About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Religion is atheists’ fault, study says

The success of religion may be the fault of non-believers (or, if you look at it the other way around, thank god for the atheists!). At least that is one interpretation of a recent individual-based simulation study of social evolution conducted by James Dow at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and published in a recent issue of the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation (vol. 11, no. 2 2).

Dow built a simulation program (appropriately called evogod) that explored the question of how religion — i.e., a system based on passing along false or unverifiable information about the world — can spread in a society. There are, of course, several theories out there about the evolution of religion, falling into two broad categories: either religion is somehow advantageous and is therefore the result of natural selection, or it is a byproduct of other characteristics of the human brain and social organization. The first possibility comes in two main flavors: the advantage could accrue to religious individuals (standard individual-level natural selection) or groups (invoking the more controversial mechanism of group selection). Dow’s study explores the possibility that religious belief spread because of an individual advantage of some sort.

The first interesting result from the simulations is that under most tested scenarios religion actually does not survive! This is presumably because there is an obvious cost (in terms of sheer Darwinian fitness) to buying into fanciful notions about how the world works. How is it possible, then, that practically every human society has gotten the religious virus? The most surprising result of Dow’s study is that religion spreads only if non-religious people help it by supporting the religious! How is this possible?

The simulation’s structure was not designed to address the question of what mechanism could induce non-religious people to help religious ones, but some possibilities have been suggested nonetheless. According to Dow, “if a person is willing to sacrifice for an abstract god then people feel like they are willing to sacrifice for the community” (the so-called “greenbeard” effect). This is a social version of a well-established evolutionary idea known as the “handicap principle,” where males who can parade useless and costly attributes (be they peacock's feathers or Ferrari sports cars) are more likely to attract females because they are sending the indirect signal that their genes are so good that they can waste energy and resources just to please the female. It attempts to induce the female to imagine what sort of offspring they might be able to produce if only the female would consent to...

As bizarre and irrational as this sort of scenario may seem, there is independent empirical evidence, for instance from studies of Israeli kibbutzim, that religious people do tend to receive more assistance than less religious ones from the rest of the community, again perhaps because they inspire trust. Ironically, of course, this trust originates not because the religious provide more truthful information about the world, but precisely because they display a high degree of commitment to delivering non-verifiable information! Humans, you’ve got to love them.


  1. Rather than framing this in hate speech language (and putting irrational and religion/religious into the same sentence can be heard that way), think of putting faith and community into the same sentence.

    No individual has true reason to trust another. Past behavior may correlate with future behavior but only up to a point. The dreaded word faith comes into play here.

    Do you trust your husband or wife? Do you trust your parents or your business partner? Why -- rationally -- should you? In the deepest sense you have faith that they will behave supportively. To survive in your family or your community, you have to have faith in the other members of that group.

    If you don't have that faith, you wind up alone, wind up off the grid, in a cabin in the woods. And most of us have not chosen that. Most of us demonstrate faith that society or our family or our job or our minds will not betray us. It is no more and no less rational to believe in your loved ones or your community than it is to believe in an unseen power or creator.

    To those who believe (that word again!) that other people behave rationally ... well, rationally to whom? Did John Edwards behave rationally by betraying his wife? You could argue that he did exactly that.

    The prisoners' dilemma resolves for the good of society only when the prisoners don't know how long the game is played.

  2. Diggitt,

    "Rather than framing this in hate speech language"

    Please, people, gett of this idea that criticizing religion is hate speech. Nobody has called for burning people at the stakes (hmm, unlike some well known historical and current episodes on the religious side...).

    "Do you trust your husband or wife? Do you trust your parents or your business partner? Why -- rationally -- should you?"

    Because I am familiar with their behavior. I don't have faith in the fact that my wife loves me, I can see it with my eyes because of the way she acts toward me.

    "It is no more and no less rational to believe in your loved ones or your community than it is to believe in an unseen power or creator."


  3. Your point about society supporting religion strikes home! Last night at the school governing council meeting, I had to restrain myself from saying anything because the principal pointed out that we cannot charge for use of our hall when used for religious purposes. I wanted to ask, why? The principal did not say this with any regret in her voice, indeed her tone indicated that this was only right and proper. In other words it is ingrained into us that we help and support religion and it this, along with the financial support of religion, that has allowed its rise to power.

  4. "This is presumably because there is an obvious cost (in terms of sheer Darwinian fitness) to buying into fanciful notions about how the world works."

    I'm not sure I agree with this point. Most religions do not make concrete claims about the way the world works on the ground level, day-to-day activities. I don't think there WOULD be any loss to fitness from religious belief at the beginning of a society. It's only when reality is plumbed at a deeper or more rigorous level that glaring contradictions occur.

    Other than that, I think the reasons for religion flourishing, the support given to it by society and characterized by Second Cobra, are correct, though only historically. The unconscious feeling that religion is to be respected, inculcated in society by a history awash in religion, is what makes people feel like religion NEEDS to be supported. Of course, the millenia it took for that cultural indoctrination was only possible because religion was ALREADY flourishing. It is, in my opinion, more likely that religion begain to gain hold because it gave a visceral, though surface-level, explanation that allowed us to focus on other things for the time being.

    Diggit, I have to strongly disagree with your assessment of trust in regards to, say, loved ones. Parental trust is most likely explained more by evolutionary conditioning, which is admittedly not a rational basis for it, but we quickly gain reason for that trust by their actions. This is better illustrated by how we come to trust significant others or friends. When we first meet them, we do not extend trust. It is only by repeated interaction with them that trust is granted, at differening increments depending on the results of those interactions.

    Clearly humans are not strictly rational beings, but that isn't a reason to reject everything as irrational.

  5. "...there is independent empirical evidence, for instance from studies of Israeli kibbutzim, that religious people do tend to receive more assistance than less religious ones from the rest of the community, again perhaps because they inspire trust."

    In Jewish life those devoted and religious men are doing basically what you and a lot of people who believe leftist ideals do. Abandoning service to the country for continuing education.
    They get help from the gov to continue their education or teach and study instead of work in a regular job.

    "A conscientious objector is an individual who, on religious, moral or ethical grounds, refuses to participate as a combatant in war or, in some cases, to take any role that would support a combatant organization armed forces who object to being drafted are sometimes called "Sarvanim" in which is sometimes translated into the word "refuseniks".

    That is ALL the people in the Kibbutz are talking about.


  6. Diggitt said: "To survive in your family or your community, you have to have faith in the other members of that group."

    I don't trust my elementary school age kids to always do the right thing; they'll test the limits of my parental authority, so I keep an eye on them to make sure they're following the family rules. As for members of my community, laws and a police force belie the "faith" we all have in one another to always be on our best behavior.

