Jesus and Whatnot

Got into a .. discussion on irc today. It went much like this:

Friend: Dude, I read your journal, hahaha, where you said that religious people were crazy, hahahaha, I’d be offended if I thought you were serious.

JSR: I was serious.

Friend: hahahha lollerskates

JSR: No, really.

Friend: 😦

…and it kinda went downhill from there. In fact, it got into one of those “atheism is as much a belief system as theism so you’re just like us” things. More craziness, basically. I’m not like you. Science makes sense. And actually delivers.

I must admit, I do feel kinda bad for my crazy religious friends when I say stuff like this, but I gotta call it as I see it. I presumed for a while that Hamymonkey at least wasn’t talking to me because of my take on things, but she commented on my birthday so there’s that xtian forgiveness at least. 🙂

I felt I should at least post a fairly definitive outline of my philosophical standpoints on deistic ontology before I chuck it all in and go back to vastly more important stuff like How Well Annette And I Are Levelling Our WoW Druids, The Kids These Days, and Bacon.

First of all, please, enough of this “Atheism is just like, the flip side of the coin from theism, dude, you’re not so great.” or “Huh, like, science is just a belief system, same as The Baby Jesus, so like, nya” or “HURF DURF HURRICANE ONLY KILLED TWO OF MAH KIDS, T’OTHER FIVE LIVED PRAISE JEEEEEESUS MLAH FLAH”… wait, I’m getting nasty again, must stop that. Anyway. Enough of that. It’s a bollocks argument. Don’t make it. You’re just embarassing yourself.

Atheism, if nothing else, recognises that there are two routes down which humans can go to increase their knowledge of the universe.

The FIRST is through faith and religion. By definition, religions have at their core miracles or unsolvable mysteries that simply cannot be understood or proven by rational, scientific means. If you believe in Jesus of Nazareth as your lord and saviour then you believe in the sacfifice of Christ and his resurrection. You don’t believe in these things because they’ve been carefully documented in Roman recods, it’s possible within our current understanding of physical and biological laws, there’s loads of evidence, it’s experimentally repeatable, etc. No, indeed, you BELIEVE in this stuff with FAITH. And faith by definition exists outside of reason and the scientific method. This is why I stopped arguing with religious people at every turn. You can’t convince them with rational arguments. Their entire belief structure when it comes to God exists outside of rationality.

The SECOND is through reason. Reason is based not on faith, but on data which is accumulated and which can be verified. Rational beliefs are deductive or inductive mental analysis on gathered data. The really important bit (and this is key to that whole “scientific method” thing, also) is that any rational person is open to having their beliefs falsified in the face of convincing arguments or information. Any “belief” is able to be altered or cast aside.

So, in the face of this, please don’t fucking well call atheism “a belief system”, kthx? Atheists don’t believe in Jehova, Father Xmas, Zeus, the FSM, Xenu, the Tooth Fairy, or Mighty Thor because there’s simply not enough proof that they exist.

I’ll never convince a crazy person that God doesn’t watch them masturbate, or that they’re not really Napoleon, or whatever other faith-based unprovable thing they think is true, is not true. And they’ll never convince me that I’m going straight to hell unlesss I _just accept Jesus into my heart without pointing out all the stupid contradictory or downright assholey things in the bible_.

Faith vs Reason. Not two sides of the same coin, but totally different cognitive systems, and totally incompatible with each other.

47 thoughts on “Jesus and Whatnot

  1. If you have to hide what you really think from your friends because your thoughts make them uneasy, then there’re real problems with genuineness. Just like in those regimes where religious people have to pretend not to believe in their religion. I don’t think there’s anything very good to be gained from faking it.

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    1. Sadly we don’t live in an open society.

      I think NZ is a pretty decent place, probably one of the more tolerant in the world, and my workplace better than most.

      But I’m 80% sure that if I ever revealed I was a strong atheist at work, I’d damage my chances of promotion in the future, and wouldn’t ever be trusted on “real” projects.

