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What Atheists Can't Answer

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You mean this part?

So I merely want to pose a question: If the atheists are right, what would be the effect on human morality?

Yes, I believe so.

If not directly (I can't remember right now), Objectivists have time and time and time again.

It would be nice if these "new atheists" would stop railing against religion and start standing up for something. Sure, science is defensable, but special sciences don't determine morality. They need to stand up for reason and self interest instead of lashing out at people.

These guys like Hitchens and Dawkins have some guts, I'll give them that. But mostly all they accomplish is inciting anger rather than inspiring debate.

I've stopped identifying myself as an atheist because of guys like this. It's not axiomatic; it's a logical consequence of accepting real axioms. If they ask if I'm a Christian, I say no, I'm an Objectivist ... at least then, there's an opportunity to discuss what I do believe, rather than irritate them by criticizing what they believe. If we talk long enough, atheism will come up, but I'd rather lay some foundation before getting to that all-too-contentious issue.

Edited by synthlord
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I'm so sick of that argument. Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris do more than just point out that morality can have roots other than religion. They point out that the "morality" of the monotheistic religions are, when made plain, considered evil by most people who follow said religions. Try finding an average American who would approve of slaughtering 3,000 people, just because they worship a wooden goat. Then show them the story about Moses slaughtering 3,000 Israelites for worshipping a golden calf.

I've stopped identifying myself as an atheist because of guys like this. It's not axiomatic; it's a logical consequence of accepting real axioms. If they ask if I'm a Christian, I say no, I'm an Objectivist ... at least then, there's an opportunity to discuss what I do believe, rather than irritate them by criticizing what they believe. If we talk long enough, atheism will come up, but I'd rather lay some foundation before getting to that all-too-contentious issue.
You can't build up any sort of rational system before you've torn the irrational ones down. What Dawkins, et al are trying to do is to remove the taboo from declaring yourself to be "an atheist." In case you haven't noticed, it's working. Atheism is getting a lot of attention and people are starting to realize that we aren't the untrustworthy, amoral assholes that we're made out to be.I, personally, applaud the efforts of Hitchens, Harris, and Dawkins. I disagree with some things that they say, but I think the good that they do far outweighs the bad. Hitchens is the only one who appears to actually be trying to pick a fight. Harris is very amicable and Dawkins is a little of both. I think we need all 3 types.
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For me, Moose, it's more an issue of tactic than content.

I grew up in a Christian home, and in church, and I remember how fiercely defensive people got when the word 'atheist' was mentioned. It's often treated as insulting a term as racial epithets can be.

I don't have a problem saying I'm an atheist, but knowing it insults those that would benefit from calm dialogue on the issue of God or religion, I prefer a different tactic. Sure, their offense isn't my responsibility ... but if I know I'm pissing them off, and know that the only thing that will follow is an emotional reaction that undercuts their rational capacity, am I not somewhat responsible?

Knowing that there are many Christians that have never been exposed to rational philosophy, or rational and Godless morality, I prefer a subtler approach. Beginning with the positive ("I am an Objectivist"), I can inspire productive curiosity; beginning with a negative ("I reject your beliefs") can incite destructive defensiveness.

The manner in which these guys - especially Hitchens - approach the topic is, I believe, very unproductive. As they say in the South, "you draw more flies with honey than with vinegar."

Edited by synthlord
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If atheists are right, then the nonexistence of god would have absolutely no effect on morality. Nothing influences nothing. Morality would still have to be discovered scientifically by studying the nature of man. What is good and bad for man has nothing to do with the nonexistence of god, just as it has nothing to do with the nonexistence of Superman.

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The author implicetly supposes that atheists do not have a 'highest value' (and therefor no value at all). He is right that under such circumstances there is no morality.

Concerning the issue on how to argue with a theist I find it best to start with debunking the myths and then move on to the core questions (i.e. primacy of existence). The (for me) most convincing research (besides evolution) is what is done in the so-called 'Astrotheology'. They compare religious symbols/beliefs with earthly phenomena, the zodiac, the sun, drugs and fertility rites. I recommend watching Pharmacratic Inquisition (it's more than 3 hours though).

