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Author Topic: Persecution of Atheists
Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
quote:
This is the trouble I have with the Dawkins disciples.
Oh dear God, I hope you're not talking about me.
No no no! Of course not. I told Jason I was responding to his post in the same vein he'd written that stuff about religion. I was responding to the mormon virus post where 99.999% of mormons have no free will [Mad] . Please please stop taking everything I say in the worst possible light towards you and then ignoring the nice things I say. It's really discouraging. [Frown]


quote:
If it turns out that children whose parents read them Richard Dawkins are more likely to remain atheists than kids of atheist parents that did not read them Dawkins, shall we take that as proof that reading Dawkins at a young age takes away free will?
-----
Can I shorten this to "Are children of atheists that grow up to be atheists denied free will?"

No; that's not what I'm asking at all. I was just creating an analogy to show the flaws in the Dawkins' reasoning that correlation of parents to kids' religion meant no free will. It's not even a serious question; just an analogy to show how the no free will argument was flawed, and IIRC you agreed with that.


Perhaps it's more precise to say that children that have been instructed on any matter are going to be highly biased towards their initial instruction despite having the opportunity to choose to believe something contrary in the future.

quote:
So, it's not so much that you don't have a choice about your religion, but that it's going to be very hard to choose another one (or none) if you've been raised to strongly believe in the one your parents believe in.
Sure, I can buy that. I'm just saying that even without calculating in any possible spiritual reasons, which I understand you won't agree on, there are other factors, such as culture, social networking, inertia, etc, that keep someone in a religion, and each of those factors will vary wildly from religion to religion and culture to culture.
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MattP
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quote:
Please please stop taking everything I say in the worst possible light towards you and then ignoring the nice things I say. It's really discouraging.
In this case I was one of two people arguing for a position which Dawkins agreed with, so I wasn't sure if this was directed at me or not, though I leaned towards not. Also, I saw this as a good place to distance myself from Dawkins with a little panache.

As for ignoring the nice stuff - I'm just not sure how to respond. In normal conversation, "thanks" or "I appreciate that" are appropriate, but on the forum saying "thanks" to a complement seems as shallow as "f**k you" to an insult. If I don't have a substance response to a statement, positive or negative, I don't respond. The only exception I tend to make is for humor. I think I'm much more clever than I likely am, so if I think I've got something funny to say it's all but impossible for me to refrain from saying it.

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hobsen
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Jasonr said,
quote:
Well, there you are. I guess I was wrong about LDS. Maybe I'm wrong in other respects to. Maybe the old rules don't apply anymore in a modern, secular society.
No, you were probably correct. Out of the hundred largest denominations in the United States, I doubt that more than three or four have over 20% of first-generation members. The LDS Church has simply worked very hard on recruiting new members, so it is far from typical. That 64% figure is astoundingly high.

And thanks for the figures, Clark. Could someone explain why building a lot more temples leads to a lot more temple marriages? Is it just because otherwise Mormons would have to travel too far to get to a temple, so they find it impracticable? I mean Roman Catholics by the millions make pilgrimages to Rome, and Muslims by the million make pilgrimages to Mecca, both often travelling thousands of miles, so it would seem Mormons might want to go to Salt Lake City once in their lifetime for a temple wedding?

[ February 24, 2007, 09:52 AM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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KnightEnder
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quote:
Originally posted by The Drake:
I wonder how many atheists prevent their kids from dating religious ones.

DO NOT read anything into that statement, it is an open, honest question.

Not me. That would be a form of bigotry. When my boy brings her home for dinner I'll even bow my head as she says grace. [Smile]

KE

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KnightEnder
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An example; The Whataburger (some of the best burgers anywhere) has a huge sign on the door and the window by the drive through with a US flag and the words "In God We Trust" written underneath it. I respect the owners right to believe as he sees fit but I feel left out of my own country every time I see that sign. That kind of blatant in your face religion is rife here in Texas.

It equates with "Love it or Leave It" which totally misses the idea of what the US is supposed to be.

If say, a Muslim nation attacked the US with the intentions of converting everyone to Islam I would fight and die for your right to believe in Christ, but at least here in Texas I don't think the idea is mutual. It's more like; the only good atheist ia a dead atheist.

