Thursday, June 29, 2006

The atheistic problem of evil

Tim said...
You make many good points, John.
I think the christian concept of a god who is all-powerful, all-good and works within human history results in the problem of evil. Perhaps that is one advantage polytheism has over monotheism, evil is easier to account for under it. Of course, neither hold a match to the theory of evolution. Under it the philosophical problem of evil simply vanishes. All one needs worry about then is the practical problem of how to reduce evil.

It isn't at all clear to me that evolution really explains the existence of pain. The inner state of being in pain is not evolutionarily relevant. What evolution should produce is pain-behavior, that is aversive behavior. The inner qualia of pain is not necessary to the production of this aversive behavior, and is in fact a serious anomaly from the point of view of evolutionary naturalism.

Further, there is an equally serious problem, from the point of view of naturalism, of accounting for the existence of an objective moral standard that proscribes inflicting unnecessary pain on others. If the object of the game is to get your genes passed on, then I ought to do whatever it takes to make sure my genes get passed on, and if it causes unnecessary pain on others, why should my selfish genes care about that?

So I think atheists do have a problem of pain and evil, just a different one.


Anonymous said...

I suppose pain behavior could have been developed through evolution without the sensation of pain. So? This doesn't mean that pain behavior with the sensation of pain isn't just as likely to develop through evolution.
I have to wonder why this so-called benevolent, all-powerful being didn't create humans to have this pain behavior without the sensation of pain? It would seem he'd be motivated to do so through his loving kindness.
Such motivations are irrrelevant to evolution. That's why there really is no problem of evil under an evolutionary theory.
Whether or not morality is objective or subjective seems to me to be a seperate issue.

Anonymous said...

John, you point out rightly that even among Biblical Christians there is often confusion as to what is the right thing to do. That's not unique to any one system, and it's not particularly a problem for the theists since we do not claim that the answers should always be easy. They aren't.

The problem with the case you make is that without an objective, transcendent moral standard, there is no answer to the question of who has chosen correctly. This is not an epistemic issue but an ontological one. That is, we're not just stuck at the difficulty of determining which course of action is ethically better. Without the proper kind of standard there is no such better course of action.

This is not such a great matter in the church situation you speak of, but the same applies to moral decisions writ large. Timothy McVeigh did nothing wrong if there is no objective right or wrong.

I don't teach ethics as Victor does--but for years I've been honestly searching for a ground of ethics, other than God's revelation, that provides the kind of standard that gives a solid right and wrong. There aren't any--they all devolve to personal or societal preferences or a mathematically empty utilitarianism or the like.

Looking for right and wrong... it almost seems childish, something to talk about with your first-grader. But if we can't say to McVeigh or bin Laden, "that was wrong;" if we can't acknowledge that a Mother Teresa has done right; then we don't have ethics.

Edwardtbabinski said...


Objectively speaking? How objective do you have to be to acknowledge what hurts individuals and societies, and what increases the happiness of individuals and societies?

One might also note that most people prefer happiness by far to being hurt.

I know that I'm happy to live in a country with policemen who go out and try to stop people inflicting excessive unwanted pain on each other, and I'm happy about that for the same "reason" that I'm happy to live in a country with garbagemen who go out and stop people from inflicting ugly, smelly, and toxic piles of garbage on each other.

By the way both humans and chimpanzees sometimes hurt each other yet also display kindnesses toward each other. Philosphers could learn a lot from studying chimps. Besides studying social exchanges between other social species like chimps, one should note the results of a recent psychology experiment in which people were asked to contemplate some tough ethical decisions and how they would resolve them, and the religious and non-religious respondents picked the same answers, and also hesitated in the same places as well. There's a great little commentary on that experiment in Frans de Waal's latest book about chimpanzees and humans.

Edwardtbabinski said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Edwardtbabinski said...

Dear J.D.,
Why not actually read the book I mentioned by a lifelong primatologist? de Waal doesn't skimp any of the gory details you mentioned, but one might note that social species do far more than simply "tear each other's young apart," and human beings also do far more than just "rape under-aged helpless members of their own species."

More below about the exagerrated fears that folks like you and Vic have of secularism and indeed of the behaviors of mankind's nearest cousins. As for the harm of teaching evolution to people, it's nothing compared with the massive damage and roadblocks to human wisdom that God has designedly tossed mankind's way, from daily pains and distractions, to miscommunications between individuals and sexes, to the shortness of life and time for study, and a thousand other matters that convince me nobody's going to "hell" for differeing over matters of belief, or even for holding no particular beliefs very tightly or loosely at all. "Hell" itself has been used primarily by all religions simply as a means of promoting one religion or denomination over another, i.e., instead of as a goad to universal human virtue.

You also sound like a person hep on posting the Ten Commandments everywhere. So, J. D., this is for you:

Over the door of the [Nazi] courthouse in the Palace of Justice complex in Nuremberg were engraved the Ten Commandments. And belt buckles that German [Nazi] soldiers wore had embossed upon them “Gott Mit Uns” (“God Is with Us”).

Fredrick R. Abrams, M.D., in the foreword to Vivien Spitz’s Doctors from Hell: The Horrific Account of Nazi Experiments on Humans

The “Lord’s Resistance Army” has been battling government forces in the north of Uganda since 1988 with a declared aim of replacing President Yoweri Museveni's secular government with one based on the biblical Ten Commandments. But their campaign has been marked by brutality against the civilian population of northern Uganda, abducting the boys for forced recruitment as rebel fighters and girls as sex slaves for rebel commanders.Over 800,000 people have been displaced by the rebellion.

Associated Foreign Press, Kampala, Uganda, Aug 27, 2003 “Six Killed in Rebel Clashes in Northern Uganda, Children Rescued”

In 1997 Henry Jordan, a “born again” Christian on the State Board of Education in South Carolina, tried to get a copy of the Ten Commandments hung in every classroom in the state. When it was pointed out to him that members of other religions might not appreciate having only the Judeo-Christian teachings on display, he replied, “Screw the Buddhists and Kill the Muslims.”

Lot of good the commandments have done for him.

E.T.B. [Henry Jordan’s response was caught on cassette tape and broadcast to the media. It’s not a response he has been able to deny. Undaunted, in 2006 Mr. Jodran ran for School Superintendant of South Carolina, making declarations reprinted by the Associated Press such as, “"I think everything ought to be taught... and let people decide for themselves. There is no science to support trans-species changes, in other words, a monkey becoming a man."]

In 1997 the Charleston County Council of South Carolina unanimously passed a motion to post the Ten Commandments on a plaque outside the council chambers. Oddly enough, when a local reporter for the Post and Courier asked the nine council members to name the Ten Commandments, none could recall all ten. Two members refused to even try. Councilman Barrett Lawrimore’s reply was, “I don’t have time for this pop quiz.”

