Churches Can No Longer Hide the Truth: Daniel Dennett on the New Transparency

"Protecting your inner workings is becoming very difficult; it’s very hard to keep secrets."
"Protecting your inner workings is becoming very difficult; it’s very hard to keep secrets."

If Daniel Dennett is anything, he is a champion of the facts. The prominent philosopher of science is an advocate for hard-nosed empiricism, and as a leading New Atheist he calls for naturalistic explanations of religion. Dennett is also the co-author (along with Linda LaScola) of the recently expanded and updated Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Faith Behind, which documents the stories of preachers and rabbis who themselves came to see…the facts.


Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Faith Behind
Daniel C. Dennett and Linda LaScola
Pitchstone Publishing, May 2015

Caught in the Pulpit is a close cousin to The Clergy Project, an outreach effort to “current and former religious professionals who no longer hold supernatural beliefs”—many of whom must closet their newfound skepticism to preserve their careers and communities.

For Dennett, closeted atheist clergy are not simply tragic figures, they are harbingers of great things to come. Peppered amongst Caught in the Pulpit’s character vignettes are mini-essays in which Dennett predicts a sea change in religious doctrine and practice. Our digital information age, he argues, is ushering in a “new world of universal transparency” where religious institutions can no longer hide the truth. To survive in an age of transparency, religions will need to come to terms with the facts.

Dennett spoke recently with The Cubit about institutional transparency, the parallels between religious and atheistic fundamentalism, and the future of religion.

You describe non-believing clergy as “canaries in a coal mine.” Why does this group hold such significance for understanding the future of religion?

I think that we are now entering a really disruptive age in the history of human civilization, thanks to the new transparency brought about by social media and the internet. It used to be a lot easier to keep secrets than it is now.

In the March issue of Scientific American, Deb Roy and I compare this to the Cambrian Explosion. The Cambrian Explosion happened 540 million years ago, when there was a sudden, very dramatic explosion of different life forms in response to some new change in the world. Oxford zoologist Andrew Parker argues that the increased transparency of the ocean made eyesight possible, and this changed everything: now predators could see prey, and prey could see predators, and this set off an arms race of interactions. Well, we think something similar is happening in human culture. Institutions—not just religions but also universities, armies, corporations—are now faced with how to change their fundamental structure and methods to deal with the fact that everybody’s living in a glass house now.

Protecting your inner workings is becoming very difficult; it’s very hard to keep secrets. Religions have thrived in part because they were able to keep secrets. They were able to keep secrets about other religions from their parishioners, who were largely ignorant of what other people in the world believed, and also keep secrets about their own inner workings and their own histories, so that it was easy to have a sort of controlled message that went out to people. Those days are over. You can go on the Internet and access to all kinds of information. This is going to change everything.

Which do you think will be more likely: a shift from religiosity to atheism, or a change within religious groups towards more liberal interpretation of scripture?

I don’t see how the traditional credal models of religion are going to be able to withstand this sort of epistemological pressure. I think that we see trends even in traditional evangelical churches that are moving away from doctrine and more into allegiance and ceremony and letting people be more relaxed about what they actually believe.

Now, how well this is going to work, I don’t know. I think there’s a place in the world for organizations that are bound together by tradition, by music and ceremony and texts that they treat as sort of mythic texts, and I think the religions that survive this period are going to deserve to survive. They will be a far cry from what we see today. 

But propositional beliefs about the world are just a small part of religious life. There is much more to religion: family, community, rituals and practices, modes of being. Is the Clergy Project itself perhaps a way for atheists to do more than just talk about belief and non-belief?

"Daniel Dennett 2" by Dmitry Rozhkov - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Daniel Dennett 2” by Dmitry Rozhkov – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

My own view is that we ought to pay attention very closely, gather as much evidence as we can, take advantage of the new transparency: learn, learn, learn, and in turn inform, inform, inform. Get the information out there. And then I’m very laissez-faire about what should happen next. Let people figure out what they’re comfortable with and what they want to do. I don’t want to disturb traditions, unless they are toxic in some way. There are some traditions that are clearly toxic.

The recent Pew survey shows that Islam is the fastest growing religion, not because people are converting to Islam, but because they’re having more babies. The fertility rate is much higher than that of any other religious group. That means we’re going to have more and more children growing up with the default presumption that they’re Muslims.

I think, however, that it’s not going to be as standard, obvious, or routine for them to stay Muslims when they grow up. Islam has a long, unfortunate tradition of treating apostates very severely, and I think that we’re going to see more of that. And I think that it’s going to backfire.

How former Muslims or children of Muslims engage in the world in the next 20 years is a very, very important question. And I don’t have any clue as to how it’s going to work out.

The Pew Research Center predicts that the growth in world Muslim populations will increase not only in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but also in North America. Their demographic study validates your prediction that there will be more religious switching within Western culture from Christianity to non-affiliation. But the percentage of unaffiliated believers will actually go down as a percentage of the global population.

But of course that’s a projection, and it’s based on the analysis of trends that are seen today.

My suspicion is that they are underestimating the importance of this new transparency. It takes twenty years to grow a Baptist, and twenty minutes to lose one.

And I think that people may be in for some real surprises in those areas. After all, it’s only been a decade or two that this has been an issue for Muslim children. Are they going to let their children have cell phones and be on the Internet? If they forbid them, that’s going to be very tough, and if they permit them, they’re going to introduce a huge new force into the world of child rearing and education. Religious education is going to have to make some drastic shifts. And it’ll be interesting to see how it works.

This is still hinged on belief. This next generation can be Muslim even if they don’t endorse literalist scriptural interpretations of, say, the origin of the universe.

I think that the transparency is not just about belief; it’s about facts, too. There’s a long tradition of how to get around prohibitions in the Qur’an so that you can live in the modern world. I think all of that will accelerate, and so the ways of being a Muslim twenty years from now is going to expand dramatically from what they are today. And I think largely in good directions. I think that there will be more and more diversity, more and more openness, less credal rigor.

This goes back to a theme from your book: that it’s difficult to navigate through the modern world using literalist religious beliefs. You also find symmetry between fundamentalist Christians and New Atheists: both think that truth claims need to be taken very seriously. How do you respond to the accusation that there is a fundamentalism to New Atheism, where science is often treated as an absolutist metaphysics?

Well, absolutism is almost always a mild term of abuse. Nobody champions absolutism. Whenever anybody is called an absolutist it’s usually meant in criticism. And yet you don’t hear a certified public accountant accused of being absolutist about the bottom line in the books of a corporation. Those are taken as facts, and we have to take the facts seriously, and we don’t wave our hands and go all postmodern about what happened to the money.

So people have a respect for facts, even when they aren’t absolutists, and even the churches have respect for those facts. The facts are pretty serious.

But there is an important difference between pragmatic empiricism and scientism, which denies the plurality of ways to understand our human world. We can’t measure every aspect of human life using scientific metrics.

Of course that’s true. And I think that there are definitely occasions where some New Atheists have erred on the side of brusquely dismissing very important, very legitimate claims for adopting a different perspective on things. Nobody wants a disquisition on the biomechanics and physiology of orgasm when you’re making love—there are times when you want to turn the lights off and forget about that stuff.

To the extent that religions are very much engaged in enriching lives with meaning, with ceremony, and even with a sense of mystery and awe, that’s all good. I think the problem comes when they think that they have to put their awe-inspiring myths in competition with the equally – or I would say more – awe-inspiring discoveries of science.

Gods and flaming chariots are nothing, they’re cheap comic book fare, compared to what we actually have learned about stars and galaxies and the like.

I think that there’s a sort of mirror image, an opposite of scientism, which has a real tin ear for the breathtaking awesomeness of science. All you have to do is listen to David Attenborough or Carl Sagan or other brilliant expositors of science to see just how jaw-droppingly beautiful the world is.

Do you think that there is a future for science that includes awe, social outreach, communal gatherings, and other functions that these clergymen engaged in before they fell out of their faith?

I think that over the centuries, one of the great things that churches of all varieties and religious groups have been able to do is to give people lives of importance, and provide love for people that otherwise don’t get love, along with a sense of community and belonging. This is extraordinarily valuable and important. And the state isn’t going to do it, and many other sorts of organizations seem incapable or unwilling to try. And I do think we want to preserve and enhance that function in society.

I think that’s the one function of religions that I would most want to see fostered and protected. How you can do that, and whether you can do that, with a frank acknowledgment of the mythic character of their creeds? I’m not sure it can be done, but I hope it can.

  • DKeane123

    “Gods and flaming chariots are nothing, they’re cheap comic book fare, compared to what we actually have learned about stars and galaxies and the like.” – Money quote.

  • Jim Reed

    I think an important issue is how will Christianity deal with the newly transparent understanding that there was no actual Jesus of the Bible, and his story was a creation of the church. The details of how this will work out will go a long way to showing us the future of religion.

  • Jim Reed

    And it will take 20 minutes for people to change, once they reach that point.

  • http://www.socialwork.ilstu.edu/faculty_staff/biographydetail.asp?u=diecht Daniel Liechty

    It is probably true that on the whole the plausibility of the
    traditional Western forms of religion, heavily rooted in ongoing belief
    in propositional Truth (doctrines) about the nature of God and reality,
    is waning across the general population. This could be radically and
    quickly reversed if some kind of disaster struck that broadly undermined
    public confidence in the Western cultural project, and such disasters
    are hardly unimaginable given our continued proclivities toward
    overpopulation and indifference (at best!) in the face signals of
    ecological collapse. But that aside, it seems more probable that what we
    are seeing is a transformation of doctrinal religion toward other kinds
    of religion and spiritual connectiveness, rather than the eclipse of
    religion per se. A very significant segment of the “nones” would
    nonetheless say they are (some variation of) “spiritual, not religious.”
    That kind of answer may drive religion specialists to dismay, but it is
    a salient factor nonetheless. It is almost certainly not the case among
    a species as prone to existential anxiety as is ours (borne of the
    inevitable clash between the urge to survive and the intellectual
    knowledge of our mortal condition, which we carry with us from
    relatively early childhood as side effect of consciousness and abstract
    reasoning ability) that the future lies in masses of people becoming
    simply secularist materialist-atheists or agnostics. Other categories
    will emerge and we are most likely watching the birth pangs of this
    emergence even as we speak.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    There is no “christianity”that can,or will,come to the demonstrably false claim that there…”was no actual Jesus”…and be considered”christian”Mr.Reed.Seriously,are you still beating that dead horse?? The very definition of the term Christianity requires the Christ of said term; remove Him (or attempt to),and you’re left with a word that’s meaningless.Give it a rest,Mr.Reed.Jesus the Christ was as historical as Julius Caesar or Abraham Lincoln,and as I said before,only a few pseudo-“historians” on the fringes claim otherwise. (Oh,and various Internet trolls with zero credibility.)—PEACE IN CHRIST!

