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June 30, 2008

Comments

BillyHW

David Warren also wrote about this a couple of weeks ago in a typically great article:

http://www.davidwarrenonline.com/index.php?id=882

Eric

Yes, that is because Lieberman and his neocon friends have advanced knowledge of "terrorist" attacks. It is no secret that the CIA created and funded AlQeada in the early 80's and it is no secret that 9/11 was an inside job carried out by a criminal element within the US government. It's called false flag terrorism, a government orchestrates terrorism against their own people and blame it on an outside people or nation in order to accomplish their political or military agenda. Don't believe me? Please Google "Operation Northwoods," which was a once-secret US military plan to stage terrorist attacks on the American people and then blame it on Cuba to justify military action.

Inocencio

Eric,

I don't believe you.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Lynne

Well, they attacked Spain shortly before their election, but I think they're smart enough to know that that would backfire on them. Yes, I believe Al Queada will desperately try to attack us again during the new Administration...

The Masked Chicken

Please, forgive my question, but how many people here know what a false flag operation is? Is it common knowledge (I do have gaps in my knowledge base), because I have never heard of it. I have heard of "wagging the dog", where one creates a political distraction by military means.

The reason I ask is that I have heard this term, twice, now from posts over the last two days, but not before on this site. I realize it is a small sample set and I do not mean to make any judgments, but are Eric and CT the same person, since only they have used the same term, to my knowledge. The only reason I bring this up is that if they are the same person, then would they please use a consistent handle or name. If they are not the same person, then please, ignore this?

As to the article, well, the Civil War started in Lincoln's first year, so maybe there is a trend :)

Really, "history shows" - with two whole data points? By that logic, we should simply pass an amendment that a president can only have a first term for a minute and that his second term should then start immediately (presumably, no one would vote differently after a minute so we could agree that his second term is the one that counts). That would save us all a lot of problems, because, history shows that there were no attacks in the second term. :)

The Chicken

The Masked Chicken

Should read:

The only reason I bring this up is that if they are the same person, then would they please use a consistent handle or name? If they are not the same person, then please, ignore this.

The Chicken

Matheus F. Ticiani
...a government orchestrates terrorism against their own people and blame it on an outside people or nation in order to accomplish their political or military agenda.

Dear Eric

Then such a government must pray that none of its citizens has seen Mission Impossible 3, and probably other movies that have exactly that plot, or the whole plan would be unmasked.

The Masked Chicken

Sorry, for my somewhat rude remarks, above. I guess the expression, false flag, is more commonly known than I thought. Any attempt to link CT, who has behaved admirably in his comments on another thread and Erik, who seems to be somewhat like a conspiracy theorist, simply because they used the same term, was uncharitable.

My comments and "analysis" of Senator Lieberman's remarks were also uncalled for.

The Chicken

bklyn catholic

Actually, your comments on Lieberman's remarks were quite useful, Masked Chicken.

Two of the most basic concepts of science are the understanding between correlation and causation and Occam's Razor. The first being that two things which relate (e.g. that terrorist attacks occurred in the first year of two administrations) is not necessarily causal (e.g. Terrorist attacks must also happen in years in which Brad Pitt and James Galdolfini act in the same movie, True Romance (1993) and The Mexican (2001), and therefore one could suggest they never act together again.) Secondly, the simplest outcome is often the most logical. Did the U.S. government stage an elaborate attack on its own citizens by means that scientific investigation have found entirely unplausible, or did ardent anti-american Islamic terrorists add the U.S. to their growing list of targets, indeed, accomplishing what they had set out to do in 1993?

The Towers fell just across the East river. I see people in t-shirts that sympathize with Eric's ideas on occasion in New York. I think about pushing them into traffic. Instead, I pity their ignorance.

BillyHW

I think about pushing them into traffic. Instead, I pity their ignorance.

Couldn't this be one of those Catholic "both/and" situations? :)

Foxfier

There is also a record of attacks "shortly" *before* an election-- the USS Cole was bombed in Oct. of 00, the prisoners released when Reagan was elected in '81 ....There's more at http://www.army.mil/terrorism/index.html?goto=menu if someone wants to try to connect major attacks to elections.

Also, the Beirut Embassy, then Barracks bombings were in '83, not that long after Reagan started his term; the '93 WTC bombing just after Clinton started his....

Memphis Aggie

The Senators comments just make sense. America's will to respond with force depends on the character of the President. A weak President, like Obama is promising he'll be, is an open invitation for terrorists. I expect McCain would be tested as well. I'm not convinced the terrorists are all that smart given how they misunderestimated W.

The Masked Chicken

Dear Foxfier,

Not to hijack the thread (it is very tangentially related), but while visiting your site, I was sad to learn that Don S. Davis, who played Major General George Hammond on Stargate SG1 died over the weekend.

The Chicken

Tim J.

"Couldn't this be one of those Catholic "both/and" situations? :)"

BillyHW, you cracked me up!... but I managed to keep my coffee down.

Who can tell what kind of agenda actually drives the timing of these things? I hope we are never hit again as we were on 9/11, but if they decide to try anything in the nation's capital, they will have to deal with all those new handguns.

9/11 was in inside job? Of course. The evidence was faked by the same TV studio that brought us the so called "moon landing".

The real purpose of ALL these stunts, though, is to draw attention away from the U.S. government cover up of an invasion by UFOs piloted by Yeti.

You're next!!!

Dan Hunter

Chuck Baldwin for President 2008, Constitution Party
Sanctity of Life
I will use the bully pulpit of the Presidency to demand that Congress
enact Dr. Ron Paul’s Sanctity of Life Act which would set forth that every unborn child is a ‘person’ under the Constitution, entitled to equal protection of the law and therefore, no unborn child could be killed without due process of law.
Dr. Chuck Baldwin on Abortion


“The pre-born child, whose life begins at fertilization, is a human being created in God’s image. The first duty of the law is to prevent the shedding of innocent blood. It is, therefore, the duty of all civil governments, and that certainly includes the office of the President of the United States, to secure and to safeguard the lives of the pre-born. I affirm the God-given legal person hood of all unborn human beings, without exception.’

“In addition to guaranteeing the legal person hood of the unborn, Ron Paul’s Sanctity of Life Act, which I wholeheartedly support, would strip the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in all cases of abortion in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 2. This would mean that Roe v. Wade would immediately pass away as any legal authority on this issue. There would be no need to worry about putting a Supreme Court on the bench that might eventually make the right decision on this issue. We can, therefore, end legal abortion immediately upon enactment of the Sanctity of Life Act.’

“Republicans tout themselves as being “pro-life.” Yet, the GOP controlled both houses of Congress and the White House for six years and did absolutely nothing to overturn Roe or end abortion-on-demand. If the Republicans were really serious about being pro-life the could have already ended legal abortion in America. Obviously the Republican Party and most GOP politicians are not serious about ending abortion, but are, regrettably, simply content to perpetuate the issue to manipulate pro-life voters.’

“Under my administration, we could end legal abortion in a matter of days, not decades. And if Congress refuses to pass Dr. Paul’s bill, I will use the constitutional power of the Presidency to deny funds to protect abortion clinics. Either way, legalized abortion ends when I take office.

Deo Gratias!

Sleeping Beastly

@Dan Hunter
I've just found the candidate I will vote for. I know he won't win, but I just can't stomach voting for either of those who might.

@Masked Chicken,
Why do conspiracy theories have such a bad rap? All a conspiracy is is a group of people meeting in secret to make plans. This happens all the time. The 9/11 plot was a conspiracy. Perhaps no one in the US government was involved in that conspiracy, or perhaps they were. I don't have enough evidence either way, but neither would surprise me much.

Generally when people claim that 9/11 was false flag terrorism, the reason given is that certain people wanted the US to go to war in Iraq and knew that the American people would not support an invasion without such an attack. So they created one. This theory seems weak to me, but I can't disprove it. Neither has anyone proven it to my satisfaction. In many ways, it doesn't really matter. Either way, I think the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea.

bill bannon

I think Westerners understate radical Islam's priorities. One of their greatest priorities is to rid the Muslim lands of the infidel and this may explain much of our immunity from terrorism here in the US for awhile. In some Islamic accounts one of Muhammad's dying requests was that his followers keep Arabia free of the infidel.
Bin Laden broke with the Saudi's over the mere existence of US forces on Saudi land. Bin Laden and other radicals however learned that an attack on the US increases US forces on muslim land...not decreases it. Hence they are in a predicament as to whether to attack us or not; and Obama, given his speech recently to the Jewish lobby which was militantly military on their behalf, is not quite the Obama they were expecting.

Foxfier

Sleeping Beastly- Conspiracy theories get a bad rap because they make too many leaps and seem to ignore that we're dealing with humans; for example the idea that thousands of folks were killed, and thousands of Americans would've had to be involved in the planning and carrying out, yet not one bit of evidence is around? And no-one leaked it? Right.....

The Masked Chicken -
Well, his character in Stargate did deal with terrorists and pols trying to fix elections, so I guess it counts....
I'm sad, too.

CT

Couple of points.

It is true that the CIA sponsored groups that later became enemies in Afghanistan during the Cold War. No one disputes this.

"False flag" does not exclusively refer to acts of terrorism carried out by a govt against its own people while making it seem like it was carried out by a foreign group. False flag can also refer to, for example, a Libyan sponsored terrorist act against Europeans made to look as though it was committed by say Israelies (hypothetical example that is similar to a real world case).

@TMC

I find it incredibly rude that you would suggest that I am the same person as "Eric" Your rudeness confirms for me however certain opinions I have about certain groups of people. So thank you in that respect.

Sleeping Beastly

@Foxfier,
First off, a lack of evidence for a theory isn't the same as evidence against that theory. Second, there is evidence to support many conspiracy theories. There are plenty of people who claim to have that evidence. How good or verifiable is that evidence? That's another story. Some theories are more plausible than others.

But I still think it's foolish to dismiss all conspiracy theories out of hand. Conspiracies are not, by their nature, at all implausible.

Inocencio

CT,

Isn't it rude of you to respond as though the Masked Chicken did not already acknowledge his uncharitable remarks and apologize (cf. Posted by: The Masked Chicken | Jun 30, 2008 5:19:03 PM)?

What does that confirm about you?

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Sleeping Beastly

Inocencio,
Unless I'm mistaken, CT was making a joke. He just doesn't like emoticons. 8]

Sleeping Beastly

Hmm... Was Inocencio also joking? Maybe I'm the one taking people too seriously. My head hurts.

Barbara

The real purpose of ALL these stunts, though, is to draw attention away from the U.S. government cover up of an invasion by UFOs piloted by Yeti.

How would they know it was a Yeti, since no one has seen one yet-i? ;)

Foxfier

Sleeping Beastly-- there is also no evidence that you are not the love child of Belle and Elvis, here to convert us all to the worship of The Mouse, but...yeah, it's still a silly thing.

You asked why consperacy theories have a bad name-- so that's the only question I answered.

bklyn catholic

Sleeping Beastly... I don't think all so-called conspiracy theories are wrong or ill-conceived. But, in general, they lack sufficient evidence to support them, they tend to the outrageous, and they rely on intuition instead of methodology to prove their rationale.

However, I find all the conspiracy theories that I have read thus far surrounding the events of Sept. 11, 2001 to be entirely outrageous and false. But you don't have to take my word for it. Popular Mechanics did a special report debunking the most "credible" of 9/11 conspiracy theories. I think most will find sufficient evidence in their report to conclude that the many myths propogated about 9/11 are indeed ill-conceived and lacking in credibility. Whether or not the U.S. government had prior knowledge is difficult to prove until documents can be released to the public, but notions that the event was orchestrated by the government or that the towers fell from something other than damage from the planes seem to just be plain wrong.

You can find the report by googling Popular Mechanics Debunking the 9/11 myths. I saw it aired on PBS a couple years ago, but it looks like the website provides the same information.

John Damascus

It seems to me that the two cultures where grand conspiracy theories seem to thrive best are the US and many Muslim-majority countries.

I see two common factors.

1. Systematic distrust of one's own government. Unsubstantiated rumors heard in the bazaar or internet are relied upon more that official or mainstream sources. Official denials are taken as obvious confirmation of the conspiracy. This is understandable in a highly-censored dictatorship, but puzzling in an open democracy like the US. Perhaps US conspiracy theorists have itchy ears (cf 2 Tim 4:3) for novel explanations and like to think they are smarter than the sheeple.

2. Millenarianism. With Satan cast as puppeteer then one can see UN-Vatican-Zionist New World Order One World Government conspiracies everywhere. It is important to realize that many Jihadis also eagerly anticipate a great Millenial showdown where the Jews and Christians will be punished.

Millenarianist Jews, Christians and Muslims confidently await, and some even facilitate, the 'historically inevitable' End Time action in the Mid East.

A US President should consider the possibility that responding to Jihadi provocation with 'dumb force' might play into their hands. It is not a question of weakness or toughness, it is a question of wisdom and accurate knowledge of one's enemies.

eg many Americans were given the false belief that invading Iraq was justified because Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9-11. Other have the false belief that Bin Laden and co are political-only militants who just happen to be Muslims whose religious beliefs have no bearing on their violence.

The Masked Chicken

Even if terrorists think that its a good idea to try to create havoc in the early days of a presidential term, what do they really win, at least with regards to the United States at the present time? If anything, these sorts of crises cause the public to rally round the president. I think president Bush had his highest ratings immediately after 9/11.

This would not be true in some other countries. America has a history of rugged individualism that is quite different than many European countries. In fact, I would theorize that terrorism is especially weak against two types of societies: those that are rugged individualists and those that are massively collectivist. Both ends of the spectrum may be insulated against the societal effects of terrorism because both types of societies take the long view. Short-term crises have only negligible effects because the societies unite around these characteristics - the individualists to action and the collectivists to resistance.

If anything, both of these types of society are more vulnerable to a sort of inner-dissipation, as Malcolm Muggeridge once observed with regards to the current situation in the Church. Thus, I would be much more worried about the decay of marriages and rampant narcissism as a causes for the fall of this country than terrorism, just as I would be more worried about a loss of the past and the desire for economic cooperation in some collectivist countries like the old U.S.S.R (which happened to be some of the factors that led to the downfall of communism).

CT and Eric: again, you have my apology. We have had incidences on this blog where a person has assumed more than one identity at a time and it was hard to track who was saying what. I rashly judged that this might be the case when I saw the words, "false flag," being used by two different people so soon in time.

I do respect you, CT, even though we disagree on some topics. I have not discussed anything (or at least not much that I recall) with Eric on this blog, so I don't know if he is a regular or not. In any case, I try to be charitable in my deportment and my discussions. When I fail, I hope it will always be obvious so that I can be called on it early on, because I hope that we all, Christian and atheists, can agree that people can learn from their mistakes and usually easiest if they are caught early on.

The Chicken

Tim J.

"You can find the report by googling Popular Mechanics Debunking the 9/11 myths. I saw it aired on PBS a couple years ago"

Oh, sure! Everyone knows that PBS is in the tank for Bush!

;-)

Sleeping Beastly

I've seen the Popular Mechanics explanation, and it makes sense. I didn't say I subscribed to most of the 9/11 theories, which is not to say that I think our federal government is particularly open, or even particularly democratic.

