“Art thou angry with him whose armpits stink...whose mouth smells foul? What good will this danger do thee?”*



Potentially helpful criticism means calling attention to verifiable mistakes in a person’s facts, actions, or reasoning.

Potentially destructive criticism means offering unverifiable explanations for a persons thoughts, actions, or character.

I am sometimes praised for having the courage to be open, but I don’t see it as courage because unhelpful criticism has little power to hurt me and therefore little power to inhibit me. I’ll give an example of such criticism by relating an incident that occurred in a philosophy class in 1968. Our homework had been to read a passage from Nietzsche. I enjoyed the reading and looked forward to the discussion, so I was disappointed when the professor dismissed Nietzsche in the space of three minutes by claiming that his overman philosophy was an “obvious attempt to compensate for physical frailty.” Had Nietzsche been in my class, heard what the professor said, and taken it to heart, he might have gone away feeling embarrassed and exposed. He might have told himself that, since he was frail, the professor must surely be right. Yet, even if the professor had been right about Nietzsche’s frailty having inspired his philosophy, he wouldn’t have invalidated Nietzsche’s philosophy because he hadn’t said a word about it, having limited his remarks to unverifiable and irrelevant conjectures regarding Nietzsche’s psychology.

Such statements amount to an ad hominem attack, although they are often presented as an attempt to help the person whose actions or beliefs are being dismissed. I sometimes run into them due to my atheism, a common argument being: “You only call yourself an atheist because you grew up in a fundamentalist household in which God was portrayed in such a cruel way that you came to hate him. Once you see that God isn’t like that, you will no longer call yourself an atheist.” Such statements ignore the fact that my two best fundamentalist friends from those years are still fundamentalists, but, more to the point, they imply that my atheism isn’t worth examining on its own merits but is entirely the result of a trauma that the speaker presumes the insight to diagnose if not to treat. Because such remarks are irrelevant to the validity of my non-belief, and because I regard psychological analysis as pseudoscientific drivel, I respond by losing a measure of respect for the rationality of the people who make them. If I answer at all, it is only to ask, “What is your evidence?” although I know very well that there is none, and that the speaker will most likely answer my request with more unsubstantiable psychodrivel, i.e. “You’re in denial.

I would say the following to anyone who is so hurt by condescending nonsense—whether it’s meant to be insulting or not—that it makes them afraid to be open: “It’s their problem not yours, and why should you take on their problem?” My willingness to let people keep their problem is why I insist that my openness has nothing to do with courage, but is the result of being experienced enough to see people as they are, which is often irrational. If someone says something about you (or about anything), but has no evidence to support it, why should you believe it? Rising above their insults and condescension is as simple as that, and the more you do it, the better you get.

I could end this here, but I want to say a little more about the kind of criticism I receive regarding atheism because some of you receive it too. The world contains many people who not only regard reason and evidence as unnecessary but go so far as to claim that they are positive hindrances to the discovery of truth, because, as they imagine, “truth lies deeper.” This is not an assumption that they apply to the material world of plugged toilets, blown light bulbs, and dead car batteries, but only to the world of what they call “faith and spirituality.” Unfortunately for them, the only way that I know to establish objective truth is through reason and evidence, and since they have none, communication becomes a problem. I can enjoy talking to believers about belief, and I even love and respect some of them, but it would be absurd for either of us to think that we were going to change the other's mind, because we lack a shared standard for determining truth. I think their standard is ridiculous, and they think my standard is the result of what they call spiritual blindness, i.e. the devil has me by the nuts.

*Marcus Aurelius. The photo is of a fragment of a bronze portrait of him. I think he's extremely handsome, and I wish I could have known him.

35 comments:

Stephen Hayes said...

I generally find discussions about religion tedious because people believe their faith is based on truths when in fact it's based on NEED. Someone (maybe Voltaire) said that if God didn't exist it would be necessary to invent Him. I do find it interesting and condescending that people claim your atheism is based on being raised to think God harsh or wicked. God is none of those things, and is perhaps nothing at all.

Lisa said...

Reminds me of that saying 'whatever you think of me is none of my business'. Nice to hear from you Snow x

Snowbrush said...

"I do find it interesting and condescending that people claim your atheism is based on being raised to think God harsh or wicked."

I find it pretty common among believers who know me well enough to know of my background. I struggled a lot with this post (how successfully, I don't know) because it is so easy for me to do the same thing to believers that many of them do to me (for instance, assuming that their belief has a psychological origin).

"Reminds me of that saying 'whatever you think of me is none of my business'."

I think it depends upon motive. In other words, is the motive to draw closer, or is the motive to win. For instance, if I don't feel like someone cares as much for me as I do for them, maybe it's worth saying that if I own it. It's when we're so sure that we know another person's reality that we get into trouble, and I'm no exception.

Charles Gramlich said...

