Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, June 20, 2008

I agree with this

Here is Billy Connolly's (the world famous Scottish comedian) take on religion.

Fockin hilarious....


History Buff said...

yes it's funny, but he's talking about fanatics, not the majority of people who have a faith in God -yes I know the silent majority.

I think that you can have faith in God, laugh at jokes about God and religion, believe in the accuracy of evolution, allow other people to have their own beliefs, and be able to talk about your own faith without being shot down because of it.

As far as I'm concerned some atheists are just as bad as religious fanatics because they feel the need to put down anyone who has religious faith. I don't try to push my faith on them. One of my best friends is an atheist and we talk about the things we believe in all the time without cutting each other down. All I ask for is open, respectful dialog, and I can take a joke.

Oh, also, if you haven't seen the video for the Axis of Evil Comedy tour, you have to see it, you can rent it through Blockbuster if you do the mail videos. I also love the film Dogma.

And here is a corny Lutheran Joke:

Ole and Lars were painting the sanctuary but they only bought one can of paint, being frugal Lutherans. So when they started painting the second side and the can was low they added turpentine. Each time the paint level dropped they added more. By the time they got to the fourth side a booming voice yelled out above them "Repaint and thin no more!"

Anonymous said...

Not that I am religious, but I have to agree with history buff here. A few months ago at my university, some kids had set up a table for a group called "Atheist Agenda". I decided I'd go talk to them because at first I didn't catch the word "agenda" in the title & thought this was just some thing for intelligent & practical Atheists to trade theories about the illogical misrepresentation of religious practice.

I was wrong.

There were three of them there, & when I asked each why they were atheists they told me was because religion was responsible for a myriad of atrocities over the ages, their parents were super religious, & no comment respectively.

Now the first one, religion was responsible for atrocities. That was it, that was her whole explanation. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this almost the same as the end all cop out argument "God moves in mysterious ways?" And I mean these aren't the first atheists I've known & that certainly wasn't the first time I got that explanation. The second one said she was an atheist because her parents were super religious. Again, I'm reminded of born again Christians who say they turned to Jesus because their parents never opened their minds to the word of the good book.

It was at this point that they asked me what led me to the notion that there is nothing that is the end all & be all. I explained my thoughts as best I could (if you really want to hear about the genesis cell theory & the super sensory method I can post a long explanation later), but at the end of my explanation, I drew blank stares.

The third one, who didn't venture to explain why he was an atheist pretended that he understood what I was saying. He then went on to say that he believed something similar. I asked him to elaborate the discrepancies, but he declined, saying that he wasn't sure he'd have the time. The only logical reason why he'd gravitated toward that table was because this would be a simple, risk free way to pick up women.

So in short, most atheists, in my estimation, aren't any more logical or intelligent, than your average religious bigot.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I would be more careful with how you phrase your last statement, Anonymous.

Your average atheist person is not more intelligent than your average religious person, and your average atheist bigot is not more intelligent than your average religious bigot. But your average atheist or religious person is more intelligent than your average atheist or religious bigot.

Raised By Republicans said...

I agree with Dr. S's assesment.

I will also suggest that Billy wasn't complaining about people who turn to belief in this diety or that out of some sort of spiritual quest or even out of "bitterness" or a sense of loss of control over their lives.

I think he was mainly upset about people who use religion as the basis for a system of government and politics. Keep in mind that he's Glaswegian and has had a front row seat for the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland (which often spilled over into the rest of the UK). It is that sentiment with which I agree. I think the days when religion was a legitimate basis for politics SHOULD be over (but unfortunately will linger for frustratingly long time).

Even those religious people who see themselves as tolerant and open minded are a problem. In the end a debate between the Religious Left and the Religious Right is about who has the "correct" veiw of the cosmos and who has the "correct" interpretation of the revealed word of God. That's a dangerous starting point for a democratic society.

We should start by saying that God (if there is a God) doesn't give a crap about the marginal tax rates or whatever and simply acknowlege that we all do care and disagree. But disagreeing doesn't make us apostates or evil or anything like that. When you bring religion into however, everything takes on an exagerated sense of importance.

History Buff said...

I agree that religion has no place in politics. Luckily the younger evangelicals seem to realize this.

As a Lutheran I'm strongly in favor of the separation of church and state. After all the Lutheran's were severely persecuted by the Catholics.