      Sometime I wish I was as confident or as brave as someone like Dawkins, but it’s hard.

      – MugginsM

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      1. OK, well at work there’s a rationale for maintaining some kind of professional veneer in any case, but amongst your friends is where you should be able to relax and be yourself. If your friends make that too difficult for you, then I suggest perhaps you’ve picked the wrong friends.

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    1. Oh bollocks. That’s a belief system that _uses_ science. Big difference.

      They were not scientists who went… “Hrmm science shows we are superior” they were people who believed they were superior who looked for a reason they were and found a “reason” via a perversion of poorly understood (by them) science.

      It’s the same as the creationists who are using “science” to prove that the world is only 6000 years old. Science has not become a belief system for them. They have perverted science to their belief system. Totally different.

      The whole point of science is to observe the observable facts and then form hypothesis that would fit the current facts. Experiment and observe. If your further observations do not fit your hypothesis, alter it to fit better or discard it.

      They are taking a hypothesis and looking for specific observations to fit it. Thusly it’s no longer science.

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  2. Atheists don’t believe in Jehova, Father Xmas, Zeus, the FSM, Xenu, the Tooth Fairy, or Mighty Thor because there’s simply not enough proof that they exist.

    No, they believe in Strings.

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    1. Some _scientists_ believe in strings. But not all Atheists. And certainly not all scientists. String theory has been in the news a lot lately because it’s imagination catching but there are still quite a few other GUT theories being studied and String theory isn’t always the most popular one in the community.

      Also you might be interested to note that the two scientists at the forefront of string theory are in fact Practising Jews. So it is in fact _religious_ people who believe in strings. KTHXBYE

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      1. Ooh, ah got a bite. 8) And here I’d hoped people would understand subtlety.

        The point here is that ‘science’ is:
        a) Not mutually exclusive with religion.
        b) Not generally understood by the people who push it.
        c) Not completely understood by *anybody*.
        d) Quite happy to take a theory on faith until it is disproven.

        Science excels at explaining ‘how’ – religion (when not in the hands of nutbars) tends to focus on ‘why’. Both run into questions that cannot be answered with currently available information – and take it on faith that there is a reasonable answer.

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      2. It’s not exactly a “bite” since I don’t know you and as such have no idea if your serious or not and as such have to take what you say as your actual thoughts until I know otherwise.

        I would like to reply.

        a) You cannot hold two discordant thought systems at the same time. If you can… ermmm interesting.

        b) I would disagree with you there and say it’s generally not understood by the people who dismiss it. See the interview with Ted Haggard and Richard Dawkins on evolution in the documentary “The God Delusion” Ted dismisses the possibility that life could have evolved “by luck” which shows a complete misunderstanding of the process of Natural selection. He dismisses the theory as rubbish because the way he understands it _is_ rubbish. He just understands it wrong. (I will add that the way Dawkins handled this was idiotic and like a petulant child but *shrug* it’s Dawkins)

        c) Ermm what do you base that comment on. Sure nobody understands _all_ science. There is simply too much information for anyone to know it all. But the _framework_ can be easily understood.. that’s what makes it sp powerful. Anyone can grasp the framework and base principles and discover/workout everything else for themselves with time and effort.

        d) Noooo. That is totally not true. They are happy to _entertain_ a theory until it is (dis)proven. A scientist will say “this is how I _think_ this works” but if you asked that scientist “Are you 100% certain this is the explanation for this phenomenon they will reply “of course not I don’t have the proof yet”. A religious person asked the same question about god will say “of course I am, I just _know_ it’s true… in my bones and stuff”

        That’s the kicker… the openness to say “hey, this is how I thought this part of the world worked… but I was wrong. so I’ll modify my theory or chuck it out.”