Church and State

In 2006 Congressman Lynn Westmoreland co-sponsored a bill that would require the display of the Ten Commandments in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. TV personality Stephen Colbert interviewed the Congressman and asked him to name them:

Colbert: What are the Ten Commandments?

Westmoreland: What are all of them?

Colbert: Yes.

Westmoreland: You want me to name them all?

Colbert: Yes.

Westmoreland: Uhhh.Ummmm. Don't murder. Don't lie. Don't steal. Ummmmm. I can't name them all.

Stephen Colbert vs. Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (GA), The Colbert Report, June 14, 2006


Beginning with “Do not bear false witness,” don’t all Congresspeople “stretch the truth,” depending on which group of constituents or special interests or foreign dignitaries they are trying to woo or impress?

I also suspect there’s some “Sabbath-breakers” and “adulterers” in Congress.

Does Congress agree with the command, “Do not kill?”

How many Congresspeople have “used the Lord’s name in vain” after discovering that their prize bill (say a bill to display the Ten Commandments) did not receive enough votes to become a law?

I don’t suppose Congress will vote to display the “penalties” that go along with the Ten Commandments, since “death” is mentioned so often, even for “Sabbath-breakers.”

Lastly, I wonder how Congress will address the difference between the ancient Hebrew’s “First Commandment” and our First Amendment? According to the “First Commandment” in the Bible “ye shall have no other gods before me” under penalty of death. While our First Amendment guarantees freedom of religion.


Preacher Pete: Without the Ten Commandments to lead them, people will wind up doing whatever they like.

Secular Sally: Most of us already do, but we like being liked, and hate being hated. In other words, most of us would sooner make friends than fill our freezers with heads, which, coincidentally, is a way to make enemies.


“Thou shalt not kill” is as old as life itself. And for this reason a large majority of people in all countries have objected to being murdered.

Robert Ingersoll

How many people have to flip through the Bible, going, “Jeez, I want to screw my neighbor’s wife--don’t know if I should?”

Rick Reynolds, Only the Truth is Funny

I do not believe that ethics “without the Bible” are “completely relative.” People with no Bible to guide them still feel similar pains when stolen from, slapped, or called a stinging name. People with no Bible to guide them also feel similar pleasures when hugged, given a gift, or verbally petted. In other words, “ethical authority” resides in our bodies and brains, and in the multitude of lessons learned during lives of interaction with our fellow human beings. Neither is it easy for a person to turn to anti-social behavior if they have been taught from childhood to view other people’s feelings and needs through the inner lens of their own. People also recognize (regardless of their religious beliefs or lack thereof) that “joys shared are doubled, while sorrows shared are halved.” Such recognitions even form the basis for wanting to “double” society’s joys, and “halve” society’s sorrows.

Of course not everyone learns morality in the manner described above. Some are raised to “fear hell” and memorize lists of “holy commandments.” Such people are liable to “fear what they (and others) might become” once such “external” holy threats and commands are called into question. Ironically, in nearly all cases, such a “hell” does not exist to promote universal ethical behavior, but to promote belief in the truth of that person’s particular theology/denomination as opposed to rival theologies/denominations. So if you do not share their particular theology nor belong to their particular denomination, then they are convinced you are going to hell regardless of whatever kindnesses you share with them or society at large. Naturally such people understand the idea of a “moral” nation as one that consists solely of “fellow believers.” Of course any morality that tries to base itself upon purely “external” religious threats and commands will break down once the religion supporting it is called into question.

To avoid such “breakdowns” it makes more sense for a nation, culture, or family to emphasize “internal” rather than “external” morality/ethics, just as it makes more sense to raise children to think and act in terms of how “they would feel if what they did was done back to them,” rather than depending on rote memorization of lists to promote ethical understanding in all circumstances and among all people. All the world’s religions enshrine the principle, “Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself,” and, “Do to others what you would want done to yourself,” which assume in both cases that “you” already possess an “internal” recognition of what you should and shouldn’t do. So, there need not be any overt conflict between “internal” and “external” morality and ethics. However, stressing the “internal” variety seems to have a far greater chance of drawing society together, rather than tearing it apart.

“Internal” ethical recognitions preceded the composition of humanity’s earliest law codes such as those of King Hammurabi, or the moral injunctions found in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, or the later but more famous, “Ten Commandments.” Such “internal” recognitions inspired the creation of laws, and still do, and remind us that laws are but dust when people neglect to seek out what is best within themselves and each other.


A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

Albert Einstein

Forgiveness is not, as some people seem to believe, a mysterious and sublime idea that we owe to a few millennia of Judeo-Christianity. It did not originate in the minds of people and cannot therefore be appropriated by an ideology or a religion. The fact that monkeys, apes, and humans all engage in reconciliation behavior (stretching out a hand, smiling, kissing, embracing, and so on) means that it is probably over thirty million years old, preceding the evolutionary divergence of these primates...Reconciliation behavior [is] a shared heritage of the primate order…

When social animals are involved...antagonists do more than estimate their chances of winning before they engage in a fight; they also take into account how much they need their opponent. The contested resource often is simply not worth putting a valuable relationship at risk. And if aggression does occur, both parties may hurry to repair the damage. Victory is rarely absolute among interdependent competitors, whether animal or human.

Frans De Waal, Peacemaking Among Primates

Darwin proposed that creatures like us who, by their nature, are riven by strong emotional conflicts, and who have also the intelligence to be aware of those conflicts, absolutely need to develop a morality because they need a priority system by which to resolve them. The need for morality is a corollary of conflicts plus intellect:

“Man, from the activity of his mental faculties, cannot avoid reflection… Any animal whatever, endowed with well-marked social instincts, would inevitably acquire a moral sense or conscience as soon as its intellectual powers had become as well-developed, or anything like as well-developed as in man.”(Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man)

That, Darwin said, is why we have within us the rudiments of such a priority system and why we have also an intense need to develop those rudiments. We try to shape our moralities in accordance with our deepest wishes so that we can in some degree harmonize our muddled and conflict-ridden emotional constitution, thus finding ourselves a way of life that suits it so far as is possible.

These systems are, therefore, something far deeper than mere social contracts made for convenience. They are not optional. They are a profound attempt--though of course usually an unsuccessful one--to shape our conflict-ridden life in a way that gives priority to the things that we care about most.

If this is right, then we are creatures whose evolved nature absolutely requires that we develop a morality. We need it in order to find our way in the world. The idea that we could live without any distinction between right and wrong is as strange as the idea that we--being creatures subject to gravitation--could live without any idea of up and down. That at least is Darwin’s idea and it seems to me to be one that deserves attention.