    Having anything akin to religious faith in trusting my wife would include continuing to believe in her faithfulness to me even after discovering her in bed with my best friend. There's a big difference between faith in the sense of trust, and faith in the sense of believing in the absence of evidence, or in the face of contrary evidence.

    I even double check the deadbolt on the front door before I go to bed; I can't always even trust myself not to lapse in my duty to secure my home from all those faithful folks out there. ;)

  7. These ideas may be worth considering when pondering the success of religion:

    Two elements of human behavior that often find themselves in conflict with each other are the tendency to trust, and the tendency to doubt.

    It might be accurately said that, of the two, trust is the more fundamental and innate, as evidenced by a baby's implicit trust of its mother, long prior to developing the cognitive ability to consider whether to do so or not. Doubt, on the other hand, tends to develop experientially, such as by falling, choking, or cutting oneself. Although its seeds may be present from the outset, as a general rule environmental factors must come into play for doubt to flourish. Thus, in loose terms we might consider trust a talent, and doubt a skill. In any event, though, each conveys its own set of benefits. Initially, trust is critical to survival, and later it retains its value as a key element of happiness. Doubt, however, helps us steer clear of life's many pitfalls, both incidental and intentional.

    Of course, most people, and certainly any con-man or parasitic/predatory human, knows that trust is much simpler to exploit than doubt, since the relationship between a person and the object of his trust (be it a physical phenomenon, an idea, or an individual) tends to be static and predictable, while the habit of doubt has a high likelihood of producing new ideas and points of view; hence, exploiting doubters requires better adaptive skills.

    The ideal arrangement for a parasitic/predatorial person would naturally be to have access to a limitless supply of productive souls with little or no doubting skill, providing for his well-being.

    Those of a Judeo-Islamo-Christian bent might do themselves a good turn by honestly considering the question, Might the phrase "The Lord is my Shepherd" take on an additional meaning in this light?

    More broadly, of course, the trappings of religion come in many forms, not all of which have anything to do with questions of spirituality. Market-based capitalism for example is, for all practical purposes, a religion in terms of how it is constructed and carried out. It has a doctrine, requires faith in that doctrine to function, and provides the means for a relatively small, privileged group to live rather opulently on the backs of a much larger population while giving back enough to keep that population productive.

    Incidentally, I'm not saying that this is "right" or "wrong". Rather, it's simply the nature of the world we have inherited, and it behooves us to recognize the nature of the game if we have any desire whatsoever to choose the manner of our own participation.

  8. Caliana, last time I checked, military service is not the only way to benefit a country. In fact, government funding for higher education could be seen as an implicit way of saying that on the long term, citizens gaining higher education is better for the country than having everyone participate in military service. A country where every citizen serves in the military but no one studies science or other higher fields of knowledge is a country that is stagnating. I'm not defending the Kibbutzim any point beyond they can do whatever they want with themselves as long as they don't cause damage.

  9. Massimo -- "Unbelievable"????

    What is unbelievable? I find it almost unbelievable that you put words into my writing that I didn't put there ... burning at the stake? Who's talking about that? Criticizing religion is hate speech? I didn't say that either.

    Massimo, I don't know you or your wife, and if the two of you are happy and live in love and trust, that's great. I am not sure you are in the majority. If you are in the majority, it's not by much. What are the current odds that a partner in a marriage in the US is cheating? And I will bet that many of those cheats look with love at their trusting partners.

    But my post was not about your marriage. "Unbelievable"??? Do most posters post about your marriage? I thought this was a blog on religious issues. I was writing about FAITH.

    You may in fact have faith in your wife because she has behaved well to you up until now. But people who believe in a higher power have faith for their own reasons ... which are as valid to them as your trust in your wife is valid to you. You see your wife's love with your eyes; they see God's hand with theirs. Tell me now -- wouldn't you be angry with people who called you a deluded fool for your belief in your wife's love?

    Personally, as a theological student, I don't understand those who believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God, especially since it contradicts itself all over the place. I would probably not want such a person to be my accountant, because I do not want my accounts to contradict each other all over the place.

    I said "It is no more and no less rational to believe in your loved ones or your community than it is to believe in an unseen power or creator" and you said "Unbelievable." But you know? All around you, people see creation. The idea of a creator makes a lot more sense, to some minds, than a long explanation involving, towards the end, a Big Bang and which still has to have a cause.

    Second Cobra -- what state are you in? I'd suggest calling the ACLU. If any private organization (the Rotary, the Elks Club) has to pay rent to use school facilities, then a religious organization should also have to. You can couch your objection as a budget matter -- if your school district is hurting financially, it could use the rent. On the other hand, if everyone in town uses school facilities for free, then religious organizations cannot be discriminated against by being asked to pay. But if that's so, your schools are missing out on a legitimate source of revenue. The issue here may be whether it's actually a religious organization (outsiders, like a congregation just getting organized) using the space or an inside organization (say, a student prayer group) using it. Incidentally, in your shoes I would also question why the principal is making policy -- this should be the school board's call; they are elected by the community to make decisions like this.

    To Steelman:
    I guess you are seriously suggesting that I believe that minor child should belong in a circle of trust and/or that laws should not have to exist. Like Massimo, you are trying to put words into my mouth. Sorry -- ain't biting.
    Faith in the sense of trust, and faith in the sense of belief in the absence of evidence, are the same thing. Of the first twelve definitions of "trust" in google, only one suggests that trust is based on prior experience.

  10. Diggitt, it is a little dishonest to say that you didn't imply that criticizing religion is hate speech (I use imply to be polite, though I think it was a little more explicit than that) when you say, "Rather than framing this in hate speech language (and putting irrational and religion/religious into the same sentence can be heard that way)..."

    But that's really an aside. More to the point, you seem to use the words trust and faith in the same way, but within this context I don't think they can be simply switched back and forth as we choose. Google may have different definitions of trust, but we are not using any one of them. It seems to me that by using these two words within our given context interchangeably, you are able to sidestep the reasons why trust in family and friends is simply not equatable to faith in a god or deity. This is brought into clearer light by the very fact that it was very readily accepted that an immediate trust of these people is irrational. No one argued this.

  11. Hi!

    I totally enjoyed the post! Had you tried to sound a bit less logical, this entry would have seemed straight from Uncyclopedia! And this indeed is a compliment.


  12. Diggitt - firstly, I live in Australia, not America. We have no laws regarding the separation of church and state here.

