December 28, 2010

Popey Porny Post Pulled

By me.

I mulled over some of the points made in the comments section and decided to delete the post.

It was factually accurate as I had quoted directly from the source. I just thought that my rant went over the top. It was in poor taste and I could have presented a much stronger argument without all the obvious, and not so obvious, desire for people to suffer harm.

It isn't really what I'm about, so I dumped the post.

For those who supported the piece, fear not, I believe organised religion to be wrong, and I will build a better argument against them.

For those who did not support the piece, fear not, I believe organised religion to be wrong, and I will build a better argument against them.

This was an act of self-censorship. (Surely the best kind?). I was under no pressure from anyone else to pull the piece. It was my decision.

I hope that both sides see my point. If not, feel free to tell me why not.

My firm belief is that churches-all of them-are responsible for more harm than good in the world. My last post did not provide a balanced argument with supporting evidence. It was a rant against a misguided old man.

I can do better than that, and I will.



William said...

Remember this the next time you feel like giving up blogging. You have to much logic, sense and compassion to fall silent again.

Dioclese said...

Send me the text and I'll post it. I don't mind pillorying the Kafliks.

microdave said...

I wondered where it had gone...

"My firm belief is that churches-all of them-are responsible for more harm than good in the world."

Yes, in general I'll go along with that. However, as I've said elsewhere, I often visit old (Christian) churches on my travels, and invariably find some lovely people looking after them.

Maybe they could be construed as misguided in their beliefs, but so long as they don't advocate waging war against me for not believing, I don't bear them any malice.

Caratacus said...

Captain - good for you.

md - agree totally. There are good people in every walk of life. Some of them are religious...!

"those petulant capricious sects,
maggots of corrupted texts" - sums it all up for me.

Anonymous said...

There will be much rejoicing in Heaven.

Pull a post - it would have been a hard thing to do. However, I think better of you for doing it.

Anonymous said...

My personal take on it is that there is a big difference between "believing in a religion" and "having a relationship with God".

I don't think the first necessarily means one is closer to God but more likely one is going through all the "correct motions" (church on Sundays, all dressed up, say the "religiously correct" things) to make it appear as if one is - where-as the second is more about a personal feeling of heart, that might incorporate some of the beliefs certain "religions" claim to profess, but in reality spend too much time on pomp, politics and dogma.

One is mindless, going around expressing the dogma. The other requires more personal soul-searching and an actual heart-felt willingness to obey a God of higher moral authority and justice that cuts both ways, without making a public display out of it or proclaiming the "religiously-correct" litany mindlessly, like a drone.

There's as much to be said about those who have no higher moral guidance, thus "godless" as those who go about proclaiming mindless obedience to dogmatic orthodoxy without ever questioning it or attempting to go any deeper into the mysteries of it, where-in a "relationship with God" on a deep personal level would be achieved, the second being the more desireable in my personal opinion.

Everyone sins. We make amends, we try to do better next time. But admitting to it is the first step in getting to know God.

And that is just pesonal opinion, not preaching a "religion" here, but "just saying", there's a difference between the two, as an opinion.

Captain Ranty said...

Just to be clear: I don't think religion in and of itself is bad. People who live by their faith are not wrong to do so, and those of no faith aren't wrong either.

I have long said that you should do whatever you need to do to get through the day.

My point is that those who run these churches/mosques/temples/synagogues have corrupted the message-or, left out huge chunks of the original message-to serve their own purposes.

Like it or not, churches are big business. There is (like in any business) plenty of blood on the carpet.

And there is plenty of evidence to support that.

I'll work on it. It will offend some.

But no-one will die. I guarantee it.


Anonymous said...

Reading through these comments, I can't help noticing a lack of understanding about the nature of religion.

All religion is about an outcome in the next world and not this one. It is a promise of eternal life and not a better life here on earth. Religion offers a path to personal salvation beyond our mortal existence. If you don't believe me, then I suggest you crack open the bible and start reading.

Yet most of the comments here are implicitly expecting some kind of secular outcome. The premise is that religion allegedly promotes good behaviour. However, the world remains a squalid and cruel path. The conclusion seems to be that this abstract notion called religion is somehow responsible for much this wickedness.