I've just seen too many people dismiss all conspiracy theories out of hand, without giving them any thought. I'm not asking anyone to believe anything without sufficient evidence, or because no opposing evidence is supplied. I just think it's dangerous to use "conspiracy theory" as a synonym for "myth". It cripples critical thought.

As for distrusting government, do we have much reason to trust them? I have yet to see much evidence of ethics in Washington. And does no one remember the compelling evidence of WMDs our leaders assured us they had back before the invasion?

Dean Steinlage

Was it just me, or did the article start out with a pro-McCain statement and then end on a vote for Obama note?

The Masked Chicken

In my original post, I think I implied without real evidence, that Erik might be a conspiracy theorist, with the implication that conspiracy theorists (Erik) are, for the most part, paranoid (for which I have apologized for making that implication about Erik).

Conspiracy theorists are not necessarily paranoid (some, may be). In fact, most are very intelligent and some are very perceptive. I am interested in the thought processes that occur in things like the idea that fluoride is used by the government to weaken the will of the general population or that the government has had access to alien technology at Area 51. Because I am interested in logic, it is really interesting to compare how these sorts of conclusions are arrived at with the evidence available. With equally small amounts of evidence correct and incorrect conclusions can sometimes be reached. In other words, two people, starting with equally small amounts of evidence can arrive at different conclusions, one right, one wrong. One gets to be called a nut, the other, a visionary. What are the differences in the thought processes?

I didn't mean to steer this thread in the direction of conspiracy theory. Senator Lieberman made a speculation, that in recent history, seems like a plausible extrapolation. Even if no attacks occur in the first years of the new presidency, since terrorists attacks are, by their nature, unpredictable, whomever is the new president will have to be ready at any time. Such is modern life.

The Chicken

Sleeping Beastly

Masked Chicken, you wrote
With equally small amounts of evidence correct and incorrect conclusions can sometimes be reached. In other words, two people, starting with equally small amounts of evidence can arrive at different conclusions, one right, one wrong. One gets to be called a nut, the other, a visionary. What are the differences in the thought processes?

If this is what you're writing a book about, where can I order it? That sounds fascinating!

Mary

First off, a lack of evidence for a theory isn't the same as evidence against that theory.

No, actually, lack of evidence for something is evidence against it. It's almost certainly not proof that it's wrong, and how good the evidence is depends on what evidence is missing, but definitely, lack of evidence is evidence against.

Mary

Conspiracy theorists are not necessarily paranoid (some, may be). In fact, most are very intelligent and some are very perceptive.

Why the contrast?

A theory can be paranoid, intelligent, and perceptive all at once!

Mary

I hope that the Senator's prediction is not true.

I pray that it is not true.

I also take the possibility into account when considering my vote, because what we do in the voting booth may determine whether it's true.

CT

"No, actually, lack of evidence for something is evidence against it."

That's not always the case. The absence of evidence for any given proposition A is evidence against A inasmuch as both of the following are simultaneously true: (1) were A false one would expect there to be an absence of evidence for A; (2) were A true one would expect there to be a presence of evidence for A. (1) is generally speaking true of most propositions. (2) is not so universally true and in fact theistic philosophers often say that (2) is not true for certain propositions in their defense of the proposition that God exists when discussing with atheistic philosophers the Problem of Evil.

In this particular case, or class of cases, -- propositions that a powerful conspiracy effected some dastardly end and have kept their secret -- one would expect, that to the degree the proposition posits a conspiracy that is powerful or competent, that (2) would not be true. However, at the same time, it seems to me, that to the degree that the proposition posits a conspiracy that is so powerful and competent so that (2) would not be true, is to the degree that the initial, prima facie plausibility of the theory diminishes. So it seems to me that as a general matter, without positive evidence, any theory positing such conspiracies is to be doubted.

@the person who defended belief in conspiracy theories

Yes it is true that to discount conspiracy theories as a general matter is unwarranted, but that is only when conspiracy theory is defined broadly to include things like conspiracy to commit murder or white collar crime conspiracies. When "conspiracy theory" is defined narrowly, then while many may have varying degrees of plausibility, to have any probability, there needs to be, as a general matter, actual evidence.

@BB

That may be so of radical Islam, but ISTM also the case that radical Islam, much like radical Christianity, desires to put the world under the rule of their god. For example, radical Islam desires that adultery be outlawed in every nation. That every nation become Muslim and that every nation outlaw adultery (among other things). Similarly, radical Christianity desires that every nation become Christian and that every nation outlaw pornography (one of the Republican candidates came out in favor of this IIRC ... and some radical Christians desire to outlaw adultery too ... so apart from the tactics used to achieve their respective ends, radical Christianity and radical Islam, do not differ essentially in their goals in terms of converting all peoples and subjecting them to puritanical laws ... the tactics and means do differ of course: in the case of radical Muslims, they often employ violent means whereas in the case of radical Christians, today, they resort only to political and judicial means -- so while the means of radical Islam leave a lot to be desired relative to radical Christianity, the ends of both are about equally undesirable and differ only in religion-specific variation and in some cases, degree)

@tmc

I am not an atheist. I take the term "atheist" to mean someone who discounts the possibility of the existence of things fundamentally different than what we presently discern as existing within the realm of the material world. I am not sure that I believe that there are things that exist which do not at least inhere in material things, but I do believe in the existence of spiritual realities such as love and that it is more than can be reduced to a biochemical reaction or state of affairs. I do discount the possibility that there are any beings that are deserving of subservience and slavish worship. There may perhaps be beings which demand such things, but ones that are owed it to them, I do not believe there are. So if that qualifies me as an atheist, then an atheist, I am. But I consider myself to be, as much as the average man, a spiritual person.

The Masked Chicken

Dear Sleeping Beastly,

You wrote:

First off, a lack of evidence for a theory isn't the same as evidence against that theory.

This is true to an extent and false to an extent. If one says, "UFO's must exist because there is no evidence against them," then one has committed the fallacy of Argumentum ad Ignoratiam (the appeal to ignorance). One may conclude, correctly, only a neutral stance - we don't know. There is no a priori expectation with regards to the evidence.

On the other hand, to say there, "must be mold in my basement, but there is no evidence of water," is a lack of evidence that does support a negative conclusion, since there is a known, reasonable, expectation that mold requires water to grow. It is not conclusive, but it does increase the probability in the negative direction.

A lack of evidence can increase the probability in the positive direction, as well. The famous missing dog of the Sherlock Holmes story comes to mind (Holmes is sure that something is afoot because the dog did not bark).

Evidence is tied together to reach a conclusion and the "direction" that the evidence points can be thought of as different directions on a map (positive or negative). The pre-existing expectations for what the evidence should be are like having a vague idea of what city one is in. If one is really in that city, then the map matches the "foot" knowledge. If not, then it doesn't. Lack of evidence of a road, when one is reasonably certain that there should not be a road is positive reinforcement of expectation; lack of a road when there should be one is negative reinforcement. It does no use to be "scientific" and say that one should not have expectations. Because we have an advanced neo-cortex, we are probability processors. Man makes hypotheses and has expectations. Having good hypotheses is an art; so is testing them.

The Chicken

Eagle's Nest

Goodness! With all due respect, I personally find nothing wrong with calling conspiracy theorists loonies. These are the same people who posit that our own gov't., our own president, would conduct the mass murders of innocent people. The same people who ignore true terrorists who blow themselves to bits and pieces in a market with no regard to family, the young, or mothers (and desecrate the name of 'martyr'). It takes away from true and substantive debate for the populace to engage in (this thread is case in point). I'll pray for them just like I pray for everyone else (it's my Catholic duty) but I don't have to condone their odious opinions and actions.

Plainly put, terrorists want to test new administrations (and...shhh...not so new administrations) so they attack. Administrations with the gall and might to do something...well, do something. Like attack (i.e. Bush). Administrations that don't respond hide behind some pretext or facade like diplomacy and send the message that they won't be as vigilant as they should (i.e. Clinton). That's terrible news for us for the horrors of a dirty bomb in any metropolitan city is, to me, beyond imagining but also a plausibility.

With Apologies for any Flippancy,

Eagle

CT

Just my opinion, an opinion from a non-Christian, but just as I would hope you would and should refrain from say calling a mentally disordered person, say someone afflicted with schizophrenia, a "loony", it seems to me that you should refrain from doing so with respect to "conspiracy theorists." It also seems to me that giving someone "all due respect" while in the same breath calling them a "loony" is an interesting juxtaposition, shall we say. It also seems to me, that if you would not have the gall to call a conspiracy theorist a "loony" to his or her face in real life, then to do so behind his or her back -- whether on the internet or in real life -- or to his or her "face", on the internet, is a tough thing to justify (I'm not saying it's impossible to do so, just difficult at least for me).

To the extent that conspiracy theorists are afflicted with unwarranted paranoia or obsession they are mentally disordered and thus deserve our compassion as much as other mentally disorderd folks do, many of whom, including patients afflicted with schizophrenia and other conditions, have their own delusional or otherwise paranoid beliefs. If you are one of those people who refer to these folks as "loonies" as well (whether to their face, behind their back, or on the internet), then at least you are consistent. If however you, like most people who live in this 21st century shun such terms, since whatever denotation they may have, in terms of usage, they connote disrespect, then I invite you to reflect.

As I said I am a non-Christian whom according to many because of being a non-Christian have no discernment as to what is ethical or not. But I couldn't stand by while a fellow human beings were called a "loonies." I would hope I would do accord that respect to all, even men as "evil" as say Stalin (whom I recently learned btw, contrary to what was suggested in an earlier discussion, actually believed in God ... cf the caption in the photo section in PJB newest book "Stalin: 'It is not for me to forgive. It is for God to forgive.'")

Let me emphasize that I mean no disrespect to either the mentally ill or to conspiracy theorists by making the above analogy. And I mean that sincerely and without a scintilla of sarcasm.

Tim J.

"Stalin (whom I recently learned btw, contrary to what was suggested in an earlier discussion, actually believed in God ... cf the caption in the photo section in PJB newest book "Stalin: 'It is not for me to forgive. It is for God to forgive.'")"

Oh, well that settles it. Stalin was clearly a thorough, philosophical Theist, based on that photo caption. Why didn't we see it before?

@TJ
He said that to Winston Churchill, according to the photo caption in PJB (a Catholic)'s newest book, in Moscow in 1942. So whatever he was before and whatever he was after, at the moment, he apparently believed in some kind of "God" and one that could "forgive." Wikipedia (the current revision at least) seems to suggest that at minimum he believed in a God of nature. Wikipedia also notes some apparently new secret archives which shed light on a possible religious conversion of Stalin which coincided with certain pro-Christian acts of his, during World War II.

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Joseph_Stalin&oldid=223040010
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Joseph_Stalin&oldid=223040010#Religious_beliefs

Eagle's Nest

Sorry CT but your argument isn't convincing to me. As glib as your post was I do not have any wisp of regret in my soul for my comments. Yes loonies. Words have meanings. They also have multiple meanings.

If you wanted to imply that I was deriding a mentally handicapped person then go ahead and do so. Some people just want to be insulted. Just like I could be really insulted with your implication (seemingly) about Stalin being God fearing (you know the same one accountable for the loss of millions of lives) and putting the word evil in quotation marks. But I want to believe you didn't mean it as such.

So if you want to be insulted by the term 'loony'...fine. But do so knowing that I meant it as my dictionary states it "extremely foolish or silly". Harp on the derivation all you want but in everyday discourse, parlance, and so forth I believe the context I used it in would be understood plainly. Yes, I could give "due respect" to someone and still state what I did. I didn't wish them harm and I don't have ill will. I wish them common sense and the ability to rationalize and believe in the human decency of our president whether they like him or not.

You stated you couldn't "stand by" while fellow human beings were called loonies. Well, I can't stand by while my country's soul and good name (and it's full of human beings by the way) is being perverted by loonies (yes...loonies!). I hope, earnestly at that, that you show the same ardor for those people as you do at my 'name calling'.

Foxfier

CT-
I believe you an confusing mental disorders which people are afflicted with, and delusions people choose to pursue.

In addition, the term "loony" is not required to be related to a mental disorder at all--by the American Her. Dict, the primary definition of "loony" is "extremely foolish or silly"-- like "loony toons."

Sleeping Beastly

@CT,
Interesting description of "radical Christianity." A few questions for you:

1. If I acknowledged that I would like to see all men converted to Christianity, would that make me a radical Christian?
2. If I desire the laws of my country to conform to my moral beliefs, how does that make me any different from any other person with a concept of morality and concern for his fellow man?
3. At what point do the goals of "radical Christians" (or even radical Muslims) become "undesirable"? If I'm reading you right, they're undesirable insofar as you disagree with them.

It sounds an awful lot like you think religious people aren't entitled to political views or political influence simply because their morality is informed by religion. Do you really believe that only secular people should be allowed to influence the laws of society, or am I misunderstanding you?

Also, you wrote:
I am not an atheist. I take the term "atheist" to mean someone who discounts the possibility of the existence of things fundamentally different than what we presently discern as existing within the realm of the material world. I am not sure that I believe that there are things that exist which do not at least inhere in material things, but I do believe in the existence of spiritual realities such as love and that it is more than can be reduced to a biochemical reaction or state of affairs. I do discount the possibility that there are any beings that are deserving of subservience and slavish worship. There may perhaps be beings which demand such things, but ones that are owed it to them, I do not believe there are. So if that qualifies me as an atheist, then an atheist, I am. But I consider myself to be, as much as the average man, a spiritual person.

Begging your pardon, but it does seem that you have just defined yourself as an atheist. Certainly if we have a creator, then that creator is greater than us, and we are by nature subservient to him. If you discount the possibility that such a being exists, then you are, by definition, an atheist. Unless I've misunderstood you?

Also, while "slavish obedience" is certainly one possible response to God (and one not devoid of merit, in my opinion) it is not the only response, or even the most common Christian response. If God is, as we believe, all-knowing, then obeying him is the greatest wisdom, is it not? And if he loves us so deeply that he suffered torture and death for our sakes and gives his body to us for spiritual sustenance, then surely we might have other feelings for him than simple "slavish obedience"? Christian worship is not the terrible groveling fear you seem to think it is. Primarily (I believe) it is a full and deep love which is reflected in our love for one another.

Sleeping Beastly

@Eagle
You wrote:
Goodness! With all due respect, I personally find nothing wrong with calling conspiracy theorists loonies. These are the same people who posit that our own gov't., our own president, would conduct the mass murders of innocent people.

This is exactly the sort of cerebral short-circuit I'm talking about. You decide that someone is espousing a conspiracy theory, call them a loony, and dismiss their claims out of hand.

You've gone beyond what I was talking about, though. You seem to think it's lunacy to suspect our government and our president would be willing to kill large numbers of innocent people in order to advance an agenda. Every president in my lifetime has done so, usually with the support of a congressional majority.

Whether these acts were warranted is debatable, I suppose, but the fact remains that politicians are fully capable of ordering people to kill and die in large numbers. If war isn't a good enough example of sacrificing other people's lives for a particular goal, then look no further than Senator John "I'm personally opposed to abortion but will support it in exchange for Democratic party support" Kerry.

