I Feel I Should Repeat Myself

This isn’t so much a blog post as it is a reposting of a couple comments I made today at other peoples’ blogs that I felt deserved the widest audience I could give them. My sincere apologies if you happen to have a weak stomach for all things regurgitated.

On Racism

Subhangi, inspired by a post of Lauri's, wrote yesterday about some of the ways in which racial stereotypes are perpetuated throughout modern society and how people often damage the uniqueness inherent to their own culture by accepting and/or focusing too much on these widespread generalizations.

Here is what I had to say:

I think for me it comes down to the simple notion of love and hate of motivations. Put simply, if you're singling out something specifically wonderful about a certain race of people, you honor that group by acknowledging what they have to contribute to mankind, but if you're selecting things you feel are bad and wrong, then you are using their culture as a weapon against them and your dishonor spreads to all of humanity. And as you've noted, it's no better just because it's packaged in a cute cartoon character.

On Flag Burning

KatieKat, having learned it’s illegal in her state to burn the American flag, wanted to know what others thought about flag desecration as it related to respect, patriotism, and freedom. I doubt my opinion will shock anyone who knows me.

This is what I wrote:

To my mind, the problem lies with symbolism or, more accurately, with the amount of importance some people tend to put on silly symbols. A recent example regarding the Catholic ritual of Communion illustrates what I mean rather well:

In an attempt to demonstrate just how silly (and, perhaps, how dangerous) baseless symbolism can be, scientist PZ Myers desecrated a communion wafer. To people like me, he was merely being mean to a cracker (albeit rather antagonistically). But to Catholics who have somehow become convinced the rolled-and-baked symbol of Christ's body actually becomes Christ's body, the act is akin to violent assault! The vocal response to PZ's perfectly inconsequential act was some of the most irrational and unintelligent crap I've heard in a good long time. He even received death threats… over a cracker… a symbol… a lesser representation devised to remind fractious humans that they believe in something bigger than themselves.

The fact is, the law wasn't written because it bugs people when a piece of colored cloth is set on fire, but rather because certain people are bothered by the symbolism of such an event. It's the message burning a flag sends that is reprehensible to them, not the loss of the flag itself. How dare anyone express such a negative sentiment about their homeland! But, see, if they make a law saying you can't say anything bad about America, it'll be thrown out as unconstitutional. Violates the First Amendment, right? So instead they take away your right to use symbolism to make your point. It's still a violation of the right to free speech, but it's convoluted by semantics.

In short, burning an American flag represents the very freedom the U.S. was founded on and if people valued other humans as much as they valued their insipid emblems and graven images, we wouldn't have any need to make such drastic statements in the first place.

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About kirkstarr

I draw pictures for a living.
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39 Responses to I Feel I Should Repeat Myself

  1. Snowy says:

    And Amen to that, Kirk.

  2. Lauri says:

    Wow! I had not heard of PZ Myers violent assault on a communion wafer. To me, it's funny. Because I don't find it to be a personal attack on myself, my religion (of which I have only the sketchiest), or on the body of Jesus Christ himself. The Jesus Christ that I have read about would probably simply laugh at this act, too.But, to react to Myer's act by threatening his death? That's ridiculous. Not to mention downright unChristian. However, I would not go out and be so blatantly disrespectful to something that someone else reveres. I mean, it's important to them, it's holy to them. So why not just respect that?As for the American flag…I definitely think that this country was founded on freedoms, including burning a hunk of cloth if one feels so moved. The country is not harmed by someone going overboard and burning a flag. Why get all defensive and make laws against it? I like your statement, "if people vaued other humans as much as they value their insipid emblems and graven images, we wouldn't have any need to make such drastic statements in the first place."Exactly!

  3. Lauri says:

    PS, no problem with regurgitated stuff….I have usually forgotten most of it and need a rehash anyway! 😉

  4. Kirk says:

    Hey thanks, Snowy!(By the way, I'm working through the 'hood. I'll be dropping in on you very soon and look forward to what you've had to say while I've been away.)