Lets face it; don't you think it is terribly naive to think the world will be a better place without religion? I am not suggesting that religion can make us good. Instead, I am making a point about the brutish nature of humanity, that remains unmoved by the moral precepts of religion.

Let me finish with one final point, we all face an unavoidable existential problem. We are alive, but also we know we will die. We can take a gamble and assume that this current existence is all there is. But if we are wrong, and we are held to account by a higher power, then all this religious denunciation will look rather stupid.

Caratacus said...

When ancient man witnessed something he could not explain (e.g. earthquake, weather, etc.) he ascribed it to gods.

As mankind became more 'sophisticated' and 'civilised', the producers (hunters, farmers, smiths, carpenters, tanners, builders) found that they were 'guided' and ruled by their lords, barons, government officials - and priests.

The priests ruled by fear. Building on superstition and terror of the unknown, it was easy to take charge of just about every facet of human activity by convincing an unsophisticated and generally unquestioning populace that their very souls were in mortal danger unless they did what they were told. Great business model...

What we have today in organised religion is an extremely complex extrapolation of not being able to explain a natural event.

For mankind - essentially a finite creature - to attempt to explain the infinite is, at best, a futile endeavour and, at worst, the foundation of all sorts of misery.

Best left to whimsical debate over afternoon tea.

Anonymous said...


You do ancient man an injustice.

His religion had little to do with explaining earthquakes. For example, the ten commandments do not mention a shaking earth once.

Likewise, Science has nothing to say about God. When did a scientist ever try test for the existence of God. What would such a test look like?

As for your description of Priests, I sense you haven't met many. As for an unquestionning population, did such a people ever exist? Perhaps in the modern era, but not in ancient times.

More generally, you neglect the contribution of religion to science. Who founded our great universities? Who built the first observatories?

Yes, Man is a finite trying to explain the infinite. It is a question that won't go away. Ancient man was as preoccupied with it as we are.

Is it a futile endevour? Some people think it isn't, but you must decide for yourself.

Caratacus said...

Anon - couple of points (I'm afraid I have a long-standing arrangement with a bottle of fine malt this evening!):

Studied Theology at Exeter Uni for a brief while (before I woke up). Over the years I have met and debated with many religious people. Some of the most spiritual people I have met have been on the business end of a rifle. As mentioned above somewhere, there are many good people to be found in all walks of life - even in organised religion.

There was never a need for ten commandments; just the one is needed - "Behave yourselves". I'm not being flippant either, the more you think about that one the deeper you go.... it really is all we need.

Dioclese said...

Just to make my position clear, I have no problem with God just with the institutionalised hypocrites who peddle their respective churches.

As the muslims say "God is great" - but it's a shame about the people to claim to spread his word! Believe what you want just don't ram it down my throat or persecute me for not agreeing with you.

Who was it said "If God did not exist we would have to find another reason for killing each other"?

Trooper Thompson said...


'There was never a need for ten commandments; just the one is needed - "Behave yourselves". I'm not being flippant either, the more you think about that one the deeper you go.... it really is all we need.'

I may be wrong, but according to my memory of the story, this was God's view, saying the people knew what was right and what was wrong, but that the people demanded laws, so he gave them laws. The same thing being repeated when the people demanded a king. You will note that Jesus boiled them all down to 'love God; love your neighbour as yourself'.

NewsboyCap said...

Some people think it isn't, but you must decide for yourself.

Many people aren't allowed to decide,
think Iraq,Iran,Yemen,Saudi,Egypt,
Indonesia,Afghan etc.

All commanded not by a God but men,
organised religious men,take money
from you men,do as I say men.

How can you be so naive to believe that organised religion be it Church,Mosque or Temple is not the most corrupt,evil and power hungry
corporation ever invented.

By the way, show us where in the bible god commanded that we must
build cathedrals to celebrate his magnificence, not just gather together in his name.

Anonymous said...

Caratacus, Trooper

The problem with the ten commandents is not whether we need them, but that they are there. Whether we can "do without them" isn't really the issue.

The basic theme running through the early books of the bible is man's rebellion against the will of God. The ten commandents are a memo he sent to us, clarifying what he expected.

Jesus, simplified matters further with the simple message that Trooper have repeated.