Edited by Clawg
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Heres a does of that lovely superior Christian moral values!

http://christiandomesticdiscipline.com/art...enthoughts.html

PRACTICAL MATTERS

Disciplining the wife when the marriage is in trouble may not be fair. In her eyes it may not even be right. But ask her whether in her soul God has told her that submitting to her husband's hand, even in this, is against His will and the honest wife will admit defeat before the struggle begins. She knows very well what works. God has not hidden this from her. After presenting her with the ultimatum, the husband should give his wife time to reflect. She may need time alone. If the marriage has come to this, in most cases, a few more minutes, hours, or even days is not going to matter. Weeks, months, and years are a different story altogether. Whether before or after the event, apologies only antagonize an already difficult situation. Even amidst all the talk about domestic violence and women's liberation, most wives know when they need it. Most husbands know when they need to give it. There is a normal arrangement and flow of events. Trying to adhere to a rigid agenda only complicates matters. In the privacy of her own home, while she may demur, a wife made sufficiently aware of her sin(s) over time will seldom refuse to present herself to the long-suffering husband confronting her with switch in hand and a determination to straighten things out. Unless she has been abused at his hand, a woman expects her man to take charge when the need arises and will despise him more for shirking that responsibility than for his chastening and chastising.

CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN

Women nag, men spank. Women have shape tongues, and equally sharp minds, which they can use with great effect. Men have upper body strength. For good or for evil, but use what God gave them. The strong-willed wife will try to outlast her husband's hand on a bare bottom. She will protest to both him and others about some perceived abuse at his hand even when none exists and the punishment was well deserved. However, the wife who has had a significant disciplinary experience from the top of her buttocks to the upper third of her thighs (down to what women of a few generations ago used to call the “stocking line”) will keep the matter to herself. She will bring no further embarrassment upon her house. To the surprise of many, the deserving wife caught compromised across her husband's knees will ask for privacy so he may continue with the task at hand. She will apologize more for her indiscretions than for her husband's punishing her for them. If one's children find out, it is not end of the world. Most children understand more than adults give the credit. In particular, children understand spanking far more than they understand bitterness and divorce. A child who grows up aware that mother submits to father's discipline may be less likely to engage in frivolous and dangerous behavior as they grow older. Even if she has grown children and has remained unpunished since her own childhood, the woman who is ruining her marriage knows she is not “too old”. She knows that vanity, pride in saying “he [her husband] wouldn't dare” is a poor substitute for a loving marriage in which he does, even more frequently than she would wish.

When the husband announces, “It's time”; a wife expects four things that she will vow never to tell her husband. One is to lose her pants early to prove he means business. She expects it “to hurt” sufficiently to make her cry in repentance. She knows that it must get though to her so that there is no doubt in her mind or that of her husband that he is in control. Finally, she expects to feel better after it is over. These she expects her husband to know he well enough to act on this knowledge without her telling him.

To see whether her husband is serious about her and their marriage, women will frequently roll out three sets of stumbling blocks. Each increases in intensity. The first are the preliminary protests. The second are the promises and pleadings when he begins. The third are, although the language may be more blunt, rages of anger at being “treated this way” as he continues. For the husband who conquers all three, there is the promise of peace beyond. Domestic tranquility will be restored.

[...]

There are three basic ways to control a wife. One is to ignore her. Another is to burden her with chores, responsibilities, and work. The final way is to, in a no nonsense fashion, discipline her personally, privately, and memorably. The first method ruins the marriage. The second makes her old. In responsible hands, the third can work miracles.

Long and happy marriages generally mean that the couple crossed the discipline bridge when they came to it rather go their separate ways. Adjectives such as “good” when used to describe her husband or his behavior toward her frequently mean he has taken charge of her more than once or twice during their marriage.

Yep, when your wife doesn't listen too you -- beat her dumb ass!

Like the original article I linked says...

This form of "liberation" is like liberating a plant from the soil or a whale from the ocean. In this kind of freedom, something dies.

