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Posts posted by wellnamed

  1. 3 hours ago, nontheistpilgrim said:

    Now to my point. This morning they sang ‘How blest are they, and only they, who in his truth confide'. Rubbish! This is a theologically middle of the road church. I would be very surprised if many of the congregation were thinking about what they were singing. But not for the first time I found myself thinking "scratch the surface of the average person in the pew and you will find a fundamentalist".


    This site appears to me to be meeting the needs of ex-fundamentalists.


    So my question is: do folks here agree that there is a fundamental fundamentalism underneath the surface of most Christians in the pews?


    I do think it's difficult for Christianity to escape its own exclusivism, reflected in the lyric you noticed. There's a lot of tradition to overturn to try to make Christianity into a pluralistic religion that can recognize other paths. "No one comes to the Father except through me" is pretty deeply baked in. So, to the extent that one of the fundamentals of fundamentalism (heh) is the belief that this is the only way I think your point is pretty valid. Attempts to make the religion more palatable in a modern, secular, pluralistic context have an uphill battle. It's a battle I eventually gave up on myself.


    That said, I think it's always worth keeping in mind that religions are something people (cultures, societies, ...) create, and not just once but they go on re-creating them. The weight of the tradition hangs over everything and exerts a force but it's not completely determinative. Some Christians definitely are more fundamentalist than others in meaningful ways. I think it's interesting that you noticed that more fundamentalist attitude in the music. I think sometimes even people with more liberal religious views hang on to traditional (read: more fundamentalist) music. There's some emotional attachment, and I think you're right that they may not even really notice the lyrics. How people relate to the symbols of their faith can seem a little weird from the outside.


    28 minutes ago, disillusioned said:

    I think fundamentalist Christianity is the only honest form of Christianity. It's a proposition which,  if truly believed and understood,  must be the most important thing in one's life.


    This is interesting. I think you're using fundamentalist here to refer to the seriousness of a person's engagement with their religion, i.e. whether they are "Sunday-morning only" or not. I tend to think of fundamentalism as less describing the intensity of religiosity and more describing something about the style of belief and practice, e.g. beliefs like creationism, strongly conservative views on sin and hell, and so on. So I agree that being a Sunday-morning-only Christian is inherently contradictory, but I wouldn't say that fundamentalism (as I understand it) is the only honest form of Christianity because I think people can honestly have less fundamentalistic attitudes and still be very serious about their religious convictions. That said, it does seem to me that it's also more likely for people who fit that description to eventually become ex-Christians because of the difficulty of reconciling those more open views both with the traditions of the religion and with the reality of how most Christians act. That's more or less my story.


    Basically, I don't think fundamentalism is the only honest version, but it might be the most stable version over time, especially if the trends toward secularization continue.

  2. 1 hour ago, webmdave said:

    Thank you for your consideration in this matter. 


    👍 I'll keep your post in mind.


    7 minutes ago, LogicalFallacy said:

    A problem with denouncing those on 'your side' is that the 'other side' will then say - ah ha, the left is eating itself... and vice versa for the right.



    Politics as team sport definitely has some pretty big downsides. I think it's pretty much always been that way in the US, at least in the history I'm familiar with, but two teams are more ideologically/culturally polarized than they used to be.

  3. 19 minutes ago, webmdave said:

    However, as this website exists for the singuar purpose of providing a safe harbor for those in the early stages of de-converting, your motive in tirelessly promoting your pet version of social truth -- here -- of all places -- is intriguing to me.


    Sorry, I didn't start this thread, I just wandered by and it was interesting enough to me to respond to. If you'd prefer that I not engage on these topics in this forum I'm happy to oblige. In all honesty there's very few places to go to find constructive and engaging debates on political issues with people you disagree with, so I tend to jump on opportunities wherever they present themselves.

  4. 21 hours ago, webmdave said:

    When enough people are united in parroting the same "poignant" message, then utopia will come.


    Not gonna happen.


