Sunday, April 11, 2010

Let He Who Is Without Beliefs Cast The First Stone

There’s a small part of me that resents the concept of religious beliefs, as if some people have thoughts that are more important than my thoughts; which usually involve money and porn. But overall, I accept the idea. After all, these beliefs are supposed to come directly from our creator, which implicitly does make them more important than my own mortal thoughts. Not that I believe in any sort of creator, but I’m willing to accept the premise and don’t disbelieve in any of them, so this is something I’m willing to live with.

But there lies a problem: Once you’ve accepted the premise of religious beliefs, you’re forced to respect EVERYONE’S religious beliefs. Not that you have to believe in them yourself, but you’re stuck with the idea that none of these beliefs are right or wrong, beyond how you personally interpret them. And if you expect people to respect your beliefs, you’re stuck respecting theirs. And then there are the poor suckers like me, who don’t get any special privileges because all our thoughts are mortal, but that’s a separate issue.

And so I find it funny when religious people who expect others to respect their beliefs start tossing issues of morality at the religious beliefs of others. A Catholic wants people to respect his beliefs by banning abortion, yet heaps scorn at a Muslim who keeps his wife hidden behind veils. A Baptist demands that alcohol be illegal, yet scoffs at a Hindu for worshipping cows.  And I have a Buddhist Facebook friend (who I really do like) who insists that it's misogynistic for a Catholic hospital to not perform hysterectomies.  (I believe that's a position they've now changed, though I'm not sure about that.)

But no, it doesn’t work like that.  If we respect the idea that a god or whatever might want things a certain way, then we're stuck admitting that it's not the Catholic, Muslim, Baptist, or Hindu doing these things.  It's the god or whatever telling us to do things like that.  And hey, who's to say god ISN'T a misogynist?  Maybe he really DOES want men to work while woman stay at home, have as many kids as possible, and hide behind veils; and maybe all the feminists are going to Hell.  That's up to whoever made us, not us.

And if you blame someone for their religious beliefs, you're basically tossing the entire idea of religion right out the window, and then you don't get to have any religion at all.  And so while I think it's logically consistent for atheists to crap on religion and insist that none of these people's beliefs deserve special treatment (an attitude I don't support, btw), religious people are stuck acknowledging that someone else's religious beliefs don't necessarily reflect the views of the person espousing them, but rather, the creator they believe in.  After all, if religious beliefs were optional, they'd be pretty damn useless.

Now, that still leaves them room to say that these views are wrong, because they believe in their one true religion.  But it does mean you can't blame the person for what they believe.  The Catholic Church might be misogynistic, but that's because they think their god wants it that way.  You can say their god is wrong, but you can't blame them for repeating the claim.  It just doesn't work like that. 

If you get to believe in karma, then the Taliban gets to believe that music is evil and Allah loves beards.  But once you start thinking that these guys are jerks who are abusing religion as a way of gaining power, then you're already halfway to atheism.  And soon enough, you reach the sad conslusion that all your thoughts are mortal thoughts and start reaching for the porn.


mahakal said...

Religion is a way of describing by metaphor what cannot be perceived by the outward senses without introspection. All religions are true, for those who understand metaphors. Namaste.

Doctor Biobrain said...

I don't see how you can say that all religions are true when I've seen you reject other people's religious beliefs. For example, Scott Roeder believes that God wanted him to kill abortion doctors. That's part of Roeder's religion, yet you reject it and called it "incoherent." But perhaps you'd like to explain what metaphor Roeder's using.

At a guess, I'd say that you think most religious people are taking their religion too literally, or are mistaken about what their religion requires of them. But by doing so, you've just rejected their religion and said they're wrong. Religion is more than just the basic idea behind their beliefs, but involves the actual rituals and deeds those people perform as part of their beliefs.

For as open-minded as you think your statement is, it looks to me like you're belittling other religions. That's something I'd never do. After all, maybe Roeder's right and there IS a god who wants us to kill abortion doctors. You reject that theory because it doesn't match your religious beliefs, and I respect your beliefs on that. But all the same, I don't see how you can imagine it's open-minded to reject Roeder's religion like that.

mahakal said...