People do lie to themselves quite often, I believe, about what they believe. But since such "lies" cannot be objectively verified as such, it's a meaningless assumption on my part. It has generally been my experience, I believe, that people who are "athiests" have no particular bone to pick with Christianity or any other religion. They have simply decided that the evidence does not warrant a belief in any being we could call god. On the other hand, my experience is that "anti-theists," have an emotional conflict with religion and that they don't base their feelings just on objective evidence. Although I currently define myself as agnostic, as I've mentioned here before, I did at one time consider myself an atheist, and as such had no particular emotional response one way or another to religion. I have certainly never been an anti-theist.

Elephant's Child said...

Denial - not just a river in Egypt, but as also used as a dismissive answer if someone disagrees with me. Sigh. I am also irritated when people tell me that I cannot lead an ethical life without God. Why not? Or that I will learn how wrong I am, probably on my death bed.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Well put Snow. Religious conversations are so difficult because it causes people to face their beliefs and question their very existence. While I have my own beliefs, very different from yours, I have still been criticized for my lack of "religion." That's fine... we all have ultimately be OK with who we are in this world, regardless of afterlife.

Snowbrush said...

"It has generally been my experience, I believe, that people who are "athiests" have no particular bone to pick with Christianity or any other religion."

Such atheists like the proverbial stork with its head in the ground.

"On the other hand, my experience is that "anti-theists," have an emotional conflict with religion and that they don't base their feelings just on objective evidence."

Damn right! I have a deeply emotional conflict with religion. Why wouldn't I? It sucks. It's people doing vicious and tacky things in the name of their God. "Onward Christian soldiers," and all that crap. Charles, if you'll give me your address (which I won't publish), I'll send you (and anyone else who wants one) a copy of "Freethought Today," there being a tremendous amount of objective evidence for opposing religion, rather than simply not believing in it. The first example that comes to mind is the hatred between Shias and Sunnis because the whole MIddle East might erupt into war because these two groups think differently about religion. Just as Christians have a bloody history over whose version of Christianity is best, so do Moslems fight over whose version of Islam is better, with each side insisting that the other side isn't even Moslem.

"I am also irritated when people tell me that I cannot lead an ethical life without God. Why not?"

Tells you a lot about their morality, doesn't it? Ha. Based upon the behavior of theists, one might wonder if they're not ethically inferior due to their religion based upon the fact that so many of them do such terrible things in the name of their religion. Yet, they claim to love you and me as much as they love themselves. "Yeah, right, you sure do show it, don't you?" Having said that, I'll add my disclaimer that I'm not talking about all believers, although I seriously doubt that the good ones got that way because of their religion.

"Religious conversations are so difficult because it causes people to face their beliefs and question their very existence."

Maybe this is why the Boy Scouts now accept gays but not atheists. How do you justify telling a 12 year old that he's not good enough to join the Boy Scouts because he doesn't believe in something that nobody can define?

Snowbrush said...

I have struggled with this post for nearly two weeks, so long in fact that two of you have emailed to ask if I was okay, what with my last post being about suicide. Yep, I'm okay. I'm in pain all the time because I'm hellbent on doing manual labor. Since yesterday, my shoulder and upper arm have been tingling, so, whatever is causing my problem, the nerve part of it appears to be getting worse. And, I just had my first marijuana for a couple of weeks, so I'm way too stone, which is why I'm in here writing instead of taking out baseboard in preparation for installing new flooring in three rooms. Other than all that, I'm fine, and I really am too. I can't live and not do physical work, and I'm doing physical work.

While sitting here, I also radically my last paragraph for the second time since I posted this yesterday. Here it is:

"Unfortunately for them, the only way that I know to establish objective truth is through reason and evidence, and since they have none, communication becomes a problem. I can enjoy talking to believers about belief, and I even love and respect some of them, but it would be absurd for either of us to think that we were going to change the other's mind, because we lack a shared standard for determining truth. I think their standard is ridiculous, and they think my standard is the result of what they call spiritual blindness, i.e. the devil has me by the nuts."

PhilipH said...

Snowy, firstly I hope that the bad shoulder pain you were experiencing is not worse, and that you are coping with it as you can and must.

Secondly, I copied the following bit from another blogger which I found most interesting; what do you think?

"Albert Einstein did not believe in a personal God - but he described
himself as religious.

The most beautiful and deepest experience a person can have is the sense
of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as
of all serious endeavour in art and science. My religiosity consists of a
humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in
the little that we can comprehend of the knowable world. That deeply
emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which
is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God."

Snowbrush said...

"what do you think?"

He appears to be saying that because (a) the universe is incomprehensible, that (b) an "infinitely superior spirit" must have created it.

But, I would ask. If the universe is so incomprehensible that an"infinitely superior spirit" must have created it, then how does the writer account for the existence of the even more incomprehensible "infinitely superior spirit"? In other words if incomprehensibility requires a creator, then that creator, being even more incomprehensible, would also require a creator, and the creator of that creator would require its own creator, ad infinitum. Am I making myself clear?

I see the quotation as amounting to an argument from ignorance, i.e. I can't understand how the universe could have come into being, therefore God must have created it. Why can't such people simply say they don't know. Why do they use their ignorance as a justification for belief in God, especially given the suffering that exists within our little corner of what they claim to be a divinely created universe?