Yep, make sure it's your wife's dignity and self-respect that dies! I wonder how us evil atheists are supposed to handle nagging wives?

Edited by Mammon
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This brings up an interesting subject on how to approach opposing ideas. Lemuel mentioned that by saying he is an objectivist as opposed to calling himself an atheist brings up more opportunity for productive exchange of ideas. I think that is the correct way of asserting your beliefs.

In my church there are a large group of ex-members who spend much of their time and lives fighting and defaming the church they once belonged to. They are able to leave the church, but for some reason are not able to leave the church alone. Their tactics are seen by still faithful members as so extreme as to be humorous.. a joke.. Whereas other ex-members are able to leave the church and move on with their lives.

One of the latter type remarked "I prefer to be defined by what I am, not by what I am not"

It seems that atheists in recent days are banding together by what they don't believe because they don't have anything they do believe in.

Case in point:

Those who simply fight against for the sake of fighting get/deserver no respect.

This reminds me of a quote from Mother Teresa who once said:

"I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there."

Although not an atheist myself, I see objectivism as atheism on a higher level, as Objectivisim at least uses philosophical premises to justify it's atheism.

In regard to the article in the Washington Post,

I agree with the author when he explains how a natural man is a conflicted man. I'm sure we can all relate to how unchecked emotion can result in swings from extreme rage and selfishness to heights of incredible love and appreciation.

I would agree that each man needs to decide for himself a set of rules or codes that he will strive to adhere to. The most common set of codes such as these are found in religion, with God being the ultimate code setter and regulator. Those who choose to reject religion as their way will generally find something else to replace it. Objectivism can be one of these replacements. Instead of a religion of faith, it is a religion of man with reason it's God.

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I'm sure we can all relate to how unchecked emotion can result in swings from extreme rage and selfishness to heights of incredible love and appreciation.

You say selfishness like it's a bad thing. Objectivism regards it as virtuous.

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I agree with the author when he explains how a natural man is a conflicted man. I'm sure we can all relate to how unchecked emotion can result in swings from extreme rage and selfishness to heights of incredible love and appreciation.

1) what Biker said

2) what you're talking about is based on the notion of selfishness as a mere "I want, GIMME!" whim with zero regard for long-run consequences, and hence alleged conflicts inherent in man. Although the term when properly understood is a redundancy, Objectivism advocates rational self-interest based on a code of moral principles for the whole of life, based on an objective appreciation of man's nature and the nature of the world he finds himself in. We do not in the slightest have any truck with whims of the moment whether "me" centred or not. Get that right and you find that there are NO inherent conflicts, neither within man nor between men.

I would agree that each man needs to decide for himself a set of rules or codes that he will strive to adhere to. The most common set of codes such as these are found in religion, with God being the ultimate code setter and regulator. Those who choose to reject religion as their way will generally find something else to replace it. Objectivism can be one of these replacements. Instead of a religion of faith, it is a religion of man with reason it's God.

And this is a predictable follow-up to the above: your notion that moral codes, and by implication all knowledge, are and can only ever be arbitrary choices devoid of any rational basis for them. In this view, reason is treated as a hand-maiden of whims (and yes, belief in gods is a whim), just there to iron out the bugs in the means but never to question the ends. Objectivism rejects that view entirely, nothing that ALL things should be brought before reason for judgment and that rationality is THE primary moral virtue.

JJM

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1) what Biker said

And this is a predictable follow-up to the above: your notion that moral codes, and by implication all knowledge, are and can only ever be arbitrary choices devoid of any rational basis for them. In this view, reason is treated as a hand-maiden of whims (and yes, belief in gods is a whim), just there to iron out the bugs in the means but never to question the ends. Objectivism rejects that view entirely, nothing that ALL things should be brought before reason for judgment and that rationality is THE primary moral virtue.

JJM

Although I am aligned on many Objectivist issues, I am not a Objectivist in every sense of the definition, so I used the word selfishness in your first sense of the word as the 'I want, GIMMIE'

When discussing the conflicts between the natural man, I mean the natural, irrational man who acts on instinct rather than reason. This type of man is self destructive and suffers from internal mental conflicts. Adhering to a code of conduct will help the irrational man iron out his conflicts by giving him a steady guide on how to act and behave. My point was that this code of conduct can be found in either religion or a philosophy. Choosing reason to be your moral compass (although right and correct) is still a choice that must be made by the adherent.

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What you describe is not a man.

EDIT:

Man is, by nature, rational. Reason is man's only means of survival. Man has no instincts, though you probably meant "acts on whim" or "acts on emotions".

More importantly, a "code of conduct" (meaning a set of rules or commandments) only makes your whim or emotion guided idiot into an idiot that can be used - it does not make him more rational. And finally, there is no choice between "religion or philosophy". Religion is just bad philosphy, wrong philosophy, evil philosophy. Bad because it doesn't actually solve any problems, wrong because it is based on faith - and faith is the antithesis of knowledge, evil because it requires one to sacrifice one's life.

Edited by mrocktor
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The web site linked certainly doesn't represent the vast majority of Christians with whom I've been familiar in my life. I question whether or not this is more a spanking "fetish" web site for "Christians". Some people have nun fetishes too, but I think that makes them Catholic. Note the submission guidelines for their writers (my italic emphasis);

Christian Domestic Discipline Publications is looking for well-written stories featuring dominant heroes of strong moral character who enforce their authority through the use of spanking. Stories need not always be overtly Christian, but must never glorify or condone behaviors disallowed by the Holy Scriptures or that may offend a large portion of our Christian readership.
Edited by RationalBiker
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The web site linked certainly doesn't represent the vast majority of Christians with whom I've been familiar in my life. I question whether or not this is more a spanking "fetish" web site for "Christians". Some people have nun fetishes too, but I think that makes them Catholic.

Does it matter if it represents the majority? It shows how far one can take the Bible into rationalizing your whims. The majority of enviromentalists don't want to kill human beings, but that doesn't stop you from passing judgement on the whole movement because of it.

It's all about applying premises to their full logical conclusion. Strangely, this particular site is no different from what's being preached in Mosques either.

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Does it matter if it represents the majority?

It matters a great deal if one is assessing some sort of threat. People can come up with extreme views rationalized from just about anything. It only concerns me if it represents some actual threat to me.

If you want a better example of extreme views justified by Christianity, why not go to the Army of God web site? Even though they are a minority offshoot, they represent a much more significant problem to our society (and by extension me) than a few people who like to spank their wives (who probably also get off on it).

However, my main point was, I don't even think the site linked is a Christian site. Yes, they use some bible verses (and some Quran verses) to "justify" spanking your wife, but that is the main thrust of the site, the spanking part, not the "How to be a good Christian" part. For example, look at the Heirloom Intimates section. Notice the easy access to the rear of the pant garment. Would a Christian need special (more like erotic) clothing to spank his wife? Look at what they are seeking in terms of short stories. I think this is much more of some kind of weird fetish site than a Christian site.

To clarify my earlier comment, what I meant to say was; Some people have nun fetishes too, but I don't think that necessarily makes them Catholic.

At any rate, I have more substantial issues over which to judge Christianity and Christians than a spanking web site. That's not even on the radar...

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This is one reason I consider myself agnostic, rather than atheist. The truth seems, to me at least, that we don't have enough evidence one way or another to prove or disprove God. Could God, in one form or another, exist? Sure, although I think it's much more likely God doesn't exist. But I think the question of whether or not there is a God, while a fascinating metaphysical question, somewhat misses the point in a discussion of how we should act and by what moral compass we should guide ourselves.

What I'm trying to get at is, if God does exist, considering the state of the world at this point, God is NOT worthy of worship. In fact, if we take what is typically considered the Judeo-Christian outlook on God to be the nature of God, I would say that contrary to worship, resistance is what is properly required. I would absolutely refuse to worship the God of the Bible, even if he was real, as I consider him to be evil. I would fight to the last even if it meant being sent to the mythical Hell. I have never heard one single argument from a theist as to why I should worship God that does not somehow boil down to "might makes right".