    Secondly, your argument that the religious see the hand of god as the same as seeing the actions of a loved one is incorrect and goes against the idea of faith. To put what Massimo said another way, we base our 'faith' that a loved one will behave a certain way on their past behaviour, a rather coldly logical way of saying we know them well enough to trust them. This may only be an assumption, but it's a good one and based on real evidence. Conversely, the very 'hand of god' that you see is based on zero evidence - you cannot say that you saw God doing something therefore you cannot predict his future behaviour. You can only say that you have 'faith' that it was God doing it, so we are once again back to the fact that faith is an unsubstaniated feeling.

  13. How fascinating!
    A naturalist explanation of faith. Its careful scientific dissection.

    About the interesting suggestion of a connection "greenbeard" effect ---> handicap principle.

    May I also suggest the posible role of the Superstimulus principle... By which we -and many other animals- seek more rewarding ("higher") models than those found naturally -with the paradoxical evolutionary disadvantage it causes. Joseph Campbell has something on that, I think I remember, in his volume Primitive Mythology: "the innate release mechanism", i.e. deeply ingrained fears and desires.

    I think an honest research on the amazing fact that, in varied forms, faith is a universal, has to start being more careful and sceptic about presumed God genes. They clearly needs to pass Occam's razor.

  14. Jordan, with regard to your having doubts about religious beliefs antagonizing the ability to survive in hostile environment (Darwinian natural selection), I'd like to point out that all that we call religion started out as supernatural explanations for the phenomena one was around. I'll give you an example. If two ancient farmers sow seeds in their farms--one waters them, the other, worships them, the family (the farmer and the progeny) of the former would survive, the latter's would die out, provided this type of belief would have genetic basis and if the former would not go and warn the latter. In this sense strong religiosity would be detrimental in evolutionary terms.

    One more driving force in sustenance of religous beliefs (sacrifice and such rituals) could have been the attitude of "what's the harm in trying?" (doesn't this attitude sound like Pascal's wager?), and then on systematic manipulation by professional priests, and placebo effect of ritual practices must have taken over. All this of course is my personal opinion.

    Though, I'm really curious about the design of the study quoted here.


  15. "religion begain to gain hold --says Jordan-- because it gave a visceral, though surface-level, explanation that allowed us to focus on other things for the time being."

    I agree with this: economically simple societies can only afford intellectually lazy supernatural explanations. They are the first ones. However, this doesn't explain why the beleif in question is agresively held even after contrary evidence has emerged, thas is, why it is incapable of being corrected. In other words, WHY religious beleif is so impervious to reason.

    Faith of course is infalible while reason is extremely imperfect, painstaiking, and not immediately rewarding.

    Thus, Diggit is somehow right in saying that "No individual has *true* reason to trust another". Simply, there is no infalible *true* reason that can tell you such a thing. In any case, religious faith in another, as opposed to simple human trust, is inseparable from fear of God, which, it could be argued, could be effective in keeping contracts in primitive societies.

    Now, refusal of this falibility leads to fear of reason and various forms of antihumanitarianism and irrationalisms.

  16. I second Second Cobra's first post. Experience this behavior all the time.

    Diggitt needs help, so....As a polytheist who has faith in gods behaving no worse or better than people and having their own gods to answer to, I too see no difference at all between faith/trust in people and faith/trust in a god. To me trust is akin to granting permission, and faith is akin to acknowledgment but I'm not sure...

    Exactly how do u know that people or anything else for that matter exists? because you see them, hear them, touch them,....

    Take leave of all 5 (or 6?) of your senses, or pretend you never had them to begin with. Are those folks still there? I'll bet a god would be a lot more real to you than a 'person'.

    The existence of anything outside of you is all a matter of perception, nothing more.

  17. Trust in God?? Like your pal. How blasphemous is this!

    People have faith in God precisely because he is an untrustworthy despot. I'm afraid it's the same with Zeus, the fortunes and all the Olympian gods: they are gods because they are unreliable.

    Trust is a mutual relation of men/women communicating together. But faith is simple abject surrender of yourself to one who commits himself to nothing. Trust is build only between the free and independent, those who can look you in the eye; faith is slavery. Thus, trust and fear are incompatible.

    You have, sensu stricto, *faith* in your wife (not trust) when you know she fears God's punishment.

  18. I meant > Trust is builT only between the free and independent

  19. "[E]conomically simple societies can only afford intellectually lazy supernatural explanations. They are the first ones."I agree. The "first ones", tribal beliefs, emerge from folklore, and provide a sense of security, meaning, identity and order in a wild and dangerous world. A tribal society has neither the means nor the need to verify or falsify the belief that, for example, Raven stole a golden ball from the grandson of the Creator and dropped it in the sky, thus bringing warmth and light (the sun) to the world for the first time. There is no obvious or direct disadvantage to this belief; however, to question this story would be to question one's own cultural identity, possibly jeopardizing one's membership benefits in the process. There would have to be a strong, compelling reason to do so, and it's hard to imagine what such a reason might be in a tribal society.

    "However, this doesn't explain why the beleif in question is agresively held even after contrary evidence has emerged, thas is, why it is incapable of being corrected. In other words, WHY religious beleif is so impervious to reason."The first and major part of the answer is the same as in tribal societies: membership benefits. Even in the face of contrary evidence, people will still commonly choose cultural solidarity over factual correctness, even to the point of risking one's own, personal survival. Our social instincts are very, very strong.

    Additionally, more complicated societies tend to be organized around principles that strongly promote cultural cohesion. While such societies tend to promote the logic and critical thinking skills that make it possible to clearly elucidate the contradictions of a belief system, this is not the purpose to which these skills are generally applied. Realizing internal inconsistencies is merely a secondary by-product of these skills. In this light, it becomes clearer why irrational beliefs are so strongly persistent. Social conditioning augments the "need" to adhere to these beliefs, raising the bar for what societal benefits must be conceivably conferred by abandoning them.

    Asking why religious belief is so impervious to reason is like asking, "Why do milk cows produce milk even when they're not calving - so much so that they will die if they are not milked daily?" The answer is that the cows are conditioned so that, even though its characteristics are greatly detrimental to independent survival, its survival potential within the larger society is greatly enhanced. De-conditioning them would take generations, and would produce less-productive individuals, so there's no obvious reason to do it - particularly since the cows themselves exhibit virtually no desire for independence from humans. The same logic applies to training dogs as guardians (or even merely as companions). By conditioning them from an early age, they are less able to survive in the wild, but as long as they conform to the expectations of their benefactors they have all their needs taken care of.

    The very act of seeking an rational explanation for why religion persists despite internal and external contradictions references a value system that the religious-minded do not have: the assignation of greater priority to rational thought than to cultural tradition. So in fact, it is very easy to see why religion persists among the religious, as well as why its persistence confounds the rational-minded. Ask yourself, who benefits from asking the question in the first place? The answer to that contains the answer to the other.