I could go on for a long time here, but I will just mention one more thing. He assumes that the universe is incomprehensible. Maybe he (or she) is correct, but it's still an assumption that can't be verified, and the very word incomprehensible reeks of what is traditionally called "divine mystery." In other words, when you don't have a clue as to how something occurred, call it a divine mystery as if that somehow provides information that will inspire us all to look to the heavens in wonder at the greatness of God. But, no, it just glorifies ignorance, and thereby serves as an obstacle to investigation. After all, once you've concluded that something is incomprehensible (a divine mystery), why waste your time trying to comprehend it?

rhymeswithplague said...

"I'm in pain all the time because I'm hellbent on doing manual labor. "

What is it about you, Snow, that makes you so hellbent on doing manual labor that you continue to do it even though it causes you constant pain? The old work ethic with echoes of Mississippian stubbornnes/individualism? Is your feeling of self-worth tied up with your productivity? Fear of uselessness as you age? I would really like to know what it is, because it doesn't make sense (to me, at least) to do what you're doing unless you are a masochist.

Snowbrush said...

"What is it about you, Snow, that makes you so hellbent on doing manual labor that you continue to do it even though it causes you constant pain?"

My body feels crummy, and my mood plummets when I can't exercise, and manual labor can be a good form of exercise. As for why I can't just do some easier form of exercise (like QiGong are some other arthritis-friendly exercise program that wouldn't stress my body so; I simply get more fulfillment from work than I get from exercising in ways that leave me nothing to show for it, by which I mean nothing that I can stand back and look at, and, perhaps, enjoy for many years.

I have 24 hours in my day, and I have to spend them doing something, and what else is there--sitting at a computer? playing cards at a senior center? taking classes? working out at a gym? I already do the computer bit, but I have little to no interest in the other things. I will say that I find computer work to be harder than I do manual work, so I tend to go back and forth. I'll do manual work for awhile, and then I'll come in here to the computer and write, check mail, do business, etc. If I absolutely couldn't work, I guess I would have to spend my time in other ways, but I dread the day that that should happen.

Finally, I'm unwilling to pay people to do most of what I want to get done, so it's either do myself or not get it done. The only things I pay for are things that require a technical expertise that I don't have (like furnace repair), or things that I simply can' do any longer (I'm sad to say that I've replaced my last roof).

I was raised by man who did everything himself, and maybe that's what inspired me to be this way. I just know that I wouldn't choose any other, and that I'm at a loss to understand men (I hold them to a different standard in this regard than women) who don't do physical work. Of course, I don't do--I couldn't do--some of what they do, so if they're happy as they are, more power to them, but I'm glad to be as I am.

One more thing. Peggy works 20-hours a week, and I work at home. If I didn't work at home, how could I justify the food that I put in my mouth, not to mention my hellacious medical bills?

rhymeswithplague said...

Work has always fascinated me. I can sit and watch it for hours.

Just kidding.

But I have never been much of a manual laborer sort of guy, partly because I want my hands to be safe for playing the piano, which I consider a calling. One time when we attended a Baptist church in Florida, I went to a church work day and actually got up on the roof before one of the deacons led me to the ladder and told me to climb down because they needed my hands for music.

I know, I'm a lily-livered, good-for-nothing panty-waist.

But you need to learn to slow down a little. I don't think you need to justify the food that you put in your mouth or your medical bills. They are what they are, and Peggy loves you. You don't have to earn your keep. Just be. Silliest thing I ever heard.

Deb said...

Snow, I totally get where you’re coming from. How can anyone know the “truth” really? I’ve written about my faith in God and I have written about my doubts in God. Through struggles and trials and trying to believe in SOMETHING, I held onto faith. Back in the day, people held onto faith, whatever faith, so they can believe in something so they wouldn’t fear dying. “Something’s waiting for us in the afterlife.” It makes us feel better. As a Christian believer, I have many reasons to “believe” and have “faith”, and this by seeing, not just by believing. My spiritual experiences - “real” experiences for me can be seen as one or two things: psychiatric problems or a godly presence. Hmm. Don’t answer that. ;)

You know what made me more of a believer? And you know this is a personal thing, to talk about the recent passing of my father... When Dad was lying on the hospice bed, crying in agony, picking at the sheets and pointing to things that we couldn’t see --- he said, “Look Rose, (my mother), your father is sitting right there, say hi.” We just thought all the oxycontin was getting to his head. Then he said something a bit baffling. He said, “Hey lookit’ dat! Frankie’s with the angels now! He’s here!” Frankie was an old family friend who had died just a week prior when my dad said this. No one knew he was gone.

Maybe heaven isn’t what we expect it to be with angels and clouds and harps. But, another “belief” was when my two sisters were sitting in the living room, waiting (sadly) for Dad to “let go”, when they heard violins and angelic singing coming from his room. They walked in, and it was just my dad and my mother lying together - no TV on, no radio on --- nothing. And, my sisters are amazingly smart business women --- not flaky in the least.

