Friday, February 11, 2005

I Have Had It

Cross posted from Left of Center

Last night I ran across yet another excercise in trying to disprove Christianity in favor of empiricism. That's it. From this point on, the next person that engages in this fruitless endeavor is getting a cap in his ass.

Over at the Political Animal you can expect at least once a week for one of these things to show up, and too many blogs out there under the guise of liberal news are little more than Christian bashing sites.

We of the Unpaid Punditry Corps don't do this, do we? Hell no, not even Shamanic, and she's among those that really do have a grievience against the Religious Right.

Now, I understand guys. I'm a secularist. Hell I'm as secular as they come. But what you guys too often do is take an argument that should be focusing on issue and policy, and you turn it into this emotional argument that can't be won.

So we're going to start with a clean slate, okay. I'm not going to call anyone out, except Kevin Drum, but he's big fish so I think he'll be okay. Instead, I'm going to go ahead and lay some groundwork here, and we can all go about our business doing things a little smarter. Okay?
Why we can't get into an argument over which is right; Christianity, or Science:

-The argument can't be won based on proof. Religion is based solely on faith, and while science is based on fact, it should be inherently obvious that science doesn't have all the answers, and the answers that we do have could at any one time be shattered by improvements in methodology, or technology.

-The argument will never convert anyone. Our belief in how the universe was created, grew into what it is now, and currently works is very emotional. When engaging someone with an opposing view, instead of listening to reasonable arguments, that person will only become more rigid in their own stance.

-The argument opens our entire political end of the spectrum open to attack. Understand that you represent liberals all over. When Michael Newdow embarked upon his crusade against the usage of "God," in the pledge of allegiance, he was not speaking for himself, but for all liberals. This makes it easy for the right wing machine to say that liberals hate God. This is bad because...

-Christians are the majority in America. While it is mostly fundamentalists that carry the flag in these arguments, it isn't hard to twist an argument that offends only a few into an argument that offends the majority.

I want to emphasize something that is directly related to this last thing. The fundamentalist Christians that are constantly trying to make our life a living hell are a MINORITY. The MAJORITY of Christians, I believe, are reasonable folks. But we have to tailor our arguments to address the issues at hand, and develop a dialogue that will appeal to the sensibilities of this majority. Because, let's face it, without thesupport of a majority, we're screwed.

The Issues:

-Teach evolution and scientific theory, instead of creationism and intelligent design.

-Maintain a seperation between Church and State.

In developing our rhetoric, we have to make a few things clear:

-We don't think God is bad, evil, wrong, detrimental, or any other negative adjective you can think of.

-We must arrange the debate so that those sensible Christians understand the benefits of our side that apply to them.

From here, we can develop rhetoric and talking points that can get the arguments away from the quicksand of fighting over who is right, and really start digging away at the issue of doing the right thing.

-Seperation of church and state protects religion, not stifles it.

-Public education is a forum where we teach our young the knowledge that we as a human race have obtained.

-By keeping religion out of our schools, we let the best people qualified to teach our youth about God do the job. Those people are of course our community's spiritual leaders and parents.

-In a multicultural society, it is important to understand that our population doesn't just tolerate different cultures, but depends upon them, and is in fact composed of them. Understanding that each culture has its own set of beliefs is the first step in respecting all of our citizens.

These are just a few, of course. But what I want you to take from this is that we need to be able to focus on an area where we can make up ground. If we don't, then the Dr. Dobsons, Pat Robertsons, Bob Jones, and Jerry Falwells of this country are going to continue to own us.

Mr. M


Cernig said...

Hi Mr. M,

As you know, I'm a pagan in the classic sense...a druid in fact. I don't know a single pagan who has a problem with evolution - in fact it makes perfect sense to us. I have no objection to Christianity but I do object to a small proportion of Christians trying to dick-tate what the rest of us will be taught. When they characterise the debate as being between Christianity and science, a million and more pagans in the US already feel marginalised.

You are correct in saying that attempting to disprove their faith is a fruitless endevour and it is one I always avoid, but I refuse to keep quiet while they redraw a multi-cultural society in their own image. That, surely, is the duty of all to protest no matter what their political leaning, and is MORE important than politics to people of faith like me - people who see that there is "one light though the lamps be many".

P.M.Bryant said...

Based on your response to it, I think it may have been my post from earlier this week that you are referring to (or alternatively the post by biologist PZ Myers at Pharyngula that I extensively quoted).