Do y'all think it is right for someone to assume you are a Chistian as soon as they meet you?

My wife's uncle told my son to bow his head and pray one Thanksgiving and I politely said no son we don't do that. You can if you want but you don't have to. (To be fair my uncle was red as a beet and terribly embarrassed. He is a good man. He just naturally assumed my blond haired blue-eyed overly polite American son was a Christian.)

KE

[ February 24, 2007, 10:32 AM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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Jesse
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KE, you'll get over Whataburger when In-N-Out opens in Texas [Smile]

Of course, In-N-Out puts little bible quotes on the burger wrapper....

Carlotta-

Persecution? I wouldn't use that word. I've been physically attacked because I don't say The Pledge. However, that probably would have happened if I was a Jehovas Witness or highly observant Muslim.

Mostly, I just get insulted a lot, which isn't that big a deal to me except when people who know better call me an Athiest.

[ February 24, 2007, 12:32 PM: Message edited by: Jesse ]

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Pete at Home
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Jesse, did you change your belief system, or are you acknowledging that deism is a type of atheism? [Wink]
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Clark
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hobsen,

Building more temples leads to more temple marriages partly because of geography. At the start of 1980, there were 17 temples in the world. All but 4 were in North America. By the end of the year 2000, there were 102. Prior to that big push, LDS living outside North America were likely to need to make a trip of days just to reach a temple. And LDS in Africa, or South America were the people least likely to be able to afford such a trip.

While it's nice to get someone to the temple once in their life to perform a temple marriage, I'd say the more important feature is providing LDS with the opportunity to attend reasonably often. Cutting a trip to the temple from 3 days (each way!) to 6 hours allows devoted members, even quite poor ones, to at least attend a few times per year, rather than once every few years.

On the topic of first generation members of any religion, it's not just them who we need to be thinking about here. How about people that are raised in a religion, leave for decades and then return? They ought to count among those who have made conscious decisions about their religion rather than just keeping on with what their parents taught them. You could certainly say that they would have a propensity to return to their original religion, but they're still clearly making the choice to return to their former religion. In my experience this is a small yet significant part of LDS members, I'd say something on the order of 10%

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hobsen
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That is a good explanation, Clark. It sounds as if building more temples, particularly in Africa and South America, should make things better for the people there.

And I had not thought about those who leave for decades and then return. That happens in all denominations. People learn the basics in childhood and adolescence, get caught up in their adult lives and become inactive, and then return toward the end of their lives. With that life experience, they actually understand more about the religion than the young people do; many aspects are intended for them. Of course they could have continued their active membership throughout, but those caught up with careers and families have to set priorities. They do not necessarily disbelieve, but they lack time.

But this topic is marginal to the question of whether atheists are persecuted, although the concensus on that seems to be that persecution is durected at individuals and local, rather than pervasive and severe throughout the United States. I'd rather be an atheist than a Muslim in this country, but even the Muslims are surviving fairly well. Their situation is not like that of Jews in Nazi Germany, although bad things happen from time to time. Like the Muslim place of worship near me that got shot up recently; I believe police recovered about a hundred bullets probably from an automatic weapon. Nobody was hurt or killed - it was night and the building was empty - but that would tend to make them feel unwelcome.

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MattP
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quote:
How about people that are raised in a religion, leave for decades and then return? They ought to count among those who have made conscious decisions about their religion rather than just keeping on with what their parents taught them.
I dunno. In a recent email exchange with the ex-girlfriend I mentioned earlier, she said:
quote:
I still believe in the doctrines the church teaches, don't get me wrong, and still have the utmost respect for it and most of its members, Just don't get me talking about the word of wisdom! LOL when missionaries end up on my doorstep (of course I tell them I'm a member: once you're LDS you're always LDS! well, I haven't been booted, I mean) I will talk about anything but the word of wisdom with them. So that, and me deciding I was done feeling guilty for premarital sex are the 2 things that made me stop going to church. Figure God and I will sort it out one day.
I think she still belongs in the "never left" category though external appearances may indicate otherwise. Here in Utah, stories like hers seem pretty common amongst inactive members. They still identify as LDS even if they are no longer walking the walk.
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Jesse
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Nah, Pete.