    You don't have to have a utopian vision to believe that there are social problems or to take action in some limited way to try to address those problems. It might be true that you have to be a little too optimistic to devote much of your life to trying to create change on issues you care about, but I would suggest on the whole that our world is better because of people who are a little too optimistic.


    21 hours ago, webmdave said:

    Perhaps if individuals with strong beliefs simply act on their convictions by spending their time and resources relieving individual suffering instead of just preaching...


    Never mind. That won't happen either.  


    I disagree with this in at least three ways. First, you're simply wrong on the facts. Many people with strong beliefs absolutely spend their time and resources trying to help people directly, and you shouldn't dismiss those efforts out of hand.


    Secondly, you're wrong to believe that relieving suffering on a purely individual basis is the only useful way to address the kinds of issues people care about. I think you under-appreciate how institutions, laws, and even just common attitudes about various issues play a role in outcomes associated with them. If you care about poverty then you can and should do things like donating time and money to a food bank or soup kitchen, but there is also valuable work that people do to try to change institutional policies and laws to reduce poverty, because those laws and policies play an important part in structuring poverty. You may volunteer at a soup kitchen and also try to organize political action aimed at (for example) expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Child Tax Credit. You may try to persuade others to support policies that you think would reduce poverty and you may organize politically around candidates whose platforms address that issue. In many cases the only way to create lasting change is by changing institutions and laws. I think this should seem obvious: what else is politics about, or why should anyone care otherwise?


    I also think you're wrong to characterize activism as "just preaching". For one thing people do more than just talk, as I already noted, and not just on the left. Pro-life activists, for example, do not just preach at people that abortion is wrong, they engage in various actions intended to change laws, or to prevent abortion clinics from opening in their towns, and so on. Or, in the case of Evergreen, it's worth noting that the complaints people have are not that they are too preachy. It's that they are exercising institutional power in dubious ways. The Weinstein story is all about the contention surrounding a proposed "Day of Absence" policy for white students. Complaints about "de-platforming" are similarly not complaints about preachiness but about the exercise of power.


    Finally, I think you also underestimate  the importance of what you're calling "preaching", but which I'm understanding to mean exhortations aimed at others on the issues you care about. Addressing social problems invariably means also changing what people believe and how they feel about various issues, and democratic politics necessarily involves some element of persuasion. Clearly there's room for debate about how to best go about trying to change people's minds, and plenty of reasonable criticism that some activists' tendencies are less successful than they might be because of the way they present their views. But you seem to have the attitude that persuasion is suspect in and of itself, and I think that's wrong. I would even use this site as an example. The overarching goal of the site is to provide support for people in the process of deconversion (a goal I wholeheartedly support). However, I think that many/most of the participants here would also relate to a larger goal of making their society more accepting of the non-religious, and even increasing the number of the non-religious. There is lots of good material aimed at persuading people about the flaws in Christian dogma, the value of secular/scientific approaches to knowledge, and so on. There is a section aimed at debating and debunking Christian ideas. All of this is not in principle so very different from other forms of social activism aimed at persuasion, often called "consciousness raising". Fundamentally, change involves changing people's view of the world. Whether or not attempts to do so seem like "preaching" will often depend on whether or not you agree with the new view being promoted, but in any case I think such attempts are a pretty integral part of activism of any type, from the pro-life movement to anti-racist activism and even the mission of this site.

  5. I feel like college is also definitely the right place to experiment with being a little too radical. Well, for the students. Maybe less so for the professors :P


    2 hours ago, ag_NO_stic said:

    The unquestioning "oppression" narrative does not have much factual basis


    I'm not sure exactly what narrative you mean, so I'm not sure if I disagree or not. As an aside, I was quite struck by this article from David Brooks yesterday, revisiting Coates' Case for Reparations which is somehow now already 5 years old. If ever there has been a case for taking some of these narratives seriously I think Coates made it well in that piece, and I think Brooks brief explanation for how he came to appreciate it is very well stated. It occurs to me that the quasi-religious nature of some of Brooks' language might even be off-putting in this context, but I also think it's quite poignant.




    We’re a nation coming apart at the seams, a nation in which each tribe has its own narrative and the narratives are generally resentment narratives. The African-American experience is somehow at the core of this fragmentation — the original sin that hardens the heart, separates Americans from one another and serves as model and fuel for other injustices.

    The need now is to consolidate all the different narratives and make them reconciliation and possibility narratives, in which all feel known. That requires direct action, a concrete gesture of respect that makes possible the beginning of a new chapter in our common life.



  6. Seems to me that "cult" isn't really the best conceptual framework for extreme ideology qua ideology -- though cults can and often do have extreme ideologies. But, cults also involve more closely connected social groups. It's sort of like not everyone who holds some particular view about UFOs and aliens is a member of a UFO cult, but if people with those views form a community it may become a cult, particularly under the influence of specific leaders. So, it might be more or less reasonable to describe a particular community of people (e.g some at Evergreen) as demonstrating somewhat cult-like behavior. Clearly the ideological commitments of the group are relevant to that judgement either way. But there is also more to it than just ideology and it's not straightforward to extrapolate from particular instances like Evergreen to the conclusion that "SJW ideology" is "cult-like" in any particularly meaningful sense. There is no overarching group or leader in the "SJW ideology" who could always be right, and of course people on this side of political debates actually have plenty of internal disagreements.


    Part of the importance of specific groups is that the specific beliefs you mention (white guilt, heteronormativity, trans rights) are subject to all sorts of variations. I have fairly strong beliefs about the relevance and on-going importance of racism in American society and those beliefs shape my views on many issues. I have fairly well-established "SJW" ideas about the social construction of norms and hegemonic culture and how those phenomena manifest as something like "heteronormativity". I support trans rights and think that cultural changes to legitimize trans identities are desirable. But I don't feel any particular sense of "white guilt", I don't think I'm particularly inclined to be authoritarian, and I would not describe myself as afraid of anything in particular. My ideological commitments are not attached to the social behavior you're finding problematic, and in some large part that's because my social context is different. I don't participate in a group of people pushing towards more radical versions of those ideas. 


    Anyway, that's probably a bit academic, and I think more generally you're just asking whether some activists under the influence of "SJW ideology" are too radical, or lose perspective, or generally act badly. I think clearly the answer is yes and for those of us who are on the left and for whom social justice issues are important there are certainly occasions for reflection or debate about the limits of various ideas or movements. I'm pretty fine with that. I don't think Evergreen is particularly representative and I wouldn't want them to be. I also think part of keeping perspective also necessarily means recognizing that people on the right also use Evergreen or other examples rhetorically without being particularly concerned about how representative they are.

    • Like 1
  7. 41 minutes ago, LogicalFallacy said:

    Well they are actually working on the wall aren't they? And have been for some time? He just want's it to ramp up.


    Not really. There are sections of fencing, and there was expansion of it following a bill passed in 2006. I'm sure there's always maintenance. But I just meant there has not been any new expansion of wall as a result of the emergency declaration as of yet, and probably won't be for months even if the idea withstands court challenges. There may be some additional expansion from the money included in the funding package passed by Congress, I'm not sure about that.


    As far as effectiveness of walls, this paper is interesting (full text here)



    The border wall expansion we study was a result of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorized the construction of reinforced fencing in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Between 2007 and 2010, 548 miles of wall were constructed along the 1,954-mile U.S.-Mexico border, bringing the total fencing to 658 miles. Since unauthorized migrants typically cross the border by foot (Massey, Durand, and Malone (2003)), the extension of the wall altered the relative costs of migration across origin and destination pairs. By combining this geographic variation with a confidential version of the Matrícula Consular (Consular ID card) database that provides detailed information on the bilateral flows of (primarily unauthorized) Mexican migrants between 3,000 different regions in the United States and Mexico, we examine how the patterns of migration changed after the expansion of the border wall.



    We find that the border wall expansion caused a decline in migration flows: a 10% increase in the total travel time necessary to avoid the border wall resulted in a 1.4% reduction in bilateral migration flows. This result is robust to accounting for the response of border patrol enforcement, controlling for different types of border walls, and instrumenting the location of the wall expansion using geographic predictors of where the wall was built. At a construction cost of approximately $7 per person in the United States, we estimate that the border wall expansion harmed Mexican workers and high-skill U.S. workers, but benefited U.S. low-skill workers, who achieved gains equivalent to an increase in per capita income of $0.36.



    First, we consider experiments that “fill in” some of the gaps in the wall to understand if our small effects are driven by the fact that the wall only partially covers the U.S.-Mexico border. We find no evidence of such nonlinearities: filling in half of the remaining gaps on the border would reduce the number of Mexican migrants by 144,000 yet increase the economic benefit to only $0.58 per low-skill U.S. worker.



    Second, we consider an experiment that reduces the international trade costs between the United States and Mexico. We find that, like the border wall expansion, this reduction in trade costs also reduced the number of Mexican workers in the United States. For example, a trade policy that reduced the impact of distance on international trade flows one-quarter of the way toward the impact of distance on domestic trade flows would have reduced the number of Mexican workers residing in the United States by about 123,000. However, unlike the border wall expansion, reducing trade costs results in large economic benefits for both U.S. and Mexican workers. For example, a 25% reduction in the additional international cost of distance would would yield a benefit of equivalent to a $59 increase in income for each low-skill U.S. worker and even greater gains for low-skill Mexican workers and high-skill workers of both nationalities.


    The whole paper is worth reading. However, I'm fairly sure that the motivations behind support for the wall are not primarily economic to begin with. Economic arguments are mostly offered because arguments about preserving the white ethnic majority culture are considered taboo. There's a lot of data out there to support the idea that those kinds of motivations are more important. I've been reading a book called Whiteshift which presents a lot of evidence, not just for the US but talking about anti-immigration populist movements in general. The author has some views I don't agree with (he's further to the right than I am) but the book has a lot of useful history and survey data.

  8. The root cause is that a lot of our political institutions require a certain amount of good faith on the part of participants to work properly. Think of things like the filibuster, or congress just refusing to hold votes on judicial appointments. The President only has broad emergency powers because of an act of Congress, and that act basically presumes a certain amount of good faith, or at least a certain maximum threshold of partisanship since Congress can also overturn an emergency declaration if they can override a veto. But more polarization means all the cracks are more obvious in the institutional rules.


    On the other hand, I kind of doubt Trump's declaration accomplishes much besides giving him a way out of the shutdown, since I kind of doubt that it will ever lead to any real construction. I might be wrong about that though, it remains to be seen.

  9. 1 hour ago, Justus said:

    Of course, that doesn't mean that living matter couldn't have evolved out of non-living matter but it does mean that the odds that it did are the same that Jesus  could have spontaneously became living matter out of non-living matter after his death. 


    There are two important differences between these two propositions: The amount of time over which we are measuring the possibility of some outcome occurring and the difference in specificity between "living" and "non-living" as categories of matter and "alive" and "dead" as states of an individual.  But really there's close to being the same difference.


    So, the odds of abiogenesis taking place over some short period of time in some specific place (say 3 days in Jerusalem :P) is vanishingly small, but we have a lot more than 3 days and a much wider possible context, and the processes involved aren't expected to be at all similar to what one would imagine a resurrection would look like, because abiogenesis is not about changing the state of a pre-existing complex organism, it's about the possibility of slowly increasing complexity over a long period of time.



    • Like 3
  10. 3 hours ago, pantheory said:

    The abiogenisis theory that I think is more likely involves life forming off the Earth within large comets, or inside matter within interstellar clouds, the precursors of the sun.


    Just curious, what makes you think this is more likely? I'm mostly ignorant but just from basic chemistry it seems like you just need the opportunity for various elements (and eventually compounds) to come into contact under the right conditions, and it's not clear to me why those conditions should be more likely off-planet. I guess I could imagine certain chemical combinations needing conditions that might be easier to arrange within stars or nebulae or whatever, but is there evidence for that regarding the specific compounds needed for abiogenesis?

  11. 51 minutes ago, ThereAndBackAgain said:

    Actually this particular group is not really evangelism-oriented. William himself @Christforums identifies with Monergism, which apparently is close to Calvinism and according to Wikipedia is “the view within Christian theology which holds that God works through the Holy Spirit to bring about salvation of an individual through spiritual regeneration, regardless of the individual’s cooperation.”


    Fair enough. I saw monergism mentioned but didn't think hard enough about the implications :D

  12. I haven't had a chance to keep up but I appreciate the update. I'm curious how it goes. It's so uncommon to see anything resembling an actual discussion between people with vastly differing views that I think it should certainly be encouraged. I mean I'm sure that from their perspective the goal is evangelization and I have no interest in that goal, but dialogue and mutual understanding is a very good thing imo, to whatever extent it's possible.

    • Like 5
  13. Despite the fact that the N.T. proclaims that no one knows when, it's still clearly the case that the biblical texts contain this eschatological view of time, that there's a linear flow of events leading inexorably towards a conclusion. And I also think people intuitively grasp that it's a bit awkward to have that expectation sort of floating out there in space for thousands of years, when Jesus seemed to imply that it would be much shorter (e.g. Matthew 24:34). So I think that's important background that primes people to think in those terms. It's easy for people to think "the end must be soon" and so on. And then you add the fact that people are often attracted to secret knowledge, searching for patterns, and so on and it's not surprising that there's some subset of Christians that get obsessed with end-times prophecy. If Christianity didn't contain that background expectation then they'd probably just get obsessed with some other idea that allowed them to exercise those same tendencies, like people who become interested in bible codes, or things like that.

    • Like 2
  14. 2 hours ago, TheRedneckProfessor said:

    Logic dictates that there is probably truth in both perspectives


    nit: It's not logic that dictates that, it's experience :P


    I think your general point about the need to consider which explanations are more parsimonious (or abductively more likely) is good, and the recent conversations reminded me of this as well.

  15. Granted that apparently he was inviting people to debate, but their terms of service say:


    We do not "argue" with nor do we solicit the membership of people who espouse secular or cultic ideologies. We believe that our conversations are to be faith building and posts that advance heretical or apostate thinking will be immediately deleted and the poster permanently banned from the forum. This is a Christian community for people to explore the traditional theologies of Classical Protestantism. Those who would challenge the peace and harmony that we enjoy here as fellow believers are directed to another website.


    Seems like something they'd have to clarify before I barged in :P

  16. I sort of randomly stumbled upon this blog from Scientific American today (https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/how-wrong-should-you-be/) and part of it reminded me a bit of that explanation of healing, and the problem with ad hoc explanations:


    Here another answer comes from cognitive science, in a paper by Samuel Gershman of Harvard University titled “How to Never Be Wrong.” In the paper Gershman considers the problem of auxiliary hypotheses. The idea is that any given theory comes with a set of undisclosed assumptions, which can protect the core theory from being disproved. For example, the seven-day creation story of Genesis is at odds with the fossil record. So if you accept the fossil record, do you have to forfeit Genesis?


    Nope. All you have to do is note that a “day” doesn’t have to be 24 hours—especially not if God hasn’t created the sun and moon yet. The definition of day is merely an auxiliary hypothesis of the core theory that God created the world. Such auxiliary hypotheses form a “protective belt” around the core theory, deflecting contrary evidence from pesky one-offs, such as a handful of really old rocks, while leaving the main argument unscathed.


    But never being wrong isn’t an especially good thing. To the contrary, being wrong is important because it is the first step on the way to being right. If you’re never wrong, you never learn anything you didn’t already know. So whether you’re taking a test from the Laser Guy or reconsidering your slate of metaphysical tenets, getting a few answers wrong is like salting a meal: a little bit makes the whole thing better, just don’t take it too far.

    • Like 1
  17. 18 minutes ago, TheRedneckProfessor said:

    It seems to me that when I was in bible college, I learned that there was something significant about the verb tense in Isaiah 53:5.  "By his stripes we are healed."  It was something about that verb originally being in a tense for which there was no equivalent in English; because the tense was present and continual.  So it would be along the lines of "By his stripes we are continually being healed."  I might be misremembering; there's been a lot of whiskey in the jar since then.  But I do remember using that in debates against heretics who claimed that healings no longer take place today.


    I think that's probably about right grammatically (as far as a translation), but I expect someone is trying to make too much of the different verb tenses. English does allow for a continuous present tense using a participle and some form of the verb to be, as you said: "We are being healed". But you wouldn't conclude purely from grammar that such a sentence implied that the healing never ends :P The grammar allows for it to some extent but I think people present what are fundamentally interpretive decisions as grammatical ones because presenting them as a consequence of grammar makes them seem more authoritative.

  18. 1 hour ago, TheRedneckProfessor said:

    Essentially, god doesn't heal anymore; but when he does, he uses people.


    I've seen this stance before, although not all Christians accept it. From an outside perspective the most glaring problem with it is just that it's very ad hoc, a very "just so" explanation. From an internal Christian perspective the problem is that the justification for God ceasing to heal miraculously is pretty weak. It's clearly working backwards from the apparent lack of healings to find some explanation which could harmonize with biblical accounts of healing. Actually I guess that's the same complaint both times. It's noteworthy that this explanation is ad hoc regardless of whether or not you grant any authority to scripture.

    • Like 3
  19. I tend to prefer discussions to debates but the same ideas probably apply, except maybe the expectation that it's about changing people's minds? But I also suppose my criteria for participation is whether or not I find something interesting and not whether I think it fulfills some other purpose :P I would definitely have given up on internet message boards a long time ago if I thought the goal was to change people's minds on anything.


    I think it's clear though that people do change their minds about all kinds of things, it's just that it usually happens slowly over time rather than some eureka moment as the result of a single interaction. So maybe I should say "if the goal was to change people's minds in an immediately visible way".


    That's probably especially true dealing with something like religious belief, where it involves really fundamental aspects of a person's worldview, the kind that we tend to take for granted. Christians may have trouble communicating with non-Christians not just because they're socialized into obedience and conformity but also because those conversations involve challenging ideas we tend to take as a given. Christforums described belief in the existence of God as axiomatic, for example. I think the belief functions that way for a lot of people, it's just something that seems self-evident given their socialization. Maybe the difference between "obedience" and "socialization" is like six of one and half dozen of another but I think it's worth remembering that those socialization processes are inescapable for all of us. It's not really some special failing of Christians that they have unchallenged or naive beliefs which they take mostly for granted. That's kind of the default state.


    One of the fun things about having discussions with people with very different beliefs is that those conversations make those assumptions stand out more, providing opportunities to actually interrogate them and think about them more deeply. If you take broadening of intellectual horizons as a humanist goal then this is pretty useful, so much so that you could call it another potentially useful purpose for debate. Notwithstanding the fact that people are often bad at taking advantage of the opportunity

    • Like 2
  20. 12 hours ago, LogicalFallacy said:

    My first question with a debate is are you willing to change your mind, and is there anything that would? If the answer is no then debate is pointless.


    I don't think this quite exhausts the list of reasons why one might choose to debate. I might debate a topic even when I expect that neither myself nor my interlocutors are likely to change our minds, if...


    - I think I might learn something new (even if it doesn't change my overall perspective).

    - I'm interested in understanding better how other people think about the topic, or in trying to understand more precisely where I think they are wrong

    - I'm interested in refining my ability to present a particular type of argument, or in figuring out better ways to communicate my view on the topic

    - I'm interested in presenting information which others might find useful (not necessarily the people debating)

    • Like 1
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