Mary Midgley, “Wickedness: An Open Debate,” The Philosopher’s Magazine, No. 14, Spring 2001

Edwardtbabinski said...


Having replied once to you, and once to J.D., here is my third comment on “objectivity” concerning questions of “religion-based morality.”

Whatever happiness that holding onto specific doctrinal religious beliefs may bring some (and keep in mind that for others, even those in the fold, it can sometimes bring pain, inner conflicts or add tension b/w friends and/or family as they struggle to convince themselves that they believe everything their religion informs them they must; while for still others, they might not think about questions concerning their beliefs very much), I continue to suspect that the world would be better off if everyone learned to treat whatever “beliefs” make them happy in a less than absolutist, less than fundamentalist, manner.

Just read these admissions composed mainly by religious believers:

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."
-Blaise Pascal [Catholic apologist], Pensees, (1670)


"Christianity has committed crimes so monstrous that the sun might sicken at them in heaven."
-G. K. Chesterton [Catholic apologist], writing in the Daily News, as quoted by Robert Blatchford, God and My Neighbor


"Even more disturbing as you say, is the ghastly record of Christian persecution. It had begun in Our Lord's time--'Ye know not what spirit ye are of' (John of all people!). I think we must fully face the fact that when Christianity does not make a man very much better, it makes him very much worse... Conversion may make of one who was, if no better, no worse than an animal, something like a devil."
-C. S. Lewis [Anglican apologist] in a letter to Bede Griffiths, dated Dec. 20, 1961, not long before Lewis' death, The Letters of C. S. Lewis, ed., W. H. Lewis, (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1966), p. 301.


"Love can lead to devotion, but the devotion of the lover is unlike that of the True Believer in that it is not militant. I may be surprised--even shocked--to find that you do not feel as I do about a given book or work of art or even person; I may very well attempt to change your mind; but I will finally accept that your tastes, your loves, are your business and not mine. The True Believer knows no such restraints."
-Salman Rushdie [ex-Muslim], Imaginary Homelands


"We kill in the name of a god or of his counterfeits: the excesses provoked by the goddess Reason [during the French Revolution], or by the concepts of “nation,” “class,” or “race,” are akin to those of the Inquisition or of the Reformation [and Thirty Years War]… The ages of [religious] fervor abound in bloody exploits: a Saint Teresa could only be the contemporary of the auto-da-fe [burning heretics alive], a Luther of the repression of the Peasants’ Revolt [Luther wrote in favor of the princes hacking and slaying the peasants without mercy]. In every mystic outburst, the moans of victims parallel the moans of ecstasy.
-E. M. Cioran [ex-Catholic], “Genealogy of Fanaticism,” A Short History of Decay


"As for the theologians, perhaps it would be better to pass them over in silence, not stirring up a hornets’ nest and not laying a finger on the stinkweed, since this race of men is incredibly arrogant and touchy. For they might rise up en masse and march in ranks against me with six hundred conclusions and force me to recant. And if I should refuse, they would immediately shout ‘heretic.’ For this is the thunderbolt they always keep ready at a moments notice to terrify anyone to whom they are not very favorably inclined. (Erasmus 57)

Theologians have a ridiculous penchant for “endless and magisterial definitions, conclusions,” and “corollaries.” (Erasmus 58)

"They [theologians] are so blessed by their self love as to be fully persuaded that they themselves dwell in the third heaven, looking down from high above on all other mortals as if they were earth-creeping vermin almost worthy of their pity... Moreover, they explicate sacred mysteries just as arbitrarily as they please, explaining by what method the world was established and arranged, by what channels original sin is transmitted to Adam's posterity, by what means, by what proportion, in how short a period of time Christ was fully formed in the virgin's womb... There are others which they think worthy of great and 'illuminated' [in the faith by the Holy Spirit] theologians, as they say. If they ever encounter these, they really perk up. Whether there is any instant in the generation of the divine persons? Whether there is more than one filial relationship in Christ? Whether the following proposition is possible: God the Father hates the Son. Whether God could have taken on the nature of a woman, of the devil, of an ass, of a cucumber, of a piece of flint? And then how the cucumber would have preached, performed miracles, and been nailed to the cross?...

“And then these most subtle subtleties are rendered even more subtle by the various 'ways' or types of scholastic theology, so that you could work your way out of a labyrinth sooner than out of the intricacies of the Realists, Nominalists, Thomists, Albertists, Occamists, Scotists--and I still haven't mentioned all the sects, but only the main ones.

When not fighting “for their right to [being given the] tithes [of parishoners], with sword, spears, and stone, with every imaginable sort of armed force,” the priests are busy keeping a “sharp lookout to harvest their profits.” (Erasmus 67-68)

-Desiderius Erasmus [Catholic apologist], In Praise of Folly


"[E]ven the great monastic communities of western Europe, such as Cluny Abbey, founded on renunciation of the world and denial of the flesh, quickly became owners of vast estates and wielders of enormous political power. They no longer protested against the world. They were the world, in all its pageantry and power, and they validated the dream of empire, which they consecrated as Crusades to destroy the infidel. That is why people should not look to religion for salvation or for a solution to the ills of the world. Failure to see the possibilities for corruption and destruction in religion is a failure of spiritual perception of the first order. Few people fail to see the destructive possibilities of other people’s religions, but they can be remarkably blind to their own."
-Keith Ward [Christian apologist], The Case for Religion



The Trouble with Religion by Ian Boyne, Jamaica Gleaner Online, June 4, 2006
"A major scholarly debate has erupted in the scholarly Journal of Religion and Society since Gregory Paul published his biting and scorching essay in volume 7 (2005) showing the negative link between religion and social health (the article is titled 'Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Social Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in Prosperous Democracies'). In volume 8 of the Journal (2006), scholars from Vanderbilt and Cedarville Universities continue the discussion with two essays, 'Religious Cosmologies and Homicide Rates Among Nations' and 'Religiosity, Secularism and Social Health.'"...

Boyne's two critics try to discount Boyne's interpretation of the data via a counter interpretation, namely that America isn't "really" a "religious nor Christian" nation. They argue that "moving beyond the religiosity and secularity of individuals, a political system may be a secular system even if most of its members are committed to a religious worldview and vice versa. In the case of the U.S., its legal and judicial processes are not governed by any institutional religious sect or premises and it itself does not officially favor any religion. As such, the United States is a secular nation, not a religious or theistic nation."