What I find really interesting is the Baptists who want to mix politics and religion. After all they were the ones that influenced John Madison to do what he could to keep from having a state religion. They obviously don't pay much attention to history.

But Dr S: "...your average atheist or religious person is more intelligent than your average atheist or religious bigot." I'm confused??

Spotted Handfish said...

I believe Dr S is saying your average person is more intelligent than your average bigot. (I really, really believe this...)

Dr. Strangelove said...

Spotted Handfish has it right. That's all I was trying to say. Mr. Anonymous appeared to be equating atheism with bigotry, and I presume that was not what he actually meant.

History Buff said...

No I don't think so either, I think he thought those aethists at his college didn't know what they were talking about. From the post I gathered that he was an atheist himself.

The Law Talking Guy said...

It's easy to dump on religion. Some religious people really are dumb, or are jerks. That's not unique to religious people, of course, although religious people can be dumb or assholes in very peculiar ways. Fundamentalists of every sort are usually the least intellectual and most assholish of the lot.

I found Billy Connolly's manner of presentation to be humorous (you know, sort of drunken lout style) but the substance was pretty obnoxious. It's obvious he can't tell a religious extremist or a pedophile from a normal religious adherent, or doesn't care to. That's bigotry. It's as if I condemned atheism as a philosophy of terror because the Soviet Union was officially atheist. Atheists will say that it's not right to judge them by what is done in the name of atheism by murderous Stalinists. Did Hitler believe in any God? Is that a useful question? Nor is it right to judge the ordinary religious people by Catholic (Irish) or Islamic (Arab) terrorists, or the crusades.

Now, beyond the emotional atheists (those who just hate churches or religion for some personal reason, or those who say they are atheist but are, actually, angry at a God they believe in and resent), there is intellectual atheism that - I think - is more common to those on this blog. This is the position that belief in a deity is, at best, irrational and unsupported by logic, at worst, psychologically destructive.

That's a debate we can have. But it's not a very interesting debate, which is why most people stop having that debate in college, if they even get there. Smart religious people know there's no proof that a god exists, and smart atheists know that they know that, and know that they can't disprove the existence of deities so as to force intelligent religious people to stop believing.

I just wish we could talk about religion in intellectual circles again. Telling university-educated people in major cities that I believe in God creates the same reaction as if I had said, "want to see my latest bowel movement?" Not only is the reaction negative, but the conclusion is that I'm nuts. Even while the majority culture is some sort of base form of pseudo-Christian that is highly intolerant, I rarely encounter that in my daily life; rather, the intolerance I encounter in my small pocket of the world runs against me.

Pombat said...

In answer to your first question LTG, I believe he was raised Roman Catholic and considered himself Christian. In answer to the second question, it's kind of irrelevant. (totally agree with the whole of your first para btw)

I'm sort of atheist - I think it'd be highly arrogant of us to believe that there isn't any 'higher being' out there, but I think it's equally arrogant to believe that there's a higher being that's obsessed with little ole us. So, guess I'm a mathematician & scientist who likes the odds of there being other life out there somewhere.

As far as organised religion goes though, I don't like it. At all. I found myself having a very violent reaction to St Peter's in Rome when I visited - I wasn't awestruck by the centre of a religion (as many Catholics visiting there seemed to be), I was disgusted by the sheer amount of money that had been wasted by supposedly religious people over the centuries, building themselves a p-n-s substitute rather than feeding the poor as I was under the impression Jesus would've done. The brass inlays in the floor showing how much longer the basilica is compared to other famous ones was the nail in that coffin.

I know that at the lower, community, levels, there are people doing a lot of good, for what they see as religious reasons. However, I personally believe that they are simply good people, and that if religion did not exist, they would still be doing this good, just within a different structure.

But at the higher levels, organised religions are all about power - they've not got as much power as they used to (no armies anymore for example), but there's still enough.

When it comes to 'intelligent' people telling me they believe in God, I'd probably react in the same "are you sure, or are you nuts?" way to be honest, simply because I see the weight of scientific evidence, contradictory to the Bible, as too great to be ignored by anyone capable of understanding it. It's not intolerance - I would never try to brow-beat someone out of their chosen belief, or treat them (too! ;-p) differently because of it, I just find it hard to believe that they hold that belief, and hence would react with surprise to genuine conviction that God truly exists.