        Dawkins gives a great example of this in one of his books of a scientist who had worked for 20 years on cell biology under the belief that that golgi bodies in cells did not exist as there wasn’t enough evidence for them. He went to a lecture where a young “whipper snapper” of a scientist presented pretty much rock solid evidence of it’s existence and the older scientist walked up to him afterwards and said “thank you for the lecture I have been wrong for 20 years!” Show me a religious person this willing to give up their lifes beliefs and I will be amazed.

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      3. a) Accepted. I, however, see no discord between the two systems. In particular, just because observed reality appears to make sense, doesn’t automatically preclude it being a subset of reality.

        b) You misunderstand me – my assertion is that many of the people who insist that Science is the one true way, have an imperfect grasp of many aspects of science.

        c) The point here is that everybody has to take it on faith that somebody, somewhere, understands the bits of science they don’t. And weren’t fudging it.

        d) Again, you’re limiting yourself to a stereotypical view of religion. Quite a few people realise that, even if you consider the core religion to be absolute truth, there are still many questions of interpretation that remain.

        This also applies to your anecdote – what the scientist gave up was not his core belief, but merely a personal deduction that followed. Important, possibly – but core, no.

        Believing that others aren’t as smart as you are is an easy mistake to make; I run into it constantly in myself when studying bits of medieval history. If you judge based on the visible dregs of a population, you’ll get a skewed result – and you end up just as arrogant as the fundamentalist idiots. Be very, very careful before you insist that others’ beliefs are invalid, just because they don’t agree with yours.
        [Ironically, the one thing that gets me ansy is people who conflict with my belief that beliefs are allowed to conflict. 8) ]

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      4. a) True.. but you have to act as if it _were_ reality. We could all be living in a simulation of a real world in some giant matrix like game somewhere. And when we die we simply wake up in an amazing futuristic world and insert another 50c for another life. But living your life as if this were true would be dangerous. i.e you would possibly take risks or do things that are not safe as a result. Note my example sounds very much like the religious heaven story. Which is also a dangerous belief. Because it allows people to justify doing things that otherwise sane people would not do i.e blow themselves up, because hey… they get to live on in heaven right?

        b) I don’t agree that that is true since most people I know who hold science as their core method for understanding the world usually do grasp it’s tenants pretty well. I suspect it’s the vocal few who don’t who are _really_ loud and idiotic who ruin it for the rest of us.. much like fundies do for religion.

        c) But given that these people are trying to work within the same framework as you you can usually safely make that assumption and as stated before.. you can always test it yourself if you’re not sure and really care that much. This is not an option in religion.

        d) See a)

        “Believing that others aren’t as smart as you are is an easy mistake to make; I run into it constantly in myself when studying bits of medieval history. If you judge based on the visible dregs of a population, you’ll get a skewed result”

        I’m going to make myself pretty unpopular here by stating a truism. If you are a university educated person… generally you _are_ smarter than most others. If you have a Ph.D you’re smarter than 96% of the population.

        In NZ 18% of the population have a tertiary degree based on 2005 values. A higher degree (masters or Ph.D) is 3.7%

        I am going to submit that assuming others aren’t as smart as you… is unfortunately… all too often the correct assumption.

        The reason many people don’t understand the scientific method is that only 18% of the population has progressed far enough in eduction to be exposed to it properly and that’s assuming _all_ of that 18% took science degrees, which is also wrong. (It’s actually about 1/5th) So the percentage of the population qualified to debate about science as a valid way of looking at the world = pretty fucking small.

        It’s not that the rest of the population is stupid. Just not educated or in a position to debate the validity of the scientific method. Religion however is something anyone can have a _belief_ in.

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      5. a) That’s a conscious choice that underlies science; religion does not subscribe to it. Whether it is more dangerous or beneficial is a tricky question, but somewhat beside the point.

        c) Accepted, except in practice. 8)

        If only 18% of the population has spent enough mental energy on the subject to qualify for discussing science validly, why would 100% of people have a sufficient grounding to discuss religion?

        Religion however is something anyone can have a _belief_ in.