I recall you ran away when you were presented with scripture exactly opposite to what you were claiming it said about this on Facebook.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Ran away? I felt the debate had gotten pointless so I stopped reading it. And frankly, I happen to think Julianna is dumber than dirt and soon regretted both times I've engaged her and would rather beat my head into a wall than continue to read her inane points. Not that I'd want her to know that (so I hope she's not reading this), but I really find debating her to be thoroughly unpleasant. Disagreement, I can take. Prideful ignorance is a different matter all together.

I'm looking back at what she wrote and find this "The 10 commandments, if you want to go by the Old Testament, states, "Thou shalt not kill." Period. That doesn't mean, "Unless it's justified by my interpretation of God's will."

Yet, most bibles say "Thou shalt not murder." My Catholic bible does, and your bible probably does too. People cite the "kill" line as a cheap insult against christians by people who don't know much about christianity.

And well, duh. It was just like I said. The Old Testament is chock full of orders from God telling us to kill bad people. Forget about baby killers, we were supposed to kill ADULTERERS. I already said that, yet she repeated her dumb claim anyway.

So that's why I stopped responding, because it would have made no difference. No matter what I wrote, she would make the same stupid claims as if I had written nothing. So there was no point in continuing it further.

Anyway, that's my thoughts on Julianna and I've promised myself to never write anything she might read again; though I'm such a sucker for correcting people that I'm sure to make that mistake again. I'll address our argument in a separate post.

Doctor Biobrain said...

As for our argument, your problem is that it only works if you get to decide what someone's religion is, while ignoring their actual religion. But it doesn't work like that. It's THEIR religion, not yours. You're basically saying that their religion is wrong because it doesn't match what YOU want their religion to be.

Scott Roeder's religion says that abortion is murder and abortion doctors are murderers. And as we both know, the bible says we should kill murderers. And yes, the bible ALSO says that God is supposed to punish murderers and we should love our enemies. But so what? Roeder has chosen to ignore that. It's not part of his religion. He's basically an Old Testament Christian. Deal with it.

What you've done is taken all the good parts of all the major religions and found how they all have the same message. Well guess what: The reason they all have the same message is because those were the parts you were looking for, and if a part didn't match, you ignored it. So you take all the hippy-dippy stuff that Jesus said, while dismissing the Lord of Vengeance from the Old Testament.

And that's fine. If you want to focus on the good parts of these religions, that's your business. But you don't get to steal Roeder's religion away from him. You might not think it makes sense, but it's what he believes. And if you can't incorporate Roeder's religion into yours, then you can't say that all religions are true. I suspect that there are billions of religions in this world that you think are false.

And that's the funny part: I can actually make more sense of Roeder's religion than yours. He's a simple man so he had a simple religion. Yours, on the other hand, seems more trouble than it's worth.

(That's a bit of a joke, btw)

mahakal said...

There isn't any support for your claim that the Old or New testament said that murderers are to be executed, and if someone claims to be a Christian then it is the teachings of Jesus they claim to follow, and by no means whatsoever did He ever say to kill anyone. So you can feel free to make up whatever you imagine to exist in scripture, but unless you want to start quoting chapter and verse to back up your untrue claims, you should quit while you're behind.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Who are you to decide what a "Christian" is? Each of them is entitled to their own beliefs, just as you're entitled to yours. There is no single definition of what a "Christian" believes.

As for the Old Testament, you are most definitely mistaken when you suggest that it doesn't advocate capital punishment. I got this from a Christian Bible study website, though I'm using the quotes from my Catholic bible, as it's easier to understand than their old school language:

Genesis 9:6
And murder is forbidden. Man-killing animals must die, and any man who murders shall be killed; for to kill a man is to kill one made like God.

That alone covers Roeder, as he considers abortion to be murder. The next one goes as far as to say that God won't be happy unless we kill murderers.

Deuteronomy 19:11-13
But if anyone hates his neighbor and springs out of hiding and kills him, and then flees into one of the Cities of Refuge, the elders of his home town shall send for him and shall bring him home and deliver him over to the dead man's avenger, to kill him. Don't pity him! Purge all murderers from Israel! Only then will all go well with you.