Eagle's Nest

A couple of clarifications Sleeping Beastly. First, I dismiss the claims of those who think the gov't. was responsible for 9/11. It's odious. The post is on terrorist attacks and I was referring to thw orst one of all, 9/11. Other conspiracy theorists like Area 51 people I just smile at and try my best not to look directly at their tin foil headwear.

Second, you feel that a president protecting our country through war (whether you agree with the measures or not) gives credence to the theory that a president would order two planes into a building killing his own citizenry to start a war. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? That's the sort of relativist bunk which I would expect from the daft bloggers on the loony left. Or for the uber sensitive out there; the extremely foolish left.

Under that "logic" beware of policemen for they shoot criminals and maybe they might break into a house and shoot you. After all, they shoot criminals. Beware of doctors for they don't save everyone's life and that means they can purposefully give yours up. COME ON! I can't stand even typing the sardonic examples. Ugh!

Placing sending our troops to war to protect us (again, whether you agree with it or not) and ordering planes to crash into a building on the same moral ground and also having one justify the possibility of the other is just the type of banter that gets me riled up.

Eagle's Nest

A little addendum to my previous post. Sleeping, is it possible that a president can order 9/11 to happen? Sure. But many things are possible. And it's a waste of time, especially in the type of world we live in, to have to debunk every single little possibility that a discontented brat can cook up in their parent's basement. (Not that everyone who cooks up a conspiracy theory lives in their parent's basements...only the conspiracy theories emanating from California is that true for). It's just impractical and wanting.

But this just goes to show what I posted earlier. That dross like conspiracy theories take away from true and substantive debate on legitimate issues. Senator Lieberman (I'm not his biggest fan) brings up an obvious and somewhat shrewd point about our next president's tenure. It's smart politically for him to do that for Senator McCain and it's just...true. Then Eric posts some junk in the comments section and there we go. People get very impassioned about posts like Eric's and they want to refute it to the grave, me definitely among them. What ends up happening is that the original issue and point gets lost. I desist...for now.

CT

@SB

-1 The way I was using the term "radical Christian" here, I would not call you such simply because you desired that all men convert. However, to the extent that you condone coercive (including anything taxpayer funded as that coercively uses the money of non-Christians to further the Christian agenda) measures to encourage conversion or discourage defection, I would consider that radical, even if it was not coupled with other radical things that made it fully parallel with radical Islam.

-2 It is my moral belief that fellow human beings should not be called "loonies." I do not however support outlawing the calling of human beings "loonies." That is what would make it different. Having moral beliefs is fine, being concerned about the moral welfare of others is fine. However, coercing others (by for example outlawing adultery or pornography) to conform to your own moral beliefs is where it becomes "radical" and undesirable inasmuch as it violates the general liberty that should be accorded all as much as possible (of course if someone has proven dangerous to society, then he can be locked up just as someone innocent but a carrier of a deadly disease can be quarantined)

On a philosophical level, SB, the whole notion of coercing others to conform to what you judge to be moral for the sake of these others' own moral welfare is problematic since it is hard to see how someone can truly be moral in an act when the act itself is coerced. For an act to have moral value, it must be done freely. Thus for morality to thrive, the greatest freedom is its fertile ground.

-3 I think I explained above why the goals of radical Christians and radical Muslims are undesirable.

I should say that I do not consider the right to vote a civil right that must be accorded everyone indiscriminately (or indiscriminately with respect to everything except age and citizenship or what have you). I do not even think that a society that does not have a democratic voting system is necessarily in that respect a flawed one. In the concrete case of the United States, I do not hold that someone simply because they are religious should not participate in public life or in voting. However I do have a concern that one day the constitutional protections in the constitutions of the several States and of the Union will be diminished through constitutional amendment by "radicals." But, I think the ideal way to prevent that would be to simply have some parts of the constitution be unamendable. This is the way it is in some other countries. For that to work in the US legal framework, would require self-referential constituional amendments, new constitutional conventions, or (and this is most practical but even so unlikely in the foreseeable future) judicial precedent which enshrines for example, the freedom of speech as a "natural right" that cannot be taken away nor modified (though it can be enhanced) via constitutional amendment. This is the understanding that many conservatives (for example Oliver North), already have (that is, they say that the Bill of Rights recognizes rights that men already had from God and that these rights were not granted by the govt).

If we have a creator, that does not necessarily mean that the creator is greater than us. If I take "creator" to mean, that which is causally responsible for my existence such that had it not acted in a certain way, I would not be, then my parents together acted as my creators. If you were to narrow the word "creator" to mean that which is causally responsible for the coming into being of this world, I present two observations: Even if it were true that such a creator would be greater than we, it does not follow that we are to be subservient to it; just as, if it were true that somehow lions were greater than ants, it does not follow that (assuming this is possible) that ants should be subservient to lions. Second, I do not see how creation of this world necessarily means that the thing responsible for it is greater than we since it may be possible that it is not inherently impossible for us to do likewise in creating whole worlds:

http://utilitarian-essays.com/lab-universes.html (a philosophical commentary)
"There is a non-trivial probability that humans or their descendants will create infinitely many new universes in a laboratory."
http://www.slate.com/id/2100715
"It doesn't take all that much to create a universe. Resources on a cosmic scale are not required."
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6545246
"One day, it may be possible for a person to create a universe!"
http://www.newscientist.com/channel/fundamentals/mg19125591.500-create-your-own-universe.html
"They have discovered how to use a particle accelerator to create a whole new universe."

On "obeying" since being all-knowing it is the wisest thing to do: then such would not be obeying but merely following the advice of a friend whose advice never fails. In Christianity, not following the "advice" of God leads to damnation. So it can hardly be said to be friendly advice that one relies upon and instead can only be characterized as commands to be obeyed as emanating from someone of stature.

The Masked Chicken

Dear CT,

The process of creating a universe to which you are referring is still theoretical. It involves particle-particle annihilation that creates a point in space that undergoes an expansion as occurred (possibly) in the microsecond after the Big Bang. The only thing is, as far as we know, any matter in the vicinity of the expansion is "overwritten". Thus, you may get to create a universe, but you sure can't play in it.

Secondly, regarding obeying vs. advice: I may advise you that you look good in a black suit and I may advise you that the ice in the middle of the pond is thin. Ignoring the one piece of advice may lead to a fashion faux pas or maybe just a new trend; ignoring the other will probably lead to death.

Not all advice is of equal importance and at one extreme limit, some advice may just be ignored; at the other limit, it is so correct and so important that one may ignore it, but one will have to deal with large consequences. You cannot disobey the law of gravity and expect to live, whether you believe that to be a natural law or not. I advise you that you have a choice to jump out of a plane without a parachute, but I would not recommend it. You are allowed to disobey my advice, but I gave it because I know what the consequences would be, all things being equal, and I want to save you from them. You still have a choice, but each choice you make carries consequences and, as in the case of gravity, we do not always get to decide the range of choices available.

If my advice about gravity is correct and made from concern, why could not an omniscient God who made the universe give the same sort of "advice"? Who knows it better than he?

You make a fundamental mistake in thinking that God positively damns people for disobeying him (this is not the Catholic view, although it is the view of some Christians). He is no more responsible for their damnation then gravity is responsible for your falling if you fail to wear a parachute. You may not like the law of gravity, but that's just the way things are. You may argue with it, but if you fall, knowing that you should have worn a parachute, who's fault is that? I may be pleading with you to put on a parachute, but, in the end, I can't force you (unless you have lost the ability of rational thought).

God knows how he made the universe. He had a choice. This is the one he made. Who better to tell you the ends and outs of it? He does not damn people, he pleads for people to put on the parachute, but, in the end it is their choice and their free will. You've got it backwards. God does not damn (separate himself) from you; you chose to separate yourself from him. He is the one who obeys your will - if you want to separate yourself from him, he will give you what you choose, but he will fight to your dying breath to prevent it.

The Chicken

CT

@tmc

I don't see how the view you present is compatible with Jesus' statement that hell was prepared for the devil and his angels. Be that as it may, I don't see how it can be said that God doesn't "positively damn" while saying that those in hell will be without any pleasure. On this side of death, those "choose to separate themselves from him" are still capable of experiencing pleasure, gladness and warmth. They can experience pleasure in affections they have for family or acquaintances; certainly, they can experience physical delights and intellectual pleasures and so forth. If God chooses to not populate "hell" with sensual (meaning as in the senses, like food and drink and roller coasters for example) delights or intellectual pleasures (such as providing good stimulating literature or art), then whether you characterize that as "positive" or not, it is certainly God's own choice over which he has some control.

If you hold that hell does not exclude these things, then my comment does not apply and we are in agreement in that respect.

Foxfier

CT- if you choose to use heroine to have "good times", then the physical result of such choices are nasty and well-known.

The idea that God damns folks actively is kind of likes saying that medical science sentences folks to the horrors of heroin side-effects.

Sleeping Beastly

Eagle,

First, I dismiss the claims of those who think the gov't. was responsible for 9/11. It's odious.

And there you go. That's what I meant by a cerebral short-circuit. You hear something you find odious, and you shut down your brain. It's one thing to say, "I've never seen any good reasons for believing this" and another to say "I dismiss it out of hand because it's odious." I'm disappointed when adults place a higher premium on how much they like an idea than on the idea's veracity.

Second, you feel that a president protecting our country through war (whether you agree with the measures or not) gives credence to the theory that a president would order two planes into a building killing his own citizenry to start a war.

Don't put words in my mouth. I was objecting to your statement. You said "These are the same people who posit that our own gov't., our own president, would conduct the mass murders of innocent people." I merely pointed out that our government and president have done precisely that.

Under that "logic" beware of policemen for they shoot criminals and maybe they might break into a house and shoot you. After all, they shoot criminals. Beware of doctors for they don't save everyone's life and that means they can purposefully give yours up.

While I do think that blind trust in policemen and doctors is foolish (some cops and docs are more ethical than others) I don't think this is on quite the same level as distrusting politicians. IMHO, that's as loony as subscribing to a conspiracy theory with insufficient evidence.

Placing sending our troops to war to protect us (again, whether you agree with it or not) and ordering planes to crash into a building on the same moral ground...

If indeed the motive for sending American troops into battle was to protect American citizens, then you are correct that it is not ethically comparable. I am not entirely convinced that this was the primary motive, but I don't pretend to be able to read the president's mind, or anyone else's.

However, I will add that accepting the position of commander-in-chief involves some very serious moral responsibilities. It would be beyond irresponsible- evil, in fact- to misuse that responsibility or to commit to a war without very good cause.

Sleeping, is it possible that a president can order 9/11 to happen? Sure. But many things are possible. And it's a waste of time, especially in the type of world we live in, to have to debunk every single little possibility that a discontented brat can cook up in their parent's basement.

Agreed. It is a waste of time to have to debunk them all. Refusing to take the time to debunk every theory that comes down the pike is a bit different from dismissing them all out of hand, is it not?

But this just goes to show what I posted earlier. That dross like conspiracy theories take away from true and substantive debate on legitimate issues.

Well, my point was not that you need to believe all conspiracy theories, just that it's foolish to shut your brain off every time you hear one.

Sleeping Beastly

CT,
-1 The way I was using the term "radical Christian" here, I would not call you such simply because you desired that all men convert. However, to the extent that you condone coercive (including anything taxpayer funded as that coercively uses the money of non-Christians to further the Christian agenda) measures to encourage conversion or discourage defection, I would consider that radical, even if it was not coupled with other radical things that made it fully parallel with radical Islam.

So a radical Christian is someone who tries to coerce other people into converting or remaining in the faith? Have you ever met someone who fit this description? Forcing worship seems pretty pointless, and I've never even heard of Christians who felt differently. Do they exist?

-2 It is my moral belief that fellow human beings should not be called "loonies." I do not however support outlawing the calling of human beings "loonies." That is what would make it different. Having moral beliefs is fine, being concerned about the moral welfare of others is fine. However, coercing others (by for example outlawing adultery or pornography) to conform to your own moral beliefs is where it becomes "radical" and undesirable inasmuch as it violates the general liberty that should be accorded all as much as possible (of course if someone has proven dangerous to society, then he can be locked up just as someone innocent but a carrier of a deadly disease can be quarantined)

So it's okay to use legislation to restrict someone's liberty only when that person is dangerous to society? That makes most of our civil code (and a good chunk of our criminal code) radical and undesirable.

What about cases where people have a genuine disagreement? If I regard unborn children as people and you regard them as merely masses of fetal tissue, then abortion means murder to me and surgery to you. Is this a legitimate disagreement, or are the religious people simply wrong by virtue of the fact that they're religious? If one of us succeeds in influencing the law, then our agenda suddenly gains the benefit of coercive force through law enforcement. Does that make either of us radicals, or just citizens with a legitimate disagreement about an issue?

And what about drug laws? Are they radical and undesirable because they coerce people who are not directly harming others, or are they reasonable because they increase the overall security of the public?

On a philosophical level, SB, the whole notion of coercing others to conform to what you judge to be moral for the sake of these others' own moral welfare is problematic since it is hard to see how someone can truly be moral in an act when the act itself is coerced. For an act to have moral value, it must be done freely. Thus for morality to thrive, the greatest freedom is its fertile ground.

I think you're mistaking the purpose of law. Moral teachings are put forth for the moral welfare of others. Society's laws are established to protect people and regulate things like trade. There's a difference.

I should say that I do not consider the right to vote a civil right that must be accorded everyone indiscriminately (or indiscriminately with respect to everything except age and citizenship or what have you). I do not even think that a society that does not have a democratic voting system is necessarily in that respect a flawed one.

Yeah, I agree, actually. I'm not especially attached to democracy as such, either.

In the concrete case of the United States, I do not hold that someone simply because they are religious should not participate in public life or in voting. However I do have a concern that one day the constitutional protections in the constitutions of the several States and of the Union will be diminished through constitutional amendment by "radicals."

I share your concern. I just happen to be a bit more concerned about the Socialist agenda than the Christian one.

I'd have a lot more to say about the bill of rights and rights in general, but I'm already taking up too much combox room. We'll have to leave that subject for another time.

If we have a creator, that does not necessarily mean that the creator is greater than us. If I take "creator" to mean, that which is causally responsible for my existence such that had it not acted in a certain way, I would not be, then my parents together acted as my creators. If you were to narrow the word "creator" to mean that which is causally responsible for the coming into being of this world

Sorry. I thought the second meaning was obvious by the context.

I present two observations: Even if it were true that such a creator would be greater than we, it does not follow that we are to be subservient to it; just as, if it were true that somehow lions were greater than ants, it does not follow that (assuming this is possible) that ants should be subservient to lions.

This from the guy who claimed that the metaphysical distance between God and man is much greater than that between a man and a microbe...

Second, I do not see how creation of this world necessarily means that the thing responsible for it is greater than we since it may be possible that it is not inherently impossible for us to do likewise in creating whole worlds:

Sorry, I just don't see any good reason for giving this subject much thought. Even if I did create a universe, it would be a categorically different act from being the first cause of this one.

On "obeying" since being all-knowing it is the wisest thing to do: then such would not be obeying but merely following the advice of a friend whose advice never fails. In Christianity, not following the "advice" of God leads to damnation.

Same difference.

So it can hardly be said to be friendly advice that one relies upon and instead can only be characterized as commands to be obeyed as emanating from someone of stature.