        So is science – even if you don’t understand it, you can still believe in it. That’s where the other 82% of people end up. 8)

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      6. “If only 18% of the population has spent enough mental energy on the subject to qualify for discussing science validly, why would 100% of people have a sufficient grounding to discuss religion?”

        That’s a very good question that I personally haven’t found the answer for either. I think that most of the people who believe in religion actually _haven’t_ spent the mental energy justifying it to themselves and just believe “because it’s easy” and “everyone else does” or “it’s a good community”. Hell there are Anglican priests who admit they believe in the idea of religion if not the specifics.

        The number of born agains I have had discussions with who just aren’t aware of some of the parts of their own holy book because it hasn’t been read to them by their minister and they are too lazy to read the damn book themselves is staggering.

        “So is science – even if you don’t understand it, you can still believe in it.”

        The difference is that science generally actively discourages this and encourages people to do their own research and learn about it. When asking a good scientist why something is “so” I would be surprised if you would get the answer “because the text book says so”

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  3. Silly strings.

    To me the main thing that makes ‘science’ not a belief system is that a science-based outlook can say, “And see this bit? We can’t explain that.” Not, “Um… a wizard did it!”

    But we live in a relatively sane country, where less than half the population are Christians, where by next census, Atheists will be the majority. Meanwhile, elsewhere…

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  4. I guess the big question that I find myself asking when talking with people of religion, or as I like to call them religos, to rhyme with cherrios, is why do they believe when there is no sensible reason to.

    How can they believe in any religion when each one has some things that you have to take on as part of the package that are distasteful.

    For example, you might like some of the things but then you have to hate homosexuals even though before you took on the religion you believed strongly in gay lib.

    I also find religious dogma frustrating as it makes no sense in a modern day New Zealand setting, why would you strictly adhere to rules that were laid down because the people who did so lived in a desert, such as the don’t mix meat and dairy etc.

    I guess also I found when I hung out with religos there were just so many questions you weren’t supposed to ask, so much not mentioning the war it was quite stiffling.

    And all the time I found the the language used was like an eternal infomercial, and I kept thinking who are you trying to convince, I mean surely once I have bought the magic spatula of christ you can stop telling me how great it is and how I should not even consider using any other kind, hey I bought the bloody thing can’t we get past how great it is and cook some freaking eggs.

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  5. i think if you feel that strongly about this, you’re as bad as the other side of the fence. surely you can see that the word/concept/thing-that-is atheism is the exact and relative opposite to -theism?!? if you said you were a crane operator, i could say “yes, you have absolutely nothing to do with these bastards bashing each other with ‘what they believe in'”. (yes, believe)

    maybe label yourself something else…

    case 1: i present you a book of stories about a man name jesus who died and came back to life, do you believe? yes.

    case 2: i present you years of documented and thoroughly researched scientific data arguing the world is round, do you believe? yes.

    dont kid yourself- just cos the bollocks some ppl choose to invest in, is different from yours, doesn’t mean the structure on which you preach YOUR gospel isn’t a belief system.

    you’re not short. you’re vertically challenged. gimme a break 😛

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    1. But isn’t the Christian position that Proof Denies Faith? Theist religion requires a leap of faith, to believe in something that cannot be proved. You can’t ‘believe’ in something that has been proved, it just IS. I don’t ‘believe’ the world is round. I don’t ‘believe’ in oxygen. I do ‘believe’ in my children’s potential, because it hasn’t been proven. A scientific outlook on the world, of which atheism is just a part, is based on proof, therefore denies faith, and is not in fact the same kind of system as belief, but an entirely different one.

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      1. proof denies faith

        kinda gives the impression these people consistently stay away from things that are, or can be proven.

        i’m not a theology expert by any stretch of the imagination, but i think the christian position is that when, in this life/reality/world, we come to a point where we cannot explain or prove something- we have faith. whereas at that point, scientists wouldn’t go further without proof.

        is not in fact the same kind of system as belief … see, now we’re stretching “is” or “is not” to “same kind of”, which is exactly my point from before. both sides are arguing the quantity of the thing by the quality.

        e.g.
        2 containers filled to the top- 1 with lego, the other with mums old recipe chutney. granted lego and chutney are 2 completely different things, i wouldn’t build with chutney, and you wouldn’t eat lego (debatable :D) – they’re both still held in containers right?!

        belief system = container
        chutney = religion
        lego = atheism

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    2. “surely you can see that the word/concept/thing-that-is atheism is the exact and relative opposite to -theism?!?”