I think that whether or not there is a God does not change the fact that humans, because of our nature as sentient beings, must discover a life-affirming morality for ourselves and must find it through reason. This is why I believe the question of God may not actually be relevant to ethics.

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The truth seems, to me at least, that we don't have enough evidence one way or another to prove or disprove God.

This makes you wrong twice. First, no evidence is needed to "prove" god does not exist. You don't have to prove a negative. Second, you actually can, in this case, prove that the very concept "god" is self contradicting and therefore cannot exist in reality. Do a search here, you'll find the explanation.

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I do not agree that the concept of God can be proven to be contradictory in the same way that a concept like "married bachelor" can unless you want to use a very particular definition of God which will end up making your argument circular. Also, if God shows up on your doorstep someday in all his white-bearded, sword-of-vengeance wielding glory, what are you going to do, say, "Hey, I've philosophically proven you don't exist?" Personally though, I wouldn't lose any sleep over this. :thumbsup:

I guess perhaps it's in my empirical nature to be suspicious of a philosophical conclusion that a thing can or can't exist. Philosophy is undoubtedly useful in this, especially in clarifying what things are included in a concept. But what was that quote from Hamlet? "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than can be found in your philosophy."

As I said before, I'm not exactly holding my breath, and I certainly live my life under the presumption that there is not a God. But seeing as we are not yet aware of all the machinations of our universe (hopefully someday!) I always think it's a bit hasty to make grand presumptions about what kinds of things COULDN'T exist (as opposed to that they just DON'T exist).

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I do not agree that the concept of God can be proven to be contradictory in the same way that a concept like "married bachelor" can unless you want to use a very particular definition of God which will end up making your argument circular. Also, if God shows up on your doorstep someday in all his white-bearded, sword-of-vengeance wielding glory, what are you going to do, say, "Hey, I've philosophically proven you don't exist?" Personally though, I wouldn't lose any sleep over this. :thumbsup:

I guess perhaps it's in my empirical nature to be suspicious of a philosophical conclusion that a thing can or can't exist. Philosophy is undoubtedly useful in this, especially in clarifying what things are included in a concept. But what was that quote from Hamlet? "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than can be found in your philosophy."

As I said before, I'm not exactly holding my breath, and I certainly live my life under the presumption that there is not a God. But seeing as we are not yet aware of all the machinations of our universe (hopefully someday!) I always think it's a bit hasty to make grand presumptions about what kinds of things COULDN'T exist (as opposed to that they just DON'T exist).

I think it's a bit hasty to say that a woman cannot give birth to an 80 year old man...maybe in the future it is possible, or when we discover more about our universe. Heck, when this 80 year old baby turns up at your door and is born right infront of your eyes, what are you going to say, "This is not possible"? :lol:

Edited by ALS
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I think it's a bit hasty to say that a woman cannot give birth to an 80 year old man...maybe in the future it is possible, or when we discover more about our universe. Heck, when this 80 year old baby turns up at your door and is born right infront of your eyes, what are you going to say, "This is not possible"? :)

And when the sky turns pink with flecks of nylon and instead of appearing spread out over the entire range of vision not taken up by earth, appears contorted into the shape of an hourglass ... are you going to say "I always knew it was possible"?

Both scenarios are impossible.

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I guess perhaps it's in my empirical nature to be suspicious of a philosophical conclusion that a thing can or can't exist. Philosophy is undoubtedly useful in this, especially in clarifying what things are included in a concept. But what was that quote from Hamlet? "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than can be found in your philosophy."

Are you suspicious of butter? If I say there's butter on my toast, are you going to say I'm being far too close minded in my philosophical conclusions about what is or isn't included in my breakfast?

Hamlet also says: "To be or not to be - that is the question". That is a fundamentally philosophical question - is life worth living or not? (Thank you Albert Camus). Hamlet is a philosophical play, which throws its hands in the air by the end, as with most of Shakespeare's plays. It decides to circumvent any real answers, and instead dances around a lot of possibilites and concludes with a kind of, "Well, it's a funny old world isn't it?" sort-of message.