[It should be noted that all scholars agree that the U.S. has an extremely high rate of religiosity and belief in God compared with other G-8 nations, America's rate of churchgoing and belief is closer to that of such religiously infatuated countries as Northern Ireland and Iran, rather than with that of far less religious G-8 nations like Britain, Scandinavia, or Japan. And hence scholars wishing to dispute Boyne's thesis are left with having to deny America is truly a "religious" nation at all. This kind of gerrymandering is of course the very thing that unsettled disputes are made of, if I may cite Stephen Prothero:

“O]n both sides of the ‘Christian America’ debate… participants often oscillate between the descriptive and the normative, confusing what is (or was) with what ought to be. They also routinely conflate demographic, legal, and cultural questions, forgetting that a country may be Christian in one respect and secular in another. Typically those who understand the United States as a multi-religious country focus on the law and cheer on the religious ‘outsiders,’ while those who emphasize its Christian character focus on demography and cast their lot with the ‘insiders.’ While for one group Christian dominance (either real or perceived) is the problem, for the other it is the solution.”
- Stephen Prothero, American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon


The Myth of Secular Moral Chaos by Sam Harris [online]


Japan (the most atheistic nation in the G-8) has the lowest murder rate while the United States (the most Christian nation in the G-8) has the highest. Japan used to have much stronger religious faith and a state religion, and guess what: Japan was remarkably aggressive and militaristic when "Shinto" was at its peak, and during WW2, when its Emperor was regarded as a god.
- Rod Swift, The Results of the Christians vs. Atheists in Prison Investigation



According to FBI Uniform Crime Reports for 2003 Louisiana had the highest murder rate in the country (13 murders per 100,000 people). Conversely, Maine has the lowest murder rate (1.3 murders per 100,000 people). The South also has highest religious affiliation rates (and lowest education rates). Could there be a correlation there?
- D. A. Stacy, U.S. Executions Reach 1000


Adelle M. Banks, Gallup: Southerners Have Highest Church Attendance Rate, Religion News Service, 2006

In 2004 the South, again, had the nation's highest murder rate. (FBI Uniform Crime Report 2004, released October 2005).

“South's high murder rate is key factor in why U.S. homicide rate is so high,” Jet, August 17, 1998. The Federal Bureau of Investigation found that Southern states have the highest murder rates. And experts believe the high Southern murder rate is a key factor behind America's high homicide rate in comparison with other democratic, industrialized nations, according to an article in The New York Times.

They note that much of the distinction in murder rates between the South and other sections of the country comes from a difference in the character of Southern homicide. It was found that many murders in the South are of a personal and traditional nature such as a barroom brawl, a quarrel between acquaintances or a fight between lovers. In other places, the newspaper reported, homicides usually begin with another crime like a botched robbery, and typically involve strangers.


A Scientific American article (June 1999) accounts for the high murder rates in the South on the grounds of a "culture of honor." A white man living in a small county in the South is four times more likely to kill than one living in a small county in the Midwest. Southerners showed higher levels of cortisol and testosterone in response to an insult. Murder rates due to arguments are higher in the South and Southwest, but murder rates associated with felony (robbery or burglary) are lower.
- Ben Best, “Homicide Rates in the United States” in Death by Murder


Who’s Afraid of Faith-Based Charities?by Tom Flynn

The article recounts a brief history of religion's declining role in the world including in the sphere of charity.


‘Theists vs. Nontheists’ In Prison Populations: A False Dichotomy

The above article (the final one at the above web-page) is an attempt to explain away the embarrassing fact that Christians and other theists are well represented in America’s prison population while non-theists and atheists are under-represented. Even if one agrees that the author may have succeeded at explaining away the significance of such a fact, it also means there's not a bit of evidence that self-professed atheists act more criminally on average than do self-professed theists in America.
- E.T.B.


Colson Prison Success Inflated by Study, Says UCLA Professor It was claimed in a study (produced by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society) that graduates of Charles W. Colson’s Prison Fellowship program returned to prison at a lower rate than members of a control group. But Mark A. R. Kleinman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, analyzed the study and showed that its results were inflated by the Prison Fellowship… Kleiman said that when all 177 participants were looked at, the results show that Inner Change participants actually returned to prison at a higher rate than non-participants. “Overall, the 177 entrants did a little bit worse than the controls,” Kleiman wrote, “The technical term for this in statistics is selection bias; program managers know it as creaming. Harvard public policy professor Anne Piehl, who reviewed the study before it was published, calls this instance of it cooking the books.” Kleiman contacted John Dilulio, former director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Dilulio admitted that the study did not produce results favorable to Inner Change.

Christian ministries are not the only organizations that have claimed that they produce lower rates of people returning to prison or drugs, both Transcendental Meditation and Scientology have prison programs and drug rehabilitation programs, and make the same claim. Of course many commonsense programs claim to produce positive changes in prisoners, from job-preparedness programs and educational programs to reading clubs and probably prison chess clubs as well.
- E.T.B.

Teaching a form of Buddhist meditation to prisoners and guards has had some dramatic successes in prisons as far apart as India and the U.S. In 1994-95, Israeli filmmakers traveled to two jails in India at which Vipassana courses had been conducted. There they conducted and filmed extensive interviews with jail officials and inmates from many different countries who participated in the courses. The result of these efforts was a powerful 52-minute documentary film entitled Doing Time, Doing Vipassana. The film describes the way in which Vipassana has been sucessfully used within the Indian prison system to dramatically change the behaviour and attitude of the inmates and jailers who participated in the courses and, thereby, improve the entire atmosphere of the prisons.

Transcendental Incarceration: The first San Bruno Jail inmates to take part in an experimental meditation program say it has helped to free their minds, if nothing else.
Hard Labor: County Jail No. 3 is a hellhole. Can an ancient, intense form of meditation improve life for the inmates?
Vipassana Meditation at the North Rehabilitation Facility
Changing From Inside

Edwardtbabinski said...

J.D.: I have indeed read Franz de Waal's books...

ED: I disagree both concerning your low opinions of his books and writing ability, and with your dismissal of the questions his research raises. If you wish to assume philosophy is king and we cannot learn anything from studying the behaviors of our closest living evolutionary cousins, then I disagree. I also suspect that philosophers who imagine their heads and philosophical phrases contain it “all,” will remain with heads just as empty and narrow minded as they wish on all manner of subjects. But I respect a bit broader quest for knowledge and respect questions and the study of connections perceived from a wide angle and variety of theaters of research.


J.D.: In any case my comment was meant simply to illustrate this: you said that humans could learn a little from studying chimps. I say that we would not learn anything which we did not already know from our own sense of morality.

ED: And what exactly is "our own sense of morality?" You have no questions as to the meaning of the phrase and idea? Why not ask more questions such as what your brain is thinking about the instant before conscious thoughts and typed words emerge, or before you move your arm. You appear to be dismissing the quest for knowledge and reverting to philosophical archetypes and words (that you imagine) equal things.


J.D.: If we see behavior which seems to meet our standards of goodness, we call it benevolence and good behavior among the chimps.