Although I do acknowledge your ability to be a touch of a butt head from time to time [Razz]

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MattP
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Back on the topic of persecution, I think that atheists are left alone in large part because they keep their beliefs to themselves. In a very religious environment like the area of Utah that I live in, the occasional Jew or Hindi is treated as an interesting novelty, but atheists are viewed as some type of mentally-damaged or subversive force. I don't hear atheists mentioned much in conversation, but the few times they have, it's been a negative light.

My wife, who fully accepts my lack of belief still says things to me like "don't tell people you're an atheist, just say you're an agnostic or something."

Part of the problem, I think, is that atheists do not form a cohesive group and have no official publications so atheists, as a group, can be said to not really stand for anything. Christians can go on and on about how they follow the teachings of Jesus, the Golden Rule, yada yada yada. The only common attribute of atheists is that they do not believe in God. There is no atheist 10-commandments or atheist bible. For those that believe that morality comes from religion, it's logical to conclude that people who do not follow a religion suffer some moral deficiency.

This is a problem of ignorance, but correcting the ignorance will be difficult. Even a simple statement of believe such as "Morality does not come from religion." can be seen as an attack on religion. In order to define our beliefs and articulate them to other people, we have to say things that other people will find offensive, proving what arrogant pricks us atheists can be.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Jesse:
Nah, Pete.

Although I do acknowledge your ability to be a touch of a butt head from time to time [Razz]

OK. I take it you're not going to help me resolve my conundrum. I can't figure out whether to characterize Deism as "functional atheism," as "dysfunctional theism," or a "misunderstood uncharted area where atheism overlaps with Protestantism." [Big Grin]

[ February 24, 2007, 03:12 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by KnightEnder:
My wife's uncle told my son to bow his head and pray one Thanksgiving and I politely said no son we don't do that. You can if you want but you don't have to.

KE, that's brilliant. Well done.

quote:
Do y'all think it is right for someone to assume you are a Chistian as soon as they meet you?
I don't think that it's right or wrong. Do you know that everyone who meets me in law school assumes that I'm a atheist?

quote:
An example; The Whataburger (some of the best burgers anywhere) has a huge sign on the door and the window by the drive through with a US flag and the words "In God We Trust" written underneath it. I respect the owners right to believe as he sees fit but I feel left out of my own country every time I see that sign. That kind of blatant in your face religion is rife here in Texas.
I have no problem with religion being in your face, but I do have a problem with someone suggesting questioning the citizenship of this country. I think that it should be OK to put up a Creche or the ten commandments on public property, but I strongly agree with you that we should take "in god we trust" off the money, and take "under God" out of the pledge of allegiance, because they serve no secular purpose, and they cause some atheists to feel excluded from full citizenship.

quote:
It equates with "Love it or Leave It" which totally misses the idea of what the US is supposed to be.
Amen, brother. And I refuse to let my country use God's holy name as a shibboleth to exclude you.
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seekingprometheus
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Finally caught up on thread.

My two cents:

Persecution entails the idea of pursuit, so I would suggest that atheists are very rarely "persecuted" in the most correct sense of the word. It isn't like there is some Theist Enforcement Agency seeking out disbelievers and bustin' down doors.

Discrimination is a more accurate word. And, as Pete aptly indicated on page two, discrimination simply refers to making a distinction.

On the article Omega posted: The author is clearly biased.

The author is right in suggesting that the articulation of a worldview will naturally cause others to perceive and treat the articulator differently
quote:
it would be odd for an atheist to claim that his understanding of all of reality should have no bearing on how other people treat him.
...but I'm curious that the reverse is not discussed. Wouldn't it also be odd for a theist to claim the same?
quote:
So long as the unofficial spokespeople for atheism file lawsuits to remove God from the Pledge, advocate infanticide and bestiality, and write books arguing that religious believers are deluded, atheists are going to have a hard time fitting in.
They advocate bestiality and infanticide, do they? Well then, they deserve what they get. [Roll Eyes] No bias to be found here. [Exploding]

In response to the whole Dawkins tangent: I think that what Dawkins is doing is being misrepresented. I think he's merely trying to provide a counterbalance by demonstrating that it is reasonable to reject theism. I don't think he's trying to prove something which is clearly not "provable," but is rather simply adding weight to the reasonableness of dismissing something unreasonable.