If so, please don't hesitate to "call me out". It's not like my blog gets too much traffic right now, after all. And debate is what these writing these things is all about.

Anyway, PZ Myers' post (and mine), was about an op-ed in the New York Times written by the most prominent academic proponent of Intelligent Design, Michael Behe. Behe, as far as I know, is a biologist, not a religious figure.

The argument against Behe is that he is trying to promote ID as an accepted scientific theory, when that is far from the truth and Behe's own arguments, as written in the New York Times and elsewhere, are weak and deceptive.

This is not a religion versus science debate. It is an argument (between scientists in this case) about what is and what is not science.

You make many good points about how to engage in a religion versus science debate. But the argument over whether to teaching ID versus evolution in science classes is an inherently scientific argument. And the general public apparently wants it that way; that's why creationists have had to try to latch on to ID, rather than promoting their religious viewpoints directly.

I've put up a brief response at my blog along these lines, and hopefully will have time soon (in the next few days at least) to turn it into an official post.

Harkonnendog said...

I'm a Christian and I have no problem with people learning the theory of evolution in schools. Schools, after all, teach science, not religion. The theory of evolution is science. Just like mesmerism, the emprical proof that blacks should be slaves because they are less intelligent than whites, global warming- these are all theories of science.
Seriously, evolution should be taught in schools because it is science. But it should not be taught in the context that I was taught- which is that science has proven Christianity is a hoax.

Mr. M said...

For C,

I know, and I understand. Remember, I'm about pragmatism, so the goal that I want is the same goal that you want. I'm just trying to figure out the best way to get there.
I ain't mad at you. Actually your blog wasn't bad at all, and you were just relaying a story. Plus you have variety. Your post on the matter was just a catalyst as to something I've been wanting to post for a bit. The one that really pissed me off was the one at Political Animal.

Harky, I understand the context is probably the most difficult thing. The context I like is, "here is what we have learned through our methods. Whether you believe it or not is not important, that's between you, your God and whomever.

Mr. M

Anonymous said...

For Hark,
As far as I am concerned Christianity is a hoax.
I believe that Jesus lived and was a good man, but the resulting religion would have had him crying in his beer.
I believe that the government should say that evolution should be taught in schools because there is proof of it, but that we leave room for ID because man is an anomaly.
Christians can then work their creation theory around that, until such times as Christianity comes up with some better proof that Jesus was god.


Rainbow Demon said...

If Christians are so upset about what their children are learning in the public school system, why are they not enrolling them into their own 'Christian' schools or home schooling them? Last time I checked it was still legal to do so...
I've Had It, Too...


Mr. M said...

Rainbow Demon,

The answer to your question can be found in seperating between right wing rhetoric, and right wing ideal.

Here the rhetoric, which is targeted directly at the religious right, is that God should be a fundamental part of our society, in our government, and in our schools.

As long as the fight as it currently stands persists, than this as a talking point serves just fine. But when you offer an alternative, as you have, the actual self serving policy of the not so religious right becomes evident.

Private schools is indeed where the right wants to go... completely. We see this in No Child Left Behind, we see this in the voucher system.

What this means is that there will always be a nitpick in the public school system because the right wing doesn't want the public school system to exist.

As we see with Social Security, the modus operandi for the right is to nuke the ever living shit out of something that they don't like in the name of "saving" it.

For some strange reason I'm thinking of Iraq right about now, I have no idea why.

Mr. M
Left of Center

Harkonnendog said...

shadows, I don't care about whether or not u think Christianity is a hoax, but I AM always surprised at how liberals get off on telling Christians their religion is a hoax.
I would never tell a Muslim "hey, I think Islam is a hoax," and then sort of move on. i doubt most liberals would. it is weird to me how liberals, the sensitive ones, get off on goading Chrsitians.

Mr. M- do u really beleive that? NCLB is meant to improve public schools by creating competition- that's probably why Kennedy supported it. he ain't exactly right wing Chistian...

Anonymous said...

Hark, it wasn't science that proved Christianity is a hoax.
All thinking people can see that Christianity is a hoax because they have bothered to read the history of Christianity and how it was manufactured by a group of people who wanted to use it as a method of control.
And they succeeded beautifully.
They succeeded so well because they re-wrote the actual truth that was available to them.
Then Christianity became the government as well so that you had a system similar to that of Khomeini in Iran.
The Inquisition took care of any nay-sayers for centuries and in fact, still exists in a different form today.
Christianity is mostly based on lies.
There is no truth in what Christians are being told daily by their pastors who know better but find the church a good career move.
I believe in God, but I don't need a religion to tell me how to recognise him.
I don't see him in churches and cathedrals, but in nature and all around me so that I am moved by his creations every moment of my life.
I am sorry that this offends you.I find that all Christians are offended when people tell them that Christianity is a hoax.
It is quite easy for you to prove me wrong.Find the facts as you believe them to be and present them to me.
If you present adequate proof that Christianity is all that it pretends to be, I will not only apologise to you, I will become a Christian myself.