ED: You miss the point as much in what I say as in what De Waals does. And you seem to have no interest in what the behaviors mostly likely may have been of the animals that closely preceded human beings, evolutionarily speaking. You also ignore and attempt to verbally skirt the question, indeed the investigation, of how primate societies function.

Instead you wish to speak of "standards of goodness" in an atomistic, stand-alone fashion. But the atom ain't what it used to be, not what it was in Democritus's and Dalton's day, that's for sure.

As for the archetypes you employ, words as things, "good" or "evil," etc., De Waal's chapter that I suggest you read was titled, Kindness, and about sharing behaviors.

"Good" and "Evil" have wide and slippery meanings, more than those of words that at least deal with generally more physical and universal traits like "kindness" or "hurtfulness;" even "pleasure and pain" are more helpful and easily understood terms. Even Lewis chose to title his book, The Problem of Pain rather than the Problem of "Evil."

Note that people can call each other "good" or "evil" about any number of things, from invisible theological things (heresy is so “evil!”), to bodily functions and smells, or even the way someone's looking at you (with the evil eye), and such words are so overarchingly broad they reek of misunderstandings. Am I "evil" for suggesting such a thing? Are you "good" or better than I am, because you think in terms of "good and evil?"


J.D.: What if somebody who didn't know the least bit about human morality started studying the chimps? They might come away with the impression that tribalist outbursts of ferocity and violence were meant to be playful gestures.

ED: There's so much more that must be discussed before we can even begin to engage the question of "human morality" (not an atomistic concept I'm afraid, again you fall into the atomistic premise). Moreover, the fact that human beings share an UNDERSTANDING and RECOGNITION of social behaviors with their nearest cousins, as well as with other large brained primates who are less direct cousins (like dolphins and elephants) speaks volumes. We share levels of MUTUAL understanding. We also have commonalities, like pain receptors and pleasure receptors, brains, socially learned experiences, and social networks, things our species share.


J.D.:Now about your numerous and copious quotations: as I pointed out to you in an email I just sent, you make far too many appeals to authority

ED: There is a difference between posting quotations and “appealing to authority.” Do you know the difference? I don't care WHO said those things, I could leave off each person's name, but each quotation raises a self-contained question and or lists some information that remains valid in and of itself. I've posed similar questions myself. But I wish to at least give the authors credit where credit is due by naming them. It seems to me at this point that you are fishing for excuses to stop your brain from considering anything but your atomistic philosophizing mentality that confused words with things, maps with territories, and uncertainties with dogmas, and avoids digging deeper into questions. Try asking "why" more often.

Your reliance on phrases, above, that you raise without even a "why" seems more to me like an appeal to blind authority.


J.D.: And what exactly is it suppose to prove to me?

ED: Proofs are difficult to come by, and mankind, including Christians, remain pretty mixed up. *smile*


J.D.: Have you ever seen me posting that everyone should memorize the Ten Commandments and that we should revert to the holiness standards of Leviticus in order to avert the end of the world as we know it? I don't think that morality has to be taught from the Bible.

ED: Then forget about the "Ten Commandments," but what kind of Christian are you? Just goes to demonstrate yet another theological division about the proper interpretation and use of the Bible. Certainly there are some Christians who would read what you’ve written directly above and suspect you were hell bound.


J.D., The Bible is a record of God's dealings with man.

ED: Which dealings with man, the mythical dealings of God with man in the “primeval history” portion of Genesis up to the world wide flood, etc., or the mythical dealings of God with man in the end-times as depicted in the New Testament and summed up in the apocalypse of Revelation? (And what about God's dealings with "woman?" I admit I expect a bit of a reversion to patriarchal thinking and expressions whenever it comes to the Bible or it's believers. But your phrase "God with man" is simply another example of the way you've swallowed whole phrases and assumptions without asking "why" more often.)


J.D.: You will not find secret moral revelations that you will not find elsewhere. What you will find is the Source and Authority for these morals revealing Himself. It is not a rulebook: it is a story, the story of God.

ED: At this point you've boarded the last train to Preacherville. You need a choir now. Or just shout louder, because your points are growing increasingly weaker here. I've read the Bible and studied it, as have many others, and sorry, but many folks did not conclude it to be the "Source" and "Authority" of everything you say it is, including "the" story of "God."


J.D. You seem to always point to what people feel is wrong depending on what causes them pain. Of course when they are the victims it seems that the world has turned against them (this is not to say that the crimes perpetrated against them are not hideously evil). But what about the perpetrator? How many of us (myself included) feel not the slightest compunction about stealing candy from a store or ignoring a blind person struggling to cross the street if nobody notices or there are no repercussions? In fact this is the very point C.S. Lewis makes about the Moral Law. When we do something wrong no excuse is too far-fetched to exonerate ourselves. When somebody does wrong to us, why then we demand the letter of the law. We have a very asymmetrical sense of obligation.

ED: Funny, both you and Lewis left out this example as well... when a person questions your religion or doctrinal beliefs, to hell with them.


J.D.: I find Darwin all too optimistic about the reliability of our evolved moral sentiments.

ED: As might also be pointed out concerning conflicting religious sentiments.

And please explain your use of "reliability" above. I find you “all too optimistic” about the reliability of interpreting the Bible and God's story.

Jesus didn't even have any rules to share about how to govern a city or nation, you have to go back to Moses to find stuff like that. Jesus taught, "save your soul." And many believed, eventually, but Europe became a war-mongering mess of Trinitarian creationist Christians leading up to the Thirty Years War, which was pre-industrial but still some consider it Europe’s worst war. Christians were also persecuting and killing other Christians right after the first Christian Emperors took over the Roman Empire. In fact in one three year period more Christians with differing theologies killed Christians than during the previous 200+ years of persecution under the Romans.

So, was Darwin right, or Christ wrong?

I'm not sure the question I posed is right. At any rate, whether Darwin was "optimistic" or not about human nature is not the point at all. Again, you're trying to drag in your atomistic theological assumptions without even asking "why." Do you imagine that Darwin or Darwinism promises utopia? On the other hand how secure do you feel on a lifeboat floating in space that could be toppled by any number of cosmic disasters? It seems to me that your feelings of optimism and pessimism are more at play here in your wish to “save your soul,” than genuine philosophical inquiry.


J.D.: History does not inspire much confidence on such matters. As John Gray remarks, "Humans thrive in conditions that morality condemns. The peace and prosperity of one generation stand on the injustices of earlier generations; the delicate sensibilities of liberal societies are fruits of war and empire."

ED: Gray indeed tells it like it is. The dead are indeed forgotten and societies do go on, so long as people are still around. Angers and miscommunications can indeed escalate and sweep over a society by storm. But as for his denunciation of "delicate sensibilities of liberal societies" one could also pick on the grossly simplistic and warmongering sensibilities of "conservative societies." Again, questions abound.


