September 20, 2003

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKIN' AT?:

Craving God's Attention (Graham Plaster, Relevant)

In the beginning, God created everything, and He saw that it was good. As the centerpiece to His creation, Adam and Eve enjoyed God’s intimate company, walking and talking with Him in the Garden of Eden. They were naked and unashamed. But in a moment they thought God wasn’t looking, they sinned against Him.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord

God called to the man, *Where are you?’ He answered, *I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’ And he said, *Who told you that you were naked?’” (Genesis 3:8-11).

Suddenly God’s gaze was more painful than pleasurable. On one hand, they were created to be with Him. On the other hand, they suddenly felt naked and inadequate. His attention became a double-edged sword.

After Cain killed his brother, God asked him, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain replied that he didn’t know. God asked, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse *” (Genesis 4:9-11).

Despite the fact that God seems far away at times, I can always feel the heat of His eyes on me when I sin intentionally. Like Cain, I am often tempted to cover my faults when His attention is on me. The light He shines in my darkness is penetrating and painful, but perhaps even harder to accept than His discipline is the great mercy He showers.


In the end, mightn't we see atheism as nothing more than the attempt to cover our faults by denying His gaze?

MORE:
Belief in the Divine when being surrounded by evil (Abraham J. Twerski, M.D., Sept. 19, 2003, Jewish World Review)

A mother had brought her infant to the doctor for the second or third of a series of injections to immunize him against whooping cough, lockjaw, and diphtheria. When the baby saw the doctor clad in white, he began screaming, remembering only too well what had transpired on his last encounter. The baby clung to the mother, and when the mother tried to restrain the infant so the doctor could administer the injection, the baby began clawing, kicking, and biting the mother. She was now the enemy, collaborating with the vicious assailant who was about to stab him with the needle. Once the injection was over and the doctor left, the baby once again clung to the mother for dear life.

This scene was very revealing to me.

The infant, totally incapable of understanding anything about being protected from devastating diseases, perceived the process as an assault against him. The mother's collaboration with the assailant left no question but that she had turned against him, and he therefore attacked her. Once the painful episode was over and the mother released her restraint, the baby recognized her as his protector, as his life's source, and he turned to her for relief.

This is how we may sometimes relate to the Divine. When we are in distress, our anger at the Divine may be aroused, and we may express ourselves harshly toward the Divine we may rest assured that the Divine understands this very well, and does not love us any less for our attitude than the mother who is the recipient of the infant's hostility when she restrains him for the doctor. But after the particular incident is over, we turn back to the Divine for support and protection,

Being angry at the Divine is not at all blasphemous. Reflect for a moment. You cannot be angry at something that does not exist. Anger at the Divine is a very positive statement of one's conviction that the Divine exists, and is merely an expression of sharp disagreement brought on by distress. As one wise man said, "You can be for G-d or you can be against G-d. You just cannot be without G-d."

The acid test of faith is primarily the weathering of adversity without losing trust in The Divine, and the ability to accomplish this is a major step in spiritual progress.


And no one expresses more anger at God than atheists.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 20, 2003 8:07 AM
Comments

Most of Sartre's writing (and there was a LOT) was an attempt to build a roof between himself and the eyes of God.

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 20, 2003 8:22 AM

Its hard to know where to start with this. Forgive me for wandering a bit--this is a subject far better suited to an evening's discussion over drinks than tapping away in a 3x5 inch window.

Perhaps with fundamentals. One of the problems is with the word "atheist," with which we seem to be stuck. According to the dictionary, atheism is a belief there is no God.

Unfortunately, God and religion are not the same thing.

What word does one use for the belief that, because all religions are, to an extent between some and total, mutually exclusive, at best no more than one religion is true, and there is no way to tell which, if any that one is? That word would also have to encompass the belief the questions of God's existence and nature are completely unanswerable: every "proof" affirming or denying God's existence is fatally flawed.

What is the word for an areligious agnostic? I'll use Dunno.

You might see Dunnoists as attempting to cover their faults. I see Dunnoism as an attempt to understand existence no less meangingful than any religion's, and flawed, just like religion, when it starts to confuse conclusions from ignorance with incontrovertible fact. Which, I suppose, would turn it into Knowism.

I'm sure that if I selectively chose some prominent religionists I could, without trouble, use Freud to explain their behavior. Big deal.