  20. DaveS,

    I really have a hard time wrapping my mind around the apparent fact that some people consider faith and trust to be the same thing or, to use your example, that assuming the existence of a physical world is on a par with believing in an immaterial god.

    Hence my "unbelievable" comment to Diggitt, which s/he took out of context or misunderstood.

  21. Jordan; I'm not defending the Kibbutzim any point beyond they can do whatever they want with themselves as long as they don't cause damage."

    I would defend it.

    Well Kibbutz living is a good thing really. That of level cooperation would have to raise the level of trust among just about anyone. Most here are talking extensively about trust, but I wonder how deeply any of you are willing to COOPERATE to achieve it.

    Secularism is very individualistic religion.

    The men I was referring to are studying religion in case you didn't catch it. Most of religious Orthodox Jews are reading but neither understanding and comprehending the "spirit and intent" of the ancient texts as many Orthodox are typically quite leftist.

  22. Ketan, I said as much in regards to religion perhaps beginning as supernatural explanations, though your hypothetical description of how these explanations could produce harm in early societies (one farmer watering his crops while the other worships it) appears to be a straw man. Yes, early humans had harvest festivals and worships where they venerated harvest gods, but they did this in addition to watering their crops, etc. etc. That specific religious belief did not interfere with their ability to grow crops. To continue my point, there are Christians, and other religions, today who believe their god is the source of absolutely everything, including the minutia of their lives, but they still eat, they still water their crops, etc. Perhaps the types of religion able to take a firm hold in human societies are bounded by the human experience? Perhaps this is why there is a certain lack of religions saying we do not need to eat?

    Also, I do not think that the "what's the harm in trying" approach is a sufficient one to explain religion. After all, this implies the existence within these people's minds of this religion or superstition before they ever do "try", so it doesn't really explain it at all. This is exacerbated by your reliance of "systematic manipulation by professional priests" in this explanation, something that just isn't need for this explanation.

    Winstanley, I'm not really sure how you decide that faith is infallible, so I'm not even going to touch your discussion about the difference between faith and reason.

    DaveS, as enticing as your hypothetical quest into solipsism is, we cannot "take leave" of our senses in any meaningful way, as these go into the formulation of "us." There does not appear to be any singular I behind our eyes, our nose, our ears manning the steering wheel. Rather we are a conglomeration of mental processes and the processing of sensory data. The mind (the I) is one thing the brain does. So, if there is no I that really exists separately from the external world, then the idea of solipsism, there being no world that exists outside of myself, is not a helpful one.

    Perspicio gets it! I agree with what you said about the social cohesion factor of religion, and how it does not need to have any immediate loss to fitness to bind us together.

  23. Caliana, secularism is not a religion. Indeed, it effectively means without religion, in that it simply doesn't have anything to do with it, one way or the other. As for the Kibbutzim, well, to say that kind of living is a good thing is a bit of a blanket statement.

  24. Jordan,

    I absolutely love people in your age group. (all our kids are late teens to early twenties - so I'm totally biased, YES.)
    Have a son, early 20s, who's out on the road seeing the county with his friend for the next 3-4 months in the VW bus he fixed for last 3-4 months. :)

    That kind of thing may have been considered a bit irresponsible years ago, but he is anything but. He may in the end be much more principled and stricter on himself than we (I'm gen x and my husband is a "boomer") are on ourselves. Am proud of him and very amazed at how he does things and he has caused me to conclude that there is A LOT of hope for people in your generation. Not just saying that, I really believe it.

    AND, fyi, secularism IS a religion because it has NON negotiables in its essential tenets.

    I understand that you've been told otherwise...

  25. "As for the Kibbutzim, well, to say that kind of living is a good thing is a bit of a blanket statement."

    You've lived on a Kibbutz?

    It is essentially sort of a socialist, communist way to arrive at cooperation, no doubt. But our society has become so extremely independent from one another, that really is no good either. Leaves many people without good skills for getting along with others.

    AND THAT is bad. If we had a truly serious crisis, many people would not know to genuinely cooperate and TRUST.

  26. For those still arguing that faith in the behavior of living, breathing human beings is no different than faith in the behavior of a deity (or deities, with whatever attributes one might assign to them), you might have a look at philosopher Stephen Law's essay on faith, especially the headings Believing with reason and Reasonableness comes in degrees as they pertain to his third example of the appeal to faith in the opening statements.

    I post this just so those who would argue for the reasonableness of religious faith, and it's supposed equivalence with the trusting of other human beings, may gain some insight into why some of those who reject those claims do, indeed, reject them.

    Also, I nominate perspicio's contribution for best comment that actually addresses the subject of the blog post.

  27. Massimo:

    First off, I was also taken aback as well by your words being interpreted as 'hate speech'. That seemed out of line to me. But I agree with Dig's key sentence "It is no more...." if the trust is in the loved one and the faith is in the community. I do not think trust and faith are the same things either, did not mean to imply that by the use of the "/", which I think can be interpreted as either "and" / "or". :)

    But I can point out loaded words when I see them. 'Physical' is one of them, and its a problem because of what I said in my previous post.

    If you trust your wife, and you have faith that she moves in your orbit and vice versa, then you and she have created something - a marriage/union also known as a group. The group is subservient to neither of you, although either one of you can destroy it. You may partake in rituals like anniversary cards, flowers, etc... as an expression of love for your spouse, but ALSO as an expression of your devotion and belief in your marriage. If you disbelieve in your marriage, you must at least think she does, else why the flowers? The marriage is as real and alive as either one of you, not in a hyperbolic sort of way. So is any other group, be it a company, a set of saucers, etc.

    Groups are born, have ups and downs, communicate with others when its constituents speak with the same voice, and of course die.

    Climbing a few more rungs on the ladder, its possible to think of humans as gods who created machines in their own image. This help us understand higher-level entities. But not enough of you think this way. That's why people debate whether god/s exist/s.

  28. DaveS, the human/robot analogy to humans/gods is a poor one. The only reason it seems to be a good one is because there is a vast disparity between the actionable sentience of robots and humans.. But when (or if for the pessimistic types) robots gain human level capabilities, what will be the difference between them and us? Only the material components they are comprised of. People debate whether god exists because there is no evidence that it does, yet there are people who believe in it.

    Caliana, thanks for the kind words, but I think you are mistaken when it comes to secularism. If it has non-negotiables, that is because it has a definition. An apple has a definition as well, one that is non-negotiable. Oranges are not apples, but we do not call apples a religion. Okay, that was a bit facetious.