And of course, the Old Testament includes many other crimes subject to capital punishment, including adultery. If God was cool with executing adulterers, I don't see how you can suggest he was against the idea.

As for the New Testament, many Christians believe that it didn't replace the Old Testament. The next passage shows Jesus himself saying that the laws of the Old Testament are still in effect.

Matthew 5:17-21
Don't misunderstand why I have come - it isn't to cancel the laws of Moses and the warnings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them, and to make them all come true. With all the earnestness I have I say: Every law in the Book will continue until its purpose is achieved. And so if anyone breaks the least commandment, and teaches others to, he shall be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But those who teach God's laws and obey them shall be great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 19:17-19 has Jesus saying that we need to follow the commandments, including the one against murder. I think there's a clear argument here saying that the New Testament didn't replace the Old. Perhaps you've got a quote from Jesus saying we should all ignore the old laws, but there is clear evidence saying he supported the Old Testament laws.

Again, I'm not suggesting that these people are right or wrong. What I'm saying is that there is justification for their beliefs in the bible. This is their religion. And if your religion doesn't incorporate their beliefs, then your religion DOESN'T think all religions are true, as you think their religion is wrong.

But again, I think you're doing the same thing they're doing: I think you're choosing the parts of the bible you like while ignoring the rest. And if you didn't know that the Old Testament supports capital punishment or that Jesus supported the Old Testament laws, then I think that'd confirm my theory.

As I said on Facebook, the bible has a justification for just about anything in it, and it's really just a mirror which reflects whatever the reader puts into it. You seem to be doing the same thing.

mahakal said...

Strike: "Old or". I did not mean to say that, and it is certainly not correct.

Your religious argument is absurd, however. Jesus did not say to the pagans, convert to Judaism and follow the old laws of Moses.

Doctor Biobrain said...

My religious argument? This isn't "my" argument at all. I'm just telling you what these Christians believe. You know, the Christians that you don't think are Christians because they believe things you don't think are Christian. But I'm agnostic and don't have a stake in the game. I just like to hear different viewpoints.

And would you like to tell me what Jesus meant when he said that we still need to follow Moses' laws?

But of course, the New Testament was written by humans, humans who most likely never met Jesus. And that's why even the four gospels have disagreements within them and can't be reconciled.

If I'm remembering correctly, Matthew was the book that most emphasized how Jesus was a Jew fulfilling a Jewish prophecy. So that would explain why his Jesus says we need to follow Moses' laws. And if I had to guess, I'd say that John is your favorite Gospel, as it was written for Christians and not Jews, and emphasized how Gentiles should follow Christ, while downplaying the whole Jewish thing. But Matthew was written before John, so if there's a disagreement, I'd think Matthew was more accurate than John.

And that's why all this is silly. The bible was written by people. Lots of different people with lots of different ideas of god and lots of revisionism of what the earlier writers wrote. That's why it's so contradictory. That's why it's futile to try and find one over-arching message in it. Because it doesn't exist. If people get a good message out of it, that's fine and I won't begrudge them that. But for you to pretend that you know the TRUE message of the bible and everyone else is wrong is a crock. You don't own these words and don't get to decide what a "Christian" is.

If God didn't support the death penalty, it wouldn't be in the Old Testament. And if he didn't want us to follow the Old Testament, why was his son a Jew? He could have been Roman or Chinese or Native American or whatever, but he wasn't. And that's the thing: Jesus as a Jew made sense to the Jews. It doesn't make sense if he was trying to start a worldwide religion. And if he didn't want us following the Old Testament, he would have started a religion from scratch.

So yeah, maybe you're right and Jesus DIDN'T support the Old Testament. But I quoted him saying that he did and it's from the same source you're using. So I don't see how you can say it's not true.

mahakal said...

This is ridiculous. You are making the argument, and defending it. Don't try to pass it off as someone else's. That doesn't mean you agree with the argument, clearly you don't subscribe to the views you are arguing in behalf of, but this is a pointless waste of time. If you want to argue that any twisted interpretation of scripture is equally valid, you are clearly making no effort to actually understand what you read, or don't bother reading as the case may be.