Your crowing about the peppered moth thing is also perplexing, on several levels. Most prominently, that the study was flawed does not make the conclusion false, it only says the experiment, to the extent it is flawed, is unable to say anything about the conclusion one way or the other. The only way you could have "... seized the flag ..." is to conduct an experiment whose results contradicted the theory.

That, so far as I know, has never been done.

Stove, as seems typical for him, picks an extreme point and extrapolates from there. Kind of like a headless vector: all speed and no direction. I strongly recommend reading "Nature via Nurture." Author's last name is Ridley. That is a far better (and due to recency, better informed) starting point than Dawkins.

Stove, and you, should also read a selection from the Scientific American Library called "Fossils and the History of Life" by George Simpson. It is not without faults--the prose is a bit leaden, and he brushes aside non-believers in evolution in a mere, dismissive, sentence. But both Stove, and you, would benefit from taking on board enough of the evidence underlying evolutionary theory to actually criticize evolution, rather than some straw-man painted up to look like evolution.

For one, it would stop Stove, and you, from criticizing evolution because wings couldn't possibly evolve from feathers.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 20, 2003 10:07 AM

Mr. Judd;

I must confess that I'm a Dunno like Mr. Guinn, and that the frequently blazing anger of many atheists at religion and the religous has been a great puzzle to me.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 20, 2003 4:23 PM

I am constantly being struck anew by the extent to which the United States is a Christian nation. Even our athiests are Christians.

In particular, Jeff's concern that "because all religions are, to an extent between some and total, mutually exclusive, at best no more than one religion is true, and there is no way to tell which, if any that one is" strikes me as being a problem only for those whose basic assumptions have been shaped by Christianity.

It is, on the other hand, a fundamental tenet of Judaism that the Jews have been given a revelation not given to other peoples. As a result, the fact that we believe one thing and everyone else believes other things is not much of an issue for us.

Jeff's concern comes from an unquestioned assumption of evangelism as an end of religion. Judaism and many other religions, on the other hand, reject evangelism.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 20, 2003 5:49 PM

5{ the interesting bits I picked up from Nature via Nurture was that it is possible to determine how fundamental one's religious beliefs are by asking carefully designned questions on subjects unrelated to religion. Further, the tendency to fundamentalism is, at least in part, inherited.

The trick is to avoid presumption: do not assume fundamentalism is equal to fervent belief in religion; rather, it is any fervently held religious belief. Atheism is a religious belief. Strict atheism is every bit as fundamentalist as, say, strict Catholicism.

Therein lies both sides of the coin. The most fundamental religionists view atheists with precisely the same hostility as the must fundamental atheists view strict religionists.

The trick is posing the question properly. Atheists can't be angry at a God they don't believe in. But they certainly can be angry at their diametric opposites.

And vice versa.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 20, 2003 6:01 PM

David:

That special revelation would seem peculiar to all religions. Mormons being one example.

The fundemantal tenet of all religions is: We are specially, divinely, revealed to be chosen.

Where Judaism seems to part ways with other religions is (if I may be so bold) a complete lack of concern about Other Believers, and an equal, admirable, disinclination to convert them.

But from the outside, the selection problem remains the same. Materialistic atheist is the wrong term here.

Probablistic Dunnoist is more apt.

BTW, USS Clueless has a very interesting post on genetics. In particular, about 20 paras down, it shows how much change can be induced by a little DNA modifying radiation.

http://denbeste.nu/

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 20, 2003 7:03 PM

Jeff -- I can't speak of Mormons, about whom I know very little, but that is not a fundamental tenet of Christianity (unless, of course, you mean it to be entirely reductive).

Posted by: David Cohen at September 20, 2003 8:58 PM

Mormons do claim to be the "true religion".
However, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints also institutionalizes the concept that not all is revealed by God, and that we don't fully understand what HAS been revealed, and thus there is room for the faith to change.

In other words, the Church itself doesn't claim to know all the answers.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 20, 2003 10:22 PM

All religions worthy of the name consider themselves to be the "true faith" and assert that the revelation made to them is superior to the revelation claimed by other religions. Judaism is no different.