    By your definition of religion, and philosophical stance a person could take would be a religion, not for any real reason but only because there are components of a philosophy that make it one and not another. Secularism does not say that you HAVE to believe or take certain stances, but if you DO find yourself taking those stances, then you are secular. Look at the very first sentence on wiki:

    "Secularism is the assertion that governmental practices or institutions should exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs."

    Key word being should, at least in our discussion. It does not make a claim about the universe, but rather it states that people take this position in regard to governance, something people create.

    I understand that you've been told otherwise. . .

  29. Foraying off the parent topic momentarily....

    I love arguments about the specific attributes of concepts as perceived via multiple methods of interpretation.

    Caliana: "Secularism is very individualistic religion."

    Jordan: "Secularism is not a religion. Indeed, it effectively means without religion, in that it simply doesn't have anything to do with it, one way or the other."

    Caliana: "Secularism IS a religion because it has NON negotiables in its essential tenets."
    Elementally, secularism is a philosophy. But it, like pretty much any "-ism", can be taken to extremes and practiced religiously. When basic principles are interpreted as immutable absolutes, a philosophy becomes a religion. Thus, depending on how it is implemented, secularism may or may not be a religion.

    (As an aside, atheism works in a similar way. When one crosses the line from "I do not believe in gods" to "I believe that there are no gods", his adherence to the philosophy begins to take on religious attributes.)

    Of course, because of the philosophical definition of secularism (aptly presented by Jordan), this raises the question of whether it ceases to be secularism when it is practiced religiously - which, in turn, positions the discussion to constrict into an etymological discussion about the meaning of the word "religion" at the time the term "secularism" was coined, and then spirals tighter and tighter down the whirlpool of cognition until at last, anything that is agreed upon is utterly trivial in scope and non-transferable to other discussions. Let's forgo that, shall we?

    (As another aside, Jordan, I appreciated your etymologically accurate description of religion as a phenomenon that "binds us together".)

    Essentially, both Jordan and Caliana have presented views of secularism that are self-consistent within the specific boundaries they set for the term. As such, neither is entirely wrong in their assertions.

    However, Caliana has fallen prey to the logical fallacy of generalizing the attributes of a particular subset to a category as a whole. She would be more correct to say that secularism is sometimes a religion.

    This fallacy takes two very common forms: accident, and cherry-picking. The first is an honest mistake, and forgivable enough. Some religious-minded people, however, commonly engage in the latter, because it serves their agenda to re-cast other points of view as religions in their own right, first to strip them of any characteristics about which the religiously-minded individual is ill-equipped to argue, and secondly in order to pick them apart as inferior to the particular religion that individual embraces.

    Usually, the manner in which such people accept correction when their error is pointed out is a pretty clear indicator of which form of the fallacy they have engaged in....

  30. "But not enough of you think this way. That's why people debate whether god/s exist/s."

    I don't debate with that thought in mind at all. It has never crossed my thinking that "God the creator" does not exist.

    Tho I may have had my own personal crisis of values, struggles in my mind or what have you, even that does not make me wonder if it is an absence of a "God" that has caused me to have these struggles.

    If anything, those kinds of conflicts actually confirm to me that God does exist. A struggle-less existence is a pretty weak one. If someone or something truly did not exist there would be no reason to throw up numerous roadblocks and objections to something that simply ISN'T! But that's what Atheism does all the time.

    Just an random thought here:

    I know there are a lot of virtual flowers that are being passed around on FB but these on my prof pic are REAL ones my hub gave for mothers day. (plus he's a long ways away at the moment) They were as perfect as anything I've ever seen before. Was awfully impressed AND I CERTAINLY told him so. Sometimes it takes awhile for some of us to believe that another person REALLY LOVES US. I've been guilty of that before. Faithlessness. ALWAYS I have believed that there was a God, but why would He care about or love me? I THINK, BUT I AM NOT SURE, that is what a lot of of atheists/agnostics actually struggle with.

  31. Jordan: Gods created humans, humans created machines. If I read you correctly, you think the analogy is poor because the latter two have material forms, as if gods don't. I refer you back to my first post. What is physical and material is subjective.

  32. Perspico, well said! Though I wonder if one should even use the word religious to discuss a person who takes a philosophical stance dogmatically. After all, there are completely religious people who are not dogmatic about their religion, and there are entirely secular people who are dogmatic about their position, communism being a good example.

    Caliana, that's like saying atheists and agnostics are really just people who suffered a traumatic experience and are now angry at God. That just isn't true. There are of course a small sub-set of people, usually teens, who this may be true about, but it is wildly unrealistic to say that there are a lot of atheists that fit this description.

    DaveS, I think your analogy is poor because of several reasons, the first being that the very existence of God is, of course, contested. But more than that, given its existence, the creator/creation relationship is the ONLY similarity, and I don't think that is sufficient to make it an apt analogy. My point about the materials humans and robots would be made from is that there CAN be an equalization where the only differences left are ones that don't really matter, such as being made from flesh versus metal or alloy. This was stated as another reason why the analogy does not hold.

  33. Jordan, I said that* in a slightly sarcastic way. It /claims/ to be infallible. That's the problem with it and precisely the difference with reason.


    * "faith is infallible"

  34. Jordan: You have not addressed my concern, but skirted it by saying machines and humans could at some point be indistinguishable. No doubt, but it misses the point. The point is what we as humans sense as real is subjective. You said earlier we cannot take leave of our senses. Then how do you explain the existence of a blind person, a deaf person? For a multiply-impaired person, reality is different. Imagine everyone losing their senses and associated memory. While we would not last very long, please indulge me and describe the 'look' and 'feel' of the physical world to people.

    You infer that I subscribe to solipsism. Not so - I claim this: events, objects, and even existence occurs only within a context, not a vacuum. One thing relates to another thing by exchanging information. That is how 'life' works. It is a simple concept that even religious people seem to have trouble extending above the human level.

    Here is another argument for the suspension of belief in real, physical objects. Dig deep enough, and see they are all composed of particles which cannot really be said to exist, at least not all the time, using any known mathematical model.

    I do not ask you to tithe a percentage of your earnings to your local peddler of unverifiable facts. I do not even want Intelligent Design being allowed to be taught as an alternative to evolution in public educational institutions . But do consider the possibility that theories of life that restrict themselves to the physical and observable world are fast becoming outdated. Do consider Abbott's tale of the Flatland, what it means to create races of machines who communicate, and give agnosticism a chance.

  35. DaveS, I didn't think that were a solipsist, I only said that your argument was a solipsistic one. Hence the "hypothetical" part. If I thought you actually subscribed to solipsism, it certainly wouldn't be hypothetical.