Hamlet is a deeply troubled character, dealing with a love, death, vengeance, murder - he's got a lot on his plate and he's trying to make sense of it. He ends up not coming to much of a conclusion despite some wonderful introspections. His statement to Horatio seems more born out of the fact that he is a character who simply doesn't understand the use of philosophy - as Shakespeare didn't and as most people (including Philosophers) don't.

I think you'll find philosophy, specifically the one we study and discuss here, is not a tool for clarifying what a certain concept might be, but for exploring where a concept actually comes from, what defines a valid concept, why is a certain concept actually useful in itself, etc etc.

Do you think it is arrogant of a man to make claims about the universe from his own introspections or from his direct observations of realty? I should ask you - which body or mind do you suggest man should inhabit before he is allowed the right to explain his own world?

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  • 1 month later...

This question being asked is only an opportunity for Objectivists to continue emphatically answering it in a positive way. You shouldn't scoff because they're asking the question, because thats just a product of their conditioning. Religious people, faith heads, Christians, whatever... are all conditioned to not know the answer to this question, and further conditioned to be incapable of fathoming an answer to the question apart from god.

We're just getting a little more help from the scientific community from popular authors the way I see it.

I think the efforts of Dawkins, Dennet, and Harris are extremely commendable on this question about morality without theism. All of these men are in some capacity dedicating themselves to a question that strongly impacts morality, "What is human nature?" What are we and who are we as a species? Neuroscientists Dennet and Harris, and Evolutionary Biologist Dawkins are all publicizing very critical denunciations of the ideological wrecking crew thats derailed the United States for everyone, i.e. Christianity.

Thats the best thing about them. They're writing best selling books that are very critical of a philosophical position that is absolutely antithetical to Objectivism, and because of the consciousness raising taking place the stage opens up for all of the people they reach. They are opening the door for people who are borderline tired of their religion, to escape it. And opening a door for those comfortable with their religion, to doubt it. Once those people begin looking for alternatives to guide their lives the stage is open for an audience to become captivated by the philosophy of Objectivism.

The word "Atheist" is beginning to take on a more curious appeal than ever before in history, and thats a good thing. Christians are ingrained to erect a framework around the word resonating disdain and when they aren't able to fit someone like an upstanding Objectivist into the mold they question... and then want to know more... Atheism then becomes the tip of the iceberg. Christians are rarely ever introduced to the word "Objectivism" let alone the philosophy, so even insofar as capturing the attention of someone for the sake of dialog I prefer to accept and promote the Atheist label. Any step toward Reason, and away from Faith is a positive step.

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Any step toward Reason, and away from Faith is a positive step.

So long as it is truely a step towards Reason. Same with the libertarians like Hitchens or the popular atheists like Dawkins don't provide a solid basis, and instead place Reason up as some floating, praise-worthy abstraction, rather than a basic fact of man's nature. I think Dawkins does do this to some degree - "Just because something can be put into a grammatically correct sentence, does not make it valid" and "Using faith to explain ignorance is just begging the question" - but it's hard to drive the point home without a good grounding.

Sure, you'll convince those on-the-fence types, but convince them towards what? To not go to church or believe in God? They barely do those anyway. It's getting them to not be susceptible to the much more dangerous ideas that come from the same irrational basis of 'faith', which is the hard thing.

And the lack of foundation also brings up another problem: that of the "As far as I know....(x)" where (x) could be the validity of God's existence or the morality of a system like Socialism. People reading one of these books might say, for example, "Oh yes, of course, the Intelligent Design argument is obviously flawed". However, as soon as a new argument (or an old one in disguise) comes along from the Faithful (or any irrational group of people), they'll be swayed that way again.

Without any roots, those plants are going to just go swaying in the wind, Left and Right, Faithful or Reasonable; they need to be taught to be big, strong trees with roots in reality, not little saplings being uprooted and potted here and there, wherever seems reasonable.

Edited by Tenure
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