Friday, January 5, 2018

Fortunate Son

I'm not going to comment about this, not really. I'm just going to point you towards this post at Stonekettle Station. Read it. Read it!

Note that the post isn't necessarily going where you might think it's going. I'd like to quote the last two lines, because I feel exactly the same way. But read the whole thing. You won't get the ending without that.

Also, note that much of Jim Wright's background is similar to my own - up until he joined the military, at least (at which point our stories definitely diverge). I'm a little older than him. I'm also a straight white man, but I grew up watching those old TV shows myself.

And I lived in a small town that was 100% white and 100% Christian (as far as I knew, at least). Even when we went to a larger town for high school, all of my classmates were 100% white all through high school. I'd never even met a black person until college.

I've got a good life. I retired at 55, and I do whatever I want. Do you think I don't know how privileged my life has been? I've seen it all my life. Even as a child, I saw how differently I was treated because I was a boy. Later, I realized how privileged I'd been in other ways, too.

We weren't rich, but I'd always assumed that I'd go to college. I worked my way through college, but there was never any doubt in my mind that I would go there.

There was never any doubt in my mind that I could be whatever I wanted to be. (I didn't know what I wanted to be. That was the problem.)

OK, I am commenting, aren't I? Heh, heh. I don't mean to, but this just really struck home with me. Read the post. Jim Wright says it far better than I could. Optimism shouldn't be just the privilege of some of us!


Carl Hoffman said...

I am having computer issues that only a new computer will solve. This is written on my iPad, that does not offer me the same options. I am the person who does Devotions For Busy People. I have many friends in person and online who are atheist. I don’t try to change their minds and they do not try to change mine, as we do not discuss theology. If you are interested in talking online by those practices I will be willing to continue communication. FYI I did a video entitled “Why You Can’t Scientifically Prove God Exists.” In that video I admit there is no tangible evidence. I prefer to use the word tangible because it does not have the same connotations of the word “reality.” I have zero intention or desire to argue about the existance or non-existance of God. Here is why? This was a decision I made about 13 years ago. Becoming an atheist for me was not a realistic option, because it meant I had to give up almost everything. Since all my post college education was in religion, I did not have any marketable skills other than sales. I hate doing sales, as that is why I am not painting pictures these days. I drive a hybrid car and my wife an electric because we take Global Warming seriously. I vote Democratic because the Evangelicals have sold out to the right wing, and progressive values are our values. I am for GLBTQ rights. I have publically accused Evangelicals of being racist, paternalistic, misogynistic, homophobic and Calvinistic on my YouTube channel and other social media. This is the only way I could find to get back to you. Carl

Bill Garthright said...

Thanks for the comment, Carl. Note that, if you do want to communicate by email, click on "Contact" on the right side of this page. My email address is there. (Click on "Email," or hold the cursor over it to see what my email address is.)

I don't discuss religion with my Christian friends, either, because they're not interested. But that's entirely up to them. And it's entirely up to you, too. I enjoy these discussions. I always want to ask a theist what they believe and - most importantly - why. And if I never speak to people who disagree with me, how could I ever tell when I was wrong?

But if they're not interested, I'm not going to force myself on them. I don't picket churches, and I don't go door-to-door preaching the good news that there's no Good News. :)

Seriously, I almost never find a Christian who wants to talk to an atheist about these things, but that's their right. No one has to talk to me about anything. (I only stumbled across your video because you put "atheist" in the description. That's just how YouTube works.)

You say that "Becoming an atheist for me was not a realistic option." Well, atheism isn't an option at all. You either believe in a god or you don't. It isn't a matter of choice. I could no more choose to believe in gods than I could choose to believe in leprechauns.

But I know what you mean. Lots of atheists stay in the closet, because coming out as an atheist would be so disastrous. Sure, in some countries, you'd risk your life. It's not that bad here, not even close. But losing your family, your friends, your business? For many people, coming out as an atheist is not a realistic option.

Again, being an atheist is not an option at all. It's not a choice. But being open about what you think is a choice. And for some atheists, it's not something they can realistically do - not yet, at least.

I'm not implying anything here. I don't know you. But there are pastors who are atheists, and that's something they struggle with. In fact, there's an organization called The Clergy Project set up to help such people.

Finally, I'm very glad to hear that we're on the same page politically, but... IMHO, faith-based thinking is the underlying problem. The Republican Party is entirely faith-based. (So is the Taliban. So is ISIS.) Reality is just whatever they want it to be. They reject science. They reject established facts. They even have their own "alternative facts."

Atheists aren't always skeptics (or liberal). Atheism is just the lack of belief in a god or gods. You can believe anything else - literally, anything else - and still be an atheist. Atheism isn't a belief system at all.

But I'm an atheist because I'm a skeptic. I'm an atheist because I'm evidence-based, rather than faith-based. And that's what I care about. I'm an atheist because there's no good evidence that a god exists. Period. Reality matters. If there were evidence, I would change my mind.

I could be wrong - not just about gods, but about anything and everything I think. I'm not infallible. But it's impossible to distinguish reality from delusion and wishful-thinking without evidence. That's why science has progressed (and why religion hasn't).

