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Toynbee writes: "Politics looks even more out of touch when obscure doctrine holds a disproportionate place in national life."

Polly Toynbee, president of the British Humanist Association. (photo: Martin Pope)
Polly Toynbee, president of the British Humanist Association. (photo: Martin Pope)

Atheists are Better For Politics Than Believers. Here's Why.

By Polly Toynbee, Guardian UK

16 December 12


f you're not religious, for God's sake say so," we implored, and many did. Over a quarter of the population registered as non-believers: more might have done were the census question unambiguous about whether it meant cultural background or personal belief. My term as president of the British Humanist Association ends this month, but gladly I hand over to Jim Al-Khalili, the distinguished professor of physics, writer, broadcaster and explainer of science. With atheism as the second largest block, he will be in a stronger position to see that unbelievers get a better hearing.

Rows over gay marriage and women bishops bewilder most people. With overwhelming popular support for both, how can abstruse theology and unpleasant prejudice cause such agitation at Westminster and in the rightwing press? Politics looks even more out of touch when obscure doctrine holds a disproportionate place in national life.

The religions still frighten politicians, because despite small numbers in the pews, synagogues and mosques, they are organised and vocal when most of the rest of society lacks community voice or influence. Labour was craven, endlessly wooing faith groups – David Blunkett wishing he could "bottle the magic" of faith schools.

With a third of state schools religious in this most secular country, Michael Gove not only swells their number but lets them discriminate as they please in admissions. As he is sending a bible to every English school, the BHA is fundraising to send out its own Young Atheist's Handbook to school libraries. Government departments are outsourcing more services to faith groups in health, hospice, community and social care.

But of all the battles Jim Al-Khalili confronts, the most urgent is the right to die. Powerful religious forces block attempts to let the dying end their lives when they choose. Tony Nicklinson was the most public face of thousands in care homes and hospitals condemned to what he called "a living nightmare" by 26 bishops and other religious lords who say only God can dispose – the Bishop of Oxford decreed: "We are not autonomous beings." The public supports the right to die, but many more will drag themselves off to a bleak Swiss clinic before the religions let us die in peace.

Sensing the ebbing tide of faith since the last census, the blowback against unbelievers has been remarkably violently expressed. Puzzlingly, we are routinely referred to as "aggressive atheists" as if non-belief itself were an affront. But we are with Voltaire, defending to the death people's right to believe whatever they choose, but fighting to prevent them imposing their creeds on others.

The Abrahamic faiths, with their disgust for sex and women, still exert deep cultural influence. When David Cameron claimed "we are a Christian country", there are certainly enough cultural relics in attitudes towards women and gays. Baroness Warsi's letter expressing alarm that schools might teach gay marriage equality causes tremors of that sexual disgust branded into the souls of all three major monotheistic faiths. Are there many gay couples perverse enough to yearn to be married inside religions that abhor them? Humanists can offer them heartfelt celebrations.

In the Lords this week, by a whisker, section 5 of the Public Order Act was amended to remove the offence of using "insulting words or behaviour within hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harm, alarm or distress thereby".

An extraordinary alliance of extreme religions wanting the right to preach fire and brimstone against gays joined with free thinkers wanting the right to be rude about religions. Liberty and the Christian Institute were on the same side against the government, which was defeated. Now the Commons will have to decide. Some religions argue they have a God-given right not to be caused offence, to give legal weight to fatwas against those who offend their prophets. But in the rough and tumble of free speech, no one can be protected against feeling offended. Jim Al-Khalili can expect all manner of attacks, but no protection for his sensibilities.

For instance, he might take offence at the charge that without God, unbelievers have no moral compass. Hitler and Stalin were atheists, that's where it leads. We can ripost with religious atrocities, Godly genocides or the Inquisition, but that's futile. Wise atheists make no moral claims, seeing good and bad randomly spread among humanity regardless of faith. Humans do have a hardwired moral sense, every child born with an instinct for justice that makes us by nature social animals, not needing revelations from ancient texts. The idea that morality can only be frightened into us artificially, by divine edict, is degrading.

The new president will confront another common insult: atheists are desiccated rationalists with nothing spiritual in their lives, poor shrivelled souls lacking transcendental joy and wonder. But in awe of the natural world of physics, he'll have no trouble with that. Earthbound, there is enough wonder in the magical realms of human imagination, thought, dream, memory and fantasy where most people reside for much of their waking lives. There is no emotional or spiritual deficiency in rejecting creeds that stunt and infantalise the imagination.

Liberated by knowing the here and now is all there is, humanists are optimists, certain that our destiny rests in our own hands. That's why most humanists are natural social democrats, not conservatives. your social media marketing partner


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+44 # DPM 2012-12-16 17:22
This article is, of course, "preaching to the choir" as no person of "faith" would subscribe to these idea's. Perhaps I should qualify that statement by saying, few persons of "faith"...
-8 # tahoevalleylines 2012-12-17 13:08
Polly(anna) is no student of the British experience circa 1939-1945. Or aware of Britain's sad situation except for the North Sea oil gift...

There's this myth about some Spanish Armada, too...
+4 # bmiluski 2012-12-18 09:12
And your point is........????
-37 # ganymede 2012-12-16 17:26
While I've always had a lot of respect for Polly Toynbee, I must say I find the discussions about atheism and religion boring and besides the point. I lived in England for many years and the British in general are areligious which I found refreshing. However, I am like many others in that I am a God 'fearing' individual in that I acknowledge a higher power than myself. I think that spirituality is the glue that connects all human beings. Of course, the ultra religious who greatly influence the political and social scene in the US and elsewhere are for the most part either naive or hypocrits. Very few professed Christians, Jews or Muslim practice the basic precepts of their religions. If they did we have a much more civilized world. Atheists, on the other hand are fighting the true spirituality that is at the core of world civilization which I also think is futile and self-defeating.
+85 # Joe Bob 2012-12-16 20:42
Religion is no guarantee of Spirituality.
+25 # bmiluski 2012-12-18 09:13
I guess the term "God fearing" is what sets my teeth on edge. What kind of a god do you worship that demands you fear him (of course it's a male god.)?
+17 # bmiluski 2012-12-18 09:14
SPIRITUALITY is the search for knowledge/enlightenment.

RELIGION is the search for reward.
-26 # Smokey 2012-12-16 21:04
[quote name="ganymede" ]While I've always had a lot of respect for Polly Toynbee, I must say I find the discussions about atheism and religion boring and besides the point. I lived in England for many years and the British in general are areligious which I found refreshing."

Very true.... Ireland, too, is not as religious as Americans like to imagine.
The Irish nationalists are surprising indifferent to "the church."

Key point: In progressive politics, discussions about atheism and religion are (usually) boring and beside the point. Although some people on the political left have wasted a lot of time in making anti-religion tirades.

The 20th century was the first time in world history that lots and lots of people lived under governments that were officially "atheistic." Lots of people died because of anti-religion campaigns in places like China, the Soviet Union, Cambodia, etc.

Are any of these countries happier or better because of their official atheism? Is Moscow a safer city than Memphis? Is North Korea more "rational" or democratic or prosperous than South Korea?
+17 # Onterryo 2012-12-17 09:10
Just because a leader or a government, dictatorship or otherwise, wears a label of atheism, Christian, Muslim or Jewish, etc., does not mean they truly are what the preach. Did not millions die in China, the Soviet Union, Cambodia, etc. long before they were ruled by supposed atheists? I am not anti-religious and virtually every atheist or agnostic I have met acknowledges we have a big tent in which all religions are allowed to practise their faith provided they do not force their view on others in the tent. Yes, we have extreme "unbelievers" but I would hazard to guess they do not begin to approach the percentage of extreme "believers" found in the Abrahamic religions.
-2 # Smokey 2012-12-20 04:42
[quote name="Onterryo" ]"Just because a leader or a government, dictatorship or otherwise, wears a label of atheism, Christian, Muslim or Jewish, etc., does not mean they truly are what the preach."

Hmmmm.... Can it also be said that "Just because a leader or a government claims to be Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, does not mean that they are what they preach"?