This is why God so frequently refers to himself as our father. When you're a little kid and your dad tells you not to play in the street, you see it as a command emanating from someone of stature. When you're a little older, you may take a different view. God's commands are not simply friendly advice, but they aren't simply regal mandates either.

Eagle's Nest

Sleeping,

Truly I think your response proves my point but I'll leave it at that. I must say this was very refreshing for me. Most other forums are way too vitriolic and short on reason and clean, well stated opinions. Thanks for a good debate.

Eagle

CT

"Do they exist?"

I mentioned "coercive measures" not limited to directly forced conversions. There are Christians who favor using taxpayer funds to support the Christian agenda (for example, taxpayer funds to support prayer in schools, religious schools, public promotion of the Ten Commandments, and IIRC in some countries, taxpayer funds are used to directly fund churches -- Italy may do this, I don't recall ... in Muslim history of course there are similar things like exacting punitive taxes on certain non-Muslims)

"So it's okay to use legislation to restrict someone's liberty only when that person is dangerous to society?"

Laws restricting liberty are fine only when a proportionate good consistent with liberty is to be achieved. So for example, laws which regulate banking (for example establishing a fractional reserve requirement) can be fine since the good -- the end -- to be achieved (economic confidence and stability) is in no way inconsistent with liberty. In contrast, a law which forbade pornography or adultery even if it were achieving a good would be achieving one which is potentially inconsistent with liberty in the case of those who wish to engage in such things (whereas there is no one who wishes to possess economic insecurity or instability). So the means can be liberty-restrictive (like establishing a fractional reserve requirement restricts commercial activity) but the ends cannot be.

"What about cases where people have a genuine disagreement? If I regard unborn children as people and you regard them as merely masses of fetal tissue, then abortion means murder to me and surgery to you. Is this a legitimate disagreement, or are the religious people simply wrong by virtue of the fact that they're religious?"

If we were to leave the variable of religion out of the equation, then like a disagreement about environmental policies or whether a drug deserves FDA approval, it would be a disagreement as to fact out of which arises a disagreement as to policy and to the extent to which the former is reasonable, the latter is as well.

"And what about drug laws?"

I do not believe the consumption of a substance by an individual who knowingly desires it should be criminalized. I do believe however that these drugs are a potential national security risk inasmuch as a drug-free populace is more likely to produce technological advances. So because of this compelling public interest, it would be fine for the govt to take measures to inform the public about the risks of drug use and even to tax it modestly as compensation for the national hindrance it may cause. In the bizarre scenario of a whole nation addicted to drugs, then it may be legitimate to outlaw consumption to address the emergency (emergency relative to national security, not morals)

"This from the guy who claimed that the metaphysical distance between God and man is much greater than that between a man and a microbe..."

Well, I think you are assuming that the creator of this world would necessarily have all the properties that your God possesses and I think I showed that this is not the case.

"Even if I did create a universe, it would be a categorically different act from being the first cause of this one."

How so?

The Masked Chicken

Dear CT,

You misunderstand this issue, badly.

The passage to which you refer is Matt 25:31-46- the teaching about the last judgment) (which follows Matt 25:1-30 - the parable of the wise and foolish virgins):

Mat 25:31
"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.
Mat 25:32
Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,
Mat 25:33
and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Mat 25:34
Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
Mat 25:35
for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
Mat 25:36
I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'
Mat 25:37
Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?
Mat 25:38
And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?
Mat 25:39
And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?'
Mat 25:40
And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'
Mat 25:41
Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;
Mat 25:42
for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
Mat 25:43
I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'
Mat 25:44
Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?'
Mat 25:45
Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.'
Mat 25:46
And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

The specific passage you refer to is Matt 25:41:

Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels;

In the Greek and the Vulgate, this reads, respectively:

Hort and Westcott
tote erei kai toiV ex euwnumwn poreuesqe ap emou kathramenoi eiV to pur to aiwnion to htoimasmenon tw diabolw kai toiV aggeloiV autou

Latin Vulgate
25:41 tunc dicet et his qui a sinistris erunt discedite a me maledicti in ignem aeternum qui paratus est diabolo et angelis eius

The operative words are: to htoimasmenon (Greek) and paratus (Latin) - prepared.

The sense of these words is not active preparation, but being fated for.

The passage refers to a necessary state that the devil and his angels have chosen. What is that state and how does it come about?

First, a word about the point you raised about bad men still having access to good things: in this life, there is hope for all men. God does not abandon anyone. In this life, one may change. Men have changed. God wants, pleads, hopes, for a man's free will to come to be well-formed in love and truth and he will not deny anything that might lead to this end. Even the wicked have love and beauty before them as a foretaste of the higher love, truth, and beauty of heaven. Jesus, himself, says:

Matt 5:45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

The Father gives nothing but good things or draws good out of bad things. There is no contradiction, here. In this life even those who choose to separate themselves from God are not abandoned by God. In fact, God never abandons anyone.

What happens at the judgment?

Basically, God is all good and where heaven is, there is God. Nothing that does not share in the attributes of God can be around God in heaven, because it would deny his essential unity and simplicity. Now, God is love, therefore anything that does not have love cannot stand in the presence of God without an eternal contradiction.

The whole point of both the parable of the foolish virgins and the discourse about the sheep and the goats is to make this point. The oil that the wise virgins would have had would have been understood to the semitic mind to represent supernatural charity - the sort of charity that Jesus had when he went to the cross. This "oil" is shown in concrete terms, immediately after this parable (to make sure that it was clear), when Jesus explicitly showed that he was talking about clothing the naked, visiting the sick, etc. Jesus repeats the concept twice, once parabolically and once literally, so that there would be no doubt, so important was the concept of supernatural charity.

Now, when you die, time ceases for you. You are stuck with what you have chosen. If you do not have love in your heart (not mere benevolence, but true, supernatural charity), then you cannot be with God, because God cannot deny himself. What happens? You still have the divine Image within you which seeks God, but you have run out of time to be with him and at the moment of death, you do not want him. This creates a contradiction in your soul that admits no love, no warmth, no pleasure, because all of these good things reside in God's present, whether remotely in this life (to which all share, as mentioned, above) or proximately, in heaven.

God did not do this. You put yourself in this position by denying your love for love. You still live - God does not annihilate what he has created, for God still loves what he has created - but God's love cannot reach you because, by your own free will, you have put an obstacle in the way - your lack of love. If you loved, even in the tiniest bit, that love would be enough to reach across any chasm and touch the hand of God, but you have chosen, once, for all, to pull your hand away. What can God do? He has been reaching out to you, all of your life and at the last hour, you still refused to grab hold of his hand.

Hell is a state not made by God, but by a necessary logic of who God is, it is made by those creatures who have rejected him. It is eternal contradiction, without peace, without rest. The fire of hell, in some sense is the fire of love that you would experience if your soul could reach out to God. The fire is your own passion that can never be fulfilled, but still burns.

You created the condition where pleasure could not reach you. Pleasure is good, but you have cut yourself off from the source of all goodness.

Thus,

1. The devils, by their own relentless lack of charity, created a state of relationship with God that called for hell. God had no choice but to give them what they asked for.

2. That that state should not have pleasure is only just, because they did not want to have anything to do with the source of pleasure.

3. There is pleasure in this life, even for the wicked, because of the immense love God has for them. Indeed, it is he who has to suffer their wickedness and yet he continues to love them and shower them with good gifts or even suffering, if it will lead to final happiness.

4. What is eternal is of a higher order than what is temporal. God orders all things to the eternal good, but his will can be thwarted because he has allowed man the highest of gifts: free will. God so respects a man's free will that he will beg and plead and give all sorts of helps, but he will not force a man's free will.

In this life, there is time and there are choices. God's love is on all of his creation and God wants all men to love and be loved and to know the truth. To claim anything destructive about God's will is to claim something that God cannot be.

The Chicken

CT

@tmc,

I'm afraid I am not clear on something. Are you saying that God could have caused or allowed there to be at least some pleasures to those in hell but he justly has chosen not to so cause or allow? (i.e. he was free to but justly chose not to) Or are you saying that it is somehow intrinsically impossible for any kind of pleasure to exist in hell? If it is the former, I would, without making any concession, ask if God could not go beyond what is "just" and do what is merciful -- is he free to have chosen that even though he didn't? If it is the latter, I would ask how can it possible be intrinsically impossible for any kind of pleasure to exist in hell? The damned according to your religion will have bodies, at least after your Christ returns. Then at that point their tongues would be able to take pleasure in something sweet -- are you saying that somehow lacking love of God inexorably and as a matter of logical entailment impairs the sense of taste (as well as other senses) to exclude any and all sensual pleasures? If so, how can it be the case, that I and many others who have no love for God are still able to experience litanies of sensual delights.

And if it turns out that at least some kinds of pleasure can exist in hell, then why bother with heaven? I would rather be with free beings than with a master and his slaves, even if the latter enjoyed greater forms of pleasure than I. And I would not regard highly a being which had the freedom to do something (allow certain pleasures to exist in hell) but chose not to do so since it was within his rights of justice not to do so. True love it seems to me goes beyond what is required by justice such that no further or additional good can be willed of anyone at any time or place or circumstance. If God is free to will certain sensual pleasures to those in hell (after they are resurrected), but chooses not to, then that is at least one good (sensual pleasures -- a lower order good, but still a good) he could will that he does not ... and it would baffle me why one would have any religious devotion to such a being, much less worship him.

The Masked Chicken

Dear CT,

You impute the lack of sensual pleasure in hell to God. I tried to show that this is not the case in my post, but you keep wanting to assert this point.

You will have a tongue after the resurrection, but in hell, it is you who have refrained it from having any sensual pleasure, not God.

I cannot say that any more plainly.

The Chicken

Tim J.

"I would rather be with free beings than with a master and his slaves"

That speaks volumes. What makes you think that those with God in heaven are "slaves" and are not there glorifying God by an act of pure, free choice... by an act, in fact, of love?

Should I get to heaven, I will be there because I want (more than anything I can imagine) to be with God, to share in the Beatific vision, to say with Him - "Behold, it is good".

If you want to be with free beings, heaven is the place to be. Everyone in hell is already a slave to their own desires, locked in the prison of the Self, unable to think about anything except their own wants.

"If God is free to will certain sensual pleasures to those in hell (after they are resurrected), but chooses not to, then that is at least one good (sensual pleasures -- a lower order good, but still a good) he could will that he does not..."

This is just nonsensical. God made - and continues to hold in existence - everything that is. We are finite creatures, and couldn't possibly receive every sensual benefit that God is capable of giving. Something will always be "withheld", then. You have a beef with God because He won't give everyone, everything, all the time, regardless of their moral choices and behavior? If He withholds chocolate sundaes from child rapists, you would find that intolerable? Would you weigh in with the rapist that God was being terribly stingy?

We have a FREE will, and some pleasures - many - are mutually exclusive. I can't enjoy the pleasure of the sunrise and the pleasure of sleeping in at the same time. I have to make a choice. God pays us all the intolerable compliment of allowing us REAL choices with REAL consequences. You don't seem to be able to stomach that.

CT

@tj

What makes me think they are his slaves? Because they themselves say so! Paul speaks of how he is a slave in his epistles. Jesus OTOH speaks of how you used to be slaves, I suppose before his coming, but now at least for his inner circle of his disciples, are more his "friends" since he has unveiled certain things. An angel in the Apocalypse speaks of how he is Jesus' slave ... I don't see anything to suggest that those in heaven are not bound to do their master's every whim. But if you are suggesting that your God would be fine with those in heaven not going alone with everything he suggests, then heaven would be more attractive.

Yes some pleasures may be mutually exclusive but I was not speaking of God willing two goods where it is impossible for both to exist together, but of situations where a further or additional good can be willed (without any logical contradiction) yet it is not willed.

In your example of the rapist, I believe every person, should love every other person maximally -- so you for example should desire that the rapist enjoy a sundae (provided his enjoying a sundae does not diminish other goods -- and in the real world that you and I inhabit, it does since there is opportunity cost for the rapist as well as general scarcity of resources for society ... a sundae enjoyed by one person means a sundae or some other thing not enjoyed by another -- giving out sundaes to rapists excessively may diminish the good of preventing future crimes by others inasmuch as they are not deterred by the prospect of punishment -- but in the case of hell (say after your last judgment), there is no "future crime" for God to deter and no scarcity of resources when it comes to omnipotence and so there is no other good that is diminished by God allowing for sundaes to be tasted by those in hell.)

I believe any lack of generosity in a person -- be it god, human or otherwise -- corresponds to a defect in love. Mortals do not live up to the ideal of love. God, by definition, would, yet the God of any organized religion, does not as we have seen.

Tim J.

"What makes me think they are his slaves? Because they themselves say so!"

If I'm a voluntary, willing, passionate and grateful slave, would that make any difference?

I will do whatever He wills because He knows far better than I do what will bring me joy, in the end. I'm content with too little, an He is always calling me to pass up this or that momentary, transient happiness - or to endure some momentary, transient burden - to press on for real Joy. I've experienced this many times.

"In your example of the rapist, I believe every person, should love every other person maximally -- so you for example should desire that the rapist enjoy a sundae..."

Because I love the rapist, I desire that he will enjoy nothing at all until he repents of his actions. Your egalitarian "love" - sundaes for everyone, rapist and victim alike, is just repugnant. But if you don't believe in an eternal soul, I guess this is the sort of thing that follows.

The rapist has much greater problems to consider than going without sundaes... namely going through eternity as a disfigured soul.

God is perfect justice, as well as love. In Him they are both perfectly complete. There can be no love without justice.

"I believe any lack of generosity in a person -- be it god, human or otherwise -- corresponds to a defect in love."

That's just nonsense, but happily I can't think of anyone who would agree with you.

"Mortals do not live up to the ideal of love. God, by definition, would, yet the God of any organized religion, does not as we have seen."

You really would like to leave justice completely out of the equation, wouldn't you? You don't want a God... you want a rich, senile uncle.

God was generous enough to give you the gift of free will, and you don't appear - really - to want it, not if it involves any real consequences.

These are consequences, by the way, that flow from the nature of the choices themselves, not some white haired guy on a throne handing out sundaes to the biggest suck-ups.

Say it with me... "the consequences flow from the nature of the choices themselves.". Every act of self will opposed to God's will to some extent isolates the person from God AND from other people - *without* exception.

If you really must have things your own way, God will let you, in the end. But then, please have the good grace not to whine when the sunlight doesn't follow you into your cave.

At least try to see the illogic of, on the one hand arguing that The Ice Cream Man is a trumped up fable, and on the other hand, complaining that it is unfair of Him to refuse ice cream to naughty children.

CT

you wrote:Say it with me... "the consequences flow from the nature of the choices themselves.". Every act of self will opposed to God's will to some extent isolates the person from God AND from other people - *without* exception.

Saying it doesn't make it so. I accept that it may be so that "every act of self will opposed to God's will to some extent isolates the person from God AND from other people - *without* exception" -- that's all find and good (that is I am not disputing that here) -- but the question I raised was a different one. Namely: "Does every act of self will opposed to God's will make it impossible for the person to experience sensual pleasures." I am not disputing that it may that the spiritual suffering in hell may "flow from the nature of the choices themselves" in such a way that God could not have it be otherwise, being that it is not logically possible for it to be otherwise. What I am disputing is that the absence of sundaes -- yes sundaes and other sensual delights -- likewise "flows from the nature of the choices themselves" -- not as a just punishment but likewise in such a way that God could not have it be otherwise, being that it is not logically possible for it to be otherwise.