I would guess that a lot (if not most) of religiously inculcated individuals are latently agnostic/atheistic. But it's hard for a child (or an adult) to explore their theistic doubts objectively when everybody that child respects and trusts insists that theism is Truth (and then the child is further told that something infinitely bad will happen if they reject theism).

It's very much like the asch conformity experiment. I think that Dawkins is simply trying to provide a counterbalance to the confederates.

[ February 24, 2007, 08:01 PM: Message edited by: seekingprometheus ]

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Adam Lassek
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quote:
Pete said:
Do you know that everyone who meets me in law school assumes that I'm a atheist?

That's interesting. Any idea why they do that?

Is there a preponderance of godless heathens in law school? [Smile]

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MattP
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I think it's Pete's "Nietzsche Rules!" T-shirt.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Adam Lassek:
quote:
Pete said:
Do you know that everyone who meets me in law school assumes that I'm a atheist?

That's interesting. Any idea why they do that?

Is there a preponderance of godless heathens in law school? [Smile]

Actually nearly a quarter of the students LDS, and they generally recognize me as LDS, but the non-LDS ones are often shocked to find out that I'm religious, and then shocked again to find out I'm LDS. In most classes, I guess my politics seem leftish and socially conscious, and my take "intellectual"; conservatives in corporate law would actually groan when the prof would call on me. [Big Grin] For some reason that seems to profile me as atheist. Most importantly, I think that religious people are just expected to keep a low profile in discussions, and I don't, and since I don't talk about religion, they assume I'm atheist.
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Carlotta
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hobsen said
quote:
I mean Roman Catholics by the millions make pilgrimages to Rome, and Muslims by the million make pilgrimages to Mecca, both often travelling thousands of miles, so it would seem Mormons might want to go to Salt Lake City once in their lifetime for a temple wedding?

I would guess because young couples just starting out generally don't have the funds for a long pilgrimage. We thought about going to Rome for our honeymoon but couldn't afford it. At least by the time we retire though we hope to go again. (studied there a semester.)

I didn't know you had to actually go to a temple to have a temple marriage. Seems odd to my Catholic way of thinking, I guess.

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hobsen
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Perhaps some kind Mormon will explain a bit about the types of marriage recognized by the LDS Church.

Studying in Rome for a semester sounds nice; and I hope you can go back sometime, when you have more money and fewer responsibilities.

My dear wife, who is a fount of information on Roman Catholic trivia, came up with the ultimate question of the sort recently: on Ash Wednesday, what happens to the leftover ashes? She promptly asked her sister, who has been a Discalced Carmelite nun in New York State for about fifty years; and of course Theresa had no idea either. Since I can think of few questions less important for anyone's eternal salvation, I refuse to look it up, although of course any priest would know. But maybe you can stump someone with that one.

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Carlotta
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It was great to study in Rome, I even got to go to north Italy for a weekend and meet my grandfather's second cousin and see the house where my namesake and great-grandmother was born. The only bad thing was that Pan was a year behind me in school, so I went without him, and he went without me a year later. (Though I found a roundtrip ticket to Rome for $329 - post 9-11 by few months - and surprised him by a 5 day visit. He proposed.)

Now for the fun trivia! Ashes from Ash Wednesday are made from burning the palms from Palm Sunday the year before. They (the palms and the ashes actually) are considered "sacramentals", New Advent, sacramentals
and so must be treated with respect. Traditionally the two ways of discarding sacramentals that can no longer be used (for example a broken rosary or crucifix that can't or you don't want to fix) is to bury them or burn them. Since the ashes are already burned, I would assume they are buries.

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Jesse
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quote:
I can't figure out whether to characterize Deism as "functional atheism," as "dysfunctional theism," or a "misunderstood uncharted area where atheism overlaps with Protestantism."
It's not like we have meetings, Pete [Wink] I can only speak for myself.

There is nothing essentially dysfunctional about the notion that our Creators messages to us is contained in the gift we have been given, a world capable of supporting nearly ten billion of us in a state of virtual paradise if we work together to make it so.

There's no element of Athiesm in the belief that we have been endowed with reason, with compassion, with the ability to love, the ability to communicate, and the ability to put the other before ourselves, for a purpose, and that the purpose of these gifts is clear.

