AIBU to find this slightly odd behaviour from atheist friends?

(435 Posts)
handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 10:56:42

I am an Evangelical Christian. People who know me well know that. I am happy to talk about it if people want to, but I don't go on about it.

Last Easter one of my friends posted a long status on facebook basically ranting against the Christian Easter message and saying that she didn't want or need Jesus to have died for her, thank you very much. Up to her what she writes of course, but the tone was very aggressive and I wondered why. I didn't comment but later she sent me a personal message asking me what I thought of her post.

Then this week another friend posted a photo on my wall which said "Proud to say I'm an atheist". I haven't responded but just wondering why would someone do this? I am not offended just find it a bit strange.

Why do you think they would do this?

DreamingofSummer Mon 26-Nov-12 10:57:38

block the bastards - simple!

mrskeithrichards Mon 26-Nov-12 10:59:44

If she put it straight onto your wall she sq being antagonistic and spoiling for a fight to make an arse out of you.

cutegorilla Mon 26-Nov-12 11:00:33

On the flip side I'm an atheist and I get Christians posting about their beliefs on my FB. I just ignore it. Perhaps they've experienced similar (not from you) and were reacting to that. Some people are just very in your face about their beliefs or lack of. If it irritates you then don't have them on your FB.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 26-Nov-12 11:00:45

I can understand. So many of my Facebook 'friends' seem to think it's fine to post ikky fridge-magnet-style 'Click like if you love Jesus!!!!' status updates that, as an atheist, it's easy to feel like it's being rammed down your throat.

They sound very weird but as long as you're not imposing your views on then then it's them with the problem.
This sort of thing is one of the reasons I hate Fb tbh, I deleted my profile a log time ago grin

MsVestibule Mon 26-Nov-12 11:01:16

This does sound rather rude and odd behaviour. But are you sure you don't go on about it? I don't mean that in a nasty way, but your Christianity is obviously a big part of your life - is it possible you talk about more than you think you do?

I can only think they're doing this in a very immature "she goes on about her Christianity, so I'll go on about my atheism" way. If so, time to get new friends. Or at the very least, delete these friends from FB.

bruxeur Mon 26-Nov-12 11:01:28

lolololololol at being evangelical but not liking to go on about it. Brilliant!

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 11:01:38

Sounds like they're spoiling for a fight for some reason. Have you pissed them off?

Anyway, I would ignore both although maybe delete the photo, which is an inappropriate thing for her to put on your wall.

CSIJanner Mon 26-Nov-12 11:01:54

Thinking the best of people, maybe someone pointed out to her that her aggressive post might have offended a good friend..?

But I find when people post aggressive assertive statements, that they are reassuring themselves as they feel it's them against the world. It's not a good thing nor a bad thing, but it's either something you have to just accept or maybe just request FB hide their posts from your feed. It doesn't mean you have to defriend but spares you from the rants.

CSIJanner Mon 26-Nov-12 11:03:09

Sorry - misread. Posted to your wall? Did you allow this on timeline? Delete and send them a PM telling them that whilst you respect their beliefs, it would be nice in light of your friendship to respect yours.

Goldmandra Mon 26-Nov-12 11:03:32

I don't understand TBH.

I am an atheist but my DH and DCs are not. I am happy to support them in their beliefs and, because I see the value of the church in many ways, I am happy to support church activities and fund-raising.

The only reason for it I can think of is that the first person wants someone to argue that God does exist because she secretly wants to believe. It is an invitation to convince her maybe?

Perhaps the second person is responding to having someone else's beliefs rammed down their throat.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 26-Nov-12 11:03:55

It's the ready-made copy/paste ones, often attached to some schmaltzy photograph, which go off on some toe-curlingly sentimental reason why we should praise Jesus for.... mothers/children/partners/the dog/the dog's mother/the success of our brave soldiers overseas (US-origins those).... that make me stabby.

Gosh, that sounds bizzarre behaviour confused are they good friends?

The first friend, as you say, I'd have thought a bit angry and odd but hey, she can write what she likes on her own page. But then to pm you asking about it? And for the second friend to post something on your wall shock

Do these friends know each other? Have up you discussed religion with them recently? There's not a chance you're slightly more evangelical when with them than you make out? If not, I'd block them,nseriously. They're rude and they're not your friends if they can't respect you and your beliefs in the same way you can theirs.

FushiaFernica Mon 26-Nov-12 11:04:41

Nowadays it has become almost embarrassing to admit that you believe in God.

I am suuuuuuuch a slow typer blush

HeadfirstForAMistletoeKiss Mon 26-Nov-12 11:05:21

I would perhaps reply that I didn't post Christian messages directly onto their wall, and that I was confused as to why they would post this onto yours. Then maybe add that you don't have a problem with people believing in what they want to, including atheism and that I hoped they didn't either.

I'm am atheist and wouldn't dream of doing that, it's rude and disrespectful and unnecessary.

The first friend sounds like she was trying to provoke an argument, the second friend just sounds rude and unpleasant.

FromEsme Mon 26-Nov-12 11:06:12

I thought the point of being evangelical was that you went on about it a bit?

Are you sure she posted it on your wall specifically? If so, that's pretty rude (presuming you haven't been going around posting on her wall about Jesus).

Your other friend's rant, well, that's what people do on FB, be it about politics or whatever. It seems aggressive to you because it's rejecting what you believe so strongly, to those who agree with her it might just seem like a normal statement.

Some evangelicals can be very aggressive themselves, and this is probably what they are reacting to, not you personally. Assuming you really don't go on about it?

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 11:08:20

^ Nowadays it has become almost embarrassing to admit that you believe in God.

Yes, you are very much a persecuted minority. There is no state church, there are no bishops in the HoL, there is no requirement for all state schools to indoctrinate children in assemblies etc etc etc.

Poor old you, eh?

Anniegetyourgun Mon 26-Nov-12 11:09:52

The more I hear about Facebook the more I am convinced it is the work of the Devil, and putting half-witted things like "click if you love Jesus" (I thought you were supposed to be at least 13 years old to use FB!) doesn't prove otherwise.

Also laughing, like Bruxeur, about the evangelist who doesn't.

FromEsme Mon 26-Nov-12 11:11:04

Surely it's only embarrassing to say you believe in God if you're embarrassed by your beliefs. Isn't that a bit against your religion? I thought people were meant to be all happy and non-embarrassed by believing in God.

Also, are you all in the UK?

I'm American and I kind of understand why atheists get a bit aggressive there, as religion intrudes so much into politics and government.

I'm actually curious why atheists would be so strident in Britain, as in my experience anyway it seems a much more secular society. (sorry for the tangent)

FushiaFernica Mon 26-Nov-12 11:13:00

wallison I wished I had added to my message that I am agnostic. I just meant that society currently favours non-believers in God.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 11:14:44

How exactly does society do that, FushiaFernica?

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 11:16:49

The 2 friends don't know each other. The one who posted on my timeline (I deleted it) lives in the same town as me but isn't such a close friend, he's the father of one of my dd's friends. The other one is a close friend but we now live in different places and don't meet up very often. We had some discussions about faith in the past. Of course part of me thinks the fact she is so defensive about her atheism says a lot but I would not say that to her. She posts things like that sometimes - a mutual Christian friend wrote "God is so good!" on her profile and the friend commented "What's he done now?" She could have just said nothing.

Being an evangelical Christian does not just mean going on about my faith all the time!

Startail Mon 26-Nov-12 11:19:46

I'm an atheist and sometimes wish there was an equivalent of a cross or a fish symbol to put on a pendent etc.

so I can understand posting proud to be an atheist just as Christians sometimes post brief quotes.

A massive rant about Easter and then pointing it, specifically to Christian friends is weird.

Errrrrrrrrr...... writing 'God is so good' on the profile of someone you know to be an atheist is ridiculously rude. I think your friend's response was quite good really, trying to be lighthearted about it.

The fact you think she should just have shut up and accepted people posting pushy religious messages on her FB probably explains why you think her posts are so aggressive. It implies you are okay with people not believing in God, but they should be quiet about it.

SparkyTGD Mon 26-Nov-12 11:23:32

If they have posted on your wall then that is very rude,

but if it is on their wall & has just appeared in your news feed then not really, they are entitled to opinions also.

LessMissAbs Mon 26-Nov-12 11:27:32

I suspect they are reacting in some way to something...

Perhaps if you didn't label people aetheist or not, but simply treated them like people, and say things like "society favourse non-believers", you wouldn't create so much antagonism?

I thought being Christian was about being accepting and non-judgemental, not about considering your views superior to those of others and being intolerant of differences?

DontmindifIdo Mon 26-Nov-12 11:29:13

There are some people who are not actually comfortable with their faith choices and do find it unsettling when they know other people have strong beliefs that are different to theirs. Some people feel the need to reassert their faith (or lack of it) over and over and can't seem to tolerate there are other people who think they are wrong (even if the other people make no attempt to convert them).

I'm Christian, my facebook friends include some atheists, some Hindus, some Jewish people and some Muslims. When my friends from different faiths post about their religion and celebrations, I never feel the need to put on snippy comments about my views. I wouldn't dream of posting a Christian message on their walls. I expect people with no faith to be equally respectful of mine.

These people aren't really your friends, just delete them. Feel free to say it's because they seem to have a problem with your faith if they ask, but they probably won't.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 11:29:29

The mutual friend posted "God is so good" on her own status, so the atheist friend was just commenting. It wasn't on the other person's profile.

LtEveDallas Mon 26-Nov-12 11:30:58

I have no particular belief either way. I am supposed to be CofE, but in truth I am probably leaning towards Agnostic.

I have one (very good) friend who is very religious, and she posts quite a bit of the "I was able to do XXXX today - thanks be to God" or when she was going through a hard time "I thank the Lord for my friends XXX and XXX, without them and without God I would not have survived this week"

It does make me hmm a bit - because she is thanking God for HER OWN achievements - things she should be proud of and I wish she'd shout them from the rooftops, rather than giving 'God' the credit IYSWIM.

I often want to post "FFS XXXX YOU did this YOU are brilliant, YOU should be proud of YOURSELF" - But I don't, because that would be rude and it would upset her. It does get a bit frustrating though.

(Oh and OP, unless these are VERY good friends I think I'd just block them. Do you really need people that are passive aggressive in your life?)

CaramelisedOnion Mon 26-Nov-12 11:31:06

She posts things like that sometimes - a mutual Christian friend wrote "God is so good!" on her profile and the friend commented "What's he done now?" She could have just said nothing

or she could have deleted it, or responded to it more aggressively (ie "please do not post your superstitions on my wall again, thanks" ) or indeed, rightyl, got very cross.

People ar enot on their FB all the time, and someone might have perceived this God is so good thing as being something she somehow was involved with, and I for one would be unhappy if my friends were given the false impression, even for a second, that I was involved in evangelical christianity.

I think YABU. If you think it is ok the other way around, then it should be ok when you are on the recieving end.

Ah, that's different.

I still don't think what your friend wrote was so bad. Just a bit tongue in cheek really. But no, probably not really called for in that case.

TheWave Mon 26-Nov-12 11:33:02

Agree that they should not have been rude to you personally, that's weird.

If it was the other way round would posters been saying "spoiling for a fight" and "aggressive" though?

I think the OP means that the Christian friend posted "God is so good" on her own profile. Not on someone else's.

ArkadyRose Mon 26-Nov-12 11:33:54

There are evangelical atheists as well as evangelical Christians. Personally I'm quite happy to let them seek each other out, then they're not bothering the rest of us! wink

With regards to the ranty post & PM, I'd have replied "You're entitled to post what you like on your own FB," and just left it at that, refusing to be drawn further. With the person posting on your Wall, just delete the post then you should be able to go into settings and revoke their access to post to your wall in future.

LtEveDallas Mon 26-Nov-12 11:35:10

(ie "please do not post your superstitions on my wall again, thanks" ) or indeed, rightyl, got very cross

It wasn't on the Atheists wall Caramelised, it was on the Christian's OWN wall smile. The Atheist posted the 'What's he done now?' on the Christians wall, which I agree is very very rude.

FredFredGeorge Mon 26-Nov-12 11:35:31

I thought as an Evangelical you had a requirement to share the gospel?

Either way, there are some very firebrand athiests who feel it's incredibly important to convert people to there vision - like the most extreme evangelical christian groups - but they're clearly bonkers and should be ignored just as much as any one else who wants to change your thoughts.

hellsbells76 Mon 26-Nov-12 11:35:59

startail how about this?

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 11:37:15

Caremelised onion it wasn't on someone else's profile, it was on her own. Sorry if I didn't make that clear.

These people are my friends, the one who I don't live near to especially. I won't delete them. As I said, I am not offended, just trying to understand.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 11:37:59

Errr, how can an atheist be described as 'evangelical'? Atheists don't believe.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 11:39:29

Sharing the gospel is not aggressively ramming it down people's throats.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 26-Nov-12 11:40:53

"just trying to understand. "

Maybe understand this way.... When on FB - same rule as for a dinner party - avoid all references to religion and politics if you don't want a fight to break out.

Hopeforever Mon 26-Nov-12 11:41:16

"Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words". (Possibly a saying of Francis of Assisi.)

Maybe the OP chooses this way to share her faith, through love and action, only talking about her faith when directly asked. If so this an evangelical faith in my book

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 26-Nov-12 11:41:59

"Sharing the gospel is not aggressively ramming it down people's throats. "

Yes it is. hmm It's exactly like these terrible people who come knocking on your door asking if you've heard the good news. If you're not interested you resent the intrustion.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 11:42:54

Cogito that is pretty much what I do....

But what's to understand? It's not that complicated, surely?

Some people do not believe in god and are perturbed by either A) the influence of religion in modern society and/or B) people's attempts to push religion onto them. So sometimes they express their views very strongly. Or sometimes they just feel like expressing their thoughts.

You seem to it's normal for a friend to write 'God is good' on her profile, but not for another friend to write about how she doesn't believe in Jesus.

They're two sides of the same coin. You perceive the latter as more aggressive because it contradicts your beliefs.

I do think it was rude for that guy to post something specifically on your wall, but are you sure there's no context to that? is it possible it's his awkward way of telling you that he's not interested in hearing you talk about god? (i.e., not trying to be aggressive)

EldritchCleavage Mon 26-Nov-12 11:43:23

I am an atheist, and even I find the increasingly common try-hard shouty atheists tiresome. I don't really know why it is becoming more common, especially given that fewer people are committed believers now than ever and religion is getting less common in public life. Perhaps now that is the case, those who like to pick on a minority find Christians a tempting target?

Wallison I know a few people who I would describe as evangelical atheists.OP They're the ones who seem to worship Richard Dawkins and have very strong opinions about anyone with a religious faith.

OP unless someone has asked you to share the gospel with them, then yes I would say it is aggressive. That doesn't excuse rudeness though.

FushiaFernica Mon 26-Nov-12 11:44:09

This thread is getting really agressive now.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 11:44:15

Argh! I was responding to your first post Cogito. I don't knock on doors.


So you ARE one of those people who go around knocking on people's doors to share the gospel?

I'm sorry, but I really don't think you understand how things like this are interpreted by a lot of people. It is intrusive. And leads me to think that yes, the guy who posted on your wall was probably letting you know he's not interested, thanks.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 11:47:11

dreamingbohemian the friend who posted the photo was definitely not responding to any discussion we've had. He knows I am a Christian because I once told him I go to church, in the context of picking my dd up from a sleepover with his dd on the way to church. That's it.

bigbadbarry Mon 26-Nov-12 11:47:11

"The only reason for it I can think of is that the first person wants someone to argue that God does exist because she secretly wants to believe. It is an invitation to convince her maybe?"

LOL at this

I'm so sorry, I'm terrible with x-posts today blush

What do you consider 'sharing the gospel'?

Okay well then he was definitely just being rude.

I'm not sure there's much to 'understand', some people are just rude.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 11:51:48

Yes too many cross posts, I need to post faster!

I will talk about my faith if people want to. I also try to live my life accordingly.

Regarding the "God is so good", I wouldn't think much of that, no, but I probably wouldn't write it on my profile.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 11:52:23

But atheism is absence of belief. It is abence of faith. The word 'evangelical' applies to beliefs. So it isn't accurate to use it to describe a person's lack of belief. Doing so just subscribes to the point of view that atheism is somehow a belief, which it isn't. I am an atheist. I don't believe in anything.

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 11:53:22

Its quite possible to use the term evangelism to describe the action of someone relaying information about any particular belief with the view to conversion.

It doesn't necessarily refer to Christianity so it is perfectly possible to claim an atheist is an evangelist.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 11:54:31

But atheism isn't a particular belief, so atheists don't relay information about a belief.

I am an atheist too Wallison, as I said upthread. I know people that I refer to as evangelical atheists because they constantly mock religious beliefs and try to convert people of faith to their point of view. Would you prefer the term proselytising?

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 11:58:34

Maybe 'aggressive atheist' would be better to describe those people. I'm sorry but I do get annoyed when atheist views are co-opted by religious language because it implies that atheism is a faith like any other, when as I said the defining characteristics are rejection, lack and absence of belief.

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 11:58:54

It is a beleif there is no god, which is a belief. A perfectly valid one but thea belief in the absence of something does not equal absence of belief. That's just illogical and wrong I'm afraid.

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 11:59:47

Thejoyfil I prefer the word proselytising myself as it doesn't confuse armchair philosophers as much.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 12:01:18

It isn't a belief. I don't believe in God because he doesn't exist. I also don't believe in the idea of self-cleaning kitchen floors because they also don't exist. Is that a belief as well.

Both good points ethel. smile

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 12:03:40

I'd rather be an 'armchair philosopher' (I assume that you are talking about me, even though you didn't address me) than someone who tells other people and labels their conclusions as a 'belief' when they are specifically saying to you that it is not.

Wallison you believe that God doesn't exist. I believe the same thing. It is still a belief.

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 12:04:08

@wallison no that's knowledge

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 12:06:04

I don't 'believe that God doesn't exist'. I don't, in fact, believe in anything.

Hopeforever Mon 26-Nov-12 12:06:23

Having just seen another thread I'm wondering if 4X4 drivers are more evangelical about their cars than Christians are about their faith.

FushiaFernica Mon 26-Nov-12 12:07:24

wallison if someone sent you a Christmas card with religious message and picture would that offend you?

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 12:07:59

Look, if you phrase it that I 'believe that God exists' then you are coming from the starting-point there there is an existence which I refute with my belief. Whereas I am coming from the starting-point that there is nothing to believe in, and therefore I do not believe.

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 12:08:01

@wallison are you a Nihilist rather than an atheist?

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 12:08:38

Woops, that should read 'if you phrase it that I 'believe that god doesn't exist ...' etc blush

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 12:08:41

I do send religious Christmas cards. No-one has ever told me they were offended by it.

YouCanBe Mon 26-Nov-12 12:08:41

I have friends who post about their beliefs regularly on Facebook. Whether that's Christian, or Wiccan, or a general political leaning, or strong comment on one particular political topic... Green energy one is always talking about.
That is what they care about and they want to share it. Why not?

Writing on Facebook does kind of indicate that you want to open a discussion, perhaps? So, people I know do sometimes have chats and disagreements, but not fights!

Some Christian friends have put things on my wall before, about friendship and God.
I am not religious but I wasn't offended.

I would probably ask why your friend posted directly to your wall about pride in his atheism though. It does seem a strange comment to make out of absolutely nowhere.

Opinion is a belief. Your opinion is that God doesn't exist. Therefore you believe that God doesn't exist.

If you didn't believe anything then you would be unsure about everything, which would make you an agnostic.

AitchTwoOhOneTwo Mon 26-Nov-12 12:09:51

"Of course part of me thinks the fact she is so defensive about her atheism says a lot"

what does it say, i'm curious to know.

pigletmania Mon 26-Nov-12 12:10:10

That was rude and aggressive. I would have tod your friend what you thought f her post. It's fine not to believe, but don't be nasty to those that do. If more messages and pictures come on your FB I would delete and block her, life is too shrt for stupid people

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 12:11:45

Youcanbe you have summed it up very well. I found it odd that my friend put that photo on my wall. I felt like he was looking for a response.

My other friend was possibly looking for a response too. Too late now but I wonder occasionally what I could have said.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 12:12:03

Of course I'm not offended by religious Christmas cards. I am also not offended by carol services, candles, Xmas plays etc etc etc. But I object to being told that my lack of belief is a belief. Because that implies that there is an existence which I am refuting with my belief. It's actually a lot simpler than that; it's just a lack of belief.

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 12:12:54

@joyful agosticism is lack of knowledge rather than lack of beleif. They are two different positions in epistemology (sory grin)

X-posted with you Wallison. I see where you're coming from a bit more clearly now.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 12:13:56

AitchTwo from my Christian perspective I would say she is open to discussion and possibly searching. I know most won't agree but I'm saying what I honestly think.

confused Cheers ethel, I thought it sounded wrong when I wrote it but couldn't put my finger on why!