    I did not say that there can't be blind people, or a human lacking any other senses, but rather that humans do not exist APART from their senses for the simple reason that we do not exist apart from our bodies or brains. Indeed, inquests into neuroscience, psychology, etc. are showing this more and more to be the case. It is possible to shut down, temporarily or otherwise, areas of the brain that manage the different senses, but when we do this we are shutting down parts of ourselves, we are not performing the equivalent of turning of a security camera.

    Effectively, the robot/human/gods issue is irrelevant now that you've clarified your point. Before, when you left the analogy stand to represent the hypothetical relationship between gods and humans, I contended that it simply did not do the job that you claimed it did, but it's really ceased to be relevant any longer.

    I agree that human senses of reality are subjective, but I think we would disagree about how important that is. I would say that it is not extremely important because the human body evolved to report on "reality" as accurately as possibly, and that the subjectivity derives from errors in the processing of the data. In other words, our subjective interpretation of reality is generally a pretty (pardon the use of this word) faithful representation of what is real.

    Hmmm, perhaps this all stems from a misunderstanding of physics? There isn't a model of physics that is not firmly rooted in a material universe. Okay, I shouldn't say ANY model of physics, because I'm sure you can find all manner of psuedo-physics online, but from the standard model to quantum mechanics to purely theoretical models such as string theory, M-theory, or super symmetry, they are in no way support your notion that,
    "theories of life that restrict themselves to the physical and observable world are fast becoming outdated."

    As for agnosticism, well that doesn't really address the question of belief at all. Agnosticism has to do with knowledge. I will willingly admit that I'm agnostic. I'm also an atheist. I do not know, and perhaps cannot know, whether or not anything like a god exists, but I certainly don't believe in one. Perhaps to elaborate, I do say that specific gods do not exist, such as the Christian god. Or at least, the versions I have run across, but that is because they are internally inconsistent. But I soften even that stance by simply saying, "Hey, I could be wrong."

  36. Jordan - only clarification I have is the point about "theories of life" - did not mean a scientific theory. Agree that string theory posits a real Wild West in terms of manipulation of time and space, but does not posit gods who created lower level entities.

  37. Jordan:
    that's like saying atheists and agnostics are really just people who suffered a traumatic experience and are now angry at God. That just isn't true. There are of course a small sub-set of people, usually teens, who this may be true about, but it is wildly unrealistic to say that there are a lot of atheists that fit this description."

    I still think most atheists do fit this description. You might be the one exception.

    If not a traumatic experience at least an experience of a certain level of disappointment.

    I know one of my uncles (who is not ALL atheists and agnostics I realize) was agnostic and he was upset and disappointed at what he would observe when his devout Lutheran parents would invite traveling pastors to stay at his house. I'm not sure what they did that he thought was inconsistent. But because of that plus his serving as a military doc, seeing a lot of icky stuff, I heard his apologetic s for evolution and a few other odd things like my entire life till he died.

    He and my father had extreme dedication to this topic, it was rather ridiculous. :) Cliffs case was always oriented around "if God is good WHY injustice"...and so on and so forth.

    I quite seriously do think that most agnos/theists firstly struggle with the "goodness of God".

  38. Caliana, the problem(s) of evil are real problems for the Christian god. They aren't they only ones, but there is enough right there to step back from it and take a closer look.

  39. If He does not exist Evil is an even bigger problem for Humanists because then it truly is all our doing and entirely our fault!

    Why bother to look or strive for hope, joy or redemption then?

    God, I think, at least made a provision for us to be Evil if we so chose.

    Do we blame the parents of BOYS (its mostly boys) who go on a rampage through a High school and kill and harm numerous people? No, of course not. Seldom does anyone think that. We instinctively understand that these children acted independently of their 'creators'.

    What I think that people tend to blame God for is for not removing the ability to do certain things from certain people. I.e. as in lobotomizing or castrating someone to keep them from???

    EVEN the concept of a "Just" or unjust God wouldn't mean a thing if there were zero options from which to choose. Without a variety of choices, what then would "UNJUST" look like?

    Freewill is dynamic.

  40. That freewill bit on the bottom of my comment wasn't supposed to be there.

    I thought it, but had no place for it and didn't feel like elaborating -its super complex...

  41. cal wrote: "I still think most atheists do fit this description."

    And so now we know that you are wrong on this subject. Probably wrong on lots of other topics also. It does seem odd that you would come to an atheist blog and deign to tell us that you know better than we do why we are atheists.

    As for the study, the results are not surprising but I suspect that there is a lot of work left to validate the findings. One of the topics we have discussed before is the amount of support moderate religionists give to fundamental and radical religionists, not so much by active support but by not opposing them. I'm sure that the whole concept has the same, if diminishing, effect as you shift across the spectrum of belief.
    This makes me think, though, if religion requires a bit of support from the non-religious segment in order to remain alive, that maybe the new atheism could be the death knell of religion. If we can make it more socially acceptable to not support religion and force religion to stand on its own, maybe it will begin to fail. (please, please, please...)

  42. "If He does not exist Evil...truly is all our doing and entirely our fault!"

    Bingo. You're learning, cal, you're learning.

  43. Cal, when are you goingto stop playing at beign Humpty Dumpty and accept the correct definition of words?
    Religion: Codified belief in god(s).
    Secularism: The principle of separation between religion and state.
    Atheism: Teh conclusion that no gods exist, based on the absence of evidence.
    All clear now?

  44. Kimpatsu, you're definition of atheism is incorrect, in my opinion. Atheism is a lack of belief in a God. This is easily demonstrated by simply breaking the word down: prefix A- (without) and base word -theism (belief in a god). A-theism. A person is a theist if they believe in a god and an atheist if they lack that belief. To conclude that there ARE no gods is, at least in the way you worded it, a stronger position than this, and the word atheism does not actually imply the reason for that lack of belief. The reasons would be different for each individual.

    Misunderstandings about this term (or misinformation perhaps?), is something that "we" are constantly having to work against and around.

  45. Kimp - you may be right about about the definition of religion - I won't even bother to look it up, but I'm uncomfortable with it. It's more of a social institution with a vague association with the worshipped god. For a religion to exist in the real world, none of its adherents need to believe in a god, just profess that they do, and obtain the rewards of association - a feeling of belonging, status, etc, or the reqards of power - tell people what to do and accept their money in return.

    Say there is a real god hanging out somewhere expecting that all his/her followers adhere to the Bible script as whispered in a few person's ears and codified in text. While it is possible that after a number of years the human practice vs the god's expectation remain aligned on track, they likely will have diverged, and the religion will have evolved to an entirely human-made device. This hews more closely to the secularists' line about religion.

    At best religion can be also seen as a symbiotic thing, equally affecting gods and people. As such, I'm much more comfortable with religion (not belief in god) being placed in the same league as fashion.