There is nothing Protestant about rejecting the notion that rather than making use of our gifts, we should follow charasmatic leaders who claim to have spoken to some being or beings they term god or gods.

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hobsen
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Thanks for the link to the entry on sacramentals in the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia, Carlotta. Your surmise about the disposal of those ashes is what I should have expected, although there is no certainty either of us is correct.

Jesse, your observatins on Deism seem clear. But the word has historical usages which may prove confusing, and Deists were often called atheists by their detractors.

The first problem is the word's connection to the clockmaker analogy, saying the universe is like a clockwork mechanism which God has set in motion and left to run by itself, which was in turn invented to solve a possible conflict between science and religion. For example, Galileo has been alleged to have dropped a light and a heavy weight from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to disprove by experiment Aristotle's assertion that a heavy weight would fall faster than a light one. Now if a passing demon had supported the lighter weight to slow its descent, that experiment would have given a wrong result. Saying nothing supernatural ever happens goes farther than necessary to answer that difficulty, as a rare exception now and then would do no harm; but if most or all scientific experiments were corrupted by malicious spirits, science would in fact be impossible.

The second historical fact is that the word Christian a couple of hundred years ago referred to a member of a Christian church. But most churches at that time had elaborate creeds which required members to assert their belief in all sorts of improbable doctrines, leading to the child's remark that, "Faith is when you believe something that you know ain't true." So men of conscience often refused to join a church and got called Deists. Today they would simply be called Christians, as the word is now used loosely to refer to anyone taking his chief source of religious inspiration from the life or teachings of Jesus, even though some conservatives still try to enforce the old definition. Mitt Romney getting called a "fake Christian" is a recent example of that; members of other denominations can properly claim that his Mormon beliefs are untrue, but they are nevertheless still part of the Christian tradition. Even children's beliefs about Santa Claus, which I think all adult Christians believe to be untrue, are still Christian beliefs.

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MattP
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quote:
So men of conscience often refused to join a church and got called Deists. Today they would simply be called Christians, as the word is now used loosely to refer to anyone taking his chief source of religious inspiration from the life or teachings of Jesus,
Most deists I've known would not say that they their "chief source of religious inspiration" is taken from "the life or teachings of Jesus." Some have openly scoffed at Bible as a religious text or the practice of praying to Jesus.
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Clark
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hobsen said:
quote:
Roman Catholics by the millions make pilgrimages to Rome, and Muslims by the million make pilgrimages to Mecca, . . . Mormons might want to go to Salt Lake City once in their lifetime for a temple wedding?
I didn't think of this until now, but Utah Mormons actually make pilgrimages by the thousands to places like Nauvoo, Kirtland and Palmyra every year where the LDS church really originated. Going to SLC doesn't have any real religious meaning to the LDS like going to Mecca does for Muslims. I imagine that the significance is more like a visit to Rome for a Catholic, but without quite so much history or art. (but better skiing)

quote:
Perhaps some kind Mormon will explain a bit about the types of marriage recognized by the LDS Church.
The LDS church recognizes two types of marriage. Civil marriage is one recognized by the government that everyone is familiar with. It can be performed by a Mormon Bishop (leader of the local congregation of a few hundred members) or anyone legally empowered to perform a marriage (including a previous marriage by a Catholic priest or other religion). (I guess Bishops can't perform marriages in all countries, but they can in the US.) This marriage is the standard "till death do you part" sort of thing.

Temple marriage in the US is really two things at the same time. First, it is a legal marriage recognized by the US government just like any other. In some countries (Brazil for one) the LDS church does not have the power to perform legal marriages in Temples. In the case that the temple ceremony is not recognized by the government, the couple must be married legally before being sealed in the temple. In order to enter the temple, LDS must be members in good standing with the church, i.e. essentially following all the rules.

The other half of the temple marriage is the sealing. LDS believe that through the priesthood a family can be sealed for time and all eternity. The family unit will continue after death. Children born to a couple after their temple sealing are also sealed to the parents and are said to be "Born in the Covenant". Children already born can be sealed to their parents in the temple. Temple Marriage is a "covenant," or a promise between God and us. The individuals promise to be loyal to each other, follow God's commandments, etc., and God promises that the family can be together forever. Obviously, if we fall down on our end, God is not obligated to pay up.