FredFredGeorge Mon 26-Nov-12 12:15:34

Atheism is a belief, I know it's important for a lot of atheists to deny this as a point of doctrine, but the rejection of religious beliefs is a belief - it is not something that is known, nor of course is the non-existence of a deity incompatible with a religion. If you were truly indifferent to religion you'd respond "none" to a question about yours, not atheist.

elthelb I don't like proselytising much for the aggressive atheists, evangelical was my preferred term, but then I met too many evangelical Christians who shared the gospel in more of a CofE way (put on a coffee morning and see if you'd like some nice cake and maybe 10 years down the road mention that there might be a God). And I just think proselytising seems to reasonable a thing to do, and the aggressive atheists just aren't reasonable.

Goldmandra Mon 26-Nov-12 12:17:04

I know it's Wikipedia but

"an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of a deity or deities, whereas a theist and an atheist believe and disbelieve, respectively."

Wallison are you an agnostic or an atheist?

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 12:19:35

The question of whether or not we 'know' God exists is framed by the supposition that there is a God, or else why would the question need to be asked at all. If you say that not believing in God is a belief, then you are taking on board this supposition, which is the exact opposite of what atheism is all about.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 12:21:06

Yes, I'm an atheist, Goldmandra. Your quote actually sums up the difference quite well, with the word 'disbelief'. That is different to 'believing there is not a God'. Disbelief. The opposite of belief.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 26-Nov-12 12:21:16

" the rejection of religious beliefs is a belief "

Cobblers. The rejection of religious belief is as sound as the rejection of the existence of any other impossiblity. It is not a belief to reject the idea of the sun setting in the East... it's something we can see and demonstrate every day of the week. Faith without proof is belief. Understanding on the basis of evidence and experience is knowledge

FushiaFernica Mon 26-Nov-12 12:22:12

I understand you a bit more now wallison. I am impressed by those that are certain either way of the existence or non existence in god. I'm in a muddle about it all, but wished it could be discussed more openly.

TheWave Mon 26-Nov-12 12:22:31

Goldmandra just out of interest why are your children defined in your previous post as believers in the church like your DH? How old are they?

What you defined about atheists not believing supports what *Wallison" has said about being an atheist I think.

TheWave Mon 26-Nov-12 12:23:12

Xposted with Wallison his/herself.

amidaiwish Mon 26-Nov-12 12:24:24

i would have just deleted the post from my wall and said no more about it.
as for the PM, that is just someone wanting an argument with you, to which i would have replied "i'm happy to meet and have a chat with you but an open discussion on fb is not something i'm really up for... i use it to keep up with friends and family, not for deep and meaningfuls!"

i'm always deleting stuff i don't want to see that comes on my wall. whether it's my niece out barely dressed with her mates, or my cousin's bad language or a stupid "share" post from a friend, just hit that delete button!! (i sound 100 i know)

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 12:28:35

I deleted the photo. I didn't comment on the friend's long ranty post, but I did reply to her message to me. Can't remember exactly what I said now but I remember asking her why she wrote what she did. I also write some generally chatty stuff and when she replied she didn't mention the post.

FredFredGeorge Mon 26-Nov-12 12:29:42

CogitoErgoSometimes What impossibility are you talking about in your atheism? a Deity presumably - but non-belief in deities is compatible with a number of popular religions and required by others. So the belief in a deity is not a central element of a religion. So the fact you assert that a deity cannot exist doesn't mean you do not have a faith, just that a tenet - probably even the defining tenet is that there is no deity.

So you can certainly assert that your evidence and experience give you the knowledge that there is no deity - but that is all. As I say the assertion that it's not a belief is a point of doctrine for the atheist.

Narked Mon 26-Nov-12 12:31:00

You've made an interesting point Wallison. I'd never thought of it like that before. It's not a 'belief' to be an atheist. That would be like saying 'I believe in gravity.'

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 12:38:45

Thanks, TheWave, Fushia, Narked and Joyful. I know I haven't explained myself very well and sorry for getting the thread off-topic, but I just got a little bee in my bonnet about it.

Have to say that I don't much like the 'Like if you love Jesus' things you get on Facebook, but there is worse stuff on there - all of the 'Fuck off you foreign bastards I'm wearing my poppy' ones really got my goat recently. The Jesus stuff is quite benign compared to that as at least it's mostly people being thankful for what they say are his blessings - family, home etc.

seeker Mon 26-Nov-12 12:39:15

Exactly, narked. The gravity analogy is a very good one.

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 12:40:53

just to go back to the op, the op's FB friend is anti-religion rather than atheist then? As she is expressing a belief though apparantly that is impossible if she is an atheist.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 12:43:00

Where does the friend say he is expressing a belief? He just says he's an atheist.

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 12:45:59

accordign to the OP, nowhere has the FB poster said they were an atheist. OP may have missed that off, but all the info we have says they were ranting against the Christian easter message.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 12:48:14

I don't know if my friend would say she was an atheist. I would have said she is, but after this not so sure!

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 26-Nov-12 12:49:28

"What impossibility are you talking about in your atheism? a Deity presumably"

You presume wrong. Take your pick from all the woolly religious concepts such as grand designers controlling the world, fate and karma, signs and portents, offerings and requests, 'miracles' etc... all undertaken on the basis of sheer faith & belief with no evidence of their existence & no predictability of outcome.

Dogs look in mirrors and believe they see another dog. Because I know they are seeing their reflection, that doesn't mean I am a non-believer in the 'Other Dog Tenet'.... just that I am a lot more rational than the dog

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 12:55:23

I understand a bit better what you are saying cogito. Though offerings and requests are real things though surely?

I think not believing in religious claims is antitheism though.

madmouse Mon 26-Nov-12 12:56:31

For those who raised that point - evangelical means seeing the Bible as containing the word of God and living by it as well as you can.

It does not mean the same as evangelising - which means spreading the word of God.

It sounds the same because 'Evangel' refers to the Word of God.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 26-Nov-12 12:58:06

Offerings and requests made expecting some kind of result? 'The power of prayer'? Lucky charms? No sorry.... all merely an expression of hope and desperation with no real evidence of a positive outcome.

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 12:58:49

evanglism means "reward for the messenger of the word" actually. Or something like that.

Does the word angel come from the same word as messenger in Greek?

madmouse Mon 26-Nov-12 12:59:52

Yes Ethelb - same word.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 13:00:00

The OP says that one of her friends posted 'proud to be an atheist'. I thought that was what you were talking about.

The other one was going on about Easter but we don't know if she is an atheist.

madmouse Mon 26-Nov-12 13:01:15

''The term evangelical has its etymological roots in the Greek word for "gospel" or "good news": ευαγγελιον (evangelion), from eu- "good" and angelion "message". In that sense, to be an evangelical would mean to be a believer of the Gospel, that is the message of Jesus Christ.''

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 13:01:15

but people do make offers and requests expecting some kind of result!

I'm not saying that there is any evidence that they will get a result but those religious practices are real tangible things. I can go into a mosque and see someone, touch someone, smell someone praying.

madmouse Mon 26-Nov-12 13:01:41

oops MN does not support greek alphabet blush

madmouse Mon 26-Nov-12 13:03:38

When my son was born and fell really really ill and turned out to be brain damaged doctors were sure of one thing: His visual cortex was shot and he would be blind.

He's now nearly 5 and they have no clue, really no clue how come he sees so well.

Several thousand (literally) people praying in our view has had something to do with it smile

FredFredGeorge Mon 26-Nov-12 13:06:14

CogitoErgoSometimes So why an atheist when you oppose so much more than a deity? Indeed the idea of rationalism is a tenet of Humanism or perhaps more specically from what you describe Naturalism (although you may have people thinking of you as a worshipper of David Attenborough is you say that's your religion.)

On strict definitions Atheism is defined as a disbelief in a deity - that is a completely fine as part of a belief system (Buddism says the same for example). But people who describe themselves as Atheist, almost always do so with so much more doctrine and a rejection of religion message that you've described. Obviously not all as there is no central body controlling the doctrine so what one person believes is often different to another, but it's a religion and the most aggressive atheist is terrible for trying to convert people to their view, one of which is the rejection that they have a system of belief, ie a religion.

FredFredGeorge Mon 26-Nov-12 13:08:17

(of course the ex-atheist who got too annoyed with his co-religionist that he now rails against atheists is another person you should watch out for - particularly engaging them on forums...)

LoopsInHoops Mon 26-Nov-12 13:09:04

The 'God is Good' FB post - surely was posted for comment? Isn't that what statuses are for? I think the 'what's he done now?' response is perfect and not rude in the slightest. Rude would have been 'you believe in bullshit' or somesuch. That comment was just funny. No need to get all huffy.

OxfordBags Mon 26-Nov-12 13:09:53

If seeing someone express a view on religion that you don't agree with feels aggressive, invasive, offensive and unnecessary to you, OP, then maybe you ought to consider that you expressing a view on religion feels exactly like that to people who don't agree with your views, either.
Perhaps you should see this friend's post as a taste of your own medicine. How is it okay for a friend to write 'God is good' or other statements of her BELIEF SYSTEM but not okay for another friend to write a statement of her BELIEF SYSTEM?!

The problem I have with Christians (and I single them out because I just don't come across it with people of other faiths, for the reason I'm about to outline) is that their beliefs are privileged in Western society, however much they like to delude themselves they are a persecuted minority whenever anyone has the audacity to not agree with them. So, coupled with the strength of their religious views, they begin to truly, unconsciously believe that their views ARE the truth, are innately the right ones, the correct and superior ones. So, if there is a history of their beliefs being given priority and seen as correct, they find it then hard to fully grasp and properly accept and respect that other people have views equal to their own, which are allowed to be expressed, spoken and discussed just as freely also. People of other religions don't tend to be like that as much because they don't have that background of their views being privileged.

What I basically mean is that Atheists have every right to speak their views as religious people. I get sick to the teeth of every expression of Atheism being automatically and knee-jerkedly described as aggressive, and the like. What they mean is "I'm not used to seeing the status quo being questioned like this and it makes me uneasy". Stating your beliefs as an Atheist has nothing to do woth trying to convert people, btw, FredFredGeorge. I have no interest in coverting anyone. What I believe in is fact, logic and provable stuff, and you can't convert people to those as they just are what they are regardless of subjective opinion.

PS Sharing the gospel is not exactly ramming it down people's throats?! WTF? You are intruding on people to ask grown adults to believe in 100% totally unprovable, illogical lies but that's not ramming it down people's throats? Riiiight.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 13:12:11

Oh honestly. Atheism is not a religion. Nor is it a belief system. It is the absence of belief. Trying to define it in religious terms is a favourite trick of a certain type of believer, who cannot imagine the issue framed in any other terms than doctrinal, because they cannot see beyond faith. Not all believers are like that, thankfully.

Goldmandra Mon 26-Nov-12 13:14:16

Goldmandra just out of interest why are your children defined in your previous post as believers in the church like your DH? How old are they?

15 and 9. Is there a minimum age for Christianity?

What you defined about atheists not believing supports what *Wallison" has said about being an atheist I think.

Sorry I didn't realise I was only allowed to post if I was disagreeing with Wallison. Are questions not allowed? hmm

fatsatsuma Mon 26-Nov-12 13:14:52

madmouse I read through the whole thread hoping to find SOMEONE who understands the difference between 'evangelical' and 'evangelise' - and was so pleased to see your post - thank you!

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 26-Nov-12 13:15:29

"So why an atheist when you oppose so much more than a deity?"

I'm not any 'ist' as far as I'm aware because that suggests I'm part of some group. I'm a person for whom the whole business of religion (and corresponding superstitions) are academically/sociologically/traditionally interesting but largely irrelevant except when it bumps up against me in some tangential fashion... .such as the 'click like if you love Jesus!!!' posts on FB. smile

YouCanBe Mon 26-Nov-12 13:17:33

Yes loopsinhoops I agree, that's what I meant when I said if you post on Facebook surely you are inviting discussion of some kind. You can't be justified in feeling upset if someone replies to you.

CoteDAzur Mon 26-Nov-12 13:19:30

I don't think the word "atheist" suggests you are part of a group. Neither does nihilist, artist, or any of the other -ist words I can think of.

CoteDAzur Mon 26-Nov-12 13:22:29

madmouse - I'm happy for your DS but you should really tone down your smugness re how "prayer cured" his eyes.

There are people on here who have lost their babies, despite many thousands praying for them over long periods of time.

FromEsme Mon 26-Nov-12 13:25:01

Happy for your son, madmouse , but what about all the other people who have thousands praying for them? Does God just ignore them?

cornflowers Mon 26-Nov-12 13:25:42

With regards to the father of your dd's friend, who posted on your timeline, this was undoubtedly prompted by something, or a number of things, possibly even things said by your dd to her friend.
I say this because my ds1 has a friend whose parents are evangelical Christians. It's not such an issue now, but in reception ds would get quite upset about some of the things his friend had told him, eg the fate awaiting the unbaptised, the evils of celebrating Halloween etc. I was quite irritated about this at the time because of the way it affected ds. Just a thought.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 13:26:03

Not everyone who posts on facebook is inviting discussion. I know that when I rant on there about whatever it is I'm ranting about I generally just want lots of 'likes' and some of my friends to say that they agree with me.

I would never put a sarky comment about God in response to a status update about religion - that's just asking for trouble. Yes, what she wrote was funny to me on a personal level, but even though I have no faith myself I wouldn't ever ridicule a friend who does. I just scroll past the God/Allah/whatever stuff because it doesn't apply to me. I know that my friends are happy in their belief, just as I am happy in my lack of belief, and that's fine.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Mon 26-Nov-12 13:27:03

It's a fact that there are no gods, fairies, pixies or flying spaghetti monsters. That some people are daft enough to believe in such things doesn't make them exist.
And the harm that some people do in the name of their imaginary friends means that it's very important to stand up for rationality rather than allowing people to demand 'respect' for their silly delusions when they mean either privileged status (such as the right to discriminate against others or restrict their behaviour) or when they want to do serious harm.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 13:34:33

Cornflowers I really don't know what prompted the photo but I honestly don't think my dd would have said anything to her friend. I am wondering if he sent it to lots of people? I might mention it next time I see him.

Oxfordbags I was not offended and will not make a big deal out of it with my friend. but I did not just find her post aggressive, it was very aggressively worded. That was not me being sensitive. With regard to thinking my own views are the truth, well, yes I do, but that's my belief. I could of course be totally wrong.

Hopeforever Mon 26-Nov-12 13:35:48

In answer to the question about prayer FromEsme I suggest you try reading the book by CS Lewis the problem of pain

It is a fact to you SGB and I agree with that POV. However some people disagree and they are allowed their own opinion. Belittling it is rude, and trotting out the old "Look at all the bad things done in the name of religion" line just sounds inane.

FredFredGeorge Mon 26-Nov-12 13:36:56

Wallison I think I'm the only person who's defining it as a belief system - and I'm not a believer in anything, I'm essentially an apatheist (in so much as you can find a label for anything, which is also what Cogito... appears to be, and no being an doesn't define you as part of a group)

I just find it extremely grating that this "absence of belief" is so much more defensive and aggressive proletysing about their lack of belief than any of the evangelical individuals I know are.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 13:39:36

You might be surprised about what your daughter is saying, handsandknees. My son gets quite a lot of 'input' from the Xtian children he knocks around with along the lines of being cast into hell if he doesn't believe in God, and none of their parents are the tub-thumping type - it's just kids with their black and white views I realise (but maybe this father doesn't realise it and thinks it's coming from you).

Interestingly, he has plenty of Muslim friends and a few who are Jehovah's Witnesses but none of them ever say anything to him about what he should/n't believe in.

Hobbitation Mon 26-Nov-12 13:41:08

I think posting the status was ok, targeting it at the OP, definitely not.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 13:45:14

I don't think I have proselytised on this thread at all, Fred, and I would certainly never do so in real life, largely because I don't have anything to proselytise about, what with not having a belief system and all. I may get aggressive/defensive when people say to me that my lack of belief is a belief, but that is because as I said above it pre-supposes that there is a being that I am stubbornly choosing not to believe in and also because I don't like people telling me what I am thinking, particularly when I have explicitly explained what I am thinking.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 13:45:52

Well I guess I don't know for sure, but I don't think that's what happened. The man's current partner is a Christian though, so I would have thought he was ok with different views.

FromEsme Mon 26-Nov-12 13:48:33

HopeForever I don't really feel the need to read about the ways in which people fool themselves.

HolofernesesHead Mon 26-Nov-12 13:51:34

PuddleJumper, 'It is a fact to you'...really? Epistemological relativism all the way, is it?

HandsandKnees, itsounds like you handled it well. smile

Hopeforever Mon 26-Nov-12 13:52:13

fromesme then why ask the question!

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 13:52:52

Can't you just defriend him? I would at least delete the post - if I was a believer, I wouldn't like having that on my timeline.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 13:55:11

I did delete the photo. But he's still a friend, that doesn't change.

EldritchCleavage Mon 26-Nov-12 13:55:41

Atheism is not a religion. Nor is it a belief system. It is the absence of belief. Trying to define it in religious terms is a favourite trick of a certain type of believer, who cannot imagine the issue framed in any other terms than doctrinal, because they cannot see beyond faith. Not all believers are like that, thankfully

I agree. I've had conversations with believers who have really struggled, even on an intellectual level, to understand atheism.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 13:57:13

Holofernese thanks. Human relationships are the hardest thing to get right.

colditz Mon 26-Nov-12 14:00:09

Some religious people think atheists have an empty hole in their heart where a god should be. Some atheists think religious people have a god shaped patch in their brain where rational thought should be.

Realistically, very few people are like this. The majority of atheists and religious people are quite nice, quite rational, quite kind and quite clever, and quite capable of getting along. Polarising the discussion very rarely helps anyone achieve understanding of anyone else. Black and white thinking is something I try to discourage my young children from, but at least they can't help it.

msrisotto Mon 26-Nov-12 14:04:59

madmouse It is great that your son has better than predicted sight. However, it is not a logical conclusion to say that it was the power of prayer. It is more likely that the doctors (fallible humans!) were wrong.

FromEsme Mon 26-Nov-12 14:05:30

Hope It was a rhetorical question. We could sit here and argue about why the googly-eyed fairy who lives in your attic allows bad stuff to happen and it would be as rational a conversation to me.

Holoferneses yes, I didn't word that very well did I? grin

What I meant is, SGB is so utterly convinced that she is right that to her the non-existence of a deity is a fact. Equally I have friends who are utterly convinced that they are right, and to them the existence of God is a fact.

I hope that explains it better!

EscapeInTheCity Mon 26-Nov-12 14:08:58

hands I think that there is no issue with posting what you believe in on FB as long as you know that you might invite very strong comments from other people, incl 'friends' and people you don't know about.

However, a PM asking 'what did you think of my rant on Easter as Christian religion?' when the person knows you do believe in God etc... is hmmconfused. It actually makes it look like that person WAS looking for fight on the subject and that you had the best reaction to have in that case ie say nothing.
I have to say, I would not be offended by anyone posting things that are gong contrary to my own beliefs. A bit like on MN tbh. Everyone should be able to post on the subject they chose.

Just ignore any posts of theirs like that. As long as you aren't posting similar messages to them then they are being a bit odd. And rude.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 14:13:07

Yes Escape I agree she was looking for a discussion. We have had quite a few discussions in the past and both enjoyed the argument wink so maybe not that surprising. I was just a bit taken aback by the angry tone.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 14:14:29

No definitely not posting anything like that, unless "Merry Christmas Everyone!" counts.

EscapeInTheCity Mon 26-Nov-12 14:15:36

That's the issue with FB. Getting the tone right in your posts and when reading them is extremely difficult which is why you should never ever engage in that sort of argument on that sort of media.

CaramelisedOnion Mon 26-Nov-12 14:21:21

ah ok if it was own her own wall that's different I agree.

FrankH Mon 26-Nov-12 14:23:40

Atheism is a belief system. To believe that there isn't a god is just as much a "belief" as to believe in one. Neither is open to scientific "proof".

I am an evangelical Christian who used to be an university Chaplain. Although now retired, I retain links with the university, being also a biologist, as I lecture on the topic of Human Evolution (despite what many atheists would have you believe, it's quite possible to be a Christian and believe in Evolution).

I have got on well with most of the Atheists I have come across. There are people in all groups - Christian, Moslem, Atheist, whatever - who are kind, open-minded, and tolerant. There are also people who are arrogant, narrow-minded, intolerant, and look down with contempt on all who disagree with them. Despite their supposed allegiance to free thinking, I have come across as high a proportion of the latter amongst Atheists as I have amongst the "religious".

Agnosticism - "don't know" - is a different matter. It, and not atheism, is the basic default position for non-believers.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 14:27:41

Ah. So now I'm not only being told what I think, but also being told what my 'default position' should be. Lovely. And atheists are the intolerant ones?