Judaism differs from Christianity, however, in that Judaism turns on a revelation given to a people (or, more properly, obligations imposed upon a people) existing outside of that revelation -- that is, you can sensibly speak of the Jews without reference to religion. Jesus, on the other hand, is understood to have come to bring his revelation to mankind, not just to the Jews, and Christians are the body of people who have accepted that revelation. As a result, it is important to Christians that others come to Jesus in a way that Jews simply don't care about others coming to Judaism.

I have friends who would, because of their affection for me, be delighted if I became Christian. I, on the other hand, am glad my wife decided to convert, but other converts to Judaism simply leave me somewhat bemused.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 20, 2003 11:00 PM

It might be interesting if they were to produce an adaptation of "Fiddler on the Roof" on Broadway, adapting it to a group of impoverished but colorful atheists living clearly challenging but spiritually fulfilling lives in a small New Hampshire town.

Singing such chestnuts as "If I Were Religious, Man!" "Superstition" and "Surprise, No Regrets"

Then again....

Posted by: Barry Meislin at September 21, 2003 6:48 AM

Well, there are atheists and atheists. Some indeed harbor a lot of anger towards God, or religion, or religious believers, or all three. And then there are the Laodiceans: those who are have little knowledge or understanding of religion and who could not care less.

I don't know about the other readers of this blog, but most of the atheists I've met fall into the second category.

Posted by: Josh Silverman at September 21, 2003 7:58 AM

Josh:

I suspect the second category is filled with people for whom religious experience is as alien as, to pick a personal example, enthusiasm for opera.

At first reading of your post, I was faintly insulted. On second reading, insult vanished, replaced by complete agreement.

Although now a Dunnoist, I was brought up Episcopalian. I have some knowledge of religion. But I can't--not won't, can't--understand it. As a result, as with opera, I would be very hard pressed to care less about it.

Until Knowists start trying to impress their certainty upon me, whether through ostentatious public displays of Knowosity, assertions that my Dunnoism make it impossible for me to comprehend the basis for American society, or that I am witlessly wed to statism thereby.

All the atheists I know are really Dunnoists, and they fall into the second category, to the extent they don't care about Knowism as long as Knowism doesn't care about them.

David:

Our world would be a much happier place if all religions were like Judaism in that respect.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 21, 2003 8:40 AM

Jeff:

And that is the classic dividing line between secularists and the religious. Secularism is premised on the faith that if only no one asserts that their beliefs are any truer than anyone else's we'll have peace and happiness. The religious don't mind--in fact believe necessary--that the world be a rather rambunctious place. Of course, the religious view comports better with reality than the utopian perfectionism of the secularists. More importantly though, the secularists have abandonded the long human search for a decent society. So, for instance, your insistence that you are incapable of determining for anyone else whether infanticide or sodomy is a good thing or not. Viewed through the terribly limited and selfish lends of your person, you do have a more peaceful surrounding, because you don't have any quarrel with people. The society you live in though is quite violent as between people other than yourself.

Posted by: oj at September 21, 2003 2:26 PM

Marx, Lenin and the National Socialists for example were openly hostile toward religious beliefs as well as organized religion. Atheistic materialists by necessity substitute science and rational planning for the spontaneously developed social institutions which helped to organize society more justly and humanely. Atheism as distinguished from "dunno-ism" may just be the problem. Agnostics are by definition open to change, atheists can only renounce tightly held beliefs before acknowledging a power even higher than man's reason.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at September 21, 2003 2:32 PM

OJ, Tom:

You don't seem to understand your inherent contradiction. That is, all religious beliefs use material means to assert their authority. After all, how does one verify that God spoke to Moses, or Joseph Smith, or Mary? How does one verify the claims atheists make?

Ultimately, religionists spell "because" with one syllable instead of two.

Since no claims can be verified from within the "sphere" of our existence, then they all rest on material means for substantiation: results count. But the only results we can know are material.

Which brings OJ's assertion into some doubt. Among other things, equating secularism with utopian perfectionism is--diplomatic words fail me here--a ridiculous caricature. And my assertion that Judaism's approach (I hope I have understood David correctly: let those who believe, believe, those who don't, don't, and let God sort it out in the afterlife) is nothing more than a vote for freedom of conscience.

Let me repeat: any secular "materialist" (scare quotes around another word that fails to convey the correct meaning, but serves pretty well as an insult) is by definition an Evolutionist. But that means, also by definition, secularists believe perfect outcomes are impossible. To assert that Harry and I, for instance, must believe in some material utopia is nothing more than a brickbat.