My apologies to Matt, who is trying to hard to actually discuss the persecution of Atheists.

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hobsen
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Thanks, Clark. That information serves admirably.

MattP, I agree that Deists who scoff at the Bible or Christian prayers could not possibly be termed Christians. And LoverOfJoy made an additional comment on the Chief Illiniwek thread, "For me, it's enough that a significant number of people are offended by it." Regardless of whether someone believes Jesus to be the Son of God or the illegitimate offspring of an otherwise unknown Roman soldier, scoffing at someone else's religious beliefs is at least bad manners. He will likely be hurt, and he may well get carried away and try to hurt the offender in turn.

But a couple of hundred years ago, in the English-speaking world, relatively few people were church members. At the time of the American Revolution, I think it was something like 10% of the population of the colonies, as compared to 80% or more today. That left a whole lot of people who believed in God and probably Jesus, but who were not members of an organized church. And I doubt they typically scoffed at Christianity; they just thought those in churches were sometimes overly pious or perhaps hypocrites, or the required doctrines were irrational. Such people got called Deists. If Christian churches today required members to sign a statement that they believed the world was created in 4004 B.C. the number of members would be fewer, and their honesty suspect.

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Pete at Home
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Well-argued, sir!

quote:
Originally posted by Jesse:
quote:
I can't figure out whether to characterize Deism as "functional atheism," as "dysfunctional theism," or a "misunderstood uncharted area where atheism overlaps with Protestantism."
It's not like we have meetings, Pete [Wink] I can only speak for myself.

There is nothing essentially dysfunctional about the notion that our Creators messages to us is contained in the gift we have been given, a world capable of supporting nearly ten billion of us in a state of virtual paradise if we work together to make it so.

Ah, now this is the first time that I've heard a Deist use the term "creator's message." Otherwise I'd never have used the term "dysfunctional theism." You have thorougly rebutted my inference, and I applaud you. Although you say you speak only for yourself, so it may be that what I said might apply to some deists. I'll certainly do inquiries before I toss that hand grenade again. [Big Grin]

quote:
There's no element of Athiesm in the belief that we have been endowed with reason, with compassion, with the ability to love, the ability to communicate, and the ability to put the other before ourselves, for a purpose, and that the purpose of these gifts is clear.
The italicized portion certainly does rebutt what I said about atheism, and I'd not have said it if I'd heard that before. Although it does beg the question of, if the message is clear, then explain the French Revolution, or the fact that the rationalists that gave us the US revolution kept slavery in place ...


quote:
There is nothing Protestant about rejecting the notion that rather than making use of our gifts, we should follow charasmatic leaders who claim to have spoken to some being or beings they term god or gods.
That one's not so well-answered, since the trait you speak of isn't unique to or universal to Protestantism. But it was the least relevant of my questions anyway, not worth arguing, so I'll let it go.

Anyway, I'm glad I asked. That was very enlightening.

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MattP
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quote:
MattP, I agree that Deists who scoff at the Bible or Christian prayers could not possibly be termed Christians. And LoverOfJoy made an additional comment on the Chief Illiniwek thread, "For me, it's enough that a significant number of people are offended by it." Regardless of whether someone believes Jesus to be the Son of God or the illegitimate offspring of an otherwise unknown Roman soldier, scoffing at someone else's religious beliefs is at least bad manners.
No argument that it would bad manners. I put that out as a counter to your assertion of an association between Christianity and Deism. Virtually everything I've ever read about Deism, from the 17th century formulation of the concept into it's modern form, indicates that Deists consider Christianity just one more revealed religion with no unique claim to truth.
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hobsen
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MattP, we may be saying the same thing, in which case I was unclear. Historically Deists believed in a Creator God, as the name suggests; and Wikipedia summarizes key Deist beliefs as follows:
quote:
Critical elements of deist thought included:

Rejection of all religions based on books that claim to contain the revealed word of God.
Rejection of reports of miracles, prophecies and religious "mysteries".
Rejection of the Genesis story of creation and the doctrine of original sin, along with all similar stories.
Rejection of Christianity, Islam and other religious beliefs.