  • http://sisterlea.wordpress.com/ SisterLea

    John Dominic Crossan has a great book on this topic: THE POWER OF PARABLE, How Fiction BY Jesus Became Fiction ABOUT Jesus.

  • http://sisterlea.wordpress.com/ SisterLea

    Great article, Daniel Dennett! Right on target…a thoroughly honest and unbiased challenge to religion today! BRAVO!

  • Jim Reed

    Good point. If something happens to drive us back into the dark ages, that could become a Christian awakening. You could see it as long being the Christian plan for end times.

  • Jim Reed

    It will be hard for Christianity to deal with, but ultimately they will have no choice. Contradictions in the religion will spread, but what else is new.

  • http://www.socialwork.ilstu.edu/faculty_staff/biographydetail.asp?u=diecht Daniel Liechty

    “Stories about…” is pretty much all we have for ANY historical figure who is known only through the transmission of texts. The fact that that applies also to Jesus of Nazareth is of no great importance to Christian believers. What is actually more amazing is the fact that the stories the early Christians chose to characterize JofN (that he was a religious mystic, a pacifist, against wealth and castigated the wealthy, one of the poor, stood against religious and govt. oppression, preached true religion completely outside of institutional religious institutions and often even opposed to such institutions, etc etc) has had so absolutely LITTLE impact on the concrete beliefs and practices of the religion that supposedly points to him as its foundation.

  • http://www.socialwork.ilstu.edu/faculty_staff/biographydetail.asp?u=diecht Daniel Liechty

    I don’t think there is a Christian “plan” for the end times. It’s just that build up/demise/collapse happens over and over again and so the poetic/apocalyptic language describing this process gets reinvigorated in relevance every few hundred years.

  • Jim Reed

    It is a religion of contradictions. The biggest is the Jesus stories (Gospels) were written in the last third of the century, and they are about what happened in the first third of the century, but in the middle of the century we have the Christian writings of Paul that show no knowledge of those later Jesus gospel stories. This creates contradiction #1, the Jesus stories were made up after the fact, and the earlier history shows they didn’t actually happen.

  • Jim Reed

    But evangelical Christians today seem to be doing what they can to help the process, especially by encouraging and supporting Israel to polarize the region. Hagee has long had his book explaining the importance of starting a war in the region, and during the Bush years he apparently had surprising access to the white house, although I do believe they were mostly only taking him seriously for the votes, but they would take any reason for war they could get.

  • Jim Reed

    I looked this up on Amazon and it says:

    6 Used from $392.35
    2 New from $966.82

    Fortunately the Kindle is only $8.49

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Yawn…I’m so bored with this issue, so I’ll say no more on it,Mr.Reed.You need not concern yourself with the presumed”fate”of The Christian Faith,sir; whatever comes along,The Lord our God will deal with it,as He always has.We were warned these days would come,so…we’re not surprised.At any rate,I’m done with the subject; there’s nothing left but to agree to disagree.God bless you,and au revoir,Mr.Reed!

  • http://www.socialwork.ilstu.edu/faculty_staff/biographydetail.asp?u=diecht Daniel Liechty

    All religions are religions of contradictions – as are all political ideologies, academic theories, including scientific theories, social conventions, even your assumed distinction between “fact” and “fiction” (since the assumed distinction is itself a story we tell ourselves in order to make human sense of our world for the time being) … let’s just say, all things human are necessarily full of contradictions.

  • Jim Reed

    That attitude is the problem. Warned these days would come? It leads to not dealing with very real problems that we have today. It leads to actions that will compound those problems. And it is always done at the level of the congregation. Churches warn their people, of what? Things will decay, so get ready to up the global brainwashing game, and then crawl into your shell and wait for the end? Those who are the most paranoid can stockpile guns, and sometimes at the very extreme the believers can plan a mass suicide. That is the only place these church driven warnings to the congregation will ever lead. This article is supposed to be about showing us, society needs to mature beyond that point. It is a shock when preachers wake up and start to see it, and it is hard on them, but ultimately society might become better when we grow to a higher level of consciousness.

  • Jim Reed

    That is why science was invented. It is the process of rooting out the contradictions, and it only works because the scientists all put a priority into checking the work of each other, and wiping out the work of others if it doesn’t hold up and prove to not be flawed. That is how science is a process of advancing. Science is for scientists, and it is hard for the rest of us to understand, but we can all be thankful that we live in a scientific world because the previous religious world just worshiped the contradictions, and had little or no way to ever fix those contradictions.

  • http://www.socialwork.ilstu.edu/faculty_staff/biographydetail.asp?u=diecht Daniel Liechty

    But Jim, why do you assume contradictions are bad? If reality itself is full of contradictions – or better said, if given to tools of comprehension we have to work with as part of our mortal nature involve inevitably the perception of contradictions in our ability to grasp and explain reality – then a story about reality without contradictions is less valuable than a story that honestly includes contradictions. I think you could just as well view science as a method for teasing out and noticing contradictions where we thought there were none than as a method for resolving contradictions. I tend to think the best we can do is learn to be comfortable with a picture of reality that is chaotic, unpredictable, full of contradictions, and just try to be the best we can within it (which, I think it goes without saying, is plenty enough for our species to work on – we haven’t done all that well up to now anyway…)

  • Jim Reed

    Science shows we can root out contradictions, and the current political situation shows us not rooting out contradictions in the religious sector can be bad.

  • wwway

    Wonderful article. I agree. God is the only great scientist. To be a scientist, in my opinion, is the act of looking God in the eye and asking questions. To be in wonder of science then is like gazing at the face of God. If then we are in wonder or in question it is important to see to the needs of mankind. We do not get through life alone and that is a scientific fact unto itself.

  • Jim Reed

    Charles Darwin was also a great scientist. He noticed the pattern of life expanding over time, and species splitting into multiple species, and the branching continuing to develop all life on earth. He saw the pattern without knowledge of DNA and inheritance, and he stated it in the face of all the resistance that he knew was going to come from Christianity.

  • 1captainhooker1

    This was a popular conception in the 17-18th centuries, coincidentally, another period of history in which the size of the world shrank and our understanding of it exploded.

  • Judith Maxfield

    I don’t mind if this kills off the childish voodoo stuff in the churches. However, this also goes for those in the sciences who see themselves as the only grand wizards of truth.

  • Judith Maxfield

    OK, I get what you are saying. But, I heard it said from the former Dean of Grace Cathedral in S, F. ( Alan Jones), ‘watch out, remember Hitler was also spiritual’. Selfie spiritualism still scares me. It can mean anything you wish.

  • Judith Maxfield

    I like what you said. Yep, life is messy.
    if we stay as children in adult bodies, it’s an ugly situation. The word I like is paradox, “para” “dox”. It takes some maturity to hold two seemingly opposite truths together. Adult children can’t deal with that. Sad and maybe dangerous.

  • Burnt Orange

    What people seem to forget is that science moves forward two steps then something happens and chaos, ignorance and social panic pushes it back three steps. Knowledge is lost and advances reversed.

    Religion on the other hand seems always sitting quietly on the sidelines waiting to fill the vacuum of those reversals. Civilization then grinds forward, religion wanes and the cycle is repeated. Religiosity seems part of humans DNA while its obverse belief system, atheism, must be imparted and learned.

    It does not seem to exist as an independent entity but must come from the intellect, which is not always predictable nor as enamored with “facts” or the scientific method as many suppose. Trillions of brain cells and thousands of intellectuals were consumed defining and writing about the “proofs” of god and justifying religion.

    Also there is no peer pressure and “evangelical” movement that goes on for hundreds of years “selling” the concepts of a godless universe. By its very nature atheism is an independent thought process that has few if any “soldiers” in its army. Truth and facts may not be self-sustaining intrinsic realities that exist independent without serious advocates to shine lights on them and spread the “good news.”

  • Judith Maxfield

    Sorry Jim, you’re flying off the radar screen this time. There is more to life than being so damned sure of your construct of your particular worldview. Is a higher level of consciousness acceptable only on your terms? Do you know the myth of the son who insisted in flying into the sun with wax wings?

  • Jim Reed

    Perhaps you can explain the warning that these days would come.

  • Burnt Orange

    Has anyone considered that human intellect is finite and it may be impossible to understand and explain some things in the universe?

    After all a monkey has a biological brain that has synapses, and much of the same machinery as a human brain. One thousand monkeys could work 24/7 but would never understand the workings of a computer or be able to build a 747 airplane. On some cosmic continuum we may fall just a few degrees past a monkey. We may be without the ability to conceptualize “everything” and might not even know what we don’t have an infinite capacity to understand the universe we live within.

    Many, many of the ideas being considered by scientists right now seem at the very boundaries of our ability to grasp as realities. We may not be as smart as we think we are.

  • Jim Reed

    Funny thing is in science the grand wizards of truth are not the scientists.

  • Burnt Orange

    Since science is an human institution created and run by humans it would seem to be subject to the same forces of dark and light that other institutions must contend with. Science can be cultish at times. It can be perverted by money and power. Politicians can use it to advance political or inhuman causes, like eugenics and Nazism. The idea that science and its methods are somehow “pure” seems naive and overly trusting.

    Atheism might have put all its eggs in one basket when it keeps returning to the scientists for ammunition and validation. While the methods of science can be a good basic start the human heart, mind and intellect often needs more then the cold hard “facts” as advanced by science.

    The concept and realities of religion must be replaced by something that the human spirit can identify with and will provide day to day support system that is life affirming. After all proving that there is no god might satisfy some individuals but many others require a replacement that does not look like a stainless steel operating table. Science seems at times inhuman and uninterested in humans as “people” and beings consisting of an emotional/spiritual component as well as a fact processing organism.

  • Jim Reed

    Humans need more than just the cold hard facts. They need myths that tell them they are going to heaven to be with their dead loved ones.