And then there's the fact that when it comes to atheism, it's not just me, but all of us - even you, LTG, are in fact an atheist:
Courtesy of we have atheist - one who denies the existence of a deity or of divine beings. (emphasis mine)

Do you believe in Vishnu?

The Law Talking Guy said...

My reaction to anyone who thinks the bible (whatever version) is literally true is, "are you nuts?"

And that's a reasonable reaction because, as you say, Pombat, scientific evidence demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that a great many of the stories in there are, at best, myths. We have to be careful to distinguish, however, between miracles such as the raising of Lazarus (which can't be proven or disproven, however unlikely resurrection seems scientifically) and Joshua stopping the sun in the sky (which would require the earth seizing to a halt and all of us flying into space, never mind the ignorance of the author who thought the sun was moving...). I like to say that the Old (Hebrew) Testament is a collection of stories, myths, and legends describing an ancient people's beliefs about God and its understanding of interactions with God We hope these continue to tell us something of the nature of the divine and of human beings.

The New Testament is a scrapbook of early Christianity with four inconsistent accounts of the life of Jesus (placed next to one another so that their inconsistency should be readily apparent to anyone seeking truth) and a bunch of other random documents, including the curious dream-story of John at the end, known as the Apocalypse, that requires a great deal of thought and historical context to begin to understand. Faith does not come from a book, nor does one believe in a book.

Theologian Fred Buechner, whom I enjoy, says of the bible (an excerpt from a much longer passage):

"There are other reasons for not reading the bible. It not only looks awfully dull, but some of it is. The prophets are wildly repetitious and almost never know when to stop. There are all the begats... There are the lists of kings, dietary laws, tribes, and tribal territories.... The barbarities, the often fanatical nationlism. The passages where the god of Israel is depicted as interested in other nations only to the degree that he can use them to whip Israel into line. God hardening Pharaoh's heart and then clobbering him for hard0heartedness.... Or even Jesus of Nazareth who... is quoted as telling a Canaanite women who came to him for help that it was not fair for him to throw the children's food to the dogs.

In short, one way to describe the Bible, written by many different people over three thousand years an dmore, would be to say that it is a disorderly collection of sixty-odd books, which are often tedious, barbaric, obscure, and teem with contradictions and inconsistencies. It is a swarming compost of a book, an Irish stew of poetry and propaganda, law and legalism, myth and murk, history and hysteria. Over the centuries it has become hopelessly associated with tub-thumping evangelism and dreary piety, with superannuated superstition and crippling literalism. Let them who try to start out at Genesis and work their way conscientiously to Revelation beware."

Buechner concludes, however, that because it is about people who are both guilty and innocent at the same time, because it is so messy and bizarre, it is truly a book by and about the human race. I kind of like that.

History Buff said...

I agree with John Polkinghorne who is an anglican theologian and a former professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge. There is a program about him speaking about his views at

This is from Krista Tippett's Journal about her interview with Polkinghorne. "He incorporates modern science with his beliefs in a way that makes a lot of sense to me. He also wrote a book called Quarks, Chaos and Christianity. Polkinghorne takes the Genesis stories, the biblical accounts of creation, seriously. But he points out that these are lyrical, theological writings. They were not composed as scientific texts. The early Christians, he says, knew this, and only in the later Medieval and reformation times did people begin to insist on literal interpretation. To read a work of poetry as a work of prose, he analogizes, is to miss the point.

Drawing on the best of his scientific and theological knowledge, Polkinghorne believes that God created this universe. But this was not a one-act invention of a clockwork world. God did something "more clever": he created a world with independence, a world able to make itself. Creation is an on-going act, Polkinghorne believes, one in which the laws of nature make room for choice and action, both human and divine. He finds this idea beautifully affirmed by the best insights of chaos theory, which describes reality as an interplay between order and disorder, between random possibilities and patterned structure."

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG writes, "I just wish we could talk about religion in intellectual circles again. Telling university-educated people in major cities that I believe in God creates the same reaction as if I had said, 'want to see my latest bowel movement?'"

I just don't see that. To me, hearing a Christian complain about "persecution" from atheists in this country is like hearing a white man complain about "reverse" discrimination and Affirmative Action. Some injustices have been done to Christians, sure, but the fact remains that the vast majority of this country is Christian. Even in my highly secular little world, a good chunk of my friends believe in god--and I think the same is true for LTG. It makes me ill to hear Christians try to paint themselves as victims in any way--so unfair.

There are, of course, some small ghettos where atheists dominate. It has taken centuries for atheists to find at least some small refuge where we can avoid ridicule and persecution. These are usually groups who have come under attack from Christians for decades. There are not too many god-fearing evolutionary biologists--and they probably would look at LTG with disgust if he said he believed in god--but you can't go to San Francisco and expect a kind reception when you talk about "defending" traditional marriage.

It is worth mentioning that even gays and lesbians have a better shot at getting elected than atheists. What it comes down to is this: you can believe in gods, UFOs, astrology, homeopathy, ESP, ouija boards, ghosts, voodoo, the tooth fairy--or whatever the hell you want--then but don't expect the small, besieged community of free thinkers to give that belief much respect. It is hard enough living in a culture that consistently promotes the message that atheists are closed-minded, devoid of spirituality, and basically immoral.

No, it is not fair for atheists to treat modern, reformed Christians without respect. And it does happen. But first cast the beam out of thine own eye.

History Buff said...

I believe in free thinking and then coming to your own conclusions. Most of the people I know that don't are religious, because they don't want their beliefs to be shaken. I really don't feel that Christians are besieged either, but I do think that if they are going to get into religious discussions in school about other faiths they should discuss all faiths. I don't think theology should be taught in public school, however. It should be more of a cultural discussion. But many people of religious faith don't want their children to question anything.

One of the things that we do during confirmation classes in our church is take our kids to other religious services. It lets them see how other people worship. My daughter's best friend is Mormon (or more respectfully LDS). Mormon's are good people, but I could never believe what they do. That doesn't make them stupid. I feel the same way about atheists. As long as someone respects my beliefs, I will respect theirs.

Raised By Republicans said...

"I just wish we could talk about religion in intellectual circles again. Telling university-educated people in major cities that I believe in God creates the same reaction as if I had said, 'want to see my latest bowel movement?'"

If I had to guess at a figure, I'd say that about 40% of my friends and colleagues here at the fairly liberal college where I teach go to church or temple or what have you on a fairly regular basis.

Openly athiest people are decided minority. Of all my friends and colleagues I know enough to guess about, I'd say I know for sure that 3 of them besides myself are athiests or agnostics.

I guess I'm agree with Dr. S. that for a Christian to claim victimhood in this country is absurd. We live in a country ruled by Christians where Christian churches are given tax free status despite their deep involvement in both political parties.

Freedom of religion in this country has been distorted to mean "ecumenicalism."

I also sympathize A LOT with Pombat. The waste of resources on various churches etc is just criminal in the context of a world population that is struggling to feed itself and destroying its environment in the process. But I must admit I'd like to think I'd stop short of thinking someone who is religious is nuts. Of course, I often catch myself thinking or saying things exactly like what Pombat did.

By the way, since George Carlin died recently, his take on religion is also interesting.

He said something to the effect of "They've convinced billions of people that there is an invisible man up in the sky and he's watching everything you do. And he's got a list of 10 things he absolutely doesn't want you to do and if you do any of them, he'll send you to this place under the ground full of pain and fire and smoke and misery and torture...But! He loves you! And he needs money!..."

Raised By Republicans said...

The Law Talking Guy said...

Whoa! I'm not saying that Christians are victims. I'm saying that there's a lot of hostility to what is called "organized religion" at universities and among educated elites. RBR lives in Iowa, and I can't speak to that. But I live in Los Angeles, and I hardly know anyone of my social sort who goes to church outside of, er, my own church. I suppose the fact that I'm a lawyer can't help the statistics, but even so.

And of course, we certainly can't *discuss* religion. The only person at the office with whom I can discuss religion is an Conservadox Jew.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I'll probably provoke a shit storm with this, but what the hell--it's late and I guess I'm cranky. I was thinking about LTG's contention that he cannot "discuss" religion with certain groups of people. Now of course, many people avoid discussing religion (and politics) for fear of offending others, but I don't think that's what concerns LTG here. (Except maybe in the somewhat artificial context of an "office" environment.)

Rather, I suspect what LTG feels he needs to be comfortable discussing religion is some tacit understanding that his religious beliefs will be treated with respect. This is a precondition on the discussion. "Perhaps," he might reply, "but is that really so unreasonable--to ask for respect for one's religious beliefs?" History Buff also seems to feel that respect for his religious beliefs is just something good people ought to offer him without even being asked.