Additionally, you trivialize my arguments. As soon as you apply the label infanticide, you have presumed the precise thing which is under contention: what constitutes infancticide. Some believe that the precise moment of conception defines humanity; others might pick when the brain stem forms, still others might pick quickening. Additionally, you have arbitrarily decided that when rights of the mother and the fetus come into conflict, the fetus always wins. If there was widespread agreement on this point, as well, we wouldn't have an argument.

But there is, and we do, and your posing my "position" as favoring infanticide is both insulting and inaccurate, because you have no idea what my position and you don't know when I define infanthood. You only know my impression of what I believe the issues to be, and that they incline me to allowing women sovereignty, and letting God sort it out. Just like Judaism (insert caveat here).

Similarly for sodomy. Just like with heterosexuality, the moral content is completely dependent upon context. Are the knock-on effects of sodomy worse than heterosexuality? Yes. Does that constitute grounds for denying, the inborn drives of these people when conducted within a context we would consider appropriate for heterosexuality? No.

Can I determine for them whether sodomy is a good thing? I can--based on results--demonstrate it is a less good thing than not sodomy, but that choice simply isn't on the table, because God didn't give them that choice.

Why did I say that? Unless you are willing to ignore mountains of substantiating evidence, then you must conclude that homosexuality is part of God's plan.

To conclude that secularists have abandoned the search for a decent society is just plain wrong. My search has led me to oppose Knowism in all its forms, because secularism, the opposite of Knowism, seems to allow the greatest number of people to die of old age.

Knowism has never produced that result.

Tom:

Knowism is the problem, whether it is atheists or religionists. We live in a material world, like it or not. The only basis we have for judgment is material. Marxism/Islamism/Nazism/Christian fundamentalism are all Knowisms. Whether they believe in a supreme being or not, my bet is you wouldn't prefer to live under any such regime.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 21, 2003 6:07 PM

Jeff:

Judaism is a religion of race, not of belief. The Jews are chosen; the rest of us aren't. It doesn't matter what you believe.

Materialists need not be Darwinists, since there's no material evidence. They must be Evolutionists, in that they must think species change over time. But must acknowledge they've no idea when, how, or why.

One proves God spoke to them by believing it so, not by any material evidence.

It is infanticide even if we choose to say that infants don't deserve full rights. Your squeamishness about accurate definitions not withstanding. We kill lots of people--in war, after they commit crimes, when we catch them committing crimes, when they're in an advanced terminal state--only abortiphiles have had to torture the language to make their killing palatable.

Sodomy is, of course, not a genetic predisposition but a fubction of one's relations with the parents and the resulting sexualization.

Let me know when you find somewhere that's trying knowism--I think you must mean the planet Vulcan or James Blish's Case of Conscience, but that's fiction--you, of course, live in a Judeo-Christian society.

In the meantime, even you can probably figure out that knwism is itself a knowism, since it has no more basis for its assertions than any other isms. It's just your favored form of faith.


Posted by: oj at September 21, 2003 7:31 PM

Jeff:

A) I imagine you surrounded by test tubes and computers trying to prove religion or atheism is true. The reason you claim it can't be proven is because your idea of proof is rigorously restricted to deducing propositions from material observation and experimentation. You reject induction, experience, intuition, revelation and tradition as reliable because they are not "rational". That is why you can't accept religion and also why you defend all kinds of moral freedoms even when you admit they are harmful.

B) I don't think OJ always votes for the mother over the fetus. I think he always votes for the rights of the victim over the freedom of the killer.

C) What is a 'Christian Fundamentalist Regime" and when in history has such a regime ever existed? Please point to any Western society that proclaimed it would be governed solely by the Gospels and which did not have a secular component.

D) Yes, homosexuality may have been in the divine plan. War, disease, murder and leftists too. So, should we embrace them all too?

E) You seem to forget that, until very recently, society did not approve of heteros having sex out of marriage either. Bachelors and spinsters were expected morally to remain celebate and, while the law did not proscribe sex for singles, it didn't make it easy. What exactly do you think the danger is to people denied an outlet for their sexual urges? Do you share the modern psychological mindset that treats them as akin to sealed containers of boiling water ready to explode? Do you feel that a decent society must allow these urges to be expressed, and indeed other urges, even when great unhappiness or other results flow?