You SEEM to be admitting that it IS logically possible for God to allow for the existence of sundaes in hell. If so, then our disagreement is not as to fact (the question of whether it is in fact logically possible or not) but as to value (whether not willing a good for a person when that good can obtain for that person without resulting in a net loss of good for that person or for any other person is contrary to the value of love -- I say it is, you seem to say that it isn't since we needn't will good things to those who don't justly deserve them). Your value of justice seems to place limits on your value of love. My value of love is not limited by any other value. Being that I am not a moral absolutist, I am fine with that disagreement insofar as your system of values coheres with itself.

Sleeping Beastly

CT,
Thanks once again for being such a good sport in these discussions. You wrote:
I mentioned "coercive measures" not limited to directly forced conversions. There are Christians who favor using taxpayer funds to support the Christian agenda (for example, taxpayer funds to support prayer in schools, religious schools, public promotion of the Ten Commandments

I guess I'm wondering why a Christian's agenda is any less worthy of tax support than a secularist's agenda. I don't think you've thought this through all the way. I haven't heard of Christians trying to fund school prayers with taxpayer funds, so I'm going to leave that example alone. But the other two are worth looking at.

By taxpayer funding of religious schools, I assume you mean voucher initiatives that could be used at parochial schools. Let me know if there's another instance of this I'm not familiar with.

I will again ask some questions about this point. Let's assume that you are not fundamentally opposed to the notion of vouchers- just opposed to their use at parochial schools. Would you also be opposed to their use at schools devoted to any other ideology or cultural group? What about a school that focuses on environmental issues? A tax-funded alternative school that places an emphasis on Central American culture and the Spanish language? (I actually speak Spanish fluently as the result of my having attended a Spanish immersion elementary school, and it was probably the most worthwhile skill I learned in public school.)

It seems to me that if you can countenance schools that emphasize certain ideological or cultural values, but not religious values, you are discriminating unfairly against people of faith. Am I missing something?

Next we'll look at the issue of "public promotion of the Ten Commandments." In this case, I assume you are referring to publicly displaying the Ten Commandments in a public courthouse.

Once again, I have some questions for you. Are you also opposed to displaying pictures of pagan gods and goddesses on public buildings? How about the Masonic symbols, likenesses of American heroes and statesmen, and other symbols that remind us of our shared cultural heritage? In short, are you suggesting that public buildings should be completely unadorned and that all symbols reminding us of our history should be excised form public view? Or are you once again merely suggesting that such symbols should be removed from public view only when they are part of the Judeo-Christian cultural heritage?

I suggest to you that when the Ten Commandments, Lady Justice, and the compass-and-square are displayed on a courthouse, it is simply an attempt to honor the roots of our legal system. It's not an attempt to force a particular ethos on you or anyone else. Is it not instead coercive of atheists to force their nonreligion on the rest of us by insisting that religion be removed entirely from the public view?

and IIRC in some countries, taxpayer funds are used to directly fund churches -- Italy may do this, I don't recall ... in Muslim history of course there are similar things like exacting punitive taxes on certain non-Muslims)

I believe the Italian government actually owns many of the churches in Italy, and allows worshipers to use them for Mass and worship. Remember that these churches are often well over a thousand years old; they are cultural artifacts, historical sites that bring in plenty of tourism. The Italian government owns them in the same way the US government owns Yellowstone National Park.

Laws restricting liberty are fine only when a proportionate good consistent with liberty is to be achieved. So for example, laws which regulate banking (for example establishing a fractional reserve requirement) can be fine since the good -- the end -- to be achieved (economic confidence and stability) is in no way inconsistent with liberty. In contrast, a law which forbade pornography or adultery even if it were achieving a good would be achieving one which is potentially inconsistent with liberty in the case of those who wish to engage in such things (whereas there is no one who wishes to possess economic insecurity or instability). So the means can be liberty-restrictive (like establishing a fractional reserve requirement restricts commercial activity) but the ends cannot be.

But you're supposing that the ends of outlawing adultery and pornography are liberty-restrictive. I don't think that's ever the case. When someone wants to ban pornography, they want to do so because they believe it endangers people. If I could show that people who are allowed to view pornography are statistically much more likely to commit assault against women, would you consider allowing it to be banned?

And when someone wants to penalize adulterers, is it not similar to penalizing anyone else who violates a contract? Suppose I get married. Part of my marriage vows will probably include a promise of sexual fidelity. As in any marriage, my wife and I make many sacrifices for each other, but perhaps she makes more than I do. Perhaps she quits school so that I can get my JD and study for the bar. By working a second part-time job, she manages to pay my way through school. In return, I start having an affair. Had she known I would be unfaithful, she would not have gone to the same lengths for me and devoted her life to me. Before the wedding, she could have walked away with little trouble, but now she has invested years of her life, and tied herself to me emotionally, financially, and legally. In what way is my adultery not a breach of contract?

If we have children, my infidelity is made that much worse, because not only have I broken faith with my wife, but I have made life immensely more difficult for my children. When a man promises to pay you for a product, and you ship it to him, and then he withholds payment, you have legal recourse. Why is it unfair coercion to penalize a man for hurting his family to satisfy his lust?

And beyond that, if I could show a positive correlation between parental adultery and juvenile crime, would you then allow that anti-adultery laws could be considered legitimate to protect public safety?

If we were to leave the variable of religion out of the equation, then like a disagreement about environmental policies or whether a drug deserves FDA approval, it would be a disagreement as to fact out of which arises a disagreement as to policy and to the extent to which the former is reasonable, the latter is as well.

Now we get to my central point. How do you know to what extent the "religious variable" is involved in any given law? If I present an anti-adultery law as a matter of sound public policy, would you accept that I was proposing it out of genuine concern for my fellow citizens, or would you dismiss it as an attempt at religious coercion?

I suggest to you that probably every single law which you think of as part of the "Christian agenda" arises in part out of concern for public safety and well-being. Is this concern irrelevant when the people who suggest the law form their moral opinions with religious guidance? What criteria will you use to determine whether a law is genuinely concerned with public welfare, and when it is an attempt at religious coercion?

I do not believe the consumption of a substance by an individual who knowingly desires it should be criminalized. I do believe however that these drugs are a potential national security risk inasmuch as a drug-free populace is more likely to produce technological advances. So because of this compelling public interest, it would be fine for the govt to take measures to inform the public about the risks of drug use and even to tax it modestly as compensation for the national hindrance it may cause.

That is an argument for drug laws I have never heard before. I must say I like it! What if I could show a positive correlation between drug use and violent crime? Would you still consider anti-drug laws to have a liberty-restrictive end, or would you consider that they might be a legitimate way to ensure public safety? I suppose you will probably say it's a cost-benefit analysis, and that we'd have to weigh the liberty sacrificed against the safety attained. I think this is a reasonable approach.

Well, I think you are assuming that the creator of this world would necessarily have all the properties that your God possesses and I think I showed that this is not the case.

I don't think you've shown anything of the kind, but I was also not suggesting that the creator of the universe must have all the qualities I believe God to possess. There are certain qualities I was assuming, though, namely omnipotence and omniscience.

I assume that the creator of the universe would need to be capable of creating the entire universe out of nothing and comprehend all the processes involved in the unfolding of the universe. If this is not the case, then there is some other governing order that is superior to God, and that governing order would in fact be the real God.

"Even if I did create a universe, it would be a categorically different act from being the first cause of this one."

How so?

Because I would not be the first cause of all existence, but merely the first cause of a subset of existence. A cue ball may knock an 8-ball into a pocket as well as I can with a pool cue. But that doesn't mean that the cue ball has the same motive power that I do.

Sleeping Beastly

CT,
Thanks once again for being such a good sport in these discussions. You wrote:
I mentioned "coercive measures" not limited to directly forced conversions. There are Christians who favor using taxpayer funds to support the Christian agenda (for example, taxpayer funds to support prayer in schools, religious schools, public promotion of the Ten Commandments

I guess I'm wondering why a Christian's agenda is any less worthy of tax support than a secularist's agenda. I don't think you've thought this through all the way. I haven't heard of Christians trying to fund school prayers with taxpayer funds, so I'm going to leave that example alone. But the other two are worth looking at.

By taxpayer funding of religious schools, I assume you mean voucher initiatives that could be used at parochial schools. Let me know if there's another instance of this I'm not familiar with.

I will again ask some questions about this point. Let's assume that you are not fundamentally opposed to the notion of vouchers- just opposed to their use at parochial schools. Would you also be opposed to their use at schools devoted to any other ideology or cultural group? What about a school that focuses on environmental issues? A tax-funded alternative school that places an emphasis on Central American culture and the Spanish language? (I actually speak Spanish fluently as the result of my having attended a Spanish immersion elementary school, and it was probably the most worthwhile skill I learned in public school.)

It seems to me that if you can countenance schools that emphasize certain ideological or cultural values, but not religious values, you are discriminating unfairly against people of faith. Am I missing something?

Next we'll look at the issue of "public promotion of the Ten Commandments." In this case, I assume you are referring to publicly displaying the Ten Commandments in a public courthouse.

Once again, I have some questions for you. Are you also opposed to displaying pictures of pagan gods and goddesses on public buildings? How about the Masonic symbols, likenesses of American heroes and statesmen, and other symbols that remind us of our shared cultural heritage? In short, are you suggesting that public buildings should be completely unadorned and that all symbols reminding us of our history should be excised form public view? Or are you once again merely suggesting that such symbols should be removed from public view only when they are part of the Judeo-Christian cultural heritage?

I suggest to you that when the Ten Commandments, Lady Justice, and the compass-and-square are displayed on a courthouse, it is simply an attempt to honor the roots of our legal system. It's not an attempt to force a particular ethos on you or anyone else. Is it not instead coercive of atheists to force their nonreligion on the rest of us by insisting that religion be removed entirely from the public view?

and IIRC in some countries, taxpayer funds are used to directly fund churches -- Italy may do this, I don't recall ... in Muslim history of course there are similar things like exacting punitive taxes on certain non-Muslims)

I believe the Italian government actually owns many of the churches in Italy, and allows worshipers to use them for Mass and worship. Remember that these churches are often well over a thousand years old; they are cultural artifacts, historical sites that bring in plenty of tourism. The Italian government owns them in the same way the US government owns Yellowstone National Park.

Laws restricting liberty are fine only when a proportionate good consistent with liberty is to be achieved. So for example, laws which regulate banking (for example establishing a fractional reserve requirement) can be fine since the good -- the end -- to be achieved (economic confidence and stability) is in no way inconsistent with liberty. In contrast, a law which forbade pornography or adultery even if it were achieving a good would be achieving one which is potentially inconsistent with liberty in the case of those who wish to engage in such things (whereas there is no one who wishes to possess economic insecurity or instability). So the means can be liberty-restrictive (like establishing a fractional reserve requirement restricts commercial activity) but the ends cannot be.

But you're supposing that the ends of outlawing adultery and pornography are liberty-restrictive. I don't think that's ever the case. When someone wants to ban pornography, they want to do so because they believe it endangers people. If I could show that people who are allowed to view pornography are statistically much more likely to commit assault against women, would you consider allowing it to be banned?

And when someone wants to penalize adulterers, is it not similar to penalizing anyone else who violates a contract? Suppose I get married. Part of my marriage vows will probably include a promise of sexual fidelity. As in any marriage, my wife and I make many sacrifices for each other, but perhaps she makes more than I do. Perhaps she quits school so that I can get my JD and study for the bar. By working a second part-time job, she manages to pay my way through school. In return, I start having an affair. Had she known I would be unfaithful, she would not have gone to the same lengths for me and devoted her life to me. Before the wedding, she could have walked away with little trouble, but now she has invested years of her life, and tied herself to me emotionally, financially, and legally. In what way is my adultery not a breach of contract?

If we have children, my infidelity is made that much worse, because not only have I broken faith with my wife, but I have made life immensely more difficult for my children. When a man promises to pay you for a product, and you ship it to him, and then he withholds payment, you have legal recourse. Why is it unfair coercion to penalize a man for hurting his family to satisfy his lust?

And beyond that, if I could show a positive correlation between parental adultery and juvenile crime, would you then allow that anti-adultery laws could be considered legitimate to protect public safety?

If we were to leave the variable of religion out of the equation, then like a disagreement about environmental policies or whether a drug deserves FDA approval, it would be a disagreement as to fact out of which arises a disagreement as to policy and to the extent to which the former is reasonable, the latter is as well.

Now we get to my central point. How do you know to what extent the "religious variable" is involved in any given law? If I present an anti-adultery law as a matter of sound public policy, would you accept that I was proposing it out of genuine concern for my fellow citizens, or would you dismiss it as an attempt at religious coercion?

I suggest to you that probably every single law which you think of as part of the "Christian agenda" arises in part out of concern for public safety and well-being. Is this concern irrelevant when the people who suggest the law form their moral opinions with religious guidance? What criteria will you use to determine whether a law is genuinely concerned with public welfare, and when it is an attempt at religious coercion?

I do not believe the consumption of a substance by an individual who knowingly desires it should be criminalized. I do believe however that these drugs are a potential national security risk inasmuch as a drug-free populace is more likely to produce technological advances. So because of this compelling public interest, it would be fine for the govt to take measures to inform the public about the risks of drug use and even to tax it modestly as compensation for the national hindrance it may cause.

That is an argument for drug laws I have never heard before. I must say I like it! What if I could show a positive correlation between drug use and violent crime? Would you still consider anti-drug laws to have a liberty-restrictive end, or would you consider that they might be a legitimate way to ensure public safety? I suppose you will probably say it's a cost-benefit analysis, and that we'd have to weigh the liberty sacrificed against the safety attained. I think this is a reasonable approach.

Well, I think you are assuming that the creator of this world would necessarily have all the properties that your God possesses and I think I showed that this is not the case.

I don't think you've shown anything of the kind, but I was also not suggesting that the creator of the universe must have all the qualities I believe God to possess. There are certain qualities I was assuming, though, namely omnipotence and omniscience.

I assume that the creator of the universe would need to be capable of creating the entire universe out of nothing and comprehend all the processes involved in the unfolding of the universe. If this is not the case, then there is some other governing order that is superior to God, and that governing order would in fact be the real God.

"Even if I did create a universe, it would be a categorically different act from being the first cause of this one."

How so?

Because I would not be the first cause of all existence, but merely the first cause of a subset of existence. A cue ball may knock an 8-ball into a pocket as well as I can with a pool cue. But that doesn't mean that the cue ball has the same motive power that I do.

Sleeping Beastly

CT,
Perhaps I can phrase the Chicken's point in a way that will make more sense to you:

Human choices shape the human soul. The quality of the human soul is what allows the human soul to experience joy or misery. The things that you associate with enjoyment and unhappiness are not necessarily related to joy or misery. There may be sex and ice cream sundaes and swimming pools in Hell, but none of them can provide any pleasure to an inverted soul. Likewise, there may be hot coals and razor blades and chains in Heaven, but none of them can provide misery to a soul that is perfectly formed in love. We get hints of this truth in this life. I'm sure you've known selfish people who are never happy with any amount of material pleasure, and I'm sure you've seen people in love who cheerfully put up with pain, and don't seem to mind.