  46. Jordan

    If one self-identifies as an atheist it means he has rejected the other terms of self-identification available to him: theist, deist, pantheist, agnostic, and therefore he has reached the elimimative position known as atheism, which is as Kimpatsu says a conclusion.

    You might be interested in reading

    this short statement on another website
    Admittedly, the above was written by a "strong atheist" who probably has a slightly different point of view to begin with. If you browse his website you will see he adduces all sorts of arguments for the non-existence of God, of which lack of evidence is only one. Nevertheless I think it is less confusing to admit that "lack of evidence" is really an argument leading to a conclusion.

    I think "lack of evidence" is sometimes abused by atheists who would prefer it if the burden of proof were all on the other side. But actually the atheist also has the responsibility to defend his position.

    Admittedly, this does not speak to the brute psychological fact of a lack of belief in God, but I don't think we are really talking about brute psychological facts, but philosophical postions.

    I could be wrong.

    I could be convinced by the end of the day that I am wrong.

  47. Massimo is always amazing !! He steps behind the ideas of those who are stepping behind others -- a meta-thinker !

    @Paul01 - thanks for the link on Strong vs. Weak Atheism -- it was very helpful for me.

  48. Me"If He does not exist Evil...truly is all our doing and entirely our fault!"
    Joe: Bingo. You're learning, cal, you're learning."

    You really want to own this? (following story) And is this your idea of support for the human potential movement and all that 'humans are basically "good" ' nonsense? Humans are NOT basically good. But not because WE said so. Without God and His law written on our heart, we don't EVEN KNOW how to go about defining "good". In some peoples minds "good" is not having a 14 daughter to contend with anymore.

    "Miguel Matias is escorted out of the 44th Precinct after he turned himself in for the murder of his daughter.

    A Bronx man who strangled his pregnant 14-year-old daughter and threw her naked body in a boiler last year was also the father of her unborn child, according to prosecutors..."

    I hate to bring this story up because its details are beyond unthinkable and sad, but it does demonstrate what an incredible lack of love that really is becoming common in the world TODAY. And because of situations like this, I find it highly unlikely that we can do things OUR OWN WAY and actually become BETTER PEOPLE.

    Humanism might accept that bad things happen and it's "our" problem...but WHAT is Humanism's actual solution to it?

    Get rid of "religion", moral codes and whatnot? I'm afraid that's being tried an failing....

  49. cal, there's nothing for me to own from your story which doesn't belong as much to you or anyone else on this board as members of the human race.

    All that this story illustrates is that there are people who do evil things. There were no deities or demons involved, just people.

    My solution, which applies to everyone, is simple: stop putting off your shortcomings onto non-existent gods and devils, stop using religion as a crutch, and stop doing evil things.

  50. I liked DaveS's comment about religion being able to exist even if no one actually believes in a god. Any organization can come up with a code of ethics. If enough people join and decide to live by that code of ethics it would be equivalent to a religion. Better actually since it wouldn't have to have any of the anti-science attitude of today's Christian-inanity. Cal behaves well (if she does) because God commands it and because she doesn't want to go to Hell. I behave well because I think it makes the world a better place for me, my family, my friends and my descendents.

  51. Joe,
    Start with your 'get rid of evil' project in the Congo. When a society begins on the course of 'no special protection for women and children', there really isn't much left to protect. It sounds rather simple the way you put it 'we're just going to tell people not to be evil anymore'. But why? What does evil look like and who gets to say? In order to tell someone that something is potentially wrong, one has to not only be able to say this with authority but also back it with some kind of meaningful punishment. A gesture that the left is usually opposed to.

    Rape Is Effective Weapon of War, Senators Told

    "Men accused of rape are often granted bail or given light sentences," Verveer said. "Few cases are reported to the police, and fewer still are in prosecution."

    Verveer said that of the 14,000 rape cases registered in the Congo's provincial health centers in between 2005 and 2007, only 287 were taken to trial.

    She said police lack proper training, and the rule of law must be strengthened and provide victims given with access to justice while offering them protection throughout the judicial process."


  52. I don't know how it is in the US, but in Argentina the Catholic Church receives fat subsidies from the State. Tax payers, be them catholic, jewish, muslim, evangelical or atheist, contribute to support the Catholic Church. And the Catholic Church has influences on reproductive health, political issues and education (Irrationally Speaking, of course).

    I don't agree with these evolutionary ideas; I think they lack social theory, they miss the fact that culture reproduces itself, following its own rules, somehow independent from the mere "genes sending messages" hypothesis. As for the Israeli kibubutzim, I don't think this is a matter of trust. They don't trust palestinians, right? Actually for them an arab is less human than a jewish.

    However, I do agree that non-believers support religious people. I think this has to do with political power, the historical conditions of the official Church. The key role it had on the construction of the national identity. You don't get rid of traditions from one day to another.

  53. Actually cal, I never said "We're just going to tell people not to be evil anymore", those were your words. In my post I put the responsibility for morality foremost on the individual.

    But you seem to think that as society metes out punishment for evil you will be a part of the punishing faction. What makes you think that you won't deservedly be on the receiving end?

  54. I don't agree with these evolutionary ideas; I think they lack social theory, they miss the fact that culture reproduces itself, following its own rules, somehow independent from the mere "genes sending messages" hypothesis.
    Evolution isn't just about genes. Culture is a powerful factor in natural selection, especially among humans, and there needn't necessarily be an intelligible correspondence between the characteristics of the "fittest" and any specific aspects of their genetic makeup.

    Culture is a sort of biofeedback loop whereby a species both generates certain parameters of its own environment, and selects for those who function best within them.

    The "genes sending messages" hypothesis is a minimalist one, and not very sophisticated. It reminds me of epicycles. It also reminds me of the saying, "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

    As for the idea that non-religious people support religion, well, duh! We do it all the time - indeed, the US is set up so that we have little choice in the matter. What do you think all the tax benefits our "secular" state provides them (including our taxes funding "faith-based initiatives") amounts to? And those are just the very tippiest top of the iceberg.

    And why should it be otherwise?

    Religion is as old as consciousness itself. When we have questions we can't answer, we make something up. And I, for one, know from self-observation that in the past, prior to developing the healthy habit of self-doubt, it was very easy to be adamantly convinced of the veracity of my guesses - they just "seemed right", so I assumed they were. Add to that the fact that most people tend to respond according to the principle that all authority is by assumption, and you have a recipe for religion to emerge.

    In fact, religions are a lot like matter. They begin as quantum particles do: vestigial forms - stories that provide answers, meaning, or purpose in an otherwise arbitrary world - popping in and out of existence all the time. But the "good ones" stick around, and aggregate, and become self-perpetuating standing wave patterns.