Think of scripture like inspired blogs from the past. Sure, you can find lots of perspectives. But if someone looks at Cannablog and comes to use that to say that I advocated the prohibition of cannabis, would you say that it was a reasonable interpretation? Or if someone said that you advocated preventive war, would that be a reasonable interpretation?

Jesus did not tell people to kill abortion providers, in fact he said to the crowd who wished to stone a woman for sexual conduct they disapproved of, that they should let who is without sin cast the first stone. You have titled your post in homage to this very thing, so to not then understand it is to miss the very point. You cannot go around enforcing your morality.

Anyhow I'm not going to spend more time on this foolish argument you want to make or defend.

Doctor Biobrain said...

So you're going to ignore Jesus' words because he said other things that support your point?

Look, his words were quite clear: He wasn't replacing the Old Testament and you can't get into Heaven unless you follow Moses' laws. Explain how I've twisted that.

Also explain why Jesus was a Jew if he wanted us to ignore Jewish laws. He could have started a new religion from scratch, but instead choose to build upon Judaism. The Book of Matthew made that clear.

Unless you can explain these contradictions, I don't see how you're not picking and choosing which parts of the Bible, just like the Christians you disagree with. Yes, Jesus said to turn the other cheek and not throw stones. But he also said we have to obey the old laws, which involved punishing evil-doers. And no, I can't make sense of that either, which might explain your frustration.

mahakal said...

You have no idea what you are talking about. There isn't even any heaven in Judaism.

mahakal said...

Rather, there is an afterlife, which could be called heaven, but there isn't a separate one for good people and bad people.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Uh yes, I understand that Heaven wasn't in the Old Testament. And the story is that God put Jesus on this earth in order to change things, including opening up Heaven so humans could go there after they die. He sacrificed his only begotten son (and thus himself) to show his forgiveness for us, if we were willing to repent and accept God back into our lives. And by accepting God, we could join him in Heaven; which was only possible because Jesus came to earth, died, and was born again. Have you been to a Catholic Mass? I had to mumble along with this story every Sunday for most of my childhood. So don't tell me I don't know what I'm talking about. I took classes for many years learning about it.

And seriously, you're arguing that Christianity ISN'T an add-on to Judaism? Have you read Matthew? The whole thing is about how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Jewish prophesy. They believed that this was the next step of Judaism; not an entirely different religion. It wasn't until later that they started fighting with the remaining Jews and fully started recruiting non-Jews.

In Matthew 10:5-6 Jesus instructs his followers, saying "Don't go to the Gentiles or the Samaritans, but only to the people of Israel - God's lost sheep."

And seriously, why do you think Christians include the Old Testament in their bible? Catholics read from it every Sunday and they teach the stories from it and tell us we need to obey it. Jesus also taught from the Old Testament. I'm a bit stunned that you seem to be suggesting that Christians don't follow the Old Testament, as it's been part of their belief since the beginning.

And you still haven't explained why Jesus said we need to follow every law in the book. That seemed pretty clear to me. Christianity was the next step for Judaism, not a replacement of it.

And hey, if you're here to tell me that this stuff is contradictory, welcome to the club. I've known that for years. The bible says what you say it says, but it also says the exact opposite. I can't reconcile it, and you haven't attempted to either. I doubt it's even possible.

mahakal said...

If you want to reconcile and understand, read Thomas. I'm done with this conversation.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Of course you are, because once again, you have no answers to my questions. You never even attempted to answer them, and you keep trying to end debate to hide from that fact.

And look, Christians don't acknowledge the Gospel of Thomas. Yet you say they're not Christians because they use different source material than you? They believe in the Gospel of Matthew, which clearly contradicts your argument.

Oh, and just as a point of interest, I was reading up on all kinds of early Christian stuff after my last comment, and stumbled upon Marcionism. It was developed by an early Christian who hated the Old Testament because it contradicted Jesus' teachings, for all the same reasons you don't like the Old Testament (ie, he didn't believe in the angry god). He was excommunicated by the church in 144AD and went on to establish his own church which rivaled the main church for several centuries. And there's now apparently a movement of neo-Marcionists, who love the New Testament and hate the Old.