Atheists are often inconsistent on this point. If a dictatorship claims to be Christian, the argument goes, "This is what Christianity does!" However, if a brutal dictatorship claims to be atheistic - and there have been more than a few - the argument is made, "These aren't the REAL atheists."

Play fair. There are lots of atheists in the world, both good and bad. And there are lots of God-worshippers . And, no, it's not true that all religious people worship God.
0 # mdhome 2012-12-31 10:22
Hitler said he was doing "Gods work"
+15 # MJnevetS 2012-12-17 10:34
"Ireland, too, is not as religious as Americans like to imagine." That's why Irish doctors were recently required to let the mother of a fetus die, as opposed to allow an abortion to remove the fetus which would not have (and did not) survive in any event. No abortion was allowed because of the religiously required secular law interfering with a doctor's ability to make a medical (scientific!) decision.
0 # mdhome 2012-12-31 10:24
That is the most unconscionable thing possible!
+4 # bmiluski 2012-12-18 09:15
Yes its safer because there is no longer the fear of being accused of heresy because someone wants your house, wife, etc.
-1 # NAVYVET 2012-12-25 09:32
Why did this view receive negative comments? Militant Atheism can be as murderous as militant anything, and Joseph Lewis's tirades chased me out of the American Humanist Association as long ago as the 1960s. ALL religions and anti-religions need to be courteous to other views. Even the Buddhists in the Middle Ages were leading East Asian armies, and for a while were banned in Korea for being too greedy. I've worked in England, France, Scotland, Wales and Ireland and agree that Europeans, in general, are much more relaxed and polite about belief--it's personal. I enjoyed Ireland. The Irish love to talk about religion, politics and economics (the three verboten topics in America) but they are among the most tolerant folk I've ever met. When I mentioned I was Unitarian, some had never heard of it, some cheerfully asked, "Is that Protestant? I can show you where our town's Protestant church is." (We are Freethinkers, we develop our own personal theology, doubt or disbelief, I explained.) A surprising number cheered, having been taught in school that the famous rebels of 1798, Wolfe Tone and Napper Tandy, were Unitarians. I returned to the loudmouthed Fundie US thinking that if I could afford to relocate abroad I'd love to retire in friendly, scenic Ireland. Of course, after US banks caused their economy to tank, the Irish may not like Americans so much, and who could blame them?
+9 # Billsy 2012-12-17 14:44
Sorry, but you had me until the last sentence. That's the worst kind of blunt discrimination expressed in these pages. Atheists I've met are some of the most moral and I might add, spiritual folk I've ever met, as are a handful of those affiliated with common religions. It proves Toynbee's point that there are certain qualities innate to humans, reinforced through upbringing as well, that allow us to exist as a social species. Her comments really struck a nerve with you huh?
+5 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2012-12-19 22:09
I'm 72 years old. Have thought many many years about what we have been taught, particularly on religious issues. Albert Einstein once commenetd, "it is amazing how curiosity survived a "formal" education. If we were to "be like God" we could excuse murder. an animal kingdom was created by "Him" that survives based on one animal killing another to eat and survive. The Lord's prayer could include, "the next time you make a planet please use a different building code that permits no massive earth quakes, huge waves that wash out beach communities, a sun that does not eventually "burn out", rattle snakes, Limburger cheese and Ultra Right Wing Republicans." Amen.
0 # mdhome 2012-12-31 10:28
At my age of 67, I am certain "intelligent design" is false, otherwise the prostrate gland would not pinch off the urethra.
+93 # fredboy 2012-12-16 17:41
To underscore this, has anyone heard of one church--one church--calling for more government control of firearms after the massacre in Connecticut? No, most churches in the U.S. push for more guns and more gun leniency. Most Christian churches have become anti-Christian.
+63 # guomashi 2012-12-16 19:50
Quoting fredboy:
To underscore this, has anyone heard of one church--one church--calling for more government control of firearms after the massacre in Connecticut? No, most churches in the U.S. push for more guns and more gun leniency. Most Christian churches have become anti-Christian.

"For the good of our Lord, the Church has always been on the side of the strong" - from Aguirre the Wrath of God.
Do not look to the Church for redemption, it is too busy prospering on the scraps of the rich.
+27 # goodsensecynic 2012-12-16 21:12
Name one Christian church that's against guns? Probably. I can't be sure, but I'd guess some of the smaller Protestant sects (Mennonites, Hutterites, Amish, Quakers, etc.), plus Unitarians, and possibly the United Church [of Canada] would join in the call.

As for churches being "anti-Christian ," you'd have to be more specific. Although neither "religious" nor "spiritual" myself, I do enjoy reading the Book of Acts 4:33-34, wherein it is recorded of the disciples of Christ that: "Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands and houses sold them and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need."

Now, fast forward to 1875 when Karl Marx wrote more concisely in "The Critique of the Gotha Program": "From each according to his ability; to each according to his need."

Now you can accuse Marx of a lot of things, but only one charge really sticks: Plagiarism!
+5 # Midwestgeezer 2012-12-18 15:22
I learned, in Claudia Koonz' excellent study, "Mothers in the Fatherland", that the mothers of Germany were not as life-affirming as one might expect and that the religious group whose leaders and adherents most completely stood up to Hitler's regime were the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Much of the Protestant and Catholic citizenry, if not in complete support, went along with or welcomed the rise of Hitler. There are photographs of high ranking members in the Catholic hierarchy saying special masses for high-ranking Nazis. Finally, after germany fell, a Cardinal in the Vatican was busily preparing travel documents to spirit Nazi war criminals away to South America where many of their descendants still live in peace and prosperity.
As a recovered Catholic, I no longer have a dog in this fight but to grant the presumption of goodness to anyone because of their membership in any religion is to engage in a trust that I cannot extend. I strongly recommend Ms. Koonz book.
+1 # harri485 2012-12-18 16:25
Thank you for the book title I will check it out. Being Catholic isn't about being perfect. As long as the church has existed I am sure you could find other of examples of Catholics doing things that are contrary to their faith. Faith for me is about shooting for an ideal of what the human person should be.

There were 108 Catholic Martyrs during WWWII. Claus Von Staufenberg, a Catholic, tried to assassinate Hitler multiple times. Much of the Germany and Austria are Catholic of corse there were Catholic Nazis, but for many their faith is what made them stand up to the Nazis. Look up Edith Stein and her sister or Maximillian Kolbe. There was even a priest ordained in a death camp, Karl Leisner.
+1 # Midwestgeezer 2012-12-19 07:59
harri485 makes a valid point but it seems to me that those few (courageous as they were) who opposed this evil regime, among the millions of Christians in Germany (and Austria) who might have are a pitiful example for the world. This is not to mention those Christians in much of Europe who sided with the Nazi regime and turned in their neighbors for a trip to a death camp. In Poland, a predominately Catholic country, where anti-Semitic preaching was rife, there is a case where the Jews of a whole village were reported, rounded up and sent off to the "final solution". The Jewish cemetery was leveled and the stones were utilized as curbstones on village streets. The absent Jewish citizen's property was divided up amongst those "christians" who remained.
In 1947-48, the western world's guilt was assuaged by uprooting the Palestines to resettlement camps so the remaining Jews couls have a homeland, thus compounding the crimes begun by the Nazi regime. We continue to live with the fallout of that "solution".
-1 # harri485 2012-12-19 09:32
The people who did the horrible things you described during the WWWII did not do them because they were Catholic. They did them because they were anti-semites, because they were scared, or I like to hope because they were dumb and they didn't know what they were doing (I don't think the last reason is likely, but one can hope). They didn't do it because they were Catholic.

The people who stood up to the Nazis, who I mentioned previously, did so because they were Catholic. Having faith called people to do what seemed impossible, like trying to kill Hitler or trading places with someone being sent to be starved to death.
+1 # Midwestgeezer 2012-12-20 11:16
Not to put too fine a point on it but of course those who participated in Herr Hitler's evil scheme did NOT do so because they were Catholic, nor did they NOT NOT do so because of their Catholic faith. Quite surely their common humanity led them to a greater or lesser extent, as it must have led the Witnesses of jehovah. Those who cooperated did so for myriad reasons but none so much as the anti-Semitic teachings they had received in their faith. Herr Martin Luther has written some terrible things about Jews but we need to remember that he is but a Roman Catholic, revised and edited.
+1 # FatEddie 2012-12-26 20:54
Thank you for the well-argued and documented contribution.