As for the institutionalisation of religionm again, the God of the bible appears to be pretty clear on this matter. Ritual is, in a sense, a collective submission to the will of God. If you believe, then you must accept the necessity of a Church.

Personally, I am not a great fan of Malcolm X, but he got one thing right. When he went through his religious conversion, he said the hardest thing he had do do was get down on his knees and pray.

Of course, I recognize that all this might seem like nonsense. That is, of course, your choice. We all have free will. There is no biological requirement to believe. There is merely an invitation.

With that, I bid you Good night. I will check in tomorrow.

NewsboyCap said...


We all have free will.

This is the usual 'Get out Clause' from organised religion,whenever the Holocaust,starving third world children,war,child abuse,aids and any other ills of the world rear their ugly faces.

Your 'god' is never answerable for anything.Never steps in to save a suffering human.Never makes his presence felt to prevent a child from abuse.

Your 'god' only commands you to worship him and him alone,as if there was another 'god' to choose from.

And now as the Captains post said,your 'gods' spokesman on earth has again failed to condemn child abusers from his own church.

Organised religion, you can keep it I wouldn't wish to be part of it,nasty,corrupt,evil, irresponsible,blameless GODLESS.

Bruce said...


You point to a difficult problem.

If God is all-good, he should want to stop evil; if he is omnipotent, he could stop it; but evil exists in the world, so God lacks either all-goodness (if he can stop evil but does not want to) or omnipotence (if he wants to stop evil, but cannot), or both.

However, we are not innocent victims lacking any responsibility. We have, as you say, free will. By misusing the freedom of choice that God has granted us, we became the perpetrators of evil in our world. Although we have real freedom to refuse evil, we don't do it, so evil continues to spread. You cited some very good examples of that.

The reason why I think God allows this situation and does not extinguish all evil in an instant is that such an act would necessarily involve the damnation of all those who perform it. This would cancel any possibility for them to repent and be reconciled with God.

Personally, I think the true meaning of human existence is seperation from God. However, he also offers us a path towards reconciliation. However, this reconciliaiton can only take place if we agree to it willing through our own free well. Evil, in a sense, makes that choice a meaningful one.

Our attitude toward evil should be neither one of resignation, nor of rebellion against God, but of conscious and responsible participation in the world. Evil has an end, as does human suffering. What is required from us while waiting for this end is to fight against evil and suffering, and especially against our sinful nature, which perpetuates both our suffering and that of our neighbors

Trooper Thompson said...


"This is the usual 'Get out Clause' from organised religion ..."

This is a rather immature speech, if I may say so. Life is tough, and always has been. We live. We learn. We die.

Some of us believe that there is a purpose to this short life. Others do not. It is not something within the scope of reason. When staring up into the night sky and pondering the unfathomable vastness of space, and our existence on this planet, there comes a point when the the rational mind must give up, it cannot answer all questions.

To those that believe there is a purpose, there are responsibilities, such as to stand up against evil and to help one's fellow man. It is not the case that God only commands us to worship him. Faith calls for action, as it says in James 2:

"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."

Now, you attack the Pope for failing to condemn the child abusers. Notwithstanding anything else, he did condemn them. He talked of "the abuse of minors committed by priests who distort the Sacrament into its antithesis: under the veil of the sacred they inflicted profound harm on human beings in their infancy, causing damages that lasts a lifetime." and also "We are aware of the particular gravity of this sin committed by priests and of our consequent responsibility." and "We must be capable of penance. We must strive to do everything possible, when preparing people for the priesthood, to ensure such a thing can never happen again".

I am not a Catholic. I do not go to church. I know many people oppose the Catholic Church and all religion, and they are free to do so. However, to load all the guilt of mankind, all the crimes committed from AD 200 until the present day on the Roman Church is, to me, a cop out in itself. Do you think that humanity did not fight wars before Constantine was baptised? Does it surprise you that an organisation made of mere mortals had many bad men within it?

Specifically on the subject of child abuse, is it not the case that such vile predators seek places where they can exploit the week? Without doubt, opportunities existed in the Catholic Church, as in other churches and places where children are vulnerable - even within the family home. I am sure the RCC deserves to be denounced for covering up such crimes, and will not defend them for doing so, but these problems long pre-date the current Pope, and I think he is trying to deal with them.