  5. Steve B says:

    Well now hold onasec there, pard. While I can see, in principle, where you are going with your first response, I find myself asking: so, are we only allowed to identify, discuss, or highlight the positive aspects of a culture? If highlighting the good is honoring, but highlighting the bad is bludgeoning and disrepecting, then you have effectively killed any sort of discourse. To suggest that expressing concern or dislike with aspects of a particular culture is inherently a form of racism or xenophobia is at best annoying, at worst intellectual gatekeeping.
    You heard it repeatedly from the more vehement of the Obama supporters: the only reason you wouldn't vote for Obama is that you're racist!!1!11! I'd a voted for Morgan Freeman, Conoleeza Rice, or frickin' Clarence Thomas for that matter. I didn't vote for B.O. because I don't like his politics. Not because I hate black people. But we buy into this disagreement = racism thing so readily that it makes any form of productive exchange of competing ideas into instant racism/hate. Talk about B.O.'s root in the Weather Underground or his lack of subtantive experience? HATER!
    WRT the wafer thing, it's a question of respect. In the first response, you talk about motivations. What was the motivation in treating a religious symbol in such a way? To shock. To disgust? To promote discourse?
    Regardless of your views on the silliness of such symbolism, to disregard a person's belief AS silly, and then to suggest that, when faced when a patently offensive act against those beliefs, they just need to get a grip, seems to be a tad bit jaded and shall we say, dismissive?
    I personal find the whole transubtantiation thing a tad ludicrous and unbiblical. Doesn't mean that I'm going to take a whiz in a bowl full of communion wafers and laugh at Catholics as I call it "art," either.
    As far as the flag goes, burning a flag has always symbolized the desire for the destruction of said country. For a citizen of that country to burn the flag implies the desire to see the country in which you are currently residing, "the Republic for which it stands," reduced to ashes. This is a disturbing and emotionally-charged issue for those who don't agree with that sentiment. Unfortunately, it is an expression of free speech which should not be abrogated by a Constitutional amendment. Slippery slope there.

  6. Kirk says:

    "However, I would not go out and be so blatantly disrespectful to something that someone else reveres." Agreed. PZ's actions were certainly too adversarial for me to consider him blameless in the whole affair.I felt the same way about the inflammatory anti-Islam cartoons that were so in fashion some time back. The artists all wanted us to believe they were just freely speaking their minds, but it was painfully apparent they merely saw an opportunity to manipulate the free press to allowing a racist propaganda cartoons. It's perfectly reasonable to defend one's freedom of speech, but to needlessly attack someone and then cower behind the First Amendment is a blatant perversion of that freedom. If a person has no respect for the feelings of others, how can he expect them to concern themselves with his feelings and beliefs? How can he even think he'd be met with anything but angry resistance?Once again, it has all led back to motivations and intentions.

  7. AmyH says:

    I'm not doing a good job keeping up with everyone, so regurgitate away!
    Funny, I was thinking of something sort of along the same lines as your flag burning argument.
    At book club last night, we were still talking about the book we had to read for the time before, The Informers by… Brett Easton Ellis? Is that right? Anyway, it was awful. Not one character had reedeming qualities. I was hoping everyone died horrible deaths at the end. It just got worse and worse and none of the stories came back together to complete the book.
    You get the picture.
    Anyway, a few people wanted to burn the book just because it was SO BAD. Others jumped in and said, "Oh no! You can't burn books!"
    But is it okay if you burn your own personal copy (or Cranky's copy, since I borrowed it from her) that you don't want, don't want to burden someone else with, don't want to even have in your house anymore? I can't in good conscience give it away.
    It's not like it's a sacred text, it's just a really awful book. It could possibly be seen as an act of protest, but not for any real ideologically reason. I suppose one could just throw it in the trash. But still.

  8. Lurkertype says:

    Recycle it so it can become something useful like a trash bag or cheap toilet paper. That's what I did with a copy of Dianetics I came across. Tearing the covers off and ripping it into sections of just a few pages stuck together is also fun to do. PLOOMF, into the bin with the junk mail it went.That way you've kept it out of other people's hands and disposed of it in an environmentally-friendly manner, which burning or trash wouldn't be.

  9. Kirk says:

    "If highlighting the good is honoring, but highlighting the bad is
    bludgeoning a'nd disrepecting, then you have effectively killed any sort
    of discourse."Perhaps I could have worded it better, but I was composing a comment off-the-cuff. My English degree often fails me in those cases.What I meant was when people focus on/obsess about/belabor the issue of the negative aspects of a certain culture. I'm all about intelligent discourse and it's very easy to discern hate speech from legitimate racial discourse."WRT the wafer thing, it's a question of respect. In the first response,
    you talk about motivations. What was the motivation in treating a
    religious symbol in such a way? To shock. To disgust? To promote
    discourse?"I spoke to this in my previous comment, but we posted at the same time so you may not have seen it. The short version is you and I are in agreement on this part. The one frequent hang up I have with PZ is his methodology.