Harkonnendog said...

"All thinking people can see that Christianity is a hoax"

are u serious? u think every Christian in the world is non-thinking? did it ever occur to u that maybe u and the circle of people u agree with actually don't know everything? i mean u think EVERY Christian in the world is non-thinking... wow... that's a LOT of people. and non of them think. none of them. wow.

Shadow, it doesn't offend me when u call Christianity a hoax. It makes me feel sad for you. That's all.

I can't prove Christianity is not a hoax, to you, or even to me.

Anonymous said...

Hark, there are a lot of Christians who are excellent thinkers, but when it comes to religion they don't think, they accept what they have been told.
When you are indoctrinated with something from a very young age it is very difficult to change your ideas.
The Jesuits knew this and said...give me a child until he is 7 years old and he is mine for life....
People who have faith that something is true usually don't bother thinking because they believe that their faith is all they need.
That's fine, I can't argue with that.I wonder though when I see these same people accepting that religion tells them to wage war when it is clearly a sanctimonious ploy for gain, and for people of the third world not to use contraception even though their spouses are riddled with aids,how they look at themselves in the mirror, or are they so blinded by the light that they cannot see their own image.
If there was a religion that I could believe in I would gladly join it, but so far all I see is lies and make-believe,magic tricks and games designed to keep the flock under the control of the ?shepherd.
No offence to you personally, I see you as a victim too.


Harkonnendog said...

I'm glad you think some Christians are thinking people, Shadow. Well done. As far as this goes:

"Hark, there are a lot of Christians who are excellent thinkers, but when it comes to religion they don't think, they accept what they have been told."

This is almost as ridiculous as saying all Christians are non-thinking. Maybe you've never heard of Martin Luther. Or St. Augustine. Look them up. Chritianity has thousands of philosophers- tens of thousands of apologists...

I was not raised Christian, btw. I came to it on my own. My parents are agnostic- grandparents are lapsed Catholics. I had a mystical experience... never mind...

Anyway- I am the type of Christian who believes the Bible should not be taken literally- that it is a series of books written by people who happened to have real encounters with God. Most Christians don't beleive as I do. There is a scale...
nevermind... look... before you make these assertions about Christianity you should learn something about the religion...

btw just want you to know that I appreciate the way you argue civilly... like Cernig, u got class

Cernig said...

Great philosophers often cannot put up shelves. Alos, remember that people like Augustine had access to the information that there is nothing original in the Christ story, that it had ALL been done in various pagan forms before, but decided to gloss over it in order to hold power in the Church heirachy.

Regards, C

Harkonnendog said...

well, Augustine's motivations are not quite that transparent. however, I mentioned him as an example of a thinking Christian who thought about Christianity. I mean if we're going to debate the merits or legitimacy of Christianity that's an entirely different subject.

I can tell u now that I don't go there only because it would be ungrateful to do so because I had a mystical experience. the merits of that argument don't really matter to me, I admit.

Anonymous said...

Hark, I really appreciate that you told us you had a mystical experience.I have too, and it sure knocks you straight on your feet.
But as I have said on TDG, faith and religion have nothing to do with each other whatsoever.
Martin Luther was a nutter.He was quite right in attacking the established church over simony, but he was a Jew-hating hypochondriac who was so preoccupied with his haemorrhoids that he couldn't see straight.
As Cernig says, St Augustine had access to the truth.He was also a man of exceptional intelligence and thus should have presented a different picture than he did.He CHOSE to go the way he did, maybe for the reason that he didn't want to stand in a slow-burning fire of coals where it would have taken 3 days for him to slowly burn to death.

I hate arguing over religion so I will stop right now.

But I would like you to know that I believe totally in something other than what we see around us.
I cherish the spiritual in all of us,and I look for it at all opportunities.
I once saw a skink (small lizard) rescue another from some chicken wire.He pushed and pushed and couldn't get him free, and then he pulled at the wire with his teeth and the trapped skink ran free.
The entire world is mystical to me as are you and Cernig.

with respect,