  • bpuharic

    Science is not a ‘human institution’ in the sense of a church. It is a discovery of a method for determining how nature works. It can’t be cultish because photons aren’t. There is only one F=MA or G=H-TS. That people can abuse facts is a fact. That facts are facts apart from human belief is also a fact.

    It’s a misunderstanding of nature’s existence to say humans need ‘more’ than science. Science is only 300 years old. The thousands of years humans had ‘meaning’ before science was invented were hardly happy, meaningful times.

    Science IS uninterested in humans. And that is a great benefit for keeping humans honest about both science and about humans.

  • bpuharic

    Science is the only method in human history where a patent clerk can take on the most revered name in all of science…and be correct based on the evidence. There are no ‘wizards’ in science.

  • Jim Reed

    On the other hand, humans could work 24/7 at recognizing sequences of patterns on a computer screen, and never be as fast and accurate as a chimp. Their brains just absorb random number sequences faster than ours do.

  • Judith Maxfield

    You may think that.

  • Judith Maxfield

    No, I’m done. Ask the people who claim that stuff. People like that need either jail or a psychiatrist, or both.

  • Judith Maxfield

    Oh yes there are: If science gets into operational systems based on their evidence, (and get paid for it) than we can have disasters; The Mad Cow disease in the Uk that wiped out farmers, Chernobyl, etc. They didn’t take into account human fallibility, even on someone else’s watch. Hubris and greed can create wanna be wizards. You are still human for God’s sake and have the power to wipe out humanity. Thats what I meant. Scientists are not gods. But hey, believe what you may. Science can do harm as well as good, but its not the end all truth. We need to be more discerning and get the connections of human life.

  • Jim Reed

    Judith Maxfield says to ask you about that warning these days would come, and she says you need either jail or a psychiatrist, or both.

  • bpuharic

    The very fact mad cow disease exists falsifies your statement. Science isn’t about personalities. It’s about rocks and trees and stars and water.Science can’t ‘do harm’ any more than it can ‘do good’ unless you have a ‘harm’ or a ‘good’ meter you can measure how much quantitative harm or good is done, and where in quantum physics ‘harm’ or ‘good’ Hamilitonian operators are defined.

  • Ahmed Zaher

    The religious sector is full of contradiction and does not satisfy the burden of proof. All scientist no matter whom they are and what they support, are forced to provide evidence for their claims with repeatable experiments, as well as a thorough examination and documentation with very specific and clear wording, with little room for metaphor and analogy.
    Religous facts rely entirly on facts and speculation, and illogical claims.

  • Jim Reed

    The religious sector offers training for the young, and those who best absorb and conform to the traditional teachings of that sect are selected as the next generation of teachers and leaders. This helps the sect conform ever closer to their teachings, and provides for propagation of the religion from one generation to the next.

  • Burnt Orange

    Cynicism does not become you. Even scientists are afraid of the dark sometimes. Why? Darkness is just the absence of light in the world of science. Humans are not equations. For some reason individuals react to their surroundings not on scientific understanding of the world but on their basic experiences and internal instincts. May not be scientific but it is truly human. Robots and A.I. can live on cold hard facts. Humans not so much.

    Whether dead loved ones, puppies lost or just a continuation of consciousness individuals feel a compulsion to “see” beyond their own lives and wish to believe they are not a pile of animated meat that exists for a period and then ceases to be. So called facts usually don’t penetrate this veil.

    Since that is a universal thing among humans, whether factual or not, it it has become part of what it is to be a human being. If you want to remove that you would have to have an alternative besides a negative, facts only replacement.

    Otherwise success will belong to the myth makers and mystics who offer
    warmth and comfort to humans living within, as well as passing through, this world. Living within your matrix may be the true world so to speak but it is not the world most human beings want to, or can, exist within. Given a chance most people will just ignore the science and facts and create their own myths just as they create their own histories and mythical memories that support their own self images and views of their children’s abilities and intellects. Myth making and self invention are human characteristics that when extinguished makes individuals less human. Just what balance is best for the traveler on their journey, in your way of thinking, between non-existance to non-existance?

  • mario religionfree

    I’d love to see churches become more tied to reality: dismiss the Jesus and God myths. React against superstitions. Be more accepting of others. But there’s a lot to do to meet what followers are looking for in that religion.

    I was thinking of a way for religions to leave the supernatural and join the real world.

    The good side I see of religions is the community. People meet and collaborate instead of being isolated.

    My view is that most religious followers are looking for an omnipresent God that accompany them everyday. This may be replaced by a concept of “holy spirit” which is the sum of all thinking persons in our community. If you think about it, it is immaterial but you know it exists and it is influenced by media and leaders.
    Prayer can be seen as a good way to formulate our needs, but to be effective it need to be received by the community.
    About life after death, it’s the trace we have left in our community.

    Anyone wants to comment on that?

  • Burnt Orange

    Is it your opinion that science exists independent of humans? Is it not an organized group of people who agree on certain methods and absolute realities. In codifying and recording these truths for future reference there is bureaucracy, funding, buildings, filing and recording systems and other institutional mechanisms that effect “pure science.” If there is such a thing.

    Systematic Inquire has existed since before the Egyptians 4000 years ago. Maybe not as codified or rigorous but then again the science of 75 years ago might seem crude by today’s standards.

    Facts of yesterday have turned out to be NOT facts when placed under today’s systems of inquire. Maybe the facts of today are but illusions based on our imperfect tools and preconceived ideas of something or another.

    The quest for absolute “knowing” is as elusive as the quest for understanding of our metaphysical side. Tools may be different but the hopes and aspirations seem to come from a common wellspring.

  • Burnt Orange

    Was NOT comparing chimps and humans just illustrating possible limits on human comprehension of our surroundings.

  • http://www.socialwork.ilstu.edu/faculty_staff/biographydetail.asp?u=diecht Daniel Liechty

    Yes, of course, Nazism was a religio-spiritual movement. I agree with Dennett that there are good religio-spiritual movements and bad ones. Each must be evaluated from an ethical perspective, i.e., very broadly, and specific to time and place, does this movement feed and encourage (divinely bless) nascent urges toward personal and social integration and maturity, or does it feed and encourage (divinely bless) our already massive urges toward dividing ourselves against each other and meeting our enemies with violence.

  • Jim Reed

    I think scientists sometimes work beyond their ability to grasp the reality. Kind of like the contradictions of quantum mechanics or maybe general relativity. If they can’t understand, they can still work with it. Pretty cool. Science can work beyond the ability to grasp.

  • Jim Reed

    That’s something to work on.

  • Jim Reed

    We can’t know everything as accurately as we know the age of the universe is 13.8 billion years.

  • Ahmed Zaher

    All that does is create even more conflict with modern ideas of universal acceptance of everyone, and enforced equality under-law for everyone, as well as punishments that are less cruel. Not to mention that things previously undesirable and suppressed because of religious fevor now are more often expressed publicly and accepted something that is not compatible with most religion.
    Besides that fact the training is just another way of saying indoctrination causing people to become more radical and attached to their beliefs.

  • bpuharic

    Nature exists independently of humans. It’s the method that’s important. Empiricism, which the Egyptians did not know. Facts are irrelevant unless there’s a system to discover and test them.

  • Jim Reed

    A related issue would be the question of is it possible for a religion to become too big to fail? Since we are talking about America here, that would mean is it possible for Christianity to get too big to fail? Can it get so big that if it was about to fail, it would be too big of a social trauma for the nation, and the government would have to do something to artificially prop it up? And if that was done, would it just encourage the religion to become even bigger, and more of a risk the next time? If this could become a problem, we might have to do something to break the religion into pieces of a more managable size. These new books are showing this is a more serious issue than we would have thought, and we don’t want to wait until it is too late. If the entirety of Christianity was to lose Jesus because of a new push of history and scholarship and accountability, we probably haven’t considered the total consequences because we never before would have thought total failure along these lines could be a possibility.

  • Jim Reed

    That reminds me of 50 or 60 years ago when we thought the community was on our side.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Wasn’t it scientists who invented the atomic bomb,bpuharic? Ask the Japanese how much harm was done to them when the U.S.dropped said bomb on them and ended WWII.

  • Burnt Orange

    Maybe the universe existed 20 billion years ago but there was nothing in it. Does nothing actually exist? Our definition of the universe seems to include matter in motion, heat and light. Without those things is space “something” or is the lack of those things just nothing which has to exist to be filled by matter. Is nothing really something. Beyond the expanding universe there is nothing that has to be filled with the something called matter. When light passes through empty space is it passing through something. Oh crap now I have a headache!

  • Jim Reed

    That’s why we have science. So we can separate what is real from pure speculation. Without science, we tend to use religion to believe our pure speculation.

  • Jim Reed

    That describes the process of how we end up with many different sects, all thinking they are the true one and the others are in error or of the Devil.

  • Whiskyjack

    Scientists developed the atomic bomb, but it wasn’t scientists who dropped it. Knowledge and technology can be used for benefit or harm, but I think it is inappropriate to blame those who gain the knowledge or develop the technology. Should we blame the hominid who tamed fire for all the heretics that were burned?

  • bpuharic

    Nuclear physics would exist whether or not we dropped the bomb. You seem to think nature exists with a sense of morality

    it doesn’t.

  • http://sisterlea.wordpress.com/ SisterLea

    Thanks, Jim. Check out Crossan’s Book, THE POWER OF PARABLES, How Fiction BY Jesus Became Fiction ABOUT Jesus. Definitely worth reading to understand why pastors are having such a hard time in the pulpit.

  • Burnt Orange

    So it might be said that religion fills a knowledge void. The speculation serves a purpose while science is moving forward and replacing speculation with “facts” and reality religion fills the void with explanations and stories that seem believable to the individuals listening to them.

    How would humanity be dealing with and understanding its environment before science “discovered” its truths? Speculation by trusted people in the form of myths, stories, narratives and reasonable speculation (for the times) would appear to be a fine stopgap until science pushes it aside and moves forward. The human mind abhors a vacuum and being humans we tend to fill it with “knowledge” whether true or not. Science uses speculation also to advance its’ ideas and suppositions.

    Religion should be viewed as just another human activity however temporary or passing. It in its’ time will give way to other belief systems but until ALL is discovered and known there will always be speculation in whatever form.

    Of course as an institution religion tends to change slowly and cling to its stories and myths until it is no longer viable to do so. Understanding this is a better method then ridicule, and mocking the various religions of the world. They too shall pass.