      Except that the very word belies what you just said.. .It’s not Anti-theism (tho there are a few people like that.) It’s A-theism. Which means the _lack_ of belief. Not the opposite of belief.

      Also your case examples are flawed beyond belief.

      In case 2 I can go and actually perform these experiments myself and verify the results with my two little hands and puny human brain. And indeed most of that I believe strongly to be true I _did_ test in various labs in university. So It’s not a case of believing that sodium + water = fun. I _know_ it does. (unless you want to get into “can we trust what our senses are feeding us” which is a whole _other_ philosophical debate.)

      Case 1 you can prove… ermmmm well nothing. I can’t go back in time and see if it happened. I have been presented no evidence that it happened other than hearsay in a book which again I cannot verify.

      One of these things is reasonable to believe in.. the other is not.

      And if we’re posting youtube links… lets try applying rationality to religion and seeing what we get shall we?

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      1. surely…

        you can stand back far enough away, objectively from the specific labels of “science” and “religion” to see what i’m saying…

        i think in your enthusiasm to bulldoze the simple model i was displaying, you’ve missed my point altogether.

        case 1 vs case 2 – let’s simplify it even further, cos you’re obviously an intellectual…

        my model: data + acceptance = system of belief.

        the “quality” of the data, or “level” of acceptance, in my model, are irrelevant.

        one group was presented stories & words. they chose to accept that.

        group two was given the concept that “there is no god, unless you can prove it”. they chose to accept that.

        how they test their data, or choose to accept WHATEVER they believe in, is their own system.

        my examples aren’t flawed. your understanding of it is.

        you’re in the pitt with the religous lot slugging it out, and i’m sitting on a ledge far about the pitt saying “you idiots are in a pitt”.

        One of these things is reasonable to believe in.. the other is not… see, i dont like that way of thinking.

        whats “reasonable” for one person, isn’t always “reasonable” for the next….the other is not how far would you go to impose that? i’m sure crusades have been launched for less.

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      2. Re: surely…

        “whats “reasonable” for one person, isn’t always “reasonable” for the next….the other is not how far would you go to impose that? i’m sure crusades have been launched for less.”

        Heyyyy there tiger.. I said “reasonable” not “correct”. I don’t care if they want to believe in the God of Abraham or the FSM. However they _do_ care what I believe in… and actively want to change my mind.

        I’d _like_ to change theirs, but that’s because I feel sorry for them. Not because I think they are committing double + ungood think and commiting their souls to an eternal hell.

        I’m not going to reply to the rest of your post because there is such a misunderstanding of what I’m saying there and the underlying reasoning that I cannot reply to it.

        Crusades are the realm of the religious. Not the Atheist. They _know_ I’m wrong and need to save me from myself. I’m quite happy to let them waste their lives but I’m also quite within my right to stand to the side and point and laugh.

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      3. Re: surely…

        yea, i agree.
        i wish both sides would just live their own lives and not interfere with the other. i’m not delusional, and i know my side (christians) are ridiculously guilty of this 🙂

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    3. Wow. Did you even read what I wrote in the initial posting? I just spent some time and words explaining that we use totally different epistemological systems when we say “believe”, and your reply basically ignores that completly. Nice.

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      1. you did not! 😛

        i’d know if you said “epistemological” implicitly in your initial post cos i had to go and look it up!

        i know what you’re saying…

        So, in the face of this, please don’t fucking well call atheism “a belief system”, kthx?

        thats what i’m arguing- is it/is it not a belief system. i think it is…with a kthx? at the end too.