  10. AmyH says:

    Great idea! I'll share that with my book club. My copy I need to send back to Ms. Pants.

  11. Kirk says:

    As far as I'm concerned, if it belongs to you and your actions will not infringe on anyone else's rights, then you can do to the book whatever you wish. It's when you start wanting to burn other peoples' books that I suddenly have a problem. Personally, I think the chance of pissing off Crankypants is plenty of reason to forgo that particular bonfire. 😛

  12. Kirk says:

    "Recycle it so it can become something useful like a trash bag or cheap toilet paper. That's what I did with a copy of Dianetics I came across." You know, it never ceases to amaze me how many people have bought into a cartoony "religion" concocted by a hack sci-fi author. I mean, if it had been a good writer like Moorcock or Dick or Ellison, I might be able to see it to some extent. But Hubbard was a irretrievably shitty writer! How did he do it? I'm left to conclude people like Tom Cruise and Jason Lee are even bigger idiots than they let on.

  13. R.G. Ryan says:

    So what you're saying is…those jeans I kept from the 60's (with the flag sewn across the seat and the knees) could be hauled out and worn with impunity?RE: attacking a cracker. Take a moment and read up on the Blood Libel and host desecration.

  14. Kirk says:

    "So what you're saying is…those jeans I kept from the 60's (with the flag sewn across the seat and the knees) could be hauled out and worn with impunity?
    " Well, no. You go cramming yourself into those 40-year-old bell-bottoms and sitting on the flag becomes the lesser offense. Knowwhatimean? ;P"RE: attacking a cracker. Take a moment and read up on the Blood Libel and host desecration. "Thanks for that, RG! It looks intriguing.

  15. Jay says:

    I have a lot of thoughts scrambling around in my skull about this but they seem to be unable to for a cohesive point. I'm going to reach in and grab whatever I can…..let's see…….in a great big world full of complicated things that are hard-to-comprehend – like the concept of Other People, for instance – people tend to Simplify for their own ease of mental consumption. Even better, when someone else Simplifies it for you and feeds it into your mind in nicely-packaged-and-digestable chunks. What's better than that?! Removes a lot of the responsibility and effort of trying to make sense out of an infinitely multifaceted Thing we call "existence". This, sadly, is so much a part of society that our minds are built to accept it….or, perhaps, so much a part of our minds that society is built to accept it…..whatever…six, half-dozen….anyway, it's the Simplification and our willingness, our need, for it that makes all these stereotypes and symbols and rituals and all that jazz even exist. People want to label things, for easy interpretation by the mind. Label things, people, lifestyles, cultures, etc etc…so they know how to deal with them. And while it makes sense, sure, because it's VERY difficult to evaluate every. little. thing. every time you come across it as if it's something completely new, it also lends itself to people making quick judgements based on something else entirely…..say, someone else's opinion that's been pre-fed to them (I'll be so trite as to place the oft-maligned exhibit "A" of the Fox News channel on the table here as a simplified example.) But it's not just the media per se, it's family, religions, and general xenophobic culture that perpetuates that. At one point it used to be self-preservation that made everyone afraid of the unknown, and it remains in our monkey brains as this easily-roused emotion of hatred and anger towards what isn't Us. And because it's difficult to determine in this great big huge world of ours that has grown increasingly smaller due to politics and technology and population, more and more we lean toward the Simplification process to make it easier. Which, of course, the various Powers in Control are more than happy to help with, since it 1. feeds their own desire for control, and/or 2. makes them money. So. Main ideas of human anthropology, past, present and future? Control. Money. Power. Three grears greased by Simplification. Some run the factory, some work in it, but almost everyone uses the product in some way or another.

  16. Kirk says:

    o_OJay, dude, now it's you who ought to be posting his comments from other peoples' VOXes. That was really awesome.

  17. Kirk says:

    "Take a moment and read up on the Blood Libel and host desecration…"OK, I read it. In one of his posts, PZ actually linked to basically that same info (only over at Wikipedia). Interesting stuff.