  • Jim Reed

    That’s true, but even though it is a better method, ridicule and mocking still has some positive value. At least I hope it does.

  • Burnt Orange

    It may or may not work on sites like this or the internet in general. When speaking face to face or to actual people or groups a reasoned discussion and an understanding of the roots and depth of religious feelings often moves the ball forward.

    Most cases it is not by leaps and bounds but incrementally. Appealing to peoples intelligence willingness to change sometimes works whereas mocking and ridicule might make YOU feel superior and smug but does little other then cause individuals to become intransigent and angry.

    Depending on your purpose different methods of changing minds and hearts get different results. What result are you looking for???

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    But scientists do,bpuharic,and the idea that the scientists behind the building of that bomb didn’t know what it was intended for is patently absurd.War by nature is obscene and immoral,and the dropping of the A-bomb with the express purpose of ending the Japanese participation in WWII,and the subsequent deaths of thousands of innocent civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima drove home that point,however”morally neutral”nuclear physics is.Give me a break.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Are you trying to be cute,Whiskyjack?? Tell the readers: what is express purpose of bombs,sir? Would you actually have us believe that the scientists who developed these device s did so in ignorance of what their intended use would entail? The fact that the scientists themselves didn’t drop them on Nagasaki and Hiroshima means what,exactly? Are you kidding me,Whiskyjack? Fire is indeed a neutral entity that can,and is,used for good or ill,and blame or praise is placed where appropriate.Atomic bombs,or any bombs for that matter,have ONE express purpose: to kill our fellow human beings–PERIOD. Get real,dude.The Atomic bomb was built in s time of war,and they were intended to either continue said war,or end it.They wound up doing both,so to speak.Seriously,Whiskyjack—WAKE UP!

  • Jim Reed

    I think this is a discussion between progressive and conservative opinions regarding issues of religion. Changing conservative opinion seems unlikely to get very far, but that is not the major objective at this point in time. The main thing is to just have the conversation so that the world in general can be exposed to the two different points of view and how these issues are playing out. A very important sub-issue is about the question of historical vs. mythical Jesus. A few years ago this one seemed like it was going to be a hail Mary, but has worked out pretty well, and at least measures a major first down so far. I know we can’t reach agreement here, but just having the world exposed to this issue and staying in the game I would see as a major victory and a key to where we are headed in the future.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    I was for two years a member of The Clergy Project (TCP), the support group for closeted unbelieving clergy co-founded by Dennett and funded by Richard Dawkins. Earlier this year my membership was “terminated” because (as a free-thinking liberal agnostic) I “consistently made comments that could be construed as supporting religion.” The fig leaf for my termination was that a new fundamentalist atheist member quit TCP, complaining of posts of mine that he deemed “friendly to Christianity.” And yet the number of liberals who left TCP (several of them my friends) because of the hostility to their free thought on the subject of religion never caused a ripple of concern. And all of this from a group whose only criteria for membership remains a rejection of supernatural beliefs — as if rejecting the supernatural means you can’t find common ground with theists!

    If outreaches like The Clergy Project are to reach a broader range of closeted faithless clergy, then they’ll need to emulate Dennett’s tolerance for religion that is on such gracious display in this interview.

  • Jim Reed

    Welcome to our group.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    And yet religion itself is (ultimately) a product of the cosmos as well?

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    YES, all ‘problems’ with religion are HUMAN problems, not the shortcomings of the unwashed.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    YES, holding contradictions in fruitful tension is part of what it means to be human/conscious in an unconscious universe …

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    With respect, religion deals with the things science is not equipped to address or assess — ultimate human purpose and meaning.

  • Jim Reed

    I am not sure that is a fair statement. Science might be better at addressing those things than religion. Science is good at zeroing in on one small portion and looking for an answer to that question. That might be what is needed here.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Not to mention that today’s cutting edge theories of science will seem like primitive superstition a century hence.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    So what IS science’s (provisional) answer to those ultimate questions?

  • Jim Reed

    And if religion gets their way, cutting edge superstition of today will still be cutting edge superstition of that future age.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    That’s too broad and polemical a brush, Jim — liberal religion is a friend of science …

  • Jim Reed

    Science would have to study it. The answer should be buried somewhere in the workings of our minds. Bare in mind, the question of ultimate human purpose might not be the ultimate question.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Well said, brother …

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Hagee and his ignorant ilk of hucksters are despised in much of the liberal church — we must always bear in mind that Christianity itself is vibrantly diverse!

  • Burnt Orange

    Most of the world is NOT Christian. The other religions seem much more “locked in” so to speak then Christians. As a matter of fact I think Christians are changing over much faster to a more science based belief system then the other religions. Being an American I can understand how you would be Jesus-centric in your discussions and efforts but Christians seem the lesser issue then Islam or others.

  • Jim Reed

    Right. That is one of the primary areas that we have always covered here on RD.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    And then there are the liberal Christian sects that largely reject the supernatural and monolithic truth of any stripe, and embrace all who will ‘live and let live’?

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    And next catastrophe that the blinkered wizards of science will likely unleash on our species is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) that sees us as a threat? (see also Skynet)

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Ditto, LCR — can we seriously compare our passive discovery of fire as a natural part of nature with the invention of and UN-natural device intended to kill and maim millions in seconds?

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    As an extension of your excellent thesis, I highly recommend an article in the (proudly secular!) Atlantic magazine called “Why God Will Not Die” (link to full article below), in which the author quotes Leszek Kolakowski, (“the repentant Polish Marxist who became a distinguished historian of ideas”) …

    “Religion is man’s way of accepting life as an inevitable defeat. That it is not an inevitable defeat is a claim that cannot be defended in good faith. One can, of course, disperse one’s life over the contingencies of every day, but even then it is only a ceaseless and desperate desire to live, and finally a regret that one has not lived. One can accept life, and accept it, at the same time, as a defeat only if one accepts that there is sense beyond that which is inherent in human history—if, in other words, one accepts the order of the sacred.”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/12/why-god-will-not-die/382231/#about-the-authors

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Agreed! — scientists are human, ergo “science” is human.

  • Jim Reed

    Liberal Christianity is the fascinating subject that we keep coming back to here on RD, at least I do.

    Conservative Christianity is easy to understand. They believe all the beliefs. The Bible is God’s word. They believe in heaven and hell and creation and they believe the name of Jesus is the way to salvation, and Jesus will return, probably soon to rapture the belivers and punish non-believers. They believe everything the people in their church believe, and the most important thing in life is to believe even stronger if possible, and believe forever.

    Liberal Christianity seems to be a reaction to that. They are embarrassed by the conservatives, and look for how best to distance from them. Heaven and Hell are not necessarily true, and you don’t really have to believe in the Trinity. The creeds are optional, and maybe the miracles of Jesus didn’t happen. In fact, the nature of Jesus might even be in question, and not that important. So what is liberal Christianity? The best answer people gave a while back when they were still trying to answer that is you can’t pin it down because it is different for every person. I think liberal Christianity is a process of moving from traditional Christianity to secular humanism. I think with enough education, maybe that process could be speeded up a little.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    YES — in a sense scientists are the new priests of a secular religion …

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    YES, Christianity matured to the point where it could defang (or at least marginalize) its violent lunatic fringe — Islam, not so much …

  • Jim Reed

    When you grow beyond religion, then it can’t defeat you.

  • Jim Reed

    Christianity is the major religion that will be the easiest to do something about, and it is because of Jesus. They have the historical weakness that will show them the mistake, and after some resistance, they will have to cave.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    It’s true that even many liberal clergy privately despise Christian fundamentalism — however I make it a point of principle in my preaching and teaching to never make it a ‘whipping boy’ (or even a straw man), — because for me as a liberal agnostic it’s the ethical genius of the faith (which liberals & fundies agree on) that’s important, not its biblical container or divine provenance. I “pray” for the day when the literalness or inerrancy of scripture can be part of adiaphora, things we can agree to disagree on and still call each other Christians …

  • Jim Reed

    It is the process of moving away from the Bible and Jesus myth, and toward secular humanism. It is just a little too much to swallow right now because of how most Christians have been brought up to think about that secular humanism label.

  • Whiskyjack

    The development of the bomb was guided and funded directly by the American military and indirectly by the executive branch of the government. The scientists provided the theory and technology to accomplish it. Science, like nature, is morally indifferent, although as you point out, the same may not be said for scientists.
    Before the problems with radioactive fallout became evident, nuclear energy was seen, like most things scientific, as a discovery that could be used for either good or evil. It is up to the wielder of the technology…just like fire, medicines, bows and arrows, or firearms. In the case of the atom bomb, the wielder was ultimately the President of the United States.

  • Ahmed Zaher

    Religion is not necessary for those things any well read individual from any where can find their own meaning. Also religion enrouches upon topics that it has no business in, with little logic and evedince whatsoever.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    But death (or the if you prefer, the entropy of the universe) certainly will …

  • Jim Reed

    Death doesn’t defeat you if you don’t let it. It is only the end.

    You have to look at your life as what you can accomplish before that end. Then stop worrying about anything.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    With respect, I didn’t say religion was necessary to ultimate questions, only that it deals with them, whereas science cannot …

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Is that the erudite equivalent of “Don’t worry, be happy”? ;D

  • Jim Reed

    I think it more as like the John Lennon song:

    Think about it, do something about it

    Google can show the lyrics, even if it can’t quite search for the song title yet.

  • Benjamin O’Donnell

    As is Ebola and Fox News and George W Bush and the common cold and measles and Justin Bieber. Being a “product of the cosmos” doesn’t necessarily make something good.

  • Burnt Orange

    Hopefully you are correct. Funny thing is we as humans seem to have lost some things we discovered along the way. There are many processes and discoveries that for one reason or another are just gone from the human catalogue of accomplishments.

    Wars, social chaos, disasters or even severe climate change might wipe out much of the advances of technology and science.

    Reading too much sc-fi can be bring on negative thoughts.

  • Laurence Charles Ringo

    Sure,”mario religionfree”—I’ll comment on what you wrote.Are you some kind of fiction writer? Because your scenario is pure fantasy,weighed in the balance and found wanting.What on earth are you even talking about??

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    “It is what it is …” 🙂

  • Jim Reed

    It starts to make a little sense when you consider Christianity is starting to enter a period of intense change, driven by the way the internet now exposes everything to global scrutiny. What does he know about the future of religion? Maybe very little, but at least he sees the need to start looking. Christianity will resist change, but that won’t work. They have a critical flaw of no actual divine connection, and as we become smarter about this they can’t hope to hide what they are much longer.