F) I leave it to David and others to respond to your truly fascinating take on Judaism.

Posted by: Peter B at September 21, 2003 7:35 PM

Peter:

My take on Judaism is an interpretation of what David had previously written. If it is way off base, it is my fault, not his, and completely invalid.

I am going to type this slowly, and loudly: Homesexuality. Is. Not. Genetic. It is ontological, and is an excellent example of the distinction between genotype and phenotype. This distinction is indisputable, and failing to understand it leads to a host of incorrect assumptions. The evidence for homosexuality being ontologically caused, innate and independent of parenting is overwhelming. (Nature via Nurture provides a few examples of that evidence).

Darwinists and evolutionists have a very clear idea of how and why evolution happens (Take a look at USS Clueless for a far better explanation than I can give; you will have to go a fair number of paras down before you get there. Those of you hung up on "intermediate forms" are not going to be pleased.)

My main point was to distinguish Knowism from Dunnoism. OJ is right, I can't prove my existence. Nor can he, nor can he prove the opposite. Therefore, any form of Knowism is making a conclusion from ignorance and treating it as settled fact. Dunnoism, by contrast, prefers "Dunno" to conclusions of ignorance.

Nothing is proven on account of someone said so. Which is a central point. If all the on account of someone said sos even remotely agreed, then that might work. But they don't. So you must look elsewhere for the tie-breaker. Where else do you propose to look?

If you imagine me trying to prove religion or atheism is true, you imagine wrong. First, religion and atheism are two entirely different things. If atheists are correct, than de facto all religions are wrong. But it is also true that all religions could be wrong, and atheists wrong at the same time.

Whether God exists is as unanswerable as whether we exist.

Which religion is divinely ordained is equally unknowable, as is whether any religion is ordained.

So what do we do? Look at material results.

You make the same mistake OJ made regarding infanticide. Go to the street and ask 1000 people if they approve of infanticide. You will get 1000 nos. Ask if they approve of a woman's right to choose, and you are going to get a far different answer. That is because many people don't equate abortion with infanticide. For those who don't, your calling it that is nothing more than assuming as a given that which is far from agreed upon.

Everyone agrees killing a neonate is wrong. Very few agree that taking RU 486 to prevent the implantation of a blastocyst is equivalent to killing a neonate.

So before making declarations about infanticide, it is important to declare what you mean, and to understand that if you win, it is your choice that prevails at the expense of everyone who doesn't share that point of view, including those who might (since I don't know your definition) be more absolutist than you.

Spain during the Inquisition would be a Christian Fundamentalist regime. Ireland until the 1900s got close. But that isn't important, since the point was a hypothetical. If Pat Robertson was made indisputable authority of the US, would you want to live here?

To complete the circle (reminds me of a Klang Bird, a lifeform unknown, so far as I know, outside the fighter pilot community. A Klang Bird is a bird that flies in ever decreasing circles until it flies up its own fundament with a loud "Klang"), homosexuality, unlike the other things you mentioned is not a matter of choice. (And if it was, you should be punishing the parents, by your reasoning), anymore than your eye color is.

How is it that something completely bereft of choice can have a moral component?

Yes, I am aware of all the things society used to do. I don't think there is any physical danger to people from denying that outlet.

The danger to autonomy and freedom of conscience, however, is a far different thing.

BTW--welcome back. Did you win? Was the outcome just?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 21, 2003 8:49 PM

Jeff:

Ever read Benjamin Netanyahu's Origins of the Spanish Inquisition?

Are you aware that even Roe depended on the non-viability of the fetus in order to deny its right to life?

Steve at USS Clueless actually bans people who disagree with him on Darwinism, making him even more closeminded than you, and therefore less worthy of consideration.

Why do so many homosexuals come from identical childhoods, occur late in the birth order, become prevalent only in certain types of societies, etc., etc., etc.?

On the one hand you wish to assert that "Marxism/Islamism/Nazism/Christian fundamentalism are all Knowisms" but that materialism is a Dunnoism, yet you recognize that there is no basis, other than "I know it must be true" for the belief in material. So how does "I dunno past the point where I do know" differ from "I know"?

Posted by: oj at September 21, 2003 9:03 PM

Jeff:

Trial settled early--client happy; thanks. Big one coming, so I'll have to convert you quickly!