It is obvious that you've studied the Vatican's relationship with the Nazi regime -- especially their tacit support for the volksstaat in "Mit brennender Sorge;" indeed, the Catholic church disliked the Jewish people so much they did not try to convert them -- such was the extent of their prejudice against the Jewish people.
-1 # Smokey 2012-12-20 04:55
[quote name="harri485" ] 'There were 108 Catholic Martyrs during WWWII."

Very true. There was also fierce opposition to the Nazis from Greek Orthodox leaders and other Orthodox Christians in Eastern Europe. Keep in mind that many of these Christians were also persecuted, at times, by atheist Communists.
+8 # Smokey 2012-12-16 23:12
[quote name="fredboy"] To underscore this, has anyone heard of one church--one church--calling for more government control of firearms after the massacre in Connecticut?"

Are you asking for more church involvement in politics? Interesting suggestion.

Here's the situation: It's now Sunday. The Newtown shooting took place on Friday. Hundreds of religious organizations have taken the lead in organizing vigils and community gatherings in response to the Newtown tragedies.... It's true that (as of the moment) the big denominations haven't released major statements. Wait for a few days. The statements will appear,

While you're waiting.... Research the National Council of Churches' past statements about gun ownership. The NCC represents many of the big Protestant denominations. The NCC has a long history of working for gun control. Check it out.

The Vatican also has a history of working for gun control.

"Most churches in the U.S. push for more guns and more gun leniency"? That's hogwash... In reality, big groups like the NCC were among the leaders in supporting the Brady Bill and gun control still has a lot of support in some of the big denominations.
+5 # Sweet Pea 2012-12-18 10:31
One of my husbands relatives was in our home recently, and I heard him tell my husband that he takes his gun to chuch and the minister is happy since the church is in a high-crime area. He then said, "In fact, I'm "packin" right now". I have decided that the next time that he comes to our home, I will tell him to leave his pistol at home or in his car as there is no reason to have one in our home. What is wrong with some of these people. Are they so insecure that they have to be armed to feel important?
+2 # robniel 2012-12-18 13:15
Quoting Sweet Pea:
What is wrong with some of these people. Are they so insecure that they have to be armed to feel important?

No, they are cowards and feel they need deadly force to settle a confrontation.
0 # harri485 2012-12-17 04:05
I think most churches at this point are asking people to pray for the children that died and their families. I think we need to give families time to recover before we use the shooting for political purposes.
+52 # davidr 2012-12-16 18:10
Religion is an interesting product of the human spirit. Like myth, history, literature, art, and philosophy, religion is a way that people express wonder, consider mystery, and ask "why". But religion is the only one of those genres that implies (or seduces its adherents to infer) an ultimate authority. There's a boss whose intent is manifest — manifest specifically to priests and beadles by any other name who claim a proxy in divine power. There's no history boss, no philosophy boss, no poetry boss, but religion comes with an almighty and a bunch of earthly enforcers. Of all our pathways into mystery, religion is the most literal and the least invested in inquiry — that's heresy. We have the indisputable, written final word (in translation, of course). And though none of us speaks Divinish (Godlish?) in the original, still the religious among us are certain they know what's meant. Certainty is the enemy of wonder, let it be said, but it's fast friends with power.
-19 # Smokey 2012-12-16 21:20
[quote name="davidr"] "Religion is an interesting product of the human spirit. Like myth, history, literature, art, and philosophy, religion is a way that people express wonder, consider mystery, and ask "why". But religion is the only one of those genres that implies (or seduces its adherents to infer) an ultimate authority...."

Try practicing medicine without a license. You'll be hit, very soon, by the organized powers of science and government. You may be a wonderful New Age healer, but, if you don't have the right papers, you may wind up in prison.

Religious authority? Are we talking about the Vatican or the Salt Lake City bosses or feminist Wiccans or what? There are thousands of authority figures in religion and they disagree about all sorts of things. In America, they seldom have the government authority that "experts in science" enjoy.

In America, if you can convince government that you speak for "science," you can receive lots of auhority. Prison psychologists may not be wiser than Roman Catholic chaplains. However, it's the psychologist who says that he represents "science." And he may say that he represents "ethics."
+10 # davidr 2012-12-16 23:28
But don't you think that religious authorities and unlicensed New Age healers have a lot in common, Smokey? Their results depend on faith and credulity more than anything else. Isn't it a weak defense of religion to compare it to (other forms of) quackery?

Still, there is at least one important difference between New Age medicine and religion. If an unorthodox healer or prison psychologist actually obtains reproducible therapeutic outcomes, he or she will be welcomed into the "church," i.e., will be published in the NEJM or other peer-reviewed publications, and his or her views will take their place in the field of human knowledge. In such case, truth is not discovered in doctrine, but doctrine discovered in manifest worldly results.

Unorthodox religious practitioners, on the other hand, tend to be burnt at the stake — or, like Galileo, forced to speak a lie in order to live. The more arguments they offer, the greater their heresy, the higher the flames. Interestingly, Galileo was readily accepted into the bosom of science without duress nor any violence wreaked upon his conscience. But the church, which has so much to say on the subject of grace, took 500 years to gag up an apology.
0 # Smokey 2012-12-20 05:11
[quote name="davidr"] "Isn't it a weak defense of religion to compare it to (other forms of) quackery?"

"Unorthodox religious practitioners, on the other hand, tend to be burnt at the stake — or, like Galileo, forced to speak a lie in order to live."

1) Burning at the stake? When was the last time that such a thing happened in a European nation? You confuse the 21st century with the late Middle Ages. Religious violence is rare in today's Western republics.

2) Davidr talks about "genres" that claim to have "ultimate authority." In today's world, that sounds like science and, maybe, economics. In the name of "science" and "economics" various crackpots in government and in business advance all sorts of programs. (We've been hearing a lot about the "fiscal cliff" recently.)

Davidr is fighting ancient battles. Organized religion isn't managing today's America. The materialists who dominate science and economics are in the big corporations. They're the powerful figures who say that "ultimate
authority" is on their side.
0 # NAVYVET 2012-12-25 10:02
"Burnt at the stake" is a generic term for "murdered for beliefs". Please get your facts straight. People were burnt or hanged or gassed or machine gunned for their religion well into modern times, Smokey. (I'm a Medieval historian.) Did you forget Hitler's mass murder of millions of Jews, plus Catholics, Protestants and liberal Agnostics? How about Stalin's laws against all religious people? Maybe I'm a bit sensitive, since my own Unitarians are still judged as "atheists" by some, "religious heretics" by others, and a couple of Fundie preachers in this city accuse us of "Satan" worship when 99+% of us consider Satan a myth. Unitarians were the last English people executed in Britain (by James I, 17th century). Persecution lasted much longer elsewhere in Europe, and some who died in Hitler's death camps were Hungarian and Czech Unitarian ministers and laypersons. As recently as the 1960s Unitarians were murdered along with Jews, Baptists, Agnostics and others by Southern KKK state-authorize d criminals, and some UU Service Committee community workers have been shot and killed by foreign government paramilitary gangs for the crime of helping the poor.
+4 # kalpal 2012-12-17 06:18
You may be a wonderful New Age healer, but, if you don't have the right papers, you may wind up in prison.

No NEW Age Healer is practicing medicine. Mumbo Jumbo maybe but definitely not medicine.

No cleric represents ethics since all clerics by virtue of their job are liars. Liars are not ethical or moral.
+1 # Smokey 2012-12-20 05:15
[quote name="kalpal"] "No cleric represents ethics since all clerics by virtue of their job are liars. Liars are not ethical or moral."

Sounds like prejudice and bigotry to me.

"All clerics are liars"? "No cleric represents ethics"?

Would Martin Luther King be welcomed into this conversation? I believe that he was as honest and as ethical as any person in public leadership today. Rev. King did an enormous amount of good.
0 # FatEddie 2012-12-26 21:03
Copernicus was a cleric.

All clerics are liars.

Copernicus was a liar.

Thanks kalpal! I knew the Geocentrists were onto something.
0 # The Voice of Reason 2012-12-18 22:00
Right, Smokey, because what do we need with 'an ultimate authority' ? Tis far better to swim with our eyes closed than to wake up to the truth.

The real problem with Christian leaders is that they say they await the return of their beloved Christ, but in their hearts say, 'My Lord delayeth His coming' so they can keep their power and authority over their followers. This is deceitful and therefore untrustworthy, a poor avenue for religious leaders to tread.

Muslim leaders, on the other hand, say that no prophet will follow Muhammad, and they are so convinced of maintaining their power that they will put to death anyone who proves them wrong (that is, when another messenger appears, as the Iranian Muslim leaders did in 1850 when they put to death Siyyid Ali Muhammad, the Bab, Who claimed to be the return of Christ).

These are very deceitful and violent leaders, dangerous in every respect.

And so long as the teachings of the Bab go uninvestigated, then so long will we be swimming with our eyes closed wondering how to break the hold of those people on the other side of the argument. But I don't suppose any of this doesn't interest any of you.
+1 # RobertMStahl 2012-12-17 12:32
There is the Robe.

Then, there is the robbery of the Robe.

Which it is is up to you, i suppose.
+5 # dovelane1 2012-12-18 05:14
davidr - I love that last line. Is that yours?

For me, the difference between religion and spirituality is that religious beliefs generally come to a person from the outside, whereas spirituality generally arises from inside a person.

In the case of most religions, much ego support and strokes are needed and used by the clergy and the members to keep their belief system and themselves functioning as a group. Most spiritual people I know generally do not need that kind of social interaction with others to maintain their belief system.

In a sense, spirituality is a belief system with one member.

I think it was Eric Severeid who said "Trust more the person who is occasionally in error, than the person who is never in doubt."

One of the failings of most religious belief systems is their inability to know the difference between opinions and facts. Another is their extreme inability to admit they might b wrong.
+2 # bmiluski 2012-12-18 09:21
SPIRITUALITY is the search for enlightenment/knowledge.

RELIGION is the search for reward.
+2 # robniel 2012-12-18 12:51
One of my favorite quotes: "Of the mind viruses, religion is the worst"
0 # bmiluski 2012-12-18 09:19
Religion is really just an extension of someone's ego.
-18 # rfoster41 2012-12-16 18:19
Athiest are deeply confused about "religion". Especially when they only have an imaginary idea of what it is. Of course they are right about the monumental abuses in the name of religion and totally ignore abuses in the name of athiesm. More than anything else they refused to consider the multiplicity in people and groups steriotyped as religious. Of the many evils both atheists and many "religious" people ignore the immense political and corporate forces behind "conservative" religion. See in the horrible Ugandan attitude to Gays, the corruption of the laity in CoE. And world wide. So what corporate influnces and politic demegogery backs innocent athiests? Western Society has only one principal religion, Mammon or Money. I don't see many unbelievers "religious" or athiest.
+50 # guomashi 2012-12-16 19:43
Quoting rfoster41:
Athiest are deeply confused about "religion". Especially when they only have an imaginary idea of what it is. Of course they are right about the monumental abuses in the name of religion...

Since it is revealed through religion that "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is lord" there is no argument that religion is stems from the totalitarian dictatorship of a capricious and venal God. If power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, then the absolute corruption of Religion is implicit in its very nature.
+11 # rfoster41 2012-12-16 21:11
Just a few points. Yes this was turned into an imperial statement by the Church. Originally it was a statement against the Roman empire and the emperor. Almost no Christians seem to know that "Lord" is the greek word that means Emperor. And the people who first used it that way knew Jesus was a peasant killed by the Empire. In other words, their emperor was the poorest among them.

The other thing I object to in many statements here is the us of the word Religion as one entity. Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, for starters like western religions are very diverse and broad generalizations are deciving and corrupting.
+8 # devonola 2012-12-17 03:25
Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism aren't religions, they're philosophies.
0 # FatEddie 2012-12-26 21:05
Religions I like aren't religions since I don't like religions.
+15 # Regina 2012-12-16 22:33
Don't blame God for the evils of earthly clergy. Many in their ranks are there for power, and they wreak misery on those who question their self-generated authority.
+2 # bmiluski 2012-12-18 09:22
Yes but........didn 't God make these people? Are they not his creation?
+1 # robniel 2012-12-18 13:17
Quoting bmiluski:
Yes but........didn't God make these people? Are they not his creation?

If you were taught this before the age of six you probably will always believe it.
+1 # Smokey 2012-12-16 23:19
[quote name="guomashi" ][quote name="rfoster41 "]

"Since it is revealed through religion that 'every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is lord' there is no argument that religion is stems from the totalitarian dictatorship of a capricious and venal God."

Jews and Buddhists may be puzzling over the above statement. Some of these folks are very religious and, gosh, they don't believe that every knee shall bend before Jesus Christ. (Some of the Buddhists don't believe in God.)

Over 4,000 religious groups have been identified in the United States. They endorse all sorts of beliefs. If you don't like one, try something different.
+8 # Midwestgeezer 2012-12-17 14:22
"Capricious and venal" God indeed. One of his adherants/sales men, that wanna-be president of the US of A, the "Reverend" Huckabee a/k/a huckster has opined that the outrage in Newtown may be God's (his God, anyway) way of showing his anger at the absence of God in our schools. As a recovered Roman Catholic, I wonder what kind of a just and merciful God could countenance such a vile act? Huckabee's God could.
How about your God?
+37 # DevinMacGregor 2012-12-16 20:12
LOL, deeply confused? Abuses in the name of Atheism? Atheist means without belief in any deity. There really is no ism. Perhaps you are confused because most atheists are secular humanists.
-11 # Smokey 2012-12-16 23:29
[quote name="DevinMacG regor"] "Abuses in the name of Atheism?"

Read the history of the 20th century. It was the first time in history that large numbers of people were managed by
governments that were officially atheistic. In the name of "science" and "reason," there was plenty of abuse in places like Communist China.

Here's the problem: Some atheists can dish out criticism but they can't take it. So we get lots of attacks (see above and below) on the whole idea of religion. All of the religions get thrown into one pot and they're blamed for all sorts of things.

However: When a voice responds, "What about the atheists who are managing China?" - well, that's different. Suddenly, we're told that true atheism is good and kind and "humanistic."

It's a bit strange.
+12 # kalpal 2012-12-17 06:23
Having observed religious people during the past 60 years, I gathered as a child that religion was a do as I say not as I do game. I gave that game up in the 1950s. I then began a close observation of clerics and people who asserted publicly a faith. All are liars and most are ignorant liars. None find it necessary to abide by the doctrine they claim to live by but are greatly disappointed that others are as bad as they are. Being comforted by the pie in teh sky guy keeping an eye on them is about silly as humans can get.
+5 # dovelane1 2012-12-18 05:28
Which only proves how strong an effect the mind can have on a person's reactions. That is what "faith" is all about. More than anything else, it appears to be a point of view that is being used by a person to maintain a sense of "security" in the face of chaos and change. It's a way to keep a person centered.

There are all kinds of ways for that to happen, many not involving imaginary or supposed "sky guys" keeping an eye on things.

The problem I have with most "religious" people is connected to how much their self-image is dependent on their belief system. Without understanding their dependency on their belief system, they take any challenge to their belief system personally, without even looking at the questions and contradictions the challenge raises.
+1 # bmiluski 2012-12-18 09:21
Could you be any more arrogant?
+21 # 213mhayes 2012-12-16 18:21
Personally, I do not particularly believe in God. I also don't associate myself with any particular religion because it is an institution that can easily be corrupted to the point of no return. Instead, I choose to believe that my individual spirituality is in my hands...
Religion should be used as a means of self-exploratio n of personal beliefs, rather than as a set of preconceived ideas that minds cling to when modernity and traditionalism clash.
I have come here because I had the strength to find myself in the face of petulant traditionalists . I'm glad people exist that want to reduce the hype and spread the truths of atheism, because often, I feel under-represent ed.
Spirituality should be enforced, not necessarily religion. Make a belief system true to self, not specifically true to association. I felt a lot better when I shed the religion I was attached too, and embraced new concepts and ideas.
+1 # robniel 2012-12-18 12:53
Most of the religious shop around until they find one that is consistent with their personal delusions.
+40 # wantrealdemocracy 2012-12-16 18:27
I hope Polly is correct to say, "human do havd a hardwired moral sense, every child born with an instinct for justice that makes us by nature social animals." Sometimes when I see how our representative have voted I doubt that they do have a hard wired moral sense. If that were true, how can they vote as they do for endless wars while cutting our badly needed social programs that try to care for the poor, disabled and elderly?
+3 # dovelane1 2012-12-18 05:42
Wantreal - All one has to do to understand the choices people in power make is to look at the socialization that takes place in the culture they are raised in.

Polly says that "every child" is born with that moral sense. It is in the process of dealing with dysfunctional families or dysfunctional cultures that children are socialized into the kinds of dysfunctional choices they learn to make.

When one grows up in a dysfunctional or addictive culture, as Anne Wilson-=Schaef surmises in her book "When Society Becomes An Addict," that is when you get the kind of outcomes you are concerned about.

John Gray writes about the socialization of men and women in "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus." Socialization is a fact, and I believe it becomes a problem when a person is NOT aware of how much and in what ways they have been socialized.

Awareness is always the first step in dealing with a problem, no matter what the problem is. One must first admit there is a problem. It is denial that keeps people stuck.

To me, any belief system that keeps a person in denial of reality, is a problem, and needs to be changed.
+22 # reiverpacific 2012-12-16 18:42
"David Blunkett wishing he could "bottle the magic" of faith schools."[quote from article].
Magic?? In the sense of stage-managed sleight of hand and speech if you like. The "magic" is in indoctrination since birth! No magic, just persistent attack and blinkering on and of young underdeveloped minds.
"David Cameron claimed "we are a Christian country"[Q.F.A.]
Well, he's a Tory, the Republicans of England, mostly clustered around the thickly-genteel home Counties of southern England, the same who give the Royal crowd some credibility and support (Tories are a dead quantity in Scotland).
As the article notes, the UK is a largely secular nation. It's had a strong Muslim population since the partition of India and Pakistan, and tolerates them (their cuisines have been deeply incorporated into the national diet, to our benefit and joy). Then there is the old, festering Catholic/Protes tant strife in some areas where the boats came and went from Ireland, like Liverpool and Glasgow, howled and acted out on the terraces of football (soccer) stadiums, few go to church but still remain from childhood, convinced that they hate each other with hostility founded, fostered and perpetrated by respective doctrines.
Isn't the gift of our amazing, lucky to exist at all on our unique (as far as we still know) "Goldilocks Zone" planet and our SPIRITUAL and wonder-filled connection to the great circle of life enough, without a bunch of mumbo-jumbo to obscure it?
+53 # tadn54 2012-12-16 18:55
"I am convinced that religion is as dangerous as it is untrue"........ .B. Russell

Think on this: Huckabee posited that the Sandy Hook tragedy could have been avoided if they prayed more.......ther e you go.
0 # robniel 2012-12-18 12:55
Huckabee and his ilk consider prayer something more than wishful thinking. They've seen "Snow White" too many times.
+40 # chrisnorley 2012-12-16 18:57
hitler was a catholic, although as an adult he used his relationship with the church to suit his needs. many of the symbols of the third reich are church related.
+1 # robniel 2012-12-18 12:59
Although he has been (falsely) labelled an atheist, he was not only connected with the Catholic church, who sheltered and spirited Nazis out of Europe after the war, he also personally designed the SS uniforms and belt buckles, which are inscribed (in German) "with God's help".
0 # harri485 2012-12-18 13:22
German for God is 'Got' and German for help if 'hilfe.' I lived in Spahnharrenstae tte Germany. Look it up.
+38 # hd70642 2012-12-16 19:02
Actually Hitler was a Roman catholic and Stalin studied tobe a preist
-3 # Smokey 2012-12-16 20:38
[quote name="hd70642"] "Actually Hitler was a Roman Catholic and Stalin studied to be a priest."

Hitler identified himself as being a Roman Catholic for political reasons but he was seldom seen at religious gatherings. At the end of his life, Hitler didn't make any references to God or religious beliefs.

Joe Stalin? He rejected organized religion while he was still young and he became a militant atheist. Thousands of people of faith - in a variety of religious traditions - were persecuted and murdered in the Soviet Union because of their religious beliefs and practices.

Communist governments - in a variety of nations, including modern China - have often been officially atheistic. Sometimes, they bump into political reality and they discover that militant atheism doesn't do much good. Cuba is one example.
+5 # Regina 2012-12-16 22:37
Hitler was an Austrian by birth, and would have been raised Catholic in his childhood. Austria remains officially Roman Catholic today, though the government no longer enforces RC worship and practice.
+1 # Smokey 2012-12-16 23:39
[quote name="Regina"] "Hitler was an Austrian by birth, and would have been raised Catholic in his childhood. Austria remains officially Roman Catholic today, though the government no longer enforces RC worship and practice."

What's the point that you're trying to make?

George Washington was born an Englishman and he served with the English Army during the French and Indian War. However, as he grew older, George became a rebel. Virginia is part of the United States.

Hitler was born and raised in a Roman Catholic family. As an adult, he was seldom involved in church rituals. He seldom met with church authorities. When he prepared for his death, he had little to say about God and religious beliefs.

People change. What we believe as adults may be very different from what we believed when we were children.
+2 # dovelane1 2012-12-18 05:56
Based on what they chose to do, I would say the belief system or philosophy for both Hitler and Stalin was power. I also believe it was what they were addicted to, and I'm sure they used every method at hand to maintain the control over people they ended up having.

As with Romney, Ryan, Rove, the Koch brothers, Norquist, and so on, the end justifies the means.

That is a philosophy, I think, and not a religion. I can't help but wonder if they saw themselves as "gods," given the power they had. Perhaps their idea of power was based on the religious beliefs of one male with all the power. I'm guessing that is one of the ways they rationalized all of their logical, but irrational and unhealthy decisions.

I believe they were mentally ill, using the definition that mental illness has to do with grossly inaccurate perceptions of reality.

One could even say that most zealots, religious or secular, are probably mentally ill in the same ways.
-18 # in deo veritas 2012-12-16 19:03
B ased on the current moral level in the world, there is no reason for optimism. If our destiny rests in the hands of those running the world into the abyss with the appearantly willing accomplices allowing them to do it, it is not surprising that many do not believe in a creator. How do they then explain their existence? Moveover how do they justify it? Only one way to find out whether they are right or wrong and that is to end their physical existence. Except for terrorists and deranged murderers who take their own cowardly lives, there don't seem to be many that are that anxious to find out but we all will.
-40 # in deo veritas 2012-12-16 19:11
Right wing fanatics and athiests both have one thing in common-they hate and are determined to destroy rational human beings who look for something higher to believe in other than the corrupt degenerates they are controlled by and/or forced to be brainwashed by from birth. The truth is there for those who seek it with the hearts and minds they have been given and do not accept blindly.
+33 # bingers 2012-12-16 20:00
Quoting in deo veritas:
Right wing fanatics and athiests both have one thing in common-they hate and are determined to destroy rational human beings who look for something higher to believe in other than the corrupt degenerates they are controlled by and/or forced to be brainwashed by from birth. The truth is there for those who seek it with the hearts and minds they have been given and do not accept blindly.

I find far less hatred amongst atheists than among churchgoers and I think any serious study would show that to be the case.

Atheists who attack are almost always goaded into it by some idiotic pushy so called religious person.

I respect all religions when those speaking for them show love and concern for as opposed to judgement of others.

When you start believing yourself superior to other worshipers or to atheists then you've only proven yourself inferior to them.
+7 # harri485 2012-12-17 04:59
"I find far less hatred amongst atheists than among churchgoers and I think any serious study would show that to be the case."

I really wish you weren't right. My husband and I were formerly diest (myself) and athiest (my husband). There are many people who are part of organized religion because they always have been and have never consciously accepted or attempted to practice the faith they profess.

Those who do as their faith teaches and are truely incredible (although like all humans I am sure if you dig deep enough you can find things they did wrong); Martin Luther King was a pastor; Maximillian Kolbe was a priest who took the place of a father who was to die in a Nazi death camp; Mother Theresa helped and drew attention to the downtrodden. These are just the modern ones that people know.

Here are some more throughout history (sorry being western I am familiar with those in the west). João Cidade (founder of hospitals), John Bosco (founder of schools), John Baptist De La Salle (founder of schools), Vincent De Paul (friend of the poor), Peter Claver (slave of the slaves), Elisabeth von Thüringen (founder of hospitals)...

When I think about religion I think about trying to be more like the people I have mentioned and try not to let the annoying finger pointers bother me too much.
+22 # DevinMacGregor 2012-12-16 20:22
LOL, yes all those atheists are bathed in hate and determined to destroy your ability to believe in invisible things etc. Most of us walk around in silence biting our tongues but since you are a cheery puss filled with rosy sentiments why don't take that first leap and end your physical existence? Come back and tell us the truth then.
+4 # Onterryo 2012-12-17 09:16
I am agnostic bordering on being an atheist and I have always said I hate no one but there are some people I like less than others. In raising our children there was only one swear word in our house - hate! Most atheists and agnostics I have met are well balanced and might swear but so many of them really abhor the use of the word "hate".
0 # dovelane1 2012-12-18 06:08
in deo - I agree with bingers. I think the key term you used is "fanatics." There can be fanaticism involved in any belief system.

To me, the term "fanatic," and the term "zealot" are pretty much interchangeable . As I stated in an earlier post, few, if any fanatics have the ability to say "I might be wrong."

The problem I see is that when a person is attacked by a zealot or a fanatic, it is as if they are issuing an invitation to respond with as strong a defense as the attack made upon them.

I don't see that happen much with atheists. If it does, there is probably another problem involved that is not connected to their belief system. Perhaps, they just don't take kindly to being attacked.

From what I've seen, most atheists just don't things quite as personally as most right-wing or religious fanatics or zealots do. There may be exceptions.
+1 # robniel 2012-12-18 13:04
Quoting in deo veritas:
The truth is there for those who seek it with the hearts and minds they have been given and do not accept blindly.

And what "truth" might that be? It's not the non-believers who are accepting things blindly.
-14 # in deo veritas 2012-12-16 19:18
But is politics better for either? No. Both will die anyway, but with the kind of politics in practice those who don't sell their souls and go in lockstep will die sooner and likely violently. That is what politics has always been in practice.
+21 # Vardoz 2012-12-16 19:51
I believe in compassion, love, kindness, charity, commitment and devotion but I do not believe in a higher power of any kind. If their was that higher power it is destroying us and our Earth- No it is us that is the higher power. And this belief makes me responsible for my actions and all of our horror and our crimes as well as our good. I do not have the luxury of calling on something else to justify my mistakes or will stop from questioning the universe.
-22 # 2012-12-16 20:10
This woman is so ignorant of the history of politics that it's embarrassing to even address her points. Just ignorant !

There are basically two conflicting energies in life (politics, religion, sports, parenting, business, etc). One tenet holds to a moral relativity that believes that whatever is convenient to the individual or society is the position to take --- for the moment. The other force in life holds to a position that there are universal guidelines by which all humans should conduct their interpersonal relationships.

The guidelines were first recorded in the Code of Hammurabi. The best list of the 'rules of life' for mankind to live in peace with each other is found in the 10 Commandments in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Cast off the guidelines and you have chaos, uncontrollable inflation, random acts of violence and ever escalating numbers of wars. Also, as society casts off the guidelines and chooses moral relativity instead, the arts and music will reflect the despair and anguish of the human soul of society. Listen to the popular sounds in Rock music from the late 90's until now. You will hear a sound (never mind the melodies and words) listen to the SOUND, and you will hear despair and hopelessness.

Atheists could easily lead in politics as well as someone of faith. However, they will fail like anyone else without following the universal principles !!
0 # dovelane1 2012-12-18 06:28
mopafu - Hugh Prather wrote that given the alternatives we have learned to allow ourselves, we all do what we want. What is needed for most of us is to learn different alternatives.

Syndicated columnist Sydney Harris wrote that we all base our decisions on "self interest." The problem is that most of us do not understand where our TRUE self interest lies.

Many of our problems come from short-term thinking. Of course, if a person's survival is in question, it is difficult to not be a short-term thinker.

to me, there is as much danger in losing one's identity by becoming part of the crowd, as there is in being so independent, one thinks there are no consequences to others because of one's decisions.

As people, we are all interdependent, and I believe we all need that balance between being dependent on others and independent of others.

The only universal principle I would support is "thou shall not be afraid, and if you are afraid, you deal with it until you are not afraid." Take fear out of the equation, and I think everything else can be dealt with.

As far as the sounds of despair and hopelessness you bemoan, I say think of the courage it took to be honest, and not afraid of speaking, writing and singing the truth about their feelings. And think how your attitude reflects and affects how you respond to their courage.
+24 # Rick Levy 2012-12-16 20:21
Polly, I see that GB has problems with religion that I wasn't aware of. But your country can't hold a candle to the U.S. when it comes to theistic irrationality.
+7 # Smokey 2012-12-16 20:27
Welcome to the Real World, kids!

It's the world in which some religious people - like Martin Luther King - can do a lot of good. And some of the atheistic and "very rational" people - like Ayn Rand and Joe Stalin - do a lot of harm while trying to advance their materialist point of view. (There is never a guarantee that atheism, by itself, will produce a particular kind of politics.)

The huge majority of Americans - over 80% - say that they believe in God and many are involved in organized religion.

Occupy people can work for democracy and economic justice. To do this, there's a need to work with God-worshippers . As an alternative, the Occupy people can waste a lot of time making shotgun attacks against every form of religion.
However: In America, it's difficult to work for economic justice while pushing an atheist agenda.

In the UK and in other places with a state-supported church, the situation is a bit different. The Anglican Church is supported by tax money and some of its major political problems are dragged into Parliament.

As an American, I support religious diversity - the more the better! - and a wall of separation between church and state powers. Militant atheism is irrelevant to my Occupy work.
+1 # dovelane1 2012-12-18 06:47
Smokey - I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I will mention it again. Ayn Rand and Stalin may have used the term atheists to define themselves, but I would never define them as "rational" people. To lump the atheists I know into the category of Rand and Stalin is, to me, ignorance on your part about what a "normal" atheist truly is.

The decisions and behaviors of Rand and Stalin were LOGICAL, once you understand all the forces that socialized them. Stalin's decisions, however, were both irrational and unhealthy. I don't know much about Rand.

Just because a majority of people in this country share the same delusion, doesn't make it any less delusional. Look at the Republicans who voted for Romney and Ryan.

I don't see atheists making the kinds of attacks you mentioned, unless you consider challenges against delusional thinking to be an attack. Most of the people I consider to be delusional are also in denial about how delusional their thinking is, and they usually react to the challenge by taking it very personally.

Militant anything may be the real problem, although we might have become militant at times to get things done.

I do admit, I do view some of the zealous, conservative Christian thinking to be quite delusional, and I will directly challenge it if I'm forced to. Otherwise, everyone has the right to be wrong now and then, including both of us. ;-))
0 # Smokey 2012-12-20 05:33
[quote name="dovelane1 "]"I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I will mention it again. Ayn Rand and Stalin may have used the term atheists to define themselves, but I would never define them as "rational" people. To lump the atheists I know into the category of Rand and Stalin is, to me, ignorance on your part about what a "normal" atheist truly is."

Hmmmmmm.... Who can say what's "normal" for an atheist? Ayn Rand and Joe Stalin said that they were atheists. Why should I disagree?

Here's the problem in this discussion: We have some folks who make shotgun attacks against ALL clergy and ALL religious people. We're told that ALL of the clerics are delusional and that EVERY religious person is crazy.

Atheists? When the bad behavior of Joe Staliun is mentioned, we're told that's not "normal" for an atheist.
+9 # kundrol 2012-12-16 20:55
Buddhism is atheist since there is no belief in a theistic god involved. Buddhists also tend to be much less likely to attempt to impose their spiritual or political beliefs on others. Makes sense to me.
+27 # wwway 2012-12-16 21:43
Today I had the occassion to overhear a conversation between my 9,6 and 4 year old granddaughters. Two attend catechism, 1 Sunday School. The 9 year old told the other two that not everyone who doesn't believe in God is bad and not every one who believes in God is good.
I remember that I was 9 when I first realized that. In fact, in my lifetime, the worst people I've ever known claimed to be Christians. I have never met a mean, cruel and self-righteous athiest and I'm happy to say that I'm glad to be in their company most of the time.
+2 # NS10 2012-12-16 22:04
For a new and ingenious note on the relation between
religion and state, see "Commissioners Say No to Flying Spaghetti Monster" on Malvern (PA) Patch at and the video "Pastafarians demand equal rights, shocking County Commissioners" on YouTube at
+10 # natalierosen 2012-12-16 22:18
Excellent article. I have had my god wars until I am blue in the face. Nothing but nothing, no amount of prayer, no amount of believing in a 5000 year old text written by men for men ever helped me when I needed it. I helped me OR no one did. God helps those who help themselves? No you help yourself when you understand the laws of nature. What is is and what is not is not. I say show me the proof and then I will believe!
+9 # roger paul 2012-12-16 23:01
The problem with the Stalin's of the world is that they tried to get rid or religion by making a religion out of the state. Not much difference if any....control by any other name is still control. Fear induced by religion or the state is still fear.
+7 # JSRaleigh 2012-12-17 00:03
I find the certainty of the Atheists just as misplaced as that of the believers.
0 # Smokey 2012-12-20 05:41
[quote name="JSRaleigh "]"I find the certainty of the Atheists just as misplaced as that of the believers"

Good point. I've known a lot of atheists and more than a few were convinced that they, and they alone, knew "the ultimate truth."

Atheism can become as militant and as nasty as any form of Islam or Christianity. The Buddhists in Tibet can explain the problem.

It's the agnostics who say, "We don't know if God exists or not." I respect that wisdom and honesty and humility.
+7 # chickensroost 2012-12-17 00:11
reiigions at their bestare about having people be their best. the golden rule, compassion... atheism at it's clearest is simply (to my mind)refusing to give obeisance to some unseen 'greater power'. humanity sets both high and low standards, and naturally those higher standards are harder to live by. to hell with the posture of piety in politics. if your faith in 'god' makes you a better person, wonderful. if you've another means to that, same deal. let'sget over ourselves, and get on with it.
+6 # PatriotPaul 2012-12-17 00:33
Too many PLIFs* in the world.

*People Living In Fear, a reference to conservative or fundamentalist followers of any religion that leads them to be fearful of any questioning of their religious doctrine or to be open to creative, new ideas. Because psychologically fear is such a crippling emotion, psychologically healthy people tend to try and control and recognize this in themselves. Those who don't tend to rely on more dictatorial or authoritarian leaders whether they be in the form of a political leader or their own chosen God.
0 # FatEddie 2012-12-26 21:28
I thought a PLIF was a North Korean in fear of his enlightened and officially atheist government.

You are, indeed, correct. Believers' creativity is destroyed by their religion. Dali's Christ of St. John of the Cross is nothing but an example of destroyed creativity; Kerouac and Warhol were lackluster in their creative output and new artistic ideas as well.
+8 # epcraig 2012-12-17 00:46
Atheists are not plotting to overthrow churhes. There is no point to such exercises. The only people who care what superstitions are subscribed to are certain in their own superstitions.
Atheists see no reason to care.
0 # Smokey 2012-12-20 05:42
[quote name="epcraig"] "Atheists are not plotting to overthrow churhes."

Tell it to the Communist Chinese.
+14 # rblee 2012-12-17 02:50
In deo veritas: this is a joke moniker, right? Atheists are generally out to promote rationality, whereas religion is generally out to destroy critical thinking. Humans have an innate logicality that doesn't require adhering to arcane and primitive codes but does need reasonable discussion and cooperation for an ordered society. The Bible describes all sorts of irrational and cruel behavior by its posited deity and Abrahamic religious history is awash in blood. I'll take atheistic secular humanism any day over religion which "ties" us to insanity.
0 # Mrcead 2012-12-17 05:07
Religion IS politics 1.0. You've seen how difficult it is to convert a massive population's view on religion OR politics. Sticking a few "right thinking folks" in key positions will only cock it up further. A proper strategy needs to be devised and it is supposed to be a painfully long process - unless there are a few bombs that are itching to be detonated. We're on the right track. Let time do it's job. The newer generation softens up the older generation, that's how these things work. Religion is prevalent because it has had many thousands of years to be cultivated and take root. It shaped the world you and I live in despite your belief in such a system - end of. Only a fool would underestimate such a force. Be mindful, this is the core programming code of billions of people. Deleting the OS will do what exactly?
+3 # tuandon 2012-12-17 07:24
How is Ms Toynbee's argument that atheists are "better" any different from the arguments by religious fanatics that "believers" are better? And one can find examples of atheism responsible for mass slaughters-Jose ph Stalin and Hitler come to mind (and Hitler was NOT a "believer!"), and I guess one could classify Tamerlane and Genghis Khan in that category. The fact is, we are ALL human and none of us is perfect, so any philosophy we come up with will be imperfect. To be truthful with you, I have run across many extreme "unbelievers" who are as intolerant as extreme believers. Where do they get off acting so sanctimonious?
+3 # kitster 2012-12-17 08:38
i am a person who knows that there is a power greater than ourselves...the universal laws of nature that are everchanging while staying the same. who can deny the "isness" of everything? what is there is there and remains there unless acted upon by an outside force.

now, i ask those who believe in a benevolent god/director... why sandy hook and all of the sensless violence everywhere? where is our protector when we need him or her?

and if the god/director teaches by showing the way...isn't he or she finally saying, nea, been saying unto the eons of human exixtence, CLEAN UP YOU ACT, YOU FOOLS.
+17 # AUCHMANNOCH 2012-12-17 08:46
Lighten up folks. Like the fellah said we will find out - or not -when we're dead. I got the below on E-Mail the other day - the message seems about right to me. What do you all think?

Being an atheist is okay.
Being an Atheist who shames religions and spirituality as stupid and unreal is not okay.
Being a Christian is okay.
Being a Christian who is homophobic, misogynistic, racist or otherwise hateful in the name of Christianity is not okay.
Being a Reindeer is okay.
Being a Reindeer who bullies and excludes another Reindeer because he has a shiny red nose is not okay.
+2 # dkonstruction 2012-12-17 10:30
Were the English 17th Century radicals like the Ranters, Diggers and Levellers athiets? No. Was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and much of the leadership (and membership for that matter) of the Civil Rights movement in the US (not to mention tha abolishists of the 19th century)? How about the Liberation Theologists in Latin America?

It's easy to make broad sweeping generalizations but these are rarely help clarify anything.

I'm an agnostic (and always have been) and so to me athiests are just as "religious" in their firm believe that their is no god as those on the other side who are firm in their believe that there is. Both positions are a matter of "faith" so i'm not sure what the point of this whole piece is.
+1 # herman_the_german 2012-12-17 10:58
Politics: The struggle for power.

I'd think either 'group' is up to the challenge. Fanaticism need no be tied to a religious belief.