Check this out for shits & giggles... A neurosurgeon (logical/reasonable you’d think) had a near death experience. He has a book out, but more so, he has this video out. If you can, and when you have time, just watch the video. It is long, but from someone so logical and so scientific ---- this speaks volumes. Would love to know your thoughts on this: http://youtu.be/QOSb3G53HsA

Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts... It makes me question everything -- and that's a good thing! :)

Snowbrush said...

Rhymes, I have a neighbor who is a professional guitarist, a music professor, and a writer of books about the guitar. He doesn't like to work with his hands either. As for not needing to justify the food I eat, I think we all do so if we can. Certainly, Peggy values my welfare above my production, but there is a lot of self-respect that I get from working that I wouldn't get if I didn't work, simply because I know I'm contributing something of value that she wouldn't have if I didn't work. Of course, I'm not saying that I'll go out and do anything and damn the consequences because then I would lose the ability to do the little that I still can do.

Deb, the video is over an hour long which is more time than I can happily sit watching it. As for NDE's, they can be created in a laboratory, which, to me, strongly suggests that they have a physical rather than a spiritual origin. Also, such experiments as have been done to verify the objective reality of NDEs haven't done so. For instance, putting objects or writing words in ERs, and placing them where they couldn't be missed if someone was floating near the ceiling, which is where people who have NDEs often report having been. Well, no one has ever reported seeing them. Given this lack of objective evidence, I can't even begin to give credibility to consciousness after death when consciousness in this life is so obviously tied to the material brain and can be so dramatically altered by what happens to that brain.

"Frankie was an old family friend who had died just a week prior when my dad said this. No one knew he was gone."

I was walking through my backyard one day when I passed my dog who was walking in the other direction. When I got to the front yard, the same dog was there, but, the backyard being fenced and the gates being locked (two of them on each side of the house), the dog couldn't have been in both places. I don't know what was behind what I saw, but I don't believe that the dog was having an out of body experience. So, such things as you allude to with this story and with what your sisters heard, are meaningless to me insofar as I interpret them to prove anything about ESP or spirituality. I'm not saying they're meaningless to the person who experienced them (they're actually so attention-getting as to be unforgettable), just that they don't prove anything to me.

As for the neurosurgeon, it's hard to comment on a video that I didn't watch, but since I have never found more reason to believe than to not believe in such things, I tend to not believe. Also, personal accounts just don't mean a lot to me because there's no way they can be verified. Finally, when it comes to the account of someone who wrote a book, appeared on Oprah, and so forth, I don't consider it unreasonable to question his honesty, not because I know he's lying but because he has reason to lie--money, fame, and the desire to influence people to believe in God.

I feel badly not watching the video, and I hope you're okay with me about that because I value you a lot.

Charles Gramlich said...

Since I've been working on a book about science and religion, I've read tons of information about the history and actions of religious peoples, so I'm sure there's not any thing in freethought I haven't already read about. I'm also very familiar with the Catholic tradition, as well as having many friends who define themselves as atheists The fact is, humans do nasty, vicious things in the name of all kinds of things. Religion has certainly accounted for its share and religious believers should take ownership of that. However, getting rid of religion completely would probably have very little impact on the basic nastiness of human beings. I think that people who want to get rid of religion often think that by doing so they'll be replacing religion with reason. That is not what would happen, because that's not where most of the human race is biologically and culturally.

Kert said...

I have struggled with my atheism here in my country. Most people think that it's because I'm young and immature and therefore has not fully understood spirituality yet. I do know that I still have a lot of things to learn, but I don't think my age should be used to discredit my disbelief. One friend has told my mother that they will bring me back to Christianity someday and I'm like "No!". Another insinuated that faced with death (or a scary event), I might go back and concede to becoming Christian again -- and again, I'm like "No!".

You're right, Snow. Christians and atheists are in different planes, so any explanations from both sides will be comprehended in an entirely different manner by the other party. But I just wish that Christians stop being high and mighty all the time -- and stop thinking that their measurement for good and truth is the ONLY way (but then again, that notion might be embedded deep within the institution, or else how would they keep their population?) and attack a person based on their standards. Same thing with some fundemantalist atheists, I guess.

I've been encountering ad hominem attacks through my FB lately and unlike you, I can still get hurt (I am close to un-friending one person -- a rather immature move, but I'm thinking it's for my sanity). I wish I could be more rational about it like you. Maybe with time and more wisdom, I will.

I finally had the chance to visit your blog again, Snow. I missed it. :)

Deb said...

"So, such things as you allude to with this story and with what your sisters heard, are meaningless to me insofar as I interpret them to prove anything about ESP or spirituality. I'm not saying they're meaningless to the person who experienced them (they're actually so attention-getting as to be unforgettable), just that they don't prove anything to me."