I completely fail to understand the point you are making about ontological, etc,. The point is not the natural/unatural debate over homosexuality. The point is sexual liberty or licence as an ultimate value. What in the world does "autonomy and freedom of conscience" have to do with it? We are talking about actions, not beliefs.

"So what do we do? Look at material results."

Not sure I agree that is the right approach, but, hey, let's go with it. With all their sins, I respectfully suggest that, generally speaking, religious people are wealthier, save more, have less debt, have more solid marriages, live longer, are happier and less prone to emotionl disorders, smoke, drink and gamble less, have more successful kids vis-a vis education, are less likely to have legal problems, and (the best of all) don't dwell on their own mundane problems, but rise above them.

Just a non-scientific, non-rational, inductive impression.

Posted by: Peter B at September 21, 2003 9:28 PM

Correction (beg your pardon):

"The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenh Century Spain" was written not by Benjamin Netanyahu but by his father, Benzion Netanyahu.

There are several entries in e.g., Google that also make this misattribution.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at September 22, 2003 4:40 AM

Peter B:

I submit that barring the scores of mentally healthy people from doing as they will, to prevent the self-abusive from being unhappy, INCREASES the amount of unhappiness in society, rather than DECREASING it.
Additionally, once you decide that a Nanny State is the best way to ensure happiness, what's to prevent even greater restriction ? Why not go back to arranged marriage, with the State picking your psychologically compatible, test-approved mate ? Further, slippery slope, etc., etc.

Religious people enjoy all of the benefits that you mention, but, are these because of religion, or, due to people who would enjoy these benefits regardless, joining a church ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 22, 2003 5:10 AM

Barry:

The copy of the book I'm looking at says Benjamin. One would assume they must have Anglicized his name?

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 7:52 AM

Michael:

But if they were happy they wouldn't be engaged in self-abuse.

Your counterexample is inapt precisely because marriage does not per se involve self abusers, but where was this State we might go back to in which everyones' marriages were arranged by a central authority?

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 7:55 AM

OJ:

I don't know that so many homosexuals come from identical childhoods--cite your source. My younger brother came from a childhood identical to mine. He is, I'm not. Birth order correlation could be, probably is, ontological. Did you know fetal cells circulate in the mother's body for years after birth? There seems to be a certain minimum background rate--1-3%--of homosexuality in all societies at all times. Are there any societies where they actually became prevalent?

Dunnoism never gets to I know. As any materialist would be able to tell you, all material descriptions are incomplete abstractions of "reality" that could be overturned at any moment. Dunnoism understands that a description is not an explanation.

Dunnoism also understands that in a material world/material illusion (your choice) the only way to distinguish truth value between competing explanations is through material means. And where those means are not available, truth value is unknowable.

Peter:

OJ's point was the consequences of homosexuality make it unnatural. My intent was to point out the non-sequitor. But he does tend to abuse the language a bit. Terming abortion infanticide is an excellent example. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty certain nothing about the definition of the word "infant" includes pre-partum.

The other point has to do with what constitutes "moral." If one's sexual orientation is beyond the realm of free will--and there is scads of evidence to indicate that--does it make any sense to attribute any moral content to the act at all? The Bible does, causing many religionists to do the same. But to the extent my premise is true, then the morality of the Bible's diktat is itself questionable.

Which means the morality of homosexuality is just like that of heterosexuality, completely bound by context.

Finally, while your observations about the material benefits religious believers enjoy are undoubtedly correct, what you lose sight of, and what Michael alluded to, is what statisticians call "range restriction error."

About once a year a story will hit the press proving marriage is good for men, because married men live longer, commit suicide less, yada yada yada.

That conclusion is only true if women choose mates completely at random. One suspects, however, that few schizophrenic males get married. That makes the unmarried population statistically different than the married one, hence the range restriction error, hence the invalidated conclusion.

I suspect precisely the same thing goes on with regard to church congregations.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 22, 2003 7:56 AM

Warning:

Should you type an over long post, it goes away without notice. Forever.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 22, 2003 8:02 AM

Jeff:

But you don't know it's a material world, you only "know" it. Beyond that you're just building on supposition.

There is no evidence that sex is not a function of free will. If you can choose not to have sex and choose who to have it with you can obviously choose not to have anal sex, as the great majority of us do. Therefore the choice to engage in it is a moral choice.