  • Camera Obscura

    “If Daniel Dennett is anything, he is a champion of the facts. The prominent philosopher of science is an advocate for hard-nosed empiricism, and as a leading New Atheist he calls for naturalistic explanations of religion.”

    Oh, give me a break, he’s a rather bad philosopher whose main published stuff is an illogical misapplication of natural selection based on an assertion of “substrate neutrality” which is logically incompatible with natural selection, an assertion of “memes” which are entirely imaginary, empirically unevidenced and full of contradictory features and Just-so stories about the lost, unevidenced past which he presents as evidence to support his contentions.

    The only thing “hard-nosed” about it is his aggressive style of promoting his product among those who are not knowledgeable enough to be able to understand what he’s doing.

    And that’s just one sentence into this piece.

  • https://www.facebook.com/david.lloydjones.391 David Lloyd-Jones

    The Cambrian lasted 65 million years. Some “explosion.”

    It was my impression that Stephen Jay Gould, the originator of the phrase, had later recanted, admitting that half his funnies looked that way because they were crushed, and they all looked close in time by an accident of the exploratory process. Is this wrong?

    -dlj.

  • Mike Stidham

    It sounds like Mario is proposing a sort of collective “deism”, in which the Higher Power (to borrow an AA term) is a community’s received and conventional wisdom. The problem here is that individualism has become such a core value in the West, particularly the USA, that the effective implementation of such a “faith” would be next to impossible.

  • Richard Fortuna

    It’s intriguing to me that no one has mentioned the currently tiny but rapidly growing trend toward non-theist “churches” like Sunday Assembly and the work of Alain de Botton, Jerry DeWitt, Bart Campolo, and others. There IS a desire in the world to not throw the bathwater out with the Baby Jesus, as it were. People DO want to have the best parts of religion preserved and some might say DELIVERED from the beliefs that founded them. From early on in Homo Sapiens’ existence on this planet, we have gathered together into communities to be part of something larger than ourselves. The best glue to bind those communities together is a common belief or ideology, and that was how religion was born. I think that we are beginning to see an evolution in the world toward non-theist “religions” based around common beliefs based in our natural universe. The trend is still in its infancy, but as Dennett said, there is a sea change coming.

  • thatguy88

    “So it might be said that religion fills a knowledge void. The speculation serves a purpose while science is moving forward and replacing speculation with “facts” and reality religion fills the void with explanations and stories that seem believable to the individuals listening to them.”

    That’s more akin to “God of the Gaps”, which is a logical fallacy. Just because science hasn’t figured out an answer of filled in a “gap” doesn’t mean that religion is to fill that whole for us. SO many people are scared or ashamed of the unknown world that without an snwer, some people crumble. I hate to play devil’s advocate when I say this, but the fact that we dn’t konw a lot of our universe is just fact in and of itself.

    “How would humanity be dealing with and understanding its environment before science “discovered” its truths? Speculation by trusted people in the form of myths, stories, narratives and reasonable speculation (for the times) would appear to be a fine stopgap until science pushes it aside and moves forward. The human mind abhors a vacuum and being humans we tend to fill it with “knowledge” whether true or not. Science uses speculation also to advance its’ ideas and suppositions.”

    Again, this is “God of the Gaps”. You’re advocating filling unknown answers with mostly bogus answers until we find out what is really out there. That’s a problem, not a help or answer to a question. Also, the point of science is discovering what is unknown, and unfortunately for most people, the claims that most religions tend to make or stand by haven’t been scientifically verified and proven, let alone observed. It’s near impossible to test the supernatural; when that happens, it becomes natural by default.

    And yes, science does operate on speculations. It’s slightly different from forming a hypothesis, in the sense that a hypothesis is based of of predictions, and speculation is based off of inconclusive evidence. That’s why sepculation eventually gets ruled out when there is mor evidence in favor of scientific discoveries. But again, this is where religion tends to fail; the majority of its claims ARE speculation, in that it’s “findings” (if you can call them that) are inconclusive.

  • Jim Reed

    Exciting times. So many new religions popping up to fill the void that the old ones might be leaving.

  • Jim Reed

    So many options are provided. A couple generations ago we had the God song.

    I don’t believe in magic
    I don’t believe in Iching
    I don’t believe in Bible
    I don’t believe in tarot
    I don’t believe in Hitler
    I don’t believe in Jesus
    I don’t believe in Kennedy
    I don’t believe in Buddha
    I don’t believe in mantra
    I don’t believe in gita
    I don’t believe in yoga
    I don’t believe in kings
    I don’t believe in Elvis
    I don’t believe in Zimmerman
    I don’t believe in Beatles

    It could take some time to work through the entire list, but the process is worth it.

  • Burnt Orange

    I was NOT advocating for this one way or the other. Just observing what seems to be the truth of how individuals without a University degree or other type of training often react to knowledge vacuums.

    In the days before widespread knowledge and science people were left pretty much to themselves to speculate on how the world worked.

    Even today the world is filled with untutored rustic individuals that still are weaned on “old wives tales” and religious stories and narratives. That reality seems to be ignored by some who are so intent on tearing religious institutions down that they never get around to building a foundation, with those they hope to convert, to support their position on the godlessness of our universe.

    Can’t put the cart before the horse. Education and widespread creditable information should go before trying to vaporize individuals beliefs and prior taught understanding of their world.

  • Elvis

    What Dennett is saying here could be delivered at a Unitarian pulpit without raising an eyebrow. Unitarians have evolved into a post-Christian pluralistic church over recent decades: all the benefits of church without the dogma. It actually can work surprisingly well. It turns out you don’t all have to believe the same thing (or anything) to share, celebrate and grow in life and love within a supportive community.

  • Jim Reed

    There is a couple points to consider before making that change. If you are not currently in a church, then are you sure you want to get back into that environment? And if you are currently in a church, then you know all your church friends will be looking at you and thinking you joined that church that doesn’t believe in God or Jesus.

  • Pofarmer

    “I “pray” for the day when the literalness or inerrancy of scripture can be part of adiaphora, things we can agree to disagree on and still call each other Christians …”

    I don’t know if that can happen when the literal inerrantists believe in using their readings to control everybody else. Then, you supposedly proggresive Christian like James McGrath who are positively ferocious to the idea of Jesus as Myth.

  • Jim Reed

    No way. Once the institutions crumble, then you might want to consider something new. You don’t have to know what it will be ahead of time. It might even be better to just leave it in ruins for a while, and enjoy that. Take all the time that is needed to decide what and when to rebuild, and there may be significant pieces that are best never rebuilt. If you rush to replace the structures, you will probably just end up with something else that will soon need to be replaced again.

  • Jim Reed

    Plus the whole point of Christianity is to convert people.

  • Pofarmer

    Well, yeah, there’s that. Basically, we’re asking for a non-Christian Christianity.

  • Jim Reed

    It may not seem to make much sense, but we are in a process of moving from where we were to where we are going. At least that is the way I take RD.

  • Edwin Woodruff Tait

    It just isn’t that simple. There is a wide spectrum, with plenty of room in the middle, and there are many “conservatisms.” So sorry, no it’s not true that anyone who doesn’t fit your caricature of a “conservative Christian” is on the way to secular humanism. On the contrary, I would hope that people who abandon fundamentalism for secularism are on the way to a mature faith in God. But not everyone gets there–in this life at least.

  • Edwin Woodruff Tait

    Not just the liberal church. His ideas are not taken seriously by most Christians I know, although we try (often unsuccessfully) not to despise anyone!

  • Jim Reed

    How would you describe the conservatives? Do they all believe in heaven and hell, and the Trinity, and the name of Jesus Christ is the path to salvation?

    How would you describe the liberal Christians? Which beliefs do they have in common?

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Maybe the term “moral (or spiritual) formation” is better than ‘conversion’ to describe what the liberal church is after?

  • Jim Reed

    I think it is complicated what the liberal church is after. I think they want to be loyal to Christianity in a world where it makes less and less sense to be Christian. I just keep asking, what does the liberal church believe?

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    I would say liberal Christians believe in the life- and world-changing power of the self-giving LOVE Jesus showed us how to LIVE …

  • Jim Reed

    That is like secular humanism where the teachings of Jesus are taken as the ancient wisdom centered on the golden rule. It works out so well when you don’t have preachers having to preach heaven and hell, and you don’t have to believe the Trinity, and you don’t have God the Father watching over everyone to punish those who don’t worship properly.

  • Ahmed Zaher

    Religion is also definitely not the best way to deal with them, because while interpretations of their holy books which is almost purely anecdotal is fluid and open ended, they still claim absolute and exact truth, which is simply illogical.

  • Ahmed Zaher

    So through indoctrination and constant reinterpretation of a supposedly perfect text with which one could come to any conclusion, they somehow find absolute truth? The more likely explanation is that these are stories.

  • Jim Reed

    They are stories that become regarded as truth. They don’t have to be perfect, and they can still be followed ever more perfectly through the generations. That is religion. Since they are not perfect but still are perfectly followed, that makes it necessary to have other religions going in other directions as a counterbalance. That is religious studies.

  • Jim Reed

    That stems from the upside down nature of religion. All those religions with those holy books believe in the past God was closer to humans, and instructing them in ways that He is no longer doing. People in the ancient past knew more about science and morality because they were learning more directly from God. By now, the evidence is showing we actually know more about science and morality than they did back then. A religion always evolves as way to maintain and deal with any contradictions it creates.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    You’re painting with too broad a brush, friend! Liberal Christians (for example) make no claim to “absolute and exact truth,” because there is no such thing when it comes to constructing human purpose and meaning — and I assume every religion has its liberals in this sense?

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    By George, you’ve got it!

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    Agreed. Everything is paradox depending on how you look at it. Humans tend to take one side of the box and call it complete. One can see both sides and ponder, or accept the all and understand.

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    Since all time is now and we all have our own viewpoint, science can only discover what is the most commonly held reality, not that which is absolute. One can determine for oneself one’s own reality and from there see the operation of this place as it relates to that reality and all others.

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    Nazis were much less religiously than racially motivated. The US was much more God and country, although WW 1 wiped out just about everyone’s belief in war as a spiritual operation.

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    Why move from something toward something? When free of the chain why not walk one’s own path?