And that's OKAY. My question would be: how can you explain my dad knowing about his friend's recent death? How can you explain my two very well educated sisters hearing heavenly music in my father's bedroom before he died? Those things you have to wonder about. Do you think (if) there was a God, that He would make it easy for you to figure Him out? Just curious. But, as an atheist, you would rather seek out the LOGICAL --- are the neighbors playing harps out on their porch? Are there choir angels mowing our lawn? Something like that. ;)

I am kind of amused that you didn't scan through the neurosurgeon's reasonings and examples of his "proof". Isn't that what you are seeking? Proof? So by you not even attempting just scanning through it since you question religion (or disregard it) or obsess about it so much makes me chuckle. I'm not offended in the least. I'm amused. I totally respect your thoughts and lack of faith ---- that's your thing --- but you have a blog with many questions and doubts of the afterlife. Here is an example of PROOF from someone logical and reputable. But you won't take a peek. Hmmmmm.... It can be scary to believe that someone as scientific as this guy would have proof and now, has faith. I don't blame you for not watching it as an atheist. Also, Oprah would not put herself in a position to have a liar on her show, once again as she did with another author who fabricated most of his material in his book. Give it a shot one day. Take a look at what this guy has to say. Google some of the content. Hey, if nothing else, find it as entertainment. :)

I totally value your thoughts as well, Snow.

Snowbrush said...

"I've read tons of information about the history and actions of religious peoples, so I'm sure there's not any thing in freethought I haven't already read about."

For what it's worth, I was referring to current events in America as opposed to history from around the world.

"I think that people who want to get rid of religion often think that by doing so they'll be replacing religion with reason."

We are not a reasonable species but rather a species that employs reason, so I would see the absence of religion as akin to the absence of slavery, gender oppression, and so forth, in that it wouldn't be a cure-all, but it would nonetheless be a significant improvement. That said, if you look at where life sucks the worst, it's where religion dominates; and if you look at where life is best, it's where religion is an oddity.

"Most people think that it's because I'm young and immature"

My mother used to say about any and everything that she didn't like about me, that it was "only a phase." Okay, kids go through phases as they try out life, I know that, but she was still saying it when she died, and I was 39 at the time. I don't know which is worse, to not be taken seriously and condescended to, or to be taken seriously and passionately hated and maybe even killed. Uh, I think I answered my own question.

"I've been encountering ad hominem attacks through my FB lately and unlike you, I can still get hurt (I am close to un-friending one person -- a rather immature move, but I'm thinking it's for my sanity)"

I should say that Kert lives in the Philippines, which I think might be like Mississippi on steroids (with neither being as bad as much of the Middle East where they would have killed both of us already). Anyway, I wouldn't presume to say that I'm so far above being vulnerable that no one could ever possibly get to me ("pride goeth before a fall," and all that). If someone were consistently and vehemently attacking me, I would block them from my blog. I would try to not take their attacks personally, but I would still block them because I would never choose to consistently expose myself--and my readers--to someone's ravings, such things being neither pleasant nor informative (past a point). I consider myself to have been very lucky in how few readers have gone ballistic on me. In fact, I'm regularly astounded.

Snowbrush said...

"My question would be: how can you explain my dad knowing about his friend's recent death? How can you explain my two very well educated sisters hearing heavenly music in my father's bedroom before he died?"

Heck, Deb, I've seen the faces of demons rushing at me from out of a citronella candle, and I've heard electric guitar music coming from toilet that I had just flushed, but such things didn't make me believe as you do because there were simpler explanations, explanations that better fits what science has discovered about the way the mind (and the rest of the universe) operates. I don't feel the least need to explain such things as you brought up in non-theistic terms in order to defend my materialistic worldview. It's enough to say I don't know. You think you do know, but, it seems to me, that the way you know is basically by default. In other words, odd things happen that could suggest the existence of God, as one explanation among many, and you therefore believe in God. Why God? Why not believe that space aliens told your father about the death, and played harp music for your sisters? You will, I think, say that I'm being absurd, but, as I see it, why is postulating God as the explanation any more defensible?

"you have a blog with many questions and doubts of the afterlife. Here is an example of PROOF from someone logical and reputable. But you won't take a peek."

Why should I be more impressed by a neuroscientist's NDE than I would be by anyone else's NDE? Did he take classes in college that would enable him to judge whether his own NDE had an external cause as opposed to being caused by the multitudinous random firings of a dying brain? How many videos would I have to watch; how many books would I have to read; and how many odd occurrences would I have to explain to satisfy you that I had watched, read, and explained a sufficient number for you to feel like I had read enough to prove that I wasn't trying to avoid challenges to my worldview?

"Those things you have to wonder about."

But I don't wonder about them. I'm mildly curious about them, but that's all. You, I believe, wonder about them because it is upon such things that your faith appears to rest.

"Do you think (if) there was a God, that He would make it easy for you to figure Him out? Just curious."

As opposed to revealing itself to various male saviors, prophets, and gurus, who mostly lived in ancient times, and then leaving the faithful to spend millennia arguing and even killing one another over which of these many revelations was the "one true revelation"? Absolutely! I would expect that God would so instill his presence and his expectations into each and every one of us that we would all get it, and we would agree about it.

Deb said...