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 14:37:13

And, there is also no proof that the universe wasn't created by a giant shiny fucking teapot. Is not believing in that also a 'belief'? Or is it just 'not believing'?

FredFredGeorge Mon 26-Nov-12 14:44:03

Creation myths are not an essential part of a belief system Wallison, so your straw man of the shiny teapot creator is irrelevant.

FredFredGeorge Mon 26-Nov-12 14:46:21

Oh and I didn't mean to characterize you as one of the aggressive atheists - discussions on mumsnet or elsewhere and aggressively prosletysing on facebook as the OP's friend was, or in the pub or street is what I was characterizing. So apologies if you took it personally, not all Atheists are aggressive (or evan have) a converting zeal.

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 14:49:47

if you don't beleive in God but do come at it from a religious, doctrinal framework of belief, are you an atheist?

madmouse Mon 26-Nov-12 14:53:20

Oh hello again Cote - as gracious as ever I see.

Just for your information my son does have all the other things predicted: He cannot walk, has no use of his right arm and great difficulty speaking sad

I'm also no stranger to the loss of a baby sad

So I don't think I'm as smug as you seem to think. But then you've always had a high opinion of me.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 15:03:55

It's not irrelevant. I am talking about the nature of non-belief, which for some reason you seem to find impossible to grasp. There are all manner of things that I don't believe in - ghosts, magic, God, fairies, angels. This does not mean that I 'believe they don't exist' - I simply don't believe in them. You can tell me until you're blue in the face that it's a belief, but it isn't. I should imagine that you have your own reasons for wanting to frame my thoughts in this way although I would never presume to do this to you.

It is not even a matter of creation myths. I could say, for example, that I don't believe that a duck-billed platypus will judge my eternal soul at the moment of my death. I could also say that I don't believe the flower at the end of my garden is going to shower me in glory if I keep the slugs from it.

By saying that lack of belief is a belief, you are giving credence to the believers. You are saying that there is something - however you want to define it - to be not believed in. I am saying that there is not. You are saying that there is a question that needs to be answered. I am saying that there is not.

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 15:13:26

so Wallison, are you saying that you don't beleive in anything, you have only knowledge? I'm not having a go I am just interested.

FromEsme Mon 26-Nov-12 15:14:49

ethelb to say you don't believe in something is sort of to imply that it exists or that there is some possibility it exists.

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 15:16:58

So in order to not believe something exists you would have to know it does not exist. Am I right?

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 15:18:05

sorry disregard last post. I mean in order to not have a belief in something you would have to know there is nothing. Does that make more sense?

It's the question of belief/non-belief that confuses me. I am an atheist.

"I do not believe in God". "I believe that there is no God". To me the two statements mean exactly the same thing but to others they're obviously different. And I'm feeling a bit thick because I can't understand why.

Can someone explain it again please? Sorry. blush

MrsWolowitz Mon 26-Nov-12 15:19:19

They are totally rude and disrespectful.

They clearly have no respect for you or they wouldn't be confronting you in an inappropriate way such as FB and being so confrontational.

Delete them.

grovel Mon 26-Nov-12 15:22:10

I'd just tell them to FOAD.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 15:24:19

I am not going to delete my friends over this. I posted because I am puzzled - why should it matter to them that I believe something they don't? Can't they just think I'm wrong?

MrsWolowitz Mon 26-Nov-12 15:30:14

Hands, it shouldn't matter.

Friends should respect each other. They don't respect you that why I think they are no friends of yours and you would be better off rid.

They are being unkind. Hope you get it sorted.

handsandknees Mon 26-Nov-12 15:32:26

Thanks, I can let it go. I've just been thinking about it all which is why I posted.

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 15:40:09

OP i think you just need to let it go tbh. your friend's post about Easter was a bit nonsensical.

Either Jesus died on the cross for her, and tough. What is she going to do, build a time machine and pull him off it?

Or Jesus didn't die for her as it is all a myth made up by some men hundreds of years ago and therefore doesn't matter.

Just ignore.

FredFredGeorge Mon 26-Nov-12 15:46:06

handsandknes presumably you've met people within your church (assuming you have one) or other churches or religions who care what others believe? And try and convert you to their vision? The Atheist Friend is just the same, the converting zeal is in them. In private matters, which religion normally is, it's generally thought of as rude to convert someone, but of course it's no different to other views which may be more appropriate to try and convert (racist, homophobic for example).

I wouldn't worry about it and ignore - it's just a feature of the person, if you like the others, ignore that one.

NoSquirrels Mon 26-Nov-12 17:18:36

I wonder if your friend posted the photo in response to the recent denial of women bishops decision by the CofE? It's the kind of thing in the media that might have prompted a 'share this photo on FB if you're glad to be an atheist' thing. TBH I am a Christian but the decision has made me very uncomfortable a few times in the last few weeks in a couple of situations. I can imagine it prompting that sort of FB thing going around.

Your other friend with the Easter rant and personally inviting your disagreement, well, that's just odd and a bit rude. But sometimes people feel they can be odd and rude about religious beliefs, and that's just bad manners/poor judgement.

BoulevardOfBrokenSleep Mon 26-Nov-12 17:19:29

It's just occurred to me - is it possible the guy who posted 'proud to be an atheist' did it on the day the CofE voted against women bishops?

BoulevardOfBrokenSleep Mon 26-Nov-12 17:19:50

tsk, x-post!

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 17:50:58

Digressing back upthread:

>Agnosticism - "don't know" - is a different matter. It, and not atheism, is the basic default position for non-believers.

The main definition of 'agnostic' is 'One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.'

Its an intellectually rigourous position and one which most atheists (and quite a lot of Christians) who've thought about it adopt. Its not really the default position for non-believers. A better term for a large number of people might be 'apatheists' (a term I thought I'd invented but which is actually quite old).

Many people are agnostic atheists ...and agnostic on the question of invisible pink unicorns to the same degree.

Think the people who've suggested the odd post this week might be women bishop related...are you CofE? But it is odd, and rude, to post something like that without a shred of context.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 17:54:52

Oh come on now. Who on earth is agnostic on the question of invisible pink unicorns? You're just not making sense.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 17:56:37

And actually, if we're going to start bandying words like 'default' around, the 'default position' for humans is atheism. A baby has no faith.

I think actually the majority view is agnosticism. Even wrt to pink unicorns. Most agnostics I know approach it as, "I don't think God/pink unicorns exist, but could change my mind given evidence"

Goldmandra Mon 26-Nov-12 17:59:52

A baby doesn't think there is no God because a baby doesn't think about the matter at all.

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 18:00:31

Do you honestly know anyone who entertains the possibility that pink unicorns could exist and so they remain undecided on the question?

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 18:01:20

Ok then, Goldmandra. A child has no faith either. Until s/he is told to.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 18:01:26

>Who on earth is agnostic on the question of invisible pink unicorns?
>You're just not making sense., very likely grin

Read up on 'Russells Teapot'. Its about the impossibility of proving a negative, hence why the onus is on theists to prove there is a god (which they can't) not on atheists to prove there isn't one.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 18:04:19

>Do you honestly know anyone who entertains the possibility that pink unicorns could exist and so they remain undecided on the question?

Nope. That's the point. You can't prove they don't exist - but you don't need to. I'm an agnostic a-IPUist in the same way as I'm an agnostic atheist.

CrunchyFrog Mon 26-Nov-12 18:19:48

I'm an atheist. (Well, I accept that the evidence that I have thus far been exposed to demonstrates that an interested deity is so unlikely that the balance of probability leans towards non-existence wink)

I'm an "out" atheist, pretty unusual still in this part of rural Northern Ireland.

Facebook is full of sappy semi-religious "spiritual" crap. If people get a kick out of it, then that's nice. People who post it endlessly get hidden. I think I've posted atheist stuff a few times - I posted something about the CoE vote. It's more likely to be aggressive feminism though. grin

BTW, I attend church as part of my job. All the churches, on a rota basis. Spend quite a lot of time wondering if people are actually listening to the words coming out of their own mouths!

Have you asked your friends why they posted as they did?

"Do you honestly know anyone who entertains the possibility that pink unicorns could exist and so they remain undecided on the question?"

It's not about being undecided though, it's about being willing to be convinced with evidence.

Goldmandra Mon 26-Nov-12 18:46:25

Ok then, Goldmandra. A child has no faith either. Until s/he is told to.

How so? A baby has no faith if by that you mean religious beliefs.

At what age do you think a child becomes able to believe in God?

I accept that my nine year old probably believes because the people around her at school, church and home (some) don't question the existence of God but my 15 year old has a much considered opinion of her own.

ethelb Mon 26-Nov-12 18:49:27

The problem I have with the position that atheism is the absence of belief, is that means that you must claim knowledge. Which is to reject all skepticism.

As a scientist I struggle with that.

Crinkle77 Mon 26-Nov-12 18:50:26

It is rather strange. I am a non-believer myself but would not dream of putting anti-religious stuff on facebook or asking my Christian friends what they thought of my rantings. It is just plain rude. I might not agree but I try to respect their beliefs

NicholasTeakozy Mon 26-Nov-12 19:06:36

The late great Douglas Adams said:-

"God used to be the best explanation we'd got, and we've now got vastly better ones. God is no longer an explanation of anything, but has instead become something that would itself need an insurmountable amount of explaining."

Nowadays we have science.

exoticfruits Mon 26-Nov-12 19:09:06

I didn't comment but later she sent me a personal message asking me what I thought of her post.

Well done -the only thing to do with someone who wants a reaction is not to give it to them! I would just say something vague like -'we all think differently'.

IneedAgoldenNickname Mon 26-Nov-12 19:26:28

What do you all mean pink unicorns don't exist sad

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 19:34:10

>The problem I have with the position that atheism is the absence of belief, is that means that you must claim knowledge. Which is to reject all skepticism

Atheism is a belief - in the same way that a-IPUsim is a belief.

seeker Mon 26-Nov-12 19:51:01

Atheists are agnostic only in the sense that it is impossible to prove a negative. So an atheist accepts that proof that god exists might emerge tomorrow, in the same way that she accepts that the sun might not rise tomorrow, or that water might cease to be wet or that an apple might go up rather than falling on Newton's head. It's not going to happen, but technically it might, so the possibility has to be nodded to.

CoteDAzur Mon 26-Nov-12 19:59:17

That is how you see atheism, rather.

Atheism is saying "I don't buy it" to the God hypothesis. That's all. It is not assigning probabilities to the said hypothesis, which would not be a fact-based stance, since we don't have a statistically significant database of known universes (some created by a deity, some not) to base such a calculation on.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 20:01:06

>Atheists are agnostic only in the sense that it is impossible to prove a negative.


OP, another odd behaviour you'll find in many atheists here is a fondness for philosophical waffling. grin

CoteDAzur Mon 26-Nov-12 20:07:38

"The problem I have with the position that atheism is the absence of belief, is that means that you must claim knowledge. Which is to reject all skepticism"

No it doesn't, and no it isn't.

I read/heard all about this supposed God, and I don't find it convincing. So, I don't believe it. That is my "absence of belief".

But I'm not "claiming knowledge". There might very well be a God, but there is no proof of this supposed existence, and hence my atheism.

If we had "rejected all skepticism", we would be believers. So many people are, and we were taught as children all about God etc. It would have been easy to believe. If we didn't, that is because we used our heads, saw that there is no rational basis for belief in a God, and rejected the God hypothesis .

MrsDeVere Mon 26-Nov-12 20:09:43

I am not a Christian anymore.
I didnt give up my faith easily but it was sadly inevitable and the CoE has mightly pissed me off in the last few years with its disgraceful behaviour.

I am also a hater of mawkish bollocks on FB and pictures telling me that God is doing stuff for me and if I love Jesus all will be ok hmm
BUT even I am taken aback by the nastiness posted in the name of atheism.
I understand that many people are angry at organised religion (believe me, I really do) and that others think its all a big con.

But I don't think there is any need to be quite as vicious as some are. Very nasty and would not be tolerated if aimed at any non-religious group.

I would be just as likely to block a rampant atheist as I would a woo peddling evangelical Christian tbh. One more sodding 'be thankful for what our Lord has done for you' from a certain SIL and she will be right off my friends list...

UrbanSpaceManBaby Mon 26-Nov-12 20:39:43

OP, we're atheists here. i find the amount of time devoted to Christianity at my DDs normal state school bewildering, bordering on offensive. It builds to a peak pre Easter and Christmas.

I hate my DD, aged 5, coming home and telling me that Jesus died to save us, to me that's just really weird. I imagine that you'd find it puzzling and borderline offensive if your small child despite your home life, came home and told you that the same people who teach him/her to read and do long division, also taught them that the Cbeebies Mr Maker created the planet we live on. That we celebrate Christmas because once a boy created a snowman that could fly and everyone should stand to sing "Walking in the Air".

May be your friends have a bit much of it? We get annoyed that at DDs school only Christians are mentioned in relation to ethics, morals etc.
luckily our neighbours are Christodelpians and really unpleasant, this is providing a fantastic early years experience to how some people use religion as a cloak for bullying and conflict.

seeker Mon 26-Nov-12 20:40:00

Ah, there's another issue. I a quite prepared to respect people who hold beliefs. But I see no reason at all why I should respect the beliefs themselves.

FrankH Mon 26-Nov-12 21:54:39

Wallison - "Ah. So now I'm not only being told what I think, but also being told what my 'default position' should be. Lovely. And atheists are the intolerant ones?"

I'm not telling you what to think!!! I'm merely pointing out the obvious fact that in any issue where scientific proof or disproof is impossible, "agnosticism" has to be the default position.

That doesn't mean that it has to remain the position!

For instance, if someone says to me "I believe there is a planet made of green cheese circulating in a galaxy 12 billion light years away", I wouldn't be able to disprove it. But the issue is clearly absurd and trivial. My agnosticism is thus purely theoretical.

On the other hand, is there any human being of at least normal intelligence, who has not pondered on the mystery of existence - life, the universe, and everything?

If anyone has done so, and for various reasons has moved from "agnosticism" - in either a theist or an atheist direction - that's not a trivial matter. Whether the position reached is valid or not is a matter of argument, but the moving away from "agnosticism" clearly isn't in itself necessarily wrong.

seeker Mon 26-Nov-12 22:05:59

Why are Christians allowed to be certain that God exists, but atheists are supposed to be agnostic about him not existing?

FrankH Mon 26-Nov-12 22:08:32

GrimmaTheNome - "But it is odd, and rude, to post something like that without a shred of context. "

Since it was my post you were referring to - would you explain why what I posted was "rude"?

I'm sorry that I just haven't the time to read all the posts in a thread, hence might not get the proper "context". The same problem would afflict most posters in these forums - unless they had a vast amount of free time to waste.

I deplore intellectual arrogance and rudeness whoever it comes from.

Nothing I have read in these threads have altered my conviction, that many atheists are just as likely to be rude to, and intolerant of, those who disagree with them as theists are.

On the other hand, there are those of most "beliefs", and none (if you define "belief" in a purely theistic way) who are basically kind, humane, tolerant, and with a degree of intellectual humility. It is these who give me some hope that Homo sapiens may have a reasonable future.

exoticfruits Mon 26-Nov-12 22:08:59

I don't think that it really matters what people think - it is simply best to ignore them if they post something deliberately provocative- they wanted a reaction - don't give them one. Ignore.

Cahooots Mon 26-Nov-12 22:20:22

I am 100% atheist but I have several friends who are very religious. I would not like to think that my friends felt uncomfortable talking about what is a very important part of their lives. They know and respect my views and I would be comfortable to tell them if I disagreed with something they said. It shouldn't be an issue between friends.
If I had Facebook I wouldn't appriciate people posting religious messages on my wall if they knew I was an atheist. I would find that a bit pushy. I wouldn't mind receiving religious Xmas cards though.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 22:24:08

>Since it was my post you were referring to - would you explain why what I posted was "rude"?

oh Frank I'm sorry - that's not what i meant at all - that part was supposed to be referring to the chap in the OP who posted on her FB wall. Nothing odd or rude about what you said - sorry my lack of clarity lead to misunderstanding.

FrankH Mon 26-Nov-12 22:27:35

seeker - "Why are Christians allowed to be certain that God exists, but atheists are supposed to be agnostic about him not existing? "

If you are replying to my post, you don't seem to have understood my point - probably my fault in not being clear.

Theism (including Christianity), Atheism, and Agnosticism, are separate viewpoints. While Agnosticism may be the default position, it doesn't mean it's the only valid one.

So, of course Atheists don't have to be Agnostics! In fact, by the very definition they can't be.

I have however quite often come across people who say they are "Atheist", but whose views on closer examination show that they are in fact Agnostic.

Incidentally, however a particular dictionary defines it, "Agnostic", in customary use, simply means someone who personally is neither a theist or an atheist, not necessarily that [s]he doesn't believe it possible for them to become one or the other. And yes, these will include "apatheists", as Grimma calls them.

I was an rather apathetic agnostic with strong atheist leanings for most of the first 28 years of my life. Sometimes I rather wish that were still my position, as it would have made life rather easier if I were!

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 22:28:34

>Why are Christians allowed to be certain that God exists, but atheists are supposed to be agnostic about him not existing?
Intellectual rigour <ducks> Present and absent on both sides, in reality. There are many agnostic christians who will admit that they can't be certain...hence 'faith'.

FrankH Mon 26-Nov-12 22:37:11

Grimma - many thanks for the reply. You are such a courteous poster that I was rather surprised by what I wrongly understood in your post.

It is posters such as you which make discussion of even contentious subjects a pleasure rather than the ordeal.

As a contrast, look at the BBC thread, and see how one poster reacted to my suggestion that the BBC might be a valuable antidote to the Daily Mail and the Murdoch empire, to see the sort of attitude which makes forum posting sometimes a bit of an ordeal! (I suspect that poster might be male - as the vitriolic and intemperate hate-filled language is much more characteristic of the political threads associated with mainly male forums)

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 22:47:02

^I'm not telling you what to think!!! I'm merely pointing out the obvious fact that in any issue where scientific proof or disproof is impossible, "agnosticism" has to be the default position.

It is only the default position if you take theism as the starting-point. If the possibility of God is not raised, then it isn't an issue.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 26-Nov-12 22:48:29

Thanks smile(I think I'll leave the BBC thread well alone if such a topic is inspiring vitriol!).

Humph well the term 'agnostic' was invented by Huxley so I think I'd rather stick with his definition rather that whatever it may have mutated to wink - he said:
'Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle...Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable'

FrankH Mon 26-Nov-12 22:58:04

The problem is that the possibility, or impossibility, of God has been, for better or worse, a matter of important debate for as long as recorded history.

But - as you wish - if you want to define "default position" in such a way (and my reply to you pointed out that "agnosticism" need only be theoretical, in matters which a person regards as unimportant), so be it. It's not how I understand such a term, but can't be bothered to argue a point of semantics.

FrankH Mon 26-Nov-12 23:02:17

I usually like to take definitions as originally defined, but in many cases, e.g. "metaphysical", "gay", the common use has now widely diverted from the original definition.
However each to her/his own wink

Wallison Mon 26-Nov-12 23:08:47

It's not just a point of semantics though, is it? It's to do with how the debate is framed.

FrankH Mon 26-Nov-12 23:23:40

As I said, a position of agnosticism is purely theoretical if a matter is considered unimportant and unworthy of debate.

My agnosticism concerning planets of green cheese in distant galaxies is totally theoretical as a default position, as I don't consider the matter of enough importance to even bother with.

If you regard the existence of God or not to be similarly so, you are perfectly free to do so in a free country - and I would hope that if necessary, in e.g. a fundamentalist Islamic country, I would be brave enough to support you.

The crucial point is that I haven't, through my position, told you what to believe or not to believe - and I never would.

Unfortunately there are only too many people - mostly but not entirely male - who, theist and atheist, seem only too willing to proclaim that their scientifically unproven views on the life, universe, and everything, are the only possible and valid ones - and all who disagree must be uneducated, stupid, wicked etc.etc.

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 27-Nov-12 00:11:18

I think I've got it.grin

Atheism is not a belief because absence of belief is not belief.
Aggressive Atheism IS a belief. It is the belief that atheism is so superior to religion that those who have faith are less clever, less loving and more violent and can be mocked.

FredFredGeorge I just laughed out loud at your desciption of CofE evangelism - brilliant.

I thought 'evangelical' meant basing your faith on the bible, whereas 'evangelism' meant telling others about it. If that's so, an Evangelical Christian who doesn't go out of her way to talk about her faith would make sense. I've held that belief for about 25 years. Then I looked it up this evening and it turns out I am wrong (or maybe the word has altered in its usage). confused

Anyway, OP, it is a little odd, but then so are people.

handsandknees Tue 27-Nov-12 00:31:29

Enjoying the discussion, and trying to keep up - you people are all a lot cleverer than me....

It was around the time of the CofE bishops vote that he posted the photo, yes. I am going to have to ask him, aren't I? If I'm brave enough.

GrimmaTheNome Tue 27-Nov-12 08:30:47

Go on, we want to know if he's got any sort of excuse or if he's just a knob

handsandknees Tue 27-Nov-12 08:50:19

Eek. Well, ok, but not sure when I'll see him.

Whocansay Tue 27-Nov-12 09:01:51

Apologies - I haven't read all 10 pages!

In terms of the OP I would ignore completely. They are trying to get a rise out of you. Why should you have to justify your beliefs for their amusement? They do not repect your beliefs, so just ignore. I'm hoping that they're teenagers. If not, they're morons and best avoided.

FYI - I'm agnostic. The fence can chafe a bit sometimes though smile

handsandknees Tue 27-Nov-12 09:05:53

Not teenagers!

FrankH Tue 27-Nov-12 10:07:45


Many people, including much of the media, continually mistake "evangelical" and "evangelistic".

"Evangelical" = particular part of Christianity which tends to centre on the Gospel/Bible.

"Evangelistic" = spreading/propagandising some particular message, which might not be Christian, or even theistic. Thus someone could be evangelistic about atheism, Toryism, internationalism, blues music etc.etc.

I am "Evangelical", but have not been particularly "Evangelistic". It seems that's the case with many others, such as yourself.

Ah, thanks FrankH. I'm glad I didn't just dream up those definitions.

Yeah, it sounds like my approach is the same as yours, in that I believe it, try and live it and will chat about it if people ask. On the other hand, I'm not standing outside Tesco with a stack of gospels. (Not anymore, anyway - my word, that was an upbringing! wink)

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Tue 27-Nov-12 17:28:31

Thing is, while there are plenty of people who consider themselves Christians who are perfectly nice people, whose belief in gods is just a harmless little bit of silliness, like being a Justin Bieber fan or something - they have taken the nice and enjoyable aspects of Christianity (both the Easter eggs/carol services and the 'Be kind to other people' sections) and binned the kill-the-unbeliever bits... There are other people who identify themselves as Christians who are blatantly misogynistic, homophobic, racist etc, all in the name of their imaginary friend. So when rational people object in strongly-worded terms to religion, if you are one of these nice harmless Christian types, then it isn't personal. But unfortunately you are allying yourself with a toxic and unpleasant institution and you're going to get the odd bit of backwash.

HolofernesesHead Tue 27-Nov-12 17:53:40

Isn't the same true of atheists, Solid? There have been some pretty toxic and unpleasant atheist regimes in the 20th c.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Tue 27-Nov-12 18:06:28

Up to a point (though Stalinism, which you are probably thinking of, meets most of the criteria to be considered a religion), but atheism is not one monolithic brand or organisation, so it isn't really the same at all.

HolofernesesHead Tue 27-Nov-12 18:14:43

Ah, there's another thread on the subject of atheism somewhere else in Religion / Spirituality.

And....Christianity monolithic? brand? Organisation? err, no! There may be monolithic bits sheltering under the enormous umbrella of Christianity (or more accuately, bits that like to think of themselves as monolithic) , but it's obvious that Christianity as a whole is anything but monolithic. And branded? Organised? Again, those words might apply to some bits of Christianity, but not to the whole thing (whatever the whole thing is - different Christians would give you different definitions.)

choccyp1g Tue 27-Nov-12 18:56:43

Christianity not organised? and bears don't s*it in the woods?

OxfordBags Tue 27-Nov-12 21:08:35

HolofernesesHead, things like Stalinism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, to name two religionless regimes, operated as Personality Cults, so ran along the very same lines as a religion, with people being brainwashed into believing that their Infallible Leader (ie Godhead) was THE only form of truth and all actions taken in His name would lead to glory, etc. So it is disingenuous and also totally incorrect to say that regimes that were set up devoid of religion set out to achieve and/or carried out certain heinous deeds in the name of Atheism. Atheism was not behind the deeds carried out. Bad things happened to be carried out by regimes that were irreligious. This is not the same as Uganda imposing the death penalty for homosexuality based on Biblical scripture, for example.

Furthermore, such regimes were also not created to promote Atheism, rather, it was a tool used as a social leveller and to guarantee full and singular devotion to the regime, rather than outside agencies such as deities.

In other words, none of the crimes commited by such regimes was carried out because of or for Atheism. It's a popular misnomer and also a tiresomely popular piece of ignorant crap peddled by religious people basically trying to say "See? You can't criticise religion because Atheists can be nasty too". Which, even if they were correct, would be very silly.

But I doubt you will comprehend or accept any of this, if you genuinely believe that Christianity is not an organised, monolithic religion! Even the Church itself describes itself as an organised religion. BTW, from a theoretical standpoint, monolithic actually means something so deply ingained in society that it has seemingly been present forever, and, as such, is privileged and seen as innately true and incredibly hard to change, confront, etc. Heteronormativity (the assumption that everyone is naturally and automatically heterosexual, that heterosexuality is the true and correct sexuality, and the promotion of heterosexuality as right and superior over other sexualities, etc.) is monolithic, for example.

Oh, and what SGB said. As usual grin

OxfordBags Tue 27-Nov-12 21:09:16

Ingrained, not ingained, pah!

DioneTheDiabolist Tue 27-Nov-12 21:21:02

Faith is as individual as the believer. All religions have various denominations and sects. None of the established religions could be described as a single monolithic brand by anyone who knows anything about them.

HolofernesesHead Tue 27-Nov-12 21:30:55

Oxford, what makes you think I wouldn't comprehend that? You must have a low opinion of religious people. We could discuss the extent to which, for example, Mao's philosophical anthropology was determined by his atheism and therefore the influence of religious or areligious stances on political strategy, but a) I'm not a specialist historian and know my limits, and b) from a philosophical POV, it's a bit chicken and egg anyway.

Anyway, monolithic; interesting definition. If it's not too intrusive, could I ask what your academic background is? I ask because terms can be defined somewhat differently in (e.g.) sociology, from their more obvious use. The most obvious definition of monolithic, other than (of course) 'one stone', is 'large, powerful, utterly unified'. Christianity isn't that, as last week in Synod demonstrated. You seem to be using it more to say 'ubiquitous, all-pervasive.' Is that fair?

Of those three words that SGB used (monolithic, brand, organisation) the one I recognise the most is 'organisation', but even then...I've been around churches all my life and I know how fractured they are. Some more organised than others, obviously. This isn't a good thing, by the way. I'm not boasting here. I'm speaking very much from an English Protestant perspective; maybe I'd feel differently if I lived somewhere else.

OxfordBags Tue 27-Nov-12 22:13:31

I used comprehend because the old 'Atheist regimes commited atrocities too' chestnut is so puerile and it's so obvious why and how it is illogical, untrue and inflammatory, that I do tend to presume that people who come out with it aren't the sharpest tools in the block, sorry. And that sounds nasty, when I don't mean it to. It was just that coupled with your stuff about Christianity not being organised, etc., which made me think your understanding was fairly basic.

I don't want to name my background, because I would accidentally out myself (it's specialist, I'm published and I've written various things on Mn which might out me if I name the field), but I do mean (and would use, academically) monolithic to mean its effect and influence on society and culture, when all aspects of a dominant force in that society and culture are taken as whole. For example, one could take my prior example of heteronormativity and say that the monolithic influence of the church has been to promote heteronormativity, and, in turn, promote homophobia. You could counter that this is unfair, as not all Priests are homophobic, some will conduct civil partnership blessings, some are GLBT themselves, etc., etc., which is totally true, and also good, BUT the fact would remain that the church as a whole, the majority of what it does, the majority of how it touches people's lives and thinking, would be the monolithic promotion of heternormativity.

That is not my finest explaining, but I have had 6 hours sleep in 3 days (teething baby)!

OxfordBags Tue 27-Nov-12 22:17:48

Oh, and I meant to add, your last post seems to indicate that you are talking about individual churches or parishes when you disagree with them being organised and so on. This I can fully believe and see, but, eithout putting words in someone else's mouth, I think SGB was referring to a much wider scope, ie Church to mean Christianity as a whole, or the C of E, for example.

The Church is and always has been one of the richest forces in the world - how could it have got that way if it was as you described? Of course it is organised; why, the very Bible itself as we know it nowadays was reshaped and written by much decision making to fulfill a certain agenda at the time of writing. It is a propaganda machine above all.

HolofernesesHead Tue 27-Nov-12 23:30:11

Oxford, is it really puerile and inflammatory to question whether there is a link between beliefs and practices? I don't think so, not automatically, anyway. From a historical POV, doesn't the question of what historiography is come into play; for example, if one subscribes to a positivistic Groffrey Elton style understanding of history, it is possible to say with certainty that the atheism of any given political regime is incidental, but....does anyone think like that any more? Or have I just read too much Richard Rorty and Quentin Skinner? Whichever way, the question of the interplay between belief, and practices is a valid question in its own right and shouldn't be overlooked (IMHO). The question of the interplay of the historian's beliefs and interpretation is valid, too.

As for the power of the churches... It does depend which church you mean, yes. I was thinking of parishes, wider structures and denominations. It does depend quite a lot on perspective, I think (back to the above question).

HolofernesesHead Tue 27-Nov-12 23:31:09

Anyway, I hope the teeth come through soon and you get some decent sleep!

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Tue 27-Nov-12 23:38:06

Holo: The Church Of England is the state superstition, despite the fact that vast numbers of people, quite possibly the majority of British citizens, consider it pretty much irrelevant to their lives. It's a wealthy, powerful institution whose higher executives get to sit, unelected, in the House of Lords and make decisions on law and policy which affect everyone, not just the people who are members of their institution.
The Catholic Church is another wealthy, powerful institution which has very harmful influences on policy-making in some countries. It restricts the rights of women to control their own reproductive systems, whether they buy into its bullshit or not, and also as an institution it protects child abusers as a matter of policy and has done for a very long time.

FrankH Wed 28-Nov-12 01:47:26

To deny that the Soviet Communist and Chinese Communist regimes were/are Atheist seems to me to be as intellectually dubious as to deny that the Catholic Church is Christian. I am a non-Catholic Christian - and disagree with much of what the Catholic Church stands for - but I cannot deny that the Catholic Church is a Christian organisation.

Many dreadful things have been done in the name of Atheism, as they have in the name of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or any other widespread ideology you could name. Many good things have also been done in the name of these ideologies.

What matters in the end is whether or not you are a person who has brought more love, respect, and understanding into the world - and not more hatred, suspicion, and contempt for those who are not quite like you, and who believe, or don't believe, in different things from you. There are, I am afraid, only too many of the latter, amongst both "religious" and Atheists.

CheerfulYank Wed 28-Nov-12 02:06:26

This seems to have turned into the same old religion debate, but in the interest of the OPs question I'd say yanbu to be bothered about something posted on your personal wall (that's just rude), and yabu to care what others post in their statuses.

I am religious. Specifically Christian. Not really evangelical. I have friends that are quite evangelistic and will post a lot of what I consider to be rather sickly-sweet Jesusy pictures&posts. I have Muslim friends and Jewish relatives who post things relating to their religions. I have atheist friends who post about us stupid God-botherers. grin None of it bothers me a bit; it's free speech.

handsandknees Wed 28-Nov-12 05:15:14

I agree CheerfulYank about the sickly-sweet stuff - I often agree with the basic message they are posting but the cheesiness of it puts me right off!

exoticfruits Wed 28-Nov-12 07:10:42

It has turned into the same old debate which is why OP should have totally ignored it in the first place (which she sensibly did) - the person who posted it didn't like being ignored because she then sent the personal message- so that was the time to just send a bored sounding one back saying 'we all have our own views' and repeat like a broken record if necessary. If people post for a reaction the annoying thing is not to give them one!

NicholasTeakozy Wed 28-Nov-12 07:12:46

<waves to CY>

Glad I don't offend you our kid.

NicholasTeakozy Wed 28-Nov-12 07:13:17

Missed out the grin

CheerfulYank Wed 28-Nov-12 08:01:31

<waves back to Nick> Never smile

For me, my religion is deepy personal and nothing to do with anyone else, so I've never really cared what others thought of it.

OxfordBags Wed 28-Nov-12 11:49:20

Frank H, NO, things have NOT been done in the name of Atheism. Terrible things have been done by regimes that are atheistic. There is a world of difference between the two examples. Terrible things have been done in the name of many major religions, however.

If you want to say that a regime aligned with a certain belief which carries out atrocities automatically does those crimes in the name of that belief, then we must start seeing the Holocaust as a specifically Catholic crime, as the beliefs and rules, etc., of the Nazii party that led to the Shoah, as well as other terrible stuff, was directly informed by their Catholicism.

However, we don't say that the Holocaust is a Catholic crime because we can see that whilst Catholicism informed the beliefs and actions that led to it, it was not done specifically and deliberately in the name of Catholicism. Thus, the same rules must be applied to regimes involving Atheism, even if you want to remove the Personality Cult factor from all arguments on the matter (which is impossible).

ALSO! Even if Atheism and religion were 50-50 in terms of crimes specifically carried out in their name, it's irrelevant to any discussion on faith or lack thereof. It's a silly smokescreen, a diversion, a sophisticated way of covering up that the best argument a person can come out with is 'yeah, but...'. If it makes religiouspeople feel better to lie to themselves that Atheism has brought about as many horrors as religion, then they are free to do so. But it doesn't make it true.

Holo - thank you smile.

FrankH Wed 28-Nov-12 14:25:36

Sorry - you are nitpicking. If there's a "silly smokescreen", it's the sort of procedure you are following. Actually, I don't want to call you "silly", because I don't want to adopt the contemptuous attitude towards Atheists which many Atheists have towards those who don't agree with them.

Incidentally Nazism, whatever its roots, was basically not "Catholic" but atheistic, elevating the "Aryan race" to the position which a god might have held. As for "Personality Cults" - they occur among all groups, but it could be argued that an atheistic background makes one easier to set up - less opposition to the idolisation of such as Stalin, Mao, Kim il-Sung etc.

Many people have been persecuted, tortured, and killed in Atheistic countries (Soviet Union, China, Eastern Europe) because they have opposed the Atheistic policies of their governments. Ever read of what has happened to Buddhist monks in Tibet? If those aren't terrible things done in the name of Atheism, then I suppose "Atheism" has been so defined in a way that it would be impossible to blame it for anything. End of intelligent discussion.

I think it is pointless to indulge in this "who is responsible for more atrocities" sort of thing. As I pointed out, all major ideologies have their evil, and their good, sides. The sort of "point-scoring" on atrocities seems to be mainly indulged in by the arrogant and intolerant, on all sides.

There are Christians, Moslems, Atheists, Sikhs, etc.etc. who are filled with contempt for all those who don't agree with them, and are constantly trying to denigrate the others as uneducated, silly, stupid, evil etc. - Atheism is certainly not free from this tendency. There are also those in all these groups who are more concerned to bring about understanding, tolerance, and respect for those whose views they don't agree with.

I know which of these alternatives I would rather be my goal, though being a fallible human being, I don't always manage to live up to it.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Wed 28-Nov-12 17:13:09

Frank, Nazism was not atheistic at all, Hitler and his fellow fucknuggets believed in any amount of woo-bollocks, both Christian and pagan. He had people out hunting for relics of the mythological Crucifixion FFS.

MrsDeVere Wed 28-Nov-12 17:15:29

What about communism?
I am asking a genuine question so please dont start shouting at me.

Didnt they ban the Russian Orthodox church and do all kinds of terrible things?

You can probably tell I don't have much in the way a further education.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 28-Nov-12 17:36:27

Mrs DV - yes, they did do that - I think the point is that those atrocities arose out of the totalitarian mindset, not atheism per se - atheism has no prescribed dogmas. But TBH I'd use similar arguments in relation to religion - although atrocities are explicitly done in the name of various religions, I don't think the guilt by association you too often see when debates get to this point are valid. Others (obviously) may disagree.

seeker Wed 28-Nov-12 17:39:00

I don't think there has ever been a regime that had atheism as it's core belief and who committed atrocities justified by the persuit of atheism, has there? Or has there? Communists are generally atheists, but I don't think it's a requirement. And Nazis certainly weren't atheists- didn't lots of then believe in the Norse gods?

I was surprised to find how large a part atheism played in the chaos following the French Revolution. People were sent to the guillotine purely for following a religion- any religion!

seeker Wed 28-Nov-12 17:51:15

The point is that atheists are just as capable of being vile as anyone
else- but they don't have an ideology to justify their behaviour with, Well not a supernatural one, anyway. Atheists can be racist, misygnist, any other iist you care to name-they just aren't deist!

MrsDeVere Wed 28-Nov-12 17:52:07

Thank you.

I agree that many terrible things have been done by people using religion as an excuse.

There are horrible things happening in that wishy washy Anglican way atm which is why I have left the church. Not in my name and all that.

I do not think following organised religion makes anyone inherently evil or stupid or whatever. I prefer not to now.
I have come across a fair few atheists who force their ideology on people in a really unpleasant way. BUT only on the internet.

I have of course come across plenty of religious types who do the same thing.

Not adding much intellectual weight to the debate, I know smile

HolofernesesHead Wed 28-Nov-12 17:53:24

I heard a sermon a while ago in which the preacher totted up all the good that's been done to the world by Christians, as against all the bad...I can't remember how the sermon went from there, but it's clear that both very good things and very evil things have been done in the name of Christianity. I don't know a single Christian who would deny this; if anything, we talk more about the bad things (collective guilt) than the good things. This might just reflect my type of Christianity, though (hand-wringing liberal do-gooders) smile

HolofernesesHead Wed 28-Nov-12 17:55:38

Mrs D, tell me about it (the C of E. As Archbishop Rowan said, 'we've got a lot of explaining do.') sad

GrimmaTheNome Wed 28-Nov-12 17:58:25

And then the 'Cult of Reason' atheists all got the chop by the deistic 'Cult of the Supreme Being'. Dogmatic beliefs (of any sort) + power rarely works out well.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 28-Nov-12 17:59:50

(sorry, slow post - referring to French Revolution)

MrsDeVere Wed 28-Nov-12 18:12:02

I used to live and work in a inner London borough. I was a church goer at the time and I worked for an organisation that was partly funded by the church.

There was no provision in the borough for rough sleepers in the winter. So the local churches got together and provided winter shelters.

They saved hundreds of lives and there was no religion pushed on service users.

I do not think that good works are only done by religious types. I do think that the churches provide vital services to many people who would otherwise receive fuck all.

I am angered by the extremism that seems to be increasing in all denominations and fuckwits like that UKIP candidate (?) twat ranting about gay adoption for example. He insists that he is right about it because he is a Christian and it is against Christian beliefs. So people yet again have further proof that Christian = bigoted.

I used to just tell people that these people were not speaking on my behalf.

Now I just cannot be bothered to be connected to any sort of religion. I hold my hands up. The fuckwits have won.

HolofernesesHead Wed 28-Nov-12 18:27:57

MrsD, I really understand where you're coming from, but there's something very deep inside me that rises up when I hear that kind of fuckwittery, a different sort of 'not in my name' I suppose, and I refuse to let the Fuckwits win. Not on my watch!

Without wishing to be inflammatory to anyone, I think that one of the things that my friends and I realised last week with the Synod vote is just how incredibly important if is to stand up and be counted, make your voice heard etc. Because if you don't, others with a different agenda will. So the vote in Synod has made me more determined to get involved with the church, not less.

FrankH Wed 28-Nov-12 19:09:46

Contrary to what some have claimed, there have been atrocities committed against religious believers under atheistic regimes, specifically because they are religious believers.

But it's of course quite possible to define "atheism" in a minimalist sort a way, that so absolves it from direct responsibility for any atrocities committed in its name.

I could also re-define Christianity to just those parts of it I agree with - which would not have led to any of the atrocities committed in its name, and would also not have led to the vote against women bishops.

But I don't do this because I think such a procedure is intellectually cowardly. And by not adopting this approach, I am required to examine why a faith based on the revelation that "God is Love" can be so perverted, that the action of "official" Churches has all too often led to Love being ignored - and power, riches, domination etc. being the motivation. It further provokes me not to be apathetic, but to do what I can to ensure that the Christian gospel is not further perverted.

Each theological or ideological position, Christian, Moslem, Atheist, Buddhist etc., has its own problems, its own strengths and weaknesses.

It might be better if we all spent more time examining the wrongs committed in our name - while not ceasing to critically but fairly examine the record of other "faith" and non-faith groups.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 28-Nov-12 20:07:01

Frank - while I agree with the thrust of what you say, there still is a difference with atheism because of itself its not a 'movement', its not an organisation, there's no founder, no rulebook. I don't think there's really a thing 'Atheism' which to which can be attributed either good or ill, in the same way as you could to religious and political movements (christianity, Islam buddhsm, hinduism, communism, etc etc) . I see 'atheism' as a sort of null... yes, it is minimalistic because its a non-belief. There are ideological positions which are atheistic - communist, humanist, Buddhist... that is the level of 'in my name', I think.