J.D.: The fact is that there are things which cause us pleasure which we would morally condemn, and things which cause us great pain of which we morally approve. If the pedophile feels pleasure at the prospect (or heaven forbid, in the act) of raping young children, does that make it right?

ED: J.D., listen to yourself. Your utterance above reminds me of something Chesterton once wrote: “It is the utterance of that bitter and heartrending period of youth which comes before we realise the one grand and logical basis of all optimism—the doctrine of original sin. The boy at this stage being an ignorant and inhuman idealist, regards all his faults as frightful secret malformations, and it is only later that he becomes conscious of that large and beautiful and benignant explanation that the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” [G.K.C., Robert Browning, online]

Just what bulwark do you have in mind that would prevent pedophilia from EVER happening? Or any suffering from ever taking place? None. Just read your friend Grey. Human society taken as a whole however, usually settles down between periods of great seriousness when the masses are being indoctrinated or growing attached to the latest utopian or scapegoat schemes, namely between times of fascism, and communism and God-fearing monarchies. Humanity isn't perpetually at war with humanity, people are not perpetually at war with their friends and neighbors though wars continue someplace on earth every day, and sometimes we do wish ill of our neighbors. What's amazing is how many hundreds of thousands if not millions of people can live together in a single city relatively peacefully, people of all beliefs, religions, races, and creeds.

And yes, even how those lousy baby-killing pan chimpanzees, usually are not just going around killing baby chimps, because 1) the mothers take care of the chimps and raise their youngest outside the group to avoid such conflicts with males 2) even chimps are not always thinking of killing one another:


J.D.: Why not, if we should follow whatever causes us pleasure?

ED: Why is your opinion of “pleasure” so low and limited as to include primarily and seemingly only “pedophilic child rape?” Instead you must consider the full range of things both easy common things and difficult challenges that give is pleasure or increase it upon accomplishment, the full width breath and depth of things that give us “pleasure,” like having friends rather than storing our neighbor’s heads in freezers; and FINALLY, shake off your blindness as to “how” societies function as a WHOLE. (Do some philosophical calculus for a change.)

“Is the Poet, or the Philosopher, or the Artist whose genius is the glory of his age, degraded from his high estate by the undoubted historical probability, not to say certainty, that he is the direct descendant of some naked and bestial savage, whose intelligence was just sufficient to make him a little more cunning than the Fox, and by so much more dangerous than the Tiger? Or is he bound to howl and grovel on all fours because of the wholly unquestionable fact, that he was once a fertilized egg cell, which no ordinary power of discrimination could distinguish from that of the fertilized egg cell of a Dog? Or is the philanthropist, or the saint, to give up his endeavors to lead a noble life, because the simplest study of man's nature reveals, at its foundation, all the selfish passions, and fierce appetites of the merest quadruped? Is mother-love vile because a hen shows it, or fidelity base because dogs possess it?” T. Huxley

And what about the behaviors of social species?

"When social animals are involved... antagonists do more than estimate their chances of winning before they engage in a fight; they also take into account how much they need their opponent. The contested resource often is simply not worth putting a valuable relationship at risk. And if aggression does occur, both parties may hurry to repair the damage. Victory is rarely absolute among interdependent competitors, whether animal or human."
FRANS DE WAAL, PEACEMAKING AMONG PRIMATES (see also, Morton Hunt, The Compassionate Beast: What Science is Discovering About the Humane Side of Humankind; and, Alfie Kohn, The Brighter Side of Human Nature: Altruism and Empathy in Everyday Life)

"Studies of food sharing by chimps at Atlanta's Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center [show that]... chimps most often get food from individuals whom they have groomed that day. Dominant males are among the most generous with their food. Fights occur rarely and usually stem from attempts either to take food without having performed grooming services or to withhold food after receiving grooming. Chimps usually kiss, hug, or otherwise make peace after a fight, especially if they need help and cooperation from one another in the future, according to Dr. Frans de Waal."

"As Darwin pointed out in The Origin of Species (opening pages of chapter. three), the `struggle for existence' can often be described just as well as a mutual dependence. And harmless coexistence as parts of the same eco-sphere is also a very common relation...

"Among social creatures, positive gregariousness, a liking for each other's company, is the steady, unnoticed background for the conflicts."

"Those communities which included the greatest number of the most sympathetic members would flourish best, and rear the greatest number of offspring."

"It is not the especially aggressive primate that reaches the highest rungs on the ladder of rank, but the especially friendly one that knows how to win the others' sympathies. In baboons, rhesus monkeys, and Japanese macaques the ability of a male to make friendships with others is a prerequisite for high-ranking status. A high-ranking male must be tolerant toward young animals and allow them to play round about it. It must furthermore be a good protector. Thus positive social qualities determine status and not just the aggressiveness of an animal striving for dominance.

"It is true that a certain aggressiveness, which motivates a striving for dominance, also goes with a high-ranking position. But the trials of strength are to a great extent ritualized. We have already mentioned Jane Goodall's chimpanzee, which improved its rank after discovering it was good at making a noise with empty petrol cans."

"When Washoe [the chimpanzee] was about seven or eight years old, I witnessed an event that told about Washoe as a person, as well as causing me to reflect on human nature. [The account proceeds to describe the chimp island at the Institue for Primate Studies]... One day a young female by the name of Cindy could not resist the temptation of the mainland and jumped over the electric fence in an attempt to leap the moat. She hit the water with a great splash which caught my attention. I started running toward the moat intent on diving in to save her. [Chimps cannot swim.] As I approached I saw Washoe running toward the electric fence. Cindy had come to the surface, thrashing and submerging again. Then I witnessed Washoe jumping the electric fence and landing next to the fence on about a foot of bank. She then held on to the long grass at the water's edge and stepped out onto the slippery mud underneath the water's surface. With the reach of her long arm, she grasped one of Cindy's flailing arms as she resurfaced and pulled her to the safety of the bank...Washoe's act gave me a new perspective on chimpanzees. I was impressed with her heroism in risking her life on the slippery banks. She cared about someone in trouble; someone she didn't even know that well."

"The tragedy of chimpanzees is that while they are close enough to being human to attract our attention, they present us with a mirror that we find unwelcome. They have a smaller brain, they are excitable, their behavior seems to mock our veneer of civilization. They compound the tragedy by growing up into chimpanzees, and not into complaisant pets, or eager would-be human beings...They remind us of an evolutionary history that it seems we would like to forget."