And don't get confused about the central point: hoimosexuality ios obviously unnatural on its face, this is only borne out by the myriad unusual diseases that anal/fecal contact causes and for which humans have not evolved defenses.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 8:11 AM

Never mind--it just takes awhile to show up.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 22, 2003 8:47 AM

OJ:

I never said I know the world is material, only that the supposition that it is proves useful. So you are exactly right, I am building on a supposition, knowing the whole time it could be completely wrong. That makes me a Dunnoist.

I didn't say whether to have sex was a function of free will, only that orientation itself is innate. You could no more choose to be homosexual than to choose a different eye color. Nor can a homosexual. If a woman cannot provoke the required physical response in a homosexual man, he cannot have sex with her. Period.

Your definition of "natural" is wrong. Homosexuality occurs without human intervention--your notion of the bad-parenting cause has absolutely no basis in fact, but it has succeeded in heaping mountains of guilt upon mothers--mine included. That makes homosexuality a natural, as opposed to man-made, occurrence. That consideration has absoluely nothing to do with the consequences.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 22, 2003 9:18 AM

OJ:

"Steve at USS Clueless actually bans people who disagree with him on Darwinism, making him even more closeminded than you, and therefore less worthy of consideration."

I wasn't aware of that. Regrettable, but that doesn't reflect on the validity of the evidence he cites. If you want your arguments to be informed, you should read it.

I am not closeminded on Evolution. It is a material explanation for natural history. Therefore, I am open to any material argument that contradicts it. So far, neither you, nor Mr. Stove, have made a coherent material argument.

For example, concluding that speciation every 100 million years means there should be only 25 species on the planet, materially contradicts evolutionary theory. If true. That you are off by a factor of a mere 1.5 million doesn't make me closeminded, just resistant to bad arguments.

Hence my urging you read the book on Fossils, which discusses paleontological data with hardly a word for evolutionary theory. Doing so would allow you to come to the debate better prepared.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 22, 2003 9:25 AM

Jeff:

It's as much your absent father's fault--which also caused your atheism.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 9:26 AM

Yes, I guess they have anglicized it. But it gets a bit confusing because they refer to Bibi as, alternately, Binyamin and Benjamin.

(Curiously, the cover page, as reprinted on the Amazon site, only says "B. Netanyahu.")

I'm beginning to wonder if incoherence is ontological....

Posted by: Barry Meislin at September 22, 2003 10:25 AM

Barry:

Ah, I see. I am mistaken. It actually bills the author only as B. Netanyahu and only has his full name--Benzion--in the publishing information. I must have seen the Binyamin listing at Amazon too. My apologies.

One interesting thing, he like Benjamin dedicates his book to Jonathan.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 11:24 AM

OJ:

You can't possibly believe that. If your supposition were true, we would have had to see, due to the increased divorce rate, huge increases in the background rate of homosexuality.

Which hasn't been even close to the case.

Compare with teen pregnancy rates, the result of volitional behavior, that does correlate with absent fathers.

Nature via Nurture is a good way to get acquainted with the material evidence; reading it would give you a better basis with which to attack a materialist argument.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 22, 2003 11:29 AM

Jeff:

No, I believe in free will. The absence of the father doesn't ipso facto create homosexuals but creates an envoironment in which the male child's relationship to the mother and masculine development must inevitably be prone to dysfunction. There will be many other variables, from birth order to substitute fathers, etc.. But homosexuality, like atheism, is basically just a psychological type.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 11:40 AM

How did this thread start from a story on atheism and belief?

Any philosophy - whether a religion based on revelation, materialist reductionist atheism, agnostic deism, or whatever - has an a priori assumption that by definition cannot be tested. Ultimately, regardless of what we believe in, it comes down to, "but that's the way it is."

The only "proof" for which a priori is right is whether evidence is found for the implications of that a priori. While some theories obviously fail by that criteria (Marxism - and look how many still believe that), some do not and remain in contention. The evidence is never conclusive for the remaining, so in the end it all comes down to faith and based on personal experience on which seems more right.

And as for what constitutes natural, we need to be careful on definitions. On a genetic level, homosexual inclination may be natural for a tiny minority (for some gays at least, others might be the result of abuse, libidinous experimentation, etc - the wide variety of homosexual lifestyles tells me that there are more myriad explanations for it than the boiler plate genetics vs pervert dichotomy) meaning it happens at birth, but so is mental retardation, club feet, Down's Syndrome, and many other mutations we call birth defects.