But without putting too fine a point on it, adults who still believe in the Tooth Fairy will also have a hard time finding educated people with whom they can "discuss" the topic if they insist their discussion partners treat their belief with respect. Because "respecting" a belief means not being allowed to point out the obvious. Instead of more so-called "respect" in our discussions (about this and many issues) maybe what we really need is more honesty.

The Law Talking Guy said...

In reference to attitudes towards religion, perhaps I should have just said "cf: Dr. Strangelove."

Oh, and the tooth fairy is real. Children really do leave teeth under their pillows and receive money in turn. It just turns out that the tooth fairy is not supernatural.

History Buff said...

Dr. S--I didn't say you have to believe what I believe in, just don't make fun of me for it. I won't make fun of you. Also, I don't expect people who have never met me to respect me, I know that has to be earned. That's probably why it's not good to get into discussions about religion and politics with people you barely know. Talking online is kind of different because you are all anonymous to me.

I hope that the people that you and RBR and Pombat know don't make fun of you because you don't believe in God. I can respect that position, I have doubts sometimes myself. I also don't make fun of people who believe in Vishnu.

And as for spending a lot of money on churches. Not all faiths do that. Our church until recently was falling down around our ears. As president of the congregation I talked our mostly aging members into cough up $300,000 over 3 years, mostly to fix up our Day Care Center, which is our major outreach mission. We do charge for care, but all the money goes back into the center to pay salaries, etc. Also, the tuition is much lower than most day care centers. Since we are an inner city church this is important for our neighborhood.

I have been to the Vatican too and it is very ostentatious, and I don't agree with spending that kind of money on a building. But the vatican was built in a different time when the Pope was considered the prince of his own country. Sometimes you need to look at things in an historical context. I also couldn't be a Catholic because I strongly disagree with most of the Pope's positions. But I'm not going to make fun of Catholics, either.

Oh and by the way, I'm a woman.

Dr. Strangelove said...

History Buff: Oops! Sorry for the reflexive use of the masculine possessive pronoun.

Let me ask you a hypothetical question here... If someone told you, that they sincerely believed in the (supernatural) Tooth Fairy, how would you respond? I suspect most folks (me included) would quickly discover some pressing reason why they had to be somewhere else. But if this person were someone you loved and respected, and they truly wished to discuss this belief... How would you engage them?

Probably you would, at first, listen politely and refrain from speaking your obvious objections. But at what point does such restraint stop being simple politeness and start to become a white lie--an inauthentic representation of one's own beliefs? And when does it stop being even a white lie and become something more harmful, such as enabling a delusion? At what point, through your silence, do you start to share responsibility for allowing such a charade to continue?

What I am trying to say here is that this predicament is not a matter of "making fun" of someone nor of showing the person any disrespect. Indeed, it is the sense of love and respect one feels that creates the problem in the first place. Otherwise, one would just stop pussy-footing around the issue and tell it like it is.

Let me be clear that the "Tooth Fairy" is a very bad analogy for god. I'm just trying to wrench you into a different perspective. Because to some atheists like myself, there is no symmetry between my position and that of a believer. Discussing religion politely is not a matter of each of us respecting each other's religious beliefs. I have no religious beliefs. Do not confuse the empty set with zero. This is totally one-sided.

History Buff said...

Dr S: I would say, well I respect your belief, but that's not what I believe. I have done this with Mormons, Jehovah's Witness, Atheists, Fundamentalists, etc.

I do think that atheists have some beliefs, they may not be beliefs in the supernatural, but they may have faith in other things that are equally unproven. Or they may have a strong sense of service. I don't think you have to be religious to have morals, I wasn't always religious, but I have always had morals. Having morals in a way is a belief system because you believe in treating your fellow human beings in a moral and fair way.

If you don't believe in God or gods, I can respect that. It's just not what I believe.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Well, History Buff, I certainly appreciate your respect--and your tolerance in putting up with my strident comments :-)

There is lots more I would say on this subject, but I'll wait for a future discussion--no doubt these issues will arise again. I would like to pull my thoughts together, but more than that, I would also like to find a way to be more respectful toward you, LTG, and others than I feel I have been in these preceding comments. My apologies.