Religion

Comment o’ the Week!

Holy shnit, it’s time once again for the COTW. Time sure flies when you’re sucking the marrow out of the box of chocolates that is life. (Oh man, at first I thought mixing metaphors would be good fun, but now I’m imagining chocolate truffles filled with bone marrow. Wait, isn’t that what Jello® is made of? Chocolates filled with Jello® don’t sound as bad. Let’s go with that. Anyway.)

Because I’m lazy, I searched through all the comments for “COTW,” hoping people had made some nominations. Alas, you’re all unique little snowflakes who express your appreciation of posts in varying ways, like writing “c.o.t.w.” or “commentoftheweek” or “yay lolz!” I struggled through, though, and have finally chosen a winner.

Once again, readers were particularly taken with a Skepchick writer’s comment. This time, it was Elyse, who stated “Pampers officially rocks. It’s nice to know that every time my baby poops, he’s saving lives.” However, once again, I can’t bring myself to award the big prize to one of the writers, even if technically we’re also commenters. Therefore, this week’s winner comes from a mysterious n00bie:

CrackerBanditNo Gravatar // Jul 17, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Throw stones all you want, but if I get my picture of Bill Donohue frenching a tranny, you will all want to see it.

Congratulations to the CrackerBandit for making us all smile and possibly throw up. For your efforts, you win the condemnation of Bill Donohue, trannies, and everyone in the Support Jesus Crackers Facebook group.

Oh hey, and our fourth Teen Skepchick has just introduced herself: she’s the spectacularly awesome Skepchick commenter you may already know as vreify! Go say hello.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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26 Comments

  1. You were about to “possibly throw up” at Donohue *frenching* a transsexual?!?

    At first, I misread it as “felching”…and if that image of him isn’t vomit-inducing, I’m not sure what is. (Donohue, of course, being the nauseating element in the equation…I don’t want to insult the trans community!)

  2. Is there anything wrong with being skeptical and a Christian? I have my particular religious beliefs but I do not expect anyone else to accept them, beacuse they are mine, not yours. And none of that has any effect on my belief in reason and science. I am a Christian. I also recently spent ten minutes in my Sunday School class explaining how the scientific evidence for evolution was overwhelming. I had to spend a particularly large amount of time explaining why the second law of thermodynamics did not preclude evolution (one of the best examples of how a little knowledge can be dangerous).

    I only stumbled upon this website three hours ago, and perhaps it is not accepting for a believer like me. But I need every freaking asset I can get my hands on to get young women interested in math and science. I have seen too many young women choose pregnancy over education for their future to not become enraged.

  3. “Is there anything wrong with being skeptical and a Christian?”

    Wrong? No, but if you apply skepticism honestly to your Christian beliefs they will necessarily fall apart.

    “I have my particular religious beliefs but I do not expect anyone else to accept them, beacuse they are mine, not yours.”

    See, this statement is inconsistent with skepticism. I’d be happy to accept your beliefs if you’d present evidence for them. If you can’t, you must then ask why you hold unsupportable beliefs when you profess a commitment to rationality.

    Do you see what I mean? Religious beliefs are incompatible with reason because Science and reason affirm the necessity of supporting claims with evidence, while religion denies that necessity.

    So you can only be a Christian skeptic in the sense that you can believe that a shape is a triangle while it is simultaneously a square. It’s possible thanks to the contortions our minds are capable of, but that doesn’t mean the two beliefs logically mesh.

  4. …That’s not to say you’re not an otherwise rational, reasonable individual; It seems that you are. I’m just saying that a sincere commitment to reason, science, rationality and so on by definition preclude faith.

    I hope I haven’t offended you, as I said you seem like a pleasant sort of person.

  5. Hi oldmathteacher! You’re certainly not the only skeptical theist hanging around the site. People with any belief are welcome to hang out, read, and comment, but we will continue to attack pseudoscience and superstition whether it is in the guise of homeopathy or religion or whatever. That’s why we’ll continue to point out (for instance) the absurdity of someone stating that a cracker can turn into actual flesh, until someone steps up and proves it.

  6. Hi oldmathteacher, please do stick around. This is a great site, full of very interesting, opinionated people :) Those of us who identify as skeptical Christians are definitely in the minority here, but I’ve always felt that anyone is welcome here if they come with an open mind. You do have to be aware of the strong anti-religion feelings here, but I have found most of them to be quite fair and well supported.

    The biggest difficulty seems to stem from people assuming they know exactly what you mean when you use words like “believe” or “faith” or even “Christian”. Zamboro’s comments above are a good example of this. Rather than asking for details of what you believe, he takes your self description of “Christian” and makes a whole set of assumptions about what that means to you, and proceeds to make an argument based on those assumptions. It’s hard to blame him, really, since the word “Christian” is fraught with such a multitude of often 100% conflicting implications. Around here, I have generally stopped using the word “Christian” to describe myself, since so many of the things people here object to about Christianity are objections I share myself.