Bruce said...

Well said Trooper, a fair and balanced comment.

Caratacus said...

Trooper - Good points, well made.

In the end it is greed (however that may be defined) that motivates many, particularly the powerful. If the powerful happens to include organised religion that includes them too.

One other thing, it is interesting to note that the many and thoughtful points made above could so easily be transposed to Man Made Global Warming. It is a matter of belief because none of us really "knows". We listen to the priests/scientists, observe the wild threats that are made, and sigh as the sale of indulgences/carbon transfers proceeds in order to save our souls...

Twas ever thus!

Zaphod said...

Hey Cap'n, nice maneuvre. I've always thought that in order to be succesfully opinionated, one should either be always right, or able to reverse occasionally. :-)

But you weren't really wrong.

Religions have a bad history. They give legitimacy to pre-existing unpleasant people. The C of E today is pretty harmless, but that's not a good long-term survival strategy for a religion.

Gods don't exist. All arguments to the contrary are circular. (God exists cos his book says so). Some people will always prefer to believe in gods, but belief has no effect on reality, except on Discworld.

The only worry is, do most people have what it takes to behave ethically, without the belief of retribution/reward in a mythical afterlife? I dunno.

Religions should be crticised vigorously when they offend. Popey has it coming. Both personally, and in his official capacity.

William said...

I feel any religion that raises a man above all others upon the earth by giving them title, robes and usually wealth aka 'power' is not a religion founded by some omnipotent being. It is just another man made control mechanism which has arisen out of the ignorance of the majority who don't seem to want to think for themselves.

Just look at the parallels between 'accepted' religions and AGW.
The same parallels are also in play in the EU and its dismantling of everything we as British human beings value.
The cult of the state is the one religion which no-one ever views as a religion and yet it is prevalent in every country in the world.
The state religion is the most divisive on earth and makes the Pope and his crew look like bit players. It gathers in more cash, it has more priests, it has more followers than any other deity and carries out the most 'actions' against its followers and still no-one realises what it really is.

In my eyes the sole problem with all religions,especially the state religion, is they encourage their followers to close their minds to get close to whatever deity or in the state's case to simply be left alone by the state deity, (as long as they are willing to pay of course). Closed minds are easily controlled.

Anonymous said...

George Carlin The Ten Commandments Broken Down

NewsboyCap said...


Yes it is immature,but these are the words of organised religion since 200 AD.Yes there were wars before Constantine but, how many were in the name of 'god'. No it does not surprise me that an organisation full of 'mere mortals' will have bad men in it. A complete lack of women for 2000 years may be part of the problem.
I am not against anyone believing in their own version of a 'God' but as I said before organised religion is inherently bad.
You say that you do not attend 'church'you are not controlled by any organisation, and it doesn't seem to have done you any harm

Trooper Thompson said...


the issue of free will that you object to or call a cop-out is fundamentally important. Upon this is based one's individual responsibility for one's actions.

As for wars and religion, even in the Trojan War each side were calling on the gods, and the gods were taking sides. However most wars in Europe in the Christian era were fought between princes over power, money and land, with no real religious aspect (e.g. Richard the Lionheart died fighting in France not the Holy Land). The exceptions are various crusades, which even though they were justified on grounds of religion, are not that dissimilar from other non-religious suppressions of revolt and dissent. Not that I wish to excuse such mass slaughter however long ago it was.


you make a very good point regarding the state religion. I think people should be much more wary of this than they are at present. They seem to overlook the theocratic side to the modern therapeutic managerial state, due to their being no clearly identifiable supernatural aspect.

B & C, ta.

NewsboyCap said...

I'm sorry if I do not explain myself well enough for you.
But,when did the 'god' of the bible ever declare war on the 'god' of the koran, or the 'god' of the torah or any other 'god' for that matter?
Organised religions are the problem for the whole of mankind.
"justified on the grounds of religion" ..... Exactly !
As you mentioned The Crusades,well, Northern Ireland, Sudan, Iraq/Iran etc. it doesn't end and probably never will, with organised religion.
I am all for 'Free Will' it makes us responsible for our own actions,when good happens it must have been 'god',when bad happens it must be free will ,according to religion. I don't need a religion to tell me what's right or wrong. My beliefs are no better or worse than anyone else's beliefs.