To a large extent, the quality of the soul depends on the will's habit of focusing inward or outward. When the will makes a habit of self-sacrifice and generosity, this orients the soul towards God and therefore towards Heaven. Likewise, when the will makes a habit of exalting itself at the expense of others, this directs the soul inward, and therefore towards Hell.

When Jesus speaks of the separation between the sheep and the goats, he is talking about the kinds of souls people have built for themselves. Those who have formed self-centered habits are represented by the goats, and those who have formed other-centered habits are represented by sheep. (This is why he speaks of the charitable actions people do or do not perform in their lives.) By their very nature, the goats will not be able to stomach being in the presence of God because to approach God is to resemble God in generosity and charity. The goats would prefer to serve themselves than give of themselves in service.

When a Christian speaks of himself as a slave to God, it is much the same as a man who makes himself the slave of his wife and children. He gives of himself out of love, and thereby shapes his soul into something more capable of joy.

Can you see why we think of this kind of willing self-sacrifice as preferable to self-exaltation? In a spiritual sense, we see self-sacrifice as being healthy and self-exaltation as being unhealthy.

Please don't think that God forces us to worship him. He has given us the freedom to turn from him whenever we want to. Hell is not punishment for some kind of crime against God (although that is one analogy that is sometimes useful in describing some of the aspects of sin). Sin is a movement of the will that deforms the soul and twists it inward.

Does that make a bit more sense? You may disagree with the premises above, but I'd like to make sure you understand what we actually believe, and why we do freely give our worship to God.

Forcing a person into slavery is a terrible thing to do. Giving of yourself out of love is a wonderful thing to do. Please don't confuse the two.

CT

@sb

"I haven't heard of Christians trying to fund school prayers with taxpayer funds"

I'm sure you have heard of Christians who want SCOTUS to rule that prayer in public schools is not unconstitutional. There was such prayer before SCOTUS ruled that it violated the constitution. Even today, there are issues surrounding prayer at school events such as graduations or football games and prayer in the military. These things are all the product of public funds since the teachers, chaplains, buildings are all funded publicly.

Here, take a look at this list of countries with Christianity as an official religion:

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=State_religion&oldid=222568684#Christian_countries

It seems to be -- have not counted -- even longer than the list of countries with Islam as an official religion. Thus discounting the danger of radical Christianity is misguided.

"Let me know if there's another instance of this I'm not familiar with."

In Poland the public schools are de facto religious schools

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Poland&oldid=223088093#Ethnicity_and_religion

'However, due to pressure from the Polish Episcopate, exposition of doctrine has entered public education system as well, drawing criticism from the popular media, as unconstitutional. According to 2007 survey, 72% of respondents were not against the fostering of catechism in public schools; nevertheless, the alternative courses in ethics have become available only in one percent of the entire public educational system'

This alarming percentage is similiar to alarming percentages seen in surveys of Muslims who express support for Islamic law and so forth.

On vouchers, I think it is fine to use them for religious schools but I think ideally in that case something should be deducted from the value of the voucher corresponding to the resources the religious school spends on religious activity so as to avoid having the govt fund religious activity.

"I suggest to you that when the Ten Commandments, Lady Justice, and the compass-and-square are displayed on a courthouse, it is simply an attempt to honor the roots of our legal system."

That was not what one judge was doing by his own admission:

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Roy_Moore&oldid=217714022#Ten_Commandments_monument_controversy

His own words were: "Today a cry has gone out across our land for the acknowledgment of that God upon whom this nation and our laws were founded....May this day mark the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and the return to the knowledge of God in our land" It does not seem to be an acknowledgment of history but an "acknowledgment of that God" so that the people may "return to the knowledge of God." If that's not clear enough, he also said the display "reflects the sovereignty of God over the affairs of men" and "acknowledge[s] God’s overruling power over the affairs of men."

"But you're supposing that the ends of outlawing adultery and pornography are liberty-restrictive. I don't think that's ever the case. When someone wants to ban pornography, they want to do so because they believe it endangers people. If I could show that people who are allowed to view pornography are statistically much more likely to commit assault against women, would you consider allowing it to be banned?"

It may be that one weighs some other value more highly than liberty in a particular instance, but that doesn't change the character of the end from a liberty-restrictive one to a liberty-netural or liberty-enhancing one. People who drink are statistically more likely to engage in drunk driving then people who don't drink at all (since with the former group a percentage engage in drunk driving and with the latter, by definition, zero percent engage in it) -- that does not mean we should outlaw drinking. Statistics are what led to, btw, federal legislation coercing the states to establish drinking ages at 21. I'm taking "much more likely to" to be referring to a causal relationship since showing a correlation between viewing pornography and assault against women does not imply that the former causes the latter. For example, showing that there is a statistical correlation between viewing tennis and playing tennis does not show that viewing tennis causes one to be more likely to play tennis. It may instead be that playing tennis causes one to be interested in viewing it and that in fact anyone who hasn't played tennis, upon viewing tennis, is disinterested in playing it (because it appears boring to them but to those who have played it is exciting ... maybe golf would have been a better example)

Anyway, to answer your question, no. I could support warning labels, but censorship of expression that doesn't inhibit the liberty of anyone else, I would not support under any circumstance except some bizarre emergency (like war where national survival is at stake)

"And when someone wants to penalize adulterers, is it not similar to penalizing anyone else who violates a contract?"

Someone who violates a contract is subject to civil lawsuit. Radical Muslims and in the past and still today a few radical Christians want to make adultery subject to criminal prosecution (make it possible for adulterers to go to prison).

"Is this concern irrelevant when the people who suggest the law form their moral opinions with religious guidance?"

Religious guidance has no place in public life. It is not a shared commodity. Reason is. If religious folk can make public policy arguments based on reason rather than revelation, then those arguments can stand or all on their own merits. However, the fact that they are making them not because they have found them valid by their own reasoning, but rather to support things they have found to be valid on the basis of religious doctrine makes them as persons or political actors, highly unreliable -- they would not change their view if reason showed otherwise (if for example if reason showed abortion should be legal) since they hold their religious doctrine to be more certain than any argument that can be mustered by reason -- no amount of evidence can convince them to change their views when it comes to views that they have formed through religious guidance -- only a change in religious guidance can effect a change.

"I suppose you will probably say it's a cost-benefit analysis, and that we'd have to weigh the liberty sacrificed against the safety attained. I think this is a reasonable approach."

With drugs I would allow be more open since pornography is expression whereas drugs is more of a grey area -- it can be expressive just as food can be expressive, but generally it is not used in an expressive context AFAIK. But I think even with drugs a restriction on liberty would have to be outweighed by a mountainous gain of safety which gain would still be mountainous with other non-liberty-restrictive measures in place.

"If this is not the case, then there is some other governing order that is superior to God, and that governing order would in fact be the real God."

Perhaps there is no ultimate governing order and instead for each governing order there is one above it that is superior? Then man could ascend this ladder of divinity -- I believe this is similar to the Mormon view and I find theirs a more attractive religion than most.

CT

@SB

Thank you, yes that did make more sense. But unless I am mistaken it seems that I did not make myself clear which resulted in both your and his misunderstanding of my term "sensual pleasure" My mentioning roller coaster riding in an ambiguous way probably contributed to that and for that I apologize.

You wrote: "Human choices shape the human soul. The quality of the human soul is what allows the human soul to experience joy or misery. The things that you associate with enjoyment and unhappiness are not necessarily related to joy or misery. There may be sex and ice cream sundaes and swimming pools in Hell, but none of them can provide any pleasure to an inverted soul. Likewise, there may be hot coals and razor blades and chains in Heaven, but none of them can provide misery to a soul that is perfectly formed in love. We get hints of this truth in this life. I'm sure you've known selfish people who are never happy with any amount of material pleasure, and I'm sure you've seen people in love who cheerfully put up with pain, and don't seem to mind."

By "sensual pleasure" I do NOT mean pleasures of the mind will and heart which are DERIVED from sensations -- I mean the actual sensations THEMSELVES -- these sensations themselves -- such as the taste of ice cream -- not the derivative pleasure one gains but the physical pleasure -- the sensation -- of the taste in and of itself -- are still goods and as such should be willed by someone committed to loving maximally as I outlined above. If you, SB are willing to say that your God may very well allow for the physical sensations of tasting ice cream in Hell -- NOT to say that any corresponding emotional, intellectual or spiritual pleasure arises out of it --, then your God would not be subject to my critique.

Inocencio

CT,

God is the source of all good. If you reject Him, you reject all good including sensal pleasures.

1035

The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

You say the Mormon doctrine is attractive but it seems that you have already made yourself your own god.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

The Masked Chicken

Dear CT,

If you are asking if there are sensory experiences in hell, the answer is, we do not exactly know, but probably, yes, of some sort, even though there is no "physical apparatus," so you won't be able to taste ice cream. If you are asking if these experiences will they be pleasurable, then answer is more definite. No.

What is pleasure? Let us use Aristotle's definition (which forms the basis for St. Thomas Aquinas's use): pleasure is the unhampered act of a habitus in conformity with the nature to which this habitus belongs (see: The Philosphical Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas by Leo Elder, 1990, Brill Archives, pg. 275). The word habitus may be thought of as being (according to wikipedia) a behavioral manifestation of the essential nature of a thing or a person.

In other words, pleasure is nature acting according to its proper nature in an unhampered fashion. Having a good feeling while eating ice cream is because the tongue is acting in a fashion that is proper to its nature without any interference. Put dirt on the ice cream and the natural taste and responses of the tongue to the ice cream are impeded. Put razor blades in the ice cream and the tasting is not natural. In both cases, pleasure is diminished or negated.

The act of deriving pleasure is in conformity with the proper action of something and that action is a good. Since there is no good in hell, there is no proper action and hence, no pleasure, even sensate pleasures. Even if there could be ice cream in hell and you had a physical body with which to taste it, it would not taste good to you. This is not because God wants this. This is because you have so thwarted God's desire to give you this good at the end of your life, that you have decided to have this good removed from you for all eternity.

God cannot give you what you will not take. God is maximally loving and giving; you are not even minimally receiving of his goodness. That is the state in hell.

In hell you receive everything that you do not want. This is not God's doing. He cannot change this without changing free will.

To say that God should will the sensation of tasting ice cream in hell because he is maximally loving is the wrong way to state the issue. God is maximally loving (whatever that means of an infinite being) and God wills the good everywhere. Hell is the one place where you have put yourself so that you cannot receive any good, including sensate pleasure.

You've got it all wrong. God has nothing to do with denying you any type of pleasure: intellectual or sensate in hell. You do it, all by yourself.

The Chicken


CT

@tmc

Curiously, on your view in hell you can be in possession of at least one good -- existence. Certainly you can also be in possession of others, and IIRC, one of the bloggers here, Mr Akin, has said as much on the radio with respect to Satan (speaking of how Satan possesses power IIRC and power is good and perhaps intellectual activity or something along those general lines ... I don't want to be more specific lest I misremember it but no support that I remember was given for the good of pleasure).

Be that as it may, it is at least true that your God is able to mitigate the suffering of those in Hell. Look at your own scripture where Jesus -- after being pleaded with by demons to not have them sent to the Abyss -- chooses to allow them to inhabit within some animals. So if God can reduce the suffering of those in hell, then, well, to what extent can he reduce it? And would not a maximally loving being keep suffering to an absolute mininum in hell -- to reduce suffering there as much as is logically possible? If not, then your God is not maximally loving since maximally loving unless you are are to suppose that God's not reducing suffering is necessary to the effection of some spiritual good in those in hell -- in which case you have denied one of your own premises.

Inocencio

CT,

God maximinally lovingly accepts your rejection of Him, that is Hell. I pray you accept God's mercy because if not, He will accept you rejection.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Inocencio

To Everyone,

Have a wonderful and safe 4th of July.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

bklyn catholic

And a wonderful Independence Day to all of you. May we all defend that inalienable right to grill out...

The Masked Chicken

Dear CT,

I said, above, that God does not annihilate anything that he has made (more clearly, anything that he has made with an immortal soul). That existence is a good, but let us make a distinction. There is good you receive and good already granted. God will not take away what is already granted, such as existence, but he is not obligated (or rather cannot by virtue of your free will) to give you any new good. Now, pleasure is granted form moment to moment as nature acts or experiences. This new pleasure which you would have from your existence, moment by moment, is not granted. The memory of former pleasure, which must be experienced in the now (and is therefore new), is not granted. Thus, even if you have existence, you will not be able to take pleasure in it because you have taken yourself away from the source of good. To God and everyone else outside of hell, your existence will seem like a good, but to you, it will not. You will want to die, so as not to experience this lack of good (and even this experience you won't even be able to recognize as a good) but you cannot. Jesus says of Gahhenna (hell):

Mar 9:43-48
And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

Thus, Jimmy is correct, but his answer does not address your question.

On another note: this topic is getting way beyond the original intent of the post, so I am dropping out.

The Chicken

Tim J.

Some terrific comments, above. Yes, the thread has swung way off topic, but the discussion is good.

"If you, SB are willing to say that your God may very well allow for the physical sensations of tasting ice cream in Hell... then your God would not be subject to my critique."

I'm sure God would be relieved to hear that. On the other hand;

" Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.

Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?

On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone-

while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels [a] shouted for joy?"

Sleeping Beastly

I'm sure you have heard of Christians who want SCOTUS to rule that prayer in public schools is not unconstitutional. There was such prayer before SCOTUS ruled that it violated the constitution. Even today, there are issues surrounding prayer at school events such as graduations or football games and prayer in the military. These things are all the product of public funds since the teachers, chaplains, buildings are all funded publicly.

It would seem more coercive to me if there were some sort of legislative barrier to the free practice of religion, even if it occurs in a public place. I don't see how it costs the taxpayers any more money to allow a schoolteacher to say a prayer at a school event. If the students and teachers want this, is it not unconstitutional for the government to forbid it? The first amendment reads "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This seems to me to be a prohibition of government meddling in religious exercise, not a prohibition of religious practice in public, or even at public expense, especially if the members of the public desire their tax money to be spent in this way. Perhaps I'm missing something?

Or maybe you weren't arguing that allowing prayer in school is unconstitutional, but rather that it is coercive. Is it not more coercive to restrict people's freedom to pray in school?

Here, take a look at this list of countries with Christianity as an official religion:

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=State_religion&oldid=222568684#Christian_countries

It seems to be -- have not counted -- even longer than the list of countries with Islam as an official religion. Thus discounting the danger of radical Christianity is misguided.

Interesting list. I still don't see how that is somehow dangerous. Are you at all convinced that freedom of expression and conscience is more compromised in those countries than it is in comparable secular countries? What is inherently dangerous about a country's having an official or state religion?

"Let me know if there's another instance of this I'm not familiar with."

In Poland the public schools are de facto religious schools

I was thinking more along the lines of examples in this country, but we can look at the example of Poland if you'd like. You seem to think that the government support of religion in the schools has brainwashed the populace into supporting religion in public life. Is it not possible that the public supports religion in public life, and therefore have (through the mechanisms of a democratic government) established exactly the kinds of schools they want?