    Anyway, enough blather about that. As I said, I think you’ll find it rewarding if you stick around.

    And in a wonderful irony, I’m due to help serve Communion this Sunday in church! Don’t worry, Rebecca, for us Presbyterians (PCUSA) it’s totally symbolic. No actual cannibalism involved.

  7. oldmathteacher, as others have pointed out, we actually have a fairly large number of Christian readers. I can’t say that your Christian beliefs will necessarily fall apart if you honestly examine them, but just like any other beliefs, it’s possible that they may fall apart under scrutiny.

    Sometimes it seems to me that many skeptics forget that different people can look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions. That doesn’t mean (usually) that anyone is stupid. Just that often the available evidence is ambiguous or inconclusive. And sometimes it’s OK to believe something just because you want to or it makes you feel good, as long as you know that’s what is going on, you own up to it, and you don’t try to make others adopt the same beliefs based on dodgy or non-existent evidence. So, that’s my rather unpopular belief, anyway

    :-) Welcome. I hope you enjoy the site.

  8. Skeptical theist. That, I can deal with. I do realize that hanging out here might eventually erode my beliefs to the point that I can’t stand on them any more, but at this point I am comfortable with a certain amount of ambiguity.

    Welcome, oldmathteacher. You are *definitely* not alone.

  9. I’m a very, very skeptical person, there’s not much you can’t put past me! But I also believe the tooth-fairy has a very strong influence in my life. I feel it to my bones and you can say what you like, but I cannot deny this feeling I have. But I’m very skeptical, and a big rational thinker. No-one has any right to attack me or my beliefs, you’re not me so you can’t possibly feel the connection I feel with her holyness, the tooth fairy. Yes, yes, I know I can’t prove she exists, but then, you can’t prove that she *doesn’t* exist, right? So let’s all just agree that we probably will never know for sure. (But to me she does exist.)

    The christians, on the other hand… well, why not Buddha? Or Vishnu? Or LDS’s Jesus? Or the Jehovah’s Witnesses Jehovah? Or the great prophet Mohammed? Why Jesus?

    It is all based on your inner feelings, and your up-bringing. A lot of you probably have a great appreciation for the universe and nature, being science buffs like me, and often feel an overwhelming gratefulness to be alive on such a breath-takingly beautiful planet as ours. That manifests itself through prayer to your deity. But just as long as you know that it IS an imaginary device to fill a need you feel deep down, and that there’s no ACTUAL evidence for a creator, not to mention a personal god who answers prayers and impregnated a virgin with his son, or himself, or whatever you believe.

    The tooth-fairy, on the other hand… Don’t doubt me! She’s REAL! And she pays out good coin to believers, fo shiz…

    Tooth-fairy bless………..

  10. I now feel vaguely guilty– I have a set of Buddhist prayer beads hanging from the rear-view mirror of my car. They were a gift to me from Abbot Shi De Li of Shaolin Temple (yes, that Shaolin Temple). It was a purely martial arts kind of thing. I’m not a Buddhist.

    I’m not actually religious at all.

    –And I’m glad Rebecca didn’t call me on it during the ride down to Wilmington. I was dreading having to say “But, Rebecca! It’s not what it looks like! Honest!”

  11. –And I’m glad Rebecca didn’t call me on it during the ride down to Wilmington. I was dreading having to say “But, Rebecca! It’s not what it looks like! Honest!”

    Ha! It’s true, I often disappoint people with my lack of righteous skeptical anger. One of my favorite hobbies is attending skeptic and atheist get-togethers and saying “God bless you” when someone sneezes.

  12. I have buddha heads and such around my house. We even have stones that say “Water”, “Heart”, etc. I love the art derived from religion, which is so mystical and spiritual. I don’t mind those concepts. I think that belief itself is the problem. Mythology rocks, and if you treat it as such, religious stories and art can be so very fascinating. Except for the crucifix which is probably the most uninspired element of any religion.

    But I would never call a person out for having that stuff.

    Speak of “God bless you”, sometimes I use an exclamation borrowed from Bender in Futurama: “Oh… your… God!!!”

  13. Whew! Good! Cos at home, I have a few old Jewish ritual items, a couple of ancient bronze statues of Athena, a Guan Gong, a Guanyin, an Amitabha, and a couple of Daoist horsetail whisks.

    I like the stories and the art, and much of the philosophy of Chan and Daoism.

