die I'll walk up to God in a manly way and say, Sir, I made an honest mistake. --H. L. Mencken

And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence. --Bertrand Russell

Roberta X said...

Ed: If I use the DELETE key, none of us will learn anything.

I truly think this believingness thing is an aptitude that not everyone has, the we don't possess in equal amounts; and that it is, in and of itself, not harmful; indeed, it is often quite good...until it rubs up against some other flavor of belief or a lack thereof, some doubt or heresy, at which point it can (but does not inevitably) sour very badly. Or it can take (though not always) a wrong turn all by itself, as any poor schmuck having his heart hacked out with an obsidian knife found out, not to mention the unfortunate Vestal caught canoodling.

Those are observations of fact. It's how this stuff has happened in history. I am sure they play very differently to folks who do have that knack for belief -- at least where the thread of their own faith is woven in the vast tapestry of human religion.

Peter said...

Roberta, you go right on believing (and acting) as you do. Speaking as a believer, and a retired pastor, I have no problem whatsoever with your attitude or expressed personal views. You've got every right to them, and I'll support that right all the way. We certainly don't agree in this area, but that's fine with me. I learn from what you say, and I hope that now and again, something I say will give you a new perspective as well. We don't have to 'convert' each other, or defend our respective points of view. With mutual respect, we can get along just fine.

Og: With the greatest of respect, brother, I don't think Roberta's attacking anything - at least, that's not what I understand from her words, either today or any other day. She's simply saying that this is how she sees it, and leaving it at that. You and I will see it differently: but that doesn't mean she's attacking us for having different views. She simply holds strong beliefs of her own, and isn't afraid to express them.

I, for one, hold very strongly that Christianity isn't something one believes; it's something one lives. As St. Francis of Assisi so memorably put it: "Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words." If those of us who believe were to follow his advice, I think we'd have a whole lot less argument about religion, and a whole lot more mutual respect and understanding.

Just my $0.02 worth, anyway . . .

Roberta X said...

Thank you, Peter. You say it better than I do.

I'm not at all hostile to the good things people are led by their religious belief to do.

Geodkyt said...


Peter has ir right. Roberta isn't attacking anyone. Nor does she have some "religion of Antifaith."

There's a difference between the phrases "I do not believe in a god," "I believe there is no god," and "I don't know if there is a god," (and the people expressing that last often couldn't care less, either).

The complete absence of faith isn't in opposition to the faithful, for all that it is the polar opposite of faith.

john said...

ya got me Bobbi, got me good!
actually it's every gas station that makes hot dogs or burrito's available. Ya get 'em for free after so much time has elapsed.

And to reiterate, "I may, -or may not- agree with every word this woman says, but I will defend to the death her right to say it.

I'm not sure about Jesus, but, me and Voltaire, "we be mates".

robnrun said...

Very nice post, given me something to think about. One point that arises from the comments, I can't speak for anyone else, but I do know why I personally get bent out of shape when people, justly, point out the historic bloodshed motivated by religion.

As a professional historian, I tend to study religion as a motivator, in the same class as social status, political power, and money. Generally religion is pointed out only as a negative: for example, the Scottish Calvinists are castigated for the Scottish witchhunts, that the same church was the driving force for the universal literacy and education which gave Scotland exceptional influence in the British Empire is conveniently overlooked. This oft-occurring balance of positive-negative should tell us that we need to stop blaming the motivator (be it religion or money) and start taking a harder look at the people making choices of their own free will. I guess what I am trying to say (poorly) is that removing religion is not going to stop people killing other people, we can come up with plenty of other excuses.

(which, I will cheerfully admit, doesn't make most organized churches, including mine, look any better, but at least the logic will be stronger)

Owen said...

The way i usually put it is "My believer is broken."

I often wish that I had faith, and that I could just believe, but I don't, and wishing it were so isn't enough to get me over that hump.

Kevin said...

Roberta, I got sideways with Og once myself in the comments over at Fran Porretto's. Upon pointing at the bloody history of the Catholic Church, I was informed that real Christians didn't do that.

Perhaps not, but there were a bunch of people wearing the vestments of that particular organization who were directly involved, and a bunch of people who sure thought they were doing Bog's will for them.

I am an atheist, but admittedly a small-"A" type, and I've explained why. Since then I've had very few comments from Mr. Porretto, and none from Og.

Which is why this quote from MaxedOutMomma now graces the top of my blog:

Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours.