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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 10-23-2006, 10:05 AM Thread Starter
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Point/Counterpoint on God

From William F. Buckley and Penn Jillette (only NPR can give you this kind of material).

Point: There is no God http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...toryId=5015557
I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do. You can't prove that there isn't an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word "elephant" includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?

So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write e-mails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The atheism part is easy.

But, this "This I Believe" thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life's big picture, some rules to live by. So, I'm saying, "This I believe: I believe there is no God."

Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.

Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.

Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.

Penn Jillette

Counterpoint: How is it possible to believe in God? http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...toryId=4656595
I've always liked the exchange featuring the excited young Darwinian at the end of the 19th century. He said grandly to the elderly scholar, "How is it possible to believe in God?" The imperishable answer was, "I find it easier to believe in God than to believe that Hamlet was deduced from the molecular structure of a mutton chop."

That rhetorical bullet has everything -- wit and profundity. It has more than once reminded me that skepticism about life and nature is most often expressed by those who take it for granted that belief is an indulgence of the superstitious -- indeed their opiate, to quote a historical cosmologist most profoundly dead. Granted, that to look up at the stars comes close to compelling disbelief -- how can such a chance arrangement be other than an elaboration -- near infinite -- of natural impulses? Yes, on the other hand, who is to say that the arrangement of the stars is more easily traceable to nature, than to nature's molder? What is the greater miracle: the raising of the dead man in Lazarus, or the mere existence of the man who died and of the witnesses who swore to his revival?

The skeptics get away with fixing the odds against the believer, mostly by pointing to phenomena which are only explainable -- you see? -- by the belief that there was a cause for them, always deducible. But how can one deduce the cause of Hamlet? Or of St. Matthew's Passion? What is the cause of inspiration?

This I believe: that it is intellectually easier to credit a divine intelligence than to submit dumbly to felicitous congeries about nature. As a child, I was struck by the short story. It told of a man at a bar who boasted of his rootlessness, derisively dismissing the jingoistic patrons to his left and to his right. But later in the evening, one man speaks an animadversion on a little principality in the Balkans and is met with the clenched fist of the man without a country, who would not endure this insult to the place where he was born.

So I believe that it is as likely that there should be a man without a country, as a world without a creator.

William F. Buckley, Jr.
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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 10-23-2006, 10:20 AM
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Jillette's clear objectivity- 1 , Buckley's tortured subjectivity- 0
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 10-23-2006, 01:01 PM
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Was William F Buckley Jr. founder of Harvard Community College, home of the Fighting Obfuscators? Go F O!!

It would have been nice if he had of at least TRIED to answer the question. But wait…

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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 10-23-2006, 01:03 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcbear
Was William F Buckley Jr. founder of Harvard Community College, home of the Fighting Obfuscators? Go F O!!

It would have been nice if he had of at least TRIED to answer the question. But wait…
So to be clear, neither of those dissertations were in regards to one another. Buckley's was written first, and Jillette's was written quite a few months later (but not in response to Buckley). They simply represent the opinions of each individual, which happen to be on roughly the same topic, from NPR's "This I Believe" essay segment on Morning Edition.
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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 10-23-2006, 01:22 PM
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That is clear, but mcbear is perfectly correct, he doesn't even attempt to address the title of his piece "How is it possible to believe in God?"
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Have y'all seen the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 10-23-2006, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by deathrattle
Jillette's clear objectivity- 1 , Buckley's tortured subjectivity- 0

Short, sweet, succinct, damn good.
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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 10-23-2006, 01:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QBNCGAR
So to be clear, neither of those dissertations were in regards to one another. Buckley's was written first, and Jillette's was written quite a few months later (but not in response to Buckley). They simply represent the opinions of each individual, which happen to be on roughly the same topic, from NPR's "This I Believe" essay segment on Morning Edition.
I listen to Morning Edition so I understood the primise completely.

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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 10-23-2006, 02:36 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Shane
Have y'all seen the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
I have, yeah. Funny stuff. I think it jabs at religion and those who cling tightly to it more than it does at the notion of "God".

I lean toward Jillette's point of view, but I'm a bit more pragmatic. To wit, I think it's religious dogma - not a belief in a diety - that facilitates asshole behavior. Everyone has met at least one devout Christian, or worse - Born-Again Christian, who is a pretty dispicable (allright, at least selfish and arrogant) person but who by their account of their religion, will be "saved". In fact, many of them will tell you to hurry up and make peace with the Lord, else you won't be saved.

I find it hard to believe that Heaven will be populated with such people - people who offend and use others without regret or apology, using a belief in "the Lord" as their way in. If it is, then fuck it, I don't want to go.

That said, I don't really view athiesm as a valid point of view either. It's contentious. It says "Your favorite personal belief system sucks. Me? I'm safe because I don't have one."

Agnosticism, on the other hand, allows you to hedge. It says "I'm not into the religious mumbo-jumbo, but I can't discount the prospect of a divine being. I belong to the church of me and God - that's it. Oh, and your favorite personal belief system still sucks."

To me, Agnosticism provides a person the same motivation to be a good and decent person that Jillette cites by being Godless. I have no compunction about my behavior on Earth - not because of a weekly ritual of self-flagelation or apologism to a nameless, formless entity...but because of the complete ABSENCE of such a ritual. If I become indebted to someone by way of my actions, my only remedy is to make it right with them. I don't view God or Jesus as some massive purchaser of individuals moral debt, as do so many others (Christians in particular). When you take that luxury away from yourself, it's amazing how much easier it is to be conscientious and decent.
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 10-23-2006, 02:41 PM
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Originally Posted by QBNCGAR
Agnosticism, on the other hand, allows you to hedge. It says "I'm not into the religious mumbo-jumbo, but I can't discount the prospect of a divine being. I belong to the church of me and God - that's it. Oh, and your favorite personal belief system still sucks."

To me, Agnosticism provides a person the same motivation to be a good and decent person that Jillette cites by being Godless. I have no compunction about my behavior on Earth - not because of a weekly ritual of self-flagelation or apologism to a nameless, formless entity...but because of the complete ABSENCE of such a ritual. If I become indebted to someone by way of my actions, my only remedy is to make it right with them. I don't view God or Jesus as some massive purchaser of individuals moral debt, as do so many others (Christians in particular). When you take that luxury away from yourself, it's amazing how much easier it is to be conscientious and decent.
I'm sorry, but agnosticism is spineless. Apathyism is more honest. You just can't hedge your bets when it comes to faith. You know why? Because god is the bookie.

"If spending money you don't have is the height of stupidity, borrowing money to give it away is the height of insanity." -- anon
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