  • Jim Reed

    You can, but Liberal Christianity as a collective has things to move away from. It is just a process they are going through. Conservative Christianity is helping show the way by being the force that pushes them out.

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  • Ahmed Zaher

    You are denying common perception by suggesting there is another one. However to do so would be to deny all observations, it might possibly be true but it’s an argument from ignorance.

  • Ahmed Zaher

    Well I never said that people can veer away from that Ideal, and if they do and accept the science that is commonly held and look to religion for existential guidance, I could care less.

  • Ahmed Zaher

    Exactly so why would religion be used for any sort of truth? It is simply illogical to assume so.

  • Ahmed Zaher

    So religion is not truth, it is simply a mold that gets changed by understanding of actual reality.

  • Jim Reed

    Because the truth they are dealing with is religious truth. The key to religious truth is to train people not to question.

  • Jim Reed

    Science is based on eliminating what is not true, and seeing what is left. Religion is based on creating systems to support what is not true.

  • Burnt Orange

    Seems that these religious institutions take thousands of years to crumble. Sure they change and morph to accommodate “new” knowledge but they never seem to actually disappear.

    The Catholic Church is its various iterations is over 2000 years old. Any chipping away by science or plain old atheism will take the lifetimes of our grandchildren to make a noticeable dent.

    If someone is a direct opponent of the Church or other institutions based on religion I think it would be best to understand the laws of attrition. As quickly as you disabuse individuals of their “mistaken” beliefs two or three more are recruited along with their children. Not everyplace is America. Many populations on this planet are ripe for the picking when the compelling narrative of the “Good News” is presented.

  • Jim Reed

    I think things might be different in the internet age. I see a big change in my lifetime. It was rare for someone to activly question the church, and atheists were thought of as very strange and there seemed to be only one or two in the US. Active non-belief was not a danger to the church because when it was just a fraction of a percent it could be ignored by the church. Now it seems like it is about 20 times more likely for people to not believe, and question. With that number, you feel more comfortable questioning, and atheists no longer have to hide so much. It might be reaching a point where even more people will start questioning and it will cascade. With all the info available on the internet it makes sense to question, and the conservative establishment can no longer use their old answers. This is America, and not the world, but it is still important what happens here. I think we should try to change things here first.

  • Ahmed Zaher

    So indeed religion is a system that creates lies.

  • Burnt Orange

    You are right about America. Consider that in China and Russia the government actively suppressed religious belief and seemed successful in getting rid of the “opiate of the masses.” But as soon as the boot was lifted from the necks of the people religion made a comeback from from the dead. I realize that a freely arrived at conclusion is necessary to change individuals minds about religious beliefs. Just pointing out how resilient and strong institutional belief systems are and how difficult it might be to “change the world” so to speak.

    I am sure that natural evolution in science and education will make alternate systems of knowing about the spiritual and non-scientific side of everyday living more accessible and viable but just what will they look like. Tree hugging environmentalism and worship of Gaia seems a druid like substitution that is making the rounds today.

  • Jim Reed

    The way to make religion more scientific is to institute some kind of system to reduce or eliminate beliefs that are not true. Right now I think that comes down to Jesus, and the building understanding that the Jesus story was a myth constructed by the church toward the end of the first century and later. That understanding will draw some strong resistance for a while, but after that we have the possibility of moving to a higher level on the spiritual and non-scientific side. Those questions of where this new sprirtual understanding will lead can be answered later, but at the moment, just imagine how much better we will be as a people when the rapture and second coming and all those crazy ideas associated with Jesus are forgotten.

  • Jim Reed

    Making stuff up will eventually lead to lies told to cover up the contradictions that were created. Religion starts with people claiming to speak for God. Once they start down that path, just follow where it is going to lead. Plus remember, the only way they can make it work is if they sincerely believe the lies they have instituted.

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    There is no common perception except when we choose to occupy another viewpoint. This “sees” exactly what the other person sees. However the broader vision, the reality, of each of us is different, vastly different. There is no absolute observation, reality, or truth here. It is all relative. Look at the theory of relativity. It has to be this way. Where you want to go from there is up to you.

  • Burnt Orange

    What you say is true. This evolution is the same as the Greek, Roman and Norse mythology that over time became just that; mythology. At one time these stories were believed as literal truth. Over time they were replaced by Christian and Islamic stories and narratives that seemed more plausible.

    As time goes by whether with or without opposition by science and individuals hostile to religiosity the current stories and myths will fade and be replaced with other narratives that are more closely alined with reality as individuals understand that reality.

    Actions by people like you may or may not speed up that change. The sheer size of the congregation of “believers” is so large that individual conversion will not be the path to anything. It is the current and future generation who will change and reject the fantastic dogmas of old. Your work and contributions to this change, while self satisfying, will not be the fulcrum upon which change will pivot.

  • Jim Reed

    Mistakes of the past are not a reason to make those mistakes again. The congregation of believers is large, but now the non-believers are also a significant number. It can no longer be ignored, and freedom of the myth beliefs might be giving it extra power for its size because it has the option of doing something that makes sense. I think the path is clear. A billion Christians have dedicated their lives to believing as strongly as possible that Jesus is in their hearts, and now it turns out He doesn’t exist. What will they do? It is harder to imagine a stronger push for change. Perhaps we can help in some small way to guide the change. Don’t just replace one ancient myth with another. Think about what you are doing.

  • Ahmed Zaher

    Look when it comes to what is real or not, you have to give an experiment that can be repeated and observed till proven beyond reasonable doubt. What your claim allows you to do is deny, for example, that I’m talking to you over a computer. Technically possible, but beyond reasonable doubt I’m talking to you on a computer as a human to human, I’m not an independent intelligence or something along those lines.

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    I see what you mean, but there is another realistic way to look at the engineering model of this place and it explains a good deal if you want to see it that way.
    Example: One says one thing is, another say another thing is, and one or both must be wrong because there is only one accurate camera shot of all things. This may not the way the universe sets up in all harmonics. All realities exist as co-creations with some sort of Great Awareness of all things. All this creation is parked somewhere in the universe. One can think of it as a viewpoint universe, where all viewpoints of creation exist as points of space and time that must only be observed to exist for the individual. So we share some common perceptions but from different viewpoints and our collective realities are all very different because perception is both conscious and unconscious. We are not immediately aware of all of our observation. Where 1 million are observing a particular space and willing to see what is there in concert with the other 999,999, the thing observed appears more solid. (Although as all their perceptions are from different viewpoints they still are not all seeing the same thing.) Where one sees differently, it is not apparent to the other 999,999 except as they choose to see it that way. But they as individuals can be willing, so to see all realities is to understand better the engineering structure of this place, and to have more freedom to move around in it.

  • Jim Reed

    In cases where there is a question what the 1 million see, a religion can be invented to tell them.

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    The first step in controlling someone is directing that person’s attention. Then continue controlling it by playing on emotion. However this goes as much for used car salesmen as religion, and it can even be useful to atheists who have agenda. Freedom means free perception so a useful tool in one’s arsenal is be willing to see anything, but also to let go of it and look elsewhere. In the end understanding what one sees solves everything. My experience.

  • http://www.socialwork.ilstu.edu/faculty_staff/biographydetail.asp?u=diecht Daniel Liechty

    Kevin, when the major tenet of your religion is “blood and soil” I am not sure the distinction you make between race and religion can be made. It would be like trying to distinguish between “love of America” and religion in large sectors of American Christianity. There is simply no clear delineation between where one stops and the other starts.

    I only wish you were right that WW1 wiped out people’s belief that war is a spiritual operation. If anything, looking at the rhetoric of “ultimate sacrifice” etc. that has emerged post9/11 in how we talk about the deaths of our “warriors” I wonder if we haven’t largely regressed in our American civil religion to abject pagan worship of Ares/Mars, if not Wotan! “God of War” video games and such might well be understood as the temple rituals of this worshiping militarist cult.

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    The delination comes in day to day practice. There was little “God” fervor in nazi propaganda but plenty of “we are better than them”. Same with Ghengis Khan’s little trip across Asia. They weren’t motivated by some religious idea, but by loot. Contrast that with almost any Islamic war and there is plenty of Allah involved. With regard to the US, in WW 2 God was not a big part of the equation, patriotism was. We were not facing in Germany and Japan countries with strong religious fervor.
    Now God is invoked because Islam makes an easy opponent. I think we are more in love with money however. The warrior business is just PR to keep the public’s mind of the money-makers behind the scenes.

  • Jim Reed

    Salesman and religion leaders are looking for customers and souls. We should go beyond religion and try truth for a change.

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    So long as one’s truth includes all truth, I agree.

  • Jim Reed

    “All” truth is going to be a way out. I think the best is to start with one truth, the one about the Jesus myth. That is a good one because there is historical evidence to work with, and it has the potential to change things, hopefully for the better.

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    Okay. What I mean by “all truth” is that one’s personal truth not exclude ideas about the potential nature of God and this place. In other words, I would hope folks don’t hop behind another convenient door.

  • Jim Reed

    I see it as from a kind of scientific search for religious truth. You can’t just know all truth, but at least you can reject what you see is not true, and if you want honesty you must start there.

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    Okay. It may be just semantics. I’d say, okay that guy believes this about the nature of God. Perhaps there is no way to be absolutely sure about the nature of God, but with regards to this place and how it functions part of what he thinks seems to work and part does not. How can the part that does not be made to fit? How can I fashion my model to wear that idea and still have what seems to be the most accurate way of looking at this place. That is what has worked best for me in my scientific (to me) search. So I’m not rejecting anything entirely although I admit I am rejecting it in a way, so like I said, semantics.

  • Jim Reed

    You can fashion it any way you want and everyone can discover what they think is the most scientific way to view the entire model. I just want to start by focusing on one little aspect of religion, which I think could be a significant issue since it is a billion people in the most dominate religion believing a certain myth is the most important thing in the world, and that myth is shown to be false for among other reasons their own sacred text. That sounds like it might be easy to do, whereas finding the ultimate scientific meaning of life sounds hard.

  • http://www.socialwork.ilstu.edu/faculty_staff/biographydetail.asp?u=diecht Daniel Liechty

    Maybe, but I think both Japan (directly) and Germany (indirectly) were quite sure their Great Leader mediated the divine realm on earth. If there were less “fervor” in the assumption may actually make it even more dangerous on some levels. I don’t think we should be naive about geopolitical or economic motivations for war, but ultimately I don’t think modern warfare can be sustained without a very large and significant element of at least what I would call religious belief in the transcending righteousness of the cause.