Augustine said...


"Religions have a bad history".

That is a common perception, but I wonder if it stands up to serious scrutiny. Take, for example, the history of music. What would Western music sound like without the contribution of Christianity? it was the monks of France and Germany who in the dark ages developed a system for transcribing musical notes. This created the basis for transferring musical knowledge through generations. Without it, music simply couldn't have developed any sophistication. If you need proof of this take a look at music produced elsewhere in the world.

How about architecture? The Cathedral were central to the development of modern building techniques. Without the desire to create more beautiful buildings to honour God, the design and craftsmanship that characterised mediaeval churches would not have been developed. Instead, we would have had to rely upon the secular necessity of building fortifications.

How about law? Modern Western legal traditions owe a little to the Romans, but it was the Roman Catholic church that developed the idea of a systematic construction of a body of law, based on evidence and not upon trial by ordeal, which was the prevailing pre-Christian legal tradition.

What about human rights? The idea that each human is endowed with a unique soul is a very basis of the idea that we have rights. In pre-Christian thought, this idea simply doesn't exist.

How about international relations? The idea is rooted in mediaeval political thought. The idea that two nations could have a contract between each other is a Christian idea.

I could go on. However, I would encourage you to take a closer look at your own cultural traditions and assess honestly contribution of Christianity.

You may not believe in God, that is your choice, but I suspect that many of the things you believe in have their roots in Christianity.

Trooper Thompson said...

No worries Newsboycap, as Jesus said:

"In my Father's house are many mansions".

We can probably fit you in with the Quakers :)

Augustine said...


"I don't need a religion to tell me what's right or wrong."

That is exactly right.

You have an innate conscience. However, you need to take the next step and asked the question why do you have this conscience.

Christians believe that one's conscience is the voice of God whispering in our head. We have a natural inclination towards sin, yet at the same time we have a moral compass.

Free will, conscience, and mortality -this is the very essence of being a human. It does in a strange way point to the existence of God.

Religion is simply a final step. It is about the revelation of God's will.

erm said...

CR - it takes a brave man to back down & admit to it. However, I think the main points you made in your blog about Benny & the Jetz were things that needed to be said & were things that people of all religions and none need to think about. Protecting 'the Church' at the expense of abused kiddies is not a very good moral standpoint for either Benny or his apologists. I look forward to reading your Benny & the Jetz Mark 2.

Zaphod said...

The rich and powerful were always patrons of art. They bought it. Religions and Kings bought, (or enslaved) a lot of talent, and taxed the commoners to pay for it. So be it. By itself, their bought art fails to justify their continuing existence.

Maybe our rights come from the fact that we each had a pitchfork, rather than a soul. I'm not an expert though.

Religion, (like trade unions), may have achieved important things in history. That however, neither causes nor requires a god to exist.

The existence of conscience and altruism, in man and animal, is more satisfactorily explained by evolutionary psychology. Occam's razor.

Free will and mortality certainly do not point to the existence of god. They suggest the opposite.

I appreciate that some very good people have deep religious convictions. I strongly object to the attempt to brainwash me in childhood though. I'm angry about that.

Augustine said...


Actually, between 400-1700 AD the vast majority of art was directly or indirectly patronized by the Church. There were a few Kingly portraits, but Church is where you see the real achievements. A trip to the Vatican and its library will convince you of that point.

"Religion, (like trade unions), may have achieved important things in history. That however, neither causes nor requires a god to exist."

True - but your initial point was about history and religion. It was not about the existence of God.

"The existence of conscience and altruism, in man and animal, is more satisfactorily explained by evolutionary psychology. Occam's razor."

Here I must take exception. For what it is worth, I did my PhD in cooperative and non-cooperative game theory. I am horrified and appalled by the misuse of game theory in evolutionary psychology.

Game theory (as any theorist will confirm) has a huge problem of multiple equilibria. Another problem is backward induction in finite repeated games, which leads to the breakdown of cooperative outcomes. Life as we all know is a finite game.

Try, for example, to apply evolutionary concepts to explaining to the psychology of financial markets. Lets see how far we can get (ie nowhere). Financial markets are an example, par excellance, of intelligent design and the existence of the omnipotent supervisor (the central bank or financial supervisor).