    But as to trying to explain the workings of the cosmos? Feh! Gimme some good ‘ol SCIENCE!

    And a soap-lady on a rope.

  14. “The tooth-fairy, on the other hand… Don’t doubt me! She’s REAL! And she pays out good coin to believers, fo shiz…”

    Yes, thanks, I think that brought me up to my daily recommended allowance of snark.

    I’m having an oddly reversed flashback to the unfortunate scenario in which churches don’t welcome the pierced, tattooed visitor who steps out during the song service for a smoke. “They’re not … like us, you know. They should leave, there’s no place for them here.”

    Sorry if we’re not quite enough like you yet. I sort of thought this was the place I ought to come, if I wanted to challenge some of those thoughts.

  15. Can a Christian be a skeptic? It depends on what the beliefs are.

    If a belief is about something testable, then skeptics can – and should – test it. E.g., whenever a miracle is claimed to have happened, skeptics should investigate and try to come up with natural explanations.

    But if a belief is about something that cannot be tested, then skeptics can’t test it – and that’s that. We can’t test if Jesus arose from the dead, because it happened 2,000 years ago.

    That does not mean we can’t offer natural explanations, though: The obvious and very reasonable explanation is that he wasn’t dead in the first place. Knowledge of the human body was at a very primitive stage: Shock could easily be the reason, instead of actual death. It would be easy to confuse a body in severe shock with a corpse.

    What about what happens today, during communion? Does the bread really turn to flesh?

    Unfortunately, that belief is a common misconception. While it is true that the Roman Catholic Church claims that the bread turns into “flesh”, it should be noted that there are no claims of empirical changes. Whatever happens to the bread, it is recognized by the Church that it isn’t “flesh” in the “meat”-sense. It becomes the body of Christ the moment it is consecrated, but it isn’t as if the wafer suddenly turns to bloody meat. Nor does the wine (or, in these politically correct times, grape juice) turn into blood. We are not talking about churches putting blood banks and abattoirs out of business.

    Admittedly, it took a while for the Roman Catholic Church to figure out how to circumvent the obvious lack of flesh in the wafers. Their rather nifty, but intellectually pusillanimous solution was the concept of Transsubstantiation – the idea that it is a religious, not empirical, change. Christ is present when the bread and wine are consumed – but we are not talking about cannibalism. Bread and wine is not turned into a Philly steak with a glass of Chateau de Dracula.

    Additionally, being a “Christian” is many things: There are Roman Catholics, there are all sorts of Protestant churches, baptists, presbyterians, lutherans, anglicans, etc. Some of these Christian churches do not even believe in transsubstantiation. Many protestants believe in a purely symbolic communion between Christ and themselves.

    The point is that there is no testable claim – and that’s what skepticism is about: Testable claims. Therefore, it is not correct to criticize someone for making a claim they don’t actually make. We can, and must, only go with what people actually claim.

    Attack religion all you like – I’m not particularly timid about that myself – but attack it for the right reasons, and not because of our own misconceptions. To do the latter is not skeptical.

    A relevant article can be found here:
    Can You Be A Christian And A Skeptic?
    http://skepticreport.com/religion/christianskeptic.htm

  16. Improbable Bee, you can keep visiting all you like, but are you a skeptic? If you are, you should be skeptical about your own skepticality. How skeptic are you? And what are you skeptical about, and what do you reserve as sacredly bovine? Perhaps a few things you keep to yourself because you’d like them to be true?

    Questions for you to answer yourself, not to me…

    I’m only snarky as much as needed to illustrate a point. Did I do a good impression of a ‘theist skeptic’? *cough* oxymoron *cough* People don’t like it when you hold a mirror up to them.

    Seriously, I suggest reading some of the good authors on this subject (Dawkins, Shermer, et al).

  17. Michael Shermer writes specifically about being skeptical about one’s own skepticality in A Skeptical Manifesto:

    It is easy, even fun to challenge others’ beliefs, when we are smug in the certainty of our own. But when ours are challenged, it takes great patience and ego strength to listen with an unjaundiced ear. But there is a deeper flaw in pure skepticism. Taken to an extreme the position by itself cannot stand. The OED gives us this 1674 literary example (Tucker Lt. Nat. II):

    “There is an air of positiveness in all scepticism, an unreserved confidence in the strength of those arguments that are alleged to overthrow all the knowledge of mankind.”

    Skepticism is itself a positive assertion about knowledge, and thus turned on itself cannot be held. If you are skeptical about everything, you would have to be skeptical of your own skepticism. Like the decaying sub-atomic particle, pure skepticism uncoils and spins off the viewing screen of our intellectual cloud chamber.

    There are actually limits to what we can apply skepticism to. Believe it or not.

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