Constructive elements of deist thought included:

God exists and created the universe.
God wants human beings to behave morally.
Human beings have souls that survive death; that is, there is an afterlife.
In the afterlife, God will reward moral behavior and punish immoral behavior.

But today a lot of Christian clergymen would disagree with the Deist claim that the existence of God can be proven; they still believe in God but accept the arguments of philosophers that all such "proofs" are fallacious. And concerning the afterlife, an online journal devoted to religion remarked in 1998,
quote:
According to a recent (1996) Gallup poll, although about 94% of U.S. citizens say that they believe in God, only 71% believe in some form of life after death, figures that are, given a +/- 3% sampling error, virtually identical with a similar poll taken in 1948, this despite the recent rash of supposed empirical evidence ("near-death experiences", etc.) held up as warrant for such belief.
My impression is that polls of church members have showed about the same, that a lot of them do not believe in an afterlife; but I do not care enough to search for a link. However my opinion is that a significant fraction of Americans today, including church members, are less traditionally orthodox than were the Deists. And about those who call themselves Deists today I know nothing at all, except for the personal views set forth by Jesse. These seem to fit well enough into the Deist tradition.

[ February 25, 2007, 08:11 PM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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MattP
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My confusion was over this part:
quote:
So men of conscience often refused to join a church and got called Deists. Today they would simply be called Christians, as the word is now used loosely to refer to anyone taking his chief source of religious inspiration from the life or teachings of Jesus
You seemed to be saying that early deists were not self-identifying (that the label was applied by Christians) and that they simply rejected rigid doctrine structures while still agreeing with the basic Christian doctrine.

I'd always understood Deism to be a self-identification that explicitly rejected Christianity and all other revealed religions as entirely man-made institutions.

If the Christians were falsely calling less orthodox Christians deists, I don't think that's very informative as to what deism actually means. Some Christians have used the terms atheist and pagan interchangeably, though that doesn't tell us much about atheists or pagans.

quote:
And about those who call themselves Deists today I know nothing at all
I think this explains some of the confusion. Most of my knowledge of deism comes from modern deists, though they do like to talk about the deism of some of the founding fathers, which sounds very much like the modern version. I suppose there could be a little projection going on too. [Smile]
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DonaldD
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Some wikistory on Deism
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seekingprometheus
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Going back to the persecution/discrimination against atheists...

Part of the problem here has to do with the a subtle question of what is meant by the term atheism/atheist.

Do we mean something which is actively opposed to "theism," or do we mean something which simply refuses to acknowledge the validity of "theism." Is the atheist working against theism or simply refusing to work for theism?

It's a subtle distinction, and I think that in reality this line is almost always blurred, but I think that it's an important distinction.

Another problem has to do with our definition of "theism." Does theism refer to anything relating to the abstract concept of "God," or does it refer to articulated systems of thought regarding "God?"

For me, "theism/atheism" in modern western usage usually seems concerned with the existence of an anthropocentric deity. Thus, it seems that within the typical scope of these terms, schools of thought such as upanishadic hinduism or certain strands of buddhism can be thought of as simultaneously atheistic and pantheistic.

I'm an atheist in the sense that I do not acknowledge the existence or reality of an anthropocentric deity (this specialized distinction is necessary for me to countenance the label, since my personal philosophy is also characterized by something similar to pantheism). I would not assert the impossibility of an anthropocentric deity, but I would assert that such a postulation has no more significant warrant than does the postulation of any other imagined entity (no more valid warrant than flying spaghetti monsters, for example).

I wonder how many people would be amenable to this definition of atheist: "One who does not acknowledge the existence or reality of an anthropocentric deity."

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MattP
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quote:
Do we mean something which is actively opposed to "theism," or do we mean something which simply refuses to acknowledge the validity of "theism." Is the atheist working against theism or simply refusing to work for theism?

It's a subtle distinction, and I think that in reality this line is almost always blurred, but I think that it's an important distinction.

I don't think the line is any more blurred than if you were to swap the terms "theist" and "atheist" above. There evangelical as well as passive people in both groups.

quote:
I wonder how many people would be amenable to this definition of atheist: "One who does not acknowledge the existence or reality of an anthropocentric deity."
I think the "anthropocentric deity" portion is too limiting. Atheists do not acknowledge the existence of any supernatural entity. The only "flavors" of atheism that I recognize are those that state that there is no god and those that state that they don't believe in any god. Perhaps the evangelicals are more likely to be in the first group. I couldn't really say.