In fact, I know a thing or two about the history of Poland, and have family there. After WWII, when the country was more or less ceded to Stalin by the Allies, Poles were required to attend schools run by the Party machine, and religion was, shall we say, very strongly discouraged. If you know any Poles who attended public schools at this time, ask them about their experiences. Ask them too what they think about your idea of prohibiting any religious expression in school. I suspect they'll tell you they had enough of that kind of oppression under the thumb of the USSR.

This alarming percentage is similiar to alarming percentages seen in surveys of Muslims who express support for Islamic law and so forth.

Why is it so alarming to you that others have opinions that differ from yours? I wouldn't mind living under most of the tenets of Islamic law anymore than I mind living under most of the laws of this land.

On vouchers, I think it is fine to use them for religious schools but I think ideally in that case something should be deducted from the value of the voucher corresponding to the resources the religious school spends on religious activity so as to avoid having the govt fund religious activity.

I think you would likely run into a problem in defining which activities are regarded as religious, and how much money exactly is spent on those activities as opposed to others.

But leaving that point aside, I have another question: If I established a school designed to focus on teaching Chinese language and culture (in addition to the regular federally-mandated curriculum) would you want that extra focus deducted from any voucher amounts? If I wanted to send my kids to a school that focused on environmental issues and causes, should the money spent on those activities be deducted from the value of my vouchers?

In short, should the government decide 100% of a school's curriculum in order for it to receive full tax funding? And if the school is allowed some freedom of curriculum, who gets to determine what is eligible for government funding? If we can fund art and band and sports and foreign cultural projects, why is religion an aspect of education that deserves less public support?

"I suggest to you that when the Ten Commandments, Lady Justice, and the compass-and-square are displayed on a courthouse, it is simply an attempt to honor the roots of our legal system."

That was not what one judge was doing by his own admission:

Hmm. I imagine you also object to the preamble of the Declaration of Independence?

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Perhaps we should stop spending public funds to display this piece of religious literature in our government-funded museums and monuments?

It may be that one weighs some other value more highly than liberty in a particular instance, but that doesn't change the character of the end from a liberty-restrictive one to a liberty-netural or liberty-enhancing one.

I'm confused. Let's compare the two types of laws we mentioned: banking laws and adultery laws. In the one case, we pass legislation that imposes penalties on bankers who operate outside the bounds prescribed by banking law. In the other case, we impose penalties on husbands who operate outside the bounds of marital law.

I suppose we will agree that the means in both cases are liberty-restrictive. How can you say that the end (financial stability) of banking laws is not liberty-restrictive, but that the end (social stability) of adultery laws is liberty-restrictive? It seems to me that the ends in both cases have to do with the public good, and that the restriction of liberty in either case is simply a means to that end. What am I missing?

People who drink are statistically more likely to engage in drunk driving then people who don't drink at all (since with the former group a percentage engage in drunk driving and with the latter, by definition, zero percent engage in it) -- that does not mean we should outlaw drinking.

No, but we do have laws against drunk driving. And at one point we, as a nation, passed a constitutional amendment outlawing drinking. We did so because we knew that we were paying a heavy social cost for alcohol abuse. When we determined that the law had contributed (indirectly) to more violence than it had (again, indirectly) prevented, we reversed it. The ends were understandable, but the actual consequences of the law were worse than we'd hoped.

But the relationship between adultery and family strife is different from the relationship between drinking and drunk driving. The vast majority of people who drink never drive drunk, but the vast majority of cases of adultery are harmful to spouses and children of adulterers. In any case, drinking is never (that I know of) a breach of contract that harms the other party in the contract. Adultery almost always is.

Statistics are what led to, btw, federal legislation coercing the states to establish drinking ages at 21.

And you think such laws impoverish society?

I'm taking "much more likely to" to be referring to a causal relationship since showing a correlation between viewing pornography and assault against women does not imply that the former causes the latter.

Yes, that's how I meant it. If I could, for instance, show that areas in which anti-pornography laws were enacted showed an immediate and consistent decrease in assaults on women, I would regard that as evidence of a causal relationship. I'm not talking about surveys of criminals that indicate that most of them view porn.

Anyway, to answer your question, no. I could support warning labels, but censorship of expression that doesn't directly inhibit the liberty of anyone else, I would not support under any circumstance except some bizarre emergency (like war where national survival is at stake)

I added the word in bold above, because I think it's a better statement of your proposition. As I said, if I could show what I proposed above, then we would know that pornography does indirectly inhibit liberty in that it incites instances of violence against women. Apart from that, though, I respect your position, even if I don't necessarily agree with you.

Someone who violates a contract is subject to civil lawsuit. Radical Muslims and in the past and still today a few radical Christians want to make adultery subject to criminal prosecution (make it possible for adulterers to go to prison).

But you said earlier that even civil punishments such as fines were coercive. Are you saying now that subjecting adulterers to fines for breach of contract would be acceptable to you?

Religious guidance has no place in public life. It is not a shared commodity. Reason is. If religious folk can make public policy arguments based on reason rather than revelation, then those arguments can stand or all on their own merits.

Okay, we are in agreement so far. I don't expect atheists to be swayed by Scriptural arguments in favor of certain policies. I just don't want my arguments dismissed out of hand because my political philosophy happens to be influenced by my faith. I'm not in favor of disenfranchising Marxists entirely either, even though Marxist philosophy is, like Christianity, not a shared commodity.

However, the fact that they are making them not because they have found them valid by their own reasoning, but rather to support things they have found to be valid on the basis of religious doctrine makes them as persons or political actors, highly unreliable -- they would not change their view if reason showed otherwise (if for example if reason showed abortion should be legal) since they hold their religious doctrine to be more certain than any argument that can be mustered by reason -- no amount of evidence can convince them to change their views when it comes to views that they have formed through religious guidance -- only a change in religious guidance can effect a change.

Again, I think you seriously misunderstand the religious mindset. If I hold a view espoused by my faith, that does not mean I have abandoned reason.

Two reasonable people may arrive at different conclusions, right? An atheist Democrat and an atheist Republican (yes, there are plenty of them) can have legitimate disagreements about public policy, right? Reason does not always lead necessarily to the same conclusions. Different people hold to different axioms when reasoning, and have different amounts of information on different topics.

By the same token, I suggest to you that when a religious person differs with you on a topic, that does not mean he is blind to reason, merely that he has arrived at a different conclusion than you have. No doubt he bases his logical arguments on different premises and has access to different information than you do.

Also, when a person of faith encounters evidence against a tenet of his faith, he does not necessarily avert his eyes from the facts and ignore them. Usually, he does what anyone else would do when confronted with evidence that challenges their beliefs. He seeks to reconcile the truths and, failing that, seeks to determine which is the actual truth. This process is, I believe, intrinsic to most religious (and even most ideological) conversions. Someone is confronted with evidence that challenges his views, and when he is unable to reconcile his views to the evidence, he changes his views.

I am not suggesting that everyone (whatever their religious or ideological persuasion) always reasons correctly. Even among people who reason well, there can be mistaken conclusions. And there are narrow-minded people in all walks of life who are, as you say, more inclined to disregard evidence than to change their minds about things. But I assure you this is no more the case with people of faith than it is with atheists.

With drugs I would allow be more open since pornography is expression whereas drugs is more of a grey area -- it can be expressive just as food can be expressive, but generally it is not used in an expressive context AFAIK. But I think even with drugs a restriction on liberty would have to be outweighed by a mountainous gain of safety which gain would still be mountainous with other non-liberty-restrictive measures in place.

Fair enough.

Perhaps there is no ultimate governing order and instead for each governing order there is one above it that is superior? Then man could ascend this ladder of divinity -- I believe this is similar to the Mormon view and I find theirs a more attractive religion than most.

Even granted that, the order directly above you would still imply your being subservient to that order.

Sleeping Beastly

CT,
By the way, I am not personally in favor of most of the laws I mentioned above. My point was that a religious person could be in favor of those laws, and still not be engaging in religious coercion. Such a person should be allowed to inform his moral and social thinking by studying whatever doctrine he chooses, and should not be denied a voice in public policy simply because his reason is informed by Christ or Gautama, rather than by Marx or Nietzsche. He will still be unconvincing to others, unless he can reason with them on shared grounds. I hope I'm making sense.

CT

"Is it not more coercive to restrict people's freedom to pray in school?"

No because teachers are still free to pray on their own without disturbing others in between classes. Allowing teachers to pray publically with the students present would be like forcing someone to go to church.

"If we can fund art and band and sports and foreign cultural projects, why is religion an aspect of education that deserves less public support?"

Teaching religion in a dispassionate academic manner is fine. It's also fine to debate whether a particular religion's claims are true or not from a historical, scientific, philosophical or mathematical perspective.

"Why is it so alarming to you that others have opinions that differ from yours? I wouldn't mind living under most of the tenets of Islamic law anymore than I mind living under most of the laws of this land."

It's so alarming since for one thing Islamic law calls or allows for such things as execution of those who convert from Islam to something non-Islamic.

http://www.answering-islam.org/Hahn/Mawdudi/

"Hmm. I imagine you also object to the preamble of the Declaration of Independence?"

displaying it for the express purpose of proclaiming the truth of what it says (the part you quoted that is, in particular the part about the Creator), would not be OK.

"How can you say that the end (financial stability) of banking laws is not liberty-restrictive, but that the end (social stability) of adultery laws is liberty-restrictive? It seems to me that the ends in both cases have to do with the public good, and that the restriction of liberty in either case is simply a means to that end. What am I missing?"

What you are missing is that many who advocate outlawing adultery do so because they desire adultery itself to be eliminated to be eliminated because they view it as sinful or unholy. Furthermore, even in those case where ostensibly the end is not to stop adultery as such but rather to avoid the hurt feelings of the wife or children -- in that case, the means (restricting men from committing adultery) cannot be separated from the end (the hurt feelings of other parties) because the two are not merely causally linked but intrinsically inseparable for the hurt feelings are hurt feelings *over* the adultery ... it would be as though if you told someone, "I'm sorry you were hurt by adultery and for that reason I am going to restrict adultery but I see the restriction against adultery not as a good in itself but as a necessary evil" -- there's an internal inconsistency there if you examine it closely.

Prescinding from all of the above, it is also the case that adultery involves the freedom of expression whereas fractional reserve requirements involve only the mechanics of bank operation driven not by expressive activity but by profit-seeking -- or if one supposes an unusual non-profit-seeking bank, the expressive activity would not depend on any fractional reserve requirement or lack thereof and is thus not affected.

"And you think such laws impoverish society?" (drinking age effectively federalized at 21)

I do. I oppose it as policy and I oppose it as against if not the letter than at least the spirit of States rights -- not that I support States rights but that I find it disingenous to make it consistent with it. And there's a non-liberty restrictive alternative to addressing the issue of car accidents arising from drunk driving by youth. Simply increase the penalty. If for example, the penalty for a DUI had been 5-20 years in prison, I feel confident in saying that it would have had a greater impact than the drinking age has had.

"But you said earlier that even civil punishments such as fines were coercive. Are you saying now that subjecting adulterers to fines for breach of contract would be acceptable to you?"

I think you are referring to my speaking of things imposed by the govt (exacting higher taxes on non-believers etc.). What I was referring to here was a private lawsuit about a contract which restricted liberty but which you yourself imposed on yourself. I don't think such contracts should be entered into, but if two persons want to do that, that's their business. I don't think the typical marriage involves such a contract.

"Again, I think you seriously misunderstand the religious mindset. If I hold a view espoused by my faith, that does not mean I have abandoned reason."

If you hold a view because of your faith and not because of reason, then that particular view is held without reason. If you hold the authority of faith to be greater than the authority of reason, then you have subordinated reason to faith and have expressed loyalty to faith over reason.

"Usually, he does what anyone else would do when confronted with evidence that challenges their beliefs. He seeks to reconcile the truths and, failing that, seeks to determine which is the actual truth. This process is, I believe, intrinsic to most religious (and even most ideological) conversions. Someone is confronted with evidence that challenges his views, and when he is unable to reconcile his views to the evidence, he changes his views."

There's a problem there. Seeking to at first, at all costs, reconcile the truths demonstrates an a-rational attachment to the opposing truth grounded in faith. When confronted with evidence that challenges your belief that something is the case, you should not try to reconcile the evidence with the belief, but rather see if the new evidence warrants changing your belief or if the evidence for your belief outweighs still this new evidence -- this is a loose description. You shouldn't only "change your view" when you are "unable to reconcile your views to the evidence" -- you should change your view whenever the evidence warrants it, even when your present view is nevertheless consistent with it. IOW, you shouldn't hold to your existing view as long as it is possible or plausible -- you should "hold" to it only as long as, based on the evidence, it is more likely than not to be true (and the strength with which you hold it should be in proportion to its probablity). If the evidence is not solid either way, you should suspend judgment.

Unfortunately, people of faith generally cannot do this (you may be one of many good exceptions). They, in my experience, will not readily change their views when confronted with contravening evidence nor suspend judgment when they themselves say that they are in doubt. When they speak of doubt, they speak not of suspending judgment but trying very hard to believe despite the doubt -- I don't understand why from the perspective of reason one would try to believe despite doubt as opposed to embracing the doubt itself and suspending judgment. The only explanation I have been able to conceive is that people of faith are afraid that by suspending judgment ("I am no longer sure if Christ rose from the dead; I will stop to think about this for a while and look at what the scholars are saying") they would be sinning and by sinning, endangering themselves to eternal punishment.

I think you would recognize that when it comes to religious beliefs people are at mininum less willing to let go of them than beliefs that don't involve such personal and intimate things or which are tied to authorities outside of reason. People would be much more willing to change their mind about say which manufacturer is the best when it comes to televisions than they would be about which religion is most likely to be true.

"Even granted that, the order directly above you would still imply your being subservient to that order."

As an undergrad I may learn from a graduate student and when I become a graduate student I may in turn learn from an instructor, but it is not the case that as an undergrad I am, as a person, subservient to the grad student, or as a grad student, to the instructor. I may have to observe certain rules and procedures, but religious worship involves subservience, debasing one's self before a god, as a person. You subserviate and debase your entire being before a god. And that is what I reject. And if that is what the "devil" rejected, then I would sympathize with that. Read His Dark Materials trilogy. Even Albert Mohler admits it is good writing (though he criticizes it on other grounds)

PS How do you guys use italics? Is it HTML code?

Sleeping Beastly

CT,
First things first! In order to italicize, place your cursor before the phrase you'd like to italicize, type a "<" then an "i" then a ">". Place your cursor at the end of the phrase, and type a "<" followed by a "/", an "i", and a ">". To make a statement bold, you use the same code, except with a "b" instead of an "i". Other commentors seem to be able to do other things like indent and embed links, but that's the extent of my knowledge.

Teaching religion in a dispassionate academic manner is fine. It's also fine to debate whether a particular religion's claims are true or not from a historical, scientific, philosophical or mathematical perspective.

I suppose we could quibble about what a dispassionate academic manner would mean, but we may be more or less in agreement on this.

It's so alarming since for one thing Islamic law calls or allows for such things as execution of those who convert from Islam to something non-Islamic.

I did say I wouldn't mind living under most tenets of Islamic law. There are a few tenets of shari'a I would not like to see operating in the society in which I live. But there are elements of American law I find repugnant as well.