  18. R.G. Ryan says:

    Why, Kirk, whatever do you mean?? 🙂

  19. Brown Suga' says:

    I'm sorry, Kirk, I just couldn't see anything beyond the fact that what Prof. Myers did was very distasteful and downright rude.In fact, I confess I didn't know about communion wafers either, but I didn't bother to read his blog because I was repulsed by what he did. What I DO know is that some people happen to hold a harmless morsel of food as sacred, and nobody has the right to disrespect it in a manner that reeks of barbarism and arrogance. I agree with you that baseless symbolism can be dangerous, but this is a WAFER, not a live cobra! A man of Myer's calibre and intelligence, and a teacher at that, should have known better than to broadcast his demonstration of proving that certain symbols are "baseless" in an offensive way. Whether they make sense or not, what right have we to desecrate something that some people hold dear, just because they are different? If one were to reverently preserve, say, a handkerchief belonging to a much-loved grandparent, that too is baseless symbolism, right? It's just a piece of cloth, after all. But it is precious because of the person it is associated with.I may not agree with the belief systems of anybody else on the planet, but I say this as a native of a country that is witness to religion-based violence time and again – I DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO OPENLY DISRESPECT THE BELIEFS OF OTHERS, AND OTHERS DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO DISRESPECT MINE. There is a fine line between being rude and just disagreeing. If someone belonging to another belief system insisted I walk on hot coals, or were to put himself or others in the way of harm, then yes, I have every right to get pissed, because such an act could have an adverse effect on not just the practitioner but others too. But holding sacred a harmless piece of food? Is it so dangerous that it must be openly desecrated and broadcast to the world? That too at a time when people are being killed in the name of faith? I'm not exactly a practising Hindu, but Hindu symbols have a lot in
    common with Indian culture on the whole, and there is a way of
    respecting them. That is why I felt offended when some designers in The
    Netherlands put Hindu religious symbols on toilet seats. Would they put
    Jesus there?
    Also, I have to say that some of the messages – the first three, in
    particular – of the "opposition mail" are politely written
    without taking the name of Christianity or Catholicism, and instead
    merely pointing out what he did was very hurtful. There is nothing
    irrational or unintelligent about *some* of those messages.Prof. Myer's motivations are no better than those of Fred Phelps, a
    person I absolutely, violently despise. It is such people who destroy any chance we
    have of being able to live together and celebrate our differences as a
    symbol of delightful variety rather than ignorant mistrust. I ignore Phelps' protests merely because if I unleash my hatred on him, I will be equating myself to him, and I have too much of an ego for that.Sometimes I think those tribes who live undiscovered in the Amazon and elsewhere are extremely lucky, because their disconnection from the outside world means they will never have to be in a situation where they have to explain their culture, as if that difference is something they are not entitled to!
    If the world thinks I'm an idiot because I hang up a garland of lemons and
    green chillies on my door, or that the Japanese are idiots for respecting ceramic statues of cats with raised paws, or that the Maoris are idiots because they consider themselves the descendants of whales, then all I have to say is fuck them and their bigotry, and that I hope I never have children, because I have fuckall to leave them. I'm afraid someone will harm them just because they disagree with the beliefs my children will choose to follow. We humans have been around two million years, we've seen so much violence and bloodshed, and we're STILL battering people for being different. And right now there's an imminent India-Pakistan face-off. It's pretty obvious to me that we stopped evolving long ago and now we're just a bunch of parasitic maggots who feast on hatred till they burst.

  20. DKN says:

    Talk about B.O.'s root in the Weather Underground… *sigh* He has no roots in the Weather Underground. That was a blatant fabrication.

  21. Jay says:

    A nation is a society united by delusions about its ancestryand by common hatred of its neighbors. – William Ralph IngeSaw that and thought it went nicely here.