But I digress......

Brainwashing and religion - isn't that an oxymoron? Religion poses the most difficult question of all - why are we here? Modern philosphical thought bends over backward to avoid it.

Zaphod said...

Okay, I take your point. God may or may not exist, but religion certainly does.

Both Game theory and Evolutionary Psychology are very new disciplines, and I'm impressed by their achievements. (Though you clearly know more than I do.)

Gravity did a good job of sticking things down before we had it sussed.

I didn't suggest that E.P.has altruism nailed yet, but that Religion's explanation creates much more mystery than it solves.

I assumed that finance was more evolutionary than designed. I could be wrong.

Religion is for the masses. It does not pose questions, it neutralises them. That is its promise.

Why are we here? It's inevitable. In an arbitrarily large cosmos, anything not forbidden is mandatory. It really is that simple. :-)

I'm impressed by your breadth of knowledge, dude! I can only quarrel with your analysis.

Existence of various gods? It's not open to reason or facts, of course. Some feel their gods inside. (And deny those of others.) I emphatically don't have one, and I feel no need.

Augustine said...


Evolution,if it is anything at all, is a description of a biochemical process. Evolutionary psychology is a metaphor that uses this process as an analogy for social behavior.

The further you delve into evolutionary psychology, the more problematic and unscientific it becomes. It is dangerously reductive. In its essence it suggests that human beings are akin to automatons who make rational decisions based on payoffs.

Personally, I would love someone to explain from an evolutionary psychology perspective the existence and fall of the Soviet Union and central planning, or the creation of a credit default swap in financial markets. The evolutionary metaphor is simply not applicable in these cases in my view.

Turning to your point about multiple gods, Catholic philosophy makes a distinction between natural theology and revealed theology. A person with no knowledge of Christianity can still arrive at understanding of God. Someone who believes in multiple gods can still have some understanding of the divine.

Notwithstanding this qualification, the majority of people on earth believe in the same God - the God of Abraham.

In fact, Christianity and Catholicism especially is particularly adept at reconciling traditional beliefs with its own theological structures. This distinction also explains why the Catholic Church has always had a soft spot for Greek philosophers.

Yes I agree; religion is for the masses. It is also for the elite. One of the thing that impresses me the most about Catholicism is its capacity to attract such a diverse people. It is a universal Church comprising of 1.2 billion people. There are no intellectual qualifications required to become a member. It has mentally disabled believers as well as Nobel prizewinners. It is an institution with an unsurpassed intellectual tradition and yet its basic message is remarkably straightforward and easy to understand.

By the way, the Catholic Church is the only religious institution I know that has a scientific academy. One of its teachings, which goes back to the early Church Fathers, is that to reject reason is to reject God. Although you wouldn't know it from reading the Guardian, the Church has a profound and deeply rooted commitment to education and science. It also believes that science should be firmly rooted within a moral framework.

Why are we here? I'm not totally sure. However, the best answer I received was from the Catholic Church. Personally, I find it hard to believe that we live in an arbitrarily large cosmos. Moreover, I sense that there is a moral order to this universe that is divinely inspired.

But that is just me, you must find your own answers.

Caratacus said...

Oh Captain - you've done it now...!

We are none of us persuaded by the arguments of others and are merely arguing about whether to open our eggs at the little end or the big end.

Adjudication please.

Augustinian Modalist said...

I agree with everyone.

Augustine said...


There is no harm in good natured and thoughtful debate.

None will receive an adequate answer this side of the grave.

Augustine said...


There is no harm in good natured and thoughtful debate.

None will receive an adequate answer this side of the grave.

Zaphod said...

Evolution, for me, is a "revelation" that clears a lot of fog. A beautiful concept, which only meets dogged resistance because it undermines precious creation myths. It's biochemistry, and physics, and probability, and epidemiology, and many other ologies.

Evo Psch, (Sociobiology)is that rarity, a soft science with real bite. Behaviours are partially heritable. It flows beautifully from there. Not as easy to measure as morphology, but my understanding of human nature has blossomed since I discovered it. Like quantum theory, it's a bit of a metaphor but gets results better than anything else.

If religious truth is affected by majority opinion, how did Abraham's get started when it was a minority?