I don't hold Muslims or Hindus to account for what's been done in gods name by 'christians' or vv - so should I hold humanists or Buddhists accountable for what was done in the name of communism?

CheerfulYank Wed 28-Nov-12 20:11:17

Ross Douthet said that for an otherwise sane person to commit a terrible act it takes an immense sort of that a religion that causes people to bomb, or the secular ideals of communism or whatever. Not religion as such, or atheism as such.

Well, that's kind of what he said. blush I need coffee.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 28-Nov-12 20:22:02

I think that's about right, CY. (except 'the secular ideals of communism' maybe isn't a good description...the secular ideals of the Founding Fathers of the US were a good big idea!)

NicholasTeakozy Wed 28-Nov-12 20:26:25

CY, I'm just about to look for something I read today in The Salmon Of Doubt and send it to you on FB. Not because it's about religion, it is and it isn't, but because it's funny, clever, funny and completely spontaneous. It's funny too. Honest, I alternated between snorting with laughter and ooh, never knew that. Trying to discuss it with some random person in a cafe is apparently frowned upon. grin

FrankH Wed 28-Nov-12 21:02:45


I don't hold people responsible for any actions which they either haven't personally done or encouraged others to do, unless they have helped to create an atmosphere of hatred and suspicion, which causes atrocities to be perpetrated.

Hence I don't blame all Atheists for atrocities perpetrated in the name of Atheism. Exactly the same principles apply to atrocities committed in the name of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, or whatever.

But I am not prepared to make an exception for Atheists on this - because in my experience there are also arrogant, bigoted Atheists a-plenty. Perhaps fewer than exist in other categories, but more than enough for me not to be able to turn a blind eye.

Of course there are plenty of nice, kind, tolerant, humane Atheists - as there are such Christians, and yes, many such Moslems - I have the privilege of teaching quite a few at the University at which I lecture.

CheerfulYank Wed 28-Nov-12 22:56:13

Yes it was Grimma. smile I didn't mean the secular ideals of communism, I mean the atrocities of Stalinism etc.

seeker Wed 28-Nov-12 23:09:27

"Contrary to what some have claimed, there have been atrocities committed against religious believers under atheistic regimes, specifically because they are religious believers."

Could we have some examples please?

FrankH Thu 29-Nov-12 00:25:24

Soviet Union and Communist China, to name but two, put many thousands of religious believers in prison, and worse.

Read the history of these regimes, and their attitude towards religion.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Thu 29-Nov-12 01:28:51

Frank, the problem is that you seem to be defining 'nice kind acceptable' atheists as ones who are prepared to concede that the imaginary friends of the superstitious are worthy of consideration. I hold Jesus, God, Allah, Zeus, Rama and all the rest on exactly the same level as Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy - imaginary friends that are only my problem or my business when people start bothering me with them. When they start crying about how their imaginary friend is much more SPESHUL than all the rest, and how it's rude to equate their special imaginary friend with other people's imaginary friends, then that kind of makes them fair game for laughing at.

FrankH Thu 29-Nov-12 03:43:55

Your post makes my point for me.

I never used the word "acceptable" - as if I had the right to decide who is or is not acceptable.

Your contempt for all "believers" - regardless of what they believe in, and your denigration of all of them as "superstitious", confirms my experience that some atheists are quite as arrogant, bigoted, and narrow-minded as the believers they despise so wholeheartedly.

I am not asking you, or anyone else, to "concede" anything - except perhaps that might be more things to existence than are accounted for in your philosophy, and that, mistakenly perhaps, quite intelligent people might think they have good reasons not to be Atheists.

For the first 28 years of my life I was basically an agnostic with strong atheistic leanings. Personal experiences - much to my surprise, and somewhat reluctantly - made me change my mind. As an evolutionary biologist and also an archaeologist, you might think this peculiar. But unlike fundamentalists - both Christian and Atheist - I actually find no conflict, because I don't think that Science conflicts with my beliefs. I actually lecture on the subject of Evolution to Biology students, and if you attended my lectures you would find absolutely no reason to complain about theistic brainwashing.

I never try to push my views on existence and meaning on anyone. If they are really interested, and not just wanting a slanging match, I am happy to discuss my beliefs and why I believe them - but I dislike bothering people, who don't want to be bothered. However whenever I mention I am a Christian, I constantly get Atheists of your ilk treating me as if I am an imbecile, ignorant, uneducated etc.etc.etc. You are clearly such SPESHUL people that it gives you the right to be exceptionally rude to others who don't agree with you. I'm afraid my very existence would "bother" such people, but forgive me if I don't change my mind as a result.

Fortunately I can think of two Atheists - very good friends - at the University, who assure me that merely being Atheists doesn't necessarily mean that they think they are automatically intellectually superior specimens of humankind.

exoticfruits Thu 29-Nov-12 07:14:23

I don't think it acceptable to ridicule anyone else's beliefs as if you are the oracle and you are right. You can only ever be 'right' for yourself. Different people are looking for entirely different things. You can never experience something as someone else. I am never sure how people think they have even found the answers for themselves. Who knows what I will think next year, 10yrs time etc , if I am still here: I don't. I would hate to be the sort of narrow minded person who isn't open to change, differing views and the changes that experiences might bring.

Himalaya Thu 29-Nov-12 07:34:18

Frank H - how do you reconcile your scientific knowledge that life evolved through a purposeless process, with human beings having no particularly special status with your religious belief (presumably, I'm guessing...) that humans are a special kind of organism, made in gods image, with a purpose, and a soul and a special relationship with the creator?

I can't get my head around this.

handsandknees Thu 29-Nov-12 09:45:26

I've never had a problem reconciling those two tbh. Possibly I am viewing everything on a simpler level, but is that necessarily a bad thing?

exoticfruits Thu 29-Nov-12 10:23:09

Lots of scientists have a faith. It is purely personal-faith is nothing to do with knowledge and proof.
Guardian article
National Geographic article-scientists just as likely to believe in God as other people.

exoticfruits Thu 29-Nov-12 10:25:12

Much better to see life as a journey and not know where you will end up than to think 'I am an adult-I know' and close your mind to other possibilities, and even worse ridicule those who dare think differently.

handsandknees Thu 29-Nov-12 10:31:43

Thanks for links - will read now.

CoteDAzur Thu 29-Nov-12 10:43:40

"Your contempt for all "believers" - regardless of what they believe in"

Why do you think it should matter what they believe in? If one is going to hold religious belief in contempt, surely the scientist in you understands at some level that there is no difference between them in the eyes of a non-biased outsider.

CoteDAzur Thu 29-Nov-12 10:50:04

"unlike fundamentalists - both Christian and Atheist"

Please explain how one can be a fundamentalist atheist, given that "fundamentalism" means strict adherence to literal understanding of religious books and doctrines.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Thu 29-Nov-12 11:19:15

Belief in supernatural beings is ridiculous. Whether it's harmless-ridiculous or deserving-of-criticism ridiculous is not about the particular imaginary friend believed in, it's about what the believer considers him/herself to do about his/her beliefs.

exoticfruits Thu 29-Nov-12 12:06:51

It is ridiculous to you -entirely different and I dare say that you are equally ridiculous to some people. It must be wonderful to be 'the oracle who knows it all'!

CoteDAzur Thu 29-Nov-12 12:33:19

I will tell you a secret, exotic.

All atheists you know think faith in an unseen/unheard deity is ridiculous. That is why they are atheists. They/we don't go around saying this, because it upsets their/our friends & relatives.

Truly, SGB is not the only one.

seeker Thu 29-Nov-12 13:07:55

SGB is right. Tactless and rude. But still right.

What is a fundamentalist atheist?

CoteDAzur Thu 29-Nov-12 13:08:58

I asked that question a while back, seeker, and nobody cared to answer.

FrankH Thu 29-Nov-12 13:13:13

exoticfruits - you are right about scientists.

The mistaken idea that there is a massive unbridgeable gulf between "Science" and all "religion" is due to three groups in particular.

1) Fundamentalist Christians, Moslems etc.

2) Fundamentalist Atheists.

I don't accept CoteDAzur's limited view of "fundamentalism" By "Fundamentalist" I mean all groups who believe that their viewpoint is the Truth, and the Whole Truth, and hence there is no possibility of anything existing outside their particular "philosophy".

If you don't accept this designation, replace it be something like "Extreme", "Purist", "Hidebound", or whatever.

3) The Media - especially the Tabloid media, who love to see all subjects in terms of black/white, left/right, good/evil, heroes/scum etc.

In my many years of experience of many different universities [Birmingham, Oxford, various London colleges and universities, etc.], as undergraduate, research student, Chaplain, lecturer, I have noted that the proportion of Christians is if anything higher in Science faculties, than in such faculties as Sociology, Economics etc.

I haven't time to post further at present, so my replies to CoteDAzur, and especially [because more interesting] to Himalaya, must wait till later.

seeker Thu 29-Nov-12 13:13:38

I suspect that a fundamentalist atheist on mummsnet is the same as a mumsnet radical feminist.

In the real world, they would be atheists and feminists!

CoteDAzur Thu 29-Nov-12 13:22:02

It's not my "limited view", it is the definition of "fundamentalism".

You can't just go around defining words according to what you think they should mean hmm

Himalaya Thu 29-Nov-12 13:30:53

Thanks Frank - I know there are religious scientists, I am just bemused by how they manage to reconcile the two views of the same reality ....

FrankH Thu 29-Nov-12 13:35:53

Just a quick reply before I go off to a prole cafe to have lunch and read such enlightened organs as the "Daily Mail" (please don't take that description seriously)

I'm sorry if I use language in the way you don't like. As I said, please replace it by another term when reading.

The trouble is to find a term which covers "closed minds" on all sides of the argument. However your particular dictionary defines the term, I think "fundamentalist" covers what I want to imply. And I have heard others using the term in the way I do, so it isn't just what I think.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 29-Nov-12 15:47:15

Perhaps 'dogmatic' might come closer than 'fundamentalist'.

>All atheists you know think faith in an unseen/unheard deity is ridiculous. That is why they are atheists

Not quite all.... I used to be a Christian (at the same time as being a chemistry undergrad). I don't think my faith then was 'ridiculous' - I know the whys and wherefores of how it arose. I didn't stop being a believer because I found it 'ridiculous' but because there no longer seemed to be a god to believe in. Sure, I now assess myself as having being deluded then, but that's a different thing.

seeker Thu 29-Nov-12 16:19:02

But you wouldn't talk about a dogmatic believer in gravity, would you? And expect them to leave room for the possibility that it may not exist?

GrimmaTheNome Thu 29-Nov-12 16:26:05

No...wouldn't say they were fundamentalist either . Bit confused what you're getting at

seeker Thu 29-Nov-12 17:19:34

Well I am as sure that there is no god as I am sure that gravity exists or the sun will rise tomorrow. Why am I expected to add caveats to god not existing when I'm not to gravity or the sun rising

exoticfruits Thu 29-Nov-12 17:34:38

If that suits you there isn't a problem- you just can't expect it to suit everyone.

seeker Thu 29-Nov-12 17:39:35

I don't expect it to suit everyone. [puzzled emoticon]

exoticfruits Thu 29-Nov-12 17:41:10

Sorry- I thought, like SGB, that you had sorted out than anyone was totally ridiculous to have a faith in God.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 29-Nov-12 17:49:56

>Well I am as sure that there is no god as I am sure that gravity exists or the sun will rise tomorrow. Why am I expected to add caveats to god not existing when I'm not to gravity or the sun rising

Gravity and the behaviour of the sun are subject to the scientific method. The existence of god isn't - its neither provable nor unprovable. (But, as I've said earlier, there is no onus on non-believers in god, the IPU, whatever to disprove those entities). There is a philosophical difference.

seeker Thu 29-Nov-12 18:02:09

Well, there is a slight chance the sun will not come up tomorrow-despite all the evidence to the contrary. There is, I suppose. - slight chance that god might exist- despite all the evidence to the contrary. Because by any objective measure- based on stuff like "does he do what he says he's going to do" god is provably non existent,

exoticfruits Thu 29-Nov-12 18:12:00

They are just entirely different. There is no evidence of God, either way. It is purely faith.

seeker Thu 29-Nov-12 18:16:14

There is loads of evidence that there is no God! It takes faith to believe in him- not believing is the logical, rational position based on the facts.

exoticfruits Thu 29-Nov-12 18:17:11

Would you like to give me definite proof?

exoticfruits Thu 29-Nov-12 18:19:00

That is proof that there is no God.

seeker Thu 29-Nov-12 18:23:57

I can't give you definite proof- you can't prove a negative. But the complete lack of any noticeable activity on his part for the past 2000 years is pretty compelling.....

exoticfruits Thu 29-Nov-12 18:27:15

I am open minded- as I said I don't know what I might think next year or 10 years time. I wouldn't expect noticeable activity. If I can be given proof that there is no God I will change my mind.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 29-Nov-12 19:24:55

>If I can be given proof that there is no God I will change my mind.
As seeker said, you can't prove a negative. The onus is on believers to prove that their version of God does exist.

Seeker - there are indications that particular types of gods don't exist - omnipotent, omniscient and loving all at the same time for instance. If you consider a 'light the blue touchpaper and stand back' deist sort of god - well, that sort there's not much to get hold of either way. But few people actually believe in that sort of non-interventionist god so its probably not too important in real life....only on internet discussion forums grin

exoticfruits Thu 29-Nov-12 19:29:16

I don't see why the onus is on anyone to prove anything! We are all different- it would be a boring old world if everyone had the same information and came to the same conclusion. Variety is the spice of life. The one person who would make me want to explore religion would be SGB- she always makes it sound so exciting!

exoticfruits Thu 29-Nov-12 19:32:03

I can't see why other people's ideas upset people. It is a free country to say what you like and even ones who are not free can't stop people thinking what they like.
At the end people will either find out or you are just dead and that is it so it won't bother you!

GrimmaTheNome Thu 29-Nov-12 19:58:57

>I don't see why the onus is on anyone to prove anything
philosophically it is. Teapots and unicorns grin

>I can't see why other people's ideas upset people. It is a free country to say what you like
Peoples ideas - no problem. Words - no problem (though some people do get awfully upset by SGB!).

Its when the ideas and words result in actions, laws, cultures which impinge on other people's lives that there is a problem. And that's what organised religions (along with dogmatic political ideologies) are rather good at doing.

CheerfulYank Thu 29-Nov-12 20:10:37

This is the debate between Ross Douthat and Bill Maher where the "idea" thing is mentioned.

I do not agree with the title of the video btw ("Bill Maher loses"), it's just an interesting talk, I think. smile

exoticfruits Thu 29-Nov-12 20:40:10

I'm not upset by SGB - just surmise that she had a religious parent to get such an extreme reaction.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 29-Nov-12 21:06:28

By 'some' I didn't mean you, exotic. Not sure, I think she can be - shall we say, forthright? - on a range of different issues so it may just be that her style is to call a spade a bloody shovel.

exoticfruits Thu 29-Nov-12 21:50:57

On other subjects she is fine- just vitriolic when it comes to religion. grin

FrankH Thu 29-Nov-12 22:45:01

I am replying to you because you seem to be a genuine seeker, someone who has a mind open to ideas which might consider things not in your present philosophy. Being "open" does not mean of course that you have to accept these ideas - you are perfectly free to accept or reject them. Being open-minded doesn't mean being blank-minded.

One thing to say straight away. What any of us, whatever our viewpoint, understands of reality is probably only a very small proportion of the totality of what exists. Anyone who claims otherwise - such as those who claim to know exactly what God thinks about all sorts of political and social issues - is suspect in my eyes. Even if what I believe about life, the universe and everything, is totally correct - highly unlikely, as I'm an ordinary fallible human! - it would probably still not say very much set against the undoubted vastness and complexity of existence as a whole.

Starting at the beginning, the only thing you and I can be absolutely sure of, is our own existence [I gather there is at least one philosopher who questions even this - but that's surely taking scepticism too far!].

However, such a view which I have just described is clearly held by no sane person. We live, quite correctly, as if the evidence of our senses is largely correct. And therefore I accept that you exist, and you can accept that I do - although I accept that the existence of the Internet has increased the possibility of false identities.

Beyond the evidence of our senses, we can all agree on the objective findings of Science. Hence we can all agree e.g. on the existence of Gravity, the heliocentric Solar System, and so on. When it comes to things concerning the past, such as Evolution, there is a problem (for some) that unless we can time travel to the past we can't see it happening. However, I would argue that Evolution is proven as much as any such theory can be, not just by the wealth of fossil evidence, but also because evolution through natural selection (as proposed by Darwin and, often forgotten, Wallace) is a logical outcome of what we know about the way life works.

It is when we go beyond Science that the problems begin.

[At this point, I'll have to cut short - I'm listening to "Newsnight". I'll resume later]

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Thu 29-Nov-12 22:48:02

ExoticFruits: You often say that my statements 'make religion sound exciting' which I find bewildering. What's so exciting about racism, misogny, homophobia and genocide?

seeker Thu 29-Nov-12 22:52:34

I think anyone should be free to believe whatever they want. Just so long as it doesn't impinge on other people. I also think that people should be free to smoke behind their own closed doors if they want to. However they are not free to drift their smoke, or their religion, over other people whether they want to or not. Or to claim special privileged or positions in public life for their religion- or their smoke. nobody is saying that you can't have a personal religion. But in my experience, that's not all people want.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 29-Nov-12 23:42:30

>It is when we go beyond Science that the problems begin.

is there any reality to anything that 'goes beyond science'?

FrankH Fri 30-Nov-12 00:13:46

Himalaya - to continue.

[Actually my last statement wasn't absolutely accurate - there are problems even before we get to the Science/Religion question - but those aren't the problems which concern this thread]

You wrote "Frank H - how do you reconcile your scientific knowledge that life evolved through a purposeless process, with human beings having no particularly special status with your religious belief (presumably, I'm guessing...) that humans are a special kind of organism, made in gods image, with a purpose, and a soul and a special relationship with the creator?"

and "Thanks Frank - I know there are religious scientists, I am just bemused by how they manage to reconcile the two views of the same reality .... "

You can have "two views" of the same reality - in fact that's quite a good description of my viewpoint.

When I teach Evolution, I teach it in terms of a process driven by purely scientifically determined factors such as, especially, natural selection. This is a scientific description, and actually says nothing about whether or not there is an ultimate "purpose". It is quite possible to believe that while the whole of ultimate reality might have a purpose, it doesn't necessarily show up in proximate processes. [I make it quite clear to students that if they answer questions using arguments such as "The Bible/Koran/other scriptural text says/doesnt say X", they will receive no marks for it, as they don't constitute a scientific argument.]

An over-simplification, but I believe that, except proximately, Science only answers questions of "How?". It doesn't, and cannot, answer ultimate questions of "Why?", or, indeed, whether or not there is an ultimate question "Why?".

[What I personally believe is that the whole of reality is ultimately due to a God of Love. I do not think of God as an old man with a beard, in fact I don't think of God in these sort of physical terms at all.]

As for the position of humans, I see the "God's image" statement as connected with the fact that, unless we are psychopaths, we all actually believe that there is a moral dimension to our existence. We may differ on exactly what is right or wrong, but we accept that right and wrong exist. In my opinion a number of other subjects are also involved, such as Love (which I believe is the most important factor in what is right).

This isn't the place for a theological lecture. However I hope that, even if you don't agree with me, you can see how I, and many other scientists, can be Christians (or Jews/Moslems/Buddhists etc.), without feeling any contradiction.

It may surprise many people to learn that some of the earliest supporters of Darwin, especially in the USA, were evangelical Christians.

And today, evolutionary biologists include many who are "believers", and many others, such as the late Stephen J. Gould, who, while not "religious", certainly wouldn't go along with the militantly Atheist view of Richard Dawkins and his supporters. The same remarks apply to scientists as a whole.

I agree absolutely that people of any particular "faith" have no right to impose their views and practices on others.

FrankH Fri 30-Nov-12 00:32:01

"is there any reality to anything that 'goes beyond science'?

That's the whole issue, isn't it?

There's also the problem as to how you define "Science" - you may know that many Philosophers of Science find it not a clear-cut matter.

However for argument's sake, I will accept Richard Dawkins' view on what constitutes "Science", a very "purist" view.

If that is so, I believe that there is a much greater reality which goes beyond this variety of Science. More to the point, there is no way in which this sort of Science could ever reach these other dimensions, whether or not they exist.

There is always the problem that when you have reached the boundaries of what is observable scientifically, you cannot be sure that there isn't something beyond. Further scientific progress may allow you to break through that boundary, but you will eventually come across another boundary - and the same problem arises again.