I don't know why people think that simply because something can be explained by genetics, it is somehow natural - meaning in code "good" and "normal." There are many negative mutations.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at September 22, 2003 1:31 PM

Chris:

Not everything, in fact many things, are not due to genetics--there is a sharp distinction between phenotype and genotype. Process variations during gestation can produce phenotypes at sharp odds with genotypes. For instance, there are XY females, a particularly glaring example of a genotype-phenotype disconnect.

OJ:

"But homosexuality, like atheism, is basically just a psychological type." Just like heterosexuality is just a psychological type.

Unless its not.

Before making such a blanket assertion, you really should at least look at the evidence you are denying. I think it is Chapter 7 in Nature via Nurture.

But then that is the problem with materialistic arguments--having to account for all that pesky evidence. Far easier to just assert an opinion.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 22, 2003 3:18 PM

Jeff:

One doubts that swapping theological citations will advance the ball much--you've your holy writings, no matter how nonsensical, I've mine. Besides, my sides are still splitting from reading that hilarious Sara Baffled Hrdy book, where she tries to argue that historic male superiority wasn't natural and women aren't nurturing, but still retain the idea of Darwinism.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 4:10 PM

BTW:

How do you and Chuck propose the species survive if heterosexuality is merely a psychological problem?

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 4:40 PM

I have but one question to add to this debate, since most of it was done in one form or another in the third century, and I would've been as over my head then as I am now.

Anyway:

Where the heck is Harry?

Posted by: Chris at September 22, 2003 4:54 PM

OJ:

I don't, it isn't. Which is my point. In demonizing homosexuals, you deny them the possibility of having drives every bit as deep seated, albeit misdirected, as yours.

And, as with your views on Evolution, rather than confront the evidence for the contrary position, you revert to Monty Pythonesqe argumentation: the automatic gainsaying of whatever the other person has said.

Sarah Hrdy makes bases much of what she says on historical references. While I don't always agree with her conclusions, it is difficult to wish away her factual basis.

Anyway, her argument about women's nurturing isn't that it doesn't exist, but for full expression depends very much on other things happening.

My sources nonsensical? Surely you have some actual evidence to back up that assertion.

Chris:

I have no idea how it got here. It is probably my fault--I read the links OJ put in, and they referred to a whole lot of things. Makes it hard to maintain focus.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 22, 2003 9:49 PM

Jeff:

They aren't demons, they're ill.

Posted by: oj at September 22, 2003 9:52 PM

Your Bible, and your co-religionists, demonize them. And they desire to prohibit the one relational refuge we hold so dear for ourselves.

Society imposes upon them higher inheritance taxes, and eliminates social security survivor benefits, among other things.

All because they suffer a birth defect with no known cure.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 23, 2003 7:24 AM

Jeff:

My religion, the Bible, and our political/legal system suggest that certain penalties be imposed on people who engage in certain transgressive behaviors--murder, sodomy, etc..

Posted by: oj at September 23, 2003 8:23 AM

Can and should are two entirely different things.

A lack of skepticism regarding your religion's moral precepts lead you to believe they are the same.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 23, 2003 11:59 AM

To the contrary, despite Biblical admonitions we no longer burn witches or kill homosexuals, but we can treat them differently.

Posted by: oj at September 23, 2003 12:13 PM

How can that be? You aren't contravening the word of God, are you?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 23, 2003 9:21 PM

Sure. We're known to be incapable of meeting his exacting standards.

Posted by: oj at September 23, 2003 10:17 PM

oj:

Many people are able to maturely enjoy experiences that a few others abuse. For instance: Gambling, alcohol, sex, material possessions, and food.

You divide the world into two camps, the free and the safe.... Why do you want to force anyone into the "safe" camp ?

Societies arranged marriages in the past, which I'm sure you are aware of. In this case, I was postulating a future in which society was controlled by a government whose actions were dictated by Asimov's First Law of Robotics.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 24, 2003 3:24 AM

Because libertarianism is just as repellant as totalitarianism. You can't have a decent society if you ignore the destructive behaviotrs of your fellow men and say that's their choice.

I have no problem with arranged marriages. They work as well or better than ours. But the State shouldn't arrange them, families should.

Posted by: oj at September 24, 2003 8:26 AM
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