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    Okay. I can’t say I agree but it is a point to ponder, how much faith the individual carries along with his backpack into the fray.

  • Jim Reed

    Religion is one of the great causes of modern wars. Another is the greed of the rich hoping to corner the oil market as the value of oil rises toward infinity.

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    To me, what you are attempting is a lot harder. To each his own. Good luck!

  • Jim Reed

    But possible.

  • Jim Reed

    The It’s hard to keep secrets message might be indicating this whole topic is taking a darker turn. Christians might become aware they need to protect themselves from non-believer pastors, and they might set up a website where they could tell you the right questions to ask your pastor to trick him into revealing himself if he doesn’t believe. We don’t want to encourage that kind of thing, so we should make sure those questions do not appear here. If that info does appear on the internet, then we might be able to suggest some obscure answers to the questions so the congregation would not be able to confirm their suspicions, but then if someone is quoting these obscure responses, that could be a dead giveaway. As this whole thing develops, it might reach a point where the 500+ just need to come clean about what they are, and face the wrath of the congregations. At least in 21st century America it can’t be as bad as it would have been in the past, or in some of the less developed countries that are even more Christian than we are.

  • Northern_Witness

    scriptural literalists.

  • Jim Reed

    It could be religion after the fact claiming credit for recent scientific advances.

  • Northern_Witness

    Nope. All well-documented.

    The early quantum scientists, Planck, Einstein, Bohr, to name a few, all acknowledged the contribution of Hinduism to western science.

    Others, such as, Newton stole calculus from India where it was known 3,700 years before Newton was born and claimed it as his own.

    Then there is Pythagorus who stole the “Pythagoras theorem” from a Hindu, Baudhayana, who wrote about it in 800BCE

    A Hindu, Aryabhatta, promoted the idea of a heliocentric universe 4.200 before Copernicus.

  • Jim Reed

    I have heard religion trying to claim credit for the big bang before, and I remember an earlier time when nobody believed it. It is a concept developed by modern science.

  • Penny Davis

    There are many churches that fit the model you suggest mario. Unfortunately the mainstream media is either uninformed about religion in general and/or knows that horror stories like Fred Phelps or Tony Perkins make better stories to catch the public interest. The other problem is that often by the time people find those churches that are inclusive and intellectually challenging, they have taken the possibility of church out of their lives and found other things to fill their time. So they do not become committed to the community that they are seeking.

  • Northern_Witness

    Nope. It is all well documented.

    The early quantum physicists, Planck, Bohr, Einstein, to
    name a few, all knew about the Hindu contributions to western science.

    http://pparihar.com/2015/01/21/quantum-theory-is-vedic-theory/

    Other scientists merely copied Hindu scientific wisdom and
    presented it as their own. For example, Newton stole calculus from Aryabhatta,na Hindu who lived 4,000 years before Newton and wrote about calculus. Aryabhatta also gave the world trigonometry, algebra,and Pi.

    Pythagoras stole his theorem from its discoverer, a Hindu
    named Baudhayana who discovered the theorem 1,000 years before Pythagoras

  • Jim Reed

    Carl Sagan did some brilliant work in analyzing religion. My favorite was his way of judging spiritual development of countries by recording the latest date that they were still burning witches. The US was in the middle of the pack, and Italy was the worst. That seems to make sense since they are such a religious nation.

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  • Northern_Witness

    Nope. Wrong again.

    Hinduism has a well-documented recurring big bang theory.

    Newton most certainly did claim calculus. In fact, he was in a famous running verbal duel with Leibniz over ownership/discovery of calculus. Neither of them acknowledged their theft of it from India.

  • Northern_Witness

    Judging the merits of religion by the behaviour of some of its adherents is a logical error. Try to understand Venn diagramming.

    Have another toke, dude and see the pretty colours.

  • Jim Reed

    Judging the behavior of the adherents is the only way to judge religions.

  • Jim Reed

    Newton figured it out, and was using it. His battle over it came later.

    It was 20th century math that calculated the implications of the big bang, and ultimately let to its confirmation.

  • pennyroyal

    2nd hand, 3rd-hand, many times over, filtered and misrepresented via human minds with biases and agendas. That is why each person has to figure this out for her/himself.

  • Northern_Witness

    Note that I said “some ” of its adherents.

    One finds the value of religion by accessing its core not by judging some of the views of some of adherents.

    I know you like to argue but should you not try to understand and evaluate what you write before you post it and embarrass yourself.

  • Jim Reed

    You can judge a religion by their fruits.

  • Jim Reed

    Newton did say If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants. He probably stole that quote from somebody from ancient times.

  • Northern_Witness

    I like the joke implied in the first sentence.

    However, the rest of your response is nonsense. There is a difference between the core teaching of a religion and the way some choose to interpret it or how some use that religion for personal gain such as kingdoms, fame, power, money, etc.

    Your citing the example of the Catholic Inquisition is actually an argument against your viewpoint. That Inquisition are no longer practiced and Catholics are not longer burned at the stake by other Catholics is proof that the actions of some do not define the religion and that those actions are subject to change as the core message of the religion becomes more widely understood.

    You have repeated the logical error of hasty generalization so many times that in doing so you have committed another logical error, the aptly named argumentum ad nauseum whereby you seem to believe that more times you repeat an erroneous argument the more likely it is to magically become true.

  • Jim Reed

    The fact that Italy continued burning witches longer than other countries still might be telling us something, and the inquisition is still active, they are now just limited to mental harm instead of physical harm. One of their latest targets was American nuns, and the current pope stopped that inquisition, but the previous pope started it. That means Catholics still have to fear the inquisition.

  • Northern_Witness

    You read my answer selectively. I did mention that no more burnings were taking place. And all because people were getting more aware of what Jesus’s core message was.

    Once again your own examples defeat your conclusion. One guy started something and the next guy stopped it. Religion is not defined by the thoughts and actions of the few. What is it about progress that you don’t understand? Are you even aware that religion is a process?

  • Jim Reed

    The church does not advance spiritually by becoming more aware of Jesus’ message. It advances when society pushes it, even if that takes a little longer than people would like.

  • Northern_Witness

    Your example of nuns defeats your own argument. One guy views them one way, the next guy views them another way. The nuns stayed the same.

    The core of a religion is all there is.

    You continue to confuse that core with how some respond to it or misuse it. Your conclusion is nonsense.

    Do you actually ever think about you write? Or does a continuous stream of your prejudices qualify as thought to you.

  • Jim Reed

    I think about reality. The nuns can see the problem. Catholics above all people don’t know what their core is. It is just their religion, and after it has been expanded and explained and reexplained for thousands of years, nobody knows what the core is.

  • Northern_Witness

    The core cannot be explained.

    But it is getting late and I’ve got better things to do than to waste time reading about your ignorance of religion.

  • Northern_Witness

    The core cannot be explained.

    But it is getting late and I have better things to do than to read about your ignorance of religion.

  • crackerMF

    What exactly, is a “mature faith in God”? I ask this in earnest, not as snark.

  • crackerMF

    Try Lawrence Krauss’s book “A Universe from Nothing”. Much will become easier to understand.

  • https://www.facebook.com/david.lloydjones.391 David Lloyd-Jones

    “of the cosmos”?

    A little orotund for the local planet’s folklore and superstitions, doncha think?

    -dlj.

  • Burnt Orange

    You keep insisting that Jesus did not exist. Just what authority have you uncovered? Even as a historical individual who was crucified at the time and place referred to in historical texts as well as the Bible?

    If you are expecting most of Christianity to suddenly be convinced that the entire Jesus story is a myth and a fabrication I think you will be waiting a long time.

  • Tom Martin

    Raised a Catholic and taught my Catechism by the cruelty of nuns in the 50s, yet I was never able to come to terms with miracles and such, nor the magic of forgiveness of sin. It was reading Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse as I was entering college that propelled me into the wider world of reason. Exposure to this wider world may not necessitate the end of organized religion, but it does provide a release valve for all the more thoughtful among us to seek outside the veil of parochialism. It was not Buddhism that opened my eyes, but the notion that there is another way of thinking, of approaching everything. This is the miracle of literature. Now it is the unveiling of religion by the internet. But books are still banned today, so we have a long way to go.

  • Tom Martin

    Kevin, WWI may have dampened enthusiasm for WWII delaying our entry into that war, but memories are too short to really do us any good in the long term. Lots of spiritual enthusiasm in the current conflict and too much zeal for deeper involvement.

  • Tom Martin

    I remember a quotation from an Episcopal priest’s Easter sermon where he said, “Don’t let the literal resurrection of Jesus get in the way of the Christian message of love and forgiveness.” That was over 40 years ago.

  • Jim Reed

    That’s the best thing about RD. I don’t think we are going to make that mistake.

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    Tony, the horror of WWI can hardly be overstated both in reality and in the impact it had on the combantants. That WW 2 was worse and WW 3 will make them both look like picnics in the park is interesting, but not germane to our discussion. The Islamic “war” is IMO an invention by people who have a vested interest in seeing it created. So we agree, I think.

  • Dr. Jones

    This word, Scientism, seems to most often be used by people of faith to draw a straw man false equivalency with religious fundamentalism. The idea that a firm understanding of science and embracing the truth revealed by science is just the same as embracing the truth revealed by a religion. This allows them to stop thinking about the rationality of their own beliefs because hey, even those science nerds and atheists are irrational right?

    Even the example Dennett provides in order to be nice and go along with the interviewer is questionable, we may not want to think that our deep love for our spouse is based on hormones and brain chemicals evolved over millions of years to make us more competitive evolutionarily.. but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. You can still enjoy sex while knowing why your body wants you to have sex and why it is enjoyable in a rational manner.

    Personally I always labeled myself agnostic growing up, partially because claiming to be an atheist brought considerable hate/scorn/concern/proselytizing upon your head from christians in the midwest. But partially thanks to the ‘net I am more comfortable with a few simple ideas: That the burden of proof for a claim lies with the one making the claim. That the ‘bigger’ the claim is, the better the evidence needs to be. Armed with that I have no problem with not believing in any deity until good verifiable evidence is presented that they exist. Atheism as I see it is not a dogmatic position, it is a reasonable default.