  22. Kirk says:

    "I agree with you that baseless symbolism can be dangerous, but this is a WAFER, not a live cobra!" Ironically, that was Myers's point, as well. I think he wanted to demonstrate just how irrational and onerous people can be when they forsake empirical data for impossible symbolism."A man of Myer's calibre… should have known better… Whether they make sense or not, what right have we to desecrate
    something that some people hold dear, just because they are different?"I fully agree that PZ's actions were unnecessarily antagonistic. I personally try to respect the beliefs of others, but I can sort of understand his anger. Here he is, a rational-thinking scientist who demands empirical data to support any claim, but who is continually screeched at by fundamentalist religionists who believe more in a cracker magically becoming flesh than in an organism methodically evolving over billions of years!But wait! It's not just about varying opinions on mankind's origins and the potential pious power of a pastry! A Telegraph article released today reveals which sins the Vatican considers to be the worst of the worst — sins so bad they can only be forgiven by the Pope himself! Interestingly enough, desecrating the Eucharist is on that list, while things like rape, murder and (as PZ noted) even genocide are notably missing.Just think about that for a moment: the Church considers what PZ Myers did to a cracker to be more heinous than Hitler's desire to kill entire nations of people! You can be forgiven for raping and murdering a person easier than you can for removing a cracker from the church! How do you reason with people whose priorities were so woefully out of whack? So, yeah, it's wrong to attack a person just for being different. But, isn't it also wrong to value a ritual or symbol more than human life itself? And which is the bigger offense: to cling to irrational beliefs (sometimes to serious detriment) or to call on the carpet those who do?"We humans have been around two million years, we've seen so much
    violence and bloodshed, and we're STILL battering people for being
    different."Israel and Palestine are doing their best right now to lower the world
    population. Why? We'd love to believe it's just about land. Or freedom. Or
    even money. But it isn't about any of those things. No, it's about
    something intangible… innocuous… unprovable. To a large degree, that's why PZ did what he did: because people will balk at verifiable science but will kill (or threaten to kill) another person completely on faith. At that point, respect for a person's symbols and rituals becomes moot.

  23. Kirk says:

    "Talk about B.O.'s root in the Weather Underground or his lack of subtantive experience? HATER!" Interestingly, whenever I tried to bring up what a complete simpleton Sarah Palin was or that she also had poor experience or that she was repeatedly asked insipid questions like what magazines she reads, I'd be told it was just that I hated women/republicans/hunters. Of course, those same people sure got upset when I told them they were obviously voting with their genitals, as if Obama's half-blackness is his most marked characteristic but they hadn't even noticed Sarah Palin was attractive.I can't even believe you brought up the Weather Underground. I used to work for the same company as the Green River Killer. I even worked there at the same time he did. Does that make me an accomplice to his crimes?

  24. Brown Suga' says:

    People will balk at verifiable science but will kill (or threaten to kill) another person completely on faith. At that point, respect for a person's symbols and rituals becomes moot.Totally agree. I mentioned something along the same lines in my previous comment: "If someone belonging to another belief system insisted I walk on hot
    coals, or were to put himself or others in the way of harm, then yes, I
    have every right to get pissed, because such an act could have an
    adverse effect on not just the practitioner but others too."What I meant to say it, in a true democracy, people should be allowed the freedom of any kind of religious symbolism, no matter how silly it may seem – but only as long as it doesn't get to the point where faith overrides logic and that gesture becomes a threat to peace, well-being or innocent human lives.

  25. Steve B says:

    I poorly misspoke. I meant to reference his association with Bill Ayers, with is far less anecdotal and more verifiable. So it should have been something more in the vein of "his links to those with their roots in the WU."

    "Does that make me an accomplice to his crimes?"
    No, but if you hung out in his living room and played his XBox, then yeah, there might be some causes for concern. No, it wouldn't make you a serial killer, but if you were running for President, it might make people question the kind of people you chose to associate with.
    And I have to bust your chops on the anthropomorphizing. Suggesting that an organism "methodically" evolved, implies purpose, intent, and/or planning. The crux of evolutionism, as I understand it, is that it is a random process, or at best, a reactive process. Not a methodical one.
    I find it interesting that you think the media gave Palin a "pass" or soft-coated their coverage of her? Hmmm. Tomato / tomaaaaahto I guess.
    And Sarah Palin is waaaay hotter than Barack.
    And don't even get me started on Catholicism. According to Vatican II, Muslims are closer to salvation than Protestants, because the Muslims don't know any better. Protestants have CHOSEN to remove themselves from under the authority of the Catholic church, and so are considerated apostate. Pisses me off.