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  6. I wasn’t not talking to you – every time I wanted to comment on one of your posts someone else seemed to say pretty much what I wanted to, so I carried on my way 🙂

    I see you on Friday for tea!

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  7. In most cases, I think the problem is that people are mistaken in what science actually consists of. There is a set (dunno if I’d call it a system) of beliefs that could be labelled “scientific beliefs”, i.e. those beliefs that were arrived at by application of the scientific method. However, science is not this set of beliefs; it’s the method by which those beliefs are obtained. The majority of people claiming that science is “just another belief system” are mistakenly thinking that science consists of “the set of scientific beliefs”, when that is in fact just the output of science.

    (And even then there’s the fact this set differs from religious beliefs in several important ways, mainly that any of its beliefs are subject to revision or ditching altogether.)

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  8. I hate that comparison too. Science isn’t a belief it’s a method of figuring stuff out. Science will always leave you on shakey ground because, if you’re doing it properly, you have to accept the possibility that one day you will discover that something you have “known” all your life will be proven to be false.

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  9. Just because I’m curious… can we equate science (as a method of figuring Big Important Shit like “If I put lipstick on a monkey, will I save a supermodel?” out) with religion (as a method of just plain sucking up any hogwash some Dead White Guy scribbled out between fermented-goat-milk benders and child molestation) in that they are both ways people tackle the world around them? Neither are “beliefs” they are tools with which ideas, beliefs, faiths, whatever you want to call ’em are created. A religious perspective hunts out and crowns a Big Beard in the Sky, the science approach looks at red shifts and dinosaucers and DNA and meerkats and wonders what the hell makes them tick (yes, meerkats tick. They’re clockwork, okay?). One side picks a God to fear and puts on hair shirts, the other side goes “what’s this God malarkey?” and creates an egg that boils itself.

    Actually, I’m not sure why theists consider atheists must be science-ninjas. I thought the split was in one corner one has Theists, high on their own supply and convinced that some version of the Great Santa in the Sky doesn’t like them when they wash their crotches too long, and in the other corner you have Everything Frekin’ Else, indluding mut not limited to science fans.

    Ah, sod it. Let’s just kill all the Christians, it’ll get ’em closer to their god quicker and make ’em all eternally grateful. Bring on the miserachords and make with the mercy killing!

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      1. Well, apparently we never had any warfare prior to agriculture. (No field/flock of goats to steal, no field/flock of goats to protect from theft)

        I for one don’t see people asking to go back to hunter-gatherer lifestyles because that evil farming encourages war.

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      2. Your approaching the problem from the flawed standpoint that without religion there can be no ethics or law. This is “just plain wrong” ™.

        While I’ll concede that when we were a simpler race having a set of rules and a “daddy” to spank us if we were naughty was probably needed we have (I like to think) advanced far enough as a people that we can now self regulate our behaviour and come up with laws and all agree on certain base right and wrongs without the need of a 2000 year old book.

        Sure many current laws are based on that book.. but that’s because a lot of those ethics are ones that are as mentioned before agreed on by most of us because we have evolved to benefit from them. What we don’t need are all the crap out of date ones that seem to drag down with the sensible ones.

        i.e

        it is sensible to not allow people to kill other people.
        it is sensible that taking other peoples possessions is not nice
        it is sensible that interacting with people in un-welcome ways (rape, molestation etc) is not nice.

        It is _not_ sensible that an act between consenting adults of any kind should be “against the rules” ™. (Homosexuality, sodomy, blowjobs, looking at porn, dancing, singing and drinking caffine)

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      3. “Your approaching the problem from the flawed standpoint that without religion there can be no ethics or law.”

        No, I’m not. I just said that farming encourages war, which it does.

        There were ethics and laws in Communist Russia, so factually atheist nations can have ethics and laws. I assume you have ethics and laws to personally live by, and you are an atheist.

        In no way, shape or form do I think that “without religion there can be no ethics or law.”

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