  • Jim Reed

    The Bible contains the gospels written in the last third of the first century, and they are supposed to be about events from the first third of the century. The problem is in the middle of the century there is another written record of Christianity, the writing of Paul, and it shows none of the stuff in the later gospel stories. If the gospel stories actually were an oral tradition from earlier years, that would have influenced what Paul wrote. If they were actually the tradition, there are many places where Paul would have included references to the Jesus stories instead of what he did reference. The fact that everything from the gospels is missing shows those stories were later, and not known in the time of Paul.

    It is an interesting question about what to expect from Christians. If some of them are convinced Jesus is a myth, they will have the evidence on their side. That will make it a highly unstable situation. The only way to really find out what will happen is to go down that path and check it out. Judging by today’s standards, I guess all we know for sure is some people will want to somehow get the courts involved. Personally I think the lesson there will be if Christianity gets involved in any of the 3 branches of government, it will turn out badly.

  • Burnt Orange

    Don’t want to get too far into the weeds on this but Paul was not from the area and might not have been part of the Judaic “inner circle” and did not take part in the oral tradition. He was a Greek and came to know the narratives of Jesus from other sources. His “revelations” might have come from studies and stories brought to him from travelers and non Jewish sources. There might have been parallel narratives about Jesus that came together and were resolved by scholars much later then the first century. Just speculating, but your position seems to be something that has been obvious for 1900 years so why is it now being given the ah ah moment?

  • Burnt Orange

    Sorry but I don’t get a major religious connection during WW II, Korea or Viet Nam. Unless Nazism, communism or Japanese expansionism is considered a religion.

    Religion seems to have little or no motivating force in modern warfare except of course the Muslim radicals war on everyone who is NOT Muslim.

    The old oil market trope seems to be more and more far fetched as the over supply of oil floods the markets. Cornering the oil market is not possible by the rich or entire countries anymore.

  • Michael Smith

    There is so much information and misinformation on the internet, I’m not sure that “new transparency” means much. Critical thinking skills are essential to distinguish among these sources and their conclusions. Until the satisfaction from advancing and evaluating claims approaches the high of religious experience, transparency will be relatively worthless. With respect to critical thinking and reason, we need the boots on the ground in classrooms, courtrooms, in journalism and in the halls of government.

  • Jim Reed

    Right, by modern wars I meant after those you mentioned. The oil market is changing, but the pivotal war of the 21st century was about oil. That is why we built the strongest fort ever known in Iraq with a plan to occupy for a few decades while we drained the oil fields. But things change. There was a strong religious component to that war. I don’t think we could have done that war without righteous Christian hate that could be inflamed for political purposes. At least when the war first started, the president thought it was a Crusade.

  • Jim Reed

    The church has grown a lot of weeds to cover things up. The church grew the stories in later centuries. People think there were 500 witnesses because the Bible says so, and according to the Bible it is the perfect word of God. That is reasoning in a circle. There were no eye witnesses.

    Sorry it took so long, but with all the inquisitions and crusades and witch burnings and other miscellaneous horrors down through the centuries, and the political dominance of the church, and the fact that there were no actual eye witnesses to question it, and the moral dominance of Christianity in America up until the internet age, it just took time.

  • Jim Reed

    You don’t have to sort through everything. The key is it is no longer so easy to suppress info that you don’t want to come out. Once it is on the internet hiding among all the misinformation, some people will start to find it, and if it is good enough it will become important. The satisfaction from advancing truth already way surpasses any religious high.

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  • Michael Smith

    I agree with all your points, but my main point has more to do with quantity than quality. I’m afraid our position is not yet popular, so we have to sell it. Without that effort, I don’t think people will “start to find it.”

  • https://www.facebook.com/david.lloydjones.391 David Lloyd-Jones

    Tom,

    Howard Fast, a Communist for much of his life, has a Roman Catholic priest make a speech on one of his novels. Roughly, from childhood memory, “The crucifixion isn’t what it’s al about. The crucifixion was an ugly, obscene thing, the Romans at work. What it’s all about is not what Jesus died for, it’s about what Jesus lived for.”

    Best,

    -dlj.

  • Jim Reed

    The classroom courtroom journalism government approach is great, and you have to admire anyone who can do one or more of those. I wouldn’t know how to do them. I think the best I could ever do is try to spot some contradiction somewhere in how things are, and then use my great sense of humor to try to exloit it.

  • Jim Reed

    Could this escalate to faith leaders doing a raid on neighboring churches? If you as a true believer minister come to believe your neighbor faith leader doubts their faith, you might have something to gain if you can communicate that to his congregation. It might even be considered your duty, because the non-believer faith leader could be spreading doubts to his people. If you can force him out, you have saved his congregation, and they might join your congregation. In the religion game survival and growth is how you are measured. If the number of doubting ministers has grown large enough, this might turn into a religion gold rush period, and at the same time provide a way for the true believer ministers to halt the decay.

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  • Burnt Orange

    I might be mistaken but I don’t think we ever got a drop of oil from Iraq. We had no companies or equipment in place to drain oil fields. Given advances in drilling technology and tar sands in Canada there is or was no reason to go a warring for oil.

    That whole meme of attacking Iraq for oil was a political based lie made to cover the Democrats support of the original mistaken WMD reasoning. There was NEVER any reasonable indications or strategy that supported a “war for oil” policy. Political slogans have a way of becoming reality in some precincts. Turns out that there was little REAL reason for the Iraq war other then regime change. If we needed oil desperately that would have been a craven but reasonable reason to attack that brutal dictatorship. Turns out America has more then enough oil to sustain the country.

  • Burnt Orange

    The Islamic radicals are at war with somebody. You may not believe it but those murdered and displaced by them sure are aware of the war you think doesn’t exist. Those individuals being beheaded seem real enough. Their actual statements of intent seem pretty unambiguous to me. Just what would you need to convince you that the invention is real. Maybe some black flags on your main street would cause some reevaluation.

  • Jim Reed

    That was before we knew we could frack oil here. It wasn’t so much we needed oil as people saw a chance to get in there and get control for all the potential profit. Back then they thought oil would peak out, and you needed control of oil fields, and Iraq had the most undeveloped oil fields. We built the largest strongest fort there ever was to stay for decades with the plan to make the rich richer. Then it turned out politically it was a problem, then we started to find new ways to frack our land and it turned out oil wasn’t going to peak.

    Democrats supported the war because they were afraid they would get voted out of office for not being patriotic enough if they didn’t.

  • Burnt Orange

    Just a point — fracking concerns natural gas not oil. Your strongest fort ever argument is interesting. Under Obama this strongest fort was dismantled pretty quickly and over run easily by ISIS. Guess it was a paper tiger of a fort.

    Given the efforts to keep Iraq a self governing country our continuous presence there seemed to be incongruous with that effort. In any event individuals who believe America is ALWAYS wrong and motivated by evil intent will view all policies through that pair of dark glasses. Except of course when their parties person is sitting in the WH. Funny how politics seems to shape individuals world views. Accusations are hurdled and excuses made based on political slogans and campaign advertising. Reality is seldom the fulcrum upon which an argument turns.

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  • Jim Reed

    You’re right. I look forward to the 2016 election.

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    Maybe the United States is better off keeping a distance from wars halfway around the world that do not directly affect us, Maybe we should use negotiation strategies rather than troops. We seem to have no trouble staying out of Africa in that regard.

  • arensb

    And yet you don’t hear a certified public accountant accused of being absolutist about the bottom line in the books of a corporation.

    This is something I’d like to see pushed further. I’ve had a lot of frustrating conversations where, say, a Christian tells me I shouldn’t use engineering to disprove the story of Noah’s ark, since what really matters is Jesus’ message of love and compassion.
    Yes, this is all well and good, but isn’t it also important to try to find out which parts of the Bible are literally true and which aren’t? If nothing else, Jesus is reported to have said that “no one comes to the father but through me”. If Jesus didn’t exist, or was a composite of several apocalyptic preachers, or didn’t say that line, or something, doesn’t that matter?
    Of course, I suspect that this is really just a defensive mechanism to avoid having to talk about the cruelty falsehoods, and just plain weirdness in the Bible.

  • Burnt Orange

    I am sure that pillar of integrity Hillary will make a fine President. Regardless of who the Republicans put up, good, bad or indifferent the coronation of Hillary will solve all problems in some peoples eyes. Sure!! No one seems concerned in the least that the choices will be narrowed to two politicians who will probably continue down the same road just on different sidewalks.

  • Burnt Orange

    Sure I would love much more isolationism. Build up fortress America and stay far away form much of the worlds insanity. We tried it in WW I and II with little success. So we put out 2 cents in in Korea, Viet Nam and the Middle East with little or no success. What is next the Great Wall of America??

    We keep electing individuals based on advertising slogans, polls and just good old celebrity. Until the American public stops focusing on Kim Kardashian and who wins the next Academy Award and opens a book or two I think we are destined to keep repeating our child like policies with the same failures over and over. As PT Barnum observed no one ever went broke betting against the American public’s IQ.

  • Jim Reed

    Thanks for helping me understand what is important.

  • http://www.theunderstandingapp.com Kevin Osborne

    We already have built fortress America IMO. Our entry into the Middle East was oil, into Viet Nam to make money for war profiteers, including the CIA (my opinion), into Korea because of hubris and Truman’s fear of Communism. We could have stayed out of WW I and been better off but that would have meant Britain would be starved due to U-boat activity and Wilson was confident he could control post-war terms, a serious error. WW 2, what are you going to do? The A-Bomb was already on the blackboard, it was who was going to get there first.
    I agree on our deplorable election record, although the party system has betrayed us, for the same reason all the other funny business goes on, money. I am not sure we can or will climb out of it. We’ll see.

  • Jim Reed

    The Jesus issue will turn out to be a big deal. There will be a thousand details to face as Christianity heads into their period of change. If they can face it and actually deal with accepting truth, they might end up as an example for other religions of the world. What a surprise that would turn out to be. And they will have to face it because Christianity more than the other religions really does depend on the history, and that history will one way or another force the change on them.

  • parywinkle

    “One of the great things that churches…have been able to do is to give people lives of importance, and provide love for people that otherwise don’t get love, along with a sense of community and belonging. This is extraordinarily valuable and important…I think that’s the one function of religions that I would most want to see fostered and protected. How you can do that, and whether you can do that, with a frank acknowledgment of the mythic character of their creeds? I’m not sure it can be done, but I hope it can”

    .UNITARIANS ARE DOING THIS – go to UUA.org

  • Suspension

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