It's funny, because you seem to mock those who do believe in religion rather than speak to them like decent educated people. Maybe that's just it - you think we're not educated because we have faith in God... Yes, aliens told me so.

The fact you have a blog dedicated to this proves to me that yes, you still do believe and you are very scared.

Again, I respect your thoughts, as you do mine.

Snowbrush said...

"It's funny, because you seem to mock those who do believe in religion rather than speak to them like decent educated people."

I can but say that I don't mean to. I think your evidence for what you believe is weak to the point of illogic. However, I like you personally. You write about things that matter deeply to you--both on your blog and mine--and we have that in common. We also both enjoy discussing religion, a subject that makes a lot of people's hair ache.

"he fact you have a blog dedicated to this proves to me that yes, you still do believe and you are very scared."

I would that I could disillusion you of that notion. Try to think of it this way; if I were to write about _____ (fill in the blank with anything destructive--armed robbery for example) it wouldn't mean that I had a deep-rooted desire to commit armed robbery, and so it is with me writing about religion. I would guess that very few people are so convinced of their position--in regard to theism versus atheism, anyway) that they wouldn't entertain the slightest possibility that they even could be wrong. So, yes, of course, I could be wrong, but I don't think I'm wrong, and I'm not searching for evidence that I might be wrong. What would it take for me to admit that I was wrong? Well, how about if God were to be seen floating in the sky talking to people all over the world, and what if he verified that it really was him by doing something phenomenal like ending war and making it unnecessary for any creature to kill to eat? If that were to happen, I would have to first do whatever I could to verify that everyone really had seen him, that the swords really were being beaten into plowshares, and the wolves really were cuddling up to the sheep, thus eliminating the possibility that someone had slipped LSD into the water supply, or something along those lines. I suppose that I would then have to say that, okay, "something" is out there, something that either is God is is doing a darn impressive job of pretending to be God. Whether I would worship that being is another matter because I would consider that being as needing to do a lot of explaining about where the heck he has been and why things on earth have always so screwed up.

rhymeswithplague said...

"Whether I would worship that being is another matter because I would consider that being as needing to do a lot of explaining about where the heck he has been and why things on earth have always so screwed up."

You sound just like Mother Teresa, sort of. When asked what she would say to God (or Jesus, I forget which) when she got to heaven, her reply was "You've got a lot of explaining to do."

By a strange coincidence, I happen to have a copy of that book that Deb was talking about. A neighbor gave it to me. I disagree with an awful lot that's in it, but found it very interesting as the neurosurgeon's NDE seems to have been different from other people's NDE in that he had no brain activity for over a week. None. Yet he had all these absolutely strange experiences which could not have come from his brain since it had no activity. If, rather than continuing to berate the neurosurgeon's book without ever having read it, you would like me to send it to you by snail mail, I will be happy to. Not to try to convince you or anything, but just so you could actually read the details on what you are vociferously objecting to/casually disregarding without knowing what you are vociferously objecting to/casually disregarding. Your reaction flies in the face of the scientific method (gathering data and considering it). If you want to treat it like a fairy tale, you can. I was going to throw the book away because there are parts of it that are so off-the-wall (to my way of thinking), but maybe I have been keeping it just for you. I will not force it on you, but you're welcome to it. And since it was given to me and I didn't put out good money for it, you don't have to either. Just let me know, either here or by email.

Deb said...

" I think your evidence for what you believe is weak to the point of illogic. However, I like you personally. You write about things that matter deeply to you--both on your blog and mine--and we have that in common. We also both enjoy discussing religion, a subject that makes a lot of people's hair ache."

Snow, it's about your delivery to "people who you like personally" as you've stated. I never thought I'd say this, but as of this point, I don't care for you personally due to your lack of respect for what others believe. You can say "you don't believe this" or "religion is nonsense" because sometimes it actually is. But the fact that you insult the person who believes, calling them, illogical or by mocking them and calling out "the aliens" is just rude. So, no. I don't care for you personally.

Best wishes. Write to your heart's content and mock everyone who doesn't believe, oops, think like you.

You've lost a reader.

P.S. I failed to read the last paragraph. It was too long for me.

TICKLEBEAR said...

"You're in denial!!"....
Love that one!!!
:D~
My atheism came early on,
even after going to Catholic school and all in my childhood, and Protestant church in my teens...
Trying to appease my mom first, then my father, but I soon understood that "god" was irrelevant in my life, especially with what happened to me in those young years. "he" was no help!!! At all!!! I am responsible for my actions or inactions in my life, and while I understand why a god would be comforting to some, especially because of what I went through, I went through life without one and have managed just fine, as a survivor. No false promises, no reward waiting for me at the end of the rainbow. Just doing my part in this world, as best as I can!! Decency and ethics in this society shouldn't stem from fears or false promises but a genuine wish to show self respect and respect toward others. I have witnessed behavior from both Catholics and Protestants over the years that appalled me!! They called themselves Christians?!?
And yet, they feel certain I'm the one going to Hell!!! Whatever... It's been a while since my balls got a good tug!! Let the devil have a go at them...
If only there WAS a DEVIL!!!
Evil is 100% Man made...
:?~
HUGZ

TICKLEBEAR said...