Catholicism doesn't attract people. It indoctrinates them with guilt at birth, and demands multiple offspring. An excellent evolutionary psych strategy. I understand why it thrives, but that doesn't make it true. It's just a successful meme. Like rock n roll.

Do you think the cosmos is small? It's a helluva lot bigger than gods need it to be.

It's all clear to you, because you accept the faith. It's pretty clear to me, because I don't. I guess neither of us is doing much harm. But others are. On both sides.

Augustine said...


The funny thing about the Judaeo-Christian creation story is that it contains two accounts of creation and not one. The first one, contains eight "divine" commands each been described as having occurred on a sequence of six "days". The second account refers to the creation of Adam and Eve, the subsequent fall, and the expulsion from the garden of eve. The two stories are linked by a key phrase "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created."

Most secular difficulties with the creation account concerns time. People get terribly hung up on the word "day". However, we must not forget that the creation story originates in early Hebrew, where the word day can also mean age. I remember a rabbi telling a story about how a child challenged him to explain how God made the world in six days. He replied "how long is a divine day?"

The real purpose of the book of Genesis is to provide an ageless account of creation is understandable across all cultures. It has two key messages. First, that God created the universe and it isn't too specific on how he did it. Second, it describes man's relationship with God, which is one of separation. Theologians have always understood that these two creation accounts are essentially two messages and should be understood as such.

Personally, I have no difficulty in reconciling evolution with this account of creation. The two accounts refer to the purpose of creation. Evolution merely explains the mechanism.

CrazyDaisy said...


Being a man o ra Temple, BZ conviction is the courage we all should have and employ as necessary.

ps. C u on the ither side ;)


Augustine said...


I always smile when I hear the word meme. It is as if evolutionary psychologists have discovered that the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening and then go on to tell us that they discovered something important.

The idea of a meme is a pseudoscientific way of saying that generations communicate with each other. In my village we call this education. It is usually undertaken with the help of books and other similar material. Economists call it technological diffusion and I'm sure other social scientists have similar clever names.

As for Catholicism not attracting people, I'm afraid to say that the numbers are not with you on that one. The Catholic Church continues to grow, but absolutely and relatively. It has never had any trouble attracting people and I doubt it ever will. You must remember that it is the oldest continuous institution in the world. It survived both the Roman and Nazi persecutions and continues to survive even in the most difficult circumstances.

So what about catholic guilt? It is true that Christianity argues that there is a divinely inspired moral order to the universe. It also argues that human beings do bad things, which should provoke a feeling of guilt. However, it also offers the opportunity of reconciliation through forgiveness. In fact, this provides a powerful antidote to the aforementioned feeling of guilt. It offers us the opportunity to leave the past behind and to start again. I wouldn't underestimate the power of this idea. You can call it a meme if you like.

Perhaps I misled you slightly. I think the universe is infinitely large. I don't think it is arbitrary.

"If religious truth is affected by majority opinion, how did Abraham's get started when it was a minority."

That is a very good question. My own answer is that the divine hand is at work. It is extraordinary that the simple shepherd trailing around the desert in the Middle East 5000 years ago could be the original prophet of three of the world's greatest religions. It is an idea to absurd to be explained by simple probabilities, memes, or evolutionary psychobabble.

Zaphod said...

"Meme" is a very useful concept, much broader than books or education. It is only useful if the other understands it, though.

Catholicism does indeed grow. They are forbidden practical birth control, their many children are implanted with guilt, and the regular dose of antidote is only available from the priest. A highly effective "strategy", if you'd prefer a pseudomilitary term. I've never underestimated it. You can call it a protection racket, if you like.

The "divine hand at work" is an excellent answer to absolutely everything. Religiobabble?

The god of that simple shepherd was offering vengeance, racism, misogyny, ethnic cleansing, and many other unpleasant attributes. It's a popular message when times are hard. It's been watered down in the C of E, fortunately.

Augustine said...


This debate between us can only go one of two ways. If you are right and I am wrong, then all that awaits both of us is oblivion.

If I am right and you are wrong, then the consequences for both of us are very serious indeed. If only for the balance of probabilities and expected outcomes, you should at least try to believe.

Let me say, in the nicest possible way, that you have some way to go before you understand the message of Christianity. In the bible, God offers us convenant that gives us the opportunity of divine reconciliation.