"A chimpanzee comes to a stunning sight in the midst of a tropical forest: A twenty-five foot waterfall sends water thundering into a pool below, which casts up mist some seventy feet. Apparently lost in contemplation, the chimpanzee cries out, runs excitedly back and forth, and drums on trees with its fists. Here we see the dawn of awe and wonder in animals.

"A famed heart surgeon, Dr. Christian Bernard, once witnessed a chimpanzee weeping bitterly and becoming inconsolable for days after his companion was taken away for research. Bernard then vowed never again to experiment with such sensitive creatures."

"Apes and monkeys have drawn and painted pictures, displaying intense concentration, and appearing to gain satisfaction in the process. Artistically, a chimpanzee makes the same progress, by the same steps, as a human child does, though none have ever been known to get beyond the `simple circle dotted with marks resembling facial features,' i.e., they do not add arms, legs, a body, etc. Still, ape and monkey art takes a lead ahead of children in placing its forms in the center of the page -- they balance their compositions. Apes have also been seen tracing their shadows with their finger, and even using their breath to wet a window pane so they could draw upon it. One famous monkey artist, a Capuchin, began to draw with rough objects in her cage even before anyone showed her how. With most other monkeys and chimps all that human trainers had to do was put a pencil in their hand and paper in front of them. They discovered how to use it soon enough, and even how to hold the writing implement properly. The primates that were tested also knew when their pictures were finished, and enjoyed looking at them afterwards...

"Wild chimpanzees have been observed dancing round an object, employing unique modes of rhythym. They also make drinking cups out of folded leaves, and they pluck a stick clean of leaves to make a feeding-tool they use to extract ants and termites from holes in the ground or wood."
SALLY CARRIGHAR, WILD HERITAGE [quotations have been condensed and edited]

Kanzai the chimpanzee can strike two rocks together, until some sharp-edged flakes chip off, then use those flakes to cut through a nylon rope that secures a box that the chimp wants to get into! See Kanzai: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind by Sue Savage-Rumbaugh and Roger Lewin (New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1994).

"Question: If we think that we are just animals, won't we behave like animals? "Answer: What animal species are you thinking of? Porpoises are gregarious, intelligent, and fun-loving. Baboons are protective of the young. They show cooperative group behavior. Gorillas are docile, family-oriented, and vegetarian. Chimpanzees form `bands' of more than one family, while orangutans live alone. From an evolutionary viewpoint, natural selection has produced people who behave like people. Humans, like all other species, are unique. There is no reason why we should behave as if we were some other species...

"We are a highly social species. Most of our behavior is learned, not genetically determined. [Compare the behavior of a child who is raised by human beings, with one who is not raised by human beings, i.e., during the first few months or years of the child's life. Then you begin to realize how near to animals we really are, and what a large proportion of human behavior is learned during a long socialization process, which is itself the result of millions of years of cultural, merely biological evolution. [See Douglas K. Candland's Feral Children and Clever Animals: Reflections on Human Nature.] We can learn behavior that will contribute to group well-being and our long-term survival as a species. We can even `unlearn' whatever traces of instinctive behavior we may have inherited. Even if war between tribes is `natural' human behavior, we can learn not to make war. Systems of morals and ethics serve, in part, to channel our behavior away from behavior that is socially and biologically destructive."


J.D: Your points about religious evil are well-taken. I agree with C.S. Lewis and Blaise Pascal, and the others whom you quote. But you are missing the point that they are trying to make. They were trying to say that religion gives people the power to rise very substantially above the norm, towards sainthood, or to descend to the depths of hell, towards damnation. But religion is required for both. Religion gives us both St Francis and the Inquisitors, both Mother Teresa and Jerry Falwell. But we would not have (or at least not as many) St Francis's and Mother Teresa's without religion. Like any other force or power, religion can be used for good or evil. It just happens to be one of the most powerful of these forces in the world (due I believe to its transcendent origin), so it can be used for the greatest good or the greatest evil.

ED: That’s were I disagree with Lewis and Pascal and yourself. Religious people are NOT either saints or horrendous sinners. The vast majority of religious people are ordinary. Or religion can even turn ordinarily nice people into guilt-ridden internal sufferers by magnifying harmless actions into “deadly offenses” against “God.”

Were it true that a converted man as such is of an entirely different kind from a natural man, there surely ought to be some distinctive radiance. But notoriously there is no such radiance. Converted men as a class are indistinguishable from normal men. By the very intensity of his fidelity to the paltry ideals with which an inferior intellect may inspire him, a saint can be even more objectionable and damnable than a superficial “carnal” man would be in the same situation.
WILLIAM JAMES, The Varieties of Religious Experience

One of Christianity’s chief offenses is not that it has enlisted the services of bad men, but that it has misdirected the energies of good ones. The kindly, the sensitive, the thoughtful, those who are striving to do their best under its influence, are troubled, and consequently often develop a more or less morbid frame of mind. The biographies of the best men in Christian history offer many melancholy examples of the extent to which they have falsely accused themselves of sins during their “unconverted” state, and the manner in which harmless actions are magnified into deadly offenses.
CHAPMAN COHEN, Essays in Freethinking

In the days of my youth, ministers depended on revivals to save souls and reform the world. The emotional sermons, the sad singing, the hysterical “Amens,” the hope of heaven, the fear of hell, caused many to lose what little sense they had. In this condition they flocked to the “mourner’s bench”--asked for prayers of the faithful--had strange feelings, prayed, and wept and thought they had been “born again.” Then they would tell their experiences--how wicked they had been, how evil had been their thoughts, their desires, and how good they had suddenly become.

They used to tell the story of an old woman who, in telling her experience, said, “Before I was converted, before I gave my heart to God, I used to lie and steal, but now, thanks to the grace and blood of Jesus Christ, I have quit ‘em both, in a great measure.”

Well, while the cold winter lasted, while the snows fell, the revival went on, but when the winter was over, the boats moved in the harbor again, the wagons rolled, and business started again, most of the converts “backslid” and fell again into their old ways. But the next winter they were on hand again, read to be “born again.” They formed a kind of stock company, playing the same parts every winter and backsliding every spring.