Brycie Fri 30-Nov-12 00:38:24

Can I just respond to the OP? It's really trendy at the moment to be an atheist. Not just, not bothered or not interested but actively an atheist, among young people. I think there's a lot of stuff about on reddit, they all take the mickey out of Mitt Romney for his mormonism, and htere's a lot of memes and stuff. Don't take it personally! It's the new black.

ps fair enough to them taking the p out of Romney though

seeker Fri 30-Nov-12 06:13:52

"Can I just respond to the OP? It's really trendy at the moment to be an atheist."
Yep. We're all just jumping on the atheist band wagon. Don't worry, we'll all be back to normal Christianity as soon as the next trendy thing comes along. Space hoppers, probably. Or draw something.

Brycie Fri 30-Nov-12 07:43:50

I have no idea if you are, Seeker, but what I said is true. It's a social media "thing" right now. Of course you don't have to believe me. You can believe whatever you choose to believe. Everyone can.

exoticfruits Fri 30-Nov-12 07:54:55

You do make it sound very exciting SGB because it gets you so worked up. If I was your DC I would be asking lots of family members about your childhood and I would be wanting to explore the subject to find out what all the fuss was about. I know that you will turn up on any thread about religion with vitriolic comments about 'imaginary friends'. There is no tolerance, no 'live and let live', no respect for other views. I can't see why people can't just be free to have their own beliefs. It all shows why OP was wise to make no comment on FB.
In RL it is much better to keep off politics and religion and stick to a bland phrase like 'we are all different'.
People are looking for different things in life. If you want proof you are not going to get it. I have never expected to have 'noticeable activity'- it hadn't crossed my mind that we ought to have any!

Brycie Fri 30-Nov-12 07:58:07

Exoticfruits - people KNOW BETTER and they have to let everyone know how CLEVER THEY ARE and how STUPID OTHER PEOPLE ARE

twas ever thus

Brycie Fri 30-Nov-12 08:00:59

Exotic again: you can prove (mathematically) that the Christian God doesn't exist, but like you say it's all about faith. If it was easy or obvious or even not hard, you wouldn't need faith.

That's the point where people should just smile and shake hands and say "each to their own". Unfortunately some people just can't leave it alone.

exoticfruits Fri 30-Nov-12 08:12:52

Very true. It is the same with any subject on MN - people make a decision and justify it by thinking it is the right decision for everyone. The right decision for me is totally wrong for many other people.
The moral of the story is that if someone is trying to provoke you with a comment do not raise to the bait. The best thing with FB would be to say 'sorry, I didn't see it'

exoticfruits Fri 30-Nov-12 08:17:32

With FB, if asked I would have said 'sorry, I didn't notice- which date did you post'? And then ignore again.They would have to be very pushy to bring it up again, to which you could say 'sorry, forgot to look back'.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 30-Nov-12 09:49:14

>An over-simplification, but I believe that, except proximately, Science only answers questions of "How?". It doesn't, and cannot, answer ultimate questions of "Why?", or, indeed, whether or not there is an ultimate question "Why?".

Yes indeed. Some of us aren't fazed by the idea that there is 'no why', and a that point much of religious thought becomes redundant.

The 'two magisteria' idea propounded by Gould is attractive up to a certain point but I'm not sure it works too well in the real world.

seeker Fri 30-Nov-12 09:51:24

Brycie, it's just that it is socially acceptable to be public about being an atheist. It's not a fashion, it's progress!

Even when I was a child, which was longer ago than most mumsnetters but not very long in historical terms, being an atheist was something most people would not admit to.

And as I have repeatedly said, people are of course free to adhere to whatever faith they want, so long as they don't ask for special privileges for it, or impose it on other people.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 30-Nov-12 09:55:17

Yes...we're emerging from the 'don't ask, don't tell' mentality.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Fri 30-Nov-12 09:57:39

THat more young people are unashamedly atheist is a sign of progress as well as a healthy reaction to the sort of revolting bullshit being spouted by a lot of American right wing men (all those rape myths, all that misogyny).

Human beings are generally evolving beyond the need for imaginary friends. It's only people in difficult situations, extreme poverty, lack of education and prospects, who are inclined to turn to superstition when they've got fuck all else. Sadly, turning to superstition is more likely to make their situation worse.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Fri 30-Nov-12 10:00:06

Exoticfruits, if you were the child of someone involved in anti-racism campaigning, do you think you would find the idea of becoming a racist exciting? WOuld you trot round asking everyone if your parent had been beaten up by racists and think it was quite a thrill?

Of course, up to a point, children do seek out things that they know their parents dislike or disapprove of when they hit their teens, but not many take it to really pernicious extremes.

seeker Fri 30-Nov-12 10:21:30

SGB- I agree with practically everything you say. But the trouble is that using ...intemperate..language allows those that want to focus on the language, not the message. Whenever they accuse atheists of being aggressive, there you are, proving their point! Your arguments are cogent and compelling- why not rely on them?

doyouwantfrieswiththat Fri 30-Nov-12 11:56:22

My faith is a little more nebulous than many of my friends and we manage our differences. T

What bothers me is that my son comes home talking about creationism because those beliefs have been given to his friends. I find myself trying to explain evolution to a 7 yr old because that's my belief. Perhaps it's telling that I haven't debunked Santa Claus & the tooth fairy but I'm fairly sure at his age I went along with those two without really believing. I was a very mercenary

I was hoping he would be able to make his own choice on religion when he's developed enough critical faculty but I suppose it's like swearing, you know they're going to hear it so you have to let them know where you stand with it. I am not a fan of organised religion, I may start a disorganised one.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 30-Nov-12 12:10:32

You can give a simple explanation of evolution to a 4 year old - especially if you go to museums with fossils etc they can easily get the basic idea. If they've seen a dinosaur and had a bit of explanation, then creation myths are more likely to be seen for what they are.

While most of us want our children to make their own choices concerning religion, they don't grow up in a vacuum. Grounding them with solid, not-really-controversial science will give them a better context for further understanding. They may turn out like Frank (unbeliever -> christian) or me (christian ->unbeliever) or anywhere in between but at least there's a greater chance they won't fall for shut-your-eyes-to reality nonsense like Young Earth Creationism.

seeker Fri 30-Nov-12 12:17:08

HT is explaining evolution to a 7 year old difficult? More to the point, why doesn't a 7 year old know about evolution already?

FrankH Fri 30-Nov-12 12:47:38

Grimma - "Yes indeed. Some of us aren't fazed by the idea that there is 'no why', and a that point much of religious thought becomes redundant."

Of course. You have every right to your viewpoint, which I don't find at all "ridiculous".

It was actually my basic viewpoint for the first 28 years or so of my life - which is why I was a theoretical "Agnostic", but practical "Atheist".

Some personal experiences convinced me that the basic Christian revelation of the existence and nature of God [i.e. without all the accretions added by power-hungry "hierarchies"] is true.

Could I be mistaken? Of course! We are all fallible human beings, and the sooner those who seem to claim infallibility, whatever their ideological and/or political viewpoints, stop claiming such, the better a place the world would be (IMHO).

My comments on Science, with which I have been involved with longer than I have been a Christian, are merely to point out that, contra Dawkins, there is no basic conflict between Science and Faith (although there clearly is between Science and some varieties of faith, such as Young Earth Creationism).

Science will never in itself be able to decide between your Atheistic viewpoint and my Christian one. We should agree to differ and get on with more important practical issues to do with the betterment of humankind, not forgetting the other species which have to share this world with us.

[I love the arrogant idea current among the type of Atheist I have termed "fundamentalist", that they somehow represent a more evolved type of human!
I too believe that human evolution has not come to an end - but perhaps Homo sapiens is actually evolving into a kinder, less violent, more egalitarian species, more tolerant and less contemptuous of others who may disagree with our basic faith or non-faith viewpoints - always provided of course that those viewpoints don't themselves advocate violence and hatred (e.g. no tolerance for such as Nazism)

If Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature [2011], is correct, this might actually be happening. Let's hope he's right on this.]

doyouwantfrieswiththat Fri 30-Nov-12 12:48:43

We started from - chimpanzees are apes & humans are apes & we are related, then went through diagrams on the internet. We haven't really gone in depth into 'survival of the fittest', primordial soup and self replicating molecules, sometimes I struggle to pitch at the right level.

The questions a 7 year old poses can leave you open to quite detailed answers and he probably already knows more about the periodic table than he needs to.grin

GrimmaTheNome Fri 30-Nov-12 12:53:55

>primordial soup and self replicating molecules
when you get back beyond evolution to abiogenesis that's a bit harder since science has not got to the bottom of that - yet.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 30-Nov-12 13:05:42

>I too believe that human evolution has not come to an end - but perhaps Homo sapiens is actually evolving into a kinder, less violent, more egalitarian species

I hope so. I'd also hope 'more rational' - which does not preclude faith, as you say.

>Science will never in itself be able to decide between your Atheistic viewpoint and my Christian one

true - but science does seem to have a tendency to erode the necessity for faith. It has already provided explanations which remove the need for a 'creator'. The further we look into how the mind works the less weight we can give to subjective experiences...

FrankH Fri 30-Nov-12 13:10:02

seeker - explaining evolution to a 7 year old shouldn't be too difficult. It's simple logic really.

Those who worry about their kids getting weird ideas from others are often over-reacting. These days, it's harder to brainwash kids than it might have been at one time.

And forcing stuff on children often puts them off. Although my family background was non-religious, I ended up at C of E schools where Christian RE was taught. Did it make me a Christian? No!!! Actually it acted as a sort of vaccination against it - so that, by the time I arrived at University, my position was as an Atheistically-inclined Agnostic, glad to escape the boredom of organized religion as I had experienced it.

[Much more worrying is the dominance of the commercial media by a few large media organisations with more or less the same political viewpoint, and who sell their products partly by appealing to the worst side of human nature. Whatever one thinks of the Leveson enquiry, the attitude of most of the press to it, has been hypocrisy of the most revoltingly shameless type. I worry more about the "brainwashing" of adults than of children.]

seeker Fri 30-Nov-12 13:18:38

"I think anyone should be free to believe whatever they want. Just so long as it doesn't impinge on other people. I also think that people should be free to smoke behind their own closed doors if they want to. However they are not free to drift their smoke, or their religion, over other people whether they want it or not. Or to claim special privileges or positions in public life for their religion- or their smoke. Nobody is saying that you can't have a personal religion. But in my experience, that's not all that people want."

I'm interested in the fact that on threads like this, posts like the one I've C and Ped tend to be conveniently ignored, with people of faith focussing on the bad manners of atheists, or on supposed attacks on faith, and demands for "respect" for beliefs. Is anyone up for addressing the points above?

FrankH Fri 30-Nov-12 13:49:56

Grimma - "true - but science does seem to have a tendency to erode the necessity for faith. It has already provided explanations which remove the need for a 'creator'. The further we look into how the mind works the less weight we can give to subjective experiences..."

I must respectfully disagree - somewhat.

Science certainly cuts the ground away from such primitive concepts as the "God of the Gaps" - never intellectually defensible.

But as for the idea of the "creator", it all depends on how such a concept is viewed. Any anthropomorphic view is, I would accept, "ridiculous". But the idea of some sort of "ultimate cause" isn't. It's highly debatable that science has already removed the need of such - but in any case it hasn't removed the possibility, indeed probability, of such. One of the most intractable questions at the base of Science is the problem of existence, why there is anything at all, rather than nothing. No theories about the nature of the Big Bang actually deal with this - the most any can do is to put back the problem to another dimension.

As for "how the mind works" - here again we are on ground which is very shaky, to say the least. Many of the conclusions depend on very fine tuning of instruments being accurate, and debatable theories of "Consciousness". Actually, if some of the more extreme conclusions are true, then the ground is removed not just from "faith", but from all knowledge of any sort, including scientific knowledge.

In any case, it doesn't surprise me that "subjective experiences" of all types - not just "religious" - can be identified in brain wave patterns etc. I tell my students that "pair-bonding" and "love" are associated in the brain with oxytocin, vasopressin and their receptors. And not to worry that it somehow makes "love" less important - it doesn't. Surely one would expect strong emotions to be traceable in brain chemistry and physics? The fact that thirst and hunger can also be so traced does not ipso facto make food and drink merely a subjective experience!

Subjective personal experiences are not necessarily just a matter of the "mind". Those which led to my "conversion" to Christianity, and have led to me remaining such, are of a varied nature which are more than just a matter of "feeling" and "thinking". As such have clearly not happened for you, I entirely understand that you can't accept my experiences for yourself.

I thank you for your interesting and stimulating posts.

FrankH Fri 30-Nov-12 14:08:38

seeker - I think anyone should be free to believe whatever they want. Just so long as it doesn't impinge on other people. I also think that people should be free to smoke behind their own closed doors if they want to. However they are not free to drift their smoke, or their religion, over other people whether they want it or not. Or to claim special privileges or positions in public life for their religion- or their smoke. Nobody is saying that you can't have a personal religion. But in my experience, that's not all that people want.

I don't demand any more "respect" or special privileges for my position than for any others. I am embarrassed when Christians do so. I was very glad, for instance, that the law on Blasphemy was repealed.

Many Christians, and Moslems, Hindus etc., are arrogant and rude. So are many Atheists, and in my experience, they are not content to leave it that religion is a personal viewpoint. They want to condemn it as an evil, and some want the state to help them in their particular propaganda.

On the other hand - thank goodness - there are many Atheists, as well as Christians, Moslems etc., who aren't like that.

seeker Fri 30-Nov-12 14:12:39

Frank so you're opposed to faith schools, compulsory RE and collective worship in schools, and bishops in the HofL?

FrankH Fri 30-Nov-12 14:49:01


If bishops are to remain in the HofL then I would like to see representatives of other faiths, and of Atheist organisations as well. I think there is a good argument that the HofL shouldn't just consist of political appointees

However as far as faith schools are concerned - and especially as far as C of E schools are concerned - the situation isn't quite as many Atheists tend to portray it. None of the C of E schools I have known - quite a few - have been in the business of making converts. One even had a head teacher who was a Buddhist!

Compulsory RE is also, or should be, about studying many faiths in a non-evangelistic manner. If Christianity has a special place in the study, it is because it has had such in the history of this country, and so, for better or worse, has had a historic influence which e.g. Islam or Buddhism haven't. In a hundred years time - who knows?

As for compulsory "collective worship", if done badly, and it often is, it actually turns kids off religion. It certainly did in my case. Perhaps Atheists should encourage more "collective worship"!wink

A survey a few years ago showed that attending a C of E school made very little difference to the "faith" of young adults. In fact, in one category, so-called "Voluntary Controlled" schools, they were actually slightly less likely to be "believers".

C of E schools were started in the 19th century largely not as vehicles of "evangelism" but as a public service in areas which would not have had schools. They are still regarded in the C of E mainly in this way. Freeing the Church from this responsibility would actually be release from a burden, which, for better or worse, would enable more of its energies and finances to be directed into other spheres.

Would I support a move for the C of E to turn over all the schools to the state? Well, yes. But it would have to be done very carefully and gradually - and there are many legal barriers (people may have left land/legacies to a school). And, for whatever reason, Church schools tend on average to perform better academically. For the sake of the children involved, I wouldn't want to see these standards lowered in any transfer.

The same questions apply even more to Catholic, Jewish, and (growing number) Islamic schools - especially as, much more than C of E schools, they are meant specifically to cater for particular faith communities.

seeker Fri 30-Nov-12 14:55:01

I didn't mention evangelism. I don't know any atheists who are opposed to faith schools or collective worship or compulsory RE because they think their children will be converted.

I take it (unless i am misunderstanding you) that you are not opposed to any of these things, and so you do actually want special privileges for your faith! Forgive me if I've got this wrong.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 30-Nov-12 15:28:27

Secularists (not just atheists - see Accord Coalition) oppose faith schools primarily because on the basis of parental religion (real or pretended) they discriminate against some children and privilege others. ( VC CofE schools which have to operate fair admissions (and employment) policies aren't much of a problem.)

exoticfruits Fri 30-Nov-12 15:30:06

The reason I would want to explore it, SGB, is to see if my mother was correct- there is no reason that I have to follow her line of reasoning just because she is my mother. I can have exactly the same facts and come to entirely different conclusions. Anyone who is so adamant they are right immediately makes it an interesting subject- certainly not boring!
I would have thought it was very healthy to have different views and not all be clones.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Fri 30-Nov-12 16:10:29

Exoticfruits: I'm still interested in how far you think it's reasonable to go in exploring things your parents disagree with, just because your parents disagree with them. Do you think that all DC, for instance, go through a phase of stealing, or beating up people smaller than them, or tying bangers to cats' tails, simply because their parents have told them that these are bad things to do?

exoticfruits Fri 30-Nov-12 17:00:31

I think that everyone can agree that stealing etc is wrong(as stated in 10 commandments) I can't see what a belief in God has to do with racism when the central message is 'love your neighbour as yourself'.
I think you are confusing a belief in God with being involved with organised religion. The two can be separate- you can believe in God without ever setting foot in a church etc .
I would explore it because you are so sure that you are right that I immediately want to find out the other side. There are 2 sides to any question and I would want to know them before I dismissed one. 'Because my mother says so' has never held much ice for me (even if she proves to be right)

seeker Fri 30-Nov-12 17:47:08

I I think some people think that if you are an atheist you fobid your childre to explore religion or learn about all the different faiths. We are an atheist family- well, dp, dd and I are- dsis a little young to be sure- but dd is doing philosophy of religion for A level . Our dinner table conversations are ....interesting to say the least! We leave proscribed thinking to some faith groups!

Brycie Fri 30-Nov-12 21:17:18

I'm afraid it's a trend. It's CND for the noughties, or hunt saboteurism.

DontmindifIdo Fri 30-Nov-12 21:54:52

A lot of people do find it hard to accept other people don't see the world the same way they do. In this case, the OP's 'friends' clearly dont want to accept she believes something different to them.

Some people find the very fact that other people believe something else and state their belief, that means they are telling them they are wrong and take any admittance of faith as an insult on their faith/lack of faith, rather than just a personal statement, therefore it's OK to "have a go back" because in their mind, just admitting you are a Christian you are starting an argument, not just saying what you believe.

It would be interesting if the OP comes back, are these the sort of people who have strong political views as well and "can't" be friends with people who vote for different parties? Are they rather "tribal" in all opinion issues (like faith and politics) and can't tolerate alternative view points?

exoticfruits Fri 30-Nov-12 22:00:27

I can't see it matters. DH doesn't believe in God-I do-so what? I don't know what he voted in the last election. I don't know what I will vote in the next one-and I won't necessarily tell anyone. I don't know if I will believe in God in the future. It seems very controlling to want to decide for every one and very narrow minded to think you will never change.

DontmindifIdo Fri 30-Nov-12 22:03:34

SGB - I think I have to agree with ExoticFruits - there's something rather sad with the sort of adults who just accept their parent's world view without spending any time in their early adulthood to explore those views and see if, looking at all information, you'd come to the exact same conclusions. It's not surprising at all that if your parents are strongly atheist (rather than just not really thinking about it) you would as an adult spend a bit of time getting to understand what they are so against, and then possibly coming to a different conclusion.

It's like the people who just vote for the party their parents do, or the party that represents "people like them", without making the slightest bit of effort to get to know what each party's ideology and policies actually are.

Basically, I'm terribly intolerant of people who "strongly believe/don't believe in something" just because their mum does. Draw a different conclusion to me, but draw it yourself, don't just blindly have faith in your mum's political/spiritual/ethical views.

exoticfruits Fri 30-Nov-12 22:12:56

My father spouted similar arguments to SGB and I can remember at the age of around 10yrs thinking it was strangely childish for an adult-his was a reaction against a strict Methodist background-to which I can have some sympathy with both sides.

seeker Fri 30-Nov-12 22:28:42

Anybody want to address my point about it being absolutely fine to believe whatever you want to,, but it not being fine to claim special privileges because of what you believe, or to impose your beliefs on other people?

No? Thought not. Because it's much easier to setup straw men and attack them.

CheerfulYank Fri 30-Nov-12 22:29:56

I agree with you Seeker. confused Was there a specific question?

CheerfulYank Fri 30-Nov-12 22:33:19

I am opposed to tax-payer funded faith schools, if that's what you mean. We don't have them here.

exoticfruits Fri 30-Nov-12 22:34:21

I have absolutely no desire to impose my beliefs on others-as told many times my DCs don't believe in God -so what? Why should it matter? Why should there be special privileges?

exoticfruits Fri 30-Nov-12 22:35:48

If the state want to take over church schools they need to pay for them-they can't afford it? Are the church supposed to just hand over prime assets? hmm

exoticfruits Fri 30-Nov-12 22:36:22

Sorry-it wasn't a question! They can't afford it!

FrankH Fri 30-Nov-12 22:40:18

seeker - are you deliberately reading me wrongly?

I am a forgiving person, but find it difficult to deal with someone who accuses me of the opposite of what I have written! You seem to have made up your mind what I believe, and thrust that on me, whatever I write.

I said I only supported bishops in the HofL, if other faiths and Atheists are also represented, i.e. no special favours for the C of E.