And one point for mentioning it is to show that even early Christians considered the Old Testament to be a fundamental part of Christianity, so much so that they considered it heresy to say that it wasn't. But my other point was that I found it interesting and thought I'd point you that way, in case you hadn't heard of it.

And again, my main point isn't to say that you're wrong about Jesus' teachings. It's quite possible that the Book of Thomas is more accurate than the Book of Matthew. My point is that Christians DO have a valid basis for their beliefs within the bible, and it DOES incorporate the laws of the Old Testament. You can deny that by ending this debate, or you can fess up to the fact that there are wide disagreements about what the bible says and what Jesus was teaching.

You act like you have THE answer, but that's exactly what everybody else believes too. And you think they're all wrong, and that's what they think about you.

mahakal said...

Doctor Biobrain said...

I highly doubt that's canonical.

mahakal said...

No but it's a fun movie. Have fun arguing with your imaginary shadows.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Imaginary shadows?? What does that even mean? I made what I considered to be a fairly humorous response to that clip you gave, and end up getting insulted for it. What's up with that?

Seriously, did you really think I was denouncing the video for not being part of the bible? I wasn't continuing the debate, but trying to give it a humorous conclusion. I guess I failed.

mahakal said...

The imaginary shadows refer to you claiming to know what I think. I'm not much concerned with canonicity anyhow, and my opinion of Rome is that they do more to conceal than reveal, but a humorous end is better.

Charles J. Harder said...

I just noticed something,'re right about the Bible, but ultimately you fucked up.

"Religion is a way of describing by METAPHOR what cannot be perceived by the outward senses without introspection. All religions are true, for those who understand METAPHORS." Namaste

It was a quote by Namaste, and he was talking about metaphors, not religions.

Like the metaphor for the old testament was "daddy is like the devil", whereas the new testament is "daddy's son is like an angel."

Your actions determine who's gonna' GETYAA!! It's a more convincing form of karma.-Snarf

Doctor Biobrain said...

Charles - I don't know who Namaste is and I don't really care. His words are only as good as what he wrote, and what you quoted from him wasn't very persuasive.

And no, all religions AREN'T true. That's a feelgood idea that's too clever by half. Because a religion is what people actually believe, not the vague concepts underlying it. And because there are so many differing opinions, they can't possibly ALL be right. That sounds good in theory, but I'm sure you can't possibly support that idea when applying them to actual religious beliefs.

Beyond that, the idea that religion is metaphor is, itself, a belief. And it might be wrong. Because it might be that the Old Testament really IS literally correct; and not a metaphor at all. Yahweh MIGHT be the one true god, in which case Namaste is incorrect. You can't prove that this is wrong, and neither can Namaste. And that's why I go with agnosticism, as I refuse to fight battles that can't be won.

Charles J. Harder said...

I didn't say I agreed with him.

Charles J. Harder said...

I choose neither atheism nor agnosticism. I choose thinking.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Charles - No, I guess you DIDN'T say you agreed with him. But you DID say I was wrong and seemed to be using his quote to prove your point.

As for agnosticism, that DOES mean "thinking" in my book. For me, it simply means that I don't think gods are knowable, so I don't know enough to make an informed decision and therefore abstain from choosing whether or not gods exist. And that allows me to consider ALL possibilties. I fully acknowledge that it's possible gods exist and I'm in no way anti-religion. Frankly, I find the subject to be quite interesting.

But strictly speaking, if you don't have a religion, you're an atheist. That's what the word means. Theists are people who believe in a religion and atheists are everyone else. This isn't a choice you make. You're either one or the other. At a guess, I'd say your atheist.

But that's not to be confused with "Atheists," a term used by anti-religious people to denote that they're part of a group of people who explictly reject religion. And in accordance with the rule of names, that term is Capitalized, to denote that it refers to the group, and not to atheists in general. You can be an atheist without being an Atheist, but not vice versa.

But I'm not an Atheist and don't like their attitude at all. For me, saying "there is no god" is just as faith-based as saying "there is a god," and I reject both statements. That's why I'm agnostic, because I just don't have an opinion on the matter.