    What constitutes a "good one"? Generally, it's a story that tells us something meaningful about our own psychological architecture - and, because religion is "about" consciousness (particularly social consciousness, since credence is lent to unverifiable stories by dint of a wider pool of concensus), the stories that stick are the ones that bring consciousness - especially social consciousness - to fuller fruition.

    The only reason rational thought and scientific theory somewhat displace religion is because they provide more comprehensible answers to the questions that naturally emerge through the faculty of cognition. But science and rational thought also require greater mental skills to comprehend and utilize, so the deck is stacked against them across the wider population. Religion, with its historical ubiquity and easy accessibility, holds most of the trumps. But rational thought and its newer adjunct, the scientific method, are smarter, so that over time, in stable societies, they gradually tip the balance more in their favor - although not by winning practitioners as much as by winning believers in the "truths" they provide. This is how modern secular societies emerge.

    In summary, vestigial religion was an inevitable consequence of cognition. Over time, applied cognition produced technological advances, and in tandem with this, stories emerged that "stuck", promoting social cohesion, stability and uniformity to societies as they grew incrementally more complex.

    Certain technologies, such as writing, became catalysts that transformed societies. As the pool of empirical knowledge grew and societies became more prosperous, a larger proportion of the population could devote itself to learning as an occupation. This truly set the stage for science to emerge. However, religion, like agriculture, continued (and continues) to provide a fundamental underpinning of the societies that produced such levels of prosperity.

    The developed rational mind sometimes misses this point because it has transferred its cognitive faculties from religion to an exponentially more reliable system of thought - but it has done so through a long, involved process of learning and practice. But what of the farmer, the grocer, the mechanic, the insurance agent? Although all of them benefit from the fruits of scientific innovation in countless ways each and every day, none of them need the education that was required to generate these fruits. Nevertheless, cognition - the impulse to order the universe - is just as alive in them as it is in anyone else. Is it any wonder that they find comfort and meaning in ready-made, time-tested religion? And do we not help such people out, just as they help us out, symbiotically, each and every day? Is this not, in fact, non-believers helping the religious?

    The arrogance of the scientific mind is the same as the arrogance of the religious mind, and it lies in the failure to appreciate this relationship.

  55. As an addendum, I should state that I am sometimes guilty of that same arrogance, probably more often than I am aware. And as evidence of this, I'll have you all know that I am firmly convinced that every idea I have presented is The Truth.

    I DARE somebody convince me otherwise.

  56. Not me. Perspicio is a wise person, speaks truth, stays on topic, and probably is a good driver.

  57. Joe

    In essence, that is what you said.

    "..and stop doing evil things."

    And why? There's a new amendment being put forth to protect pedophiles from harassment and possibly even prosecution.

    I know this is evil and you know it is as well. But WHAT IS good and evil and who gets to say?

    When you ask for the whole scale removal of everything belief oriented, you really don't understand what it is you are asking for and why it will be increasingly detrimental to civil society. Regardless of what humanists tend to think, we do need proper reasons, guidelines and authority to dictate what right and wrong does in fact look like. If we don't, negative comments about pedophiles may become "hate speech".

    That would not bother you?

  58. Joe: But you seem to think that as society metes out punishment for evil you will be a part of the punishing faction. What makes you think that you won't deservedly be on the receiving end?"

    If pedophiles become a protected class in our society, I certainly could be. I suppose they (and others) might consider me evil for wishing to protect children. But gosh, you know,...I'd rather be considered evil then.

    Worse things have happened to me before I'm sure. As in, maybe someone couldn't protect me from evil when I was little.

    But at least I know what it looks like when I see it. Why don't you?

  59. You are just plain silly! Pedophiles will not become a protected class, and criticism of them will not be considered "hate speech".

    I know where you get this nonsense, World Net Daily, in fact you have posted links to their articles here. Its nonsense, but then again you like that.

  60. It actually comes through Focus on the Family (who I am sure you love even more) and is called the "sexual orientation" act.

    The language in which the wording was depicted allows for the protection of ANY sexual preference whatsoever. When conservatives tried to have the wording changed so that pedophiles were not a protected class inside of this bill the Dems struck it down. I guess they just don't care.

    Inside of my state, there are Dems I might vote for, but on a national scale and as a collective the Democratic party is rotten to the core. If you firstly accept anti pro-life positions, there is nothing whatsoever keep people FROM GOING AFTER and UNDERMINING LAWS THAT PROTECT CHILDREN NEXT!

    "Many have dubbed it the "Pedophile Protection Act," and Reps. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, and Steve King, R-Iowa, explained on Dobson's program how they tried to have majority Democrats in Congress define "sexual orientation" in the bill – and were refused.

    They also tried to add an amendment that would state that pedophiles were not, in fact, protected under the law, and Democrats again voted to reject that idea."

  61. Come on now, I read the JPOST too, Sheldon. I'm just not sure sometimes why something seems so clear to me makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to you.

    Hate for hate's sake
    (Book review)

    United in Hate:
    The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror
    By Jamie Glazov

    How do the same Hollywood lefties who demonize Mormons for campaigning against Proposition 8, which would have approved gay marriages in California, turn around and embrace Islamists who execute homosexuals?

    How does an icon of the New Left like Tom Hayden - the former Mr. Jane Fonda - who waxed rapturously about North Vietnam's promise of an atheist workers' paradise of equality, then endorse what would seem its polar opposite in radical Iraqi Shi'ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, whose ideology openly preaches religious tyranny and extreme inequality?

    Or what about feminist icon Susan Sontag, darling of The New York Times Book Review, who promoted "free love" in America while lauding North Vietnam's repression of public displays of affection? She more recently defended the attacks on 9/11 by people representing the enslavement of women worldwide as a justified "result of American alliances and actions."

    After the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon in 2001, when Islamists brought their religious war to the soil of America, most folks thought the United States finally had an enemy the political Left could and should get behind fighting.

    To the bewilderment of observers, however, the side of the political spectrum that prides itself on its supposed history of "anti-fascism" ("Hitler-Stalin Pact? What Hitler-Stalin Pact?") has spent its time since 9/11 defending jihadists and other militant Muslims from the supposed warmongering of... the United States of America..."


  62. Funny thing about the Agora: somebody always seems to want to set up a Shadowpuppet Deathmatch Theater 3000 booth right where the philosophical discussions are taking place.

  63. I reviewed this study when it came out last year, and came to some different conclusions. Firstly the study is pretty basic. Secondly, Dow didn't find any benefit of religion. What happened was that no matter how he tweaked it, there was no way that religion was beneficial. Therefore, he surmised, it must have an indirect benefit through costly signalling. More at Epiphenom.


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