"unless you are a masochist"...
I'm a masochist and trust me,
it doesn't include manual labor!!!
Hire someone to do the work
and supervise him while enjoying your marijuana!!! You'll see how much more effective it is!!!
:D~
HUGZ

Snowbrush said...

"Your reaction flies in the face of the scientific method (gathering data and considering it). If you want to treat it like a fairy tale, you can."

I'm showing anti-scientific bias because I didn't watch an hour long video that appeared to have been made by a church and was dripping with piety? Arrrgh! Believe me, if it had been a National Academy of Sciences video, it would have had my full attention. Rhymes, there is too much "evidence" being presented to "prove" all manner of extraordinary things for me to treat it all as equal in the name of being unbiased. Am I open? Yes. Am I going to devote an hour of my life doing something I NEVER do, which is to watch an hour-long religion-oriented video on a computer? No.

"If, rather than continuing to berate the neurosurgeon's book without ever having read it, you would like me to send it to you by snail mail, I will be happy to."

You have my address, do you not, and you're not just sending this to get out of buying me Xmas present are you? I suffered through "My Stroke of Insight" (a book by a brain scientist who had a stroke), so I'll give this one a go.

" you insult the person who believes, calling them, illogical or by mocking them and calling out "the aliens" is just rude."

I didn't call you illogical; I only called your logic illogical insofar as you attempt to use it to prove that God exists. Please understand that I'm NOT saying that you go through your days doing illogical things and thinking illogical thoughts, but only that your logic fails in this instance, as I'm attempted to show. It wasn't an insult but a statement that I believe to be well-supported by the evidence, and this takes me to what you wrote about me "calling out the aliens."

In your response to this post, you brought up some things that you appeared to consider impressive in regard to evidence that would prove, or at least suggest, the existence of God. My question back to you was (and I meant it sincerely, why God? Why not space aliens? After all, they have some things in common. For instance, the existence of neither can be proven, yet a great many completely sane and intelligent people can point to what they consider suggestive evidence for either or both. Also, either or both would indeed serve as an ADEQUATE EXPLANATION for all manner of things that we don't currently understand--like how primitive people erected statues on Easter Island and built sophisticated astronomical observatories. Yes, aliens (if they really do exist) could have been behind these things, and God (if God really does exist) could have been behind these things. You think it was God who played harp music for your family, and you think it was God who sent a man who no one knew was dead to visit your dying father. Yes, God would be an adequate explanation; on this we agree, but you haven't shown why it had to have been God, or how you know that God exists in the first place. After all, space aliens would also explain these things, but no one would postulate space aliens as the cause if he or she didn't already believe in space aliens. What I don't understand is how you justify racing right past space aliens as well as other, far simpler, and much more likely postulates. For instance, at least one hospital here in Eugene, Oregon, has a volunteer harp corps that plays for the dying, so maybe there really was a harp in the hospital where your father was, or maybe they were hearing recorded music in someone's room, or maybe it was cell phone ringer. Yet, you go straight (it appears) to God (the one you want to believe), and that's where you stay. Where's the logic here, and what's wrong, when one really can't prove a thing, in saying, "I think the cause might have been _______, but I really don't know."

Deb said...

Fair enough. The harps and violins that were "playing" were located in my Dad's bed in his house. No other hospital rooms. Just home. I didn't demand you to watch an hour of that video, but I was only showing you someone who is logical and scientific who had an experience. Thought it would be of interest to you. I apologize for offending you.

Just be you and I'll be me.

Snowbrush said...

"Thought it would be of interest to you. I apologize for offending you."

Firstly, Rhymes is sending me the book. Secondly, I wasn't offended, but I feel good that you cared whether I was or not.

Love,
Snow

TICKLEBEAR said...

I will spend the hour watching this!!
Watched the first 20 min, but had to go back to work... I already kinda formed an opinion, but will watch it all. Got the beer and nachos to keep my spirit up!!
:D~
HUGZ

TICKLEBEAR said...

Did God intend him to write this book?!?
:D~
First, I didn't know that coma qualified as near death experience. I've had patients in near death experience: they died, came back, went back!!! Coma? (From bacterial meningitis...) is still a coma. We may not have the technology to really scan the brain's activities at some sub levels, leaving much still unexplained/unexplored.
But having personally been in contact with patients with psychiatric problems[?], and also patients with neurological problems,
one may wonder if the fact that his human existence, which was wiped out apparently , may have left only childhood perceptions, primary sensations/perceptions of this world and the early teaching from his immediate environment. The brain is a funny thing, and even if our machines can't detect activities, it seems obvious something was going on, especially since his "miraculous" recovery. This said, on a side note.... my father had a similar diagnostic in the 1940s and the army's doctors all agreed that he would either die or go crazy. He didn't die!! Feel free to conclude what you want here. "God" knows we teased him enough because of that...