I regard revivals as essentially barbaric. The fire that has to be blown all the time is a poor thing to get warm by. I think they do no good but much harm; they make innocent people think they are guilty, and very mean people think they are good.
ROBERT INGERSOLL, “Why I am An Agnostic”

An evangelical Christian once told me, “Only Jesus Christ can save man and restore him to his lost state of peace with God, himself and others.” Yeah, sure, and only new Pepsi can make you feel really happy, and only our brand is better than the competition, and only our country is the best country. It is truly amazing to me that people can utter such arrogant nonsense with no humor, no sense of how offensive they are to others, no doubt or trepidation, and no suspicion that they sound exactly like advertisers, con-men and other swindlers. It is really hard to understand such child-like prattling. If I were especially conceited about something (a state I try to avoid, but if I fell into it...), if for instance I decided I had the best garden or the handsomest face in Ireland, I would still retain enough common sense to suspect that I would sound like a conceited fool if I went around telling everybody those opinions. I would have enough tact left, I hope, to satisfy my conceit by dreaming that other people would notice on their own that my garden and/or my face were especially lovely. People who go around innocently and blithely announcing that they belong to the Master Race or the Best Country Club or have the One True Religion seem to have never gotten beyond the kindergarten level of ego-display. Do they have no modesty, no tact, no shame, no adult common sense at all? Do they have any suspicion how silly their conceit sounds to the majority of the nonwhite non-Christian men and women of the world? To me, they seem like little children wearing daddy’s clothes and going around shouting, “Look how grown-up I am! Look at me, me, me!”

There are more amusing things than ego-games, conceit and one-upmanship.Really, there are. I suspect that people stay on that childish level because they have never discovered how interesting and exciting the adult world is.

If one must play ego-games, I still think it would be more polite, and more adult, to play them in the privacy of one’s head. In fact, despite my efforts to be a kind of Buddhist, I do relapse into such ego-games on occasion; but I have enough respect for human intelligence to keep such thoughts to myself. I don’t go around announcing that I have painted the greatest painting of our time; I hope that people will notice that by themselves. Why do the people whose ego-games consist of day-dreaming about being part of the Master Race or the One True Religion not keep that precious secret to themselves, also, and wait for the rest of the human race to notice their blinding superiority?

Many Christians who can’t even get members of their own family to agree with them on trifling matters are currently seeking to evangelize the world and tell everyone “what’s what.”

One Sunday afternoon my cousin and I were eating at a restaurant. He paused, and started pointing at people. “He’s a Christian… He’s a Christian… So is she, and she, and that other guy.” I asked how he was so sure. His reply? “I was a hard-core Evangelical Christian for a few years, remember? It’s not hard to see once you know what to look for. Look for someone who looks like they’re wearing clothes just a little bit nicer than they’re comfortable in, that have a smile on their face. It won’t look like a happy smile, it’ll look kind of contrived and forced, like they’re trying to convince themselves they’re happy and rich.”

Many of the most cordial Christians either hum hymns or listen to contemporary Christian music, or repeat Scripture in their heads, and wonder what they can do next to make someone think that they’re a “good little Christian.” I used to do the same thing, and now people wonder why I do not shower them with praise and gifts to make them think that I am a “good little Christian.” I used to go to people’s houses and work and they would try to pay me, But No! I would not take a dime, because I wanted to emblazon on their brains the idea that I was a “good little Christian.” (The “people-pleasing-for-Christ” part of my life ended over 15 years ago.) That’s what many Christians are, people pleasers, God pleasers, Jesus pleasers, preacher pleasers. Jesus was a people pleaser, that’s why he was so willing to die, either to please God or his ignorant followers.
BEN [edited by E.T.B.]

Psychotherapists will tell you that in dealing with an addict, you have to understand that the person’s primary relationship is with the drug. The drug has the ability to control the addict’s thinking to a remarkable degree, and you must understand that any relationship you may feel with the addict is a distant second to the one they have with their drug. The most devout Evangelical Christians are open and unabashed about this. Their “relationship with Jesus” as they use the term, is the primary relationship in their lives. There is even a scripture that goes something like, “Not unless you hate your mother and father can you be my disciple,” and, “Who are my mother and father? But he who hears and words of God and does them.” Jesus even suggested to one disciple that he ought not return home to help bury a dead family member, instead he ought to “Let the dead bury the dead.” In other words, Evangelicals stress that one’s love for Jesus ought to be so strong that relatively speaking, one’s love for even close family members, must not compare. You may love your mother but you should love Jesus so much more that in comparison it’s like you hate her. Doesn’t this sound an awful lot like a drunk’s love for the bottle?

It may be helpful when trying to have a relationship with a believer to remember that you and their relationship with you means very little to them compared to their need to continue in their thought addiction. In fact “true believers” may happily sacrifice a relationship with their own spouses or children should those family members refuse to convert, or become “unbelievers.” In such cases the “true believer” feels they are making the ultimate sacrifice in “serving God rather than man.”

Evangelical beliefs may promise you comfort, security and power just like the ads for alcohol link its consumption with sexiness, sports activities, and a rippin’ good time, but the promises in both cases often grow sour as the addict grows more hardened and insistent.

Some people have an instant “conversion” to alcoholism. They take their first drink, or have their first good drunk and understand (in the words of a very young alcoholic client I once had) “This (drinking) is what I was put on this world to do.”

For some people their religion is an illness they are trying to recover from and the recovery process is more difficult than recovering from alcoholism.
SAINT VILLIS at the Yahoo Group, ExitFundyism

I might add that the vast majority of people in general are ordinary, not many super-star musicians, mathematicians, scientists, or saints, period.

And lastly, seeing the world only in terms of sinners and saints, righteous and unrighteous, elect and non-elect, strikes me as missing a heck of a lot of the world. By the way, did you know that Bill Gates gave away 30 BILLION to charities to help the world and he is the same Bill Gates who has said, “I have better things to do than go to church on Sunday?” Then last week, Warren Buffet, another multi-billionaire like Gates, said he was giving away 31 BILLION, and having Gates handle his charitable contribution through Gates’s outfit. Warren has said, “I did not subscribe to my family's religion. Even at a young age I was too mathematical, too logical, to make the leap of faith. I adopted my father's ethical underpinnings, but not his belief in an unseen divinity.” Oh and that bicycle guy with the indomitable spirit who beat cancer and won the world famous Tour de France multiple times, he’s stated he’s an atheist.

I’m not saying atheism is right. But I just don’t get this whole “faith” thing anymore. If there are uncertainties, there are uncertainties.

Steven Carr said...

JD writes 'Yes, yes, there is a lot of interesting behavior that can be learned from chimpanzees. How about brutally tearing apart infant chimps and devouring them, when they are the offspring of another male?'

Isn't that what God designed them to do?

Is it morally wrong for chimpanzees to do that?

If those actions are not in the least morally wrong, why do you care?

Because your morality differs from what Christians say morality should be?

Anonymous said...

I would take with a grain of salt anything that Dr. Fouts says in relation to Washoe and her behavior. He has misrepresented the facts many times when it comes to Washoe and her behavior. I worked with Dr. Fouts and Washoe during this time and wonder if Dr. Fouts can produce one other witness besides himself to confirm this so-called rescue of Cindy at the IPS. Silent Partners is much closer to the facts as they relate to the IPS, Dr. Fouts and Washoe, and I hope that anyone interested in the facts would read it instead of simply believing anything that Roger says.