Sunday, April 17, 2011

Nothing more to talk about

This is a great video, but I'm not sure I agree with it.

Oh, I agree with the points she makes, absolutely. But when it comes to family, "nothing more to talk about" sounds rather... final.

And it's just not true, at least in most families. OK, I've never had this experience, with parents who just can't let it alone, parents who just can't accept that their child thinks differently than they do. But can't you find other things to talk about, besides religion?

If your parents will not respect your religious (or political) views, don't discuss religion (or politics) with them. Maybe that will be hard sometimes. Maybe, in some families, it can be impossible. If that's the case, I'm really sorry to hear it. But... I still can't advise shutting them out of your life completely.

There are many religious and political views I don't respect. But I still might respect the person who holds them. (I certainly respect any person's right to hold them.) I might even love the person who holds them.

Sometimes, in extreme circumstances, people must cut their family ties. I know that. But the vast majority of us don't face such extreme circumstances. So your family is annoying. Big deal. They're still family.

You don't have to spend a lot of time with people who make you crazy (and who can make you crazier than family?). But "nothing more to talk about"? That's rarely - very rarely - the case.

My suggestion is to keep to neutral topics, as much as possible. If they won't, even when you keep changing the subject, then keep the talk short. But don't stop talking entirely. You may disagree on virtually everything, but there are still things to talk about. Heck, comment on the weather. That's usually pretty safe.

I feel sorry for people who face this situation. I guess that's why this video gets to me. I won't pretend to have all the answers, but I don't like the idea of giving up on family unless there's really no other way. In most cases - not all, I know - that's just not true.


Chimeradave said...

When my Grandma went senile there was absolutely nothing to talk about but maybe the weather and sometimes I felt like it was torture going to see her. But, she's been gone for a couple of years and I still think about her. I think about the way she was in her prime and I also wish I could see her even the way she was at the end.

But rather than talk about family which I think most people agree is important, let's talk about the actual content of the video.

I'd like to think that Science and religion aren't mutually exclusive. Though I realize they are to a lot of people both atheists and religious.

Two, a lot of her arguments were about stuff that I think most Christian's understand as parables. Adam and Eve weren't literally the first humans. It's a story used in order to teach certain lessons.

I didn't really understand her point about why a church wouldn't need insurance. Why wouldn't it? Seems like a good thing to have.

Other than that I did like a lot of her points. She mentioned a lot of the classic moral arguments. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why would bad people be forgiven? And why does so much of the bible seem to make no sense? None of these are easy questions.

People have been trying to answer these questions for generations.

I guess she's really frustrated that her arguments with her family have been going in circles and if they really don't respect her opinions than I understand being forced to just sort of give up instead of continuing to bang your head against the wall. But she should remember that it's hard to get a new perspective if everyone you talk to agrees with you.

WCG said...

John, science and religion aren't mutually exclusive in the sense that one person can encompass both. But in that sense, you could also say that Catholicism and pedophilia aren't mutually exclusive, or marriage and adultery.

In a deeper sense, science and religion are in exact opposition, since faith is a vice in science but a virtue in religion. If you're both religious and scientific, you must decide which worldview you use for each specific issue, since the two worldviews are mutually incompatible.

On your second point, some Christians - not all - see these things as parables because science has shown that it's ridiculous to believe them literally. Christians always did believe them literally, of course, before our increasing knowledge forced them to retreat.

So now they're "parables" to many believers (again, not all). But this is only because they had to retreat to a fallback position. Since they weren't willing to abandon their faith entirely, they only retreated the absolute minimum. This has been a steady process, a step-by-step retreat, with believers stubbornly hanging on as long as they can, for centuries now.

The point about insurance, I suppose, is that, if God really supports what churches are doing, if it really does matter to him, why would he let them burn down? In particular, why would he let them suffer from "acts of God" - tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes?

As Lemuel K. Washburn said, "It rains on the just and the unjust, but rarely just enough on either."

Finally, you're right that believers have been trying to answer those moral questions for generations. But you're wrong that they're not easy questions. They are easy questions. Believers just don't want to accept the answer.

After all, there's no problem about any of those if you just accept that there is no God, that Christianity is just a superstition, that the Bible is a collection of tall tales and ancient tribal stories - just like what Christians think about every other religion.

Now, I know you think otherwise, John, and that's entirely your own business. (This is just one more thing we can agree to disagree about.) I'm just saying that those questions aren't difficult at all for us atheists. They're only difficult for believers because, if you really do believe in an omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent deity, those things don't make sense.

PS. Thankfully, my grandparents - and my father - stayed mentally alert right to the end, and then died relatively quickly. (I really wish I could see them again, but...)

But I've known people whose loved ones lived for years with Alzheimer's, healthy in all but mind. That's got to be really, really tough. Torture? Yes, I can imagine what torture that must be.

Chimeradave said...

I think as you say we just disagree on major points, which is fine.

I think science and religion will become more integrated. Just like I can believe in cutting excess government spending and also be a Democrat. Just think of it like a buffet: I take the best parts of all ideas or philosophies.

As far as your second point, I don't think you are giving our ancestors enough credit. Jefferson tore half his bible apart. You think he was the only one "using his head" and thinking about the bible analytically. My gut tells me, he wasn't the only one.

Finally, I understand your point about "these aren't hard questions for Atheists," but don't try to pretend like Atheists have unlocked all of life's mysteries. No one knows what happens after we die. No one knows if we are alone in the universe. We just saw that article about Dark matter possibly being tied to other universe's influencing our own. What a head trip!

The world of science is wonderful, but it doesn't have all the answers either.

WCG said...

Hmm,... John, I think you're the one who isn't giving Jefferson enough credit. He took all the supernatural stuff out of his Bible, leaving just the non-religious morality tales.

That's hardly the same thing as just considering some Bible stories to be parables. Jefferson wasn't a Christian at all. It's like thinking that Harry Potter teaches children about friendship and courage, without believing that the magic is actually real.

When it comes to the Bible, Christians think that the magic is real. Jefferson didn't. Of course, Jefferson would have been burned alive for heresy just a few centuries previously. But either way, you can't use him as an example of an analytical Christian. He was much closer to my views than yours.

Finally, note that science knows it doesn't have all the answers. Science admits that. No, science rejoices in it, since there'd be no more need for science if they did know everything.

But science doesn't just choose what it wants to believe, without any evidence backing it up. Science is willing to say, "I don't know."

Sure, scientists constantly develop hypotheses that seem to fit the available evidence. Dark matter is just one of them. But every scientist knows that's just one possibility. The science is far from settled when it comes to cutting edge stuff like that.

What they don't say is, "I don't know, so therefore a god must have done it." They don't even say, "I can't think of any other explanations, therefore what else could it be?" In science, you need evidence backing up your beliefs.

Scientists are far from perfect. And since scientists are just people, too, they have all the flaws the rest of us have. Any individual scientist might be a complete loon. But what any one scientist says really doesn't matter at all. It's the scientific consensus that advances all the time, as new evidence is found and new ideas are put forth.

Of course, let's not confuse "atheist" with "scientist." They're not necessarily the same thing. When I said these aren't hard questions for atheists, I was referring to your comment about "classic moral arguments."

Atheists know why bad things sometimes happen to good people. After all, why wouldn't they? And we certainly know why so much of the Bible doesn't make sense. You said that these aren't easy questions, but actually, they are.