  26. Kirk says:

    "And I have to bust your chops on the anthropomorphizing. Suggesting that a'n organism 'methodically' evolved, implies purpose, intent, and/or planning." Ha ha ha ha! You're right. I'm the one who misspoke that time. Worst word choice ever. Consider chops adequately busted."Tomato / tomaaaaahto I guess."That was exactly what I meant by puking up all the stuff about Palin. I deplore the whole I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I? method of political debate. That barmy game can last all day."And Sarah Palin is waaaay hotter than Barack."Technically, you'd need to add "is black" to the end of that sentence for it to accurately apply to my comment. :)Sadly, Palin's looks are the only thing she has going for her. She says two words and -bam!- illusion broken."And don't even get me started on Catholicism… Muslims… Protestants… authority of the Catholic church…"I truly do not understand how so many people can cling so tenaciously to oppresive dogma. I suppose it's no wonder religion is the single largest obstacle to world peace.

  27. Kirk says:

    "Totally agree. I mentioned something along the same lines in my previous comment…" You did and I'm sorry it came off as if I didn't catch it. Sometimes when I'm writing a comment, I forget I'm speaking directly to one person.Your reworded version is terrific, though. 🙂

  28. Kirk says:

    "A nation is a society united by delusions about its ancestryand by common hatred of its neighbors. – William Ralph Inge" Thanks, Jay. You know, it occurs to me a very similar definition could be applied to organized religion. The marriage of denial and exclusivity invariably results in blind, xenophbic offspring. Some go on to become things like suicide bombers and skinheads, while the more pragmatic ones spend their lives doing stuff like building bigger and bigger border fences and underground tunnel systems.

  29. Steve B says:

    "She says two words and -bam!- illusion broken."
    I watched several interviews with her, and found her to be very well-spoken. Empassioned, carried herself well, and communicated her ideas clearly and incisively. I've also heard B.O. speak without a teleprompter and rehearsed script and thought that he was a rambling, disorganized speaker. One might disagree with her politics, but I don't see how you can honestly characterize her as an airhead or sock-puppet.
    "it's no wonder religion is the single largest obstacle to world peace"
    So, in essence, the path to world peace is to lead people away from their anachronistic adherence to outdated notions of religious piety, and embrace a more secular, humanist view? LIke in, oh say, Cuba or someplace?
    I would say that in a purely secular worldview, people like Ghandi are an extreme rarity, and the influence of survival of the fittest and dog-eat-dog tends to be the norm. Bullies on the playground, and all that.
    All that said, I do, in principle tend to agree that "religion" or ritualistic adherence to dogma for the sake of dogma is a definitie problem. People lose sight of the WHO in worship when they become to focused on the what and the how.
    I do NOT, however, agree that a deep and abiding belief in God is at the root of the world's problem. Quite the opposite. If more people truly lived their lives in service to the Lord, a great many of the world's problems would go away. It's the people who say that god tells them to blow up busloads of people to get to heaven, or that you have to do this, and this, and this, and certainly not THAT or it's the fiery pit of hell for you that are missing the message altogether.

  30. Kirk says:

    "…I don't see how you can honestly characterize her as an airhead…" I think she's an idiot. Her comments range from unapologetically ignorant to self-contradictory. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the woman thinks cavemen and dinosaurs coexisted and believes the world is only 6,000 years old. She brazenly bashes legitimate science that, it turns out, shows great promise in helping autistic children — children whom she championed in the same speech just a few sentences prior. And don't get me started on the whole witchcraft thing. She thinks Alaska's proximity to Russia somehow makes her qualified to sit across the table from Putin. She says she "chose" to keep her baby despite Downs Syndrome, but wants to take that choice away from other women.I do NOT, however, agree that a deep and abiding belief in God is at the root of the world's problem.That's why I said "religion". A deep and abiding belief in God merely means you'll believe in something of which you have no proof. Problematic, but not an obstacle to peace in and of itself. Start blowing people to bits at the behest of that unseen entity and, as you said, and we have a serious problem.We don't have to be Gandhi; we just need to love one another. Honestly, if people who claim to follow a religion of love actually loved, this conversation would be pointless. Fact is, for most people, religion is a method by which one hedges their eternal bet. It's essentially fire insurance. And it's used to justify just about everything, including perverse medical practices.