Charles J. Harder said...

"Doctor Biobrain said...
I don't see how you can say that all religions are true when I've seen you reject other people's religious beliefs."

That was your original message in response to Mahakal. I was merely stating that he was quoting, what I feel to be a poor quote. You made it sound personal.

As for agnosticism, I DO believe it is possible to know, but we are not at that point to understand how the universe was created.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Uh, Charles? That makes you agnostic. Because yeah, I fully agree that we might someday know enough to find out about the existence of gods. The point is that we don't know enough now.

Similarly, I'm agnostic on the issue of tomorrow's lottery numbers and won't buy a ticket. But tomorrow, I won't be agnostic, because I'll know the numbers. (Not really, as I don't pay attention to the lottery, but you get my point).

And just to be clear, it's possible we were created by aliens or some other means, but that doesn't make it a religion. I don't think it counts as a religion if you actually "know" the answers. So if aliens who created us told us to worship them and obey their commands, that wouldn't be a religion. It'd be slavery. Apparently, there's a difference, though I'm not exactly sure how. So I think true knowledge would be the end of religion, not the beginning.

And it definitely sounds like you're atheist too.

As for the other point, I've got more to say, but got to go pick up my kids from school.

Doctor Biobrain said...

Alright, first off, I don't think that was a quote by Namaste, as I don't think Namaste's a person. That was a quote from the guy I was debating with.

But more importantly, the whole idea is a perversion of what religion is. Because religion isn't a generic idea expressed in a holy book. Religion is the actual beliefs and rituals that people believe are required of them by their religion.

For instance, Muslims believe that Allah requires them to face Mecca and pray towards the Kaaba five times every day. That's part of their religion and a religion that doesn't require this isn't compatable with it.

The whole idea of the "religion by metaphor" isn't to suggest that Muslims are right in praying to Kaaba. Rather, it's to say that these people are WRONG, because they're taking their religion too literally and are missing the big picture. And the idea is that you can find a similar strain in all religions which combine them together and show how they all point to the same meaning. And the "metaphor" idea is to convince people to back-off from their specific religious beliefs and see how all the religions fit together.

And hey, I'm not against that idea. It makes sense. But my problem comes from the idea that this somehow encompasses all religions. Because that completely distorts what a "religion" is. And instead of being the open-minded view that all religions are true, it says that all these religions are WRONG, because they're not doing it right. And so Muslims don't need to pray to Kaaba, and Catholics can eat meat on Lenten Fridays, and Hindus can eat cow.

But what is religion, if not the beliefs of people? And if we remove all the specific rituals and beliefs from all religions and form them into one all-encompassing religion, they're NOT the same religion any more. They're the NEW religion, which incorporates parts of these religions, while ignoring all the parts that don't fit.

Without daily prayer, and fasting during Ramadan, and that weird thing Shiites do when they slice their heads with swords; it's not the same religion. And you can't rightly say that you're incorporating all religions if it requires you to dismiss the actual religion of billions of people.

And so that was my point. Again, I have no problem with the idea of "religion as metaphor." It's the idea that it's incorporating all religions while dismissing the actual religious beliefs that I have a problem with.

And no, the Old Testament wasn't meant as a metaphor. Many of the stories clearly weren't meant to be taken literally (like Samson), but other stories are historical. And the strongest part of the Old Testament are the laws, and those were definintely NOT to be taken as metaphors. Anyone who suggests that Leviticus is a metaphor clearly hasn't read Leviticus.

Oh, and Jesus believed in Hell, so let's not pretend he was the angel to Yahweh's devil. According to the bible, Jesus is ok with us burning in Hell, and yes, Jesus even mentions the pain factor. Read the New Testament and you'll find that even Jesus could be a jerk to non-believers. Yes, he wanted believers to turn the other cheek, but that apparently only lasted until they died. After that, it's payback time.

And that just makes no sense to me. If Jesus forgives us for our sins, he should do it after we're dead, too. But he clearly doesn't. Read Luke 16:19-31 and try telling me what a forgiving guy Jesus is.

Charles J. Harder said...

I have only a 3 part video series for you in response to your last post.

It starts with this: