A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Just a few quips about a list put together by an atheist site on the differences between religious folks and atheists. Admittedly I'm coming at this from a liberal religious perspective.

List A - Religious (faithful, believers etc..)

Believes we are being watched by a supernatural entity. Might pray to a supernatural entity
I don't believe God "watches" or is supernatural (outside of nature?) Rather I'd hold that God is whatever is at work that transforms existence for the better.

Believes there is a life after this one. I don't see how my individual consciousness lives on after death. But to ask about the long term significance of one's existence, beyond one's life's span makes sense. Might even make an impact on how we think of our life here and now.

Seeks wisdom in an old text. Yep.

Believes a supernatural entity intervenes in human affairs. Change this to God is active in human (and non human affairs), sure. Intervene suggests that this is an extraordinary occurrence. But the powers that sustain life are active, more often, in the ordinary.

Seeks to indoctrinate children with supernatural ideas. To the degree that we impart any knowledge, values, education, we're shaping the lives of kids. There's no away around that. Indoctrination or ignorance of religion will not help them to make informed choices in the future.

Demands special privileges based on faith. Constantly tries to interfere in the lives of others. This should be opposed strenuously.

Believes humans have a special place in the natural order. Exaggerated self importance of humans is an idolatry of the self. But to ignore what makes us uniquely human is no less a problem.

Tries to live by rules based on the interpretation of an ancient text. Yes and other sources too, including current ones. But for someone who believes we should seek wisdom from a range of sources, this author seems to have something against ancient texts.

Engages in superstitious acts such as adopting special gestures or clothing. To set aside time through rites and practices as sacred, that is so basic that many groups beyond religions do this as well.

Tends to form large, wealthy, self serving religious groups. Not really. I mean every group I suppose is "self serving" including atheist ones. But many are not wealthy by any standard, sometimes not large, and at their best they provide a context to carry on/model important ideals.

List B - Universal Values

Values charity and kindness, honesty and loyalty. personal responsibility and mutual respect for others. Has regard and respect for the family. Respects the environment. Tries to be compassionate and forgiving.
Awesome values. Now the specifics are tricky.

Respect for family in China is different than the US. Sometimes for good and for ill. What responsibilities do we have to each other? The ancient Greek ideas are quite different than the New Testament. The universal character of these ideas crack when you look at details.

Tries to promote universal justice. Not sure at all what this means? In fact the argument between Obama and McCain is about distributive justice. Obama hearkens closer to the classical ideal, McCain to something that developed with capitalism in the last few centuries.

List C - Rationalist (atheist, agnostic etc..)

Has a world view based on evidence. Changes opinions and beliefs based on changing evidence
A good idea. Of course what counts for evidence is not always self evident but we want to ought to ground our faith in the best of what we can know.

Seeks wisdom from many sources. Great idea. I wonder if this includes ancient texts?

Believes humans are not special in the natural order. Well we do have the capacity to transcend ourselves (that is to imagine the future, ideals, something beyond the immediacy of the situation). It's a neat trick. Is it valued by "rationalists" in this account?

Tries to live by rules based on reason and evidence. Values reliable, repeatable evidence over hearsay. I think there's an ahistorical use of the word reason here. What counts as reasonable varies depending on the subject matter, the context, etc.

"Repeatable" suggests that the scientific method is what we ought to use. But I agree with David Hume that while science can inform our judgements, gives us tools to implement them, it doesn't provide the "ought", doesn't coerce us on what to value

Believes this is the only life we have. See my response in the religious section. Think Nietzsche's Eternal Recurrence. I responded to this post to suggest that cutting sharp lines between religion and atheism more likely obscures than illuminates what's going on.


At 12:55 AM , Blogger Pseudonym said...

I cringe internally every time I see the word "supernatural". "Supernatural" as opposed to what, exactly?

Had you asked St Paul about the "supernatural", he probably would have stared at you blankly. Gods, demons, healings and so on were, to people of his time and place, just part of the cosmology. People who healed the sick were, to him, pretty much like people who were good administrators (see 1 Cor 12-14 for details).

We understand differently about a lot of things today than he did, but still, like him, I have to ask: What is this "supernatural" of which you speak?

At 5:25 AM , Anonymous Tim said...

An excellent response. Thank you for representing the voice of sensibility. :)

Is saying "we are humans" to regard us as special or not-special in the natural order? Maybe the viewpoint of speciality is overcooked, just like the ancient texts?

At 10:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please consider posting this video and passing it along, it’s amazing. It’s great at showing the distinction between MaCain and Obama in regards to the abortion issue. Please pass this along to everyone you know. We have to get McCain elected… E


“Abortion is advocated only by persons who have themselves been born.”
Ronald Reagan

At 3:53 PM , Blogger M. Tate said...

Wow, those comments are quite frankly silly. Their comparisons should be Christianity vs Atheism. As a Buddhist I fall don't fall into either of those categories.

I find it funny that atheists have to constantly make lists and charts about how they are superior to those people who believe in a god.

At 9:42 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmm... why am i born? why am i born in this era ? why am i a boy? not a girl? why am i tan? not black ? why am i dark? not white? why do i have two eyes? why do i have one mouth? why do i have two ears? did i ask for them? no? but? i have got them? how? i have a doubt? did my mother give them to me? no... then ...did my father give it to me? no.... then who gave all those things to me.... i have a doubt? i'm sure most of the people living out there also would have had the same doubt? oh no? who had given all those to me without asking me? tell me?

find the answer at my blog

At 12:51 PM , Blogger priya said...


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At 11:58 PM , Blogger billcompugeek said...

A New Edict:



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