I am NOT a doctor but I do work in the Health sector, so you can dismiss everything I say if you so wishes... but my opinion is that, somehow, the brain triggered a religious delirium to comfort the person. The body reacts funny somehow and will repair itself any which way. If this is what comforted the man at the times, so it was. This was the kind of references the man had at the time. And writing the book, I'm not so sure he wasn't "guided" by his belief, perhaps stimulated by the mere fact that he survived this. The appeal of feeling special is something that is hard to beat. He stated himself that "IT" was his connection to the divine... Was that a collect call, or not?!?

The host made great fuss about the fact this is a neuro-surgeon... but in the face of fatality, I don't care, be you a maintenance guy or a neuro-surgeon, upon imminent death, we are all the same, perhaps a bit apprehensive, because it doesn't matter how many frames holding your [many] diplomas hang on the wall; in the face of eternity, it doesn't mean SHIT!!! A very humbling experience, reaching the end...
I've seen people cry, I've seen some pray, I've seen some in anguish, while others went peacefully. A fear of God? Or the knowledge that someone did right in his/her lifetime?!?

I personally feel there will be another book, and a tour to meet his fans... $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Shameful!!!
I will still believe that there is nothing afterward and still do right by me and my fellow man, and this planet that allows us to be. I seem to feel more respect for the planet than its inhabitants though...

He mentioned Jesus...
Big mistake... as far as I'm concerned. It's obvious his experience was tinted by his education. My belief, if I dare saying something of the kind,
and the lights flickered as I wrote this... is that there should be no direct reference to any of the prophets in this realm he saw...
Solely MY opinion.

I think this guy is just so grateful to still be alive, and to be able to make a buck out of it, it's just a bonus.

But if I'm to believe this guy, my father will suffer utter darkness, but only for a while, because of God's forgiveness. Even those who committed massive genocides and such, will eventually benefit from the God's unconditional love....
That part sucks!!

In conclusion, keep inhaling Snow!! You might find your own enlightenment!! Who knows?!
God works in mysterious ways, apparently...

Personally, not convinced!!!
At all!!
Still an atheist!!!
But I will keep on cherishing Life,
in its many forms.
:)~
HUGZ

Please note this was written as I listen to that video, a gut reaction, influenced by my professional/personal experience.
But perhaps it's the divine plan that wants me this way!?!

TICKLEBEAR said...

That sucks...
Blogger refused my first comment because it exceeded 4096 characters... so I erased half of it to copy and paste but it looks like I failed to copy...
I'm not starting over...
No way!!
Sorry!!
But you can expect another book from that guy, for sure!!
$$$$
God surely wanted it that way...
:D~
HUGZ

rhymeswithplague said...

Snow, it will be next week before I can send you the book because I have that old Italian disease, mafunzalo (my funds are low). But send it I will (he said, in Yoda-speak). The doctor's book left me a little uneasy as a conservative Christian because he called "It" Om (maybe the good doctor is a closet Hindu or a New Age guy?) and because (spoiler ahead) his "guide" turned out to have the face of his dead biological twin sister whom he never even knew he had, having been adopted and all. A little too pat and tied up in a neat bow at the end, if you ask me. And the title "Proof of Heaven" depends on your definition of proof. In retrospect, the whole thing seemed like a carefully crafted fiction. Still, I will be sending you the book so that you can form your own opinions. Next week, like I said.

Snowbrush said...

"The host made great fuss about the fact this is a neuro-surgeon..."

Why the man's degree would give him greater insight into the value of his experience was unknown to me. It is seen as something of a truism within atheist circles that believers tend to discount the conclusions of the 99% of the scientific community, while embracing as gospel the opinions of the other 1% (who tend to teach, if anywhere, at Christian colleges), who knew what they believed from the time of their childhoods and are often noted for issuing opinions regarding specialties that they don't have a degree in.

"perhaps it's the divine plan that wants me this way!?!"

Do you think it even conceivable that you have any more choice about being an atheist than you do about being gay? I ask this because I have no thought that I have such a choice. For me, deciding to believe (in God) would be like deciding to believe in faeries because I would consider the evidence for the one to be little if any better than the evidence for the other.

"it will be next week before I can send you the book because I have that old Italian disease, mafunzalo (my funds are low)."

Do as you please about sending it, but I could simply look for it in the library. My expectation--if you should send it--would be that I would treat it as I would any book, that is I would scan it briefly, read it if I thought it made sense and not read it if I didn't, but with little upfront optimism that I would read it.

Snowbrush said...

Rhymes, the book arrived. I felt sick when I saw that you spent $5.20 for shipping, but I appreciate the thought, and will dutifully give it a go. I'll probably end up turning Christian and going off to Afghanistan to preach Christ to the Taliban. If they give me a choice between being stoned or beheaded, I guess I will ask how sharp the knife is. With that decision out of the way, I'll ask if they will be kind to allow me to send a final postcard. It will be to you and Deb, and boy will I be mad when I write cause there I was, a happy atheist in Oregon with plenty of food, a devoted tabby cat, a good wife, and a warm bed, and you went and got me beheaded in Afghanistan.