If your personal philosophy includes elements of pantheism, then you are more accurately described as a pantheist than an atheist. If pantheist doesn't quite match your personal philosophy, then you're probably just a "none of the above" the same way so many of us are independent instead of republican, democrat, or libertarian.

[ February 25, 2007, 11:59 PM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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seekingprometheus
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quote:
I think the "anthropocentric deity" portion is too limiting.
It certainly is limiting.
quote:
Atheists do not acknowledge the existence of any supernatural entity.
Hmmm. I think that the concept of supernaturalism is highly relevant, but I don't think that supernaturalism is necessarily more relevant than anthropocentrism. I think that both represent practical connotations to the words "theism" and "atheism."

In other words: surely there are theists who believe in a God who is naturalistic, and atheists who believe in supernatural phenomena. The terms don't seem to necessarily qualify supernaturalism any more than they necessarily qualify anthropocentrism.

But I think that both belief regarding the supernatural and the anthropocentric characteristics of a hypothetical god-entity are highly relevant to the way we use the terms.

As for my personal philosophy, I would surely personally claim that I belong in the "none of the above" category. But I know from personal experience that there are many individuals who think that the label "atheist" applies.

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seekingprometheus
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By the way Matt, I also personally reject supernaturalism--but that's another long discussion over what "supernaturalism" means.
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seekingprometheus
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Oh, and I ought to say that I kind of agree with this statement:
quote:
I don't think the line is any more blurred than if you were to swap the terms "theist" and "atheist" above.
I'll get more into the reason I only kind of agree with this statement after we hear some theists opine on my qualified definition of atheism, but as a preview, it has to do with who is positing a locus of moral authority.
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KnightEnder
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I'd like to join the conversation if you could speak English and come down out of the stratoshphere.

KE

[ February 26, 2007, 02:34 AM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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seekingprometheus
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Sorry KE. [Smile]

Here's a loose translation of what I'm saying:
quote:
Do we mean something which is actively opposed to "theism," or do we mean something which simply refuses to acknowledge the validity of "theism." Is the atheist working against theism or simply refusing to work for theism?
There's a difference between being saying "I believe that God does not exist" and saying "I don't believe that God does exist." Which one is atheism?
quote:
Another problem has to do with our definition of "theism." Does theism refer to anything relating to the abstract concept of "God," or does it refer to articulated systems of thought regarding "God?"
What do we mean when we say theism? Do we mean anything that uses the idea of "God"--such as someone who says that "God is love, and love is God," or are we talking about comprehensive systems that define the relationship between a specific idea of God and human beings.
quote:
For me, "theism/atheism" in modern western usage usually seems concerned with the existence of an anthropocentric deity.
It seems to me that these terms are usually used in the context of a specific type of ideas about what is meant by the word "God." The "God" referred to seems to be an entity that has a special relationship with human beings, a being that is especially concerned with human activity and morality.

In other words--it seems to me that in the way atheism/theism is generally used, an impersonal force (or system of forces), impartial to human activitiy, experience and morality would not be considered "God."

I think that theism/atheism are usually used to refer to belief/disbelief in an anthropocentric being--an entity who regards human beings as having a central or special meaning. (Remember that this is a loose translation--but this is the basic idea of anthropocentrism--that human beings are somehow central or special).

Thus someone who claimed that God was gravitational or electromagnetic force would not be a theist as the term is traditionally used.

[ February 26, 2007, 03:30 AM: Message edited by: seekingprometheus ]

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seekingprometheus
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Most of the rest of the bombast is just me quibbling with Matt over whether anthropocentrism or supernaturalism is more relevant. The way we usually use the terms, is it more important for "theism" that "God" be an entity especially concerned with human beings/values/experience, or an entity with the ability to defy natural laws?

Let me know if this wasn't helpful, or if something else needs further translation.

(By the way, I don't use heady terminology just to be an ass****. I feel that the proper terms convey meaning more accurately. The ideas lose important nuances in translation.)

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The Drake
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I always thought that theism was about having creator(s).

I would say, Simply, that atheism is believing that humanity is at the top of the intellectual food chain.

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