  31. R.G. Ryan says:

    Well, since this thread is still being stitched into a garment, the size and shape of which is as yet uncertain, let me add a bit of fabric. On the subject of "a deep and abiding belief in God." There are many, many things in life in which we invest belief with nary a shred of proof. It's called faith. Humans seem to require it, for throughout recorded history every civilization has placed its faith in something. The problem as I see it is not with faith but with despotic oppressors who use the faith of their subjects as a means of control and manipulation, thus the "blowing people to bits" and saying it is "God's will." On the subject of religion. It is widely accepted that the word "religion" has its roots in the Latin, "ligare" which means "to tie," or "wrap around, i.e. bind up." May I just say that I have personally experienced this "binding" and not in a good way. It has been my experience that for the most part "religion," rather than being a roadmap guiding us to a place where we love and serve one another has led instead into a sort of managed bondage within the confines of which we do little more than exist as sad caricatures of the people we were meant to be.Cynical? Perhaps. But my life is no longer held by the confines of organized religion. I have chosen instead to be a Christ follower apart from dogma or contemporary doctrine. It's simple, really: "They will know you are my followers by your love for one another." Do that and you have much more than the "fire insurance" you so aptly mentioned. You have relationship.

  32. Steve B says:

    Using individuals like this Olona character to apply the broad brush to the whole of Christian believers or other "religionists" is about like using the Folsom Street Fair to characterize all homosexuals. Taking the aberrant behavior of a few individuals to support/defend/justify your stereotyping of the whole demographic…? Hmmm. I thought that was the sole purview of the right-wing fundies… ;~P
    A deep and abiding belief in God merely means you'll believe in something of which you have no proof.
    Or, proof which rises to a level of scientific certainty. Which, I will propose, is a level of proof not achieved in many areas which are still given tacit acceptance as "fact" (global warming, evolution, etc). My experiences in the Christian faith, through biblical exegesis, historical/archeological discoveries, and personal experience combine to provide a level of "proof" that I'm intellectually comfortable with. I have tested my faith and found in supportable. You haven't. Just because I can't empirically quantify it or slice off a piece of "god" and put it under the microscope, doesn't mean that I'm blinding following the words of some book because my sunday school teacher told me to or I'd burn in hell.
    "We don't have to be Gandhi; we just need to love one another."
    That certainly is the challenge. Sometimes "love" means accepting people for who they are, and sometimes love becomes helping them change. My experience is that Christianity, when done right, can be very effective at both. I know you've had different experiences, and so that rings pretty hollow for you. Understandable, given some of what I know about your church background.

  33. Steve B says:

    Damn, I am the mastur fo the typoe./

  34. Steve B says:

    And by "you haven't", I mean that based on your experiences, you haven't seen anything to justify intellectual acceptance, and that's cool. Different people get different places different ways.
    Just thought I should clarify that.

  35. Kirk says:

    "There are many, many things in life in which we invest belief with nary a shred of proof. It's called faith. Humans seem to require it, for throughout recorded history every civilization has placed its faith in something." Quite right, but to my mind there is a huge difference in having faith in something like the sun rising tomorrow as it has done each day throughout recorded history and believing in something that has never actually been tangibly experienced. I can see the sun; I can note its movement and even estimate its size, density, temperature… By way of contrast, I have never seen God. Not once. Were he to show himself, I would know he exists and if he then vanished, I could choose to believe he would return one day without betraying logical reason.And that's the root problem I see with organized religion: it forsakes factual data (sometimes categorically) for what amounts to the freebase of metaphysical hokum. Don't get me wrong: I likes me some dense philosophy and I don't look down on people who possess a strong faith in God. But when a person is willing to say they know there's a God but think Natural Selection and Evolution are unsubstantiated myths, I can only scratch my head and wonder how/when "circumstantial" and "empirical" became synonyms."But my life is no longer held by the confines of organized religion. I
    have chosen instead to be a Christ follower apart from dogma or
    contemporary doctrine."That's how I'd describe myself, as well, and I'm guessing that's how Jesus would want it. He understood the challenges facing those who followed him and I suspect he'd be saddened by the manner in which modern man has met those challenges. I'm sure you'll agree that bombing the hell out of the Middle East fails to jive with Matthew 5:39 and Luke 6:29 and that hanging on to every penny we have and abolishing social programs in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy completely ignores Matthew 25:34-45. I won't get into all the legalized theft, sanctioned slavery and ubiquitous false idols…"They will know you are my followers by your love for one another."Yup, and the Bible's definition of love doesn't leave any room at all for clever justifications. It's crystal clear. It even says out of the three — Faith, Hope and Love — that Love is most important. That tenet seems almost nonexistent in organized religion. In fact, it almost seems as if Faith and Hope have been dramatically increased to make up for the decided lack of Love. People "have faith" our troops will be victorious and "hope" the war ends soon, but few people can actually say they "love" even those poor souls who would think nothing of blowing them to bits.