As far as C of E schools, again I wrote (did you bother to read it?) that I would support their ultimate "secularization". I pointed out the legal and other problems involved in it, which meant that the process would be slow - and I would at the same time want to see the secularization of all other faith schools - Catholic, Jewish, Islamic.

There is an irony here. If my concern is mainly in the Church of England spreading the Christian gospel, then it would suit me very much if all C of E schools were secularized. As I pointed out, if they are regarded as instruments of evangelism, or even just of "faith maintenance", then they are proven extremely bad at it. No surprise. I have been on two boards of governors of C of E schools, in one case as Chair. In all my time, we never discussed matters of faith. And in appointing teachers we never inquired as to their faith - the only requirement being that they would be happy to work in a C of E school.

On the other hand, if my concern were mainly that the Church of England is serving the public by providing a good education, I would tend to support the continuation of C of E schools, as long as their general academic performance continues notably higher than of state schools as a whole.

My personal preference is for the second model of church activity i.e. the Church of England as more of a servant to the nation than as an evangelising body. Therefore I ought to support the continuation of C of E schools for the time being. However I so often come across attitudes such as yours, and a wilful misunderstanding of my position - which I know is held by most others involved in C of E schools - that I think it's probably now better to avoid all the ignorance and aggro, and just work to end any C of E links with public education.

This may seem like "cutting off one's nose to...", but you can just waste so much time and energy dealing with those who just don't seem to want to listen.

exoticfruits Fri 30-Nov-12 22:43:51

Is no one able to separate a belief in God from organised religion-they do not have to go hand in hand!

FrankH Fri 30-Nov-12 22:47:19

seeker - "Anybody want to address my point about it being absolutely fine to believe whatever you want to,, but it not being fine to claim special privileges because of what you believe, or to impose your beliefs on other people?

No? Thought not. Because it's much easier to setup straw men and attack them."

If you actually bothered to read replies to your "points", and not accuse people of the opposite to what they have written - youi might actually get more replies!


FrankH Fri 30-Nov-12 22:48:38

Sorry, of course it's "you" not "youi" - don't want to be accused of being illiterate as well as ridiculous!

seeker Fri 30-Nov-12 22:54:31

I'm sorry, Frank- I must have misunderstood you. I understand now that you are opposed to bishops in the House of Lords.

I am still puzzled by your stance on faith schools, though. You say you would like them to be the servants of the nation. Surely they can only be such if they do not have discriminatory admissions policies? And if they didn't have discriminatory admissions policies, they would stop being more successful than average academically, because the element of selection would be removed. ( it is only oversubscribed faith school that achieve significantly better than non faith schools drawing from similar catchments.

I don't think anyone thinks of CofE schools as instruments of evangelism, do they? Certainly nobody on this thread does as far as I know!

FrankH Fri 30-Nov-12 22:58:34


Of course belief in God doesn't mean the same as "organised religion". In fact organised religion, by setting up power structures, tends to add all sorts of "doctrines" merely to maintain the position of those in power.

On the other hand, a moderate organisation without emphasis on power, is often better than the situation where mavericks on power trips set up their own "church" "temple" "mosque" etc. in order to satisfy their egos.

FrankH Fri 30-Nov-12 23:35:14

I oppose discriminatory selection policies - and many C of E schools don't have them. One of the schools I was governor of didn't have them - it was the only school in the community. The other did have a preference for C of E members, but only from applicants outside the school's catchment area - and we never had to turn anyone away who had applied, who would otherwise have qualified through proximity to the school. In fact, I can't recall that we had to refuse entry to any child. The main problem with the last school is that it attracts a much higher proportion of black students than in the community as a whole - in SE London, Christianity is at a higher level among blacks than whites. Many of the black parents themselves were concerned that the school didn't represent the community. So much for the oft-repeated idea that C of E schools are white dominated.

Incidentally, in both schools the majority of pupils were not from C of E families.

I would strongly dispute the idea that the only reason for the better average performance of faith schools is because of the "quality" of the students. Selection is not made on the basis of academic ability. However in secularization, I would start with the schools which do have discriminatory policies.

Many of those who oppose Church Schools do tend to portray them as instruments the Church uses to indoctrinate youngsters in the "Faith". Whether or not this is true for Catholic, Jewish, and Islamic schools, I am not qualified to judge - it certainly isn't true of any C of E schools I have known.

Himalaya Fri 30-Nov-12 23:42:05


Thanks for your response (and also picking up on some of your conversation with Grimma)…..I am afraid I am still no more enlightened by really, really how you reconcile your knowledge of science and your belief in god.

The whole argument seems to slip between the logic that there could possibly be an unknowable, first cause, non-anthropomorphic ‘god’ and your conviction that there is a god of love that communicates experientially with human beings. Those two propositions are not the same thing – yes the first might be true, but not the second one.

You say “It is quite possible to believe that while the whole of ultimate reality might have a purpose, it doesn't necessarily show up in proximate processes.”
…by proximate processes presumably you mean anything knowable in the physical world – including anything we can sense with human organs or instruments, what we know about the big bang and natural selection as well as what we don’t yet know but could one day find out (i.e. the domain of science).

You say the purpose of reality doesn’t necessary show up in proximate processes (but presumably it might?)

If it does, then wouldn’t that then make it part of the domain of science?

If it doesn’t then doesn’t that make it completely unknowable to humans?

So the logical answer is the second one. I would agree with you that on some abstract logical level, the universe may have some completely unknowable and unfathomable purpose which is not reflected in anything we can study (like maybe we in the lab of an alien master race, or in the imagination of computer, or created by a non-interventionist god) but since this is by definition unknowable we can’t answer the ‘why’ question (not with science, as you say, but not with religion either, there is simply no way of knowing).

Is there any point asking it? Evolution makes the ‘why’ look like a meaningless as well as unanswerable question. The idea of purpose comes from our experience that things which are designed are made by someone, for a reason. Without knowledge of evolution life on earth would have looked designed and therefore the question ‘for what purpose’ makes sense. But once you understand that our perception of design is false then the question ‘for what purpose’ also becomes meaningless.

I think of it like this: say I walked out of my house and there was an arrow marked out in stones on the pavement, it would be perfectly reasonable for me to ask “what does it mean, what is its purpose, who put it there…” but if I had a security camera and wound it back to see that actually what looked like an arrow placed there purposefully was just a random scattering of stones kicked by a boy on his way to school the question “what does it mean, what is its purpose” would become redundant (unless I was the kind of person who looks for portents in in tealeaves etc…whether you want to call that ridiculous is more about how polite you are than how credible the idea is)

I can see that a completely deist god could be compatible with science (although not all that satisfying to believe in), but once you start adding characteristics like ‘Love’ I think you are starting to create a hypothesis which needs to be tested against what we know of the world. Why a god of love? Why not a god of hate? Or a god of some other emotion only understood by squirrels. How could we possibly know?

You say that an anthropomorphic view of god is ridiculous. I don’t know how to think about a ‘god of love’ except in terms of the human emotion of love (i.e. anthropomorphically). The ‘God of Love’ hypothesis seems to propose that god is ‘like us’ in that he is characterised by a human emotion, and loves us particularly. Which runs smack against the reality of evolution which says that human beings, and our emotions are not specially created but just another by-product of natural selection.

…..this is the crunch of it –There be God of Love who created the universe, which then after zillions of years in one corner gave rise to a runaway process of natural selection which happened to throw up an organism whose reproductive success was facilitated by a particular pattern of endorphin release which somehow corresponded with the characteristic which defined the creator of the universe….who had been waiting all these years to start having relationships with these creatures……my head hurts. I just don’t get how that works.

To Grimma you use the get out clause “There is always the problem that when you have reached the boundaries of what is observable scientifically, you cannot be sure that there isn't something beyond. Further scientific progress may allow you to break through that boundary, but you will eventually come across another boundary - and the same problem arises again.” … but then you say the idea of the “god of the gaps” is primitive and intellectually indefensible. Isn’t this the same thing?

FrankH Fri 30-Nov-12 23:47:51

Basically there are two situations regarding "assets" of C of E schools.

"Voluntary Aided" - the Church owns the school buildings and pays for the majority of the repair and maintenance.
"Voluntary Controlled" - the State owns the school buildings and pays for the majority of the repair and maintenance.

Whoever owns the buildings, they are, believe me, only "book" assets. They are much more a drain on resources, than sources of wealth!

But yes, if the State takes over the Voluntary Aided schools they will presumably have to buy the buildings.

Himalaya Fri 30-Nov-12 23:49:13

Exotic - If the state want to take over church schools they need to pay for them-they can't afford it? Are the church supposed to just hand over prime assets?

Yes, why not, they were paid for to support the education of ordinary people in this country, that is what they should be used for.

The churches happened to be trustees of that role at the time, now it is no longer appropriate.

I think the state would be well within its rights to say no state funding for schools which don't have basic non-discrimination policies at the very least.

FrankH Sat 01-Dec-12 00:57:13


It's late, and I haven't much time - but for a start.

I believe in "God is Love" because at a certain point in my life, much to my surprise, personal experience convinced me that there was more to existence than was accounted for in my up to then totally "rationalistic" "Scientific" view of things. These experiences were of course subjective in the sense that I experienced them, but they were not all just simply subjective - and thus possibly "hallucinatory" - but involved objective events around me. Were these events knock-down proofs? No - I could have dismissed them as pure coincidences. If I adopted the Dawkinsian approach, I would of course immediately rule out any possibility of their being anything else. However I cannot conceive of any way that Dawkins and his disciples could ever be persuaded by any evidence, unless God were a total tyrant who literally coerced humans into belief. Such a God clearly does not exist - and if [s]he did, I'm not sure I would want to have much to do with God.

Have these sorts of events happened since my "conversion"? Yes - not often, but then I am extremely suspicious of those who go on and on about "miracles" as if they were everyday events. They have happened enough to support me through times of doubt.

Do I then expect others to believe because I say that I have had these experiences? Of course not. Many will not have had these experiences. Others may have had them, and, because of their basic philosophy, have not recognised them for what they are.

Incidentally it is "God is Love", not "Love is God" - which might indeed lead to anthropomorphisation, we start with a human idea of "Love" and make that God. I insist that I do not have any "picture" of God - what I believe is that the whole of existence owes its origins and is underpinned by a quality/force/whatever (words very inadequate because of our necessarily limited viewpoint inside a 4 dimensional space-time continuum), which can best be called "Love", because it is when we exhibit the characteristics of Love in out lives, that we are most in tune with the ultimate creative and sustaining principle behind existence.

This of course is "Revelation". In fact, I believe that "God is Love" is the very core of the Christian message - and everything else is at best only commentary. It has to be a Revelation, because you can't work it out from looking at the world around, which so often seems to be attracted to hatred, violence, domination etc.etc. Is it really true that the meek are blessed? Don't make me laugh - unless what we see of proximate events is not an accurate refelection of what is ultimately true.

However if it is true that God is Love then it allows me to say that all those tendencies which cause an increase in hatred are evil - not just proximately but ultimately. So Nazism, Stalinism, the Inquisition, racism, bigotry etc.etc. are evil not just because they cause violence, torture, killing etc. but because they oppose Love, the true nature of God. And so I am not entirely joking when I refer to such as the Daily Mail and the Sun as "citadels of Satan" (OK I am joking but the joke has a point), because they specialise in appealing to the worst side of human nature.

Could this be mere "wishful thinking". Of course, which is why to believe, there has to be an element of "Revelation". Believe it or not, I am naturally a Sceptic. I had very little if any interest in God, faith, Church etc. before 1974 - my interests were entirely in the fields of the "Arts" and, especially, Science. I wasn't even a "seeker" as I thought that, even if God existed, looking for him/her/it was a pretty hopeless activity.

I have a number of very inadequate analogies (as all analogies are) as to how this all fits in with my perfectly orthodox view of Science and how it works in investigating proximate processes, while leaving room that ultimate ones might work quite differently, but I haven't time now, and I've bored you enough for one post.*

However just to say that "God of the Gaps" is emphatically not the same as what I am proposing. "God of the Gaps" tries to explain anything not currently explicable by Science as due to God. As Science inevitably advances, so "God of the Gaps" retreats - although there are those, such as Young Earth 6 day Creationists, who make a stand, but only at the expense of being correctly derided as anti-Scientific and Irrational.

What I am claiming is that the ultimate level of reality will always be beyond the reach of Science, because there is no way that Science will ever know that it has reached the ultimate level - there could always be something "over and above". Thus the only way to have any knowledge of the ultimate level is through some sort of revelation.

*I'll bore you tomorrow with one of these analogies, if that's OK with you.

Regards and Best Wishes

handsandknees Sat 01-Dec-12 02:24:40

I am still here, reading with interest but not confident to join in some parts of the debate!

DontmindifIdo, yes, both of the friends are very strong characters with strong opinions on everything. I know one better than the other though. She can be a little unpredictable - she recently had a landmark birthday and had a go at all the well-wishers who wrote on her facebook profile because they didn't "allow" her to feel bad about getting older. hmm

That's interesting what you said about any admittance of faith on my part making them feel like they have to defend themselves.

exoticfruits Sat 01-Dec-12 07:36:36

The church set up schools because they were the only people interested. Of course they are 'book' assets and a drain in many cases. The land was generally donated by someone- you can't expect the state to just say 'we like that- we will have it' without a fight on their hands about the legality of it!
All the church schools that I have taught in have the majority of parents not being Cof E- they are the only school and they take those in the catchment area first before any other consideration.

Himalaya Sat 01-Dec-12 07:55:27


Thanks for your reply which i have really tried to get my literalist brain around.I take from it that god is another dimension to reality?

I still don't know how you square the knowable/unknowable question. Without wanting to dissect your personal experience, the question "is it a coincidence" is exactly the kind of question science is good at answering, given enough data. Your statement that god stuff can't be investigated by science seems like the convenient defense of an idea seeking to avoid being challenged - like homeopaths saying that RCTs can't possibly test homeopathy, or psychics saying that the presence of sceptics upsets the force.

Yes, it's this bit "how investigating proximate processes, while leaving room that ultimate ones might work quite differently" that I am most interested in. If you always have to allow for the possibilitu of an unknowable spirit world that sometimes interferes with the physical one in unknowable ways, how can you possibly do science?

On your proximate versus ultimate evil point, I don't take much comfort from the idea of morality delivered by revelation. It's nice that yours is liberal and I'm sure we agree on most practical ethics. But for other people revelation has told them homosexuality is a sin, mixed marriage is wrong, honor killing is ok etc...

I also suspect that racism and, bigotry (in group/outgroup discrimination), violence and susceptibility to totalitarian leadership are human traits with an evolutionary basis that go back a long way - they are as deeply intwined in our nature as Love. Why would a god of love allow his best loved creatures to have such a fatal design flaw?

seeker Sat 01-Dec-12 08:15:27

I was wondering that. Does one of the variables in any fair test have to be "presence/absence of supernatural powers"?

And on a minor point, I didn't realise that there were faith schools that faith criteria in their admissions procedures- what makes them faith schools, then?

seeker Sat 01-Dec-12 08:16:52

Sorry- should read "have no faith criteria"

Himalaya Sat 01-Dec-12 08:27:05

Around 1/2 of CoE schools are "voluntary controlled" - where the church puts less money in and they have to use LA admission criteria.

They still have the church on the board of governors, and a religious character.

.... For example village CoE schools where it would be wrong and quite impacrical to deny children of non church goers access to the only school around.

FrankH Sun 02-Dec-12 23:08:49

Sorry for the delay in replying – I’ve got a lot going on

Thanks for your reply which i have really tried to get my literalist brain around.I take from it that god is another dimension to reality?

It’s more that God’s existence must involve all the dimensions there are – otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about God. How many dimensions there are, is unknown to us. We are conceptually limited to our 4 dimensional space-time “universe”, both by our experience of reality, and because our Science is inevitably limited. Even if we find some scientific method and instrumentation to break out of our limitation, and can establish that there is another dimension (5th dimension), and adequately explore that dimension, we are then faced with another dimensional “boundary”. We would then have no idea whether there is a yet further dimension (6th), until we can break through that “boundary”, and so on ad infinitum

I still don't know how you square the knowable/unknowable question. Without wanting to dissect your personal experience, the question "is it a coincidence" is exactly the kind of question science is good at answering, given enough data. Your statement that god stuff can't be investigated by science seems like the convenient defense of an idea seeking to avoid being challenged - like homeopaths saying that RCTs can't possibly test homeopathy, or psychics saying that the presence of sceptics upsets the force.

Firstly, I doubt very much that science is much good at answering the question as to whether or not some of the experiences I could relate are “coincidences”! [I could give an example – if you are that interested]. One thing which happened years after I became a Christian, is that looking back, there were remarkable “coincidences” even before I became a believer. To the extent that, even if I hadn’t become a theist, I might wonder whether or not there were more things going on, than those which fitted in with an absolute Atheist philosophy such as that espoused by Richard Dawkins.

Because of the dimensional problems about investigating ultimate reality which I’ve described above, it is inevitable that Science, at least in the purist sense as defined by Dawkinsians, can’t investigate “God”. Similarly, contra the claims of Fundamentalist Christians and Moslems (and others), there’s no way in which this sort of Science can ever support the existence of God. Theoretically, the Ultimate Reality might well be “Atheist”. The point is that, despite the assertions he often makes, Science can no more support Dawkins’ Atheism, than it can support Fundamentalist Theism. Despite the claim of one of the other posters on this thread, there is a very clear difference between “I don’t believe in God [because there is no positive proof for]” and “I believe there is no God [because there is positive proof against or because while there is no positive proof against, the question is so trivial that it’s not worth my bothering about].

Yes, it's this bit "how investigating proximate processes, while leaving room that ultimate ones might work quite differently" that I am most interested in. If you always have to allow for the possibilitu of an unknowable spirit world that sometimes interferes with the physical one in unknowable ways, how can you possibly do science?

“Interferes” is the word at issue. I don’t believe in God the proximal interferer. I believe in God the eternal creator and upholder. You may know that Science has a problem with the “anthropic principle”. There are of course ways to get around the Strong Anthropic Principle, to turn it into a Weak Anthropic Principle, but all of these suggestions are quite as Scientifically unprovable as the suggestion of God as ultimate creator.
When I have time to get round to it, I’ll post my [very inadequate] analogy as to how I see the relationship between the proximate – open to being investigated and totally “explained” by Science, and the ultimate – not so open, at least at present.

On your proximate versus ultimate evil point, I don't take much comfort from the idea of morality delivered by revelation. It's nice that yours is liberal and I'm sure we agree on most practical ethics. But for other people revelation has told them homosexuality is a sin, mixed marriage is wrong, honor killing is ok etc...

Of course “revelation” can be claimed by all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. Thus all claims that “God tells us to do X” must be treated with extreme suspicion. My personal experiences of God as revealed have been the opposite of that claimed by hate-filled fanatics. And I believe that mine fits in much better with God as ultimate “creator” – as Evil and Hatred are essentially parasitic [on Goodness and Love] rather than creative. But I realise your discomfort about morality ultimately being a matter of revelation has some validity.

But you won’t get any more comfort from the idea of morality being derived from “Science”, which I have heard at least one of Dawkins’ disciples (Lewis Wolpert) claim. In fact, that is precisely what such as the Nazis claimed. The sort of “social Darwinism” which led to the Holocaust already had deep roots, and not just in Germany, well before 1933. As many studies reveal [e.g. “The struggle to overcome racism” by Nina Jablonski in New Scientist 1 September 2012 pp.26-29], this “scientific racism” owes its existence to some of most illustrious minds in the “Enlightenment”, such as Kant. I have some experience of “scientific racists”, and believe me, all of them derive their racism from “Science” and not from “religion”, which they tend to deride vehemently.

I also suspect that racism and, bigotry (in group/outgroup discrimination), violence and susceptibility to totalitarian leadership are human traits with an evolutionary basis that go back a long way - they are as deeply intwined in our nature as Love. Why would a god of love allow his best loved creatures to have such a fatal design flaw?

I agree with you about the probable evolutionary origins of racism and bigotry. In fact, that is what I suggest to my students. But the imperfection of Homo sapiens is absolutely consistent with the Christian view of human status. We are imperfect beings existing in an “imperfect” existence. If it were only possible for us to be “good” and “loving”, it would be difficult to see how morality, right and wrong, had any meaning.

Incidentally it also shows the shallowness of the argument that God cannot exist because bad things happen to good people. If the reason to be “good” is so that only good things can happen to you, doesn’t that turn goodness into just another facet of self-preservation?

Unfortunately, some versions of religion, including the “prosperity theology” popular in some Fundamentalist Christian circles, preach what is actually another facet of this sort of puerile argument – “worship God, do good, and you’ll get lots of blessings”.