You can't lump people together like that.
-1 # hoodwinkednomore 2012-12-17 11:04
I am with you, natalierosen! After a hellish couple of decades...I decided to change my life. I actually started to make positive decisions. Along the way, after a series of life-altering, positive decisions I finally helped myself! No amount of praying went into this. Just hard work and using my head. So as far as I am concerned people can believe what thye want to believe about the existance of God or not, or many goddesses or what-have-you but the fact remains FOR ME, and just about every one else I know, hard work and good decisions based on reasonable assessments of situations at hand translate into a good life lived. Toynbee knew that many people would jump on her for taking this position precisely b/c people are so eager to decide for others what is best...which is why I think her premise is 1) not a surprisingly unique opinion, and 2) not very consequential or significant.
+3 # 2012-12-17 11:15

Did you read what you wrote before you posted ? You said that all people of faith are liars and that the clerics of those faiths are in despair and also lying !


Following your premise to logical conclusion would bring us to believe that all Atheists are liars also, wouldn't it?

C'mon now. NOT everyone is a liar ! There is redeeming thread of good in all peoples.
-11 # bibi 2012-12-17 11:38
Islam at least, does not have a disgust for sex and women. Marriage is obligatory, celibacy is not an option, women are given equal, if not more rights.
Homosexuality is not allowed since humans were meant to procreate. And two of the same gender are not ideal for raising a child.
She also says, Muslims cannot be offended by the offensive material about their prophet. Well can they be offended by the blood spilled in their countries?She says, Humans do have a hardwired moral sense, so we don't need ancient texts.
Ancient texts only crystallize what human consciousness already senses, and without them more and more people are becoming confused about what's right and wrong. Western leaders (people of faith?) who believe in war and exploitation, as well as others engaged in criminal and immoral behaviours (including Muslims), are either not truly God conscious or perhaps think they won't be accountable because they believe in Jesus or Allah or are God's chosen people. As for Atheists, some may live a moral life, but others may be tempted to do as they wish since there's no accountability.
To know how a real spiritual human being thinks and acts copy and paste this link
+6 # tbcrawford 2012-12-17 12:08
Religions and their believers are the source of most wars, hate, cruelty and self-deception than any other beliefs throughout history. What astounds me are the supercilious, self-congratula tory proclamations of righteousness.. .of holding the one true faith proclaimed by a higher deity of unknown qualities. Philosophies don't demand as much allegiance but in recent history beware the rise of economic theory. I bitterly resent anyone telling my how to source and follow my private spirituality. Nor do I ask anyone to follow my beliefs...only to respect them and my right to hold them. Our Bill of Rights does a pretty good job of laying our a road map for human rights. Until we can master these simple principles, and learn to respect sound science, let's avoid adding to the confusion.
0 # Smokey 2012-12-20 06:02
[quote name="tbcrawfor d"] "Religions and their believers are the source of most wars, hate, cruelty and self-deception than any other beliefs throughout history."

Well, actually, this statement is wrong.
Although it's often published.

Most wars - in particular, most modern wars - are fought because of economics. Nations want to control land, water, petroleum, trade routes, or some other resource.

Nationalism and racism - two major systems of belief - have promoted a lot of conflicts. In America, you may be attacked because of your skin color or because of the language that you speak. It's unlikely that you will be attacked because of your religion. (It's also unlikely that you will be physically attacked because of your atheism.)

The United States has never fought a religious war. Except, possibly, some of the frontier wars that were fought against Native Americans. Although the white man's greed - not organized religion - was the big problem.
0 # RobertMStahl 2012-12-17 12:28
I am an atheist, but only with the caveat that religious is preferred over the 'other,' where that is, usually, religion (normally, religion = irreligious) Nihilism is a serious risk for such ecological realism, and it all may be hopeless at this point, post 9/11 and the Chicago mob, given the fact no structural coupling exists in the sustainable sense in the landscape we call culture. In fact, the opposite is the experience, albeit we are sliding through some glacial pathway at this moment having letting those who provide our salvation (i.e. the religious...) slip away. Nevertheless, or in addition, I have done my homework over the 54 years of my life w/r physics only to find there is a far more comprehensive approach that has not been favorably debated midst all the missing public issues, albeit there might be at least one fascinating paradox left in this field (domain?). Has Jim Al-Khalili ever contemplated the scientific approach of Randell L Mills and the story that has lead up to the present occupation by many business leaders to develop, CIHT energy? His text, The Grand Unified Theory of Classical Physics (free)is of far greater reach to the literate mind than the technology.
+4 # David Starr 2012-12-17 13:45
Quoting: "Powerful religious forces block attempts to let the dying end their lives when they choose."

This is tragically ironic, and typical of grotesque ignorance fueled by a belief characteristicl ly "proven" by blind faith and assumptiions. The biggest irony is, that in the name of "goodness" based on a totalitarian-li ke view particularly evident in monthiesm, the im[position winds up prolonging the agony of someone who will make a decision to choose the right die because it is to him/her the sensible choose, based the the person's circumstances, i.e., "enough is enough!" Any human will inevitably get to that point if the situation has been consistent and more to the point, unbearable. Furthermore, no one, and not a vengeful, jealous and therefore imperfect "god," the right to condemn this person, especially with "fire and brimstone" scare tactics. For a religious fanatic to call the person a coward, is inexcusable, and shows further hypocrisy, in this case contradicting the idea to "not judge for yee will be judge."

I'm curious and actually fascinated by the mentality and behavior of true believers. It's literally like a case of not evolving in relation to the last 200 years of some progression, despite negatives. I'm really amazed at this lack of intellect.
+2 # Smokey 2012-12-20 06:39
Ayn Rand deserves some mention in this discussion. Rand is the most famous atheist in American history and she is enormously popular. She had a lot to say about "objectivity" and "the power of reason" and all of that stuff.

In theory and in practice, the Rand philosophy is an excuse to celebrate selfishness and greed. So it's very popular with many of the Americans who support the big corporations. Some of Rand's disciples are very powerful.

Ayn Rand was never a mellow, easygoing, compassionate humanist. She disliked democratic values and "mob rule." The dollar sign was her holy sign.

What's my point? When you think about today's atheists, think about Ayn Rand and her disciples. America may, indeed, be drifting towards atheism. However, if atheism ever becomes dominant in America, it will probably look like one of Ayn Rand's creations.

Why? Because Rand's vision supports the big corporations. In the name of "science," it's possible to promote social Darwinism. Social Security can be smashed, because it's "not rational,"
if you accept Ayn Rand's vision.

Obviously, there are many atheists who don't accept Ayn Rand's teachings. However, there are many atheists who CONSISTENTLY promote Ayn Rand.

There's a lot of diversity among the atheists. And there's a lot of diversity among religious people.
+1 # tm7devils 2013-02-06 19:11
TO: ganymede, rfoster41, smokey, in deo veritas, moafu and bibi (and other lost minds) -

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
- Epicurus [341–270 B.C.E.]

I defy anyone to refute the logic (make my day).

I am not a "lost soul"...since there is no proof - ANYWHERE - that souls exist. We do, however, have proof of "minds" - and a lost mind is a symptom of religion...and a tragedy.
0 # roger paul 2013-02-06 23:27
But the question still remains, did God create evil? My contention is that “first cause” must take responsibility for all that follows. This is especially true of a being that claims omniscience. This means that he must take responsibility for all the death and suffering that has occurred on earth. And this not only to humans, but to all living beings, and the earth itself. If I as a finite human make a choice that causes harm to another, then I am responsible. This is true if I do it knowingly, and especially true if I do it to 108 billion people. How much more so, to a being that claims omniscience. The words psychopath, sociopath, and sadist come to mind for humans that act this way.....hmmm.

The conclusion is God did indeed create evil, and since all his attributes are supposably infinite, that makes him infinitely evil. But then He also has the attributes of infinite love and forgiveness. It appears that God is infinitely bi-polar.
0 # roger paul 2013-02-06 23:32
From Smokey: "Obviously, there are many atheists who don't accept Ayn Rand's teachings. However, there are many atheists who CONSISTENTLY promote Ayn Rand."

I think you forgot Paul Ryan...the Catholic. Talk about bi-polar.

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