The bible recounts examples of vengence and ethnic cleansing, but that is not its message. Nevertheless, You can chose to take that message if you like. After all, you have free will. You can do what you like. However, what will it profit you to willfully misunderstand the will of God?

As for the recruitment strategy of the Church, it has no technological monopoly. Atheists could practice it also.

Perhaps, religion has an evolutionary dimension. For a society to truly prosper and strive, it needs a justification that reaches beyond the material.

In this regard, I am deeply struck by the correlation between religious belief and fertility. As European societies turn their back on the religion of their ancestors, the birth rate has crashed to the point whether it is doubtful that it generate sufficient can replace its own population. It is an outcome that reeks of despair and hopelessness.

As for memes, I think I understand this word and all its pretensions. Sorry, but I prefer plainer language and have no use for it.

As for divine hand of God and religious babble. I will concede the possibility. However, if you believe in God, one is drawn inevitably to the idea of a personal relationship with him.

If I may return to my original comment, I can accept the possibility that God might not exist. However, can you accept the alternative proposition, that he might exist?

Zaphod said...

Actually, there's a third way. Both of us wrong? There could be an afterlife, and a god, but he's not yours. In which case, you may be in more trouble than me. There may currently be a new shepherd wandering the desert, who will be the big prophet in another 5000 years. I'll be okay, because I haven't encountered the new prophet's message yet.

I'll be frank. I don't approve of Abraham's god. Jesus seems okay, he'd forgive me. This is not willful misunderstanding. I may misunderstand, but why wilfully? "Trying to believe" would be willful misunderstanding! We are all capable of believing things fervently, without reason. I try to avoid it. I'm not completely successful, of course.

The decline in fertility? You consider this a bad thing? It is an outcome that reflects the availability of choice. There is no danger of our extinction. Something has to limit the population. We used to have famine, war and pestilence.

A god may exist. It is so unlikely, that I don't feel the need to insure against it beyond following my own sense of right and wrong. I was doing that anyway.

This has all got a bit aggressive. I think you started it, I expect you think that I did. Offence was not originally intended.

Peace, Philosopher. :-)

Augustine said...


Indeed, there is a third way.

I am sorry if it got bit aggressive. It wasn't my intention. I merely wanted to be provocative. I probably did start it. For my part, no offence was taken.

I do consider the decline in fertility a very bad thing, mostly for secular and economic reasons. But that is a debate for another forum.

Yes, the God of Abraham is problematic, and Jesus will forgive you.

Here seems a natural point to finish an interesting debate that I enjoyed enormously (for which I thank you).

Let me leave you with three somewhat implausible book recommendations.

The first is by an agnostic Jewish scientist called David Berlinski. It is called "The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific pretensions".

The second book is called "the Cube and the Cathedral" by George Weigel (If nothing else, it will make you think hard about the future of Europe).

The last recommendation is a book written by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict. It is called "In the Beginning..".

In many ways, it is a shocking book, with some extraordinary insights into the human condition. It also deals directly with the Christian conception of the creation. Of the three, I would recommend this one the strongest.

I will keep you in my prayers.

reiverdave said...

CR, I felt your original posting was right on the money. It's important in a free society to be able to say things which may very well shock & offend without causing actual harm. It's vitally important to remember that your "rantings" are nothing and nowhere as compared to the evil actions which prompted your reason/justification for the rant!
Kind regards and Happy New Year, and just be assured that your continued postings ARE making a difference. "Who Dares Wins"

Zaphod said...

Augustine, thanks. I've enjoyed it too. You're a gentleman and a scholar.

You'll easily guess the author I'd recommend. I think I got some backlash from your irritation at Dawkins' insufferable arrogance! He'd irritate me too, but I forgive him cos he obligingly agrees with me.

Thanks also to our host, CR. And anyone who read this far. Cue applause from the audience? Was anyone listening?

Steven UK said...

Take a look at this incredible film
Corporation Nation

Its a long watch but well worth it.

Captain Ranty said...

Thanks Steven.

I have begun my three hour session with these videos...


Steven UK said...

Hi CR,

I promise you, its so worth a watch. It didn't feel like 3 hours when I watched it this morning.