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 07:28:03

I think that people misunderstand the criteria for entry into church schools. They were the only schools, and then in 1870 the state filled in where there were no church schools. The church schools are community schools and very often, in villages especially, the only school. The first criteria is living in the catchment area.
Problems only come when the school is oversubscribed and you want a place outside the catchment. Parents will put that they specifically want a church school because they are members of the church- with reasons. They will come above others, possibly SN could come first, and 'looked after' DCs will come top, regardless (and so they should).
When I wanted a church school, out of catchment, it was not oversubscribed and so I didn't mention the church side- I put other reasons.
Had it been oversubscribed I would have got the list of criteria for entry, and the numbers who got in and the numbers who got in on appeal- and if I was really keen on the place I would have made my application fit the criteria.
In practice a child from a Hindu, atheist etc family living within the catchment will get a place before a DC from a Cof E family living outside the catchment.
All schools have their criteria. School choice is a myth- it is school choice *if room*- in any school.

Himalaya Mon 03-Dec-12 07:55:14

Exotic -

I think you are misunderstanding the school admission rules, in another one of your "nothing to see here folks, it's all fine" posts.

Here are the criteria for my local VA CoE primary.

In order of priority:

1 Looked after children.
2 Siblings
3 Children, one of whose parents is a practising Christian and who attend worship at least once every month for at least the last six months before the allocation of places.
4 Children who live within the parish
5 Any other children.

3 comes before 4, so this means that any child from a churchgoing family anywhere gets priority over a local child from a non churchgoing family.

This isn't unusual, and means in practice that oversubscribed church schools are full up by the time they have offered places to all the children in group 3, so the group 4 criteria don't come into play except to prioritise over children in group 3.

Yes all schools have their criteria, but some practice religious discrimination.

Himalaya Mon 03-Dec-12 08:27:35

Or take this charming list of priorities, which is for the next school in the Admissions Directory

1 Looked after children
2 Siblings
3 Children of staff
4 Children whose parents or legal guardian regularly attend Our Church.
5 Children with a place in St. Our Nursery.
6 Children whose parents or legal guardian regularly attend other Church of England Churches.
7 Children whose parents or legal guardian regularly attend churches of other Christian denominations.
8 Children from the Parish
9 Any other children.

So in practice a child from a local Hindu, Muslim or Atheist family or whose parents just don't go to church are in category 8. The school has to be pretty unpopular before they start letting in children in category 8.

Are you really suggesting that Muslims, Hindus etc... should start going to church to fit the criteria???

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 08:39:09

All the C of E schools that I have taught in have 4 before 2 and 3 of your first list. and I don't recognise your second list at all. Of course the Hindu etc doesn't start going to church-they get in as a child of the parish.
I can't speak for the whole country but certainly the schools I know don't have your list at all. The best thing is to go to the LEA and find out.
They don't even take DCs from the nursery first. There is a school where they can't all go from infants to juniors.

Himalaya Mon 03-Dec-12 08:53:50

Well now you know. Please don't spread misinformation.

In my LEA there are some CoE schools that prioritise local children and some that a fixed proportion of "community" and "foundation" places. But the majority are along the lines of the two I posted.

seeker Mon 03-Dec-12 09:09:30

I find the "nothing to see here" approach very dispiriting. "It's only a little bit of faith based bias- just such a tiny bit-I don't understand why your getting so upset about it"

GrimmaTheNome Mon 03-Dec-12 09:16:13

In my part of Lancashire the priority lists described by Him are normal for VA schools - which there are a lot of. Our village school, the next village school in each direction (mostly CofE, some RC) one ends up either having to travel a considerable distance (really needs a car, don't think there's a bus route to either of the least distant non VA schools, country lane too dangerous and too far to cycle ....or maybe get a place in one of the less popular VA schools if you're lucky.

Himalaya Mon 03-Dec-12 09:40:58


Now that you have found out that many church schools are actually much more discriminatory than you previously assumed, has it changed your view as to whether this is reasonable/moral/ok?

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 09:48:41

Never go by hearsay. It has caused lots of angst in my area where people get their first DC in and expect to get favourable treatment with the second i.e. jump over those living in the catchment, and then they can't get them in.
I have just taken a county at random, Norfolk, because I don't know it and it has lots of rural schools, many C of E and of those I clicked on-catchment area came first.
I would love to see the fuss in my area if staff's DCs jumped the list!!
In my village there are 3 schools because it has grown. The old part has the small C of E school-those who live in the catchment can have a place regardless and those who don't have to attend church (and that is not enough -they have to be actively involved).
It hasn't changed my mind at all Himalaya-I suspect that you are talking about towns.
The moral is never ever just listen to what people say-go and find out. I am obviously wrong in some areas but Himalaya is also wrong in many areas. I am not going to waste my time googling around the country-do your own research if it matters.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 03-Dec-12 10:09:21

>It hasn't changed my mind at all Himalaya-I suspect that you are talking about towns.
I'm talking about rural lancashire.

As you say, don't go on hearsay. You need to get the LEA admissions guide for your own area to see if there's a problem or not.

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 10:11:11

And taking a county I do know-Cumbria. If a rural family with no car lives in a village and the schools within a 10 mile radius are all C of E and there is no public transport (an actual village in mind) do you really think that a churchgoing family are going to come before an atheist family and the LEA are going to supply a taxi for a 24mile round trip each day?! Common sense says they come first. In a town you can walk to another school and why would an atheist family want a church school? confused

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 10:12:37

You need to get the LEA admissions guide for your own area to see if there's a problem or not.

Exactly-don't listen to anyone. What happens in my village, Cumbria or Norfolk has no bearing on it at all-it can be completely different.

Himalaya Mon 03-Dec-12 10:23:53

Exotic -

Do you think it is a problem if some CoE schools give places to the children of churchgoers who live some distance away, and turn away local children?

It sounds like you think it is just fine.

Why not just say that, and defend the discrimination, rather than split hairs about whether it happens in 60% of VA schools or 40%.

As for your hmm over why atheist parents might send their children to a church teach in church schools which you say are very inclusive of families from all religions and none. I hope they don't get the hmm face from you.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 03-Dec-12 10:38:42

exotic -'Common sense says they come first. ''d think, wouldn't you. Because you're a fair minded sort of person. It comes as quite a shock to people when they find that the admissions criteria have to be obeyed and they aren't based on common sense.

What is more likely hereabouts to happen is that the non-christian child gets allocated a place in an undersubscribed faith school but not their oversubscribed village one and if you turn it down and ask for the more distant non-faith school then the LEA won't want to pay transport.

Most people just suck it up and sit on the pews for the requisite time.

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 17:03:31

I don't believe that local children are turned away for churchgoers who live some distance- I don't know of it happening. It may do in towns where there are are schools close together,and the face was because I don't understand why you would choose a church school if they could walk to a non church school. In all the ones that I know (a considerable number) living in the catchment area comes first and the church schools have all faiths and no faiths first, before a single DC out of catchment. The non Christian child will get a place in the oversubscribed village school if they live in the village. In the one that I know best I think I could label about 6 families C of E and the rest are never in church, it is oversubscribed and they live in the catchment area- probably the church going ones are mainly those who applied from outside catchment. No one has to go to church if they live in the right road.

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 17:25:39

I will be prepared to believe it , if you give me the name of the school where it has happened.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 03-Dec-12 18:31:52

You might believe it if you'd ever read through the Lancashire LEA admissions criteria booklet.

One of the cases I know of is my neighbour, my village school which I'd rather not divulge to someone who is implying I'm a liar. She's not a non-christian, as it happens - but as a divorced RC her kids weren't welcome at either the village CofE or the RC in one of the nearby villages. We didn't even bother applying - maybe we'd have been granted a place after the non-village churchgoers but given the oversubscription that was unlikely. The priority at that time was looked after, churchgoers (as below), sibs, distance (not sure which order the latter were in) .

There are no other schools feasible to walk to.

I've just checked the admissions criteria for our village school -they've changed in the last couple of years. Now its:
1) looked after children and special need that can only be met by this school

2. Children who live closest to the school, to a maximum of 4
The distance between the Ordnance Survey address points for the school and thehome measured in a straight line will be used to determine which addresses are closest
to the school.

3. Children with a parent/guardian worshipping at
(a) xxxx St. Anne’s Church
(b) A church in membership of Churches Together in England or the Evangelical Alliance
5) others

In 2012, there were 42 applications for 15 places So - 4 lucky village kids now get priority. If there's more than 4, tough - even with the changed rules local kids can be turned away for distant churchgoers.

DontmindifIdo Mon 03-Dec-12 18:53:42

Thing is, as a Christian I do agree that faith schools can be unfair, but I also think there's a lot of hand wringing about unfair entry criteria for non-church goers, without accepting as the LEA are getting these state school places on the cheap (with the church goers giving the money to subsidise the schools).

How would it be fair that a LEA could expect the congregation to fund a school without having priority on places that they've paid for through their collection donation?

The subsidising of state education by the Church is never the bit that gets mentioned. There's a certain element of "he who pays the piper calls the tune." It's not fair, but it's also not fair that money people are donating to the church has to be used for something that the tax payer should be.

(this is before we get on to areas like mine where they had a shock last year as the numbers putting their DCs into prep fell, and horror! They actually had to provide state school places for these children.)

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 19:16:09

I don't know which school it was in Lancashire, but having had a quick trawl around them I find they are exactly as I stated except that some put siblings in the school above catchment. The general trend is as of the rest of the country. Looked after children, those with SN that can only be met by that school -then it varies between siblings at the school and catchment area-it is only after those 4 that those outside the catchment can get a place with those who worship in the church first. I have no doubt that odd schools put church goers first-but it is rare and I didn't find it on the first 5 that I looked at.

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 19:22:38

This was the typical:

By law, no infant class may contain more than thirty children. The governing body
operates a system of equal preferences under which they consider all preferences equally
and the Local Authority notifies parents of the result. In the event that there are more
applicants than places, after admitting all children with a statement of educational need
naming the school, the governing body will allocate places using the criteria below, which
are listed in order of priority.
1. Children in Public care.
2. Children with special medical or social circumstances affecting the child where these
needs can only be met at this school.
3. Relationship as brother or sister to a pupil already attending the school at the time of
application and admission.
4. Residence within the parishes of Arkholme, Gressingham and Whittington, including
the extended catchment as marked on a map available in the school prospectus.
5. Children with a parent/guardian worshipping in a church in membership of
Churches Together in England.
6. Any other children.

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 19:31:09

You don't even have to ask the school or LEA-just look on line, it is so easy and 9 times out of 10 you will find that you don't have to be a church goer or have a belief in God.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 03-Dec-12 19:53:15

This is interesting...some of the local CofE ones I know used to have priorities as described by Himalaya earlier (with churchgoers ahead of local) now have this sort of thing:

Children living within the extended parish (see note 4)
a) Worshipping in the local covenanted Churches (see note 5)
b) All other Children (see note 6)
Children whose parents live outside our extended parish
a) Worshipping in Churches Together, Evangelical alliance, and other faiths
b) All other children

So, still second class citizens but not quite so bad as before.
I haven't managed to find the RC ones online yet - the last hardcopy book we had 3-4 year ago they were all very much Catholics first.

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 20:03:29

Quote an actual school then-I have failed to find one over 4 counties.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 03-Dec-12 20:17:27

OK, taking the primary league table, sorting by 'higher level' and looking at the faith schools, first hit:

1. Baptised Roman Catholic children who are in public care and adopted Roman
Catholic children who were previously looked after.
2. Baptised Roman Catholic children who will have a brother or sister attending the
school at the time of admission and are resident in the parish.
3. Baptised Roman Catholic children who are resident in the parish.
4. Baptised Roman Catholic children who will have a brother or sister attending the
school at the time of admission and who are resident in another parish.
5. Other baptised Roman Catholic children who are resident in another parish.
6. Non Roman Catholic children who are in public care and adopted children who were
previously looked after.
7. Non Roman Catholic children who will have a brother or sister attending the school at
the time of admission
8. Non Roman Catholic children

Next one - RC, similar.
Then there's two CofE we've already cited which are OK.
Then another RC - similar to previous.
Then a CofE which has all christians at 2(with subsections for sibs/in/out of parish) then sibs then 'others'. There's another bad'un to go with my village school.

Maybe you weren't looking at the Catholic schools.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 03-Dec-12 20:26:49

>Quote an actual school then-I have failed to find one over 4 counties.

OK, I'm not naming my village but here's a couple found in the last couple of minutes working down the list:
Clayton-le-Moors All Saints Church of England Primary School
Halsall St Cuthberts CofE

and all the RCs I've looked at

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Mon 03-Dec-12 20:36:46

Frank, you can use all the long words you like, but your argument still boils down to 'My imaginary friend exists because I say it does, and you can't prove it with proper, objective facts, figures, measurable quantities or any of that real stuff, because my imaginary friend is too special...'

Which remains fine as long as you keep your imaginary friend as your own business and do not require anyone else to give a toss about it.

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 20:51:53

Catholic are different-they have nothing to do with 1870 and the education act. Will look at the others.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 03-Dec-12 21:00:59

They're not different from the POV of someone trying to get a school place in an area where there's lots of them.

Heysham St Peters is another one (I stopped looking after finding 3 without trying very hard)

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 21:05:10

C of E is the religion of the state. Schools started with the C of E and the state filled in with board schools in 1870. Catholic schools were always separate, never pretended to be for anything other than Catholics-they were not supposed to serve the community.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 03-Dec-12 21:12:15

But they are part of the state education system now. Maybe its worse when you get CofE schools who aren't serving their parish (in the geographical sense) well, but from the POV of a non-christian they're part of the same system.

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 21:13:28

I did say originally that if there was choice of school they would be more picky. Heysham has several schools so there is no need to choose a church school if you don't agree with the ethos.

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 21:16:07

Clayton-in-the-Moors is similar-at least one other school. I think you misunderstand me-if a village has only one school then catchment comes first. If there are other schools why would an atheist want the one that has close ties with the church?

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 21:24:28

Having looked at the Halsall one I think that you can safely say that if there is a choice of school than the C of E puts C of E parents first-if there is only one school they put catchment first. Catholic schools are never the only school in the village.

BoulevardOfBrokenSleep Mon 03-Dec-12 21:30:19

DontmindifIdo - 100% of running costs of faith schools are paid by the taxpayer.

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 21:31:25

Perhaps the tax payer would like to buy the school then and not have the church part. (I doubt it)

BoulevardOfBrokenSleep Mon 03-Dec-12 21:41:01 are 90% of capital costs.

It's hardly going to be a priority for the government's spending, is it, while the CofE is still established, and the vast majority of the population have no idea how school admissions work. No matter how nice it would be to have religion-blind admisssion to state schools.

theboutiquemummy Mon 03-Dec-12 22:03:12

they don't sound like friends to me

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 22:05:02

I think that we rather lost track of the OP theboutiquemummy! My first advice was best-ignore-do not discuss in any shape or form!

GrimmaTheNome Mon 03-Dec-12 22:11:56

So I live in the only village where if you're not in the lucky four locals you get kicked out elsewhere? what are the chances of that...

I'm glad to see the criteria do not all seem to be what they were 10 years ago round here but I don't think the problem has evaporated. Secondary schools are another matter again...

GrimmaTheNome Mon 03-Dec-12 22:13:20

>I think that we rather lost track of the OP theboutiquemummy! My first advice was best-ignore-do not discuss in any shape or form!
grinyou're not wrong there

exoticfruits Mon 03-Dec-12 22:16:29

I wish I had taken my own advice! grin I would just have said 'sorry-did you post something? I missed it? Which date did you past' -if she was pushy enough to ask again say 'oops-sorry forgot to look back'.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 03-Dec-12 22:30:35

To answer one specific question, why would a non-christian want to send their child to a faith school if there was a choice - could be many reasons. One is the obvious 'league table' issue - selection yields results. Another is that - in the case of Heysham - it gives your child a couple of extra points on the Ripley St Thomas criteria - which if you know the secondary schools round there, if your child isn't a shoo-in for the grammars is a significant consideration. But in either of those cases, I guess if that's your aim you should play the game and pretend for the requisite few years?

Himalaya Mon 03-Dec-12 22:52:27

Exotic - the schools were set up to educate local children (who happened to by CoE churchgoers because that is what you did in those days). They were paid for/land donated by local people and/or the local gentry to educate local children. They have been maintained for decades with taxpayer funding for new roofs, new windows, new electrics, central heating, all the equipment etc..., kitchens.

It wouldn't be very moral for the church to now say, well if we are not allowed to discriminate against local children whose families refuse to come to church we are just going to sell them off for conversion to yuppie flats, would it? I wonder if they would even be allowed to by their own governing foundations.

FrankH Mon 03-Dec-12 23:42:04

Frank, you can use all the long words you like, but your argument still boils down to 'My imaginary friend exists because I say it does, and you can't prove it with proper, objective facts, figures, measurable quantities or any of that real stuff, because my imaginary friend is too special...

Which remains fine as long as you keep your imaginary friend as your own business and do not require anyone else to give a toss about it.

But I don't require anyone else to give a toss about it!!!

I've never posted about my beliefs except in reply to the arrogant posts of a certain type of Atheist, who assert or imply that Christian beliefs must be ridiculous, imbecilic, juvenile etc.etc.etc.

You have every right to believe what you may like about my, or other, non-Atheistic beliefs - but if you post your insulting comments - and therefore expect others to give a toss about them - you mustn't expect others not to reply!

As I am, for better or worse, a Christian, I sometimes reply to such assertions. Perhaps I'm wasting my time doing so - but as a fallible human like yourself, I don't always act with wisdom.

And, for what it's worth, I don't think of God as "my special friend" - imaginary or not - I wouldn't have the temerity.

FrankH Mon 03-Dec-12 23:49:32

Incidentally I should emphasise that I am not including Himalaya in the category of the arrogant type of Atheist I sometimes unwisely reply to.

Occasionally what happens is that as a result of a reply, I find an invitation to have a more reasoned sort of discussion with an Agnostic of Atheist, who seems genuinely interested in why someone might believe in God, and doesn't straightway dismiss such a belief as ridiculous.

GrimmaTheNome Tue 04-Dec-12 08:49:11

Unfortunately, whether individual believers expect anyone else to give a toss or not, the current non-secular state with its privileges and discrimination means that religion impacts on other peoples lives.

Anyone who wants to be part of the solution to that rather than (by implicit consent) part of the problem might consider supporting organisations such as The Accord Coalition.

FrankH Tue 04-Dec-12 09:55:48

At the university at which I work, I was for a number of years actively involved with others, mainly but not exclusively Atheists, in campaigning to preserve the secular nature of the university - i.e. not distorting the university's character in order to appease particular religious standpoints.

As I am now only part-time in the uni., I have had less involvement, but met the leader of the campaign, an Atheist, the other day, and he seems satisfied that we made our point, and that for the moment, things haven't got any worse.

Incidentally the faith viewpoint which is making by far the most demands in universities these days for special treatment - and often getting it - is Islam of a very conservative ilk. In my university, the Islamic Society has the exclusive use of two large well-appointed prayer rooms, provided by the university, strictly segregated by sex. All other groups, including Christians and Atheists, have the use of one very small room for meditation. There is constant pressure for timetables etc. to be structured to suit Islamic sensibilities.

I have had many Moslem students over the years. Mostly they have been of the non-Fundamentalist, "progressive", type, and, especially the women, don't want anything to do with the Islamic Society. I, and another I know, have attended meetings of the Islamic Society, and been quite disturbed at what has been taught to the members (blatant homophobia, nikab should be worn by women, the west is the source of all evil etc.etc.). Yet these societies tend to be treated by universities etc. as if they were representative of Islam as a whole.

The promotion and preservation of secularism doesn't always however seem to have that much to do with the Law in the impact religion has on other people's lives. Compare the UK and the USA. The USA has stringent laws to separate the state from all forms of religion - there is no established church, no state-funded denominational schools etc.etc. Yet of the two countries, which is the one in which "religion" is a more insistent, and disruptive force?

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Tue 04-Dec-12 10:37:32

Frank: I agree with you that this type of conservative Islam is very disturbing. And it goes to the root of why I fight for the right to be contemptuous of people's superstition and irrational crap and imaginary friends. Because people are tiptoeing round this misogyny, homophobia and general malevolence on the grounds that it's religion and worth of 'respect', when it's just nasty bullshit that needs stepping on.

It's funny how invariably frequently it seems to come down to respecting the 'beliefs' and the 'culture' and the 'feelings' of men to abuse and oppress women and children...

GrimmaTheNome Tue 04-Dec-12 11:23:25

I had a feeling you might be one of the good guys, Frank smile

Its a sad fact that its the extremists who get the attention. People should be treated with respect; religions, political systems and other philosophies need to be worthy of respect if they want to be respected.

The US is an oddity. Perhaps part of it stems from many of its original immigrants - and some of the later ones - escaping religious persecution elsewhere. They were people who were committed enough to their version to travel to a new land. Another factor is that there is one respect in which they overstepped the mark -as I understand it, state schools don't teach comparitive religion (I may be wrong on this) - so children grow up more likely to follow their parents traditions with less question. This is bound to lead to polarisation. Impartial teaching about religions - and other worldviews - is IMO essential.

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