That's why scientists can come to a worldwide consensus about what's true and what isn't, regardless of what those scientists were taught to believe as children. Can you imagine if religion could do that? But it can't, because religion isn't based on evidence. It's based on believing whatever you want to believe (almost always based on whatever you were taught as a child).

Sorry about the book. I get carried away. :) If you do want to talk more, you can send me an email. If you want.

Thanks for the comment, Carl.

Carl Hoffman said...

To understand religion using a scientific mindset will never work because there is no evidence that appears to our five senses. I would suggest using the method a lawyer would use to make his or her case in court. With science there is less subjectivity than happens in court. You are intelligent and know our court system is complicated and has many different opinions that are offered on the same case or issue. In our land the United States Supreme Court has the final say until a similar case comes later. Civil rights is a perfect example. In court some things are evidence, and some Christians would claim the Bible provides sufficient evidence. I would suggest the Bible provides an understanding of a period of time and a particular point of view in man’s history. For example, Biblical writers thought the world was flat and expressed that in their writings. Some would argue to use it to teach how the world began. This is a wrong use of the Bible in my opinion, and as you know it is called Creationism. Another way to get information for a lawyer is witnesses. Even eyewitnesses have conflicting testimony. That is why there are so many views within the religion known as Christianity. For a person who is an extrovert like myself, the social capital is very valuable that the church provides by attending and participating in the activities. I associate with people with similar education and experience even though they are 8-15 years older than me. Thank you for your response, but I humbly suggest to change your expections from a scientific to legal model. It probably will not change your thoughts, but it may help you understand a theist’s thinking. Read practically anything by Marcus Borg. He was a person who was raised in church but became an agnostic, and he later redefined Christianity to make logical sense. Since you mentioned the Clergy Progect, I don’t know if you have ever read Valerie Tarico’s book “Trusting Doubt.” She is a former Evangelical Christian who is now an atheist. She is a clinical psychologist and also a Facebook friend of mine. I did a review of her book on Amazon. I gave a copy to my pastor and think all pastors should read her book. I have even suggested it to my non-theist friends.

Bill Garthright said...

"To understand religion using a scientific mindset will never work because there is no evidence that appears to our five senses."

Then why do you say it doesn't work? To me, it sounds like it does work. You just don't like the answer.

The only reason you say that is because you don't want to accept that the emperor is wearing no clothes. You want to believe what you were taught as a child, so you disregard the complete lack of evidence.

Well, by that reasoning, you could believe in anything, if you just wanted it to exist.

"In court some things are evidence, and some Christians would claim the Bible provides sufficient evidence."

And some Muslims would claim that the Quran provides sufficient evidence. So what? If you think that there is evidence in the Bible (or in the Quran), I'm going to need details, not just vague claims.

"Another way to get information for a lawyer is witnesses."

Well, that doesn't help Christianity at all, does it? There are no eyewitnesses to any of the magic stuff in the Bible.

But hundreds, if not thousands, of people claim to have seen Elvis Presley after he died. They're not all dead, and they're not all anonymous. You can interview them, if you want. These are real eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Elvis. So... you believe that, then?

You're the one who mentioned "witnesses," not me. Eyewitness testimony is allowed in court (but not hearsay, note), although it's about the worst kind of evidence there is. Lots and lots of innocent people have been convicted because of erroneous eyewitness testimony.

But if that's what you want to go with, fine. There is lots of eyewitness testimony for the resurrection of Elvis and zero eyewitness testimony for the resurrection of Jesus. So how does that help your case?

Carl, feel free to send me an email if you want to do more than make vague claims. I understand the space limitations here.

Carl Hoffman said...

I have too much email now and I am getting off of many lists, so I will pass on the email. I appreciate the time you spent to react to my comments. The only reason why I commented here was to not act like I was ignoring you on YouTube. We agree on the political and cultural issues and that is reason enough to be civil. You mentioned some other religions but it is my practice to only criticize my own religion. The reason is I do not know their culture or all the details of their religion. I do not know your religious background or how you might have been hurt in an earlier period of your life. You have a good blog on political and cultural issues and I may continue to comment on those issues.

Bill Garthright said...

Carl, I wasn't "hurt in an earlier period of [my] life." Why would you assume so?

Re. my religious background, you can find out more here. That's the first in a series of "Non-Belief" posts where I attempted to explain where I was coming from. I'd welcome your comments on any of them.

And thanks for your kind words about this blog, but I almost never post anything these days. It was fun for awhile, but... all things end. I might start it up again later, but I rather doubt it.

Carl Hoffman said...

The reason I assumed you might have been hurt is because of the popular methodology you use in your comments or rebuttals. You restate what the person has written, without understanding the meaning or intent of the content and make statements that are not factual to make the statement look ridiculous. An example in an above comment is comparing Elvis sightings to the story of the resurrection of Jesus. In fact Paul, who is attributed to writing 1 Corinthians, claimed over 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus. You claim there were zero eyewitness testimonies, that is simply not true according to the Biblical account. I am limited in that I can’t see your face or hear the tone of your voice. From your comments based on my extensive experience in dealing with hurt people, I assumed you may have been hurt by religion. My comment words were, “I do not know your religious background or how you might have been hurt in an earlier period of your life.” The other possibility is you possibility could be living in denial and you can’t or are not willing to see you have been hurt. A friend of mine, the author, atheist, and former Evangelical Valerie Tarico, was also hurt, but she has healed and does not come across as angry. In fact, she wrote that I did a good job on my last video. I have readily admitted that I have been hurt, and one of my goals on my YouTube channel is to help people to overcome their injury. My purpose and intent is to be therapeutic rather than to add people to my list that I have won to the Lord, to use evangelistic terms. The way you come across appears to me is as someone who might have been hurt very badly. You have my sincere apology if I have been wrong. I desire to be part of the solution to people’s pain rather than be part of the problem. Carl

Bill Garthright said...

Carl, what do you think "eyewitness testimony" even is? I absolutely stand by my statement that there is zero eyewitness testimony to the magic stuff in the Bible, including "the resurrected Jesus."

When it comes to the resurrection of Elvis Presley, as silly as that is, we have people still living today, not all anonymous, whom you can even interview, if you wish. That is "eyewitness testimony." Yes, it's very poor evidence for such an extraordinary claim, but you don't even have that much when it comes to Jesus.

The quality of your "evidence" doesn't even come up to the level of hearsay!

First, you say that Paul claims that "over 500 people saw the resurrected Jesus." Right away, this isn't eyewitness testimony. Paul doesn't even claim to have seen anything himself. He doesn't even say how he knows that those "500 people" saw anything.

Second, you don't have Paul, and you don't even have what he originally wrote, assuming that he did write that, which isn't guaranteed.

True, most scholars think that Paul - or someone, at least - wrote a good half of the books in the Bible attributed to him, including this one. But scholars also see lots of later forgeries in the Bible, and there's widespread suspicion that much of the stuff attributed to "Paul" wasn't actually written by him.

And there are lots of later edits, too. Even if part of it might - might - have been originally written by Paul, who knows what has been changed over time? Again, you don't have what Paul originally wrote, but only copies of copies of copies.

At this point, it's not even hearsay. It's about to the same level of "evidence" as a Spiderman comic.

Sure, Christians tend to just... assume that the Bible is true - or, at least, the parts of it they really, really want to be true. But that's not evidence that it is true. And calling that "eyewitness testimony" is just laughable! Sorry, but it really is. How can you even think that way?

This is what faith-based thinking does to people. This is why I'm angry. Look at what it has done to you (and to my country, and to my world). You're not a bad person, and yet your religious beliefs have got you making accusations about my life on no basis whatsoever.

But if you still think I'm wrong, please tell me how copies of copies of copies of something supposedly written by a guy claiming that other people supposedly saw something - and all of it in a deliberate attempt to persuade other people that a particular religion is true (which you would recognize if it were any other religion than your own) - compares with interviewing living people about what they say they saw?

The latter is the evidence - poor, unconvincing evidence - for the resurrection of Elvis Presley. But as bad as it is - and again, it's terrible evidence for such an extraordinary claim - you don't have anything even close to as good as that for the resurrection of Jesus. But you just don't want to admit it.

I repeat, there is zero "eyewitness testimony" for the resurrection of Jesus. It hardly even reaches the level of "hearsay." In fact, I'd present it at the level of "gossip" or perhaps "deliberate religious propaganda."

Carl Hoffman said...

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this discussion. When I see things in writing I can clearly see my technical mistakes. I should not have given an example in the last exchange. Since we last corresponded I have finished reading Jordan Peterson’s latest book and it served as an inspiration for my latest video. You are a modern day thinker who demands evidence, while I am talking about a subjective emotional issue. The question is, are emotional issues valid? In my latest video I discuss the history of objective evidence thinking that started during the Enlightenment and how they divided reason and emotion which included religion. You live with a mindset that asks is it reality? I also have that mindset but also value the question Is it relevant? Most of the Bible is metaphorical in nature that in story form gives some lessons that are relevant as reality was not the valued or demonstrated method of communication then. For example the issue is man’s desire for order vs chaos that is represented in much of the plot in Bible in story form as a deity is presented as one who provides order. Again thank you for helping me communicate better.

Bill Garthright said...

You're welcome, Carl. Clearly, we are very different people.

I do care about the truth of my beliefs. I want to believe as many true things as possible and as few false things as possible. How that makes me feel is irrelevant. The issue is entirely "is it reality?"

But we can't debate "subjective emotional issues." If it makes you feel good to believe in a god, and that's all you care about (not whether or not that belief is true), then... what can I say about that, except that we're very different people?

I don't understand your mindset, although I've met Christians like you before, but clearly, there's no point to discussing this any further. I wish you well.


Hmm,... I do have to wonder... is this the message you'll start preaching now, that it doesn't matter if Christianity is true (i.e. matches up to reality) in any literal sense, but only that it will make people feel good to believe it?

I'm just curious at how that will work for you. Please come back later, after you've had a chance to try out this new argument.