  36. Kirk says:

    "Using individuals like this Olona character to apply the broad brush to the whole of Christian believers or other 'religionists' is about like using the Folsom Street Fair to characterize all homosexuals." It was indeed unfair. I actually added the link to the text as an afterthought (to pimp the new post) and didn't really consider how it only served to hurt my argument. Good on you for calling me on it."My experiences in the Christian faith… combine
    to provide a level of 'proof' that I'm intellectually comfortable with."That's probably the best way I've ever heard it put, Steve. Most people just say ignorant things like, "I know he's there because life is so complex" or "It just couldn't happen by accident". At least you show some indication of having applied some critical thought. And you're right: I simply have not seen anything that makes an omnipotent, timeless entity the more logical explanation of our existence based on the empirical data at our disposal. I seriously doubt I ever will.

  37. Steve B says:

    Very few claim to have seen God. Those that do are, honestly, usually pretty delusional. Most believers claim to have experienced God, as in, indentifying tangible things or events as manifestation of his will or existence. Clearly not empirical, and fails the reproducibility test of the scientific method. Although, anecdotal evidence is not always summarily dismissed in research findings, either. "Eye-witness testimony" carries weight in legal preceedings if the witness can be established to be credible.
    We also lend a lot of credence to historical records of events no one living has seen or experienced. We rely on these texts (true, often taken with a grain of salt), to give us that "window to the past." I've never seen a quark or a meson, Genghis Kahn or Leonardo DaVinci, but I'm willing to lend credence to the idea that they exist, because I give implicit trust to the sources who tell me they do. Based on THEIR personal, first hand experiences written down in a peer-review paper, technical journal, or textbooks.
    It then comes down to the validity you chose to give the source material. Like I said, I've done enough research (and continue to do so) into the Bible and supporting texts, archeological data, and related historical accounts that I cannot in good conscience dismiss it as a quack forgery, or a quaint collection of folk tales and philosophical ramblings of first century mystics.
    I know a great many others do have that view. {{shrug}} I don't think I get power from crystals or that the earth has a soul, either. Different strokes, and all that.

  38. Kirk says:

    "Very few claim to have seen God. Those that do are, honestly, usually pretty delusional" Replace "usually pretty" with "quite" and I'm on board completely. "…indentifying tangible things or events as manifestation of his will or existence."This is certainly where religion and science end up at odds. One man's act of God is another man's coincidence."I don't think I get power from crystals or that the earth has a soul, either."Of course not. Piezoelectric crystals such as quartz certainly give off energy when proper pressure is applied, but there's no evidence that energy is in any way "psychic". Souls are arguable in and of themselves, completely separate of planets. I think there's something that makes me unique, but that could as easily be a centuries-old, energy-based symbiote as it could an intangible, eternal ghost. Can't test for it, so it might as well be whatever I want it to be. I'll find out someday, or I won't. Point is, there's no way to know right now."Different strokes, and all that."That's the key, right there. I won't roundly disregard a person who rejects proven science in favor of religious faith, so long as they abstain from injecting their dogma into every aspect of science or assuming their spiritual beliefs somehow apply to me.There are people who want to get Intelligent Design taught in schools as an alternative science. o_O Can you even imagine the uproar if a scientist wanted Evolution to be preached in church as an alternative Genesis?The different strokes thing works with people like you and me because we're not mentally diminished nutbags. Sadly, the same cannot be said for a good portion of humanity.

  39. Steve B says:

    Trust me, even a couple of years ago I doubt I could have maintained this level of equanimity in a blog post. I have a dark past of being a fundie, bible-thumper idiot, alienating a lot of people in the process, and conforming to way too many stereotypes. I have managed to grow up. Mostly through coming to understand the who of what God really is, and realizing that he's quite a bit bigger than whatever narrow interpretation of scripture I might be clinging to.
    I don't think any of us has the full answer, and won't really, until we get there and realize, "Wow, I wasn't even CLOSE!"

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