For the most part, even countries that are technically Islamic nations (with Islam as their state religion) do not adhere to or enforce the stricter tenets of shari'a. While there are some countries in which you can technically be executed for conversion from Islam, most don't have such laws, and most of those that do don't enforce them.

On the other hand, just try practicing Falun Dafa in public in the secular People's Republic of China.

displaying it (the Declaration of Independence) for the express purpose of proclaiming the truth of what it says (the part you quoted that is, in particular the part about the Creator), would not be OK.

So if a judge said that the purpose of displaying the Ten Commandments at a courthouse was not about religion, but about honoring the traditional roots of our legal system, you wouldn't object?

What you are missing is that many who advocate outlawing adultery do so because they desire adultery itself to be eliminated to be eliminated because they view it as sinful or unholy.

Why do you care if someone advocates a law because of their faith? Why can't you see past their motives and judge a proposed law on its rational merits? It seems to me you're letting your prejudices determine who you think is worthy of proposing law or implementing legislation. Just because some people view adultery as sinful does not mean that their decision to penalize it is an attempt to stop someone sinning. Why can't they think it's a sin and simultaneously want to protect the victims with a law? Most Christians aren't interested in legislating morality except insofar as it's necessary to protect innocents. In fact, I haven't met any who felt otherwise. That's your prejudice talking, not reality.

Furthermore, even in those case where ostensibly the end is not to stop adultery as such but rather to avoid the hurt feelings of the wife or children -- in that case, the means (restricting men from committing adultery) cannot be separated from the end (the hurt feelings of other parties) because the two are not merely causally linked but intrinsically inseparable for the hurt feelings are hurt feelings *over* the adultery ...

Quick clarification: When I said that adultery hurts spouses and children, I wasn't talking about hurt feelings. I was talking about broken homes, STDs, split families, and life-altering deception.

it would be as though if you told someone, "I'm sorry you were hurt by adultery and for that reason I am going to restrict adultery but I see the restriction against adultery not as a good in itself but as a necessary evil" -- there's an internal inconsistency there if you examine it closely.

Sorry, the distinction must be too subtle for me. I just can't see how the end goal of spousal and child protection is coercive any more than the end goal of investor and general economic protection is. Is there a simple way to explain this internal inconsistency?

Prescinding from all of the above, it is also the case that adultery involves the freedom of expression whereas fractional reserve requirements involve only the mechanics of bank operation driven not by expressive activity but by profit-seeking -- or if one supposes an unusual non-profit-seeking bank, the expressive activity would not depend on any fractional reserve requirement or lack thereof and is thus not affected.

This is the first time I've heard violation of marital contract seen as a first amendment issue. Can I claim freedom of expression when I refuse to pay my rent too? And do you really think credit unions should be exempted from fractional reserve requirements because they have no shareholders? It seems like you're ignoring the intended results of the law entirely here.

And there's a non-liberty restrictive alternative to addressing the issue of car accidents arising from drunk driving by youth. Simply increase the penalty. If for example, the penalty for a DUI had been 5-20 years in prison, I feel confident in saying that it would have had a greater impact than the drinking age has had.

And you're saying that such a disproportionally harsh sentence is not liberty-restrictive? It's at least excessive; and I'd say that restriction of liberty is not the only evil the law must seek to avoid.

I think you are referring to my speaking of things imposed by the govt (exacting higher taxes on non-believers etc.).

Levying taxes for certain behaviors is coercive, but imposing civil fines for the same behaviors is not?

What I was referring to here was a private lawsuit about a contract which restricted liberty but which you yourself imposed on yourself. I don't think such contracts should be entered into, but if two persons want to do that, that's their business. I don't think the typical marriage involves such a contract.

Typical marriage vows have some version of the promise of lifelong fidelity, and I would argue that the promise is at least implied in most other cases. Until fairly recently, even secular marriage law tended to recognize this. There are a number of reasons for this, but basically the "I-can-jump-ship-or-start-a-new-family-any-time-I-feel-like-it" model does not make for a very stable home. Marriage, as an institution, exists (in all societies: pagan, Christian, or otherwise) for the purposes of facilitating child-rearing. In order for a woman to feel comfortable bearing and raising children, she generally needs to know that she has a helper who will stand by her and support her no matter how he feels. She needs to know he's not dividing his allegiance or bringing home diseases, and the covenant of marriage is how we protect her against being used and discarded.

Being more enlightened than the bulk of the human race, and practically all of your ancestors, you know better: entering into such contracts is foolish, you say, but at least you'll allow couples to enter them if they want, as long as they don't try to use any public institutions to enforce them. I'm assuming you are not married and have never had children, or I expect you might feel a bit differently.

If you hold a view because of your faith and not because of reason, then that particular view is held without reason. If you hold the authority of faith to be greater than the authority of reason, then you have subordinated reason to faith and have expressed loyalty to faith over reason.

Your assumption that faith and reason are necessarily in conflict is unwarranted. If I subordinate the orders of a captain to those of a general, that doesn't mean I will necessarily ever disobey the captain.

There's a problem there. Seeking to at first, at all costs, reconcile the truths demonstrates an a-rational attachment to the opposing truth grounded in faith. When confronted with evidence that challenges your belief that something is the case, you should not try to reconcile the evidence with the belief, but rather see if the new evidence warrants changing your belief or if the evidence for your belief outweighs still this new evidence -- this is a loose description. You shouldn't only "change your view" when you are "unable to reconcile your views to the evidence" -- you should change your view whenever the evidence warrants it, even when your present view is nevertheless consistent with it.

Sorry, you lost me again. How, if my present view is consistent with the evidence presented, does that same evidence warrant changing my view?

Also, if I have already determined that I believe something to be true, and new evidence comes along that seems to be in conflict with it, why should I not seek to reconcile them? Obviously I have reasons for believing the proposition already, or I wouldn't believe it. Do I throw out all the old evidence I've compiled just because some new evidence seems to be in conflict with it? Most of our sciences would not have gotten very far on that line of reasoning. Imagine Galileo throwing out his astronomical measurements every time a planet appeared to change course.

IOW, you shouldn't hold to your existing view as long as it is possible or plausible -- you should "hold" to it only as long as, based on the evidence, it is more likely than not to be true (and the strength with which you hold it should be in proportion to its probablity). If the evidence is not solid either way, you should suspend judgment.

Okay, we're more or less in agreement on that, although I suspect the evidence you'd admit and the evidence I'd admit would be fairly different.

Unfortunately, people of faith generally cannot do this (you may be one of many good exceptions). They, in my experience, will not readily change their views when confronted with contravening evidence nor suspend judgment when they themselves say that they are in doubt.

In my experience, atheists are no more reasonable than people of faith. I don't disagree with you that there are plenty of people who prefer unquestioned assumptions to seeking after truth, but they are no better-represented among the faithful than they are among unbelievers. In fact, if you'd really like to seek after some truth and compile some anecdotal evidence of your own, try having some real conversations with with religious people, and really listen to them with your prejudices shut off. I bet you will be pleasantly surprised at the depth and wisdom of the minds of your fellow human beings.

When they speak of doubt, they speak not of suspending judgment but trying very hard to believe despite the doubt

I think you're misunderstanding the experience. It's not about trying to believe despite doubt; it's about struggling with what to think on a vital topic. It's one of those instances I spoke of where a person has good reasons for believing a proposition, and then encounters evidence that seems to contradict that same proposition. The person must then ask himself, "Were my original reasons valid? Does this evidence say what I think it does? What am I to believe?, etc." Again, this process is different from solely intellectual inquiry because there is a supernatural element involved.

I don't understand why from the perspective of reason one would try to believe despite doubt as opposed to embracing the doubt itself and suspending judgment.

Well, generally one believes despite doubt because one remembers good reasons one had to believe in the first place. As for suspending judgment, there are some cases in which it's important to make a decision immediately based on the limited evidence available. How to live is one such case, and questions of faith often make a difference in deciding how one is to live.

The only explanation I have been able to conceive is that people of faith are afraid that by suspending judgment ("I am no longer sure if Christ rose from the dead; I will stop to think about this for a while and look at what the scholars are saying") they would be sinning and by sinning, endangering themselves to eternal punishment.

I used to think that too. It's a common misconception among atheists. It may even be true of some Christians, but not, in my experience, of most of them.

I think you would recognize that when it comes to religious beliefs people are at mininum less willing to let go of them than beliefs that don't involve such personal and intimate things or which are tied to authorities outside of reason.

Well, yes. Supernatural evidence can be very compelling. If I have been presented with some very compelling evidence for something at one time, I am reluctant to forget about it.

People would be much more willing to change their mind about say which manufacturer is the best when it comes to televisions than they would be about which religion is most likely to be true.

People are also likely to give the matter less thought overall, simply because it's a less important determination.

As an undergrad I may learn from a graduate student and when I become a graduate student I may in turn learn from an instructor, but it is not the case that as an undergrad I am, as a person, subservient to the grad student, or as a grad student, to the instructor.

If you do not subordinate yourself to them to a certain extent, you won't learn anything from them. And no one's suggesting anything more than an appropriately proportional subordination. I submit to those with more knowledge to the degree to which their knowledge of the subject if perfect. If I am an undergrad, I submit somewhat to the knowledge of the grad students, moreso to the professors, and perhaps even moreso to experts in my field of study. Submission to an infinitely wise, omniscient being can reasonably be complete because such a being's knowledge is complete and perfect. You may disagree as to whether such a being exists, but my argument was that, if such a being does exist, then perfect submission is an appropriate response.

I may have to observe certain rules and procedures, but religious worship involves subservience, debasing one's self before a god, as a person.

Not so. I debase myself when I sin, not when I worship God. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your use of the word "debase"? I take it to mean reducing one's own value, quality, and character. Your value as a person is not diminished by worship, but by marring and soiling your soul with sin.

You subserviate and debase your entire being before a god. And that is what I reject.

I'm afraid that as long as you feel that way, you will never find true peace. You were made for far better things, but you will only be lifted up through humility- not through pride. This was a big part of Jesus' message. He who humbled himself to the extent of suffering torture and death at the hands of his beloved created children wishes us to become more like him. Through the same kind of humble charity we actually become closer to the nature of God himself, and are thereby exalted. On the other hand, those who seek to exalt themselves at the expense of others in fact debase themselves. This is what is behind the teaching that the last shall be first and the first last- it is also behind the teaching that those who seek to save their lives will lose them, but those who give their lives up will gain them. It seems counterintuitive, but you will see the truth of it in the world around you if you look for it.

Again, I hope you don't mind that I pray for you.

And if that is what the "devil" rejected, then I would sympathize with that. Read His Dark Materials trilogy. Even Albert Mohler admits it is good writing (though he criticizes it on other grounds)

Oh, I actually liked the trilogy. It was kind of the anti-Da Vinci Code. First, it was well-written, while The Da Vinci Code was pure literary excrement, and a blight on the American literary canon. Second, it didn't claim to contain any factual truth.

Sure, many of Pullman's allegories broke down on serious inspection, and his theology was juvenile. But it was all better thought out than the magical society of the Harry Potter books, so I don't have any serious complaints against it. I did think it was interesting how many religious themes and judgments the author needed to use to make his points, and I suspect Pullman is much closer to a conversion than he'd like to admit. I'll be praying for him too, while I'm at it.

As for what the devil stands for: he stands for dominance, selfishness, and pride, in direct opposition to God's loving service, self-sacrifice, and humility. When God asks you to emulate him, he is not doing it in order to put you down or raise himself up. (That's the devil's line, and it's a lie.) He asks you to do so because he made you in his image, and wants to lift you up to his level. When the devil promises that by exalting yourself over others you will be made free, he is lying to you. In so doing, you will be made his servant, the slave of the principles of pride and dominance. This is why I think you can expect to find a cruel hierarchy in Hell and a loving brotherhood in Heaven. The devil's rebellion was, if I understand it correctly, a rejection of God's seemingly-backwards plan of top-down love and service. He essentially said, "If you're planning on dropping down to the level of those mud-creatures, then I am better than you, and I should be the one in charge."

These kinds of mysteries demonstrate why it's often important to try and reconcile seemingly-contradictory truths, rather than just choosing to throw one out.

Peace be with you.

Inocencio

Two links for CT:

FIDES ET RATIO

Excerpt:

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (cf. Ex 33:18; Ps 27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn 14:8; 1 Jn 3:2).
(emphasis added)

HTML examples

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

CT

This is why I think you can expect to find a cruel hierarchy in Hell and a loving brotherhood in Heaven.

So then is God your brother in heaven? If so (and I don't mean merely Jesus, but the whole deity you profess), then perhaps I have misunderstood your religious outlook.

CT

This is why I think you can expect to find a cruel hierarchy in Hell and a loving brotherhood in Heaven.

So then is God your brother in heaven? If so (and I don't mean merely Jesus, but the whole deity you profess), then perhaps I have misunderstood your religious outlook.

The Masked Chicken

Dear CT,

How can you conclude that God is our brother in heaven from SB's idea about a loving brotherhood? There may be a loving brotherhood in a family, but the father is still the father and not merely a brother. Jesus is our brother in the flesh, not at the level of deity.

Perhaps SB's ideas could be better phrased as a cruel domination among souls in hell and a mutual sharing of love among souls in heaven.

The Chicken

The Masked Chicken

On a slightly ridiculous note:

I think I can define a "Combox Temperature Scale" (CTS).

Combox Temperature = [(number of posts/hour)^2 x (number of lines per post)]/ [1 - (number of germane posts/total number of posts)]

Or, T = (N^2 x L)/Fg

where, N = posts/hour, L = Lines per post (an average), Fg = 1 - fraction of germane posts.

By these standards, The temperature spiked to about 800 degrees. It is now hovering at about 80 degrees.

Let's warm up the comboxes.

The Chicken

Sleeping Beastly

Chicken,
Thanks. Good response.

CT,
I would add that it seems you have a particularly anarchic spirit (good American that you are) which is good in some ways.

However, there's a difference between falling blindly in line behind a tyrant, and accepting legitimate authority. Legitimate authority is predicated on service. (See Mark 10:42-45.) As God's service is perfect and absolute in his creation, sustenance, and redemption of man, so a Christian in Heaven will acknowledge his authority as perfect and absolute. You don't get to skip the step of humility and go straight on to putting yourself on a level with God. We tried that already in the garden, and it didn't work out too well. Fortunately, we now have Christ's example. (Matthew 5 is a good roadmap towards divine perfection, as Jesus says when he wraps up in verse 48.)

Again, I know this seems like a paradox, the whole notion of last being first, and the glory of humility, but it's absolutely central to the Christian mystery, and (I think) to understanding the nature of good and evil.

If you ever decide to take a shot at prayer, please consider praying for us Christians, that we may be granted lots and lots of humility! I'm sure you'd agree that that's a scenario in which everyone wins.

Sleeping Beastly

Chicken wrote:
Let's warm up the comboxes.

I'm afraid my overposting blew out the circuits on most people's combox tolerance hardware. Too many boring and irrelevant posts in a short time may have turned people off. Maybe if I quiet down a bit, the regular posters will return?

Tim J.

Beastly, your (and Chicken's) responses to CT we're admirable. Your patience far exceeds my own.

I think your posts represent the quality of combox discussion that has contributed so much to Jimmy's blog.

The Masked Chicken

Why Tim J.,

I would blush, but pink is a really dippy color for a chicken :)

The Chicken

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